Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Over the 48 hour hump at Occupy Dame Street

It is amazing to participate in this. Just came home, realised I spent around 11 hours at the camp today. Didn't seem that long. What's bizarre is that sometime during the first day I stopped really noticing the fact that it is on a main street, filled with people and cars, in an open square in the middle of our capital city. It seems entirely normal to be in a self-run, ad hoc space of tents and a tarp, camped out on concrete in the middle of a square in Temple Bar, which is the most touristy area of the city, and underneath the massive office block of the Central Bank. I've become entirely focussed on the camp space and forget that others are on the outside looking in, wondering what on earth is happening, and going about their normal business in town. In a matter of a couple of days this has become my reality, and I'd imagine it's the same for many in the camp.

We passed the 48 hour mark today and it was a subtle but significant milestone for Occupy Dame Street. The feeling and focus naturally changed to one of organisation and sustainability, moving from a situation of just getting here and trying to stay, wondering if we'd be confronted or pressured to leave, to thinking ahead to how things need to be done to keep the camp going, organise practicalities for those staying here, and also getting the word out. Once it was Monday morning and it was clear that the Gardai were not going to move in to move us on, things were more relaxed and almost seemed to take on a sense of permanence.


There are now two General Assemblies every day at 1p.m. and 6p.m. These are open to everyone to come along and hear more about what's happening, discuss the purpose and vision of the occupation and to have anyone who wants to make a point do so. Today's had 50 to 60 people at each, with many more stopping by briefly to check it out. It felt like a small but useful contribution to have printed up a few hundred leaflets and they were eagerly taken by passersby and indeed people at the camp itself. The text was simply that of last week's press release issued by those who originally made the call to occupy Dame Street, with contact details, as the group hasn't yet had much time to discuss and agree a new text that outlines its diverse views. After 48 hours this is normal, considering that part of the point of the movement is that it is leaderless and open to everyone, and not about taking a specific stance or prescribing narrow solutions, particularly not at such an early stage. Possibilities for an updated press release were discussed first at the general assembly and the media working group was delegated to work on this and present something back to the assembly tomorrow.

Arrived in the morning with hot coffees for the Sleepers who had spent the night. Was cheered by the arrival of four "robbers" from Cork identically dressed in masks, striped shirts, black trousers and little black caps, each emblazoned across the chest with NAMA, ECB, IMF and Govt and toting bags of tax swag. More clowning around and general tomfoolery to liven up the camp would be great. People have been coming in from all over Ireland to camp here, including Clare, Cork, Kerry and Galway, as well as various European countries.


Later in the day and well into the evening the working groups were in full swing. The food group arrived at about 8p.m. with an array of hot food for everyone donated by a local restaurant, they also sorted out the tent full of food and supplies which have been donated over the last two days. The construction group rigged up another tarp over the central area, as the existing one had come perilously close to blowing away, and also put up a much needed fence of tarp and rope on the other side of the camp, making it more self contained. The person in the serious-workman Snickers trousers who called by in the morning made good on his promise to deliver cable ties, rope, blocks and other supplies. The media team met for something close to three hours to hammer out the new press release, finding time in between to project again onto the Central Bank. As well as the many mainstream media pieces that appeared today, the protest was featured on dozens of blog posts, Flick photostreams, YouTube videos and even made it onto ABC News in the U.S.


Following the general assembly a small in-house meeting for those staying discussed issues such as coordination, security and avoiding burn-out. It was great to see how quickly things have come together and how people have moved to a position of planning for the future of the camp. Also how respectful and consensual the process was, and how there was a sense that there is a shared purpose and vision, one that is inclusive, non-violent and standing up for the 99%.

A shift system was agreed upon including having one person act as coordinator or central point person for the camp during each shift, and having security shifts. I spent a good bit of time assisting the first shift coordinator with determining what the key tasks of the coordinator would be - essentially the job of defining her job. While dealing with the multiple incidents and mini-crises that would arise every few minutes. Almost as if we were a chaotically organised collection of tents, banners and tired protestors right beside a busy urban thoroughfare.

Hundreds of people continued to walk past on Dame Street asking about the camp and many stopped to have longer conversations and express their support. People would rush over, blurt out something along the lines of, "It's so great what youse are doing, at last we're standing up and doing something, I wanted to say I'm sorry I can't stay the night but I'm with you!" This was often accompanied by pressing cash into the hands of those most involved, to be put in the kitty to support the camp. Others literally ran up, embarrassedly thrusting blankets, sleeping bag, duct tape, a couple of hot pizzas, you name it, at someone, muttering, "I just wanted to support you" before they would dash off back into the crowd and up the street. People were actually actively apologetic that they couldn't leave their jobs, families or courses to camp here, which just shows that the protest really is tapping into a shared feeling by many in Irish society who are unhappy with the current situation and are now delighted to see a stand being taken. All in all a good day, seems like here for the long haul. I'm very tired and unable to muster anything but factual non-sequiturs, so it's time to sleep.

Photos of just Days 2 and 3 are here.
The full photos of the occupation since Saturday are here.



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