Sit down for day 7 - Occupy Dame Street
Day 7, it doesn't feel like a week, it isn't quite, but last week feels like a lifetime ago. I can't quite believe how my life has transformed, it seems completely normal to get up, have breakfast, and cycle into a makeshift encampment on the main street of my city and spend 8 to 12 to 14 hours there, outdoors, talking with people I barely know anything about and yet feel like I'm sharing something very powerful with. Right now I'm sitting here at 3a.m. with my body aching yet I feel happy, it feels right and that's a good way to be.
Today was a pretty good day, though the Sleepers reported a rough night, with some hassle during the night and then an attempted robbery this morning, foiled by a sprint and flying tackle from one of our curly-headed residents. The massive tidy up of the residents' area that I'd done last night naturally hadn't lasted, probably not even through the night itself, and the so-called security tent, more accurately the donations, random stuff and chaos tent was filled almost to the top in no order whatsoever. We have lots and lots of duct tape, plenty of bedding, ubiquitous cable ties and a strangely enormous number of wet wipes.
There did seem to be endless meetings today - the 11a.m. in house meeting had to be followed by an over the time limit 10 or 15 minutes trying to get the agenda for the general assembly ready, a coordinator meeting while the assembly went on from 1 til 2p.m., a facilitators meeting at 3p.m. which butted straight into a consensus decision-making meeting at 4p.m. with a little break before the 6p.m. general assembly. All a bit messy and the decision-making and structures for the group are still a bit all over the place but that's not that surprising on day 7 of an event? experience? encounter? that is made of individuals coming together rather synchronously and trying to work it all out as a very loose group. Progress is being made. And chess is being played.
Many conversations and such positivity all around. A few people lost the plot last night or in the course of the day but everyone regained their composure fairly promptly. I felt today had two facets, instead of being about the issues or why we're doing all this, it was about trying to make organisational structures function, and it was about emotional lives being lived in the open, in a crowded, crazy campstreet in the middle of the city, interacting with people whose personalities, foibles or approaches to problem-solving may not always be in synch with one's own. Pretty typical group and interpersonal dynamics stuff, along with everyone being tired, overloaded and under much more pressure than they realise. It has been strange to feel the purpose getting less prominence in my experiences with this occupation, and indeed I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on organisational issues that don't have much to do with what we're struggling for, except for those of direct democracy and consensus decision-making, issues that could apply in an adapted form to many situations and which I'm sure if I bothered to look I could find an Occupation 101 handbook that would provides some guidelines for half of them. But the organic process is a good one and it's good to remind ourselves that it's early days, we're learning, and things are constantly being improved upon. It's not about trying and inevitably failing to make a really great solution work right now, but about doing things a bit better and ensuring they actually happen.
It was great to return to the camp in the morning and see its expansion, as if it had always been there, with another few tents added overnight. More people arrived during the day, at least 10 during the latter part of the night. Some had tents, some only sleeping bags, all were accommodated. There was great music at night, with a generator having finally been hired in the course of the day. We had leaflets to give out though some of the 3000 printed the previous day had either vanished, or more likely, been distributed. Quiet earlier on in the day, the Friday night in town become hectic with plenty of people, but all interested and most very supportive. There was bongo playing (it was always going to happen), music jams, poetry readings when the amp blew, and some good freestyling. I didn't get to sit and enjoy too much of it, and we took a rapid trip to Block T for the final exhibition of Upstart posters, just for a dose of previous life unreality, before returning and having a great evening doing many things around camp.
There were some interventions by the Guards today and tonight, which went basically fine, not involving camp residents. At one point two men came into the central camp area, and were refusing to leave, interacting with a couple of the lads in a way that threatened to escalate. Wearing coordinator hat again I got up to check what was happening, moving people away from the area, clearing the inevitable circle of concerned onlookers etc. A couple of our security came in and were starting to deal with it when three Gardai seemed to metamorphasize out of thin air in the middle of the camp. They had been on the street and seen these guys come in. Within moments some calls of "mike check" had everyone in the camp sitting on the ground while a couple of us remained standing to deal with it. The sitting technique immediately calms any situation, allows everyone to see what is going on, and avoids anyone else becoming embroiled. The three Gardai knew these men, who they said were sound guys, but they were clearly of the opinion that the two men needed to be removed immediately and very rapidly they had them out of the camp with almost no interaction from us. The incident was over and everyone began to cheer. The men and police were gone, I looked around at the whole camp and surrounding area filled with seated quiet people all focussed and together on what was happening, and I felt very proud. Of what we're doing here, of what we're all learning and teaching each other, and of how we are managing to be against all the odds in the harsh immediate, national and global climate.