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By Evan Harmon

KCPD warns Occupy KC to immediately take down all structures

Police officers from the Kansas City Police Department showed up at the Occupy KC camp in Penn Valley Park to inform the Occupiers that all structures, including tents, will no longer be tolerated. Read on…

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Entries in occupykc (4)

Tuesday
Nov292011

Occupy KC Prepares for Winter

 

Protesters face Valley Forge-like test, some intend to go the distance.

By Jeff Johnson

In Cairo, protesters are shot and killed. At UC Davis and in Denver, they are pepper sprayed and batoned. Here in Kansas City? The park sprinklers came on during one of Occupy KC’s events and dampened the grounds. Not shocking video material. No outraged citizenry, no city officials forced to step down, and a bunch of local Occupiers left wondering whether they are being taken seriously.

As it stands, Occupy KC’s imminent challenge is not The Man (as 60’s-era protesters referred to their oppressors), but Old Man Winter, who every Midwesterner knows can be unrelentingly oppressive. Observers and insiders wonder if it is realistic to expect Occupiers to sleep on frozen ground for the next few months, and are concerned that the local Movement might fizzle without a continuous outdoor presence.

Chad Moore is among those that plan to stay in Penn Valley Park through the winter.

So far, Occupy KC has gotten away with using tents at Penn Valley Park, their original and main protest site near the Federal Reserve Bank. However, even with tents and heaters, it is a big question mark whether Occupy KC can survive the entire winter outside. Adding uncertainty, local law enforcement has repeatedly warned Occupiers that they may at any time enforce the city parks’ no-tent rule.

As with most things Occupy, opinions are divided and plans vary. Some say it would be a waste of resources to support an outdoor camp through the winter months. Others are committed to the symbolic importance of the park presence.

Chad Moore, 26, stays at the site two or three nights per week.


“A bunch of us have decided that if we can stay out here through the winter, that will make an even stronger statement,” said Moore.

Another Occupier said the site serves as a unifying, physical hub for an Occupation that has seen its share of division.

Brian Gandreau intends to stay through the winter. He says efforts are in the works to obtain large military tents with room for communal sleeping, possibly to be set on wood pallets. As an indoor refuge on the most bitter of cold nights, Gandreau says they have leads on charitable organizations nearby.

For some of those dependent on the food, supplies and community of the camp, the political message of the encampment is not the priority, but instead, simply day-to-day existence. For these individuals, without an Occupy camp, there may be nothing remaining that identifies them with the Movement.

Linda Miller, who helps coordinate the receipt and distribution of supplies on site, says so far they have had a good supply of donated blankets and gloves, but sleeping bags and tents continue to be a need. Storms have already taken their toll. “We lost several tents, and the kitchen tent is about to go,” said Miller.

Tuesday
Nov292011

For Occupy KC's camp cook, being unemployed does not mean being idle

By Jeff Johnson

Talk to people around the Occupy KC site and they will tell you that nobody works harder than Linda Miller. “I guess that’s why I’m so damn tired and cranky all the time,” says Miller. Using donations from supporters of the Movement, and with help from other Occupiers, Miller, 38, cooks for and feeds between 30 and 50 people on site each day.

Occupy KC’s camp cook Linda Miller

“I’m the camp cook, but some people call me the kitchen Nazi.” Apparently, Miller runs a tight ship. She used to run the graveyard shift at the diner Nichols Lunch, until it closed in 2006.

Of late, Miller has been unable to find work. “I would take any job I could get, but preferably inside.” Miller has worked elsewhere since Nichols, but the loss of her position there came during a difficult decade for Miller; her mother, father, grandmother and husband all passed away.

Miller joined Occupy KC having no idea what it was about. “I’ve never been political. In my section [while she was waiting tables]I didn’t allow talk of sports, politics or religion.” She saw the October 9th march down Broadway and just joined in, even though she had a cast on her leg up to her thigh. “It was slow going,” said Miller.

At the rally after the march, she listened to an anti-nuclear weapons speech, and that night she grabbed some blankets and tarps and settled in for the night. Since then, she has been part of the Occupy KC community. “It was pretty mindboggling being down here the first few days,” says Miller. “There were a lot of people talking. It just blurred into one big conversation.” She said it was a week before she understood why people were there.

Linda Miller beside her tent at Penn Valley Park.

When asked about her concerns with the system, Miller replies, “Jobs would be nice.”

Miller says she was “raised dirt poor,” started working at age 13, and knew a better standard of living for a time when she managed apartment buildings with her mother. Now she contributes to Occupy KC by serving on the Town Planning and Peace Keeping workgoups.

Miller says she may have an opportunity to take a traveling job in the spring. In the meantime, at Occupy KC she experiences a welcome sense of community. Last week, after serving Thanksgiving dinner at camp, she joined Occupiers in a “mic check” of area Walmarts for Black Thursday, where she said they attempted to spread the message that the “meaning of Christmas is not in greed, or money, or power. It’s about loving one another. You don’t have to buy things to share that.” She said the cashiers were receptive. The shoppers, not so much.

Tuesday
Nov292011

The consensus process is indispensable to genuine self-governance.

 

By Amy Bowen

If you have ever stood in a cold rain for three hours, agonizing over a single proposal alongside fifty of your fellow Occupiers, you will understand why some people are less than enthusiastic about using the consensus process. However, the critical benefits that the process imparts to democracy, and the inherent meaning it provides to its citizen participants, makes enduring a bit of discomfort and tedium not just worthwhile, but necessary.

The Occupy movement is based on a leaderless consensus model. Decisions are made horizontally in order to replace the need for leaders, who by definition make egalitarian organization impossible. We have been falsely represented by our elected officials; what we want now is the ability to govern ourselves with equality. Our commitment to true, participatory, egalitarian self-governance is evident by the very nature of our occupation.

It is no coincidence that the most vocal critics of the consensus process tend to be, well, vocal. In their everyday lives, they tend to direct rather than be directed, and to interrupt rather than be interrupted. Those accustomed to dominating others, whether deliberately or not, may struggle to patiently engage in healthy, consensus decision-making, which aims to achieve equal participation and the consent, if not the agreement, of all.

With simple majority rule, the minority simply loses. We should reject this oppression of the minority, in favor of a living, evolving consensus, a transformational process which can accomplish things unattainable independently. This is synergy in its purest form.

It is important to note that the process does not mandate unanimous approval. It seems that this hodgepodge mix of fiercely independent Occupiers almost never agrees unanimously on anything, at first.

Rather, when a proposal sparks disagreement, the process aims to ensure that every unique dissenting voice is heard. Each dissenter is allotted a certain length of time to express the reasons why they do not fully support the proposal. The group then considers the reasons for dissent, reevaluates the proposal, and perhaps alters it in light of these new ideas. This may take a little longer than dictatorial decision-making, but it ensures cohesiveness, which is crucial to our success as a movement.

Any decision-making method is only valuable to the extent that it assists us in accomplishing our goals. Therefore, if at any time the process becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the occupiers to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new form of self-governance. Indeed, if we didn’t believe that, we wouldn’t be here.

For those who have never been able to shout loudly enough to be heard, the General Assembly stands in radiant contrast to the unfeeling power of majority rule. And contrary to Mr. Johnson’s belief, the danger is not to be found in the process itself, but in its abandonment.

Recommended reading: Horizontalidad

Tuesday
Nov292011

The consensus process may defeat us, unless limits are adopted

By Jeff Johnson

Consensus is a grand ideal. Where practical, it should be attempted. Where it interferes with progress, it should be avoided.

The two attributes of the consensus process—to ensure that every citizen has the opportunity to be heard, and to help citizens feel involved in their own governance—can turn into serious liabilities when left unchecked. At times, the process has so stymied decision making and the forward progress of the Occupation, that I even have wondered whether it was introduced by the enemies of the Occupation.

But no, those enemies despise this leaderless, feel-good democracy too much to use it as a tactic. Not just because it slows things down and angers their God of Efficiency, but because nothing threatens those in power more than citizens participating in self-governance, realizing that they could at any time take the reins away from the powerful few.

The problem is that many times, participants enjoy the process too much. Discussions run on beyond usefullness. The decision at hand gets lost amid the insistence of every last speaker airing every last opinion. The value of endless debate and rebuttal pales as the sun sets, the wind turns cold, and the evening evaporates, with seemingly no end to the eager speakers, and indecision the likely final outcome.

Worse than this, if the speaking has finally run its course, and a vote is called, the vast majority might approve a proposal, but a lone dissenter may refuse to accept the decision.

Such dissent is supposed to be reserved for critical disagreement and is intended to prevent schism. Therefore, it should be rare. In practice, dissenters are too inclined to block, and the group is held hostage by dissent.

As the process has been used, it is too deferential to these dissenters. I was inspired to support the Occupation because I was convinced that the changes needed in this country could be accomplished through this Movement. I did not join for decision-less debate.

Without limits on dissent and on excessive opining, the process will fall under its own weight, and we will have missed our opportunity to change the world.

Another unfortunate fact of the process is that its biggest fans insist on extending the process into workgroup meetings. This adds an absurd level to an already over-committee’ed arrangement.

When I called to ask Ms. Bowen to write a column defending the consensus process, before she knew why I was calling, she asked if we should use “the process” during our phone convesation. I wasn’t completely sure she was joking.