Sunday, December 25, 2011

NewsChannel 5

My goodness!  While those of us who were on Legislative Plaza today to enjoy Occupy Nashville's celebration of community were reveling this evening in our good memories and looking at fun photos taken during the event, NewsChannel 5, Nashville's CBS affiliate, posted an article to their website about two women on the edge of the encampment getting into a fight at the end of the day.  This article is a piece of crap journalism and is the sort of thing that the media sometimes does to Occupy in general, including Occupy Nashville.  Channel 5 has given ON good, fair coverage in the past.  They did not today.

Below is the email I just sent to Sandy Boonstra, News Director at NewsChannel 5 expressing my opinion on this. 

The article titled Occupy Protesters Fight on Christmas Day, posted to the NewsChannel 5 website Christmas night is a gross misrepresentation of events on Legislative Plaza during the afternoon of the 25th.  The problem is unfortunately and pointedly made clear in the statement that "the angle of the story suddenly changed."  Oh, really?  The fight happened when the day's celebratory event was just about ending, that is, after close to three hours during which scores of people enjoyed food, dancing, and music.  Families.  Occupiers.  Supporters.  And because two women got into a cat fight, the "angle suddenly changed?"  This represents a serious error in journalistic judgment on the part of whomever is responsible for "changing the angle."  Suddenly, indeed.
Please let NewsChannel 5 know they didn't do a good job here.

UPDATE:  Email is getting an auto response:  "Sandy Boonstra is out of the office until Tuesday, January 3rd.  If you have an immediate need please contact our assignment desk at 615-248-5281"

Occupy Nashville Celebrates

Legislative Plaza in Nashville was a festive place today, as over a hundred Occupy Nashville protesters and supporters celebrated the holidays with a dinner and drum circle.  Ed Haggard and the Love Drums showed up to lead the drum circle, as people danced in the sunshine on a Christmas Day that saw temperatures reach almost 60 degrees. 

Supporters from Occupy Nashville's live stream chat room organized the event and cooked the meal, served up as some danced, while others strolled the plaza and visited with their neighbors.  Laps were makeshift tables, but nobody seemed to mind.

See slide show of over a hundred pictures from the plaza today here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mom, Apple Pie, and Transparency

Occupy Nashville is about to consider a proposal from a "transparency caucus" that purports to be about the need for transparency and inclusiveness in the working groups that are part of ON.  While there can be no doubt about the need for improvement in the Occupy Nashville movement in the areas of transparency and inclusiveness, I hope you'll agree by the time you read this that this proposal not only doesn't provide solutions to those problems, the proposal itself is an exercise borne of the desire to perpetuate the opacity and exclusionary tactics that have plagued some ON working groups for over two months.

Posts made early yesterday morning on ON's website forum and facebook page announced that a proposal would be introduced at the General Assembly scheduled for today at 1 p.m.  That post was as follows: 

whereas occupy nashville opposes the opaque nature of government and dicisions made for people without their knowledge or consent....
whereas occupy nashville is a direct democracy, all inclusive of all people.....
whereas occupy nashville intends to provide a platform for all people's voices to be heard and included in the decision making process.....
whereas secracy divides and transparency is an invitation to participate.....
occupy nashcille decrees that from this day on......

1) all working group meetings times and places be posted on the calender 48 hours before meeting time, and
2) that no meeting which has not been announced may make the claim that it is an occupy nashville meeting nor make any policy statement on behalf of occupy nashville. and
3) that every working group be open to all who wish to attend at all times. and
4) that all official occupy group meetings be required to post minutes, or notes from every meeting on the web site. and
5) that every working group send at least one representative to every general assembly meeting to report back on the groups activities. and
6) that all working groups support the other working groups in achieving the stated goals of occupy nashville, occupy wallstreet and the occupy global movement.

this will be presented at saturday's general assembly meeting dec 24

If you're new to the story, you might be wondering why there's any controversy about this.  Isn't a proposal in support of transparency and inclusiveness a good thing?  Sounds close enough to Mom and apple pie to get the desired response from some, as comments in early response to the proposal weigh in on chat and the forum.  So far, it's looking like people think if you don't agree this is a good idea, you're probably also drowning kittens in your spare time. 

Unfortunately, you're going to need to do some more reading in order to understand what's really going on here.  I'm going to ask you to take time to read the minutes of the GAs held on both October 16th and October 17th, posted on the ON site forum.  You need to read the comments posted for each too, in order to understand that 1) we're over two months past the time when the meat of what's being proposed now was already provided for in a proposal for which consensus was reached by GA, and 2) the problem is not a lack of guidelines; it's the apparent unwillingness on the part of some people to implement ON consensus because they disagree with it.  Check it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

The truth is that issues of transparency and inclusiveness were addressed and consensus reached two months ago in GA that Occupy Nashville working groups are to be open to all who want to participate, working group meetings need to be announced in advance so people know about them and can attend, minutes of those meetings are to be recorded and posted, and there is supposed to be representation from each working group in attendance at General Assemblies.

A couple of other things in the proposal currently being considered can fairly easily be dismissed as attempts to control the working group process unnecessarily.  That's a problem, of course, but the larger problem with some of this is that, if passed, it would hamstring working group operations to the point of ineffectiveness.  For example, a 48 hour notice is not always feasible when things are moving as quickly as they sometimes do on the plaza.  Further, if meetings had any sort of regular schedule or even if the next meeting time was simply decided at the end of each meeting and then immediately posted on the plaza, ON's online calendar, and social media, the issue of notice would be addressed without a specious "rule" that potentially disallows as invalid all meetings that take place via email, phone, etc.  It is 2011, after all.  It's been decades since meetings needed to be in a physical space in order to happen or for work to be done.

What you don't see mentioned in this proposal, but you do hear about in the discussions going on in both email chains and in chat, is the soon to be reality of a second live stream team being organized in an effort to give Occupy Nashville more choice in how it gets news about what's going on with the movement.  And that, my friends, is what this proposal is really about.  More to the point, this proposal is an attempt to stop a group of Occupy Nashville people from going online with a stream that isn't controlled by those on the tech/stream teams currently in place.  After months of not being willing to implement what was decided upon by consensus in General Assembly, the tech/team crew is making a desperate and dishonest attempt to stop another group of Occupy Nashville people from attempting to put up a stream that says it will.

Now, the worst part of it all, as if it wasn't bad enough already...The campaign to push this proposal is following the same pattern that's been the standard way of responding to any attempt to get accountability from tech/stream.  Email chains are full of personal attacks on those who want to do another stream and scant little attention is paid to the real issues at hand.  Rather than any honest discussion about why what was agreed to over two months ago is still not in place, what we have instead are hysterical and pious statements about how much those who don't agree with them either don't understand the issues or ridiculous assertions that question even their loyalty to Occupy Nashville.  Team members are using the current stream chat to rally support for their cause, all the while proclaiming how tired they all are of the "drama."  Heavy sighs are accompanied by references to man-hating and "vendettas" and one almost expects them to break out into strains of Kumbaya as they declare repeatedly how ready they are to "move on." Let's be clear here.  Moving on may, in fact, be an excellent idea, if you're going to continue to disregard whatever consensus comes out of General Assembly because you disagree with it.

After some people (myself included) contacted the person who posted this proposal and suggested that a Christmas Eve afternoon GA in the middle of the Bible Belt at a time when many people have family obligations was not a good idea if the goal was solid consensus on a serious proposal about transparency and inclusiveness, it was posted that the proposal would be simply announced at GA today, but no attempt to reach consensus will be made until the GA scheduled for either December 27th or January 3rd.  Between now and then, word needs to get out about the whole story behind this proposal and people need to be making plans to be at the GA when this is brought up for consensus.  It would be great if the chant, "This is what democracy looks like" isn't necessarily changed to "This is what hypocrisy looks like."

Facilitator explains hand signals at GA meeting in October.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Tale of Two Actions

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."  (Charles Dickens, opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities)
Occupy Nashville has staged a number of direct actions in the past few months as part of its occupation.  Some of them, most notably, perhaps, the infiltration of Donald Rumsfeld's Nashville appearance in November, have appeared to have been well thought out and were generally well received, cheered even.  A large group gathered on the plaza and marched to where Rumsfeld was speaking, while four members of Occupy Nashville were able to infiltrate the gathering undetected so they could confront him about his part in what the Occupy movement is protesting.  The mission was accomplished and celebrated afterward with dancing in the streets, as many at-home supporters of the movement enjoyed it vicariously as it was live streamed.  Local media gave the coup its due as well.

Members of Occupy Nashville speak after infiltrating the Rumsfeld event.

Not all direct action events have been as well received.  The most notorious of those occurred in the early hours of Sunday, December 4th, when some from Occupy Nashville attempted to commandeer an abandoned building.  Unlike the group who left the plaza weeks earlier to protest the Rumsfeld event, those who marched from there about midnight on the 3rd didn't know that there were plans to end up taking over a building before the night was done.  The march was stopped, in route, and they were informed at that point of the plans.  This march, publicized in advance, included families who had come to the plaza to participate in support.  In the end, some protesters turned back and did not participate in what many later referred to as a disaster in terms of the movement's transparency and a public relations nightmare.

In the past 24 hours, there were a couple more events undertaken by Occupy Nashville and the two of them provide yet another contrast between what's a worthwhile direct action and what's not.  The group staged another well publicized event, this one a mock funeral for Mr. Bill O.F. Rights, in response to the recent passage in D. C. of the NDAA.  After gathering on the plaza, a funeral procession wound through downtown to Riverfront Park and the Cumberland River, where Mr. Rights was cremated and his remains were given proper disposal.  Strains of country music wafted at times from bars in the tourist district, as Mr. Rights was eulogized repeatedly on corners when the group had to stop for red lights.  The protesters marched peaceably, were never provocative in their behavior, but were seen by many Nashvillians out during the afternoon rush hour.  It was a scene that few but Occupy Nashville could pull off, indeed. This event was also streamed and very well received.  Comments in chat and elsewhere have noted the appropriateness of the funeral metaphor, the detailed planning, publicity, and execution of the action.  The classiness that is so often Occupy Nashville.  It was a stunning winner, all around.

They should have stopped there.  Near the end of the funeral demonstration, a member of the stream team loudly boasted that there would be another direct action later in the night, suggesting it would be something special, something not to be missed, even.  A surprise.

Just before midnight, a link was posted on the Occupy Nashville live stream chat, linking to what was referenced as "the other channel."  For the first time, a tent from ON was pitched off the plaza and was instead in place across Charlotte, outside Governor Haslam's office on Tennessee's Capitol Hill.  (NOTE:  The stream first originated from OccupyNashvilleForever , but later switched to Occupy Nashville from the ON media tent on the plaza.  Team member who was streaming didn't change.)  For at least two hours, any who clicked on links to the stream posted on social media at the repeated behests of the streamer could watch and listen as some from Occupy Nashville tried to provoke an arrest scenario from the Tennessee Highway Patrol by occupying the grounds across the street from the plaza where the occupation has been heretofore.  Along the way, they could be regaled by more F-bombs than you have appendages, sprinkled with such gems as, "You women are all about empowerment, we need a f***ing woman's face up here to go to jail," as a plea was made for others to join the group and, "I'm gonna go f*** with the troopers a little bit," while, well, while, just what?  

One night this week, I saw a member of the stream team comment in chat that the experience of being in front of the camera on live stream is "addicting."  His word.  Last night, I heard another, the streamer himself, proclaim jubilantly, "Do you realize how awesome we are right now?"  Well.  

Occupy Nashville has been awesome.  It wasn't last night.  My friends, the Tennessee state legislature will reconvene in just a few short weeks.  For almost two months, ON has enjoyed respite from the nightly fear of eviction that has plagued Occupy sites across the country, but the party can come to a halt as quickly as it began.  The injunction against the state is about a narrow issue, and anybody who thinks there aren't some lawmakers in Tennessee itching to push for new legislation that could still evict the occupation is probably also looking for Santa to come down the chimney this Saturday night.  

Direct actions and live streaming of those events are powerful tools for public relations and politicians are nothing if not politicians.  They will be listening to their constituents at least to some degree when they meet in January.  In other words, Occupy Nashville needs the support of Nashville.  To date, Nashville has mostly supported her occupation, the State of Tennessee and her agents to the contrary.  Whether or not that continues to be true as the movement goes through the winter remains to be seen, but it would be a damn shame if during the remaining time before the legislature reconvenes we see any more shenanigans like took place on Capitol Hill last night.  When people who are still asking about Occupy, "What do they want?" see what ON was putting out last night, it's hard to answer with more than they just wanted a fight.  One can only hope that future direct actions will be about more than that.  Lord knows there's plenty to pick from.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Go Away

Where did you go to shower this morning?  Whose toilet did you use the last time you needed to urinate?  Do you know where to find a stove or oven or do you have permission to build a fire where you are so you can prepare your next hot meal?  Do you have a permit for that?  Is there someplace you can sit without being asked to leave while you eat that meal?  A bed to lay down in when you've finished and would like to rest?

In response to the Occupy movement, laws that prohibit activities like sleeping in public, sitting in one space without moving for too long, laying down on a bench, and cooking or serving food have all been the justification for police state tactics at the hands of riot geared officers swarming into camps in order to evict protesters.  Even standing, as opposed to walking, on a public sidewalk has resulted in arrest.  What gets missed in reporting these incidents is the fact that homeless people were already subject to this sort of harassment and violence on a daily basis before the first Occupy tent was ever pitched. 

 Clothes drying yesterday in the sun on the plaza.

Estimates on the number of homeless people in the United States start at three million plus and go up from there, depending on methodology and what's defined as homeless.  No matter whose numbers you use, the unavoidable truth is that there are millions of Americans in this country who are neither fed nor sheltered on a regular basis.  The fact that many of them have shown up at Occupy encampments, including Occupy Nashville, that have sprung up in the past three months in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement should surprise nobody.  Why wouldn't they?  Occupiers have food and there is some perceived safety in numbers.  If I was living on the street, I think I'd surely consider it an option.

Practical considerations aren't the only reason, of course, that a homeless person would be attracted to an Occupy encampment; many of them are homeless because of the simple fact they are part of the 99% for whom our system hasn't worked.  We share an affinity in that we acknowledge the system is broken and that it needs to be changed.  We're in this together.  Proof of this is to be found in Occupy Nashville on Legislative Plaza, where the encampment shelters both some who have no other place to call home and those who choose to occupy as a statement of protest although they have a warm and comfortable bed elsewhere to go to.  ON is as strong as it is in no small part because some people are not only homeless, but are also highly respected and hard working members of this movement.

Yet, the issue of homeless people has been used in attempts to dismiss this movement.  Hardly a day passes in which I don't hear someone say something about Occupy along the lines of, "It's just a bunch of homeless people."  The clear implication,  of course, is that if you're "just" a homeless person, you have neither grievance nor right to redress.  Nobody is "just" anything, of course, but if you can marginalize what you don't like or feel threatened by, you've a much better chance of making it go away.  That's what's really going on when people imply that there's something wrong with the fact that there are homeless people who are part of the Occupy movement.

Community sign at Occupy Nashville.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Occupy Nashville Does Saturday

Weekends on the plaza are often bustling affairs, with usually at least one or two group activities and a General Assembly meeting scheduled during the afternoon on both Saturday and Sunday.  Today was no exception, and the plaza was alive with meetings and those who just wanted to enjoy the sunshine.

A group as large as more than twenty people at times met to discuss their visions for the future of Occupy Nashville.  Participants included both those who physically occupy the plaza and those whose participation is mostly off site.

Others enjoyed the opportunity to have relaxed time with each other while enjoying the sunny if chilly day.  There's been a lot of rain and I heard more than one person express gratitude for being able to spend more time outside their tents!

At least one person found the sun warmed day to be the perfect opportunity for a nap in the open air.

Occupy Nashville has its share of holiday trees too.  Some occupiers have chosen to pitch their tents in the shadow of the state tree, but I also saw a delightful tree in one of the tents.

At the General Assembly meeting today, it was decided that regular GAs will no longer be held seven days a week.  The new schedule will have GA occurring on Tuesday and Thursdays at 7pm and on Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm.  Those GAs will have agendas mostly limited to announcements, proposals, and soap box.  The 7pm time on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday will now be time for working groups to meet on the plaza, though they can, of course, continue to meet elsewhere and more often as they want or need to.  General Assemblies are one of the best ways to get to know more about Occupy Nashville and the occupiers always welcome visitors. 

A Mixed Bag

Members of Occupy Nashville once again demonstrate their resilience in the face of outside attempts to make their occupation difficult if not impossible.  As of Friday, they are now self sufficient for their energy needs on Legislative Plaza.  After having their sole electrical outlet padlocked earlier this week by inspectors, they have purchased more deep cycle marine batteries and replaced an inverter box so they can generate their own power.  Facilities are set up both on plaza and off site for recharging and a donated solar panel is being utilized as well.  There is still a need for more deep cycle marine batteries, solar panels, or anything else that can be used to produce power.  If you're able to help, donations can be dropped off at the plaza, or you can donate through the Occupy Nashville site. 

Friday evening on the plaza also brought some much needed relief from the stress of daily occupation with a visit and short concert from entertainer Blair Bodine.  Her performance was streamed and enjoyed by those online as well as those on plaza.  Bodine not only shared her musical gifts with us, she was warm and personable in her support for the movement and the people who are part of it.  She's promised to be back again to visit Occupy Nashville and to also be a part at a later date of the This Occupied Life weekly radio show that's an adjunct of Occupy Nashville on 107.1 WRFN.

It was immediately after Bodine's visit that GA began and that was streamed too.  Or, it was until the stream team person who was manning the equipment jumped up to cut the feed when somebody started to speak about something that he apparently didn't want broadcast to an audience, never mind that it was happening in a public meeting in a public place as part of what's supposed to be an open and transparent democratic process.  There followed a period of time in which there was no explanation from the ground about why the feed was cut and some speculation in chat about it.  Unfortunately, discussion of that was squelched and the chat room was later informed by the streamer who had yanked the feed that "we have folks internally that want to cause strife."  That may or may not be the case.  However, as long as every time there's an opinion expressed that's counter to the prevailing one or to the one being pushed by whoever's "in charge" at the moment in this leaderless movement, it's shut down and labeled as "drama" or "strife" or in some other way automatically dismissed as out of hand, Occupy Nashville will continue to have to defend itself from charges that it operates from a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do place.  When something like this can still happen in the midst of all the criticism about heavy handedness on the part of the stream team, it really does give one pause to wonder about what's next for this movement.

What's next for this movement is exactly what will be on the agenda for discussion at the plaza this morning at 10 a.m.  As Occupy locations across the country have been evicted and had to regroup in response to that and to harsh winter weather, there is much to be discussed about the value of encampment and the other ways in which the over all movement can potentially operate.  If you want to be a part of the solution, please make plans to get to this meeting.  The plan is for there to be time for a break before the General Assembly convenes at 1 pm.

(Photo taken at an Occupy Nashville rally in October.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Call for HELP

Occupy Nashville is in urgent need of battery donations after a visit from a fire marshal with the Nashville Fire Department yesterday.  Until now, there has been one working electric outlet on the plaza that has been the sole energy source for the encampment that now includes over 60 tents.  That outlet has now been locked and is no longer available for their use.  In practical terms, this means that they now have no way on site to either cook or warm food already prepared.  Nor can they recharge the equipment they need to use for the live streaming of General Assemblies and direct actions.

If you can donate car batteries, marine batteries, or deep cycle batteries, please bring them to the plaza a.s.a.p.   You can also make cash donations and specify that your contribution be used for this purpose through Occupy Nashville's site.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Another Fail for Stream Team

Irony is often not appreciated so much as noted because the phenomenon is frequently so frustrating.  Such was surely my experience this evening in the Occupy Nashville live stream chat room.

As about 20 were in the room (more than twice the usual number in recent weeks after earlier numbers sometimes in the hundreds), chat comments turned to the soiree the live stream boys had a week ago tonight at a bar close to the occupation site.  Several chatters expressed their displeasure with what they had witnessed that night, much of it as described in this entry I posted to this blog earlier today, and two mods went into defensive mode.  Both, of course, had been part of the party, so things went down hill in a hurry.  Combined responses from the two mods are best described as a two step dance that included equal parts of insisting the conversation cease and whining about how they and their team are not understood.  We quickly got to this point:

8:47 PM  The chat room has been cleared by the moderator.
8:47 PM  xxxx has disabled participation in the chat room.
8:48 PM  xxxx We all need a break.  Obviously.  Chat Closed.
8:50 PM  xxxx Stream Team will talk and decide what to do with chat.
8:51 PM  xxxx Its turned into a constant bicker-fest... and THAT does not advance the movement.
8:58 PM  The chat room has been cleared by the moderator.
So, once again, as chatters tried to get an audience with those with whom they have a grievance, the chat was cleared.  On other occasions when this has occurred, there have been power plays that included 5-minute shut downs of chat, but this represents an escalation in shutting down criticism.

Maybe it really is their party, after all, and we just thought it was about Occupy Nashville.

Can I Get a Ticket, Please?

During the late night/early morning hours of December 4th/5th, there was an incident in the Occupy Nashville live stream chat in which a chatter posted about illegal drug use.  There were three mods in the room at the time, but in spite of the fact that there's been a chat rule since day one that there is zero tolerance for discussion of illegal drugs, only one of the three mods made any attempt to stop the posts.  That mod repeatedly told the chatter to stop the postings, but the posts continued.  This went on for a period of time, all the while, only one mod engaged and the other two offered no support.

When that mod left the chat,  she cleared the posts because of the drug comments.  In case anybody was wondering if the other two mods who had been signed in throughout the exchange were merely signed in but not in fact in the room, please note that they chose when the chat was cleared to finally jump in and comment.  And their comments indicated they thought it was unnecessary and inappropriate action taken by the other mod.

Hours later, that mod wrote an email to members of relevant ON working groups expressing consternation about what had happened and cited me by name as a chatter whose voice had been repeatedly stifled in the chat room.  She indicated her solidarity with me in the face of misogyny and more in Occupy Nashville, and I was bcc'd the email.  She went on in that email to express the opinion that the chat should perhaps be shut down until ongoing issues were resolved and she resigned from the live stream team due to her distrust with the the process and her lack of confidence in the team.

As a result of that email, coming as it did amidst discussions about other live stream issues, a meeting was hastily called for the evening of Tuesday, December 6th.  Attending the meeting were members of the media, tech, and social media working groups that are part of ON.  The ON member who facilitated the meeting followed up on the morning of the 7th with an email in which what was discussed and agreed to in the meeting were outlined.  There was one item that was labeled immediately "actionable" and others were noted for further discussion.  I was cc'd that email.

The actionable plan was to be the development and implementation of a "ticket" system through which issues and complaints related to the Occupy Nashville live stream and chat experience would be handled in a uniform and timely manner.

Any complaint from a supporter is serious and should be dealt with respectfully and effectively

Although we have had discussion on the potential impact on donations, this is only an issue insofar as (a) people who make donations are supporters and (b) those donations enable us to do more for the groups that we campaign on behalf of.  Being a donor does not give your opinion more weight.  But we have a responsibility to help ON to achieve its goals for social justice and losing a supporter or donor because we could not implement our code of conduct is a great pity.

We will strive to rebuild confidence that we are capable to implement the code of conduct:

- A ticket system will be implemented so that Livestream / tech teams have clear information on any issue, and can supply transparency on what was done to fix it.
- The ticket system will be easy for supporters to access.  An email to the live stream email list will be connected to automatically create tickets.
- The Livestream page will be updated to summarize the code of conduct and tell people how they can easily report unacceptable behavior that is not promptly corrected by a mod.
- The ticket system will automatically send an acknowledgement of the issue to the supporter and a commitment to respond within 48 hours (ideally 24 if the team can commit to that)
- The Livestream team will review the complaint.  If it is not actually an infraction of the code of conduct a polite email will be sent to explain that.  Boilerplate text will be prepared for this.
- If it is actually an infraction of the code of conduct, Livestream team will discuss with the relevant moderator or broadcaster and note the agreed corrective and preventive actions in the ticket.  
- An email will be sent to the supporter summarizing the action taken and closing the ticket.  - The Livestream team will provide transparency on the number of tickets received and the actions taken.  Ideally the tickets will be classified to show how many were actual breaches of code, and from time to time analyzed to ensure that permanent actions are taken regarding repeat offenders.  This information will be provided in an easy to use format. People interested in this information will not be required to learn the ticket system or install special software.
- **** will help with boilerplate text for the various responses
- We will reach out to people who have been complaining to show them our good faith attempts to improve process to address concerns, and ensure they understand how their concerns can be most effectively addressed in future.
That was a week ago.  In the interim, I've asked several times in the chat about this plan in an attempt to ascertain if it's been implemented.  To date, the best I can say is that the responses were confusing.  In any event, it appears there is still no system in place.  At best, if there is, nobody, including chatters and team, appears to know about it.

I suppose it's possible that everybody's just really busy and hasn't had time to get to this, but I will note that on the evening following this meeting, the night after the email went out clearly identifying an actionable plan that should be implemented, because, as noted by the meeting facilitator, "Until these actions are in place it is as if our meeting never happened," several stream team members did in fact have time to go to a bar and live stream taunts to Occupy Nashville Chatters about their good time.  Frequently peppered throughout their frivolity were comments like, "Wonder how much trouble we'll be in for this?  (laughter)"  Another one, in-your-face for whoever was watching, "Don't like it?  Fuck you!"  Further raucous boasting about how unconcerned they were if supporters of Occupy Nashville didn't buy them things any more...even a wallet whipped out and a stack of cash displayed for emphasis.  Classy all the way.  To assure that they had an audience, one of them posted a link to the stream in the chat at Occupy Nashville's live stream site and posted it on Facebook as well.  When, predictably, there were complaints about streaming this mess online under a Ustream channel named OccupyNashvilleLive, the team became indignant and it was suggested that anybody who thought there was a problem with getting drunk in a bar and acting stupid while you live stream the experience under the name OccupyNashvilleLive to an audience you were sure you'd piss off as evidenced by your taunts but, nonetheless, made sure they'd have a link to so they wouldn't miss it should mostly just S.T.F.U. and/or get a life.  In other words, it's our party and we'll do what we want to.  Try to stop us.  Just try to ask us to be accountable.  We'll show you.

So.  Here we be.  Where's the accountability and transparency here?  I don't know.  But I do think it's legitimate to question whether or not the Occupy Nashville live stream and chat is doing more harm than good at this point in time.  What's related here is only a little of what's been going on with this team.  To be fair, not each and every member of the team has acted in the same manner.  But, if people are attempting to step up to the plate and rein in their own, they're both invisible and unsuccessful in their attempts.  It does appear they're ceding to those who are responsible for the dismal numbers in Occupy Nashville's live stream and chat.  As one person noted to me recently, "There's really not much reason to go there anymore."  That's a shame.  So much potential for outreach and goodwill squandered.  For what?  For who?

The fact that this team would stage a provocative event within hours after being called out for problems and then compound their offense by making it appear that those who didn't like it were the offenders is indicative of something that I'm not sure even a ticket system can address, but I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for accountability from them nonetheless.  There was a meeting.  A plan.  Do it.  Or shut it down.  This is not your party, it's our movement.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shifting Gears

Occupy Nashville began its physical occupation of Legislative Plaza just over two months ago, and during that time I've put not a small amount of energy into my  participation in the general movement, both on and off site and online.  It's been a labor of love, mostly, because I believe in and support 100% the goals of Occupy Nashville as presented on their website. 

But the time has come for me to change how I participate, so that's what this blog entry is about...shifting gears.  For over two months, I've made numerous attempts to contribute to the movement and found myself repeatedly frustrated by how difficult it was to actually do something when I had both the willingness and ability to do it because the people I was trying to help were either unable or unwilling to facilitate access to whoever or whichever process could make it happen.  I've watched, too, as numerous others have related similar experiences...people want to help, are able to help, volunteer to help...but can't get plugged in.  There have been posts about this on the forum of the Occupy Nashville site and numerous conversations about it in the live stream chat too.  Worst of all, good people have withdrawn their support and participation in this movement because of the bad behavior of a few and the willingness of the rest to let them highjack the movement.

I haven't written an entry here in a while because what I wanted to write was too angry, too critical for public consumption.  For the past two months of Occupy Nashville, I've seen all the isms that confront our larger society in microcosm, because we are, after all, the 99%.  In other words, we brought our shit with us.  We united around a couple of really good issues, but we brought the rest of ourselves to the party and therein lies the rub.  Sexism.  Ageism.  Racism.  Anti-Semitism.  Ableism.  These things are not what the movement is about, nor are they reflective of the majority of occupiers, but they're present and, unfortunately, they're predominant in one of the primary vehicles of online liaison for those who are part of the movement but not actually occupying the plaza, the live stream and chat experience. 

This blog began as "Occupy Nashville," not "Occupy Dixie."  It began because I'd reserved the name weeks earlier but never done anything with it when someone from one of the working groups approached me and asked if I'd be interested in writing any entries for an Occupy Nashville blog they wanted to get going and I said sure.  I then wrote something I'd been intending to write anyway and went ahead and published it here when the Occupy Nashville blog never materialized and I wanted the material to still be fresh.  The sole purpose of it was always to be a place in which I could put Occupy Nashville in a good spotlight and it was to be another way of trying to be of support without occupying the plaza.

Until now, I'd never have used this vehicle to say anything critical about the movement because we have too many critics as it is, woefully uninformed (and worse) as they are.  I have tried to confront a number of things within the processes available to me, but I find I can no longer in good conscience participate in a process that finds a hundred ways to say S.T.F.U. without using the words.

Occupy Nashville has a Code of Conduct, one that was hard fought for too.  The battles were figuratively if not literally bloody.  The crime is that it's not enforced.  A few renegades are allowed to behave irresponsibly and thereby endanger the entire movement.  Whether it's the intentional act of an agent provocateur or the imbecility of men behaving poorly, if Occupy Nashville folds or becomes irrelevant, it won't be Bill Haslam who yields the axe.  It will be an inside job.

I will not be silenced.  When I saw, back in October, a GA in which a woman was accused of being "divisive" for suggesting formation of a women's caucus, I jumped on Facebook within minutes and created a page for women who Occupy Nashville because women do not need permission from anyone to gather and speak of collective concerns.  Likewise, I'll take responsibility for what needs to be done now and stop trying to work within their system at all, but become, instead, an observer who limits my participation to reporting my own opinions in word and photography on this blog. 

I hope it will continue to be mostly a labor of love, because the goals of this movement are good goals.  There are good, courageous, talented, tirelessly dedicated people in this movement, many of them.  I hope the bad guys don't ruin it for everybody and I intend to prod or laud as I see fit.  I hope it's more of the latter.  But I'm not going anywhere.  I'm occupying myself for the duration, on my own terms.  No holds barred, because this movement is worth making an issue of.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Occupy Nashville Kitchen Is Open Again

I wrote yesterday that Occupy Nashville had been visited by an inspector from the city health department and had been issued a citation advising them to close their kitchen because they were serving the homeless population that has always come around the plaza and not just those people who are part of the occupation.  The visit occurred in the morning and there followed many hours in which Occupy Nashville representatives would attempt to discern just exactly what the citation meant in terms of their being able to feed themselves.  In the interim, the citation would be displayed online and there was report of much conversation back and forth between Occupy Nashville and the city of Nashville that made it clear to Occupy Nashville representatives they needed to come up with a plan for how they could satisfy this new guideline not previously presented to them and still feed their members.  There was lengthy discussion of what constituted "catering," talk of allegedly "required" food safety courses, and even if would still be ok to eat a pizza if delivered to the plaza by a supporter of the movement.

At 7 pm last night, there would be a two-hour discussion in General Assembly of what needed to happen and nothing from the kitchen was served except single-serve portions of food brought on site packaged, so as to avoid any potential legal problems before a good system to identify those who could be fed and those who couldn't be fed was developed and implemented.  That's what Occupy Nashville had been told they could get away with feeding to anybody who wanted to eat.  It had even been explained that if an occupant was determined to have given food that didn't fit that description to someone not part of the group (read, homeless person), they could be arrested and subject to up to 30 days in jail and a $50 fine.  Legal advisers drafted a proposal to present at GA in order to address the logistics of being able to prepare and serve food on the plaza based on the information available to them after hours of talking that had gone on during the day.

So, you might just imagine everyone's surprise to see this story in the Tennessean when they arose this morning.  According to Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County's Health Department spokesperson Brian Todd, Occupy Nashville can feed anybody they want to, as long as they aren't selling food.  He denied that the kitchen had been shut down and compared it all to tailgating for the Titans and said the only issue was whether or not the food was being sold.  Since food has never been sold by Occupy Nashville, there should be no problem, right?

Except, Occupy Nashville still has the problem of the official citation, the one with the box checked that reads, "Your permit to operate a food establishment in Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County is suspended effective this date," so today Occupy Nashville representatives tried once again to determine what it all meant and what they could do and not do in order to avoid more citations or even arrests or eviction of the entire occupation.  By the end of the day, a curious story would emerge from Metro's Director of Public Food Safety, Todd Crozier.

It seems there should never have been a citation issued in the first place.  According to the explanation given to Occupy Nashville today, "somebody, possibly the state of Tennessee," filed a complaint and requested an inspection.  The inspector sent was new on the job and wrote the citation based on standing regulations, unaware that Occupy Nashville has been granted an exception to the requirement that they only feed members of their own group.

How did this happen?  Representatives of Occupy Nashville were tied up all day and into the night addressing what is now being called essentially a big mistake.  A lot of concern and stress was experienced on the plaza as a result of it all as well.  This is food we've been talking about and people have to eat, after all.  Is it just a coincidence, or is it more hassle from Haslam?  I know where my money would be on that one.

State of Tennessee Governor Bill "We Don't Need No Stinkin' First Amendment" Haslam has left a trail of tricks in the short time the plaza has been occupied as he's maneuvered for eviction.  Today, as we recover from yesterday, we see this article, also in The Tennessean, in which there's confirmation of what we already knew...that the state sat on requests for portable toilets for days before attempting to evict the occupation on the basis of unsanitary conditions.  Now, this week, the occupation has had to devote two days' energy in trying to understand and comply with what is now alleged to have been a mistake made under mysterious circumstances.  Is that the plan?  To evacuate by wearing the occupiers out? 

In the meantime, plans are underway for a festive day at the plaza for Thanksgiving and it now appears there will be no problem with having and sharing food.  There is a page on Facebook where you can arrange to bring something to donate or to come down and share the meal and day with good company.  Assertions from some corners aside, the plaza is a family friendly place to visit and Occupy Nashville would love to have her supporters come to celebrate our common cause and break bread together. 

Family on plaza for recent Occupy Nashville event.  Join us, won't you?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Occupy Nashville Kitchen Forced to Close

The Occupy Nashville site was today visited by the Metro division of Food and Safety Services and instructed to immediately shut down their kitchen.  A citation issued indicated the need for members of Occupy Nashville to be certified through a process that includes a class in food preparation offered by the health department in order to serve food to the homeless or general public who may come on site.

This comes many weeks into the occupation and after several earlier visits from Metro Nashville health department agents in which no such concerns were addressed or citations issued.  One is left to wonder if this is but the latest volley in the state of Tennessee's efforts to find or create any reason possible to evict the Nashville occupation protesting here in support of Occupy Wall Street. 

I'll also note the timing in another context...It was just days ago that the temporary restraining order Occupy Nashville was granted against the state in federal court became an indefinite injunction prohibiting them from evicting the group on the issue of a hastily drawn up curfew.  As I suggested in my entry here last night, there's evidence the state will quickly move to take another tact.  It continues to appear that people who make the rules do not want the protesters of Occupy Nashville to be able to exercise their 1st Amendment rights.

Also unfortunate is that this occurs as Occupy Nashville is planning a community Thanksgiving dinner on the plaza.  The health department advises that the next scheduled class isn't scheduled until January.  Members of the movement are reaching out to caterers and other food service personnel in an effort to solicit a remedy for the situation.  Occupiers need to be able to eat.  If you can help, please see contact information at the Occupy Nashville site.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Did We Get Here?

Last week, University of California-Davis police pepper sprayed peaceable protesters sitting on the ground with their arms linked together.  Video and many eye witnesses confirm that those so assaulted demonstrated no threat to anybody, never mind to uniformed officers in riot gear.  Ironically, one of the things the students were protesting was the use of unwarranted force at the UC-Berkeley campus earlier in the month.  In the past few weeks, there have been scores of Occupy site-related arrests and tens of thousands of dollars of personal property, medical supplies, computers and more have been confiscated and in some cases destroyed. Law enforcement agencies have used LRAD weapons, chemical agents, rubber bullets, batons, dogs, horses, and have even brought to the scene of a peaceful protest a very tank-like  "12-ton armored personnel carrier."  Occupy Nashville itself has endured the arrests of over 55 people in two nighttime raids and, as recently as this weekend, members of that occupation were subjected to verbal insults from an employee of the Nashville Fire Department.

While we can be glad these abuses of authority are finally getting media attention, I think it behooves us to take a look at how we got here and why there are some people who believe this egregious behavior is justified, as demonstrated by their nauseating comments online about "vermin" and more on such sites as The Blaze in their reader comment sections.  How is it that citizens of the nation that proclaims itself the defender of liberty around the world not only accept, but in some cases, even celebrate violence against those who are exercising their 1st Amendment right to free speech?  Why does Newt Gingrich, a leading contender for the nomination to the highest office in our land, believe he can dismiss the Occupy movement with a statement like, "go get a job, right after you take a bath?"

In order to overcome our innate compassion for the humanity of others, there must first be some demonizing process that renders those we wish to see as enemies as somehow not human, different.  We need to see people as "other" than we ourselves are before we are inclined to attack or justify the attacks of others because human beings mostly do not want to attack those they see as the same as themselves.  It's only when we deny feelings and/or ascribe immorality and worse to people that we're able to want to hurt or, indeed, even to remove or exterminate them.  Nazi propaganda worked to do this for years before the German public was able to look away as Jews and others were led to their deaths.

Today, corporate owned media and the politicians beholden to the same corporations are working hard to do the same thing to the Occupy movement.  Local news crews will roll up to an Occupy site at 4 a.m. and grab the first person they see in the vicinity or on the perimeter to "interview" and then run a story as if it was inside information from the movement when the reality may be that the person they interviewed was simply walking through the area or a hanger-on on the edge of the grounds looking for food when he was sober enough to walk.  Photographers will shoot and publish the pictures they believe most likely to, well, get looked at.  While that may be a worthy goal for a photographer, it's not a very good way to tell the truth about an event or movement if the pic of the day is a clown in a rainbow wig carrying an offensive sign.

I have witnessed numerous Occupy Nashville events live streamed or been present myself for them and then been dismayed the next day to see how they were either distorted or not even covered by media.  I hear, repeatedly, the same story from other Occupy sites and on the occasions I've been able to see those events streamed, I've frequently been dismayed by the press misrepresentation of what happened.  Someone is raped or drugs are sold near an Occupy site and it's reported as if the movement is a haven for criminal activity, all the while ignoring the fact that people were raped, murdered, and drugs were sold nightly in the same block before the occupation began.  The truth is that occupation sites are not causing crime; rather, they're presenting a very public mirror of the problems in our country and nobody wants to acknowledge that.  Especially not when you can make the Occupy participants appear as "different" in the process.

Even as pepper spray and batons are wielded by law enforcement officers, other agents of the corporate controlled government do their work behind the scenes to demonize as well.  Recently released emails from the Tennessee Highway Patrol and others reveal accusations of urinating, defecating, and orgies on the plaza in Nashville.  One includes the alleged comment by a female associate that she was glad she was accompanied on a visit to the plaza because she would have been afraid to be there otherwise.  This, of course, is the same plaza occupation that many families come to every week for events because it is a clean, safe place to be.

Ann Coulter tells her audience the Occupy movement is "demonic" and seems to take heart in fondly recalling the shootings at Kent State in 1970 as some sort of parable for our times.  Rush Limbaugh jaws to adoring fans that the occupiers are "lousy hippies, thieves, rapists, purse snatchers, muggers", while no less than the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor refers to them as a mob.  Occupy participants are to be labeled anything, it seems, other than citizens exercising the rights granted them by the Constitution of the United States.

If this all seems as if it's tied together too neatly, that's perhaps because it is.  Just this week, there was confirmation that the nationwide crackdown on Occupy sites is a well funded (to the tune of $850,000) and highly orchestrated plan to smear the movement and mayors across the country collaborated about how best to eradicate the occupations in their cities.

Occupy Nashville has a pending law suit against the State of Tennessee for attempting to evict them on the basis of a hastily enacted curfew and therefore currently enjoys a bit of a least on the curfew issue.  But, what of other issues?  Although the state legislature will not be in session again until after the first of the year, there's evidence that the state may try once again to shut down the occupation here on the grounds of some alleged safety and sanitation issues by drafting new legislation.  

Where is this going?  Will there be another Kent State tragedy?  I hope not, but it's hard not to argue that the stage is being set for just exactly that.  Protesters from Occupy Nashville recently infiltrated an appearance by Donald Rumsfeld and later reported their dismay at how uninformed the other attendees were about who and what the Occupy movement is about.  The event was sponsored by The Heritage Foundation.  Those who attended from Occupy Nashville reported a lot of fear in the room, fear that the movement is about socialism, communism, Obama lovers, spoiled rich kids, slackards, aging hippies...the great unwashed, if you will.  In listening to their accounts, I was reminded of the Nashville socialite quoted recently in a local publication when she sniffed, "It's our plaza, we paid for it," when asked how she felt about the Occupy participants being on the plaza the same night her group had an event planned at the adjacent Tennessee Center for the Performing Arts.  I was reminded of Marie Antoinette too, but that's another story.

Compared to other cities, Nashville has enjoyed a relatively good relationship with local law enforcement officers on site.  I was personally appreciative in witnessing one THP officer move to pick up from the steps the discarded military uniform dropped when a protesting father of a veteran was arrested on the plaza and humbled that he had the grace to walk over and hand it to the other protesters who had requested that it be picked up.  It's my premise that he did that because he was able to see the humanity of those around him, in spite of the efforts to dehumanize them.  He wasn't afraid of the scary bogeyman stories.  I saw video of a Metro Nashville police officer as he very appropriately dealt with Occupy Nashville protesters celebrating their evening with Rumsfeld by dancing in the street by telling them to move, telling them where they would be legal, and then letting them continue to celebrate peaceably if joyously.  If you watched the 8-minute video of the pepper spray assault at UC-Davis, you may have noticed one officer who was not in riot gear.  One officer was shown several times, bare headed, unshielded.  He even appeared to have a smile once or twice as he effectively controlled the protesters appropriately while the rest of his peers were in gear as if they were fighting terrorists instead of peaceably sitting students on the sidewalk.  He, too, saw their humanity and not the lies...not the "other" that the media and others with their own interests have tried to push.  I saw the press release issued by Portland Police Chief Mike Reese in which he advocated peaceable coexistence between Occupy sites and law enforcement.  

This movement and Occupy Nashville have work to do.  We must take it as serious business to become the media and introduce ourselves so people know who we are, why we're here, what we want.  We can do that, and in the process have a lot more dancing down Broadway and Portland police chief stories.  Alternatively, we can let the lies go unchallenged and wait for them to come get us.  Gandhi told us, "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."  We need only to survive first.