Occupy Pittsburgh news flash: Consensus process actually produces consensus | Slag Heap

Occupy Pittsburgh news flash: Consensus process actually produces consensus

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As noted here yesterday, plans for the Occupy Pittsburgh action are coming along, and were further cemented at a "General Assembly" meeting at the First Unitarian Church in Shadyside.

Last night's meeting attracted about 150 to 200 people -- fewer than at the first meeting, but roughly the same as attended a session on Sunday. And while previous gatherings mostly produced frustration, last night's gathering came to consensus on some critical points in the movement. Their march permit is currently pending with the city. We'll post the statements and strategies as they become available online.

Here's what the General Assembly agreed to last night:

  • The rally will start at 11 a.m. at Freedom Corner in the Hill District and move downtown with stops at the City-County Building and other Downtown corporate headquarters, and will end at Market Square. The movement kickoff rally will be held from 1:30 to 3 p.m. there. Organizers say the original location, Point State Park, is hosting another event.

  • The encampment area is set for Mellon Green, on Grant Street between the BNY headquarters and UPMC building at 4:00 p.m. While the space is private property and this portion of the action is unpermitted, "there is an ordinance on our side," asserts Jibran Mushtaq, of the Location working group. The ordinance says that during periods of high foot traffic, "the space must remain open to the public," he says. And as a press release issued this morning says, "the Urban Open Space section of the Golden Triangle ordinance of city code ... mandates privately-owned plazas and parks be 'open without restriction to the general public.'" Further, Mushtaq says, "Our goal is to get the occupation going."

  • A second "safe" site will be at the Monumental Church on Wylie Avenue in the Hill District "for anyone who can't risk getting arrested," says Mushtaq, or in the event the protestors need to regroup.

  • They adopted a "tactical non-violence" strategy, which pledged not to initiate any act of violence -- against either people or property -- but does not rule out self-defense.

  • They adopted a Declaration of Occupation

  • They adopted a statement of "internal solidarity" opposing all forms of discrimination.

The use of Mellon Green may prove contentious: During the G-20 demonstrations, protesters who tried to use the parklet simply to eat lunch on were hassled by police and forced to move. 

Diversity has also been an issue facing the group from the outset, and it again came up last night as the GA debated the solidarity statement put forth by the marginalized communities and allies working group.

"Just because you're part of an organized group doesn't mean you're not oppressive," stressed East Liberty resident Quinn Elliot as she encouraged adoption of the statement.

Additionally, Khalid Raheem, President and CEO of the National Council for Urban Peace and Justice, said that an auxiliary group has formed from the national Occupy movement, called Occupy the Hood. Locally, Raheem said, a group was "working on a list of issues relevant to people of color." That meeting, he said, was happening simultaneous to the GA last night, and they were hoping to present the information to the GA prior to Saturday's occupation. The GA did reach consensus to support the auxiliary group.

Overall, attendees of Wednesday's meeting say it went smoother then the first two. "It isn't that one is better than the other. It's just people getting to know each other," says Steve Cooper, a member of the facilitation committee. "You can almost feel the energy start. No one is telling us what to do. We didn't know what to do. Now we're making progress that we can get behind."

"Tonight was great. The last one was just people sitting and shouting," says Elliot. "I felt I had something to do coming out of it."

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