No "leaders", a collective
Occupy Houston held a come-as-you-please meet and greets at Market Square Park this week.
The purpose of a Thursday meeting was to make a plan for the general assembly for a Friday meeting. This next meeting will set a schedule for general assemblies henceforth, as well as a time, location, and course for the Occupy Houston event on Oct. 6th, part of a nation-wide demonstration and occupation.
As CultureMap wrote Wednesday, the #OccupyWallStreet movement in New York and elsewhere is well-meaning but a bit unfocused. CultureMap stopped by Market Square to see how Houston's local liaison was faring. It's still early in the game, but it seems like more of the same. A lot of voices, a lot of ideas, but very little concrete action.
The crowd ebbed and flowed all day, with those interested in the movement stopping by to talk about hot button issues — corporate corruption, a lack of true democracy, joblessness and homelessness — and to discuss what Houston's participation should look like in the national dialogue. The organizers are passing out fliers and eight-page guides to people's assemblies. They have a lot to talk about.
Luckily, there is plenty of shade on the lawn, a snack bar, and even mist machines if it gets too hot out there.
Craig (part of the protestors' thing is that they do not give out their last names) is one of the facilitators of Occupy Houston but, he clarified, he's not the leader. He talks about horizontal democracy and his goal for the upcoming demonstrations. As a facilitator, he aims to keep things peaceful, nonviolent and representative. This movement, he says, is all about "positive collective thinking," but Craig is quick to assert that his personal sentiments do not necessarily reflect those of the others in attendance.
Another in the group, Brian, thinks that "collective" has a negative connotation — he prefers to refer to it as "cooperative thinking." Drinking from his Camel Back, he spouts off names of authors and details about current events. He's obviously well-educated in the issues and anxious to make a change.
"We're like a congress," said Leif, another facilitator. "We're organizing for accountability."
Leif has high hopes for the future of this nation-wide movement, and imagines that the outcome will yield something like a fourth branch of government that is truly a people's branch. For him, providing "input" during elections every two or four years isn't enough.
Occupy Houston is organizing forces on Facebook and accepting ideas about the group's every move: Which FAQs to include on the website, where to organize, how to decorate picket signs and when to meet in the future.
The organizers are looking for volunteers to fill positions in the general assembly. They're asking for participants, for water and for sunscreen. And they are aiming for consensus in everything.