#OccupySanDiego Finds Some Common Ground

By Arturo R. García

As it entered its’ second week, the San Diego arm of the Occupy Wall Street movement has taken at least one crucial step: forging alliances. The group’s Oct. 15 rally and march to downtown San Diego highlighted speakers from different organizations, and a greater acknowledgment of struggles in both various communities of color and the LGBT community.

This wasn’t always the case: though OSD had developed quickly after launching successfully on Oct. 7 – organizers said around 3,000 people attended its’ opening-night occupation of Children’s Park downtown – matters of race took a backseat opening weekend, as the group attempted to get its’ house in order. One protester addressing POC-specific issues that first weekend was a U.S. servicewoman carrying a sign opposing the recent anti-immigration laws in Alabama and Arizona:

Otherwise, the bulk of OSD’s Oct. 9 General Assembly dealt with a fundamental issue: the matter of consensus – settling issues by unanimous approval, a core tenet of the OWS movement. But as San Diego CityBeat’s Peter Holsin observed, reaching a consensus about consensus wasn’t easy:

The debate came to a head at Sunday’s General Assembly meeting. ISO comrade Cecile Veillard argued that consensus will slow the group down and make it harder to build, but full-time occupier Abel Thomas pointed out that the entire camp so far had been built using consensus. Soon, the group started proposing modified forms of consensus. Amir Shoja, a graduate student at SDSU, introduced a motion for a simple majority vote for “insubstantial” issues and a consensus vote for “substantial” ones, but then he withdrew it when people asked whether they’d need to vote on which issues were insubstantial and which substantial. Later, Veillard introduced a motion to change the group’s process to a 90-percent majority vote, but instead of sticking around for a discussion when people voted against it, she walked away to join a separate meeting in front of the ISO tent.

Almost two hours into the meeting, one of the organizers stood up to announce an update from Occupy Houston: “They just passed a proposal and action for a de-investment campaign. What are we doing with our GA? Let’s get back on track, guys.”

The meeting eventually fell apart, but there was a slight glimmer of hope. Throughout, people mostly followed bureaucratic procedure. They used hand signals to voice their opinions, waving their hands in big arcs to express agreement and putting their arms in “X”s to disagree. They raised their hands to be added to the “stack”—the list of people slated to speak—and made a triangle shape to make factual and procedural clarifications. For a group that could barely follow procedure the night before, that alone seemed like a step forward.

The week that followed was hit by both tragedy and adversity: on Oct. 10, a man unconnected to the group fell to his death near its’ campsite at the Civic Center downtown; later in the week, most of the occupiers removed their tents and supplies after warnings from local police. However, some stayed behind, leading to this encounter with authorities Oct. 14 (Trigger alert):

The SDPD asked the occupiers to vacate Civic Center because the area had been reserved by a dance event over the weekend. But it could hardly be called a coincidence that OSD was asked to leave the premises around the same time as others such as Denver, Dallas and the original NYC protest a day before the Oct. 15 occupation rallies and marches around the world.

With its’ supplies relocated to Balboa Park near downtown, OSD’s rally featured speakers from the Islamic Labor Caucus, a local LGBT activist; several statements of solidarity from speakers about the immigrant and Native American communities; the news that the California Federation of Teachers was endorsing the occupation; and the emergence of the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice as a possible ally:

That same day, I also spoke with two Latino protesters, who mentioned that the group had celebrated Oct. 10 as Indigenous Rights’ Day, before having to deal with the relocation issue, and discussed how the occupations can reach out to POC communities – and vice-versa.

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

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  • Roundelay78

    Just wanted to say that I’m an activist here in Detroit, where the Occupy Detroit Movement just jumped off as of yesterday. There’s been occupation meetings for the last two weeks, in fact a specific meeting was held at a church me and a friend/fellow activist went to Sunday (yesterday) to encourage specifically community groups of color to come and get information about the Occupy movement here, and also so they themselves could be included if they chose to do it. The occupation of Grand Circus Park ( a huge beautiful public park in downtown Detroit ) has actually been occupied since Saturday night. Me and my friend joined a committee (Sensitivity & Racial Inclusion) that had its first meeting last week.
    I was asked by the facilitator of the group to go downtown this morning and find out some info about further actions, which I did. The Grand Assembly held downtown Friday night (there must have been at least bwt 300-500 people  who marched down there earlier that afternoon) was great in that there was a lot of settling/creation/disscusion/facilitation of various agendas,meetings,then there was a breakout into discussion groups, then gradually various groups were made up and broken off into to deal with various actions. There have been disagreements, some people have dogged the movement as being a waste of time, a local conservative commentator just dismissed the whole local movement, as he put, “a bunch of malcontents”. I could care less about this dude because in the next breath he praised the hell out of the Tea Party, so fuck him—plus he didn’t even bother to come downtown and actually INTERVIEW anybody to find out who there folks were—I posted on his blog that a REAL journalist’s job is to actually go and find out FACTS about events, not just blow the whole thing off because his  damn precious Tea Party has nothing to do with it.  BTW, the movement includes WORKING people as well as studnts, the unemployed AND the homeless (Grand Circus Park has long been a place where homeless folks live off and on). There were problems the first occupation night —-some people were robbed by homeless folks, I was told two ambulances had to come by, there weren’t enough security people,etc., some folks had a hard time adjusting to the realities of spending the night in a downtown Detroit area, especially with the cold.  Went down and saw the tents this morning myself—there’s already a set-up tent for food (my group facilitator felt that they were too squashed together, especially the food and medical tents—anyway, I got to go, but feel free to check the OccupyDetroit pages on Facebook–I haven’t been there yet myself!