Occupy Williamsburg

Last night we had our first Occupy Williamsburg (a neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY) general assembly (GA). Adam Clark Estes did a fine job of covering the event in the Atlantic. So I won’t bother covering the same ground. But I did want to let people know a little bit about how Occupy Wall Street is spreading, not only around the world, but here locally in New York City as well. We are seeing Occupy communities develop all around the City in every borough.

The meeting got off to a late start but it was well attended. We probably had 50 to 75 people in attendance. Many were in their 20s and 30s, but we had some older folks turn out as well. And amongst the folks who came out was a good mix of long-term activists and people who just gotten active since Occupy Wall Street started. It was a great mix of passionate, creative people with some great ideas for creating roots for the Occupy movement in North Brooklyn.

I say North Brooklyn because that’s essentially what it is. Williamsburg is certainly the most well known and trendy area. But there were many of us from other points in North Brooklyn, like Green Point and my neighborhood of Bushwick. Some folks came because they had been displaced from Williamsburg because of high rents; some of us came out because it’s the closest GA to where we live.

Corey from One Thug Nation made it clear at the opening remarks that while he and others made the call for this GA, they had no agenda to ram down anyone’s throat. It was one small example of the horizontal and democratic nature of this movement. We started the night with about 40 minutes of open discussion. People voiced concerns, hopes, misgivings, and philosophical ideals. We slowly narrowed it down to about four main issues. Here are those issues and the report backs:

1. School group

Meeting about school closings. Talked about beginning outreach to the school that’s being closed. Also talked about reimagining what education should look like. They wanted to focus on the school closing and they are going to start doing outreach. Occupy the DOE is doing some of this stuff. There is a meeting on Sunday at 60 Wall Street. This is a time kjhkjh outreach. NA mentioned budget cuts. Increased class sizes and higher drop out rights.

2. Occupations

We talked about short term and long term occupations. What types of buildings. And how we integrate some of our other concerns with our occupations and what we do with a space when we occupy.

3. Outreach

There are a lot of different groups and activists and we want to connect this group with others and building bridges so we’re not rebuilding the wheel. Connecting newer activists who want to get involved but haven’t gotten involved yet. Educating the community around issues; doing a peoples history or a walking tour and educate people about what’s happening in an area. How do we combat the Williamsburg stereotype and build bridges between older communities and newer communities? We should think about what facilitation that works for our group. We should have people go to facilitation trainings and then come back and see how we can tweak that for our group.

4. History and Education

Before the previous generation of revolutionaries dies out, Rich would like them to come and give a presentation on the Black Panthers.

As you can see some great topics tackled in the first meeting. I think everyone left the meeting with high expectations of what we can do as a group. As someone pointed out during the meeting, we have a lot of social capital in Williamsburg; people with skills and resources to do some amazing stuff. It reminds of a conversation I had nearly five years ago when I first moved to Brooklyn. Someone pointed out that “if we could only get those hipsters on board” specifically because of their social capital and skill sets. Now that time is becoming a reality.

All in all a great first General Assembly for Occupy Williamsburg. I believe we have a great group of committed people and can only hope that this movement will continue to grow and take root in our communities.