Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What Happened at #OccupyBoston last night

I walked into my house at 3:30am last night very tired and not sure what I was feeling. I had hoped that when I woke up this morning it would all make sense and that I could write an introspective and intelligent blog. Now it is almost 5:30. I am waiting for my ride and I still don't quite know what to say.

For those of you who don't know, last night 100+ members of #OccupyBoston were arrested when some folks decided to expand the camp onto another piece of downtown land. I was not there for the general assembly meeting where the decision was made, but having talked to a few people who were there - this is what I understand to be the basic outline of the facts:


New people showed up with tents wanting to join #OccupyBoston. There was not enough room on the land they had already been using so they started planning to move to extend to another piece of land. The Nature Conservancy that owns the land said that they would rather not have folks move there, but if that decision was made then they just asked that people respect the space as they have been respecting the space they are already in. The police then said that they could not move to the new space and that if they did, they would be arrested.

People were debating what to do and some people said that they would move there no matter what. Once people decided to move to the new space, others decided that they should not be just left there alone to face the police. Once the tents were set up, lots of police (it seemed like at least 150 to me) started coming downtown and putting on riot gear. Folks linked arms and formed a circle around the new camp.

The police came in. Some people were carried out peacefully. Some people looked like they were beaten. Because it was so dark, even though I was right across the street I couldn't tell exactly what was happening to whom. I need to watch more video and talk to more people to understand how many folks were beaten and how the issues started but it is clear that some people were definitely hurt.

These are the facts as I know them, my understanding may evolve over time as I have more conversations, but I wanted to share them because so often the media doesn't really quite get it right.

What I will say is that my basic evaluation is that #OccupyBoston is at a critical place. Last night really showed both that folks were willing to stand together and that there are real limitations to the way that decisions are made. I think that there were so many more creative approaches to the problem of running out of space, but it doesn't feel like the space for creative thinking was really there. I recognize that it is hard to be creative when you have a thousand people trying to make a decision, but I think that if the group is going to really move forward it will have to develop better processes and folks have to be more committed to getting the information that they need to make good decisions and evolve even better processes to disseminate that information and unlock the creativity of the group.

So as frustrated as I was last night both at the #OccupyBoston membership and the City/Boston Police, I am not pulling out of this conversation. I have more thoughts but I have to head out to get to an event and then off to an Occupy meeting.

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