While we’ve noticed that many of Occupy Wall Street’s General Assembly meetings have been moved off-site and indoors (due to a literal lack of space now that the tents have gone up), it wasn’t till last night’s OWS first conference of a new council did we realize this was actually part of the plan to keep the movement alive once it gets cold. The Spokes Council–which was passed by the General Assembly committee but is not one of their working groups–had its first meeting in Murray Bergtraum High School cafeteria, to mixed results.
The Spokes Council, so named because everyone sits around in a circle like the connecting spokes on a bike, differentiates itself from the G.A. on the surface by allowing its members to use a real, electric microphone instead of the human version. Amazing! It both allows everyone to hear you without having to play a game of telephone with the back of the meeting, and serves as a sort of Lord of the Flies conch shell, where whoever has the voice-amplifier gets to be the only person speaking.
It’s real function though, is to determine which current working groups are viable, as well as help figure out day-to-day logistics for the Occupation.
The Village Voice noted only two major grievances that heated up the groups. The first came courtesy of Greek artist and Direct Democracy working group member Georgia Sagri, who broke rank yesterday and grabbed the mic: “I think through the spokes council process, working groups become organizations and they become parties. What’s the reason for us to marginalize ourselves?”
Apparently, the group was also pissed that press were invited to the event, though they were less upset by The Village Voice than The New York Times. Eventually, a “temperature check” determined that the press weren’t welcome by everyone in the council (though they were not outright banned either, confirmed Voice reporter Rosie Gray).
Of course, this still presents the problem of having most of the key participants and volunteers all away from Zuccotti Park at one time: with the rise of homelessness and increasing tensions within the tent-dwelling community, the park has already begun to resemble a modern day Hooverville rather than the fought-for real estate of a social movement. It’s fine to say that OWS is a leaderless movement, but when everyone who actually cares about the future of Occupy Wall Street is away at indoor meetings, you leave the park up for grabs.