Recap of the General Assembly on Friday, 11-25-11

November 25, 2011 in General Assembly by Bryan

Occupy Baton Rouge Black Friday General Assembly

On November 25, 2011, Black Friday, Occupy Baton Rouge held our tenth General Assembly.

The General Assembly was facilitated by Nathan Anderson, with Sophie Kunen taking stack and Bryan Perkins taking minutes.

This being the day that we intended to start our encampment, we did not follow the normal agenda for General Assemblies. We began with a discussion about what we think the focus of the Occupy Baton Rouge movement should be. That discussion led us to “The Fifteen Core Issues The Country Must Face” from Occupy Washington, DC. We mostly agreed that we support the same issues, but they were not officially voted on by the General Assembly. Those issues, along with some of the added concerns specific to Occupy Baton Rouge, are as follows:

1. Corporatism– firmly establish that money is not speech, corporations are not people, only people have Constitutional rights, end corporate influence over the political process, protect people and the environment from damage by corporations.

2. Wars and Militarism – end wars and occupations, end private for-profit military contractors, reduce the national security state and end the weapons export industry. War crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace must be addressed and those responsible held accountable under international law.

3. Human Rights – end exploitation of people in the US and abroad, end discrimination in all forms, equal civil rights and due process for all people.

4. Worker Rights and jobs – all working-age people have the right to safe, just, non-discriminatory and dignified working conditions, a sustainable living wage, paid leave and economic protection.

On this point, participants agreed that we should include the right to unionize and our distaste with Louisiana being a “Right to Work” state.

5. Government – all processes of the three branches of government should be accountable to international law, transparent and follow the rule of law, people have the right to participate in decisions which affect them.

6. Elections – all citizens 18 and older have the right to vote without barriers, all candidates have the right to be heard and to run and all votes should be counted.

7. Criminal justice and prisons –end private for-profit prisons, adopt evidence-based drug policy, prisoners have the right to humane and just conditions with a focus on rehabilitation and reintegration into society, abolish the death penalty.

Here, the group agreed that we should add that all humans, regardless of wealth, have the right to affective representation and the due process of the law.

8. Healthcare – create a national, universal and publicly financed comprehensive health system.

9. Education – all people have the right to a high quality, publicly-funded and broad education from pre-school through vocational training or university.

On this point we agreed to emphasize that we are against the privatization of the school system.

10. Housing – all people have the right to affordable and safe housing.

Here it was mentioned that we should plan a direct action designed to help a family whose house is in foreclosure.

11. Environment – adopt policies which effectively create a carbon-free and radio-active free energy economy and that respects the rights of nature.

Here, some participants were concerned with the wording of the last part of the sentence, so we agreed to rewrite it as, “…that conserves the environment and respects the rights of future generations.”

12. Finance and the economy – end policies which foster a wealth divide and move to a localized and democratic financial system, reform taxes so that they are progressive and provide goods, monetary gain and services for the people.

13. Media – airwaves and the internet are public goods, require that media be honest, accurate and accountable to the people.

Some specific points mentioned in this section were a desire to return to the Fairness Doctrine and concern with the internet censorship bill, SOPA, which is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.

14. Food and water – create systems that protect the land and water, create local and sustainable food networks and practices.

The group agreed to include advocating for the millions facing famine worldwide under this issue, and the specific, local issue of food desserts in Baton Rouge was mentioned as an aspect of this point that we should address.

15. Transportation – provide affordable, clean and convenient public transportation and safe spaces for pedestrian and non-automobile travel.

Transportation was agreed to be a key issue in Occupy Baton Rouge, especially with the crises our public transportation system always seems to be facing. We mentioned that we should get involved with Together Baton Rouge and BRASS, two organizations which are already fighting for these issues in Baton Rouge, and show them as much support as we can.

That being said, the proposal was passed to attend the Baton Rouge Metro Council Budget Hearing on the 2012 city-parish budget on Tuesday, November 29th, at 4 pm. The hearing will be held in the Metro Council chambers on the third floor of City Hall at 222 St. Louis Street. We plan to meet at the Centroplex fountains between City Hall and the River Center at 3:30 before we go in. This is an important hearing because it will affect the current budget crisis that the CATS system faces, a crisis which could result in cutting 46% of bus service hours. The Occupy Baton Rouge Arts Alliance will be making a stencil to put on t-shirts to wear to the event, so bring a plain white t-shirt with your name in it to the General Assembly on November 26th if you want one made.

Black Friday Police PresenceAfter our discussion of these issues, we moved on to business concerning the actual encampment. The police presence was obvious from the moment we arrived in Arsenal Park. There were several cars patrolling, several parked and watching us, and several officers on foot patrolling. Before we arrived, the police had blocked off our intended camp site with orange, plastic construction fencing, making it obvious that they would not let us set our encampment. With the obvious police presence, a lack of a permit, our legal advisors being out of touch, the courts being on holiday, and all the media attention directed at LSU’s campus, the General Assembly decided that Black Friday was not the best suited day to start our encampment. We realize that there will never be a perfect day, but we all feel that there will certainly be better days. As such, we are organizing the collection of a Bail Fund to be better prepared when that day comes.

Finally, we went on to discuss plans for direct action. Some present expressed concern that our numbers are dwindling due to a lack of direct action. As such, we set out a call for Occupy Baton Rouge participants to come up with solid, executable ideas to present to the General Assembly. Ideally, the action would be specifically planned (date, time, place, action, etc.) before the General Assembly and it will be at a date far enough in the future that people, including local unions, can schedule to be there.