One of the original Occupy Boston protesters took to Twitter tonight to reflect on how her group melted down after fellow Occupiers refused to spurn sex offenders and child molesters earlier this year.
(“GA” is the group’s General Assembly meeting. “OB” is “Occupy Boston.”)
Others agreed: Occupy Boston has become a Crazy Train. And they want off!
@caulkthewagon … and then all that stuff went down with the sex offenders and that whole mess and my interest in OB died.
— Ken H. (@LostPhrack) July 11, 2012
@caulkthewagon I know…. My point is that the mere fact this issue came up shows how tone-deaf we are…. This issue is a no brainer…
— NEF (@NEFreedomRide) July 11, 2012
@caulkthewagon Damn it. We need to gather a coalition of the sane. This is happening in every Occupy. We need to take back this revolution
— Fran MercantiAnthony (@HelloFrances) July 11, 2012
A little late for that now, alas.
It was after 10 pm on Tuesday, January 10, in the stale, bright basement of the Arlington Street Church, where now-nomadic Occupy Boston was holding a meeting. At issue was something that would seem straightforward: a proposal to prevent level-three sex offenders from being a part of Occupy. But suddenly, it felt as if the entire movement could be splintering. Two nights earlier, the sex-offender proposal was blocked. And now, as the Occupiers attempted to deal with the aftermath, the room filled with a tense whirlwind of emotional outcries about feeling triggered and targeted by misogyny, sexism, and homophobia.
Within the first half-hour of the assembly, it was clear that a typical GA wouldn’t work for the night’s anxiousness. So instead, it became more of a Quaker-style community speak-out, with rows of about 75 chairs reorganized into a circle. The facilitator told the group to “let a spirit guide them,” and to speak as they felt inclined, without being called on. Someone handed out stress-relieving clay; the room even took a moment for “spiritual grounding” as someone from the Faith and Spirituality working group sounded a Tibetan singing bowl. It all worked surprisingly well for the first three hours.
But eventually, it broke — people started lashing out, yelling, antagonizing, walking out of the room. A new hand gesture was soon established for the night’s GA — a fist covered by an open hand, to signal oppressive language or verbal abuse — but it wasn’t working. Overall, the night confirmed that, as one Occupier put it, “Shit’s boiling over right now.”
The fight over whether to ban level-three sex offenders has become an even larger issue — highlighting the weaknesses of the open, consensus-based process that Occupy GAs rely on. And according to representatives from other Occupy cities, the issue isn’t unique to Boston.
The problem isn’t the “process.” It’s the mush-minded political nihilism that has swallowed the Occupy movement whole.