Occupy Madison

Occupy Madison

Morgan Engels, Staff Writer

With the Occupy Madison Movement now underway, the city becomes one of countless others across the nation with ongoing demonstrations that have roots going back to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

A small group of local activists held a general assembly meeting on Tuesday evening of this week at Veteran’s Plaza, located at the top of State Street, next to the Wisconsin Historical Museum, to discuss the future of the movement. The meeting comes after Madison Police ordered demonstrators in last weekend’s demonstrations at Reynolds Park to vacate the area. The mass gathering brought out some two hundred participants and was done with cooperation from city of Madison officials whom set restriction on the event. Police were sent in after what was expected to be a series of weekend long protests carried on into Monday.

Over the course of the meeting, the assembly discussed current events such as where to occupy next, committee reports, what they could do better and how they could grow. A microphone was on hand and those who were in attendance were given opportunities to speak before the assembly. When presenting ideas to the assembly, members often times cited the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations as the source for their inspiration.

Of the many ideas brought up over the course of the meeting, the group discussed the importance of getting more people and more of them to stay this time. At one point it was brought up that the more people they have there the harder it would be for police to make them move. They also discussed the possibility of using gorilla street theater – or gorilla street art as it’s more commonly referred to as – as well as the importance of social media. The possibility of obtaining mainstream media attention as ways to increase their numbers was discussed as well.

The meeting was conducted as a total democracy with every decision being put to a vote. The assembly voted on things by a show of hands or what was referred to as sparkles, where one puts both hands in the air and wiggles their fingers. People who were not in attendance were able to watch the gathering on Twitter where it was broadcast live on the Occupy Madison Twitter page @OccupyMadison99 – the 99 being a reference to the group’s slogan “we are the 99 percent.”

A lot of time was spent passively debating over where to occupy next. Veterans Plaza was eventually decided upon, receiving almost unanimous support from the group. The members of assembly felt that its proximity to the capital would help draw them more attention and increase their visibility. They also felt that being close to the capital was important for symbolic meaning and significance. At one point, finding something close to what Wall Street is in New York was mentioned. Assembly members also pointed out that it is public property, and they cannot be asked to leave by police.

At the head of the meeting was local activist CJ Terrell – a local activist who is currently in legal issues over an Aug. 25 arrest for his participation in a sit-in at the state capital, along with thirteen other demonstrators. The group was protesting Governor Scott Walker’s controversial budget cuts to state workers. Terrell, along with three others including his brother, Damon, were arrested again on October 10 after he refused to sign bail stipulations at a courthouse hearing. The brothers were also among three demonstrators arrested for non-violent reasons at a June rally hosted by former U.S. Senator, Russ Feingold.

Terrell, who was unable to participate much in last weekend’s rally, described the leadership structure of the movement as being that of a “round robin” He stated that this is done in an effort to avoid control of the movement being dispersed to just a couple of people. Terrell went on to express his feelings about the movement, saying “we are the ninety-nine percent” is a message that means “we are everyone.”

“It’s time the 99 percent start taking their stuff back,” Terrell said. “The one-percent is nothing without us…we are doing it all.”

Terrell also urged that it’s time we become “self-aware in the might of the people” and that we must realize “how much really is us.”

He then concluded by stressing the importance of seeing the demonstrations for oneself and actually being there because “information comes from the people.”

Demonstrators are currently still camped out at Veterans Plaza having now battled heavy rain storms.

More information is available on the Occupy Madison Facebook page and their Twitter account @OccupyMadison99.