October 7, 2011

The People's Microphone

I was willing to drive all the way up to Tampa to take part in yesterday's protests, because I just assumed that nothing would be going on in Sarasota. Evidently I didn't look hard enough. Yesterday, at 10am in Sarasota, several dozen protesters rallied at the intersection of Orange & Main Streets. They weren't planning to stay overnight, but they certainly were expressing solidarity. In fact, there appears to be another group also planning an Occupy Sarasota event.

As it turns out, there are plenty of groups in small communities within an hour's drive of me - Bradenton, Largo, Dunedin, St. Pete, and probably more. This reminds me of a huge relay system. The core group is in New York City. Autonomous cities and towns in the rest of the country tune in and sponsor their own events. Everybody uses the internet to report on what is going on. Or maybe more like decentralized democracy. Think global, act local. Take your pick.

Yesterday, Occupy Tampa decided NOT to Occupy Tampa, but rather to come back during the following days. The process used to make this decision was fascinating. There was a general assembly. Decisions were made by consensus. Any single person could block a decision. Anybody could speak, in turn. And we didn't use a mic or megaphone. Rather, we used the people's mic. In the following snippet, the legal liaison presents some legal issues to the group regarding possible arrest and support from the ACLU -

If people aren't paying attention, the call goes out "Mic Check" and the assembly repeats a call and response "Mic Check", until everybody's attention is focused on the speaker. Everything the speaker says is repeated by those that are close enough to hear. In this manner, a large number of people can hear a speech without electrical amplification. At first, this is quite bizarre. It sounds like an indoctrination session, with the assembly repeating everything, even if it so much hogwash. It is an odd sensation to repeat what someone is saying, especially if you do not agree with it! And, it is slow slogging. But, as you can see from the video, it is effective for communicating to a large group. By the end of the day, there was a constant, loud, helicopter noise overhead. With the people's mic, we could still speak and be heard.

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