The General Assembly

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Each night at 7pm, the Occupy Wall Street protesters gather at the north end of the park for what they call the General Assembly.

This is the protester’s decisionmaking body.┬áIt is a highly-structured affair, where careful attention to process wards off the sense of chaos that is never too far away.

The first half-hour is devoted to meeting mechanics. There are hand signals to signify assent, dissent, points of process, and more. There are times to debate issues, and other times reserved only for clarification of proposals.

Because amplified sound is not permitted by park rules, the protesters use an ingenious system of repetition they call the “human mic.” Each meeting, it is tested and tuned.

Last Thursday, a proposal from the Arts and Culture held the floor for a solid half hour. They needed $600 to hire security to move forward with a planned art show.

“What percentage of our total budget is this?” someone asked.

“I don’t know,” said the representative of Arts and Culture. “I’m not from Finance.”