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Protestors organize

December 6, 2011

Residents participate in an Occupy 395 demonstration in November. Organizers are planning another protest this weekend, which will include a meeting to elect leaders for the next two weeks. Photo by Linda Arnold

Members of Inyo County’s Occupy movement are getting more organized and working on establishing leadership roles.
At the next demonstration, scheduled for this Sunday in the Bishop City Park, Occupy 395 demonstrators will have an opportunity to have their opinion heard at a general assembly meeting.
At the general assembly, all participants will be able to vote on seven steering committee members, who will serve as organizers for the next two weeks.
A new election will be held every two weeks until a more permanent standing committee is elected at a later date.
“Everybody who is there has a voice,” said current steering committee member Linda Arnold. “We want to be as democratic as possible.”
In addition to the elections and demonstration, Arnold said participants in this weekend’s demonstration will have an opportunity to join working groups that have been set up to review each of the 10 demands set forth in the “Contract for the American Dream.”
The document was developed by various progressive groups and reportedly contains 10 main ideas for getting the economy back on track that were distilled from the ideas of more than 125,000 Americans. The contract has been the driving force for Occupy 395 organizers.
Those who join the working groups are charged with preparing a “position statement based on their research and discussions” relating to one of the contract bullet points.
The 10 bullet points in the Contract for the American Dream are: invest in America’s infrastructure; create 21st century energy jobs; invest in public education; offer Medicare for all; make work pay; secure Social Security; return to fairer tax rates; end the wars and invest at home; tax Wall Street speculation; and strengthen democracy.
Arnold also said that any decision made by the Occupy 395 crowd will now be voted on by the general assembly (whoever shows up to the biweekly demonstration and meeting). She said 80 percent of the general assembly must approve any major move the group makes.
Arnold said the two Occupy 395 demonstrations that have already been held have been peaceful, with only one complaint about a driver who threw dog feces at protestors.
“Our group is expanding and expanding and expanding,” Arnold said, pointing out that each demonstration has had between 60 and 100 participants, with many attending the general assembly meeting held Nov. 27. “Passing autos honked and waved in support. Those opposed either ignored the group or gave a thumbs down.”
Another issue the Occupy 395 movement will be discussing at its next meeting on Sunday will be the possibility of changing its name. Arnold said the “Occupy” movement raises some negative connotations for many that some members of the Occupy 395 group want to move away from.
Before a name change is approved, however, 80 percent of the general assembly must support it.
Arnold said participants in the local movement have ranged in age from 15 years old to residents in their early 90s.
“One retired teacher said that she and her husband had come because she wanted to set an example for their children,” Arnold said. “She wanted to show them that people are never too old to be involved in political debates.”

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