Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rained On But Not Rained Out

It rained Wednesday night and all day Thursday here in New York. I was grateful to have a warm, dry, comfortable place to spend the night—thank-you Karl and Mary! Karl made us a hearty and delicious breakfast. Later I took the “train” uptown to the Interfaith Church Center to meet with Yvette Moore, Editor of Response Magazine, for lunch and conversation. I now have two new assignments for articles, including one on this coming Sunday's “Day of Faith,” when church groups are planning to march across the Brooklyn Bridge to Zucotti Park and participate in an Interfaith service there.

From there I took the subway down to the park. It was pouring rain and everything was soaked, but the occupation continues on. The biodiesel generator was still running. The kitchen was still functioning. People were meeting inside tents and under tarps. Many were still standing in the rain with their signs.
There are some very dedicated people here.

Reinette and I ate in the upstairs alcove of a deli across the street, where we could look out over the park. While eating, we got into a lively conversation with two young New Yorkers and a couple from Brazil about this movement and the potential for global change. (Now we're all friends on Facebook.) Looking out over the park, it seemed like a patchwork of tarps and tents, people with umbrellas and rain ponchos blowing in the wind, vulnerable to the elements, there in the shadow of the highrise buildings of Wall Street, surrounded (as always) by police. Vulnerable, but strong.

It brings to mind the words from First Corinthians: “God chose the weak things in the world to shame the strong. God chose the foolish things in the world to shame the wise. God chose those things that are low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are so that no one might boast in the presence of God.” The “foolishness” of this peoples' movement has revealed that the generally accepted “wisdom” of this world's dominant system is a sham—exploitive of humankind and the earth. The spell that has kept people feeling helpless and hopeless is broken. People are waking up.

I have also spent many hours in the Atrium at 60 Wall Street, the huge public space with plants, tables, and moveable seating at 60 Wall Street. It's a far cry from other subway entrances, which are far less “sanitary” than Zucotti Park, especially with the Sanitation Team always cleaning up the park with their brooms and Simple Green. (I hear that a “Clean Up Wall Street” action is planned using the same tools.) Sitting there in the Atrium, participating in focused discussions and Working Group meetings, gives me a sense of how things are organized here. It's remarkably sophisticated considering that the occupation is just six weeks old.

Friday was sunny, beautiful, and cold. Last night (Friday), the Structural Working Group proposed to the General Assembly that we create a Spokes Council made up of working groups and caucuses, to make day-to-day and financial decisions about Occupy Wall Street in New York, and let the General Assembly focus on decisions that relate to the movement as a whole and relationships with other occupations. It passed through a process of modified consensus. In other words, since there were several blocks to consensus, it went to a vote. It needed to pass with over 90% of the votes—the final vote was 17 opposed and over 280 in favor. There had been many more people there earlier, but the GA went pretty long. This was the fourth time the proposal had been brought, and it had been amended many times in response to concerns. It seems like a very democratic process, and I support the Spokes Council model, which I have participated. To see the exact proposal that was passed, go to

Well now it's snowing, and I'm going to figure out how to get some boots so I don't slip and slide in the snow. I miss you all and look forward to coming home and getting to work. Love....

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Another Day

Rain is coming. In addition to tents here at Zucotti Park, people have put up tarps to protect the library, media and legal booths, information tables, and the food preparation and serving tables. There are several large indoor public spaces nearby where we gather for discussions, trainings, and working group meetings throughout the day, but I don't know how the General Assembly will meet in the park after the rains come.

Reinette arrived last night and dropped off her backpack here in Brooklyn, then we headed back over to the occupation, where we met up with Jason. A film maker who lives here in New York is following her around, making a film about Occupy Wall Street by focusing on Reinette's impressions and actions during the week she is here. I think this will make for a more viewer-friendly film because there are so many competing images and so many things going on here. As of today there are 66 working groups. (See

How do I decide what to do each day? I want to contribute what I can while I am here and bring home what I can to share. I've been focusing on facilitator, nonviolence, and direct action training in order to update my organizing skills. I've taken lots of pictures and had lots of conversations. When I walk past people who are singing, I can't resist joining them. (I guess I take after my mom that way. She loved to sing.) Plus, songs are a part of the “cultural commons,” which are wonderful to learn and share.

I've gone to General Assembly every evening. Tonight we had about a thousand people gathered to discuss several agenda items, including two emergency items related to Occupy Oakland. You may know that many people were arrested at Occupy Oakland over the past two days, and many injured, including a veteran who is in critical condition with a fractured skull. Tonight we passed an emergency measure to send $20,000 to Occupy Oakland to help with bail and medical expenses, and also to send them 100 tents to replace the ones the police destroyed. Contributions of money, food, tents, and other goods have come in from all over the world to Occupy Wall Street, and we agreed through consensus to show solidarity with Oakland in that way.

We also agreed to march here in New York to City Hall tonight at 9, while simultaneous marches are taking place in Oakland and in Washington, DC. We stopped our meeting early and headed out to City Hall. Instead of describing my experiences to you, I'm just giving you a link to Starhawk's blog, which describes how she felt on a similar march yesterday.

I, too, prefer disciplined and restrained protests, even if I'm risking arrest. I prefer having clear guidelines that all participants have agreed to—that makes me feel secure. I didn't witness violence at the march, but I witnessed anger, and I'm not sure whether the majority of people have had nonviolence training. I did feel compassion for the young people in the march who are fed up with the way things are, including police brutality. I do understand.

I was one of the older people on the march. I stayed out of the center of things, I stayed safe as I promised my family I would do, and I came back to Brooklyn when the march was over.

Reinette's not back yet, but she's being followed around by the filmmaker, so I'm not worried about her.
I left her a message on her cell phone, but I think her battery is dead. I hope she's not worried about me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

This is What a Leaderless Movement Looks Like

In April, 2000, Time Magazine ran an article about the organizational structure of the groups who planned the demonstrations in Seattle during the meetings of the World Trade Organization in late 1999, and of those who were planning similar protests during the upcoming meetings of the IMF and World Bank. I had participated in the demonstrations in Seattle, and at the time that the article came out Guari and I were helping out at the Convergence Center in Washington, DC, where the IMF/World Bank protests were being planned. We led nonviolence trainings and participated in the “spokes council” meetings, where we made decisions through a consensus process for nonviolent direct action.

The writer of the article compared what the media called the “anti-globalization” movement to a school of fish, with individual fish moving together in a particular direction, intentionally and organically, without an identified leader. There are important differences between those earlier demonstrations and what is going on at Occupy Wall Street, but it seems to me that the school of fish metaphor still holds. This is a “horizontal” movement, without the commonly assumed hierarchies of race, class, gender, gender identity, name recognition, or connections. Decisions are made through consensus. I'll write more about this later. But essentially, no one is in charge. There is no head.

On of the strengths of this form of organizing is that without a leader, there is no one to target or discredit in order to destroy the movement. If there is no “head,” the movement can't be beheaded. If there are no “followers,” there is no one to be led astray. There are simply individuals who treat each other with respect, talking, listening, and working together for the common good.

Individuals are encouraged to educate themselves, listen to their consciences, claim their space, and find their voice. Those who are used to leading and who think they know how things should be done are encouraged to make space for others and to open themselves to perspectives that they may not have considered before.

Facilitators encourage this dynamic by explaining the concept “Step up, step back.” If you have been traditionally marginalized, if you have not been encouraged to speak, or if it has been hard for you to express yourself, step up! Claim your right to speak, to say your piece. On the other hand, if you have been privileged, and if you are used to speaking out and making your voice heard, step back. Make space for someone else. Don't dominate the conversation. The principle “Step up, step back” is not imposed. Rather, it's a principle that people are asked to consider and observe. It's a consciousness-raising practice

Okay, tomorrow I promise I will give you stories and pictures, not ideas and concepts. Reinette arrived this evening and we went back down to the park and met Jason there. Tomorrow you will get specifics. And now, good-night. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Another World Is Possible

I'm beginning to get my bearings here at Occupy Wall Street in Zuccoti Park. I came down yesterday after attending the Sunday service at Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan, a church that has a long history of involvement with social issues. They're the ones who created the golden calf modeled after the sculpture of the Wall Street bull. They bring it to demonstrations and carry it on a pedestal that says “false idol” and “greed.” United Methodist clergy gathered at the occupation to offer encouragement and support, followed by an Interfaith service that was projected out through the “peoples' mike.” That is, when one person spoke, those nearby shouted out the words so others could hear.

This supportive presence of people from different faith traditions highlights the hopefulness of what is happening here. But for me the hope runs deeper, as we come together in all our diversity and rise up to defeat and create alternatives to the present unjust and unsustainable global system. This movement is a movement of spirit, not just in this place but around the world, both bringing and embodying change in this time when change must come.

I connected with many people today. During the Interfaith service, I looked out over the crowd and saw Jason Rainey, past Executive Director of SYRCL (South Yuba River Citizens League) and current Executive Director of Rivers International ( He told me about the fate of rivers due to dam-building, not just by the World Bank, but by China and India, and about successful peoples' movements that have saved rivers from that fate. We walked together to 60 Wall Street, a huge space where people gather at all hours for working group meetings. I went to the gathering for facilitators, Jason to the one on structure.
The actual people who sleep in the park may be two hundred, but thousands of people come through each day. The park is actually quite organized. There's always a line for food, which is donated (or money for food is donated), cooked off site, then served to occupiers, homeless people, visitors—without distinction. The sanitation working group is always busy. The peoples' library, which gets donations of money and books from authors and publishers, is organized and working well. The outreach working group reports back about concerns of local businesses. There are stations for media,legal issues, scheduling, first aid, comfort, safe sleeping spaces, think tanks, etc. I understand that many of the original occupiers are so busy with “housekeeping” that they can't even make it to the General Assemblies.

Musical jam sessions just spring up. Yesterday I sang during a jam session with about ten musicians. Emma's Revolution was there. (Their name is based on Emma Goldman's line: “If I can't dance I don't want to be a part of your revolution.”) Their new song, “Occupy the USA,” can be downloaded for free at

Signs are everywhere. Most are relevant to the core concerns of the movement. A few are completely off topic or even offensive (to me). No one is policing content—the First Amendment is respected here—but there are lots of conversations going on.

War and its costs (human and economic) are highlighted by many. One man dressed in an orange jump suit, with a black hood over his head, stayed on his knees all day, demonstrating for prisoners in Guantanamo. I could only imagine how he felt. He certainly made the point.

There is a lot of consciousness raising about issues of oppression: racial, gender identity, etc. Whatever has been said about this movement being mostly white, it's not true. It's quite diverse, at least here, and the effort is being made to empower those who have traditionally been marginalized so that their voices can be heard, and to create an equitable and just model of leadership.

It's truly remarkable. “Autonomous individuals” drawn together through common concern are working cooperatively through a consensus process to make joint decisions for the general well-being and for social transformation. It is a form of “direct democracy” in which every voice can be heard. Clearly, the spirit is alive, gathering people together, breaking the spell of paralysis and despair. During the Interfaith service, the Unitarian Universalist minister closed with the words that have become a mantra for the global justice movement: “Another world is possible.” Three times she shouted it out and three times we shouted it back. Powerful. It reminded me of the words of Arundhati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is here. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
Today I can hear her breathing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jet-lagged but excited to report back

Hi Everyone.

I'm up early after little sleep, still jet-lagged but excited to report back after my first day here in New York. I arrived at JFK Airport late Friday and got a cab to Brooklyn where I am spending nights. The driver was highly critical of the protestors and cynical about who ran the country and whether it could change. He had worked his way through college and had a four-year accounting degree, but could only find work as a driver. Still, he thought the young people at Occupy Wall Street should go out and get jobs and do their best to make it in the system. As it turned out, he was Egyptian, and he was proud of what his fellows had done in nonviolently overthrowing Mubarak. But, he said, everyone knew what they wanted—an end to dictatorship and a change to democracy. It's not so easy here.

Occupy Wall Street has caught the imagination of people all over the world. It has also been criticized and treated with contempt. Is this movement capable of triggering the great social, economic, and political shifts that are needed? I believe that the answer to that question depends upon us.

The driver shared with me that he had been to see the Occupy Wall Street demonstration, and he didn't like it. When I arrived early Saturday, I could see why someone who didn't know much about the movement would be put off. It seemed like a haphazard conglomeration of people, tents, books, music, food, and signs with a variety of messages, some of which I agreed with and some not. Tourist buses came by every few minutes, and small groups of people were sitting cross-legged in circles on the ground. The human mike was used every few minutes for announcements. I walked through the crowded park, following the flow of traffic past the tables focused on various aspects of the occupation: legal, media, schedule of events, food, health, silk-screening t-shirts, button-making, etc. I was on sensory overload, not yet having found my grounding in the midst of all the activity.

Things started looking up when I joined a discussion of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Mission Statement Working Group. (Anyone can join.) Its task was to discuss whether OWS should have a mission statement and if so, what it might look like. Of course, any recommendation would be taken back to the General Assembly (GA). I felt right at home. It was a similar conversation to the one we had just had the night before at the Peace Center in Nevada City with a local OWS-NC working group.

This conversation is still ongoing, both in Nevada City and here in New York. It's important for us to have a big tent, so as many people as possible can come in. It's also important for us to have clear goals, so people can know what we stand for. In listening to someone speak yesterday who was from London, I realized that the goals can't just focus on US domestic policy. This is a global movement. More to be said about that later. Also, building a participatory democracy is an important goal in itself, and it will take time. And practice. That's what we're about. 

Later I found the “Protest Chaplains” from Union Seminary, and had some interesting conversations with them. A priest from the nearby Episcopal church was there, as well as other clergy. There was an Interfaith altar, meditation circles, and offers for prayer.
In the afternoon I went to an initial meeting on the consensus process used at General Assembly meetings. It was fascinating, and even more so later when the GA actually met and followed this process. I have facilitated consensus-based meetings, and I've participated in meetings run by consensus that have included hundreds of people. This was the most clear and streamlined way of facilitating a large group that I have seen. This could have been the topic of this whole blog, but that will have to come later. Today I plan to attend a facilitators training, so I can bring what I learn home.

For now, I'm on my way to attend worship at Judson Memorial, a progressive church in Manhattan, with my hosts, who tell me that one Sunday people marched from the church to join the protestors. After church I'll go to Liberty Plaza and see what there is to see and participate as I feel moved to do. I'll let you know how it goes.
As for the question of whether or not this movement can trigger great transformation, I do have hope. I'll leave you with a quote from my book (Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization):

"In resistance to the institutions and systems that destroy the earth and crush the life out of people, hope comes alive. As we withdraw our consent to these Powers, practicing noncooperation, finding or creating life-supporting alternatives, what has seemed impossible becomes possible because we are willing to pay the price to make it so. It is like the difference between being a spectator in the stands and being a player on the field. As Dorothee Soelle said, 'Only when we ourselves enter the game and bind our own life inextricably to the game's outcome does hope arrive.'”

Friday, October 14, 2011

In Our Diversity is Our Strength

If you want to receive my reports from Occupy Wall Street in New York, “subscribe via email” on my blog.

Dear Friends,
Thank-you for all the prayers for my recovery. I’m regaining strength and am eager to set off for Occupy Wall Street in New York at the end of next week. I’m excited and hopeful about the “great awakening” from confusion and paralysis that seems to be taking place all over the world.
News commentators who criticize us because we have signs at our demonstrations about so many issues miss the whole point—we are making the connection between issues. We are seeing that the underlying cause of many social, economic, and environmental problems is that huge corporations dominate our culture, government, and global institutions. For this reason, if we follow the money, we can see that our tax dollars are being spent in the wrong way.
We bail out the banks and give them tax breaks and they sit on trillions of dollars, while jobs, schools, health care, infrastructure, and social safety nets are cut. We subsidize big oil companies, pay high prices at the pump, and suffer the environmental consequences, while their profits rise and they fund lobbyists and think tanks that refute the reality of fossil fuel induced climate change. We subsidize research and development of new drugs and medical technologies, while pharmaceutical and health insurance companies charge high prices and refuse medical care. We subsidize agricultural giants, which support legislation that continues to marginalize small and organic farmers. We pay for more prisons and detention centers while private prison corporations lobby for tough on crime and anti-immigrant legislation. We fund huge defense contractors and private security firms, and allow them to lobby Congress to purchase hi-tech weapons and wage war, while their stock prices rise and their CEOs make a killing.
What’s not to understand, especially with people “occupying” Wall Street? To me, the message is clear. And to me, in our diversity is our strength. As long as we maintain nonviolent tactics, make decisions through participatory democracy, and refuse to be co-opted, our movement will continue to evolve in the direction of creative social change.
More of us are seeing that society’s wealth should be shared among all the people, not hoarded by the elite few. That’s why the call “we are the 99%” has struck such a powerful nerve. Policy decisions should be made not by corporations, but by the people. That’s what democracy is supposed to be about. If corporations dominate the political process, it’s not democracy but corporate rule.
This is not hard to grasp. All you have to do is follow the money.
One of my favorite signs from last week's Occupy Nevada County demonstration is this: "Who represents you? You do." People are awakening not just to the extremity of our situation as a species and to the economic underpinnings of our interrelated global problems, but to the power we have when we take responsibility, represent ourselves, speak out, join in solidarity with each other, and work together for the common good. Now that's democracy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why I’m Going to Occupy Wall Street

By Sharon Delgado

I plan to go to the Occupy Wall Street encampment on October 21st, after my post-surgery check up with my cardiologist. I now have a pacemaker, so I’ll see if it sets off the metal detector at airport security. I’ll try to remember to place my borrowed cell phone to my right ear instead of my left so that its electromagnetic field doesn’t interfere with the pacemaker. I won’t be able to walk very fast or march very far. I don’t yet know where I’ll sleep, shower, store my computer, or type up reports to send home.
I’m not going because I need to find something to do. My life is full. I write and speak and have meaningful work. I’m surrounded by friends and family, including my beautiful grandchildren. I love my garden. Still, I plan to go. I see Occupy Wall Street as a light in the darkness of this time.
I feel called to go to the economic center of what Walter Wink called “the domination system,” the interlocking network of ideological, political, military, and economic institutions, a system that seeks to control the world and play God in peoples’ lives. I am going to stand in solidarity with those who are oppressed by the current corporate-dominated Empire, and to hear stories and sing songs of hope. I plan to join my voice with those who shout out that the Emperor has no clothes, that money is not ultimate, that the invisible hand of the Market is not the hand of God. I intend to make visible my refusal to bow to this idol, this usurper, and to join with people of conscience and witness to my faith that “another world is possible.”
I have been advocating for peace, justice, and the environment for over thirty years. For the past twelve years my work has focused on economic justice and the effects of growing corporate power on our culture, government, and global institutions. I have worked to educate people on these issues and to move people to action, including direct action. I have been a community organizer, led nonviolence trainings, and been arrested for civil disobedience many times.
My book, Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization (Fortress, 2007), is an attempt to educate people about the global economy and motivate people of faith and conscience to join the struggle for a peaceful, just, and sustainable world. This is the most important and urgent issue of our time, for if we continue to allow corporations to set the agenda and the Market to rule, we face a living hell of social, economic, and environmental ruin. The alternative is a global awakening of “we the people” to what is at stake, to our responsibilities as moral agents, and to the power we have when we join with others to work for a more compassionate world. This includes a commitment to participatory democracy and refusal to comply with corporate rule.
The good news is that this awakening is happening now! Around the world, people are joining together in local communities, forming coalitions with others working on various issues, networking beyond regional boundaries, forming a global network, a “movement of movements,” a people’s globalization, a “globalization from below.”
The festivals of resistance taking place on Wall Street and other occupation sites have become visible on the world stage and have captured the imagination of those of us who have been yearning for social transformation. The whole world is watching to see what will happen next. These spontaneous outpourings springing up around the around the world are the most hopeful signs I’ve seen in a long, long time.
There are many ways to support this movement. To find or organize a local action, go to You can find out more about Occupy Wall Street and support the demonstrators in New York with money, supplies, or an “occu-pie” pizza by going to
For me, this is a matter of faith. I seek to follow Jesus, who lived simply, healed, taught, preached good news to the poor, and lived and died in solidarity with those who were oppressed. When he overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple, challenging the ruling class and the economic system at its core, the authorities began plotting his death. They killed him because he and the egalitarian movement he founded posed a direct threat to the domination system of his day. But that was not the end of the story. His Spirit lives and flows through every compassionate, courageous, and truthful act of love and personal sacrifice in the struggle for a better world.

Sharon Delgado is an ordained United Methodist minister, founding director of Earth Justice Ministries, and author of Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization (Fortress Press, 2007). She lives in Nevada City, California.