*Pondering*: The Democratic Process #occupyATL #occupywallstreet #occupytogether

so i caught some of the twitter backlash regarding the #occupyATL scuttlebutt with John Lewis, esteemed Civil Rights leader, former chairman of SNCC, & current GA Congressman. at first, without watching the video, i was appalled. now, i’m not so sure… see for yourself:

so here’s what i concluded from the video*:

  • john lewis showed up at the general assembly and requested to speak
  • the leaders of the assembly, honoring the democratic process, put the matter to vote
  • the general assembly was conflicted, so a discussion was had… as congressman lewis stood by, awaiting his fate
  • as a result of the lack of consensus, the assembly leader (aka manwiththebullhorn) made an executive decision to continue with the agenda
  • john lewis did not get to address the crowd
  • the video was cut off before we got his response
simple enough on the surface. i fully respect their decision to uphold the democratic process. indeed, i think that was very necessary, albeit cumbersome. but i have questions…
  1. did congressman lewis just show up at random, expecting to speak? it certainly appears that way from the (clearly not fully inclusive) video. if so, that shows a lack of respect for the process on his part.
  2. or, had congressman lewis already reached out to the assembly requesting a space on the agenda? if so, there are other things to be considered. why was there not room for him? did they tell him to come on down & wait to see what the group decided? were they behind schedule?
  3. alternately, did the congressman show up unexpectedly, requesting the opportunity to speak? if this was the case, i see no disrespect on his part by any means. at the same time, i’m not so sure it’s fair to fault the assembly for not dropping everything to listen to him at that moment. if he were joe schmoe, would this matter have even been put to vote? highly doubtful. so why should john lewis get special attention?
    • at the same time, we’re talking about a kind of huge opportunity. as the one woman said, he is “part of the government we’re trying to change.” the fact that he came down to the park when he obviously could have been preparing for whatever 7pm meeting he had is not lost on me. neither is the fact that he’s done this before & has all kinds of awesome goodness to share.
    • also not lost on me: the racial composition of the crowd. this IS atlanta(america), after all. just sayin’…
      [SN: yes, i saw the brown hands applauding in agreement to block the congressman from speaking]
  4. what does this whole situation say about the democratic process? the importance of democracy was underscored several times in the discussion, but was it really helpful in this situation?
  5. more importantly: can we even call that a true democratic process? i mean, manwiththebullhorn just up & decided that, since “we’re not going to reach consensus any time soon,” it was best to just move on with the agenda, opposing positions be damned. hmmm…
i have to acknowledge, though, the group didn’t silence him, as many on twitter & in the media have said. the group was deciding about revising an agenda that had already been approved. i do understand this. i think this just highlights one of the challenges in maintaining community.
in the end, john lewis has graciously said that he’s not dismayed. while i, too, understand what happened, i can’t say i feel the same. how about you?
*i noticed that a conservative group posted the video and it seemed like a few edits were made. if anyone has a more complete version, please share!
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