Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Occupy Christchurch - a space for radical social change to begin

O:ChCh set up on the 15th October with 300 people marching on the streets of Riccarton. Various banners, chants and messages were present, from the now infamous "I love kittens" all the way through to 'National - bringing London to New Zealand" with a picture of a flaming molotov being sported. Three years I have been in Otautahi and I have never witnessed anything quite like it. The group consisted of a dynamic mix of the wider community; well beyond the 'usual suspects'.

An open mike was offered to begin the day which was soon put to the test. A group of young ACT Party supporters came dressed in their finest, but before they reached for the mic a motion by the General Assembly was passed - O:ChCh was to be an a-political site. All are welcome but party politics can be left at the door. The result of this first decision and the following agreement that the site is to be drug and alcohol free, has since shaped the tremendous growth of the site.

The initial week was spent getting the basics right while weathering a torrential storm. We now have work groups focusing on areas such as media, legal, creation and action. The groups meet most days to plan ahead, deal with issues and elect a delegate to report back to the evening General Assembly each night. Things have been tweaked and ideas have come and gone but the GA's are now functioning, taking less than an hour to be completed. O:ChCh have successfully run numerous workshops, free markets, sent an army of Robin Hoods into the business districts, Ad Busted Brownlee and Key and have created a space that has enthused a huge level of support. The local union's have all unofficially given their acknowledgement to what we are trying to do, which for me at least, is indicative as to how far reaching the Occupy movement has been.

We are now priming ourselves for a weekend of actions and protest; focusing on the locked out workers at CMP, Maori rights, the people's history and further community networking.

South Hagley Park is immaculate with not a trace of rubbish or damage to be seen. We have mown our grass, moved our tents every-other day, set up compost toilets and have a constant display of colourful and inviting banners. Passers by are greeted with a hot cuppa, a time to talk and a free hug.

As time has gone by the absence of electioneering and political grandstanding has allowed the group to recognise everyone's varying degree's of social consciousness. In recent days the General Assembly( once the daily business was dealt with) settled into discussing what our desires were and what had brought us to O:ChCh. It was a risky move, Occupy has become renowned for its lack of a blue print or concrete idea (it's lack of class analysis has been a big concern for myself) but what we found was we all had a lot more in common than first thought.

The result of this open meeting has been an up swell in energy and affirmative action both on site and in the wider community. The networking is tapping into previously ignored corners, specialists are sharing their knowledge and O:ChCh is well on the way to becoming a formidable place for encouraging radical social change and action.

We can be found on www.occupychristchurch.org.nz and facebook - occupy christchurch.

Matt Jones, Union Organiser, father of two, anarchist and currently involved with the Occupy Christchurch movement.

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