Some of people at the GA were opposed to restricting anyone from Occupy Boston based on the state's sex-offender standards.
Even Barney said she can agree with these concerns, to an extent.
"I do understand where they're coming from," she said. "I don't think the American justice system or the police departments work effectively, and a lot of people get through the cracks. If you're a certain race or economic status, you get away with a lot more. That's one of the reasons I'm at Occupy Boston."
That's why Barney limited the proposal to level-three sex offenders. "It's pretty hard to be labeled 'level three' unless you've gone someplace pretty dark, pretty violent, pretty bad," she said.
On January 8, the proposal was brought up, and blocked. At Occupy, there's a complex procedure for how a proposal can be blocked; it takes a three-quarters vote on whether the block is a valid, or "principled," block, before participants vote for or against the proposal; in the end, it takes only the votes of 10 percent of those present to cement the block. On the night in question, that required only eight people.
One of the eight was a man named Paul Shannon. Shannon did not reveal his affiliations at the time, but was later identified as a key proponent of an organization called "Reform Sex Offender Laws." The reason that's important is that Occupy's "statement of autonomy" requires participants to disclose any outside organizations they represent. It's essentially Occupy's conflict-of-interest statement.
"Any organization is welcome to support us," reads the statement. "We acknowledge the existence of professional activists who work to make our world a better place. If you are representing, or being compensated by an independent source in order to participate in our process, please disclose your affiliation at the outset."
In an e-mail to an Occupy Boston listserv, Shannon wrote, "Since I was only allowed to comment from the audience the other night I did not think I would be allowed to mention various positions I have, as no one else in the audience did. But I would have wanted to speak of the dozens of mothers, wives, and girlfriends who call me from around the country talking about how their lives and the lives of their children have been ruined by the fact that their son or husband has been unfairly classified on sex-offender registries. But that seemed beside the point."
Whether or not Shannon had disclosed his affiliation, Occupy Boston's system of direct democracy means that even a person who had rarely attended Occupy events in the past could come to an assembly and "kidnap it," as Women's Caucus member Ren Jender described it to me the next evening.
"The community doesn't have a good way for dealing, through the process, with blocks of that nature," said Ross. "Is it really consensus if eight or nine people can thwart what seemed like the strong will of the whole of Occupy Boston? No, I don't think so.
"[It's] the culture of misogyny that prevails in our society at large," she added. "Like it or not, we're a microcosm of that society."