In allowing this kind of hijacking, Boston differs from other Occupy units, which have had no problem expelling troublemakers. Occupy Wall Street even has a Safer Spaces working group, which exists to "make Occupy Wall Street an anti-oppressive place for everyone," and is already working on an "Occupy Wall Street Community Agreement" covering accessibility, consent, anti-oppression, conflict resolution, accountability, and a six-step de-escalation process. And Occupy movements in DC, New York, Philadelphia, and Nashville have all regularly asked people to leave "pretty regularly for drugs, violence. and other reasons," said Barney. "I don't know why Boston has a problem doing that."
On January 8, when the sex-offender proposal was blocked, 20 or so Occupiers walked out of the general assembly, according to numerous witnesses.
"A lot of us have been surprised that for a progressive community, how in line [Occupy Boston] is with the mainstream as far as not taking women seriously, tolerating harassment of women, both verbal and physical," said Jender, who was among the walk-outs. "This is something that has been brewing for a while. . . . Things really are not changing. Once one problem is gone . . . another one appears."
'I DON'T FEEL SAFE HERE'
For some of those who left the GA on January 8, walking away meant walking away from the intense vibes of listening to people defend sex offenders; for others it was a more permanent break from Occupy Boston. "They're losing a lot of valuable people because of this," said Jender.
As more individuals at GAs stand up to defend level-three sex offenders, the broken consensus process is revealing itself — as the January 10 meeting made clear.
"We're not having that conversation yet!" said one Occupier during the church basement assembly, as someone tried transitioning from a process discussion to the actual discussion of the sex-offender proposal. "We're having a conversation about a conversation."
"And now we're having a conversation about a conversation about a conversation," said the facilitator.
At one point later in the evening, I was taking notes as a girl sitting behind me was sobbing.
That's when someone in a fur coat ran in and started shouting. The message was confused and incendiary: a Boston Occupier had allegedly been drugged by another Occupier the previous night at a "safe house" in Mattapan, the messenger told us; the alleged victim woke up in a pool of sweat and remembers nothing; the person who did it was here earlier tonight; he had been sitting in the back of the room, but he left around 9 pm — and now no one knew where he was.
There was an immediate explosion of questions and commotion. But no one knew how to process this information. And eventually the speak-out resumed. "I'm frightened!" one woman screamed. People told her to keep it down. "Why am I not allowed to say 'I'm frightened' loudly?" she asked. "I'm frightened, too!" another woman screamed back. "Let's be frightened together!" the first replied. They met in the middle of the circle for a hug.
It remains to be seen how the Occupy Boston community will deal with this situation, and how the community will re-check and re-evaluate the consensus process that is clearly ineffective at the moment.