One way in which Occupiers are addressing the "broken process" is with a new working group: the Consensus working group, which is discussing the history and ethics of the consensus model.
"We were really concerned about how decision-making was going on at Occupy Boston," said Sarah Dickerson, a member of the Women's Caucus and the Consensus group. "I do think the process has morphed into something that is not speaking to everyone's concerns. . . . In terms of building community and making decisions, the GA is kind of making itself irrelevant. I think that there's hope in coming up with a better process."
Ross agreed: "At this point, until we get through this issue, and the issues surrounding it, and reach some sort of healing consensus, the GA is not really speaking on behalf of Occupy Boston."
Dickerson, who visited Occupy Austin last week — where activists have "been dealing with a lot of misogynist instigators as well," she said — noted that she hopes some of the people being "destructive" at Occupy Boston are "unintentional provocateurs." But she also suspects them of possibly being undercover law-enforcement agents.
"[Provocateurs] are real, they move into any kind of activist movement," said Ross. "Those are not the same people who are coming from their own principled place that I might disagree with. Nonetheless, when those two groups converge . . . movements can get destroyed. And I think that's the position we're in."
Whatever the outcome, this is a definitive moment for whether post–Dewey Square Occupy Boston can still act as a cohesive community, or whether it will deconstruct itself into individual, isolated working groups. If the movement does not soon pass a proposal against sexual assault and create a space that is safe, it seems likely to implode.
"Through this proposal there have been a lot of personal attacks, definitely to me specifically, so there's some healing that needs to happen within the community," said Barney. "We can't go in there and work and expect people to spend their free time and energy, to be part of something that then turns around and says, 'I'm not going to make you safe.' "
But this does not have to be the downfall of Occupy Boston, said Barney.
"I've seen a lot of people trying to work together, a lot of people reaching out to each other to try to make it better," she said. "It's been a good catalyst for good conversations that needed to happen." ^
Liz Pelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.