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So You Wanna Be a Protester?

Here’s a basic, unofficial guide to help you communicate effectively!

Principles of Process (Proposed and Accepted by the Occupy Bellingham General Assembly, 10/14/2011)

  1. All decisions are made by the General Assembly. No decisions that affect or represent the whole are made by working groups. WGs focus proposals to bring to the assembly and they coordinate the work.
  2. Yelling really loud does not put you on stack. Raise your hand and get on stack if you have a proposal or an announcement. Never repeat what someone else already said
  3. Assembly time is precious. Think 3 times before you speak. “Does this really help the assembly make a better decision?”
  4. Nothing is more precious than the thoughts of the quiet. Nothing is more precious than the words of the silenced. Speak Up. Please. Especially when it’s really hard.
  5. Facilitators make space and move the process . Facilitators never present content or represent someone else’s thoughts. The assembly is responsible for keeping the facilitators in line.
  6. The assembly is responsible for signing to the facilitator. If the assembly doesn’t sign the facilitators do not have anything to facilitate.
  7. No one else can speak for you. That’s why we need you here.

Basic Hand Signals

  1. Twinkling: I like this! I support what this person is saying! I agree!
  2. De-Twinkling: I don’t like this! I disagree!
  3. Direct Response ‘Gun Fingers’: It means only I have a correction, a fact, or a clarifying question. Do not use this to state a different idea or to argue values or to make a counter-proposal.
  4. Ears (hand to ear): I can’t hear what’s being said!
  5. Wrap it up (Wagon Wheel): This is taking too much time. I get your point, please finish.
  6. Point of Process (triangle): Process is not being followed/Off topic.
  7. Compel a Vote (form a v with hands): I am ready to make a decision on this proposal.
  8. Block: I believe the vote we have just taken is against the foundational principles of why we’re here.

Extra Points of Courtesy

While the hand signals and principles of process are the best framework (and only official framework that we have here for GA’s in Bellingham), there are some things to please be mindful of.

  1. TIME is of the essence. Our goal is to complete every GA within a period of 2 hrs. or LESS. Our community is made of the young, the old, the strong, the weak, the busy, and the bored. The 99% includes people who may love to stand around for 2 hours, but also includes those that may not be able to stick around for the full time. Every time a member has to leave, proposals lose power. BEFORE you propose or announce something, make sure that it’s not something that could NOT be handled in a working group, or private discussion another time. Back-and-forth conversations during a GA are not a crowd favorite. That said, do not hesitate to bring up something you feel is important!
  2. Peace, Love, Unity, Respect. Always remember that we are a peaceful protest – carrying weapons, instigating fights, or resisting arrest are not okay. Love one another – we are the 99% and that’s something we all share. What we are doing is beautiful, and love is a strong power. Unity is something we must maintain. The people, united, will never be defeated. To divide our numbers or try to stand alone is not going to bring about the changes we seek. And lastly, respect. We need to respect authorities, (ex. police) because as much as we feel they are oppressing us, they are also part of the 99%. We also need to respect each other. Starting arguments or carrying grudges does not make our movement any stronger. We seek strength in these things, and in solidarity. That’s what makes this movement so easily international.
  3. Please remember that the Occupy movement is NOT to be Co-opted, as proposed and passed on 10/21/2011. This means that pushing for alignment with any politician who may be democrat or republican, unless approved by the general assembly, is not okay. We are also NOT seeking affiliation with any political party at this time. We support LOCAL business, not CORPORATIONS, so please consider that allowing a corporation to speak, sponsor, or co-opt us, will not be okay. The Occupy movement has also not officially endorsed any other group as representative of our ideas. Groups such as OccupyTogether, the American Campaign for Transparency, etc. are amazing, and may support our ideas, but they may not speak for us, or co-opt us. The most important part of an absolute democracy is that no proposal is made or voted on without a majority rule at a general assembly. Also, there are no official communications unless proposed by the General Assembly.

Public and Media Communication

This part is important. The belief of the Occupy movement is an ABSOLUTE DEMOCRACY. We have no representatives in the movement, no leaders, no politicians, and no political or corporate affiliation. When we communicate with other people about the movement, please be sure to highlight that what you say is of your opinion, and that you do not represent the voice of the general assembly. All official communications must be proposed and accepted by the general assembly. This also includes any comment with the media. Please be clear (especially BECAUSE it’s the media) that you are an individual protester who speaks on his own behalf. Please moderate yourself carefully at all times, because we must be under the assumption that the media would love to portray us as an angry mob. That makes it easy for government and corporations to dismiss us.


  • GA = General Assembly
  • WG = Working Group
  • OWS = Occupy Wall Street
  • Bham = Bellingham
  • WA = Washington

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