Sunday, October 9

October 5th, Working Groups in Zuccotti Park

October 5- Zuccotti Park is a maze, first entering, it is difficult to tell where to go first, TV cameras are everywhere. People are discussing, wearing signs or meditating. But the protestors have made sure that it is not as disorganized as it may seem. In Zuccotti Park, where protestors are occupying Wall Street, signs hover overhead notifying visitors on where to find information or help. The signs advertise ‘legal,’ ‘media’ and ‘general information’ among others. Beneath each sign is a group of a few people manning desks. A person with a red cross on their arm will every once in a while wind through the crowds. Towering above will come voices that say ‘mic check!’ a call for the people surrounding to repeat their announcement. Occupy Wall Street Journal Newspapers are being handed out.

Each station or person with a red cross refers to a different working group. Working Groups are a phenomenon of the protest in an attempt to organize the event and meet the needs of the protestors. At 7pm every night The General Assembly, a gathering led by a chosen group of people called 'facilitators,' meets and those who feel the need for an organized program in the confines of the park can bring it up and have it be accepted as a Working Group or rejected.

“We have between 10 and 20 Working Groups, but it’s hard to know exactly.” Said Cara Hartley a Brooklyn resident working with the Community Outreach group. According to the General Assembly website there are 20 groups, but the numbers are predicted to grow “everyday, we are getting constant submissions for working groups.” Hartley said. Some are more utilitarian than others including the food, health and media groups. Others include arts and culture and the Info Desk Working Group. There is a subset called Thematic Groups which deal with discussion of a topic.

Anyone can join a Working Group and many have difficulties keeping up with those who are more experienced. Alex Nathanson, a photographer and protestor on Wall Street is working for the Internet Working Group. “I know some coding.” He said, “but I think they’re all really good hackers or something, I learned so much from them.” He added. Some working groups get more aid than others. Workers from the Nurse’s Union comes to train the medical team on EMT and how to be safe from the cold. The General Assembly website shows posts of professionals who offer to help in the training or the working groups including medics and social workers. “There is so much skill sharing in the working groups.” Said Nathanson.

The working groups act as structure. There is one for each of the basic needs of the people. The goal is to create horizontal government where each individual can do any job, according to Evan Wagner, a Brooklyn resident. “We’re trying not to create a hierarchy but it's beginning to happen.” Said Wagner. “An example of this hierarchy,” he added “is that one side of the park gets Internet access while the other side doesn’t. The technology group is working on that now." This means that there is not an equal access to information.

Though this form of social organization cannot be taken so easily out of the park, and it is difficult to imagine it in an outside setting. “I just hope that this reaffirms the importance of the Unions.” Said Nathanson, “Because it’s about the workers.” Wagner referred to the park as a laboratory, “It’s a space where we can practice these ideas.” He said.

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