Participant Observer Field Notes

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2011 at 20:26

Participant Observer Field notes from Occupy Seattle at Westlake Center, October 23, 2011. as observed by shana and ken, with a few links to audio clips.

There are about four or five small groups gathered in huddles that seem to be occupied with some specific tasks or conversations.

Text heavy environment. “We are the 99%”; several Occupy Seattle designs on garments; some directional/protocol signs; “Contribute to the Coffee and nicotine station.”

One group is busy making signs on cardboard. I didn’t think to write down any of what they said. Bad me.

Use of the “people’s microphone” to announce that we are looking for 8 people for an occupation tonight who would be willing to be arrested.

In addition to the sign-making group, there is a People of Color Caucus against Racism; Spirituality/Peaceful Living; Sustainability; Internet and Communications; White Anti-Racist Caucus

The police seem to be taking a relaxed posture, both strategically and literally. They have hands in pockets, talking to each other in small groups of three or four, drink coffee, answer questions posed by passers by. Click for audio commentary.

There are not many un-occupied places to sit down.

Wide range of ages. Many people apparently over the age of 50. Many under the age of 30. 70-80% Male. A few queer coded emblems are in evidence.

A Native man in his 30’s introduces himself to me as “Chief.” He traveled to Seattle from New York with his girlfriend, who ditched him. He was down at the waterfront and was told that there was good coffee for free up here. He said he really didn’t know what was going on.

Some languages other than English being spoken by people in the occupied zone.

Shana and I are approached and asked if we would be able to help with the General Assembly tonight, as the people who point to hand-raisers and get them “on stack”.

I observed at least three instances of yuppie/suburbanite/tourist looking folks stopping to pose and have their picture taken with the occupation as a backdrop.

I witness a young (early20’s) white man who would fit the media description of an Occupy Seattleite (NW beard and ‘stach, bike and velo gear, tats) angrily walking away from the encampment saying “I fucking hate the poor.” It is unclear if he was part of the encampment. A young man tells him “hey you forgot your bike” and hands a bike over to the angry guy.

Are the Tallers (workshops) spontaneous? RE: No, they are announced via People’s Mic

Some intergenerational disagreement on strategies and compliance with police orders. Click here for audio notes.

According to the orientation for the General Assembly (announced by Peoples Mic), debate and processing about issues is done in the small groups we saw earlier and the groups report back to the General Assembly. Click here to listen to part of the orientation delivered by Peoples Mic.

During the Assembly, the police are at the opposite end of the plaza. The Assembly does not seem policed.

I don’t participate in the People’s Mic during General Assembly. I wonder how my experience would be different if I did. Greater sense of connection/collectivity? Mutual tasking? Voicing with your own mouth even things that you disagree with? Hearing things you do agree with voiced in concert?

  1. “I observed at least three instances of yuppie/suburbanite/tourist looking folks stopping to pose and have their picture taken with the occupation as a backdrop.”

    I find this especially fascinating when looking at OWS as a brand. In the moment of taking a photograph in front of Westlake Center Occupy Seattle how is the movement being consumed? Does it become another landmark to tick off the vacation list like the Space Needle?

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