First of all, thank you so much for making this occupation possible. I fully support this occupation and am grateful to all of you American heroes, who are on the front lines. The occupation is brilliant and has given me hope for the first time in over a decade.
And, thank you, for agreeing to be interviewed, Azzah. I am very interested in learning about the process of the General Assembly and the working groups. The more people understand what is taking place, the more advantageous to the occupation.
I hope you enjoy this interview. I look forward to your response.
Who are you?
My name is Azzah Marie
I am 26 years old.
Where are you from? Where do you live now?
I am from Marlton, NY. I live in Orlando, FL and a lot of my family is in Florida. I am a convert to Islam. My family background is Italian and Irish.
I have a B.A. in Political Science: International Relations and Comparative Politics. I am in graduate courses now in Secondary Education, as I want to teach. I am attending at my Alma Mater, The University of Central Florida. I also speak six languages.
I have been able to only obtain one full time job for two years since graduating in 2008, at the US Census Bureau as a Recruiting Office Supervisor and Enumerator.
When and why did you join the occupation?
I joined the Occupation since September 17, 2011 when we had the first GA at the popular public park in Downtown Orlando, FL. I have been following the Global Revolution/Arab Spring since the start of the year 2011 with Tunisia and then Egypt and all the way down the line.
Which working group do you belong to? How long has your working group been active? Please explain the issue your group is debating. What is your position and why is this working group’s issue important to you?
I am not in a specific working group.
We are Occupy Orlando. We have started the Occupation at Senator Beth Johnson Park on October 15, 2011. I participate in all the group efforts.
I canvass at the University and collect petition signatures. I promote the group by internet and word of mouth. We have been active since before September 2011. We have petitioned Mayor Buddy Dyer to keep the park open past curfew.We also attend City Council, Legislative State Representative meetings and many city events with denoted speakers, like the Mayor.
We are talking about a strike, maybe the toll roads. The park we occupy pays $1 rent a year. The Chamber of Commerce pays this rent for their building at the park. We want to offer to pay $2 for rent instead.
All the issues are important to me. I would like the park to be open as we had 22 arrests for staying in the park after 11pm. I would also like that the money/political lobbying in the city, state and federal levels to cease and desist. We are very aware of all the backroom deals these politicians and bankers are making and we find out more everyday.
What is the origin of the General Assembly?
Most people will never know this, but in Islam our holy Prophet Muhammad AS has an account of speaking at a mountain in Saudi Arabia called Mount Ghadir. Here he announced his successor Imam Ali AS. This was a meeting of the public who also participated in the “mic check” as they would repeat what the Prophet AS said. It was not like a nomination but like an appointment and the separation of the Islamic public began. Imam Ali AS was appointed religious successor by the Prophet as a revelation but the people wanted to nominate others for their desires. Essentially a consensus was not met and many left the group.
Can you please walk me through the process of the General Assembly / the working groups?
Call to order
Explanation of voting process: We vote by hand signals and we learn how to applaud without clapping to maintain order.
Old business: (Old Proposals) These are proposals that could not reach a consensus from the last meeting. (In our group, the person who blocks the proposal is like a veto. This blocker MUST work with the proposer and re-draft the original proposal, and take a re-vote.
A block is when a person is so strongly opposed to the pass of the proposal that they will leave the group altogether.
New Business: (All New Proposals) New proposals can be submitted before the GA or given to a coordinator, at least two at GA during the meeting. The coordinator will write and give the proposal to the Facilitator, who runs the meeting, the speaker. We share the roles and they are on a volunteer basis. We vote after the proposers explain their proposal.
Announcements: All current and upcoming events are announced here.
We have an Open Forum one hour before the GA, here one can discuss any topic. In the GA it is only for voting and clarification.
Generally, how many people participate in the General Assembly?
We usually have about 30-60 or more people in the GA.
How many working groups are there, in Orlando, and what issues are being debated? (A few examples or a link to a list)
Occupyorlando.org has a lot of info about what we do, forums, and GA minutes.
We have a lot of groups like peacekeepers, medics, supply keepers, food staff, organizers of information and material, media and internet moderators and much more.
What are the requirements for creating a working group?
A working group must be proposed and have consensus at the GA. A group is formed and if you wish to be a member than you can apply online at the above address or see that group member. The info desk at our occupation has all the info. The groups are called teams and are denoted by colors like white team, green team, red team etc..
Is there a limit to how many working groups you can belong to?
There is no limit to joining or working in groups as far as I know.
How can people participate in the GA or a working group online?
People can watch the GA live from our livestream @ http://www.livestream.com/occupy_orlando
GA times are on the OccupyOrlando.org website, the time is usually at 7pm but can happen at 8pm.
What are the strengths of the GA process?
The following of protocol/rules and their application in the GA is very important to keep order and progress. People respect the process, every individual opinion and we take it seriously. We are strong when we are like this because we will make progress like this.
What are the biggest challenges re: participating in the GA process and the process itself?
A big challenge is getting down to the point. We all have a lot of ideas but we can only discuss so much when we need to take action. Staying on point during the meeting is sometimes hard because people like to talk too long or tend to get off topic. We usually need to keep order stating a point is off topic and sometimes call to wrap it up. So far there is a solution to every challenge and that GA is improving in productivity and organization.
Where is this leading? I read about a Constitutional Convention planned for July 4, 2012, in Philadelphia. Would you elaborate on what will take place during that process and what needs to happen before the Constitutional Convention?
This is a global change and an umbrella for world issues. We know that the Central banking system is corrupt. We know that the economy will do better under the Glass-Steagall Act. We know that the IMF is profiting. The Constitution is clear on Constitutionality. The more deranged we are of our constitutional rights the more freedom we lose.
I don’t know what will be discussed at the Convention but it will focus on the return to the constitution and amending parts that are not constitutional or government factions that are not constitutionally legal. Of course, we need a majority but we consider OWS to be the majority. So before the convention we really need to be educated and educate the masses. If we are educated than we do not need to depend on others to do this for their own agenda and hope the will come through. We will all be leaders and have an agenda by consensus.
Will OWS formally redress Congress of our grievances? When and how will that take place?
It is too soon to tell about a formal redress to Congress. However, yes, I believe that OWS will eventually work up the echelon to formally take political action. We demand our first amendment right that states we the people have the right to petition the government. If and when it takes place, it is hard to tell. I think the movement is growing faster and stronger than imagined; so I also think the strikes are a large step. We will probably do these things like an official redress sooner than later.
Is there anything you would like to add? A question you wished I had asked?
We do not associate ourselves with a party or as a party, we are simply the 99%, world citizens. We do not officialize or discuss officially political parties, religion and candidates.
Anyone is free to say as they please as long as it does not dis-represent the OWS movement. We are strict with being peaceful, no derogatory language or statements and no intolerance for others’ First Amendment rights. Our Occupy Orlando group wants all to respect the police and recognize that they are the 99% too, even though they may not be respecting our rights.
I have more questions, but I don’t want to overwhelm you, as I am sure you are busy. I very much appreciate your taking the time to do this interview. If we can get people to understand the process, we will gain support.
Please ask me more questions; I am here for this movement and its success. I will give myself and my time as much as I can.