Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Observations on Occupy Atlanta

With The Occupy Wall Street 'movement' making news I thought I would visit Occupy Atlanta and see what it was really about. I was expecting wall to wall tents in Atlanta's downtown Woodruff Park. What I saw was a nearly vacant park on a sunny fall day near Atlanta's historic district.

12 Tribes Members Dancing
When I arrived at the park I saw 2 tents, a trio of senior citizens singing '60's folk songs in the middle of the lawn and a group of hippie looking people sitting in folding chairs dancing to live music provided by a a flute, accordion, and recorder with people dancing. A bearded gentlemen with a pony tail approached me and we began to talk. His group with the live band and dancing is a member of the The Twelve Tribes . They came down from Chattanooga to show their support for Occupy Atlanta. Now I know something of the 12 Tribes as I lived close to one of their communes in Cambridge, NY.They take Acts 2 & 4 literally. They renounce private property and run businesses such as a sandwich shop or crafts to support the commune. Their coffee shop in Cambridge made very good sandwiches.  The gentleman I spoke with was named Malak, the Hebrew word for 'angel'. He proudly talked about building a new kingdom on earth. I did not disclose that I was an ordained seminary trained priest. I asked him about his theology and he had all the right answers. But I also knew they, the 12 Tribes, hold heterodox views. They may initially say they believe in grace, the communities are quite legalistic.

These Gentleman are Capitalists Selling T-Shirts. But They Did Not Have Permission from the 'Central Committee'.
I wondered away and walked around the park until I heard an announcement from a gentleman that a General Assembly was about to begin. A small circle of people maybe 30 at the most gathered and a gentlemen began with the rules of the meeting. We were instructed on how to communicate with certain hand signals.Waving your fingers in an upright position meant agreement and downward meant disagreement. After that a statement of purpose was read. I was expecting some manifesto of economic justice but instead it went on and on about gays and transgender equality and solidarity and the such. Minutes of the last General Assembly was read and announcements made about helping people get out of jail, where the next meetings will be held, etc. The crowd was mostly white and young. In the end, I felt this 'movement' was a waste of time. There are committees one has to go through to get permission to do things like sell t-shirts and the such. But I did discover one thing about Woodruff Park. They have a corner dedicated to public speaking. And of course, the irony is that no one was using the corner for public speaking. Speaking of ironies, Woodruff Park is dedicated to Robert Woodruff a capitalist and philanthropist who gave away tons of money to support education and the arts. Think Coca-Cola!

So in the end, I came away believing Occupy Atlanta was nothing more than an excuse to make oneself feel important and offering no real solutions that plague our country today. But I did discover a government provided soap box where I can open air preach if I feel so called!

Now for something completely different, this video captures the mood of Occupy Atlanta's meeting!