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Observations On Chicago Direct Action Network

An eyewitness account of the regional spokecouncil meeting held at the Chicago A-Zone last Saturday, March 2, under the auspices of the Chicago Direct Action Network, in order to begin planning for the Carnival Against Capitalism, to be held on May Day weekend.
Having heard and read so much about the global protests going on over the last couple of years, I was eager to check out the meeting at the A-Zone last Saturday, March 2, which had been called by the Chicago Direct Action Network in order to start planning for the upcoming Carnival Against Capitalism taking place on Mayday weekend. While the crowd at the meeting seemed friendly and energetic, I was a little put off by the organizational structure. This was what is called a Spokescouncil meeting, in which the only people with speaking privileges would be the delegated spokespersons from each group. People were asked to arrange their chairs in two semicircles - the inner one for the spokespersons, and the outer one for the other members of each group, seated behind their representative. Now, I admit that I have very little experience with activist meetings, but this setup seemed a bit authoritarian (only certain people allowed to speak) and hierarchical (an inner circle and an outer circle).

Furthermore, there was a chart at the front of the group, drawn up before the meeting got started, breaking the session down into specific activities (introduction, planning, break, etc.), each with an allotted amount of time, and during the entire meeting, there was a designated timekeeper who held a watch, and was responsible for seeing that each activity, and each speaker, was kept within the specified time limit. Now, to be fair, this timekeeper was a member of the A-Zone, not the Direct Action Network, so it wasn't clear to me whether this rigid structure was DAN's idea, or the A-Zone's, although I got the impression that DAN was responsible.

In addition to the time chart, there was another chart that had been prepared as a framework of activities for May Day weekend. The rep from the IWW asked what the purpose of this meeting was, if DAN had already decided on a structure - were the spokespeople merely supposed to ratify it? A DAN person answered that the framework was just a starting place, and that groups were encouraged to "plug into" that structure whatever events, workshops, etc. they felt appropriate. The larger question, which was never asked or answered, was why we couldn't have decided as a group on the basic framework, instead of having DAN present it to us.

I could say more about the actual content of the meeting, but right now, I'm just curious to hear about other people's experiences with activist meetings, especially of the direct action variety, and whether or not they felt comfortable with how the meetings were organized and run.



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