Planning Occupy Denton

This article originally appeared at grassroots-gazette.org.

Third general assembly of Occupy Denton. (Photo by Garrett Graham)

By Garrett Graham

On Wednesday, Oct. 12, approximately 20 Denton residents gathered at the corner of Fry and Hickory to discuss the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement and the various solidarity occupations that are sweeping the nation including Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, Portland, Austin and Dallas. They are planning their own Occupy Denton movement and there are dozens more taking place all over America.

The gathering included both students and non-students, employed and unemployed, and participants from other occupations such as Dallas, Austin, Washington DC, and Wall Street. The movement has produced a document called the Declaration of Occupation outlining their grievances.

There was another meeting on Thursday, Oct. 13, where 40 people turned out to continue planning the occupation. Will Wooten is a UNT alumni who participated in the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. He spoke to the UNT Police Department and the Student Activities Center (SAC) about camping on UNT property.

“The [SAC] said they’re used to having overnight fundraisers where people sleep outside, but they’ve never had a protest like this before,” said Wooten. “They talked it over and said it was okay because the whole campus is a free speech zone.” In 2009 a coalition of student organizations won a free speech campaign that secured student’s right to assemble without a permit. Non-students may also assemble as long as they are invited by a registered student organization. This means that the Occupy Denton movement now has permission from UNT to camp out on campus for as long as they desire.

The Occupy Denton movement has decided to use the consensus decision making process for their meetings. Consensus is a radically democratic decision making process that has been used successfully in most of the occupations across the country including Wall Street where the movement was born.

“I think it’s a great way for everyone to voice an opinion but still have quick and easy agreements,” said Lyndi Cavett, a UNT student and member of the North Texas Energy and Environment Club (NTEEC). “I like that the little man still has a voice. We have to agree to disagree sometimes, but when it comes right down to it we all want the same thing, to build a better society.” She says she was inspired by what she saw at Occupy Dallas.

Tyler Utt, a graduate student at UNT, was also pleased with the decision to use consensus. “Compared to majority rule, I think this is better because it tries to reach the best decision, not just the fastest decision,” Utt said. “It has the best democratic ideals.”

Ari Jones is a student at UNT who went to Occupy Austin where she was inspired to try and start one in Denton, so she called for a meeting on Wednesday. “I’m really surprised with the progress,” said Jones. “We had more experienced activists show up and that made things a lot easier. I’m really thankful for that. The energy is great right now.”

“I think this movement is monumental,” said Andrew Bennett, a member of the Denton Anti War Network (DAWN). “It will go down in history and I want to be able to tell my kids about it. I think it has the momentum to bring about real social change.”

Friday, Oct. 14, was the last meeting before the occupation is scheduled to begin. The group has agreed to start building the encampment on the corner of Fry and Hickory early Saturday morning.

So far, Occupy Denton has not experienced any problems with the police. At their first meeting, Denton Police Officer Ryan Grelle attended to explain to the group what they can and can’t do. He said that he found out about the meeting on Facebook. “If you block the sidewalk with a tent you will be arrested,” Grelle said. “But we are granting y’all lee-way when it comes to profanity on signs.”

He informed the group that they could not have amplified sound without a permit and said it is illegal to sleep on city property. He has offered to work with the group to try and waive the 10 p.m. curfew at a public park of the group’s choosing.

“I expect those in power to try and keep their power by any means they have,” said Utt. “I think they’re paying attention and freaking out about this movement.”

Those who want to participate are encouraged to bring a tent and camping supplies to the corner of Fry and Hickory on UNT property across from Big Mike’s Coffee and next to the Language Building.

For disclosure: Grassroots Gazette editors Candice Bernd, Mike Coleman, and Garrett Graham participated in the planning of Occupy Denton. They also participated in the Stop the Machine occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington DC.

Garrett Graham can be reached at garrettgraham@privacyharbor.com.

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