COLUMBIA — As week three of Occupy COMO comes to a close, protesters continue to strive for greater organization as they seek to represent the "99 percent."
Nicholas Berry has been a near-constant presence outside City Hall this week. He said Tuesday's "General Assembly" had 50 to 60 participants. There is some confusion among the group as to when the general assemblies started, but Tuesday had been the most highly attended since Occupy COMO started.
Anyone can attend the meetings, and the protestors are developing an organization system as they go, Berry said.
"Most of everything's that gotten done has been from personal initiative," he said. "The General Assembly is something none of us have gotten to participate in (previously), it's direct democracy and most of us are new to that so that's why there's confusion. People are used to having a leader."
Paul Stevenson, another Occupy COMO regular, said the community has agreed to adopt the same formation used by Occupy Wall Street in New York City.
At each meeting, attendees elect a moderator and a secretary. The moderator, who is supposed to maintain a neutral position, is charged with keeping the meetings on track and focused on those proposals made by the group.
So far, proposals have included procuring a live music permit for Liberty Plaza, the name the group's adopted for the area in front of city hall, as well as planning a benefit concert for Oct. 26 at Sideshow.
The secretary writes down the meeting’' proceedings and keeps track of voting records.
"It really felt good Tuesday because it felt like we reached some real organization," Stevenson said.
This has been a constant goal of the group as it continues to develop and mature.
*Columbia resident Jean Blackwood has participated in Occupy COMO's efforts sporadically. She recently returned from a five-day journey to the nation's capital, where she participated in Stop the Machine, a movement similar to — though not affiliated with — Occupy Together movements throughout the country.
Blackwood was joined on the trip by four other mid-Missouri residents. The group spent each night at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C.
During the day, Blackwood participated in several marches. She said Stop the Machine focuses more on stopping the wars and bringing that money home for human needs, while Occupy Together movements seek to represent the 99 percent of Americans they claim are excluded from the nation's wealth. Blackwood wrote about her experiences upon returning to Columbia, which provided some information on the way other movements conduct their general assemblies.
"Assemblies were held morning and evening to deal with issues and we all began to learn how to make decisions by consensus. ... " Blackwood wrote. "There were real disagreements exposed, and sometimes some short tempers, but ultimately there was respect and a level of agreement that left everyone free to follow their own consciences."
Blackwood said that while she was in Washington, D.C., there was frequent communication between Occupy D.C. in McPherson Square and Stop the Machine in Freedom Plaza.
She said she has been impressed with the people behind Occupy COMO.
"It's not like in the '60s when there was so much polarization between pro- and anti-war groups," Blackwood said. "Now already everybody’s coming together."