JSPAN Board Member Nathan Kleinman has participated in Occupy Philadelphia, the experiment in pure democracy happening on Dilworth Square alongside the Philadelphia City Hall, since its earliest days. Newsletter Editor Ken Myers visited OP and interviewed Kleinman on October 22. Ed.
Ken Myers: We are together to discuss Occupy Philadelphia which is happening right here. Is this a political event with a capital P, or is it something else?
Nate Kleinman: I would say at this stage it is the beginning of a social and possibly political movement. It is impossible to predict where it is going to go. Nobody has the power to decide where it is going to go on their own. The group makes decisions through, as much as possible, consensus. When we vote on things if we cannot come to consensus we decide with a supermajority. And so it really requires a long process of consensus building.
Myers: You mentioned that in the evening, typically at seven 0′ clock you have what you call the General Assembly. So everybody gets out and shares ideas?
More after the jump.
Kleinman: Everybody who lives here and people from elsewhere all come together. We make announcements about things that are coming up. Various working groups, of which at this point there are probably 20 or 25, report back to the full Assembly. They talk about what they are doing, what ideas they are having, what they are planning, they say when they meet and reiterate that everyone is invited. Every working group is open to all, and anyone can start one.
The General Assembly and that whole process was started on Occupied Wall Street and this is modeled after it. There are General Assemblies happening all over the country. There is one meeting today in York, Pennsylvania. There is going to be one in Stroudsburg, there is one in Norristown today, not to mention of course the bigger cities in every state across the country.
Myers: Do you see a tendency within this group to try to create a fourth political party (I say that because I give the Tea Party credit for being one)?
Kleinman: I am not sure. I think how this movement exercises its power in the political arena is still very much up in the air. But I have heard a lot of ideas, there was a lot of talk about it, and I think eventually we will come to consensus on a way forward . It seems likely to me that it will attempt to influence the political process. Some people want to run candidates for Congress next year in every single district in the country. That would certainly be something I would support because I think it’s not just Republicans that need to be asked, there are plenty of Democrats who could use a good challenge.
Myers: The Philadelphia Inquirer, in a comment today, talked about the potential for anti- Semitism in this movement. Do you see that as a serious problem?
Kleinman: No. No, I have not seen that at all. There is a huge number of Jews participating in this, and, to the extent that there may be anti-Israel or anti-Semitic comments they are from individuals. I have not seen it and it is not representative of the whole group if it does exist.
Myers: You are chairing a human rights program in a few minutes. What is your hope for this effort?
Kleinman: This is just another working group that we announced yesterday to talk about human rights, broadly defined to encompass poverty, racism, discrimination, oppression, violence, and hopefully come to some statement of principles that we in the working group can agree upon and bring to the General Assembly for their agreement. If it passes then maybe it can be sent to other General Assemblies around the country and around the world for their consideration, debate, discussion and possibly agreement. That is the only way we can come to consensus on a national and international level and be united moving forward together
Myers: A few days ago the Philadelphia Inquirer, writing up Occupy Philadelphia, seemed to summarize this movement under the flag “99 and one”. Is that a good solid summarization of the movement?
Kleinman: It is a characterization that came from some individuals in New York, and a lot of people like it because they think it dramatizes well what we are up to, that we do stand for: that we are representative of the 99% of the people who do not have 40% of the wealth
Myers: One more question. For our readers and members, if they want to follow what is happening, what is the best way for them to do that?
Kleinman: There are a lot of different places they can look. They should get on Facebook and check out our Facebook page. There is a page called Occupied Together that is bringing a lot of information from all the movements around here. But here in Philly I would say our Facebook page is the best one, with over 20,000 people following it. Look under Occupied Philly. Our media task force is doing a great job 24-7 to get the message out, and to make sure that we tell our story and the media do not have a monopoly on that.
Myers: Thanks very much for your comments.
Reprinted courtesy of JSPAN.
Nathan Kleinman is a graduate of Abington Friends School and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is a human rights activist, a community organizer, and a veteran of several political campaigns in Pennsylvania.