Occupy Providence Online Discussion List: Statement of Purpose and Overview of Guidelines

The document below is a statement of our principles and intent regarding online discussions, as voted on by the GA.

Occupy Providence is committed, through its online group discussions, to modeling a truly democratic society, in which all voices are heard and respected.  Occupy Providence is more than a protest, more than an occupation, more than any one given “tactic” or any one “type” of person: it is a new way of interacting with one another. Every tactic should further our goals of true, inclusive democracy.

The online discussion forum is intended to be a space for members to share ideas, plans, and relevant information. It is one of the many tactics that OP has chosen in its struggle for inclusive, participatory democracy. Given our commitment to a true democracy, we expect all participants in Occupy Providence to follow these general guidelines in our online discussions:

  • All comments should respect each other’s points of view, even if we don’t agree with them.
  • All comments should focus on responding to other people’s IDEAS and not comment negatively on their personal character or motivations.
  • We should think about whether or not the information we exchange and the debates we engage in are helping us to meet our goals as an Occupy Movement:  are they contributing to a mutual understanding of the social inequities we are addressing and helping us to determine the best tactics to use to combat these inequities?
  • All comments should respect the commitment against discrimination in Occupy Providence’s statement of purpose (http://www.occupyprovidence.com/2011/10/official-statement-of-purpose/)

 Think also about these specific ways that you can better meet these general guidelines:

  • Think through and re-read your comments before you post them.
  • Assume the best of others and expect the best from them.
  • Recognize and value the experiences, abilities, and knowledge each person brings to the discussion. Value the diversity of the group.
  • Make sure that others have space to bring up what they think is best for OP.
  • Challenge others with the intent of facilitating growth. Never make derogatory comments towards another person in the discussion.
  • Disagree with ideas, but do not make personal attacks. Do not demean or embarrass others.
  • Acknowledge the impact that race, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, ethnicity, age, level of ability, legal status, religious views or position on the political spectrum plays for others.

No one is completely freed from the oppressive habits of society. It is possible to behave in a sexist, racist, or otherwise oppressive manner inadvertently. Try to resist defensiveness and practice active listening when others describe your behavior as oppressive. These are important learning opportunities.

If you feel that other people are speaking inappropriately, be careful to respond to them without excessive negativity.

One good way to cultivate the spirit of community at OP is to say friendly things to others on the list, and to speak respectfully with those you seriously disagree with.

What to do if one or more people do not follow these guidelines:

  • It is the responsibility of the whole group, as well as the discussion group facilitators, to tell someone if they are disrespecting another person, to remind them to focus on commenting upon someone’s ideas and not upon their character or motivation.
  • Remember, you can always send individual emails if necessary, but the public discussion forum is not an appropriate place for personal or angry exchanges. Facilitators in the online discussion group should privately email people who are engaging in such activity and ask them to stop doing so.
  • It is the primary responsibility of facilitators not to end discussions, but to move them in a constructive direction in which all members are respectful of one another.

A note on discussions pertaining specifically to the park:

While Occupy Providence Discussion Group participants are welcome to discuss any issues of interest and relevance to the Occupy Providence movement, we should all be sensitive to the fact that many Occupiers in Burnside Park do not have Internet access and therefore cannot share in these discussions. Those living in the Park are currently holding several 24/7 Community Protest group meetings a week, and those initiating discussions on matters of particular relevance to conditions in Burnside Park or the future of the encampment should also bring up these issues in a 24/7 meeting in Burnside Park so that those directly involved can participate.

As part of an attempt to link online discussions to actual changes at The People’s Park, online facilitators will step in when online discussions pertain specifically to the park. The facilitator’s role will be to ask if it is appropriate to hold a meeting at Burnside Park and to schedule that meeting if participants want.