About 40 members of Occupy Boston met in a working group last night at a Chinatown location to discuss strategy. The main topic of discussion: given that Occupy has a looming court date on Thursday, how should the Dewey Square tribe deal with a potential eviction?But 20 minutes into the discussion, the group interrupted proceedings to take a vote on a different issue: how they felt about having a journalist present. Namely, me.I had been invited to the 7 pm meeting by several Occupants at Dewey Square earlier that day. I've been covering Occupy Boston for the Phoenix since day one (see my photos from Occupy Boston's first GA on 9/27, for starters), and over the past two months the Phoenix has maintained a steady presence at the camp. We're well-known there and have covered past tactical meetings about controversial actions. As last night's meeting began, I had my notebook out, scribbling notes. An Occupant passed me a box of superhero fruit snacks. I declined. I wasn't hiding.
But before the meeting had gotten far underway, the facilitator announced that he'd been made aware a "member of the media corps" was in attendance. He asked anyone in the media present to identify themselves. I put my hand up. I was the only reporter. The facilitator politely explained that the meeting had been designated private the previous night. In keeping with Occupy's insistence on direct democracy, he then polled the 40 or so attendees to vote on whether they felt "uncomfortable" having me present. By a show of twinkle-fingers, a consensus was reached. The facilitator told me I could take this information and do with it what I wished. In covering the Occupy movement, I've strived to balance my journalism with a respect for the movement and its process. So I left. But not without reminding the Occupants that they were engaging in a form of censorship. I held up my notebook as I vacated my chair: "To me, THIS is what democracy looks like."Six occupants walked out with me -- "Ariel Solidarity!" -- and said that they felt kicking people out of meetings, even media, is counterproductive and doesn't reflect the motives of the Occupy movement as a whole.But there's no way around the truth: what went down last night was an effort to prevent the free flow of information -- and that's one tactic the 99% needs to know about.