This is an important and tumultuous political time. There are a lot of protests happening at the moment, but much of their energy tends to fizzle out. After the 2015 general election there was a surge of protests which later died down, and the same has happened after the Brexit referendum. What needs to happen is we need to take some of the energy from these protests and put it into more sustainable community organising. We need to get people discussing and planning with each other at the protest. So this is a guide to starting an impromptu general assembly.
We have created a video containing some advice on how to start your own assembly. Please watch and share it as much as you like. Feel free to email us if you have any questions.
PREPARING FOR YOUR ASSEMBLY:
- Bring a tarpaulin. Having a tarpaulin helps attract people to your assembly since it creates a demarcated zone, and since it’s somewhere dry and clean to sit. (Be aware that sitting on a tarpaulin is illegal in some places, for example in Parliament Square).
- Bring a megaphone (also illegal in some places – check local bylaws).
- Bring a clipboard or paper to write down notes and people’s e-mail addresses.
- Bring a sign saying ‘ASSEMBLY’ (and maybe also listing some ground rules).
- Preferably bring a couple of friends to help facilitate the assembly.
STARTING THE ASSEMBLY:
- Get people in a circle.
- The assembly must be max 50 people – if it’s bigger, split it up into several assemblies.
- Clarify the ground rules: using hand signals for easy communication, safe space where we don’t want people to say racist/sexist/etc things, no aggressive behaviour, etc.
- Clarify the aims of the assembly.
ON THE ASSEMBLY AGENDA:
- After clarifying the ground rules and aims of the assembly, do a go-round. (This is when you go round the group and give everyone the opportunity to say something – but they can abstain if they want.) The topic of the go-round should be as general as possible whilst still focusing the conversation around the assembly’s core aims. For example, ask everyone why they are here, what they think of the main issue you are protesting about, or how to move forward from this protest.
- Do a go-round with everyone even if there are 50 people in the assembly. The go-round is important as it allows everyone to help set the tone of the meeting.
- After the go-round you can start collecting proposals from people for how to organise after the protest is done.
- A good idea is to split the assembly into smaller groups at this point. The groups can be split by geographical area of residence, or by area of interest/action.
YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AS FACILITATOR:
- Make sure everyone gets to contribute as evenly as possible – the conversations shouldn’t be dominated by a few individuals.
- Politely interrupt people when they talk too long or go off topic.
- Teach and use the hand signals.
- Gather suggestions from the assembly on a piece of paper. Take notes. (A separate note-taker can do this.)
- Get people’s emails, and get them to take each other’s emails in their smaller groups.
- If someone says something offensive or dangerous that makes people under threat, do something about it. Point out that the comment might be hurtful to some, and ask that no such further comments are made.
- If drunk or disruptive people disturb the assembly, take them away from the area. Speak to them politely and witha friendly facial expression. Avoid touching them if you can. Try to stand between the disruptive person and the assembly so you don’t block their exit route. Guide the person confidently yet gently away from the assembly area. If you can, get a friend to look out for you and check you are safe – but don’t make the disruptive person feel ganged up on.
YOU CAN DO IT! LET’S ORGANISE ASSEMBLIES AND CAPTURE THAT ENERGY!