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General assemblies (GA) are the primary decision making bodies of the global Occupy Movement which arose in 2011. Open to all who wish to take part, general assemblies allow for an inclusive form of direct democracy. Such assemblies aim to establish a consensus among all participants.

Assemblies are primarily voice based with different speakers addressing the crowd in turn. The specific forms adopted by the occupy assemblies vary across the world. Most assemblies have facilitators to keep order and ensure that if possible everyone gets to have their say. The larger assemblies often restrict the speakers just to spokespeople who represent smaller working groups, however each individual is still able to provide feedback, if only by means of hand signals.

General Assemblies have been used by the Occupy Wall Street movement since its launch on 17 September 2011 in New York City. They were also used in the planning stage that occurred in August. Several previous movements and cultures have used general assemblies, with the earliest known historical example occurring around the sixth century in Ancient Athens.

Methods[edit]

General assemblies have been the leading de facto decision making body of the Occupy Movement right from its inception. Designed to facilitate the formation of consensus, they typically reflect egalitarian principles. They are often organised so as to ensure everyone gets the chance to have their say rather, to counteract the natural tendency for the most forceful to dominate disorganised discussion. In larger assemblies, such as some of the ones taking place in New York, this can be done by formal mechanisms such as the progressive stack.

Another organisational feature form many larger general assemblies is to limit speaking mainly just to representatives of smaller working groups. This means that each individual gets a chance to speak and ask questions at work group level, while at assembly level the discussions are kept at a manageable length. In the smaller assemblies, anyone is able to make proposals for discussion. In larger assemblies, the audience get to make brief spoken responses to proposals from working groups. A queuing based system called a stack can be used to manage this, with the facilitators indicating when it is a particular occupiers turn to speak. Even at the largest assemblies, individuals can always feed back to speakers and the crowd by means of hand signals.

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