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Restorative justice at OWS

Jul 12, 2012

from the post by Stephan Geras on ZNet:

....However these “deeply personalized” new democratic processes will of necessity encounter obstacles and trip blocks which can bring to the surface individual and collective hurt or trauma; or in other words conflict which can obviously be strong enough to provoke violence. What’s referred to as the “cycle of violence” I interpret to mean that violence of any kind is internalized, whether it’s one on one or it’s a result of systemic mechanisms of oppression. 

In existing institutions the only way to deal with the manifestations of that violence and resulting hurt is by establishing bureaucracies which take the communal responsibility for healing, resolution and restitution away from those involved and structure a process of adjudication, a rational process which is adversarial, argumentative, doesn’t support or hear everyone involved and doesn’t recognize the harm done to the community as a whole. Community involvement is limited to placing the bureaucrats in positions of power.

In OWS, a turning point was reached when the GAs and Spokes meetings were abandoned because of violent conflict. People with dedication and right intentions lost hope, got fed up, got angry, got out and moved on. Out of that state of affairs came discussions about how to deal with that violence and conflict which had damaged the decision making process. 

From those discussions the Grievance Council was structured. Its name was later changed to Transforming Conflict Lab which better represented its meaning. 

From subsequent meetings of the TCL a plan was consensed on to bring Kay Pranis to New York from Minneapolis for training in restorative justice circles. Ms. Pranis is at the top of the field of RJ and a pioneer in the use of circles for the process. She agreed to come to conduct this training for airfare and food only; she had free lodging with a friend. Her usual fees would have been completely prohibitive. 

She conducted an arduous three day training workshop June 1st through 3rd, 8 hours a day plus an additional 3 hours on the first evening for a teach-in for OWS and community activists and she did it all because as she said, she was “thrilled”   to be able to bring her work in healing and community building to OWS. We the participants in the training, numbering 15, were also inspired, grateful and exhausted.

Read the whole post.

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