It could begin a week or more before the conference, along the coasts and the northern and southern borders: San Francisco and Savannah, Los Angeles and New York City, Seattle and Miami, Chicago and El Paso, Billings and New Orleans — Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine.
At each stop, participants would gather in that city's central plaza or another significant area with their tents and supplies, stage a rally and general assembly, and peacefully occupy for a night. Then they would break camp in the morning, travel to the next city, and do it all over again.
Along the way, the movement would attract international media attention and new participants. The caravans could also begin the work of writing the convention platform, dividing the many tasks up into regional working groups that could work on solutions and new structures in the encampments or on the road.
At each stop, the caravan would assert the right to assemble for the night at the place of its choosing, without seeking permits or submitting to any higher authorities. And at the end of that journey, the various caravans could converge on the National Mall in Washington D.C., set up a massive tent city with infrastructure needed to maintain it for a week or so, and assert the right to stay there until the job was done.
The final document would probably need to be hammered out in a convention hall with delegates from each of the participating cities, and those delegates could confer with their constituencies according to whatever procedures they prescribe. This and many of the details — from how to respond to police crackdowns to consulting of experts to the specific scope and procedures of this democratic exercise — would need to be developed over the spring.
But the Occupy movement has already started this conversation and developed the mechanisms for self-governance. It may be messy and contentious and probably even seem doomed at times, but that's always the case with grassroots organizations that lack top-down structures.
Proposals will range from the eminently reasonable (asking Congress to end corporate personhood) to the seemingly crazy (rewriting the entire U.S. Constitution). But an Occupy platform will have value no matter what it says. We're not fond of quoting Milton Friedman, the late right-wing economist, but he had a remarkable statement about the value of bold ideas:
"It is worth discussing radical changes, not in the expectation that they will be adopted promptly, but for two other reasons. One is to construct an ideal goal, so that incremental changes can be judged by whether they move the institutional structure toward or away from that ideal. The other reason is very different. It is so that if a crisis requiring or facilitating radical change does arrive, alternatives will be available that have been carefully developed and fully explored."
After the delegates in the convention hall have approved the document, they could present it to the larger encampment — and use it as the basis for a massive rally on the final day. Then the occupiers can go back home — where the real work will begin.
Because Occupy will wind up spawning dozens, hundreds of local and national organizations — small and large, working on urban issues and state issues and national and international issues.
WASHINGTON'S BEEN OCCUPIED BEFORE
The history of social movements in this country offers some important lessons for Occupy.