Archive | February, 2012

The Infectious Escalation of Occupy Oakland

An unofficial count of 400 Occupy Oakland demonstrators were arrested Saturday, January 28, after being fired upon, beaten, kettled, and trapped by Oakland riot police.  The Occupy Oakland social movement is rooted in the lower-income, ethnically diverse Bay Area city and has been a previous site of violent police repression. Oakland has been a nexus of social unrest long before the Occupation catalyzed it as an outlet for frustration. Oakland boasts closing public schools, an annual median family income at $56,000 in 2008, and in 2010, it was listed as the fifth most dangerous in the US with a history of police brutality. With all of these simmering tensions, Occupy Oakland’s actions should not come as a surprise to anyone, least of all elected officials like Mayor Quan and Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan.

The Occupy movement is a global social demonstration aimed at overturning the interconnectivity of money/economic/political entitlement. In 2011, acting under orders from Mayor Jean Quan, Oakland cops destroyed two Occupy encampments on public land. The immediate aftermath of their and other cities police forces’ wanton destruction of the camps created dialogue about the definition of public space, the role of elected officials and the need for the Occupy movement.

Occupy Oakland furthered the debate by their attempt to re-purpose the 6-year abandoned and shuttered Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. The convention center has no current plans for use and Occupiers intended to re-purpose it as a community center, intending to offer housing, medical and convergence facilities. The simple fact that Occupy Oakland decided to enact this bold move is an indication that the public’s needs are not being met by their elected officials.

According to an eyewitness account from an arrested Mother Jones reporter, during an all-day festival, thousands of Occupy Oakland supporters demonstrated against the broken system, but did not take the abandoned convention center. Still, hundreds of police officers dressed in riot gear arrived to face down over a thousand Oakland men, women, and children as they walked the streets and sidewalks carrying signs, chanting and singing. According to the Huffington Post, there was a volley of tear gas and bottles between the police and protesters on the streets. According to various YouTube citizen video footage, the cops shot tear gas and flash bang grenades into lines of protesters, including a group of shield-carrying people protecting a medic as the masked individual provided medical assistance to a fallen man. Protesters retaliated by throwing bottles, furniture and rocks.  Last year, brave men and women waded into the tear gas to rescue Scott Olsen after he was shot in the h
ead by a tear gas canister. They were dispersed when an officer shot a canister of tear gas directly into their group.

While no one should ever attack police officers, the violence enacted against police was a reaction to violence demonstrated to them. Not even in a directly proportional sense, the police launched high velocity flash bangs, smoke bombs, and bean bag projectiles while a few demonstrators tossed hand-sized objects while fleeing the public street.

In Oakland, a city so rife with economic and repressive tensions, Mayor Quan and Police Chief Howard seem intent on ignoring the needs of the public and grinding them under the department-approved 5.11 ATAC boot heel. In the mainstream media, Occupy Oakland participants have been typified as the aggressive instigators when, according to citizen journalists, they were only reacting to the upswing in violent action.

Furthermore, later that Saturday, Oakland police further increased the violence when after ordering the hundreds of women and men to disperse, kept them kettled in a small area and arrested them for a range of violations, including failure to disperse. Among the arrested included journalists. The elected officials of Oakland are choosing to burn taxpayer dollars restricting freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Instead of throwing blame like tear gas canisters or rocks, city officials should consider the upside of allowing a community organization to repurpose an abandoned structure for the betterment of their city.

Locally, in Oakland, the police and state escalated the power struggle by attending a peaceful public demonstration dressed in riot gear. Nationally, the federal government has shown up with its finest billy clubs as First Amendment-curtailing laws like NDAA are signed in to existence, regardless of public outcry.

Escalation is occurring. The state and status quo are utilizing their momentum to further increase the acceptable allowances of violence. When Occupations move to take back their rights, we are beaten, gassed, pepper sprayed, concussed, kettled, and arrested. As one of the many signs I’ve held at my Occupy Chicago rallies reads, “They only call it class warfare when we fight back,” that statement is truth. We need to keep fighting the escalation of violence. Every local occupation needs more ideas, more voices, more bodies dedicated to building a better world where public needs are met and police are not ordered to fire on their brothers and sisters.

- Natalie -

 

Posted in StoriesComments (1)

Defining Home

Editor’s note: This story was originally published at thisiswhyioccupy.tumblr.com, and is republished here with the author’s consent. Read the original post.

One Step Back

It is only when we stop seeing each other solely as our roles or affiliated Working Groups – Facilitator, Kitchen, POC, Direct Action, whatever – and start to see each other as people with backgrounds, with histories, with stories – that empathy will prevail over judgment and we’ll begin in solidarity to get some real work done.

And, through our own storytelling and understanding of our histories and what brought us to this moment, this movement, we understand our place within it and possibly where our efforts should lie.

As the saying goes, “If this isn’t deeply personal for you, it won’t stay political for long.”

This is the beginning of my effort to define for why this is personal for me. For me to identify at the root, the heart of things, why I occupy.

Defining Home

Home is not a place, or a building, or even shelter. Home is not defined by where I live or where I keep my things. Home is a feeling, something I understand intuitively through the people I am surrounded by.

Growing up, home was my family – my parents and my older brother.

We moved houses three times between the time I was 12 and 16. I had lived in the first for 12 years, and about for three in the second two. None felt more like home than the others.

I liked the houses we lived in, but moving always kind of felt like an adventure, and I relished in the ability to shed old skins and redefine myself in new spaces.

Moving at age 12 allowed me to replace the bunk bed I had been using since I was very little, the top bunk populated with toys and stuffed animals. In our new house my room was gradually covered, wall to wall, every inch, with magazine cutouts, posters, and music lyrics written on masking tape.

The space became defined by my teenage angst. This room was defined by me, not me by it. It was my room, but it wasn’t my home.

Home was still determined by the people in the space with me.

Leaving

When I left for college in August of 2001 that feeling of home stayed with me. And for the first couple years, that feeling drew me back to Chicago and my family. There was a part of me that thought I might move back there.
When my brother moved to LA the summer before my senior year, the feeling evolved and I started planning a post-graduation move to the West Coast.

But spring break of senior year, in LA with my parents visiting my brother, changed nearly everything for me.

Every concept I had of what it meant to be family – everything I thought I understood of my family – came crashing down around me.

I learned a lot about how priorities, transparency, honesty, money, and love affected my family, and our relationships.

I found out my future was being mortgaged to sustain an unsustainable present.

Only now do I understand that my family was most likely working class, not middle class, as I had always assumed.

I learned that a dramatic explosive event is never where a story begins – there is always something, an action, an event, building up to this reaction. This is a symptom of some other root cause.

And I’ve learned that treating symptoms only delays an eventual relapse.  Root causes must always be the focus of restorative, or better yet, transformative action.

A lesson learned on this trip, and in the months that followed, would be reaffirmed nearly six years later – love alone isn’t enough.

Without mutual effort, trust, compassion – what I now might call solidarity – a relationship cannot be sustained on love alone.

Two Steps Forward

In the years following the trip with my parents, and the months following my breakup, home was defined by my circle of friends who not only helped me weather the storm, but also made it all worthwhile.

And then Occupy Wall Street came along.

I can make a direct connection to how all this is relevant and applicable to OWS and my activism work. But I think for now it’s enough to have put all this out there.

I know that it comes from a place of privilege to talk about home in an emotional sense, without the fear or concern regarding actual shelter that so many people in this nation, and across the world, have on a daily basis, not to mention the actual struggles for basic needs that I will probably never know.

I will be moving forward from this point – acknowledging this is my reality, putting it on the table, with a desire to learn and grow and evolve – knowing this is all just a tiny fragment of why I occupy.

Brett Goldberg | @poweredbycats

Posted in StoriesComments (0)

An Open Letter To Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Editor’s note: This letter was originally published at

Dear Mayor Emanuel:

You didn’t see me today, but I was at City Hall for the Chicago City Council meeting.  You couldn’t have seen me, because I was not allowed in – nor were any members of the general public.  Maybe in your eyes this made the meeting run more smoothly.  In my eyes, it was a travesty.

For as long as I can remember, I have heard those in your generation and older bemoaning how the young people in this country are uninformed and apathetic about politics, particularly at the local level.  I am in the demographic that supposedly does not vote, does not know their elected representatives, does not read legislation, and certainly does not attend City Hall meetings.

Except that I do vote – in every election, big or small.  I know my elected representatives by sight and by name.  I read ordinances and other legislation that is up for a vote and contact my representatives with questions and concerns.  And now, this week, I showed up at City Hall to sit in on some meetings.  I never expected that when I wanted to engage in the political process this way – personally – I would be turned away.

You didn’t see me today, but you may have heard me.  I was one of the people outside the City Council chambers chanting, “Let us in!  Let us in!  We vote no!”

Here’s the funny thing: I came to City Hall today to observe, not to protest.  After contacting my alderman (Silverstein – 50th ward) and attending yesterday’s committee meeting, I learned details of the amendments made to your proposed ordinance changes.  In the past 24 hours, I went from strongly objecting to your proposal to only having a few relatively minor concerns with the new ordinances.  So while I do consider myself a member of Occupy Chicago and gladly joined up with them before the meeting, I wasn’t there to protest the ordinance changes.  I assumed they would pass, and I was more or less okay with that.

Why did I show up?  I was there to be involved in the process.  To report on the meeting via social media for those who were concerned but could not attend in person.

For a mayor who champions “transparency,” it seems odd that the exact language of the proposed ordinances as they were to be voted on was not made easily accessible to the public.  Your denial to let me and other members of the public witness the passing of these ordinances today also concerned and upset me.  It changed me from a mere observer to an active protester, simply because I get a bad taste in my mouth when supposedly open meetings have no room for the people who will be affected by what is decided in them.

The people you kept out of that meeting were teachers and nurses, students and union workers, taxpayers and voters.  They deserve better, and they will continue to demand it.

You probably weren’t aware, but we held a general assembly right outside the Council chambers after the ordinances passed.  If you thought shutting us out of one meeting about a couple of ordinances would make us give up and go home, you were very, very wrong.  We are committed more than ever to being seen and heard, and taking our rightful place in the democratic process.

Expect us.  We are the people.  We are united.  The Occupation is not leaving.

Sincerely,

A Constituent

- Rachel Allshiny -

Posted in StoriesComments (0)

Huntington New York St Pattys Day Bar Crawl Long Island for charity

Huntington NY Leprechaun Bar Crawl

Long Island Social Events 

Looking for something to do St Patty’s day weekend? Look no further… Long Island Social Events presents their 1st annual St Patty’s Day Leprechaun Bar Crawl 2014, located in Huntington NY. Join us for great drink specials, while raising money for a local cause. Check out our charities page for more info! Wear Green!!!
Raffle for prizes, including gift certificates, shirts and more!!

Costume Contest!!!

Buy your tickets now for - $25

Tickets bought at the door – $30

You must be 21 or older to participate in this event.

 

Bar Crawl Participants:

Honu – $5 Drinks!!

Mary Carrolls – Half off drinks!!

Christophers – 2 for 1 drinks!!

JT Carringtons: 2 for 1 drinks!!

Finleys: 2 for 1 drinks!!

Huntington Village Tavern: Domestic Bottles 2 for $5

 

*You will recieve an email a couple of days before March 15th with the schedule of the bar crawl

 

Posted in StoriesComments (0)

Eviction: A Medic’s Perspective

It was a particularly warm night, and I decided to go down to Zuccotti Park after my shift was over. I arrived at about 11pm and as usual the place was still pretty alive. We just got our bicycle powered generator for our lights, and we had a volunteer riding the stationary bike. At about 1am things seemed to be winding down, there were a few of us in the tent…we heard the megaphones (obviously outsiders, we weren’t allowed to use them) and saw the blue flashing lights. A surly policeman came into the medical tent and handed us a piece of paper. It was an eviction notice, telling us that we had 30 minutes to pack up and get out. It was chaotic. People outside were yelling. I stayed in the tent, fiercely wanting to defend it. We had become a community health center.

People not involved with OWS were coming to us for services. We had doctors and nurses, herbalists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, chiropractors, reike practitioners, EMTS, paramedics and street medics. We had an entire social work department! We gave out flu shots! We made rounds in the park and went out on marches, we not only helped those who sought us out, we sought out those who needed our help. All of our services were free! The community stepped up and donated every supply we could think of. We never ran out of anything. We were the most amazing clinic I’ve ever worked in! It was inconceivable that the police would be throwing us out, but they were. At this point there were 3 of us in the tent – doctor, our volunteer bike rider and myself. None of us wanted to leave.

I called our lawyer to let him know what was going on. As I did this the police came in with their cameras and yelled at us to get out. I saw a knife slash into the tent and then make a long tear. I tried to cover the opening they made with a piece of cloth, but that was ripped down, then another knife slash, the were ripping the tent down with us in it. The doctor and I tried to reason with the police, but they wouldn’t hear it. They lied to us and told us that they would pack up all of our supplies and that we could pick them up at the department of sanitation the next day. Finally I grabbed what I could, a box of herbal supplies, some medical equipment, a grapefruit and a stuffed elephant. (I can’t tell you what exactly I was thinking at the time). An angry cop grabbed my arm and thrust me out of the tent and out of the park, I wasn’t even allowed to stand on the sidewalk.

We watched the police throw the remains of our medical tent into a garbage truck and then compact it. We were holding medications for young occupiers, he had expensive defibrillators, we kept records of our patient’s conditions, we had ace bandages, and gauze bandages, foot care products, and lots more. It all got destroyed. It was that night when I decided I was in, I was an occupier, this was a cause worth fighting for. Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD kicked a hornet’s nest!!!! We are not gone and we are stronger than ever….we will win, we have to, all we are asking for is a world worth living in for everyone. People maybe fighting against us, but they will wake up someday and realize we are on the same side.

- Nurse Janet -

Posted in StoriesComments (1)

Lone Protester v. Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee was in Valdosta, Georgia to speak at a fundraiser. There were no protests against him, so I decided to try to organize one myself. I created a Facebook event and publicized it on the Occupy Valdosta page. Ten people said they would show up according to the event page, but when it came time for the protest I was the only one protesting. So, I held up my sign that said “Trust your neighbor, not the news” and stood in front of the building Huckabee was in while all of the well-dressed gala participants entered the event. A homeless man came up and talked to me about why I was there. His presence felt like a god-send. I was there for about 15 minutes when a police officer pulled his car onto the sidewalk in front of me and got out to question me. I talked with him calmly for as long as I could, hoping that another protester would show up. Then 4 other police officers walked up and told me if I didn’t leave I would be arrested for criminal trespassing. I chose to not be arrested.

I was walking home by myself a couple of hours later, it was dark, and a police officer saw me, as far as I know, he had no idea what had happened with me earlier. The officer did something really kind, he drove ahead of me and shined a light into a dark corridor before I got there to make sure there was no one lurking in the shadows. He was concerned for my well being, it was a small thoughtful act of service and protection, not mindless use of oppressive force.

It occurred to me then that the police are more afraid of the world than we are. They see danger where we find trust, and where they fear the unknown, we imagine the beautiful possibilities of the moment. The people in the police force are not the enemy and if we do our job right, eventually they will join us.

I don’t know what the future holds, our small group is now largely inactive outside of  the online dialogues on Facebook. Revolution ain’t easy, and very few in our town see Occupy as something they want to be part of locally in its current form, so the challenge now is to transform. It means keeping the dream alive beyond the name, I will continue organizing but I will figure out a way to do so that will encompass as many people and ideas as possible, yet join with the vigor and urgency of the revolution already in progress.

-Julia Ward Howe-

Valdosta,

Posted in StoriesComments (0)

The Art of Change

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared on ilovechile.cl, and is republished here with consent from the author.

Police clashing with protesters, shattered bits of glass from broken street lamps and bus stops littering the sidewalks, disemboweled traffic lights idling on street corners; the charred remains of a bus, lit on fire in Macul. These are the pictures circulating through the public consciousness following the October two-day national strike in Chile, images of the violence and destruction – the fallout from almost six months of education protests that have yet to yield any sort of concrete result.

In the nascent days of the education movement, when spurts of violence were just starting to make their way onto the streets and into the headlines, I remember hearing the justifications for such acts. They went something like this: The clashes and public vandalism are necessary because they are the only certain way to grab and maintain public attention. They also show the seriousness of the protesters, who have to make it clear that they will refuse to be ignored or shunted aside by an intractable government bureaucracy.

How pallid and naïve those arguments seem now, after this six-month (and counting) war of attrition. The seemingly never-ending stream of street confrontations between the police and the hooded, rock-wielding, Molotov cocktail-hurling encapuchados  or masked protesters have begun to alienate people, especially moderate Chileans fed up with the constant, sometimes dangerous disruption of their daily lives. Maybe at one point there was a justification for these acts. Violence was a useful little stimulant, able to rivet the country’s attention for short bursts. But like any harmful drug, habitual use has begun to lead to destructive side effects that are slowly wearing on the Chilean body and psyche.

Two important points need to be made here. First, the police and government response to the marches bears just as much, if not more blame for the current situation. And second, the perpetrators of these violent irruptions make up a minuscule portion of the people fighting for education reform.

To the first point: the aggressive tactics (tear gassing, water cannons, etc.) utilized by the police special forces unit since the early days of the protests have, far from restoring order, served only to escalate tension and engender more violent reaction. The police want to do their jobs: enforce the law, maintain order and keep the streets safe for ordinary citizens. Fair enough. But the events of the past half-year show that these tactics are having just the opposite effect. At first, the violence was unexpected. Now it seems inevitable. It’s almost as if the troublemakers are taking to the streets because they are expecting to clash with the police forces.

The street confrontations play out like an elaborate game of cat and mouse. Police trucks rumble up and down the streets, spraying water and tear gas at delighted protesters who duck for cover and then emerge again, a few moments later, chucking stones back at their pursuers. After getting riled up into a frenzy, the protesters retreat, and that’s when the real destruction begins.

During the Oct. 6 protests, generally agreed to be one of the most violent days of the education movement, police vehicles chased students down the streets. As they retreated, groups of people would swarm around streets signs and park benches, using their collective force to turn them out of their concrete foundations. Of course, there is no justification for this type of vandalism, but the police response certainly didn’t help. If anything, it created the hysterical, fear-laden atmosphere that made those acts possible.

To the second, and perhaps most essential point: the vandals, encapuchados and whoever else is taking advantage of the strange, uncertain environment brought on by the marches, represent a tiny portion of the protesters, the great majority of whom conduct themselves peacefully and with great dignity. On Oct. 19, the second day of the two-day national strike, nearly 200,000 people came out to march in Santiago. They marched peacefully and without incident for most of the afternoon, until a small percentage of troublemakers broke off from the group and started causing problems. But this is what people were talking about the next day.

And that is perhaps the greatest tragedy brought on by specter of continuous violence; it dominates the conversation and saps urgency from the student cause. When I went out to observe the Oct. 19 march, I was struck by the enthusiasm of the crowd and the air of passion and positivity that ran through this mass of people. Protesters came out in costume and groups of musicians and dancers performed in small pockets of space. People, young and old, marched together. They laughed and joked with each other, but there was also an underlying seriousness of purpose. It was a culture event, a parade of discontent but also an expression of joy, creativity and possibility.

The process of reform – lasting and systemic – can be messy and slow, full of setbacks and frustrations. But the art of change, something we are seeing not just in Chile but all over the world, from Wall Street to Tunisia, can be a beautiful, collaborative process that shows humanity at its best. Ultimately, violence is not a means to anything but more violence- a distraction that obscures the true potential of people searching for a better path.

Titus Levy

 

Posted in StoriesComments (0)

You Can’t Evict an Idea…

As more and more occupations face eviction and police violence, we present a series of stories from occupiers on their experiences during police raids in Miami, New York, Oakland, Saskatchewan and more. Read the stories here: http://bit.ly/evictionstories

Posted in StoriesComments (0)

Political Repression on the Streets of Miami?

As many Cuban-Americans living in Miami, my family’s nightly dinner-table conversations were thoroughly (and, course, regularly) dominated by discussions about the economic, social, and political conditions in Cuba. My family’s impressions rendered the sacred tempered by the profane; Cuba was our “lady in waiting,” who had been defiled by a totalitarian regime. But this is neither surprising nor paradoxical.

My family came to this country not necessarily to avoid communism, but to escape the state repression of an authoritarian government. While our Miami streets are not infiltrated by the same type of omnipresent masses of boogeymen (who seemingly lurk at every corner, at every hour, threatening to arbitrarily report every action as possibly “subversive”), the crackdown on Occupy Miami protestors which I witnessed last night could only be described as an outrageous application of the unmitigated might of state authority.

It was an intensely authoritarian might that seems more fitting in my family’s region of Camaguey, along with every other town and city of Cuba. Just as in Cuba, where the exercise of this sort of might certainly doesn’t spring from “enlightened” concern about the well-being of the community, this might was unleashed onto protestors to squash political dissent aimed at criticizing our government’s callous and flagrant rejection of economic democracy.

Peaceful young activists gathered last night at Government Center to take a peaceful stand, in the militantly non-violent tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, against the city’s planned destruction of the Occupy encampment (otherwise known as “Peace City”). In the dark of night, numerous contingents of riot police, in full combat gear and armed to the teeth with various types of menacing weaponry that seemed more fit for a combat zone, created a human barricade around activists and media, effectively trapping us onto the street directly behind the Government Center.

As they did this, another group of riot police formed a wall around the media and pushed them off the camp entirely, so that the media could not properly document the police escalation which was planned to take place. This occurred despite numerous attempts by Occupy Miami liaisons who, before the action, spoke to the commander-in-charge and implored him numerous times that respect for media and civilians should be a paramount priority — this, to no avail.

Not very long after sunset, riot police closed in and physically pushed us onto sidewalks until we were fully engulfed; block by block, away from the encampment, police beating their metal batons on their shields, chanting “Back! Back! Back!” The images of police repression elicited flashbacks of the awful stories about Cuba that I had heard during my childhood.

I was reminded of the trials and tribulations that traumatized my people. We, the children of Miami, were threatened with bodily harm and treated as outright criminals — merely for disagreeing with our government. The dreams of freedom that my family sung to me, as lullabies, had become a discordant nightmare of oppression that would cause any freedom-loving person to recoil in disillusionment, if not disgust.

In the Occupy movement, I have had the amazing honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with young Cubans who embody much of the future of this city. We carry with us the hopes and dreams of our parents and grandparents, and we fight, as they did… for liberty. Our families came to this country, as many do, to seek solace in what we are told is a free nation. But the scenes of last night beg a few very important questions:

Where was that freedom last night in Miami, as dozens of peaceful activists were viciously chased by riot police in full combat gear? Where was that freedom in the midst of an imminent threat of tear gas, the blows to our bodies by batons, the threat to use pepper spray to douse our spirits in unsolicited submission, and the threat to use rubber bullets to shatter our dreams of a better society?

The corporate media described the situation as being inherently violent, but, as so many intelligent, strong-willed, young activists pleaded with the riot police over and over as they surrounded us in a terrifying display of repression, we are reminded of an old saying: “The only weapon we have is our voice!”

I do not want to live in a nation in which our voices are the most feared weapons of all. A silent nation is a nation on the verge of death. To ensure that the dreams of our forefathers can truly become a living reality, we must embrace freedom and denounce repression, wherever it takes place. Failing to do so means we will have embraced the very tyranny our ancestors labored so diligently to escape and overcome.

Mo Tarafa
Political educator, Seed305

Posted in StoriesComments (4)