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April, 2012 | Occupied Stories - Part 2

Archive | April, 2012

Baptism by Rain-Fire

OCT. 16, 2011 – I arrived in New York City Wednesday morning on a one-way ticket from Chicago. My goal: to join the Occupy Wall Street movement. I came prepared to camp out in the occupied space, Zuccotti Park, also known as Liberty Plaza. I knew it was going to be cold and rainy for at least the first few days I was there. I knew that this would make camping out all the more difficult. And I knew that this would be a fitting and ironic baptism by “fire.”

With the help of fellow protesters, I set up my sleeping area that morning near the perimeter of the park. They provided me with two plastic tarps and recommended I take some cardboard for “cushion.” So I laid down the first tarp, placed a broken-down cardboard box on top of it, laid my sleeping bag on top of that, and then spread the second tarp over the top. At first, I just tucked the ends under the bottom tarp, like a bed sheet, but I realized that this was probably not going to be an effective water barrier from the rain. So I found someone with packing tape and they helped me tape the two tarps together, encompassing my sleeping bag in a waterproof pocket.

Or so I thought.

After a wonderful day of talking to a number of amazing individuals and the two-hour General Assembly in the evening, I was pretty well exhausted by 10pm (especially considering that I had not slept at all the night before). With a full heart, I climbed into my sleeping cell. The ground was hard and I didn’t have much room to move around, but it was surprisingly warm in my little cocoon. I was also embraced by a comforting sense of safety and solidarity with the people around me. In my area, some were already fast asleep, while others chatted from their sleeping bags. In other parts of the park, there were soap-box discussions, committee meetings, a small drum circle, and other activities interspersed between tarp-covered bodies. This calm murmur of human activity was like a spontaneous community lullaby. The intermittent drizzle of raindrops against my tarp was the crisp harmony complementing a soothing melody.

Soon, the rain began to pick up speed and force. I felt myself become the drum against which nature hammered out her emphatic crescendo. A peaceful energy surged through my body. I felt at one with the world. I felt grounded, solid and true. It really would have been the perfect lullaby, if only the tarps had held out. But once my toes sensed frigid rainwater seeping into my sleeping bag, I knew it was over. I wasn’t going to be able to sleep in the park that night. I wasn’t going to be able to sleep at all.

So I spent the rest of the night wandering around the financial district of New York City, umbrella in hand, pausing beneath awnings every so often. I sat in a late-night Mc Donald’s for an hour or so until it closed, then rode the subway around until it opened up again just before sunrise. It struck me that this night of sleepless transience, a temporary and chosen experience for me, was, quite disturbingly, a persistent, involuntary reality for the homeless citizens of this planet. This realization was jolting. This realization was more chilling than the rain. This realization was a humbling welcome to the long, hard fight I came here to join.

Stavroula Harissis

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Farewell (But Not Goodbye!) to Occupy Medford

This story was originally published at The Portland Occupier

The following is an open farewell letter to my local Occupy movement.

An open letter to Occupy Medford:

Before Occupy, I spent countless hours dreaming of being involved in helping to change our country. At times I thought in extremist absolutes about how to make that happen. At other times, my trains of thought were more humble. But in the end, these revolutionary theories were just words and I was coming to realize that unless I did something, anything, that my words were worthless. So I started to look for something locally that I could volunteer for and support. And that’s when Occupy happened.

I initially saw Occupy very differently. Another protest, another cause… another group of well intended people holding cardboard signs at people on their way to work. Of course, I was wrong. Whether it was the tactical beauty of a 24/7 protest or just an energy that had been building in people over the last few years, Occupy spread like fire from New York across the country. Within two months protests and encampments could be found all around the world.

From afar I watched and read news coverage of hundreds of protests, all crying out for change. Up close I participated in local protests, marches, the port shutdown, etc., and knew these events were replaying themselves all over the country. In the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings, with thousands participating and millions sympathizing, I thought our country was in for a drastic and sudden paradigm shift.

As Occupy Medford started, either by luck or ability or both, I found myself becoming a facilitator and an organizer. Suddenly I was running meetings, planning and attending protests, writing press releases, and giving interviews. Simultaneously I had just started a new full time job and was finishing my associates degree. Needless to say, it was a hectic first few months. Of course, I didn’t do any of it by myself. But despite the time crunch and not always knowing what to do or what to say, I loved every minute of it.

But it has barely been six months and Occupy has slowed down. It’s impossible to say exactly why Occupy hasn’t been able to maintain its momentum. I think there were a few factors involved. Occupy lost almost all of its permanent encampments, decreasing visibility and synergy between protesters. Organization and rules for a direct democracy movement became a tiring process for a lot of people. After all, we aren’t used to all having a say and a voice; usually we have the “luxury” of leaving that up to someone else. And there was always the question of goals. Of course the corporate owned media was wrong on this and always detrimental as a whole to the movement. Occupy always did have clearly-stated goals. We just had a lot of them, and it was hard to narrow them down enough to bring focus. But regardless of what happened, it’s very clear that Occupy looks a lot different today than it did just a few short months ago.

As I’m getting ready to move, and having scaled back on my involvement in our local Occupy movement, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on Occupy. What have we accomplished and where does it go from here? And in between old feelings of overwhelming optimism and now some lingering pessimism, I’ve reached a personally satisfying answer for now: Occupy has and will continue to change the world.

To have a meaningful revolution, we need a society that is educated and self-aware and treats its citizens with respect and compassion. Without this kind of revolution, all we are doing is temporarily changing the power structure. I think that working toward fundamental change is exactly what Occupy has helped do. Thousands of older generation activists have been able to get new energy and momentum; thousands of young people have been changed in some way by this movement. By becoming more involved in both Occupy and the dozens of other work groups, campaigns, and social causes affiliated with it, Occupiers are helping to change the world. In this light, Occupy has already won.

Occupy Medford and the people in it have definitely changed me and have given me the direction and the voice I was looking for. It showed me that my generation is capable of mobilizing, of giving of ourselves and recognizing that we can change things, even if only a little bit. As a whole, and as individuals, if we can continue to do that, by occupying, by protesting, by organizing, or by volunteering: then we will change the world.

Thank you Occupy Medford…

Much love,

-Benjamin Playfair-

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Sleepful Protest

Editor’s Note: Since being evicted (and re-evicted) from Liberty Plaza, Occupiers in New York started a new encampment in Union Square where they faced nightly closures of the park by police. In response, occupiers have developed a new tactic: sleeping on sidewalks. Some have chosen to sleep in front of banks, others on Wall Street itself. This comes from a twelve-year-old court case called Metropolitan Council Inc. v. Safir which states that sleeping on sidewalks as a form of political protest is protected first-amendment speech. This page will serve as a place for first-person stories from occupy’s newest front-line – the sidewalk.

Sleepful Protest

Last Sunday I spent the night livestreaming occupiers sleeping next to the banks by Union Square. The core homeless population of occupiers had been taking quite the beating from the NYPD since M17. At Union there were random arrests throughout the day, for sleeping, for holding banners, etc. At night the police tracked them and did everything in their power to prevent people from sleeping, leaving them tried and on-edge. People need to sleep! So on Sunday we tried a new tactic for the second time, sleeping in front of banks. Dear Officer Lambardo, a white shirt, tried everything he could think of: picking off people, calling in the community cops to ask if we wanted to go to shelters (a pre-arrest move which didn’t work because we made it known that we were sleeping on the streets for political reasons), Lambardo even detailed cops to each bank with orders to keep their lights on – quite annoying. I followed dear Lambardo (at a distance) live streaming him on his Blackberry for hours during the cold night, no arrests occurred. The next day people returned to Wall Street. Finally a place to sleep, at least for now. On Wednesday I slept on Wall Street, it was great.  There was real community, not so many cops, right across from the stock exchange, a priceless view. In the morning, some great outreach. There’s plenty of room, suggest more come down, just be sure to get up before they wash the sidewalk and bring extra food, pizza is always good. -Anonymous-

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Diane Emerson: Why I Occupy

Editor’s Note: A version of this story originally appeared at the Portland Occupier.

Seeking love and affection any way I could, I found myself pregnant at 15. Knowing I did not have the parenting skills necessary to raise a child, I gave her up for adoption. Then I went on a drive to prove to the world that I was a good human being. With no help from my family, I got myself through college, and, eventually, with the help of my husband, graduated with an MBA. My goal: to be vice president of a Fortune 500 company. Why? This was the ultimate measure of success for a woman in this country. I worked hard, stuffed my feelings far down into my soul, and started climbing the corporate ladder.

As I climbed, I noticed that the difference in pay between myself and the people reporting to me got bigger and bigger. This made no sense to me. These people were working just as hard as me, and had specialized skills I didn’t have. I couldn’t even DO some of their jobs! At one point I asked the human resources people if I could give some of my pay to my team. That suggestion was met with disbelief, and the response was that the HR department was working to increase the disparity, in order to provide people a greater incentive for for working their way up. I kept silent.

Eventually I reached the point where the VPs started inviting me to their homes on the weekends. I knew what that meant. They were seeing if I would fit into the tight social circle which exists at that level. I talked antiques and gardening with the wives, and golfing and global economics with their corporate husbands. I listened to them discuss their homes in Florida, their fishing and golfing trips, their travels to Europe and the Caribbean.

It became clear to me that they only socialized with others at their level within the corporation – tightly held in their carefully constructed bubble of safety and ignorance. I realized that if I actually reached my long-held and hard-fought goal, these people would be “my friends”, my social circle. It sickened me. I realized that if I actually reached my goal, I would be desperately unhappy, and would have to muzzle my voice and my life 24/7. I saw that the huge salaries were part of an ego game, to which everything was sacrificed. Nothing else mattered. I toyed with the idea of going along with the game, and changing the corporation from within. But I would have been alone in my efforts, and it would have been overwhelming.

So I quit. I quit the company, and ended up quitting my 20-year marriage and my country, and I moved to New Zealand to start a new life. I became an independent business consultant and focused on helping New Zealand entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed. Then 5 years ago, I moved into the gift economy – giving my time and skills to individuals and small nonprofits around the world who were dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor. I had no home, no car, and no worries. A year spent volunteering for people with disabilities in Kashmir, the most militarized place on earth, was the beginning of my activism.

Then, while volunteering for the Catholic Worker movement here in the US, Occupy was born. Now here was a cause that could handle everything I had to offer, and more. I had a plane ticket to take me back to Geneva in March 2012. I cancelled it. There is nowhere else on earth I can do the most good to help the world than right here in the U.S., in the heart of the beast. But this time I am not alone. I am surrounded with like-hearted people. Together, we will create the world we dream of. A world of acceptance, shared values, integrity, transparency, meaning, affection, love, and community. Everything I sought after since childhood is wrapped up in this package called Occupy.

-Diane Emerson-

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How I Occupied the Media

Editor’s Note: May Day is approaching quickly with just over two weeks left, injecting new enthusiasm throughout the movement. As we find new strategies to voice our concerns to the public, we revisit an old one: here, we present again occupier Bill Allyn’s use of creativity to extend his message over the Internet and ultimately the mainstream media.

This is the story of how, for 3 minutes, I occupied the mainstream media (well, sort of). First, I wrote a poem, and put out a graphic version on Facebook (it was Sept 28th, 2011—11 days after OWS began.)

By the time I woke up the next morning (ok, afternoon…), someone had done a spoken-word version on Youtube, which already had about 700 views. That version now has over 43,000 views, and there are scads of copycats and different versions, including Greek and Portuguese subtitled versions.

Then I turned it into a song in my little home “studio.” I had written the song at the same time in late September, but for some reason didn’t release it on Youtube until February 13th, 2012. Here is the song & video.

Within 12 hours of posting this song/video to Youtube, Iran’s Press TV contacted me for an interview (about 3 minutes), which was broadcast globally.

I don’t know if it’s inspiring to anyone else, but it is certainly inspiring to me to know that I can write a poem/song in order to make my voice more heard, and it actually worked, and got me (a nobody, trust me), on world news… It really can work! It did for me. I got good exposure for the Occupy Movement, and 3 minutes of my “15-minutes-of-fame”, so now I’m only owed 12 more minutes. ;-)

-Bill Allyn-

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#Chicago Spring: A Day of Renewal

This story was originally published in The Occupied Chicago Tribune

On Saturday, April 7, Occupy Chicago began their Chicago Spring: the name of not just a day of citywide action, but everything planned for the next two months including protests at the NATO summit in May. The day itself was given the hashtag #TakeTheSpring on Twitter, a reference to the movement’s two attempts to #TakeTheHorse (i.e. camp out at Michigan and Congress), which led to 300 arrests and much debate about strategy and tactics. By the end of Saturday, there had been no camping, no arrests and little debate about one thing: With a conservative estimate of over 1,000 people participating, the first day of the Chicago Spring was an unqualified success.

The Occupy Chicago Press Committee’s Rachael Perrota had assured me beforehand: “Saturday is already a success. The diverse communities and groups participating, and the internal organizing structure that grew around A7, will be with us, and strengthened by this day of action, long after NATO has come and gone.” But of course, I had to see for myself.

A Necessary Win

Frankly, it felt to this observer (and to other people there with whom I spoke) as if Occupy Chicago was in need of a clear win.

A training/rehearsal in Logan Square shows how a foreclosure eviction might be blockaded. (Photo: Joe Macaré)

The movement had been thrown too many curveballs recently: The G8 relocation was a victory itself, but one that required plans to change and made some people wonder if the NATO summit protests will still be such a big deal. Plans for May were also complicated by the unsolicited assistance (or, depending on your point of view, attempt to hijack the Occupy Chicago name) by the magazine Adbusters. Even the unseasonably warm weather of the last few months seemed to throw the movement off balance: The indoor space at 500 W. Cermak, full of potential but also expensive and high-maintenance, was secured for a Chicago winter that never came.

There had been too many marches and rallies where the numbers seemed too low for a city Chicago’s size, too many understaffed committees, too many burnt-out and exhausted individuals. And too many internal debates: about Adbusters, about privacy, transparency and live-streaming, about the Occupy Festival, about the merits of the indoor space versus outdoor occupation. Some of them may have been necessary, but none of them were easy and many of them felt interminable.

Good Omens at the Eagle

The first indication that the day would be a success began, for me, in Logan Square, where Occupy the Northwest Side held an “Occupy the Eagle” action in front of the monument of that name. Local residents brought and accepted donations at a Give/Receive Circle, speeches included an impassioned and affecting call for solidarity from a representative of the Chicago Teachers Union, a mock auction sold off “the historic symbols of Logan Square and the Chicago Northwest side” to the highest bidders, and volunteers from a crowd of 50-60 people joined in an eviction blockade rehearsal/training.

Three pairs of CPD legs stand by near a chalk drawing in progress. (Photo: Joe Macaré)

If the morning’s action in Logan Square was dominated by the Eagle watching over Occupy the Northwest Side, then the afternoon of April 7 downtown included a menagerie of creatures. The main event of the Chicago Spring included a pig, a leech with the face of our mayor, some chickens, the Horse (of course) and whatever disreputable species of rodent Vermin Supreme is.If that all sounds distinctly carnivalesque, that’s as good a word as any to describe much of what went on in Butler Field and at Congress and Michigan on Saturday. This was, after all, not billed as a protest exactly, more of a coming together of communities and a celebration of people power. But there were plenty of serious moments: stories from speakers that were tragic and moving or that inspired furious anger.

And if some of that anger was channeled back into satire and surrealist jest, such as the display put on by Larry the Leech (Rahm Emanuel recast as a parasite who ate kittens and excreted candy that was then fed to the crowd—”Get used to eating that, there’s a lot more where it came from…”), well, so be it. Sometimes gallows humor and mockery are the only sane responses to the 1%’s absurd love of power.

From the Prison to the Park

I caught up with the march from Jackson and LaSalle as it headed down via Clark to snake under the El tracks at Van Buren. Participants stopped outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center, to speak out once again against the U.S. prison-industrial complex in the shadow of a very real, imposing example located right there in The Loop.

The march set off again, weaving its way north up Dearborn and then eastbound, filling the streets, a relatively small and ramshackle CPD escort doing little to constrain it. Already the diversity of what Occupy represents was in evidence. One man’s sign read ”restore Glass-Stegall,” but at the front of the march a scrappy group of Occupy Chicago members were demanding more: chanting the chant that culminates with “the whole damn system, shut it down!”

At Michigan Avenue, there was a moment made possible partly by Chicago’s unique layout: The march emerged from the shadows of downtown into the sunlight, seeming to escape from the city and fan out as it crossed into Grant Park.

I sent the only update to Twitter that came to mind:

“So this is totally fucking exciting.”

Occupy Chicago soapboxes, shortly arriving in Butler Field. (Photo: Margo Mejia)


The Real Occupy Festival

Once the march arrived in Butler Park, the energy was palpable. Some of the crowd focused around a rousing soapbox session, backdropped by an American flag.

Reading the Occupied Chicago Tribune in Butler Field. (Photo: Joe Macaré)

Others gathered to witness the Wishing Tree for the 99%, as yet unadorned by leaves (wishes), but already an impressive sight: A pastoral symbol made possible by modern technology, specifically Kickstarter (do I need to disclose I was one of the tree’s two dozen backers?).

Tables were set up, guides to the scheduled teach-ins, talks and performances were handed out, and Rebecca Burns from In These Times observed ”We’re in the milling-about-in-the-park stage of the day.”

Some just sat and enjoyed the sunshine while reading the Occupied Chicago Tribune. 

It’s hard to over-emphasize how much was going on in addition to the official program: People reconnecting, or meeting for the first time, impromptu musical performances, handmade art and literature being handed out, children being read stories under the Wishing Tree, and a painter capturing the scene and the Chicago skyline. Occupy El Barrio had brought along an enormous foam pig, representing capitalism and bearing the slogan “TAKE BACK THE FAT.” I couldn’t help but think that the Occupy Festival had happened after all, only without an entry fee.

At one point, a game of Capture the Flag was announced by a man with a bullhorn: “It’s anarchists versus communists!”

“What about Kropotkin-ists?” I asked. ”You can’t play,” was his deadpan reply.

I bumped into some time-travelling Founding Fathers—who are actually the online comedy troupe “I Made America“—and told them “You’re the last thing a British guy wants to see coming down the street towards him.”

“Oh no sir,” they assured me, “There’s no animosity anymore.” And then the one who identified himself as John Adams stepped forward.

“I was this country’s first ambassador to Great Britain,” he told me. “And I will be an ambassador to you, sir.”

Any event so diverse and welcoming draws a mixed bag of participants. There was also a man with a very large Ron Paul 2008 sign, wearing a Ron Paul 2008 t-shirt (“I’ll go back in time and vote for him,” quipped one occupier, “I know he doesn’t win”), and a fairly large contingent of Hare Krishnas—a benign prospect until they try to give you a book and recruit/solicit you.

“The Fight of Our Lives”

But of course, creating a space in which all kinds of people can come together to learn, play and exist for a moment outside of capital is only one aspect of the Occupy movement, and radical movements in general. The other is struggling against the realities being imposed by the 1%. A quick glance at the titles of some of the afternoon’s talks made it clear this was also being addressed as part of the Chicago Spring: ”This is What a Police State Looks Like,” ”The Crisis of US Capitalism,” “Mayor 1%’s Budget of Austerity.”

Rosie Carter from AFSCME Local 31 painted a grim picture of the situation facing public library employees under Emanuel. Her message: Librarians and other library workers have never seen it this bad, and they’re not sure how they can continue doing their jobs faced with the mayor’s open hostility to their union and commitment to cutting their staff and services.

“I think you’re still doing a great job somehow!” said the discussion’s facilitator.

This echoed a moment earlier in the day in Logan Square, where a speaker from the Chicago Teachers Union had said: “We’re in the fight of our lives… It’s a workers’ fight but it’s primarily a fight for our students.” (This, of course, is not what Emanuel, Jean-Claude Brizard or CPS want you to believe.) When she went on to make the impassioned plea, ”Please stand up for us… We feel like the world is against us,” someone in the crowd shouted: “I love you!”

Equally serious and urgent messages were shared by speakers including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Mick Dumke of the Chicago Reader(who railed against the futility, racism and economic waste of the city’s war on drugs), and Jitu Brown from Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO). ”Why is the Mayor closing neighborhood schools so aggressively?” asked Brown, before pointing out that these school closures have coincided with the loss of quality affordable housing in the same neighborhoods.


At the Horse, Food Not Arrests

The Wishing Tree arguably marks the point at which the urgency of these messages intersected with the creativity and playful spirit that characterized much of April 7. The messages people had written on its leaves (or sent online to be written) ranged from political demands to more personal tales of dire individual economic straits.

At the end of the afternoon, Teresa Veramendi from the Occupy Chicago Recreation and Arts Committee, an artist, playwright and poet and one of the tree’s creators, explained what will be done with the tree’s wishes. They will be distributed not to politicians wanting re-election—here Vermin Supreme stepped in to play the part of someone willing to promise anything to secure votes—but to the corporations and wealthy individuals who are those politicians’ biggest donors.

A "Freedom Chicken" is cared for at Chicago Spring. (Photo: Margo Mejia)

Vermin Supreme, incidentally, was the only person I saw yelled at by a member of the CPD, and this was for his inability to stay on the sidewalk during the subsequent march to the Horse—perhaps after all the most surreal sight of the weekend was this man with a rubber boot on his head weaving through a throng of police bicycles.

In front of the Horse, a vegetarian meal supplied by Food Not Bombs was dished up by volunteers. The only chicken in sight was in the form of live chickens somehow safely transported in a mobile Occupy Chicago Propaganda Committee information hub.

But before the Freedom Feast, in a moment of unfettered celebration at how well the day had gone, some of Occupy Chicago’s most recognizable participants—some of their leaders, because it is said that this is not a leaderless movement, but a movement of leaders—danced, accompanied by the sound of drums. Suddenly what were once protest chants became party anthems complete with dance moves. On “GET UP!” they sprang into the air. On “GET DOWN!” they dropped into a crouch. “THERE’S REVOLUTION IN THIS TOWN!”

“I haven’t seen some of these people this happy in a long time,” I told Evelyn DeHais, one of the organizers who worked on the event from its inception in late October.

“Me neither,” she replied, “and I’m one of them.”

-Joe Macaré-

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Occupy is Everywhere: A Small Town Occupy Shares Their Plans for Spring

Editor’s note: Last fall, in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, a group of concerned citizens in a rural town in Eastern Oregon began to organize to show their solidarity. The community sent us this inspiring video last month. Below, Occupy Halfway shares their plans for continuing their movement this spring.

HALFWAY, OR–We slowed down a bit in winter to retrench and discuss what we really felt was important to this community. We live in a mostly conservative ranching town. We wanted to find issues and a focus which would likely bring the people in town together. After a great deal of thoughtful conversation and research we have decided to focus our efforts on and Both are addressing the SCOTUS decision that allowed corporations to flood our political system with un-transparent, unlimited money.

We’ve created a flier covering Citizen’s United, SuperPACs and the problem with corporate personhood. We plan on tabling and running discussions during the spring in hopes of creating common ground and building trust across the red/blue chasm. When we talk to people it’s not hard to find agreement about corporatism and crony capitalism. This is very important to us as we are a community that relies on each other. These bonds are important to us. How we get along is more important to many than politics. So we’ll be tabling and talking and hoping to translate occupy to folks here.

There are occupy groups popping up throughout Eastern Oregon. Many are discussing whether or not to call themselves occupy at all, as the imagery that most people see out here is very unflattering. It’s rather hard to compete with what people are exposed to—which is obviously a very distorted picture coming from the mainstream media. Hopefully, we can help show the diversity of the movement. It is important that people understand how wide and deep it is. I hope that people in occupy keep talking across those lines that divide with respect at the center of all we do.

We also have a community member who has arrived fresh from the fight in Wisconsin—so he is very fired up!

Most people in the group are over 50—so we are not going to be camping out. Old bones don’t like that. But we will be doing what we can!


-Liz McLellan-

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Tucson Police Department Protecting and Serving the 1%

TUSCON, AZ – Six months of my participation on the front-line of the Occupy movement have come and gone, and my disdain for Tucson’s police force and cops in general has evolved to outright disgust. In this movie-like past six months I have been arrested forty times and so far twenty of those cases have been dismissed. That is the good news, the bad news is the local police force has escalated from strictly …enforcing the law, to outright breaking the law in order to quash the Occupy Movement. The fight over the use of public land for the sake of free speech and peaceable assembly has gone back and forth so far, but most recently there is no place in the City of Tucson that can be occupied twenty four hours a day, even for the purpose of peaceable assembly.

Currently the debacle that has peaceful protesters banging their heads against the
wall in Tucson is the Tucson Polices denial of Tucson City Code 11-36.2(b)4. It

Section 11-36.2. Prohibited conduct; exceptions.

(a) No person shall sit or lie down upon a public sidewalk or upon a blanket, chair,
stool, or any other object placed upon a public sidewalk or median during the hours
between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. in the following zones:

Except a person:

(4) Who is exercising First Amendment rights protected by the United States
Constitution, including free exercise of religion, speech and assembly; provided,
however, that the person sitting or lying on the public sidewalk remains at least
eight (8) feet from any doorway or business entrance, leaves open a five (5) foot
path and does not otherwise block or impede pedestrian traffic.

In the past two months the Tucson Police Department has completely ignored this code
and used Tucson City Code 16-35 (No person shall obstruct any public sidewalk,
street or alley in the city by placing, maintaining or allowing to remain thereon
any item or thing that prevents full, free and unobstructed public use in any
manner, except as otherwise specifically permitted by law.) to arrest and remove
people from the sidewalk.

Being a person that has had my first and fourteenth amendment rights violated by the
actions of the Tucson Police Department obviously I hold a bias, but even the most
cop friendly people can see the obvious violation of our Federal, State, and Local
laws. This will seem even more obvious when I have the other twenty criminal
violations I hold dismissed, but that will not regain our rights.

I will continue to occupy the front-line putting my mental, emotional, and physical
safety at risk to expose the injustices in our city, state, and country. It will be
an uphill battle and I may not accomplish a thing. But, it feels great to have a
purpose, and if I do not do something now than when should I?

-Jon McLane-

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The Battle to Re-Occupy Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -As planned, groups met today [Saturday, April 7th] in both Loring Park and Peavey Plaza at 12-noon. Around 2:00pm Minneapolis Police officers came to Peavey Plaza to state to us that we were in violation of a state law (609.74) in which our tents, banners on strings, and tarps were in violation of the law and were to be considered as a public nuisance. This was, of course, the first that we had heard about such a law in the state. When the Lieutenant and Sergent were speaking with me, they literally stated that this law had been found by the City Attorney and that the order to enforce it was sent from the Minneapolis Mayor’s Office. News reports prior to the re-occupation essentially guaranteed our right to erect tents upon Peavey Plaza and if you look back at the Minneapolis Business Journal, it quotes the Minneapolis Police Department stating that this was the case. When the officers approached us, we asked for them to return with a printed ordinance so that we could decide what we were to do with the new enforcement of this law.

Around 6:00pm, the officers returned to Peavey Plaza with copies of the ordinance to pass out. The ordinance itself applies to any type of item that is infringing upon the public’s right-of-way. It is important to note that while we had tents erected, they were not on the sidewalk, but rather they were upon the plaza itself. It is also important to note that the city of Minneapolis had just recently erected signs along the edge of Peavey Plaza advertising the planned renovation, and that those sit (unpermitted) upon the sidewalk itself along with the Minneapolis Police Department’s stationary cameras. They would not comment as to whether or not they felt that their own signs and camera were within the jurisdiction of the law itself.

After we received this notice, occupiers held a meeting to decide what it was we were to do when the officers chose to enforce the law itself. They had not given us a time-frame as to when they would be back to enforce this.

At around 8:30pm, the Minneapolis Police Department including Chief Dolan had returned to Peavey Plaza to enforce the law that they had found and chosen to enforce against Occupy Minneapolis. As they ordered us to either remove the structures or have them forcibly removed, we chose to pick up our tents and march through the streets. We marched to Loring Park where our other Brothers and Sisters were gathered, and were followed by the Minneapolis Police. Upon vacating Peavey Plaza, the remaining items were taken by the Minneapolis Police. They also removed all signs, sidewalk chalking, and any other trace of the day’s events from the plaza itself.

After gathering in Loring, we decided as a group that we would attempt to take back Peavey Plaza and place our structures upon the plaza itself. It is important to note that while the law has been on the books in Minnesota for a while, there was no mentioning of it prior to our reoccupation and the enforcement of the law is a clear sign that the City of Minneapolis has no respect to our First Amendment rights of both freedom of assembly and free speech. (Congress shall make no law…)

photo: occupyminneapolis.mnWe marched from Loring Park, up Hennepin Avenue, and then back down First Avenue until we arrived at Peavey Plaza. We sat our tents and canopies back down, and began to have an open discussion as to why we all occupy. This was interrupted by the Minneapolis Police Department as they gave us a warning that the structures were in violation of the law and that we must remove them. Again, they gave no time-frame of how long it would be until they acted. After I literally forced them to give us a clear deadline (they gave us 10-minutes) we decided that we would take to the streets again. Individuals raised up our tents and canopies again and began walking up the Nicollet Mall.

While we were walking up the Nicollet Mall (in the streets) the police tried to block us from continuing our march. As they had not completed their barricade, they ordered us onto the sidewalks or risk arrest. Protesters complied with their request, and went onto the sidewalk. After passing through their failed barricade, most protesters remained on the sidewalk and continued heading North near the Target store on the Nicollet Mall. A few protesters took to the streets again but were met by mounted police (on horseback) shortly after crossing the intersection to continue North. Police then grabbed the canopy that these individuals were holding and began to bend the metal legs of it, whilst shaking the grips of protesters from it. Several protesters were knocked to the ground by the force of the police along with the fact that the mounted police were commanding their horses into the protesters. Those that remained in the streets were arrested.

While the police arrested the individuals in the streets, they also began to grab onto others that were standing upon the public sidewalk. These individuals had complied with the police, however several were still arrested without proper cause. During that time the mounted police then directed their horses onto the sidewalk itself in an attempt to intimidate and possibly injure those that were peacefully complying with their orders. I was one of those individuals. A Minneapolis Police Officer had grabbed me in what seemed to be an attempt to take me into custody, however a mounted officer began to direct his horse onto the sidewalk at that time. I was pushed into stanchions that were on the sidewalk (the stanchions were placed there to separate a restaurant’s patio from the main sidewalk itself) and as the horse pushed me, it was also kicking. If I did not have my bicycle in front of me blocking the hooves of the horse, I surely would photo: occupyminneapolis.mnhave ended up being trampled.

During this time, across the street, Minneapolis Police Officers had grabbed onto the camera of a local reporter from KSTP. The reporter himself claims that he was assaulted. They threw his camera onto the ground and kicked it despite the fact that he had vocalized that he was with KSTP. The camera itself was ruined and his footage could not be salvaged.

According to our most recent confirmation, 9 individuals were arrested. We have been working to bail all of them out of jail tonight. After the confrontation with the police, we moved from the Nicollet Mall back to The People’s Plaza to debrief about our evening and hold a solidarity rally for those that were placed under arrest.

It concerns me that the city of Minneapolis had intentionally searched for a law to cite against us whilst claiming that they respected our First Amendment Rights. It is clear to see that the type of behavior that the Minneapolis Police Department showed to us is beyond aggression, it is clearly oppression. A reporter for a local media outlet had his camera ripped out of his hands tonight, which shows that the freedom of the press itself is not being respected. The Occupy Movement focuses upon using civil disobedience as a method of protest, and tonight’s marches were no different than those that we had last fall.

-Osha Karow-

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Faces of an Occupation

19 September 2011, New York–A group of people, no more than one hundred, had congregated in Zuccotti Park two days before amidst the almost total indifference of people passing by.

No journalists, no television, no microphones—only their voices and faces.

These portraits bear witness to the beginning of Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park. They regard dreamers who believe in an idea.

No one could have imagined that in the space of a few weeks, those involved in Occupy Wall Street would have entered people’s homes all over the world through newspapers and television.

Daniele Corsini, photographer

View a selection of images on our Flickr page, or the full photo series at Corsini’s website.

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