Archive | May, 2012

99Solidarity Occu-Bus Day 7: Heading ‘Home’

Editor’s note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO. Don’t let the corporate media speak for you, if you were in Chicago tell us what you saw. Submit your story. This post originally appeared on Suicide Girls Blog. Read parts onetwothree, four (parts one and two), five and six.

New York, NY – For very personal reasons I don’t respond well to verbal abuse, and people had been yelling at me from the moment my cab pulled up in proximity to the bus I needed to catch. The wheels of the vehicle I was in had barely ground to a halt before the screaming started.

“You can’t pull up here.”

“But I’m getting on one of the buses.”

“Hurry up.”

“I’m trying to.”

“Move it.”

“I can’t, I have to pay the driver and get my bags.”

“Move along.”

I’m no futzer or dilly-dallier for fucks sake. And the cops wouldn’t exactly be happy if I vacated the cab without paying my tab. Argh! What did they want me to do that I wasn’t already doing?

Flustered, I threw myself and my bags onto the first New York bound bus I found. Only to be yelled at again. This time by an alternate driver, for some bizarre reason involving his need to sit in a specific seat so he could use a boombox to help him sleep?!?

“You don’t want to be in this bus if I can’t sleep. NO ONE DOES!!!!!”

I was getting sick of men taking their frustrations out on me. Fuck this shit.

I jumped off that bus and on to the next, only to be yelled at again, this time because it was “full.” Only it wasn’t. Fuck this shit, again.

Having run out of New York buses available to board, I collapsed with my bags on the pavement as chaos reigned around me. The presence of the police, barking unnecessary and nonsensical orders, which in turn harassed and panicked riders, was irrational. It was merely causing undue stress and hindering proceedings with absolutely zero tactical gain. After all, they were getting what they wanted, us “trouble makers” were leaving town. Like most abusive situations though, it seemed to be a power play, an action that gave the abuser the illusion of control. I hope someone felt better after yelling at me.

I sat on the cold hard concrete for a couple of minutes with my head in my hands, trying to tune out the un-checked aggression I’d been accosted with. I looked up and saw a friendly face walking towards me. It belonged to Stephen Webber, the deceptively unassuming and utterly awesome individual that had wrangled funds for the fleet of fourteen 99% Solidarity buses from the NNU. He told me not to worry, that two more NYC buses were waiting in the wings. Then, as he approached, so did the swing driver from the first bus I’d tried to board. I guess he felt guilty (he was), and offered to carry my bags to the second bus, which had now magically found room for me.

Ensconced in the relative calm of the bus, I got myself situated. Having captained one of the three buses out from LA, I’d bought a power converter with me to create a charging zone for the power hungry livestreamers aboard my designated media bus. As I negotiated with the diver as to how best to distribute his cigarette lighter-sourced juice, a female fellow Brit chirped, “Are you English?”

I turned around to see who’d inquired and immediately honed in on a girl with a crimson shock of hair. There was only one person it could be: UK journalist Laurie Penny a.k.a. my recent Twitter acquaintance @PennyRed.

I’d started following her after my friend, SG contributor @ZDRoberts had raved about her work, and had subsequently posted an excerpt from her Notes from the New Age of Dissent book – an essay entitled “In Defense of Cunt” – on this very blog. Consequently, when @PennyRed’s message saying “@99Solidarity trying to get in touch with you” showed up in my timeline, I’d immediately reached out to help. Turned out she’d been commissioned to write a story on the Chicago #NoNATO trip by The Independent, and needed a spot on one of our buses – something, as a member of the 99% Solidarity team, I’d been able to facilitate.

At the time, she’d told me she was only taking the bus one way, out from New York to Chicago, so it was a pleasant surprise to see her on the return ride. It was this kind of serendipity, born of often adverse situations, that’d been a reoccurring theme in the past few days. After all, if the first bus driver hadn’t been so offensive, I’d have never boarded this one, and we’d never have met.

The ride back otherwise was pretty uneventful, and, being a mere 15-hour journey, was far less grueling than my 50-hour epic ride out from LA. As the NY skyline appeared on the horizon, the mostly slumbering bus began to stir. “Welcome back to the rotten apple,” shouted one passenger as I stared at the deceptively beautiful view ahead. Closing in on our Upper West Side drop off point, another hollered with barely a hint of irony, “Mic Check! Does anyone know if there’s an action scheduled for today?”

[The 99% Solidarity Buses Arrive Back In NYC]
 

As a bus captain and member of the 99% Solidarity crew, at times, organizing occupiers was akin to herding cats. But that’s kind of the point. These free-thinking individuals doggedly refuse to follow the crowd like sheep, and are not easily led. It’s this very quality that more Americans could do to be imbued with. They could also use a little of the tenacity of occupiers, something that those who claim the Occupy movement is over clearly underestimate.

My coast-to-coast adventure had been a trip in more ways than one. Thought I’d traveled across the country, I’d actually seen very little of it from the microcosm of the occu-bus. But I’d been rewarded in other ways. As I rolled across America, I’d forged new friendships, strengthened the bonds of existing ones, and substantially extended my network of like-minded activists. As a group, we’d learned a few things too; That a little organization goes a long way and that united by a common cause we could depend on and trust in the kindness of strangers, especially if those strangers self-identified as occupiers.

Though 99% Solidarity had always hoped that the Chicago trip would lead to greater cohesion and an exchange of ideas between occupiers from different cities, no one had anticipated it would lead to an actual exchange of occupiers to the extent that it did. As I write this, I’m on sabbatical from LA, occupying my friend, investigative journalist @Greg_Palast’s couch in NYC. And, having been made to feel so at home by the Occupy Chicago crew, all of whom were strangers to me prior to the advent of this trip, I look forward to paying it forward to the new members of OccupyLA once I return to the arbitrary place on this rock hurtling through space that I currently refer to as home.

Talking of which, one of the other things I realized on this fantastic journey is that regardless of whether I’m in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or my native United Kingdom, when I’m amongst occupiers I am home.

Full disclosure: Nicole Powers has been assisting with 99% Solidarity’s efforts and is in no way an impartial observer. She is proud of this fact.

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Argentina: Housing Crisis Gives Birth to Occupy Rosario Movement

Editors note: A version of this story was published at Ocupa Rosario

Rosario, Argentina – It seems like it’s an uncertain future for Argentina, after the financial crisis that first hit Argentina in 2001, today the nation faces yet another crisis.  Argentina’s poor and lower middle class families are the most affected by the lack of affordable housing in all major cities across the country.

In Rosario, Santa Fe this year alone there have been more than four large land occupations of both privately and publicly owned properties. Unable to pay high rent prices, families out of desperation build shanty towns on any piece of vacant land. (source: La Capital) The city responded to these mass occupations by serving families with eviction notices.(video) Currently, there are  80000 uninhabited homes in Rosario alone. (source: Notiexpress)
Occupy Rosario camped in front of the Municipal Palace in Rosario, Santa Fe at the Plaza 25 de Mayo for 126 consecutive days to shed light on the lack of housing for the poor and discrimination between the classes. Our side of the story was made public at Occupied Stories. The city claimed that we were disorderly and constantly engaging in violent and malicious acts of protests.  Mainstream media rarely covered the true events, however, we have released a cronological documentary depicting live events telling our side of the story on Youtube (spanish).
As the crisis deepens and many poor neighborhoods face mass evictions Occupy Rosario has pledged their support by publishing a “How to avoid eviction” page on their website and presenting the need for housing and equality for the poor at city council meetings. The struggle for equal rights, housing and dignified work continues.
-Claudia Minuet-
claudiaminuet@yahoo.com.ar

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Je t’Adore Montreal

Editor’s Note: This story is part of our ongoing first-person coverage of protests in Quebec against student debt, tuition hikes and Law 78, as well as actions elseware in solidarity to those causes. This post originally appeared at Outside the Circle.

Montreal, QC–Revolutionary times are so hard for getting any “real-world” work done, but Montreal is making that extra difficult, because increasingly the real-world social power is in the hands of the people–quite literally, hands now holding & banging on pots, pans, & anything that will make noise. It’s not that pot banging started this uprising. Months of dogged, determined blockades, pickets, organizing, propaganda, and other actions by students created such a social force that the government made a huge miscalculation, passing law 78 to try to compell students back into school  and quell dissent. As the friend I’m staying with commented this morning, the government believed its own lies (basically, made-up polls) that there wasn’t popular support for the student strike. But instead of applauding the government’s heavy hand both with law 78 and heavy-baton-handed policing tactics, the populace stood shoulder to shoulder with the students on day 100 of the strike, May 22, and some half-a-million people filled the streets while bringing much of business as usual to a standstill (that generalized strike we’ve been dreaming of in the United States), transforming this into a social strike, which has been further transformed by a small idea by one person: voice your solidarity with your pots & pans, or casseroles demonstrations each night at 8, as complement to the 8:30 pm nocturnal demonstrations.

And here’s why I’m having an especially hard time focusing, whether to do my paid work or concentrate on an essay about this exceptional moment that’s far outstripped the government’s emergency law: the city is both “ungovernable,” to repeat Mostafa Henaway’s tweet last night, and also spontaneously self-governing with its feet, bodies, voices, and casseroles. It was difficult to fully take in what was happening last night, as some 50,000 or more, given the multiple demos, big and small, merging and converging, as well as the thousands and perhaps tens of thousands perched all over the city on their balconies, front steps, rooftops, and so on, banging pots or flicking on/off their porch lights or waving red flags. Well, not difficult. Simply beautiful. Overwhelming in the best of ways. I wish I could have taken a photo of nearly each and every one of the tens of thousands, since nearly each and every one was “self-determining” how they wanted to add to the noise. I noticed many posts this morning of proud photos of dented metal objects, made into impromptu street instruments. Last night was this manifestation of imagination–bringing alive the “all power to the imagination” phrase in a new way for me. People appreciated each other’s imaginative ways of making noise–a “simple” pot & ladle wasn’t enough for most! At the same time, that very imagination, that it’s possible to change the world, is bringing people into the streets, and in the streets, people really have the power in a way I’ve never experienced. This happens elsewhere, in my revolutionary imagination, but not in North America. In Greece, say, anarchists have forged a police no-go neighborhood.

I knew last night that the police were lurking in the distance and that they also probably were both too tired and too confused/overpowered to really be able to do anything. This morning, my generous-of-spirit anarchist host told me about a French-language interview in the Le Journal de Montreal newspaper where a cop not only noted how much he and other cops adore attacking demonstrators, he also commented on how it’s too late for police to control the situation. That really sunk in this morning. Last night, tens of thousands of us doggedly, determinedly escalated the strike far beyond students–there were so many babies, toddlers, young kids, teens, young people, and all the way up to people of many decades, or every type, in everything from strollers to wheelchairs, naked and dressed as a panda, a gigantic unstoppable “red sea” of red squares. We used our feet to bring neighborhood after neighborhood to standstills for hours, stopping traffic and commerce, closing bridges and confounding the police. Charest has “disappeared” into silence; Montreal’s mayor asked people to limit their casseroles to balconies; the police want a law passed that says people can’t say mean things to them. No matter the powers-that-be response, the people are only listening to themselves, to their pots & pans, to student strike spokespeople and anarchopanda, to the truly leaderless but shared responsibility of us all spontaneously moving through the city at night in all directions, and perhaps soon to neighborhood assemblies alongside the already-existence student assemblies.

The people are in power now, but a dispersed, joyous, neighborly power, an imaginatively beautiful display of horizontal solidarity. It’s a display that affirms people can reclaim their lives, their cities, in a way I never dreamed possible–through yes, reclaiming their streets and taking their productive labor away from commodified study, say, and into “educating ourselves for freedom” (thank you, yet again, Malatesta). I wish I could translate how “diversity of tactics” is working not as something on paper or that allows for someone people to do allegedly more militant things at the potential expense of others. No, there’s a lived practice of having each other’s backs here, and making it feel “safer” and “safer” for everyone to disobey in ways festive and fierce, but self-controlled, together, if that makes sense. And that more individuated creativity and social solidarity function, voluntarily, together on the streets and in organizing here, the more additional people seem to join in–like it’s opened their door to what’s possible, because what’s possible, astonishingly, is that people can create a social power that far beyond a slogan, is at the moment unstoppable. There are too many people disobeying, collectively. And increasingly, it feels like people could “demand the impossible” and, due to their social power, perhaps “realize the impossible,” or some of it, too.

I hope to write soon, in a more coherent and less typo-filled manner, about the relation (or not) of this maple spring-into-summer to and for occupy, and its relation (or not) to anarchism. Quickly, for now, a few random thoughts:

As an anarchist who usually cringes when I see people waving big red flags at demonstrations, it’s been a surprise to see how relatively quickly this student movement and its red square image have seemingly banished the horrible associations of authoritarianism and murderous regimes with that red flag. I’m typing way too fast in a cafe here in Montreal, looking out on a busy street, as people of all shapes, sizes, and ages stroll by with their red squares–often also imaginatively placed, decorated, handmade, etc. It functions as a sort of secret and not-so-secret sign of solidarity and shared disobedience with a thoroughly anarchistic movement, binding people in a thoroughly qualitative way (i.e., pushing past capitalist “value”), unlike the quantitative sense of the somewhat-similar 99% image (i.e., affirming the meaningless measurement of people as all somehow equivalent, and thus masking meaningful distinctions between, say, a young man of color or person without papers and, for instance, cop).

Like occupy, this movement wasn’t anarchist initiated or driven, even if there were and are anarchists involved. But it has created many thousands of anarchists (probably far more here than occupy has in the United States; for instance, at the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair this past weekend, happily, booksellers French and English-speaking said they sold out of “intro to anarchism” books quickly!). It’s also anarchistic, whether people become anarchists or not. But far beyond occupy, it’s not “simply” the anarchistic forms of self-organization that are intriguing; it’s the widespread, mass defiance of authority that’s so anarchistic too. And best of all, in my mind, this movement–far, far beyond occupy–is seemingly making anarchism “warm and fuzzy,” literally in the figure of anarchopanda!

The diversity, and increasingly so, of who is joining into the maple spring-turned-hot-summer also far outstrips occupy, but so too does the inventiveness of the personal creativity of how people are implementing its symbols–whether the red square or the casseroles–as I’ve already mentioned. It might be in tiny ways, but people seem to be taking such pride in how they’ve made their particular red square: from a tiny glittery red fabric square, to a big red square sewn on the back of someone’s pants, to slogans penned on red-felt squares, to square-red earrings…. And again, that translates into this marvelous diversity of tactics where although there’s continuity between marches, day and night, each one I’ve been to so far feels distinct, and impromptu innovation seems to be widely applauded. It’s not just the marches; that same drive for imaginatively diverse tactics and strategies is, and has been, playing itself out in how the strike has been implemented and maintained, and now this growing social strike is unfolding. The only people, tactics, and strategies–and increasingly aspirations–that seem tired are the police (and likely the governmental officials, but it’s clear how tired the police are because you see them nightly on the streets.)

As a last random comment: CUTV. CUTV. CUTV. I’m in love with Montreal, with the maple spring, with how lovely it is to be alive at this moment and fortunate enough to participate in it, but I’m also in love with CUTV. Watch it. Or rather, watch them. Like anarchopanda, the rabbit crew and the naked lady (figures on the street that I haven’t written about yet), and Classe spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (a phenomenon in his own right, and based on some Facebook posts, becoming a meme), the sweet personalization that also defies cult of personality, or leaders with power-over, of this movement is striking. More than that, though, the charming personalities of the main CUTV “reporters” night after night livestreaming is part of the very story of this social movement. Their commentary, from enthusiasm, to “fuck you fuck you fuck you” screaming at the cops, during hours of livestreaming shows the very human face of the movement as well as how we might begin to create a people’s media that shapes the story in a smart way. For instance, they’ve lost two cameras to police batons and one cameraperson now has two broken ribs; they’ve reported while walking and also running, talking into the livestream with panting breath; they’ve kept livestreaming through rain and teargas, including pepper spray on their camera lens. The only critique, besides wishing they were on air longer, is that they talk their way out of arrest situations with “we’re media”–but even their fear, anger, anxiety, and media privilege are part of this human face. Je t’adore CUTV.

I need to turn to my livelihood, not Facebook or this blogging. I keep meaning to also turn to writing something more focused about this remarkable maple spring. But before I put my nose to the compulsory grindstone–which I wish would be washed out in the sea of red, for me and millions of others, by this implicitly and perhaps explicitly anticapitalist moment–I want to offer a caveat to my exuberant commentary: unbelievable as this student strike/social strike/red square/casseroles revolution is, it’s hard to understand what it could or should ask for, or more precisely, how it could or should translate the fact that this city is ungovernable into a city that’s livable, sans hierarchical government, police, and capitalism, in ways that also account for legacies of colonization, for one. At best, though, if this movement manages to oust a provincial government (in North America!), establish completely free education (still public, since that’s starting to disappear in the U.S., and perhaps increasingly “free, not as in free beer, but as in freedom”), and serve as a beacon (not one to be simply copied, because the context is quite specific) for what’s possible if people doggedly strike, occupy, struggle day after day after day after night after night after night, that is more than enough. It’s already been enough; if “occupy” pushed the envelope, the maple spring completely shreds it into thousands of bits of bright red paper squares to be tossed into air. People are not just winning here; they’ve already won. And for now, the city is theirs.

- Cindy Milstein -

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Summer Disobedience School Now in Session

New York, NY–After the high drama of #noNato of the May 17th weekend, it was back to grassroots building at Occupy Wall Street with the new summer disobedience school series. I found a great group of dedicated occupiers and new faces in Bryant Park on a very muggy early afternoon at the start of the Memorial Day Weekend, all in all about 200 strong.

Many of them had broken up into smaller groups to march upon the seven banks in the area that are open on Saturdays, with the goal to shut them down for at least a little while. Change thrown to the floor and only very slowly being picked up, serious questions about ethical loan policies and other interactions kept the bankers unusually busy this Saturday until the cops finally intervened and kicked everybody out.

Back at Bryant Park, NYPD’s Community Affairs Outreach group was keeping a close eye on the occupiers, which led to some heated arguments, as some protesters felt unduly singled out. Cooler heads prevailed however, and no further arguments or arrests ensure.

We then all went to Times Square for a convergence with the marching groups from the other banks to raise the People’s Alarm on the State of our Nation.

For once, we didn’t have a massive police presence, as this was a holiday weekend, and marchers had approached Times Square in “civilian mode” i.e. in small groups, not identifiable as a protest march, and not displaying any occupy banners. Contrary to earlier attempts, we managed to take the steps and set up properly to raise the People’s Alarm, a mic check alerting onlookers to the State of our Nation and the economic realities we all face.

Many tourists who had been sitting on the stairs chose to flee rather than join us, an unfortunate occurance, as this was a great opportunity to reach out to them. Still, all remained peaceful despite the oppressive heat and some shouting private security officers.

After the People’s Alarm, the group set out to march through Times Square and back to Bryant Park. Along the way we passed a group of US Navy Sailors, Army Soliders, and Marines who had set up outside the Times Square recruiting station to show off their new toys and uniforms for Fleet Week, the traditional charm offensive by the armed forces leading up to Memorial Day weekend. They weren’t quite sure what to make of us, so most just scurried away or looked on bemusedly. Some Community Affairs Officers tagged along as well, but all in all the NYPD presence was very small.

Still, the ones that did show up were cranky, an officer in plain clothes giving me a hard time for my press pass that, while not issued by the NYPD, was still intended to identify me as a working member of the press (I am a member of the National Press Photographers Association, and as such qualify as a journalist.)

After crossing Times Square the march turned onto 42nd Street to return to Bryant Park for teach-ins, civil disobedience trainings and skill share sessions, as well as outreach to passersby.

I felt the outreach part of the afternoon could have been stronger. There were no info tables or occupiers with “ask me anything” shirts around, as they tend to be at pop-up occupations. These Summer Disobedience School sessions are a great opportunity to reach out to a new community, and should not be missed.

The atmosphere relaxed markedly once everybody was back inside Bryant Park, and the cops realized we were done marching. After a brief session with all participants, people broke into groups to learn more about economics, poetry and other topics; the National Lawyers Guild held a “Know Your Rights” session, which I attended; and the Direct Action group met to plan next Saturday’s event.

Most important take-aways from the “Know Your Rights” session:

- Your rights are, while maintained in the constitution, not treated as absolute during a confrontation. Yes, in court you will most likely succeed in reinforcing them, but a cop may choose, or be instructed to ignore them on the ground. It’s important to strike a balance of standing your ground and deciding what to fight later in court.

- It is important to build a level of trust with a group of other occupiers so you can share your fears and experiences prior, during, and after protest marches, arrests, and major events. It is important to have a community of people you can trust to take care of each other, remind you of the need to deal with any outstanding summonses or other legal implications of your actions that may impact your interactions with police during and after an arrest.

- Know your rights, share that knowledge but also be smart how far you push insisting on them during marches. Sometimes cops are ordered by their superiors to ignore your rights or break the law, so never assume that just because you have a right that the cop you’re confronting a) knows those rights and b) is willing / allowed to grant them to you.

- Work together, know each other to minimize risk of infiltration.

- It was also discussed what cops do with the footage the TARU unit films at protest. Expect it to be stored indefinitely and run through iris scans and facial recognition software.

- The NLG lawyers recommended that if we see TARU film that someone stand in the way of the camera and read the Hanshu Decree to them to make sure they know that we know what they’re allowed to film and what not.

Next Summer Disobedience School session is next Saturday. I’m quite certain NYPD will be present in bigger force and better prepared …

- Julia Reinhart -

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Photos: Second Eviction Defense of the Cruz Family Home

Minneapolis, MN–At approximately 4am on Friday morning, 20-30 law enforcement officers from the Hennepin Country Sheriff’s Office raided the Cruz family home in South Minneapolis in order to follow through with an earlier eviction attempt two days before. Sheriff’s deputies rammed the front door open and quickly moved through the home. They created a large perimeter around the home, not letting anyone near on the sidewalk or on the street. They blocked traffic for the entire block and would not allow anyone near the home in the alley behind it.

For almost a month, the local Occupy Homes movement has maintained a presence in the foreclosed home. The house belongs to the Cruz family who are staying elsewhere since receiving their eviction notice. With the consent of the family, Occupy Homes has been using the house as a local social center while occupying the home and protesting an impending eviction.

Some people staying inside the home left willingly, while five people locked themselves to various objects throughout the home. The sheriff’s deputies used saws, jack-hammers and other tools to remove the remaining protesters. Ultimately, all five people were removed from the home and arrested.

Approximately 50 supporters arrived to protest the raid and eviction. The scene was tense at moments when people confronted the police line or when the police decided that the protesters should move further from the home. Eventually, a group of people ran around back to outflank the deputies. Some of them jumped the back fence in order to link arms and surround the home. Around this time, with all people removed from the home, and the doors boarded up, the sheriff’s deputies left the scene.

After all law enforcement left, the home was reopened for further occupation.

- Peter Leeman -

Editor’s Note: This is only a sampling of Peter Leeman’s photos of the eviction defense. To view the full series, visit Leeman’s website, which also features images from the first eviction defense. You may view the photos from the slideshow above at our Flickr page.

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99Solidarity Occu-Bus Day 6: ICE and Leaving Chicago

Editor’s note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO. Don’t let the corporate media speak for you, if you were in Chicago tell us what you saw. Submit your story. This post originally appeared on Suicide Girls Blog. Read parts one, two, three, four (parts one and two) and five.

Chicago, IL–Monday was supposed to start with a march to Boeing’s HQ, but after the craziness of the previous day, this activist, like many I suspect, slept through it.

One of the best things about this whole Chicago odyssey had been the opportunity to meet friends in real life whom I’d previously been conversing with exclusively online. This phenomenon seemed to be universal among the protesters that had gathered in the city. Consequently, over the past few days, at marches, rallies, and at the Occupy Chicago Convergence Center, Twitter handles seemed to be more ubiquitous than names.

Having attempted but failed miserably to meet up with a group of Twitter friends that were particularly dear to me during the chaos of yesterday’s #NoNATO rally, we decided to rectify the situation first thing today. Therefore, at the crack of midday, I headed to one of the best pizza joints in town to break some authentic deep pan pizza crust with my Twitter besties.

There’s always a little anxiety when meeting digital friends in the flesh for the first time. Would/could I live up to my online persona? Would/could they? Fortunately, in this case, expectations were exceeded, and our friendship affirmed. With relief (on all sides I suspect) that our camaraderie was justified, we finished our food and moved on to the next march.

The focus of this afternoon’s action was immigration policy and ICE, however, as our procession passed the Congress Plaza Hotel on Michigan Avenue, the sight of tourists entering the site of the longest ongoing strike in the US prompted spontaneous chants of “union busting, that’s disgusting” and multiple choruses of “Solidarity Forever.” It was heartening to see occupiers embracing the finer qualities of organized labor so enthusiastically, since at times – despite a natural affinity and synergy based on shared goals – relations between Occupy and the union movement have been strained.

Heading towards the Metropolitan Correction Center, we converged with those that had been on the Boeing march earlier in the day. As our numbers increased, the policing got a little more intense. However, clearly not wanting a repeat of the violence that had marred the previous day, the white shirts were mostly making a concerted effort to facilitate our route.

I ducked out around 5PM, since I had the next day’s Suicide Girls blog content to post, and also wanted to edit and upload my last batch of photos before jumping on the bus. All fourteen 99% Solidarity-organized and National Nurses United-funded buses, which had set out from eight different cities to ferry 700 activists to the Chicago protests, were scheduled to depart at 10 PM from the same spot they’d dropped us off at on Lake Shore Drive.

During my pizza breakfast/lunch, LA Occupier b0xcar had called me to express concern at the large police presence outside the Occupy Chicago Convergence Center, where our group was converging prior to departure. That same police presence was now in evidence by our buses.

As my cab approached, one officer attempted to divert us. It was only after I explained I was actually getting on one of the buses, that he allowed my driver to pull up in vague proximity. While gathering my luggage, plus several other bags I was transporting for friends, numerous cops took turns to yell at me to hurry up. Actually offering a hand might have been more helpful than screaming at one girl who was clearly having difficulty wrangling six heavy bags. But since assistance wasn’t offered, I clenched my jaw shut and silently took the utterly superfluous verbal abuse.

Over the past 24 hours, one of the paramount concerns of the 99% Solidarity group had been to track those who’d been arrested and facilitate their release, since leaving any of our number behind would be problematic in more ways than one. Diane Moxley, a veteran activist legal adviser who was running jail support, noted that charges tended to match the severity of the baton-induced injuries so police could justify their use of force. However, as our departure time approached, the reality seemed to dawn on the Chicago Police Department that any occupier who missed our bus would likely just occupy Chicago after their eventual release. Not wanting to add to their problems – or Occupy Chicago’s ranks – all but one of our group was released in time to make their ride.

That didn’t mean everyone was going home though.

To be continued…

- Nicole Powers - 

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Protesting the Empire from Oakland to Chicago

Editors note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO. Don’t let the corporate media speak for you, if you were in Chicago tell us what you saw. Submit your story. This post originally appeared on the Occupied Oakland Tribune.

Chicago, IL–We walked rapidly to meet hundreds gathered in front of the Art Institute. I found out from a comrade how the march there was started by four people, walking home from the large protest, who decided to take the streets. Yes, four people ignited hundreds! So together, at the intersection of Adams and Michigan Ave, we danced and draped our arms around each other and howled our favorite chants. “A-Anti-An-Ti-Ca-Pa-Ta-Lista. An-Anti-An-Ti-Ca-Pa-Ta-Lista.” People looked so beautiful in the streetlights, all faces absolutely shining. Oh, and it started to rain! We did not disperse! In fact, the rain was what actually gave rise to our complete exuberance. This was my favorite time, if someone were to ask me to choose.

But the riot police then moved in as a malicious force to snatch and grab a comrade (a new tactic for arresting “trouble makers”). I am sure they have a reason to put on paper, but really it was to divide us; to end our moment of cheerful solidarity. As my friend Ramon wrote of his experiences with the oppressors of his Basque people, “They don’t like seeing you having fun”.

So we voted to march, as our energy had shifted. We had a GA! And while most comrades who spoke expressed a longing to stay, to hold the space, to meet each other, when we voted it was overwhelming to march. So we marched. It was spirited at first, but became a sort of manic advance on unknown dark places as police lines blocked us from the fancy hotels filled with dignitaries we had hoped to reach. Some kids became interested in turning things over (benches, flower pots), for which Occupiers got to demonstrate our familiar beauty by turning things back and then talking to the youth. But cops moved in shortly after with a reason.

These cops were not the ones with the brimmed hats and the pressed suits, who stood on street corners engaging pleasantly with folks. These wore black body armor. They were huge. They looked like robocops. They reminded me of OPD. We were walking very fast in the back, and the scuffling sounds their back body armor made as all of them rushed in behind me… Do you know what that is like? When your body goes to “fight or flight?” And then they tackled someone, the scuffling sounds peaking, and I turned around and saw four or five holding a woman up against a wall, her arm pinned above her head, the shock on her face! A woman! We walked towards her and said “We are just watching you arrest our friend. We have a right to do so.” But they didn’t follow those laws, and we felt this and started for the march again. And again I heard hideous sounds and turned around to see another sister thrown to the ground with officers on top of her. I left. I headed for the nearest subway stop. I did not turn around again.

I spoke with other Occupiers during the convergence who have deduced that police go after women to insight our anger. How it is that police around the country are displaying similar tactics at the same time. Who is giving these orders?

I return to Oakland the next day to find that another young black man has been murdered by OPD. They claim Alan Blueford had a gun. But really, the officer shot Alan three times and then once in his own foot for his own protection. And now I find out they have just arrested my friend…

We are being systematically brutalized and murdered by the state because of who we are and what we represent. It’s very romantic to think change comes about in peaceful, non-interrupting ways. But that is not our consciousness yet, and now I struggle with the notion that maybe it is not the goal after all. So, I join my comrades on the street and yell, “Stand Up, Fight Back!”

What I saw in Chicago were so many brave people, using their bodies (no shields!) between others and police. To be on the front lines as the crowd attempts to push through and police beat heads with billyclubs… “What did they say back in ’68?” one officer said. “Billyclub to the fucking skull,” another officer replied.

I read an article about revolutionaries in Egypt, impoverished by the system, who come to the mosques for refuge, their eyes red from the tear gas, their bodies bloody from police weapons. They receive medical attention, food and water and then take back to the streets to return to the front lines. We are resisting! Please, don’t tell us to be peaceful. We have tried that long enough. And our redwood forests are gone; our black, brown and poor people and abducted, incarcerated and murdered by the state; the Keystone Pine line is being built! Lakota grandmothers are standing in front of supply trucks. Let us have our anger! Let us demonstrate outrage! It is necessary.
We are in the midst of great transformation. And we are being challenged physically, mentally, emotionally on so many levels. Our adrenal systems (controlling hormones), nervous systems (controls signals between different body parts), muscular systems, are all hypervigilant.

Let’s take care of ourselves. And take care of each other.

Love Live the Oakland Commune and Fuck the Police!

- Molly Batchelder - 

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Goldman Sachs Shareholder Meeting Protest in Jersey City

Jersey City, NJ- I arrived at 8am and was the first one there. The river was foggy and the top of the Goldman skyscraper was hidden in clouds. Some light rain fell on and off for the first hour. The ferrys to various parts of the city arrived every five minutes or so and discharged their passengers. I decided to stay on the prominade where more arriving workers were walking from the Path train station four blocks north up river. I had painted some signs on the red velvet backs of thrown away old theater seats that I had saved from a dumpster. They read:
1.
Goldman Sachs: Serial Bubble Blower
No Ethical Principles !
Moral Hazard= Goldman Sachs
99% Reject Green
2.
Goldman Sachs cooked Greece’s Books
Debt hidden by Debt Swaps
EURO Depression caused by Deception
People’s Pain+ Goldman Sachs
3.

No Investing in Sex slavery of Girls
Goldman Sachs owned 16% of
Village Voice Media owner of
Backpages.com
Child prostitution site

There were other signs on some other red velvet  shields. About eight signs in all, which some people who came later carried around as workers walked by on the way to work. Some people stopped to talk to us, but most just kept on walking and read the signs in passing without comment.

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Jeff was the second OWS protester to arrive and then Mike from New Jersey. Soon more people came from the direction of the Path train station up the river.

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About 9:30 even more protestors came. Some police showed up after about an hour, and stood around smiling and joking among themselves at a wall where private Goldman security guards were checking IDs of people going past.Everything was low key, and the Guitarmy guys came, Kevin, Henry, and a few others whose names I forget.  They added a lot of zest to the protest as they sang some great songs- a few of which were specific to Goldman Sachs.  Thanks to Guitarmy group for showing up, as their music always adds to the atmosphere in a very positive way. I played the drums a little before the rain started.  After the group had reached about 50 people we started walking in a circle, singing and chanting, outside the marine terminal where the Goldman property began. A New Jersey property rights group showed up in yellow tee shirts numbering about 20 or more. So all told about 70 people showed up on this foggy day.

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Kevin Jones read from a book called Preditor Nation, and Jeff  read information about Goldman Sachs amoral investment history and cheating of their own clients. Some other people also made statements about Goldman Sachs, and the addition of Michaele Burns to the Goldman Audit committee. Michaele Burns was with Walmart Audit Committee in 2006 when the store chain bribed Mexican officials to get quick approval for building some Walmarts in Mexico.  Goldman must have found out about this recently and decided she is the best possible person they want to audit for them…… Another interesting decision from Goldman that reflects so much more than they intended.

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Around 11:45 the rain really started. We huddled under a Barclays Bank portico until some New Jersey police showed up and they said the bank had complained and we had to go. It was pouring rain and the police were very sorry to have to ask us to leave due to the heavy rain. But the Barclays Bank portico was private property and the Bank didn’t want us all huddled around under their front door. They had called the police after 15 minutes. It was obvious the police were as miserable in the rain as we all were.  So we all left.

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To sum up- it was a good gathering of high spirited protesters, and we made our presence felt. Some media were there, Bloomberg, a Japanese reporter from some overseas newspaper, Reuters, NPR, etc.(No local New Jersey paper bothered to show up)- and took pictures, so hopefully Goldman executives will know we haven’t forgotten their amoral and unethical financial practices.
Thats a wrap-

   -Tommy Fox-

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Infinite Solidarity

Editor’s Note: This story is part of our ongoing first-person coverage of protests in Quebec against student debt, tuition hikes and Law 78, as well as actions elseware in solidarity to those causes.

New York -For the past 101 days (and counting), students in Québec have been on strike and in the streets against a crumbling education system that seeks to burden them with more debt and restrict access to education for the 99%. In recent days, hundreds of thousands have been in the streets of Montreal. The state’s response: Bill 78 – a Draconian piece of legislation that essentially outlaws mass demonstrations and severely fines those who participate.

Enraged and inspired by the images from Montreal and the recent #noNato protests in Chicago, a small but militant group gathered in Washington Square Park. It was Occupy Wall Street’s second night in a row marching in solidarity with the Québec student movement. We spent a good amount of time talking about what we wanted to do. Should we march or have a rally? Should we be doing outreach about the student struggle as well as marching? And what do we do about the ever-increasing police presence in the park (one count put it at 50 cops for about as many occupiers).

So we did what occupy does best: break-out groups. In small groups around the park, some of us drafted a statement of solidarity in English & French while others came up with an action plan for the march. I joined the statement-writing group and we hammered out a poignant few paragraphs in a short time. Luckily, some French speakers were on hand to translate as well.

As we were discussing the statement, the action planning group wrapped up and told us the plan as clandestinely as possible. After we reconvened and read the statement, the plan was to go “civilian” and find each other again on the corner of Broadway & West 4th Street, then march to Union Square.

The solidarity statement was mic checked by everyone in English and French. It rang through the park:

To our sisters and brothers in Québec as you enter the 101st day of the strike. For the second night in a row, we have assembled here to stand in solidarity with your fight for the human right to an education for all. Despite underrepresentation of your strength, your numbers, and your message in the mainstream media, we are watching. We at Occupy Wall Street honor your bravery, creativity and commitment to an organization built on direct democracy. You are an inspiration to us. You are not alone. Our grievances are connected. Your struggle is our struggle. We will continue to show our solidarity for as long as continue to fight in the face of the repressive laws of an illegitimate political regime. Stay strong and don’t give up the resistance! Thank you for fighting for all of us, and for future generations. We love you! Solidarity!”
Video via @diceytroop on Twitter:


And then we dispersed, jokingly saying “bye!” and “see you tomorrow at 4 on Broadway” and giving out hugs and kisses. 15 minutes later we were together again, only this this marching north on Broadway. There were no cops. It was jovial. We weaved through oncoming traffic chanting “From Montreal to NYC, education should be free!” Some people didn’t take too kindly to us. There were shouts of “Get a job!” and someone even threw a water balloon at us from their apartment window. But there were honks of support as well. We stayed on the street the whole time and were small enough to move quickly and avoid police.

When we arrived at Union Square, we read the statement again and cheered “SO SO SO, Solidarite!” After a while a group of occupiers, high off the adrenaline of the streets, decided to head to Astor Place for an impromptu party. I decided to hang back in the park. There was talk of another march tomorrow. People liked the idea, some even said we should be marching every night. Amongst the twinkling of fingers and nodding heads I heard someone say the perfect phrase for what we were all feeling: “infinite solidarity.”

-Danny Valdes-

 

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Solidarity During Wartime in the Streets of Chicago

Editors note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO. Don’t let the corporate media speak for you, if you were in Chicago tell us what you saw. Submit your story. This post originally appeared on Shareable. Photos by Aaron Cynic and John Robb except where otherwise noted. View the full gallery. Additional photo and news aggregation by Paul M. Davis using Storify.

Chicago, IL -My feet are completely blistered, my bones are sore. I’m dehydrated, bruised and beyond exhausted. I’ve spent four days on the streets of Chicago, running through streets and alleys, cameras strapped to my body, frantically trying to take in as much information about the protests surrounding the NATO summit on Sunday and Monday.

For two days, world leaders gathered in Chicago to discuss what tens of thousands of activists described as the world’s largest game of Risk, where the stakes amount to life and death for citizens around the globe.

Some might accuse me of hyperbole, but considering the massive amount of civilian casualties (including women and children) in countries like Libya and Kosovo, bombed by NATO forces, the silent voices of the dead would probably disagree.

For the average Chicago resident, hosting the NATO summit fell short of what Mayor Rahm Emanuel predicted in nearly every way. City officials and other higher-ups in the Democratic party heralded the meeting of world leaders as a chance to showcase Chicago as a “world class city,” hoping it would be a boon to the local economy. We were assured of peace in the streets. According to officials, massive security spending will be reimbursed by the federal government, though the city’s coffers remain empty.

The city spent months preparing to host the summits, as did activists both locally and nationally. Thousands bused into town beginning many days before the summit, but Chicago residents had been chattering about them many months prior. Many concerns were over logistics – hosting world leaders means an incredible amount of security which would snarl traffic, make traveling difficult, and shut down business as usual in the city for days.

NATO protest night march 5/20/12. Photo by Kate Harnedy.

Between media hype surrounding potential protester violence, resulting in local businesses boarding up their windows (and shutting down completely for a few days, in some cases,) and the logistical inconveniences created, authorities did half the job of protesters for them by effectively shutting down the city. Places often bustling with tourists and traffic were virtual ghost towns, as many people wanted to avoid dealing with the drama a meeting of world leaders who often ignore their subjects creates.

On Saturday, May 19th, activists who came to Chicago to protest the NATO summit held over the weekend headed to the city’s north side in a show of solidarity with local activists fighting to save six neighborhood mental health clinics already closed or slated for closure. Photos by Aaron Cynic, more atDiatribe Media.

During the months of buildup to the summit, local activists managed to connect NATO to a host of issues which affect the residents of Chicago on a daily basis. Our mayor and city can afford to pay for the 1% to play, but can’t afford to fix our crumbling school system, mental health care system, public transportation and more. Members of various activist groups, including the Mental Health Movement, Stand Up Chicago, Occupy Chicago and many more staged countless marches, rallies, sit ins and occupations.

Two local clinics closed by the city still have a 24 hour presence maintained outside their barred doors. A coalition called CANG8 and Occupy Chicago both spent months making banners, obtaining permits, planning routes and rallying activists to shout through the streets in one clear, deafening voice “NONATO.” Meanwhile, the city prepared for war, militarizing its police force with shiny new “less than lethal” weapons, body armor, and surveillance equipment to confront what most activists were planning as a peaceful protest.

The march continued snaking through the streets for hours, and the crowd slowly dissipated, but hundreds still swarmed the streets. Eventually, at another point where protesters were stopped, a Chicago police van attempted to push its way through the crowd. As protesters attempted to stop the van from pushing its way through demonstrators, the driver hit the accelerator, striking at least two people and sending one to the hospital.

These instances and others were the catalyst for the mood of Sunday’s march on McCormick Place, where more than ten thousand marched for miles down Michigan Avenue to show their disapproval for NATO. The main march was completely peaceful and permitted, but as we drew nearer to the end point, one could feel the tension on both sides of police lines. A group of veterans ceremoniously threw medals they had been awarded in the direction of their generals from a makeshift stage, each telling their story of why they no longer wanted them. 

A woman from Afghans For Peace spoke of the continued struggle Afghan people face under NATO occupation. Well before the planned conclusion of the rally, police began massing, riot gear at the ready, and the more militant marchers readied themselves for an imminent confrontation everyone seemed to know would take place when dispersal orders went down.

Thousands of people streamed out of the area while others decided to stay and attempt to push forward, towards the actual location of the summit, and the gloves came off. Police wielded their batons indiscriminately, striking protesters, journalists and legal observers. Protesters pushed back, flinging a barricade at one point, throwing bottles at another. Many were injured or arrested. The area was cordoned off, no one was allowed in or out. Friends, family and colleagues were cut off from information regarding their brothers and sisters, and the predictions of blood staining the streets of Chicago came true. In the aftermath, protesters regrouped and led non-permitted marches through The Loop. On Sunday evening, they converged on the Art Institute, where Michelle Obama hosted dinner for NATO dignitaries. The mood was tense. Throughout the rest of the summit, protesters and police played cat and mouse games in the streets, but thankfully, the same level of violence did not occur.

On Monday, they marched on Boeing headquarters to highlight the corporation’s connection to the military industrial complex, and later held a press conference which turned into a dance party in front of President Obama’s campaign headquarters. In the evening, a few hundred marched through the loop to protest the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, responsible for so many detentions and deportations.

 

What I witnessed on the streets of my city for nearly a week showed the dichotomy which exists between the state and those who want to change or completely oppose it. Activists who fight for change always face intimidation tactics. But the larger the organization, the harder the push back. Fighting city hall to keep a mental health clinic open or create an encampment in the park was difficult enough, but fighting a global war machine engendered a reaction the likes of which some people had never seen.

Still, activists persevered, adapted, and took care of each other. When I ran out of water, everyone from legal observers to masked anarchists were happy to share what little they had left. When various protesters faced targeted arrests, others stepped in to try to prevent them. Hundreds marched for miles to show solidarity at the jail the arrested were taken. Street medics took care of the injured and reminded the exhausted of the wellness center created for them. Independent journalists from all over the world banded together in solidarity, sharing information, looking after each other and supporting those who were targeted for surveillance or arrest by law enforcement. People who were relative strangers before they hit the streets together shared some of the longest and most caring hugs I have ever seen.

Photo by Paul Weiskel.

If it’s one thing I can take away from observing, writing about, and participating in the protests at the NATO summit, it’s that creating community will be what saves the world. Systems of alliances and mutual defense pacts continue the same “us versus them” Cold War mentality which has left the world littered with a class structure that no state can fix. But while the rich and powerful ate well and sat in comfortable air conditioning moving pawns across their chessboards, those in the streets forged friendships and shared struggles which created bonds that will outlast any empire.

-Aaron Cynic- 

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