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May, 2012 | Occupied Stories - Part 2

Archive | May, 2012

99Solidarity Occu-Bus Day 5: #M20

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 Suicide Girls Blog. 

Excitement for the dawn of a day that had taken much planning was severely tempered by the harsh reality of the night before. Sleep deprived but running on adrenalin, our group headed over to Grant Park.

In the same way the powers that be had tried to frame the narrative for the May Day ‘General Strike’ action by conveniently breaking news that morning of a terrorist plot by supposed Occupy activists, news of the arrest of the NATO 3 on the eve of M20 had been a prominent talking point over the past day. However, by now, more details were emerging, which made the whole scenario seem very suspect.

A pattern had started to emerge that had distinct similarities to the alleged May 1st plan to blow up an Ohio bridge – a scenario that turned out to be facilitated by the FBI to entrap a group of unfortunates who, left to their own devices, would likely be barely able to set off fireworks on bonfire night. Similarly, with the NATO 3 there was much talk of planted evidence and a highly suspect search warrant.

Following a speech by Jesse Jackson, Chris Geovanis of Chicago Indymedia briefed members of the media under the shade of a press not-quite-tent. She told us that when the police conducted the search that had lead to the NATO 3’s arrest it had taken them four hours to produce a warrant which was unsigned when it finally arrived. “That is the hallmark of dirty policing in this town,” said Giovanis, “There may very well be police entrapment here.”

The sun was beating down on Grant Park, so as the rallying cries began in the band shell, protesters were mostly scattered to take advantage of any shade they could find. Tactical and medic briefings wisely took place amidst clumps of trees.

Just before 2 PM, the protesters – and police – began to take formation, lining up in the road alongside the park. Protesters took their place in the center of the street, which was lined by police in riot helmets on either side. At the top of the march, ahead of the official rally banner, press were kettled in a pen of their own. Two police trucks were parked in front of the press pen, and in front of them, somewhat bizarrely, there was a red double-decker sight-seeing bus, the top floor of which was filled with news camera crews.

As the march set off, with the indie media segregated from the protesters, they resorted to interviewing each other. This made more sense that it might otherwise have, since the persecution of key livestreamers and members of the Twitterverse and Bloggersphere, had become one of the main stories of the day.

Walking through the streets of Chicago, I fell in step with Luke Rudkowski a.k.a. ‏‪@Lukewearechange, who was giving an on camera interview as he did his livestreaming thing. Listening in, I heard him talk about how he’d spent the night at a “safe house” outside of the city. This was a precaution several other streamers had thought it prudent to take. “We stream live, raw and unedited for people to make up their own mind,” explained Luke to the old guard reporter. “It’s a very weird situation when homeland security is interviewing your friends about you.”

When they weren’t comparing war stories from the past 24-hours, those in the press kettle were gleefully mocking the news crews atop the double-decker bus. Physically separated from the actual march by the two police trucks, these so called “journalists” were limited to reporting a perspective the police controlled. It served as a graphic illustration as to why the world is tuning into livestreams as mainstream news audiences continue to fall.

Halfway through the march, I ducked under the leading “NO to NATO warmakers” banner and worked my way back through the impressively large mass of bodies. I found my friends just as the march ground to a halt at a point where a group of veterans intended to symbolically hand back their medals. Hot, tired, and too far back to hear the speeches, we spread our large banner on the ground and lay down on top of it.

As I lay back and sunbathed with my eyes closed, I could hear the crowd at the head of the march taunting the cops on horseback who were blocking their way (“Get that animal off that horse”). When I open them once more, much of the crowd has already dissipated. Parched, I left my group, and went in search of somewhere to buy a drink. This turned out to be a highly fortuitous time to act on my thirst.

As I headed back along the march route I encountered massive formations of ominously attired officers from a variety of law enforcement agencies. The state police I passed in full RoboCop body armor looked particularly threatening, sporting batons of a size and length more akin to baseball bats. Before ducking into a convenience store I passed one who was clearly in a leadership role. His smile, swagger, not to mention the large, lighted cigar he made a huge show of savoring all seemed highly inappropriate.

Heading back with supplies in hand, I bumped into my California 99% Solidarity media bus comrade @CodeFrameSF. He was one of several new but fast friends I’d made over the course of this hectic and historic weekend. As we made our way back towards the rally the CPD issued their first dispersal warning. A few minutes later the first of several injured and bloodied protesters began to trickle by, the most severe cases were being tended to and/or carried by Occupy medics. At this point, having got a fair idea of what was likely to come watching the livestreams the previous night, this reporter decided to get the fuck out of dodge.

Back in the relative comfort of the 99% Solidarity base camp, I monitored the livestreams. With the permit having timed out at 4 PM for the official march, it had now morphed into one of the wildcat variety, which was being policed with increasing ferocity.

Once again, the mainstream press were paying attention to Occupy for all the wrong reasons. Members of our group clustered around the TV and channel surfed through several network news reports.

The visions of violence were so shocking that the collective tone of the anchors was distinctly sympathetic to those on the business end of the batons. “We’ve also seen police officers pummeling people and we don’t know why,” noted CNN’s Don Lemon. Later on in the same report, after viewing a particularly brutal shot, he exclaimed, “My goodness! Does anyone deserve that?”

Reports of injuries and arrests were coming in thick and fast. At this point one of our number with legal experience peeled off to do jail support.

[“Does Anybody Deserve This!” – CNN’s Don Lemon]

Disturbed by the riot porn that was taking over the TV on all channels, and in need of food and beverages of the alcoholic variety, the rest of our group decamped to a local eatery. The conversation was subdued, as our number stared down at their iPhone and iPad screens, keeping tabs on the wildcat marches that continued on for several hours.

As we walked back our base, a by now beyond capacity Red Roof Inn room, a brief moment of semi-delirious levity took hold as we spontaneously broke out in a chorus of our new favorite chant: “What do we want? Time travel. When do we want it? It’s relevant.” Yeah, I know, it’s occu-humor. Like much about the movement, you either get it or you don’t.

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.

Related Posts:

99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 1 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 2 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 3 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road TripFrom Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 4 (Pt. 1) Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 4 (Pt. 2) Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago

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99 Solidarity Bus: Day 4 (Part 2)

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 Suicide Girls Blog. 

Chicago, IL – The action that had taken up much of the first part of my day had gone down in my personal history as one of the most civilized political protests I’d ever participated in (see previous post). It was in a great neighborhood – the mayor’s – in the midst of a handsome tree-lined street, which provided just the right amount of shade. The neighbors we surprisingly happy to see us, which is testament to how popular Rahm Emanuel is in his own hood. There was lots of beautiful flowering shrubbery, albeit with riot cops popping up out of it at regular intervals, and vendors were serving ice cream and fruit popsicles out of carts.

Afterwards I’d hopped onto a train and returned to 99% Solidarity’s temporary base to edit images and exploit their wi-fi so I could upload them. I’d also intended to post an updated blog, but then shit started hitting the proverbial fan…

I first began to realize that something was awry when several sources warned me it might be best if I refrained from attending a National Streamers Meeting that was planned for that evening. Then Twitter started to explode with news that superstar livestreamer Tim Pool’s (aka @Timcast) Chicago lodging had been surrounded and searched. Later Pool tweeted that his car had been stopped and that he, fellow streamer Luke Rudkowski a.k.a. @Lukewearechange, and three others has been detained by CPD at gunpoint (see video below). Other 140 character or less posts confirmed the monitoring, detainment and/or arrest of several other online personalities and streamers.


[Sunday M20 at approx. 2 AM: Luke Rudkowski, Tim Pool & Crew Detained at Gunpoint by Chicago Police]

Justified paranoia set in amongst their ranks as they realized they may have become targets of a coordinated effort to silence the truly free media. @YourAnonNewsperhaps summed it up best, when they called it a “a war on bloggers.”

The rationale for this strategy became all too apparent after two marches – one in support of the NATO 3 who had been arrested earlier in the day and another against police brutality – converged and rapidly devolved into a brutal cat and mouse game. After several hours, the police kettled increasingly panicked protesters in Millennium Park.

At this point, I got a call from one of our #CaliDST members @TRWBS, who’d been shooting at close quarters when a police van had seemingly deliberately plowed down a protester (he was later identified as Jack Amico of Occupy Wall Street). @TRWBS’ footage of the incident was among the first to be archived, and rapidly went viral (see video below). There were numerous other images being posted of shocking uses of force, arrests, and bloody injuries.

Video streaming by Ustream

Like a deer in headlights, at one point I just sat head in hands, overwhelmed by what was coming through on the various Twitter and Livestreams. Events were unfolding faster than I could process them. I was at a loss for words, so I stopped even trying to type. And just when I thought shit couldn’t get crazier, it did.

Likely panicked by footage of the carnage on the street, which by now had hit the mainstream news, a call came into 99% Solidarity’s base saying that the bus company had cancelled all of the NNU-sponsored buses which had been booked to transport protesters from Occupy Chicago’s Convergence Center to the main #M20 #NoNATO rally at Grant Park the next day. The tone of the bus coordinator’s voice, which I overheard as it was broadcast on speakerphone, said more than any of the words he actually used as he laid out a litany of so last minute they were implausible excuses as to why suddenly absolutely none of the fleet of 14 buses would be available the next day.

With chaos still raining on the streets, I monitored the livestreams to make sure my fearless #CaliDST friends were OK. One by one they signed off for the night, and as the Twitterverse calmed down I finally succumbed to sleep.

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.

Related Posts:

99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 1 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 2 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 3 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road TripFrom Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 4 (Pt. 1) Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago

Posted in #noNATO, StoriesComments (1)

Video: Natalie Solidarity on Incidents with Police at NATO #M19 Protests

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 video originally appeared on Diatribe Media.

Activist and writer Natalie Solidarity spent much of her time on the front lines of the protests against the NATO summit in Chicago all weekend. On Saturday [May19], at an anti-capitalist march, police attacked protesters with clubs after stopping the march on State Street and Washington. Later in the evening, a police van drove through the crowd, striking at least one demonstrator and sending him to the hospital. Natalie recaps the events in this video.

Posted in #noNATO, Stories, VideosComments (0)

The Accidental Medic: A Short Narrative From The NATO Protests

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.

Chicago, IL- I’m sharing this story in order to give credit where credit is due, and to express my love and appreciation for a fellow Occupier, who always goes above and beyond the call.

On Sunday, my friend, and fellow Occupier, Matt, bravely stood up to a white shirt, to negotiate my entrance into an alley where protesters were seriously injured.

Most of our friends were trapped inside a massive kettle, and the police were continuing to push most of us back.  A handful of injured protesters had been helped into a triage area by street medics, at the mouth of an alleyway.  The police were in head busting mode, and just talking to them felt dangerous.

There were too few medics in the triage area, and the police had just barricaded the alley. The medics inside were crying out for more assistance. I tried to talk my way in, but the police, including the white shirts, would not listen.

Matt appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and approached one of the white shirts, to ask that I be allowed inside.  The exchange was obviously quite contentious.  I didn’t hear everything that was said, but the white shirt eventually barked, “Okay, just her,” and ordered the blue shirts move the barricade. I looked back at my friends, and with mutual worry in our eyes, we parted ways, and I darted forward.

In that alley, we had three bloody head injuries, and one blunt force trauma injury to the chest. The police would not let EMS anywhere near us. We tried calling 911 dispatch, but to no avail. The police had total control of the next street over, so there was absolutely no excuse for their actions. We were told we had to move these people.

Patients with head injuries, for the record, should not be moved in this way. One man began to vomit the moment he stood up. We were told to take them all the way to State Street. One of the out of town medics gave me a street medic patch to put on, as I had no red tape on, at the time. I have various certifications, but I hadn’t planned on acting as a medic that day.  Ultimately, I had little choice, as the police had kettled numerous medics, and restricted the movements of others. They had injured peaceful protesters, and then kept medical assistance at bay.

I have witnessed police brutality, and general indifference to suffering, in the past, but I must admit that this experience got under my skin in a way that others have not.  It’s actually very hard to put into words.  The memory of it feels like a wound that will probably take some time to heal.  I suppose I am fortunate.  The bruises I suffered that day are quite minor, compared to some.

I suppose I am also fortunate, as are we all, that people like Matt are part of this struggle.  Occupiers like him make this fight possible, and remind me that no matter what happens, we still have each other.

To anyone who is still naive enough to believe that the police are our potential allies… I can’t begin to tell you how wrong you are.

To Matt… thank you for being brave, and for being strong, and for looking out for your fellow protesters. You are an inspiration, and I’m proud to stand alongside you.

-Kelly Hayes-

Posted in #noNATO, StoriesComments (3)

Against NATO: Blood and Solidarity

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.

Chicago, IL-When I woke up on Friday morning [May 18] I had no idea that I would fly to Chicago the next day to protest the NATO summit; but spontaneous actions are often the most inspiring kind.

My girlfriend Nicole asked me if I wanted to go and after watching some live streams from the various marches in progress I thought: why not? When we told Rachel, a comrade in Chicago that works on the Occupied Stories project with us, that we were coming she sent out a tweet asking for any available couches, and less than twenty four hours after we decided to go to #noNATO, we were picked up at the airport. Theresa was an old friend that Rachael hadn’t seen in years—and we had never even physically met Rachael—but she wanted to support the movement any way that she could. Theresa explained to us on the drive to her house on the north-side of Chicago that “I can’t be out in the streets because I so badly need to keep my job. My husband had a heart transplant thirteen years ago and had an accident just a few months back. He is right now in the hospital re-learning how to walk, so if I lose my insurance it would be devastating.”

I flew a thousand miles to be on the front-lines and show opposition to the NATO war machine, a violent military organization that drains tremendous amounts of energy and money from our government. Theresa is on the front-lines every day, living in a world where there is always money to train soldiers and build better bombs but never enough to care for ourselves when we fall ill.

After a huge rally and march down toward the NATO meetings, Nicole and I split off with Harrison, another New Yorker working on the Occupied Stories project, for some much-needed food and drink. We lost the group and missed the big clash between the black bloc and riot police. We started walking south toward NATO and where we heard the remaining protesters were being kettled. We couldn’t get anywhere close. Rows of riot police blocked every street and looking beyond them all we could see were flashing lights and more police in heavy combat gear.

We walked north, back toward the city center, not sure what we should do. We met another small group wandering around and joined them. The ten of us decided that it would be useless to try to join the group behind the police lines, and when we heard that some NATO delegates were meeting at the Art Institute we made that our destination. There were small groups of protesters scattered around and we grew quickly. When we were two dozen, we began to chant and sing; it started to feel like a protest and we grew faster. There were about 50 of us when we decided to take the street. The spontaneity of our protest created an incredible energy that would be difficult to plan. Once we were in the street, filling out all three lanes on our side and chanting loudly, we almost literally doubled in size with each minute. We had live streamers now and created enough noise to draw people from all directions.  A block after we took the street, we spotted another large group of occupiers coming toward us on the sidewalk. They took the street when they saw us and we ran toward each other and met at an intersection in between with wild excitement. The sound of our voices yelling “Whose streets? Our Streets!” never rang as true as that moment as it echoed off the buildings and blended with the horns of passing drivers holding out their hands for high fives.

We tuned left and ran down the street and became a magnet for every protester milling around downtown. Within a few minutes there were well over a thousand people; then two; then three. For a while, it felt like the city was ours. I’ve never been a part of a march that grew so quickly, or had as much raw visceral energy that was devoid of anger. Harrison and I caught eyes and smiled. “This is fucking amazing. This is the best march I’ve ever been on,” he said, and we slapped hands and brought them to each other’s chest.

The scene outside the Art Institute

Police were assembling and began to set up blockades in front of us. Some we were able to run through and others forced us to make abrupt turns, but there were no arrests or major physical clashes. When we reached the Art Institute, the front of the march, unaware that we were at our destination, kept going. A few people toward the back were able to mic check that NATO delegates were inside and while the bulk of the march went on, about two hundred people sat down in the street. Harrison was with the group that kept marching; Nicole and I stayed at the Art Institute. Eventually the march got word that we were locked down in the street in front of a meeting of NATO delegates, demanding an audience with them, and they came back to join us; but Harrison wasn’t there.

An organizer from Occupy Chicago mic checked that they were receiving reports that a protester had been killed by police and our spirit immediately changed. The level of tension between us and the hundreds of riot police that had assembled and stood in rows in front of the Art Institute skyrocketed. Everyone tried to reach out via their phones to confirm or deny the report, but all the joy had left. While this was going on, I received a message from Harrison. He had been attacked and beaten by police a few blocks away. Three blows from a police baton on the back of his head sent blood down his neck and sent him to the hospital for five staples to close the wound.

A few minutes later we all learned together that the reported death was rumor, and I learned from a new message on my phone that Harrison would be okay.  Since I’ve joined the occupy movement many months ago, there have been moments of both exuberance and dismay. There was no shortage of either in Chicago this weekend.

John Dennehy

Posted in #noNATO, StoriesComments (1)

#SolidaritySunday March in NYC

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.

New York, NY–Since the beginning of the #noNATO protests, I’d been following news and tweets from Chicago religiously, and was troubled by what I saw and heard happening: the apartment raid and its ensuing terrorism charges, the protester intentionally struck by the police van, the targeting of live streamers, the shameful and unfortunately usual police brutality—and all the while, I had friends who were there. But here at home in New York, caught between busy “real life” and a virtual experience of protest and action. The more I heard what was happening, the more I wanted to do something myself—so you can imagine my excitement when it was announced that Occupies all over were to show their solidarity with those in Chicago, Frankfurt and Montreal on Sunday, M20.

In New York City, we would meet in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan to show our solidarity. I headed there after work and found a fairly large group of people congregated around an umbrella-covered table. This must be Occupy, I thought. I pulled over a chair and sat with the rest, everyone gossiping about what had been going on in Chicago earlier in the day, comparing facts and accounts they had heard. A couple tourists came and asked what the hubbub was all about, and listened respectfully as occupiers explained the CPD’s dubious practices over the weekend as well as our general grievances against NATO.

I myself wasn’t sure what we were specifically going to do tonight—a speak out? A meeting? A march? But shortly after 8:30 we lined up and marched north on 6th Avenue. We were to stop at three different locations in the city, where we would mic check a statement in solidarity with those in Chicago, Frankfurt and Montreal. We crossed to the west side of the street and stood outside News Corp, where we were instructed to lock our arms and stand in a circle, emulating those who had protected Jack from the media and prying eyes after his injury, after being hit by a Chicago Police van the night before. We mic checked the following statement as passersby stopped and listened:

“Mic check! Mic check! Do you know the story of our friend Jack? How he was intentionally run over by the Chicago police last night? How his comrades formed a ring around him after the assault? How they overcame fear in the face of state violence? How they showed the spontaneous beauty of affinity?

We are here at News Corp standing together in a ring of solidarity with our comrades in Chicago, in Montreal, in Frankfurt and across the world as they rise against oppression, inequality and injustice.

We are all Chicago; we are thousands in the streets! We will not be terrorized into silence as we protest the illegitimate power of financial and military elites from the G-8 and NATO.

Mic Check! We are all Montreal; we are thousands in the streets! We refuse the draconian emergecy law invoked by the government; we will continue to rise up and strike against tuition-hikes. Free education is a right!

Mic Check! We are all Frankfurt; we are thousands in the streets! We stand against the globalization of austerity and the punishment of the people for the crimes of the bankers. Another world is possible, and she is on her way!

The 1% uses the police, the military, and the media to prop up a collapsing system. We have our voices, our bodies and our hearts. We are here, we are everywhere, we are not afraid!”


During the statement, some police and white shirts tried to get those standing to keep moving, to not stop on the sidewalk and listen to us, but a few of us shouted that the sidewalk is public space and, if you’re not obscuring 50% of the space, it’s within your right to stand as long as you need or want to. By my memory, it did not seem to be an argument the police felt was worth pursuing.

With our work there finished, we continued west on 47th Street to the Times Square area. Those meandering through were now at a standstill as we passed through, watching us silently as we chanted: “From Chicago to NYC, stop police brutality!” I imagine that many of them, who likely had no idea what was going on outside of our city due to the mainstream media’s poor coverage of the protests, thought we were crazy. But the importance of tonight’s action—aside from showing support to our friends and comrades—was that we together were delivering our statement, which explained the power of affinity, solidarity and friendship against a violent police force programmed to oppress dissent—a force that many of us, if given the choice, would rather deny exists in America. Tonight, we demanded to be heard.

As we approached the plaza in front of the red steps, some in our march entreated those sitting on the steps to come down and join us. To my surprise, huge groups were leaving the steps—all of them were stepping down! But I eventually realized that this was not because they were inspired to join us; NYPD was removing everyone from the steps to set up barricades before them. Again, we locked arms in a circle and mic checked our statement of solidarity.

Obviously, there was a bigger audience to our action here than at News Corp, and to shout our statement in front of them was a moving experience. At any Occupy action or event you feel an intense sense of community, but in this case it felt especially good to express in unison the feelings I had felt throughout the past four days. And the fact that we were outward-facing, locking eyes with those standing before us—whether they be tourists, New Yorkers, or the police—made the moment especially touching. The majority of faces looking back at us were solemn, and no matter what they thought of our actions or political philosophy, they were listening.

Afterwards we walked a few blocks south to 43rd Street and 7th Avenue, stopping outside the armed forces recruitment center that’s located just across from the police department. The scene was similar to our last location, with one really great difference: after finishing our statement with “We are here, we are everywhere, we are not afraid!” a bystander shouted out: “And we support you!” Our group erupted into cheers and dancing, backlit by the American flag. The single sentence that man declared in solidarity made the entire night feel worth so much.

After our third reciting of the statement, we quickly “went civilian,” and encouraged anyone around who was not part of Occupy to ask us questions or speak to us if we captured their interest. We would return to Bryant Park at 10; it was now almost 9:30. For now, we basked in the light of Times Square, entranced and hypnotized by the larger-than-life advertisements that surrounded us.

Back at Bryant Park, a small group of us congregated at the corner of 6th Avenue and 42nd Street, where a livestream of the protests in Chicago was projected on a screen held by an occupier. It was bumpy at first—each stream we tried was either choppy, or we went offline—but eventually things were moving. We sat and chatted, and many tried to encourage passersby to watch, with the sad but true statement of “I bet you won’t see this on the news tomorrow!” Once again, what we did tonight seemed very important: passing the message along, creating awareness of this faraway thing that was happening to our friends a few states over—that was happening to all of us.

-Joe Sutton-

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Video Update on Chicago #noNATO M20 Protests

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’re in Chicago tell us what you’re seeing. Submit your story.

Aaron Cynic of Diatribe Media and the Chicagoist (and on our website, this account of #noNATO action) sent us this video last night in which, around 8:30 outside the Art Institute, he gives his audience an update on NATO protests as well as what’s happening in that moment.

View the video here:

-Aaron Cynic-

Posted in #noNATO, Stories, VideosComments (0)

Joseph Sutton

I made my way to the camp at Liberty Plaza, the place surrounded by police barricades, curious tourists, and occupiers singing, debating and informing others why they were there. Police told those of us on the outside to keep moving, that one cannot stand stationary on the sidewalk. But I wanted to circle around the park first before entering, anyway, to see what it was all about and to decide which of the few entrances available—thanks to the police blockades—would be strategically the best to take into this maze of activists and the disenfranchised.

Until this moment I had shrugged any time Occupy Wall Street was mentioned. I read about cases of police brutality online, but when the topic came up in conversation I didn’t really have much to say, hadn’t given any of it much thought. Discussions went like this: a friend making some criticism that didn’t in any way address what the protesters stood for (“They marched by my work and I smelled a waft of weed—and I’m like, ‘Really, guys? Is that what you’re doing with your time?’”) with me just nodding in agreement. But I wanted to see what it was all about for myself.

Inside the park, I was immediately impressed by the people’s ingenuity, how the park had become its own self-sufficient community: the kitchen preparing and passing out food to anyone who needed it, the library with hundreds of books donated (and where I dropped off a few of mine), the group of volunteers powering the tech hub on stationary bicycles. To forget the politics for a moment, politics I wasn’t sure yet if I understood clearly, the alternative society that Occupy Wall Street had set in motion in the park looked innovative, felt inspiring.

But that would be my only visit to the camp. Just shy of two weeks after my visit, I decided to check my Twitter feed a final time before going to bed. It was around 1:30 in the morning and I noticed a lot of buzz was going on about police at the park. The people were being evicted. So I sat in front of my computer for another two hours, refreshing Twitter in one tab and watching the action on Ustream in another.

Reports came in of a media blackout, that the NYPD was keeping reporters away. No one would know about this but from the reports on Twitter and the live streamers. And I was not simply fascinated by what I was watching, which deeply troubled me, but also by how I was observing it all: piecing together loose bits of the narrative from those there—happening right now!—and experiencing it all live. Alternating livestreams and Twitter feeds, the whole experience felt investigative; even though I sat in my bedroom in front of my laptop, I felt like I was there. Facilitating re-tweets and asking questions to get a better idea of what was happening, I felt like how a journalist might feel while happening upon a big scoop. As a student studying writing, and who dreamed of writing for the New York Times, that’s the one thing I’ve wanted to experience the most.

Shortly after, I went home to New Jersey for Thanksgiving. My mother, my uncle and I sat with my grandmother in her living room. Someone asked how my semester was, and I shared my most recent educational experience: after the eviction, I showed up to my Thursday night class of five students, and my professor told us he was deeply troubled by the events that had taken place at Liberty. He gave us two options: we could have our regular class, or we could all march across the Brooklyn Bridge with the occupiers and show some support. So we marched, which was my second time with the people of Occupy.

My family, who had never before seen any evidence of Occupy Wall Street first-hand, scoffed. They slung the standard criticisms: What are they doing? What are they even trying to achieve? I recounted to them everything I had seen on my visit to the park, all I had seen of the protesters’ exit from their home instigated by the NYPD. Do you feel comfortable, I asked them, living in a city where peaceful protesters are blinded in the middle of the night, caught off-guard and dumbstruck, beaten, have their property taken from them and destroyed—all this while the media is turned away so none of it gets reported to the public? News had spread that the federal government had given these tactics to the NYPD, and other local governments throughout the nation, over a conference call. Do you feel comfortable in a country that promises liberty and freedom but deals with social criticism this way?

My voice and lips wavered and quivered as they always do when I feel heated about something or distressed. Voicing these opinions aloud for the first time made it very apparent to myself that this was something I deeply believed in. It would be some time before I would give real thought to the economics behind Occupy Wall Street, but for now I was troubled beyond measure by a government that I saw for the first time as dangerously oppressive.

It would be months, though, before I would get involved: between finals, my part-time job, outside writing, and Occupy’s long struggle through the winter, there didn’t seem to be any good opportunity for me to jump into the action. But when spring came I decided enough was enough; I would attend a meeting and see where I could get involved. I made the mistake of jumping into the deep end by attending a large meeting in which participants were meant to speak their grievances on what they perceived to be imbalances of power within the community.

Of course, I had no grievance because I was not yet a part of the community. But because Occupy is built around everyone having a say, I was constantly asked throughout the six hour-long meeting how I felt about my humble position in relation with the community’s more networked individuals. “I don’t really have much to say,” I told the break-out group I sat with, in which words like “spokes council” and “affinity groups” and so many other terms I couldn’t fathom were tossed about like confetti. “But I am new and trying to become involved,” I said, “and don’t know where or how to begin.” Others had expressed similar feelings when they started out, that the community as it stood now was not beginner-friendly: a huge problem in power relations and tackling hierarchy in the community.

So they told me to join an affinity group, because once each of them had done so, everything else worked naturally.

I’m a writer, so I searched the NYCGA website for a group that would be relevant to my interests, a way I could become involved without it seeming like a chore in my already busy schedule. I found Occupied Stories which, after the media blackout that so scared me during the eviction, seemed to be an important resource for the movement. And maybe with that I could keep that satisfying feeling of being a journalist, or serving an important function in the media.

I met with John, Danny and Nicole at Liberty Plaza in March on Occupy’s six-month anniversary. Immediately my opinion—I, who at the time felt as though I knew nothing—was being asked for, and I was surprised by how quickly these people placed trust in me and regarded me as a friend. Soon enough we had inside jokes, which pretty much is proof that you’ve found your group.

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Danny Valdes

Like a lot of people, I had been waiting for something like occupy to happen for a long time. I’ve been an activist of one sort of another since I was in high school, but I was feeling very jaded until occupy happened. Those first days in Liberty Square left me feeling reinvigorated, like suddenly a whole new realm of what was possible had opened up. After I was arrested with 700 others on the Brooklyn Bridge 3 weeks after the movement started, I’ve never been able to stay away very long.

The same arrest is what lead me to Occupied Stories. John Dennehy and I shared a one-person jail cell with 3 others after being detained on the bridge. Sharing an experience as dehumanizing and absurd as jail builds a strong friendship. John and I stayed in touch and a month later he approached me at Liberty Plaza with his idea for Occupied Stories. I’ve been working on the site ever since.

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John Dennehy

When I was 19 I threw my television out the window. I dragged the cracked screen back inside my college apartment, placed it in the living room and scrawled ‘Kill your TV’ across the glass. I was majoring in Communications with a media emphasis and was increasingly in radical opposition to the modern media apparatus. I learned that television was not free; that when you watch, the product being sold is the mind of the consumer (to the advertisers who fund the media, mostly large corporations)—and I was not okay with that.

I joined a group of concerned citizens already organizing and helped them launch the Hartford Independent Media Center (HIMC) a node on the global Independent Media Center (IMC) network. With the support of some sympathetic faculty at my university I was able to spend the next three years mixing academics and activism. My internship, independent study and many of my research papers revolved around the IMC movement. The professor who taught my ‘Media Literacy’ class helped a group of us create a workshop to export to other schools in the area and encourage people to think critically about media consumption.

I was also a pacifist and in the wake of September 11th, just as I began a mission to alter the media landscape I also sought to try to stop a war and the militarization of my home. I was young and naïve. When we went to war in Iraq I was profoundly disappointed in my country, and when we re-elected the president who led us there, I gave up. I left.

I spent five years in the developing world, mostly South America. I joined and was inspired by social movements in Ecuador but never saw any reason to believe it would be worth trying to change anything in my birth nation again, not even after I moved to New York in 2010. Then Occupy Wall Street began.

I stopped by on the first day out of curiosity rather than hope, and over the next two weeks the movement began to break down my American apathy. On October 1st I believed again.

When I was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge there was no doubt in my mind that this was a movement capable of radically changing the national and global power dynamic. On the bridge, trapped in a tightening police net and waiting for arrest, Nicole Rose and I shared our first kiss. That night in jail, I shared a cell with Danny Valdes. Both Nicole and Danny would join the Occupied Stories project early on and play large roles throughout. So it’s a fun side note that in a very real way the mass arrest helped the project grow.

After my arrest I spent much of my free time at Liberty Plaza and slept there on weekends. It really felt like the whole world was about to turn over that October, and everyone else there felt it too. We shared stories of all the incredible actions happening and fed off each other’s energy. I barely had time to read the news those days, but each time I did I was struck by the dichotomy between the reality on the ground and media reports. In the mainstream press the story was mostly told from the point of view of paid professionals who did not actually witness what they were reporting on. The alternative press was better but it still used standard journalistic concepts meant to give it an air of unquestioning objectivity. The media has been broken for some time, but it was never as obvious as when watching coverage of Occupy Wall Street that quoted the police commissioner more than the people who were actually in the streets.

I had toyed with the concept of creating a user generated, first-person media platform loosely based on the IMC movement since college but it was never more than a fleeting thought. Indymedia was an amazing concept and while I credit it with changing the dynamics of media to make it appear (but not actually be) more inclusive it never spread beyond a base of activists.

The Occupied Stories project borrows heavily from the IMC movement with some important tweaks. First, it is far more focused and about one subject only, in this case #occupy. Second, it is only written in the first-person.  Writing in the first-person is an important tool, both to make it more inclusive and encourage untrained people to write but also to smash the perception of objectivity. Everything is a point of view and the reader naturally understands that when they read first-person and so long as everything is a point of view, we should hear about it from the people who were actually there.

With a core idea of ‘first-person user generated news about #occupy” in mind in mid-October I began looking for a partner to handle the technical aspects, as I’m somewhat of a Luddite. I stumbled upon Bryan Milano, an old friend from High School who had recently registered a cache of domains with an ambition to generate income and was willing to help me set up the technical side of things (we actually went with the same format HIMC used for their web project).  On October 31st we finalized the layout and posted the first story. A week later, while putting up flyers in Liberty Plaza, Danny expressed interest and Nicole, Danny and I had one of those wonderful conversations that were so common in the park those days and they both decided to join the project. Nicole and Danny gave a big boast and Byran ceded the technical aspects to these equally capable partners.

We did well at first then over the winter, as the movement slowed so did the project. But this spring and summer Occupied Stories has grown by leaps and bounds and added a number of new volunteers; and I feel like a naïve 19 year old again sometimes. I want to radically change how we create and consume media and for the first time in a long time, I believe that it’s possible.

This is just the beginning.

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