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July, 2012 | Occupied Stories - Part 2

Archive | July, 2012

Chalkupy Chicago

Chicago, IL–The day after watching riot cops shoot rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd of peaceful sidewalk chalk artists in LA, I bought the biggest box of chalk I could find.  I had a feeling I’d be putting it to good use soon, and I was right.

Saturday night, there was an unofficial call put out on Twitter for friends of Occupy Chicago to Chalkupy in solidarity with Occupy LA.  We have incorporated sidewalk chalk into other actions, most recently at the NATO summit protests and Occupy Independence on July 4th.  We’ve also had confrontations with CPD, most notably when a Bank of America security guard called them out because a small group of occupiers was eating a donated dinner and chalking messages of hope and peace on a street corner in Chicago’s financial district.  (In that instance, Streets and Sanitation came and power-washed it all away.)  Luckily, though, we’ve never had the kind of violent reaction seen in LA.

Chalkupy Chicago

The location chosen for Saturday night’s action was a section of Uptown that had been blocked off by the city that weekend for Ribfest.  It was perfect for our purposes – the streets were closed, so we had a rather large canvas to work with.  We were right outside a train stop, so there were plenty of people walking by to see our work.  And the next morning the streets would be full of hundreds more who could be influenced, however slightly, by our messages.

As I parked my car nearby, I sent a message to the friend who had initially tweeted out the action to check exactly where everyone was meeting.  When I glanced at my Twitter feed, however, I saw that he was in the process of being arrested.  Whoops.  He was charged with disturbing the peace for the chalking, along with another unrelated charge.  Not the best start to the night.

After CPD got done threatening everybody else with arrest, they took him away and the rest of us continued chalking.  Many people stopped to talk with us – most in support or out of curiosity, although a few were upset by our action.  They said it was vandalism and illegal.  They said it was a childish way to express ourselves.  They said it wasn’t a proper use of our First Amendment rights.  Of course, we disagreed.  We tried to explain why but the few who came looking for an argument weren’t interested in listening, unfortunately.

Chalkupy Chicago

Thankfully we had an overwhelming amount of support from others we spoke with.  We moved to two other locations and had the opportunity to talk to many more people–including Ribfest security guards, who didn’t try to stop us at all but actually encouraged us to continue.  They told us they agreed with our messages and pointed out open areas that we hadn’t chalked up yet.  “You missed a spot over there!” they would say, pointing, a mischievous grin pulling at the corners of their mouths.

The only disheartening thing to me was the number of people walking by who refused to take the chalk I offered and leave a message of their own.  They would say, “No, it’s okay, you write one for me,” or “I don’t really have anything to say.”  I want to do this again, all summer, all over the city, but put a greater emphasis on getting non-occupiers to leave their own messages.  I want to give a voice to the people of Chicago in a simple, easy, dare I say fun way.  I want to fill our streets with the words and ideas, hopes and dreams of the people who live and work here.  I want to show my neighbors that you don’t need someone else to speak for you, that you don’t have to ask permission to be heard, that it’s acceptable and even laudable to share your thoughts creatively and publicly.  I want to empower others as I have been empowered by the Occupy movement.

In one of the hottest, driest seasons our city has seen, our messages are likely to remain visible for a while.  But even when they fade into the hot, dirty pavement, our words will live on.  After all, chalk is temporary – ideas are forever.

Chalkupy Chicago

-Rachel Allshiny-

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#ChalkWalk LA

Last week, a peaceful demonstration in LA using chalk drawings on sidewalks turned into a full-out police riot. These are stories from the people who were there.

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The ChalkWalk Uprising

Los Angeles, CA–#OWS Energy is powerful. So many of us live oblivious to beauty, truth, freedom and love. However, what I saw in the streets of Los Angeles on Thursday night was instead an embodiment of all four.

The streets were covered in color. Pregnant with people, full of Angelen@s that were standing up for their freedom of expression, art, and speech. The police response was predictable and unconscionable. Those in power are trying (and failing) to apply the insane broken windows theory on the 1st Amendment! The gall of this system is shocking. They will do anything to stop dissent, and people are waking up. Kids shot and tackled and beaten and gassed for using sidewalk chalk on a sidewalk.

It’s not really about the chalk, and you and I both know it. It’s about what’s being written.

One of the components to this movement in my opinion is the recognition of the power of the people united. On Thursday night, it felt like Los Angeles was the People’s Town. For an evening, public space became one of meaningful expression. Messages to lovers were written on street corners. Inspiring quotes from social justice figures were drawn on bleak emtpy walls. And smiles were everywhere as people were empowered to be heard through chalk.

The #LAPD, just like the police forces in New York, Oakland, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, San Diego, UC-Davis, Miami, Seattle, DC, and Philadelphia, reacted how they always do. It is systemic fascism. Lest we forget, the day before the Brooklyn Bridge saw 700 arrests last fall, JP Morgan Chase donated $4.5 million to the NYPD. If you’ll remember, the Oakland Police Department received “counter-insurgency” training from Bahraini military police and Israeli Defense Forces. Training for what? How to deal with some tents and signs? For peaceful assembly?

The connection to that type of money in politics & policing in LA? The lobbyists for the 1% in corporations like the Central City Association, the Central City East Association, and other business improvement district firms throughout the city. The free speech crackdown began when activists laid their heads on the sidewalks at #626Wilshire, the offices of the CCA. These groups give money to every single City Council seat and are “helping shape policy” in City Hall nearly every day.

Who is lobbying for Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, Verizon, Walmart, Ralph’s, Chevron, AEG [property developers]? The Central City Association. Who is pushing for further criminalization of the homeless, rent hikes on the long-term community residents, “intelligence-based graffiti”, a Walmart in Chinatown (and 211 other locations in LA County)? The Central City Association.

So the police fired gas, flashbangs, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds, and beat people with batons. Who are they protecting and serving? The 1%… and a system that values profits over people, property over community, stifling dissent, imprisoning people, and keeping the status quo. On Thursday Night in DTLA, chalk became a catalyst for the people to take the power back.

– Ryan Rice –

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Lost (& Found) in Translation: Social Solidarity, Montreal, Night 82

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 elsewhere in solidarity to those causes. This post originally appeared at Outside the Circle.

Montreal, QC–I took the above photo shortly after I got to Montreal, some two months ago, never intending to stay so long, and having little idea what the black letters on this banner meant. I knew that red — usually square, yet sometimes stretched in other shapes when needed — stood for the student strike, particularly being in solidarity with it.

But I’m an anarchist. So even though the only word I clearly recognized in the above slogan was popular, the tangible struggle that I saw on the streets over my initial five days here convinced me that the one term I understood rung true and I should stick around. Something remarkable was — and is — going on in Quebec. Anarchists do a lot of things wrong. One thing we’ve done right since the beginning of “anarchism” as a named political praxis, though, is gladly cross nation-state borders to lend solidarity based on a shared humanity along with shared desire for freedom writ large and egalitarian. In my case, I’m not sure how much solidarity I’m supplying. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m largely the recipient of the solidarity that going on here, both as receiver and witness.

Take today.

First there’s the + 1 – 1 = 0 sort of solidarity. Where you think you’re holding out some universal, nonstatist handshake of solidarity, and then realize that even if the same canceling-out dynamic happens in one’s own backyard, when it occurs outside one’s “own” country (that is, if one has citizenship), it underscores how you’re a “guest” in a struggle that you’ll never fully comprehend.

Plus One: I now nearly always carry a batch of red felt squares with safety pins in which to give out — a quite simple act to show my solidarity and let others, in turn, then display theirs. When I overheard two cashiers in a store speaking, in French, about their carré rouge, and saw one pat her upper-right chest sans red square and frown, and saw that neither wore squares. I understood enough to know she had lost hers, for what in French sounded like four times. “Parlez-vous anglais?” I asked. “Qui, I speak English,” she responded. I held out two fresh cherry-red squares. “Would you both like one?” “Qui! Merci!” Their eyes lit up, at me and then each other. “Merci beaucoup! You can’t get these anymore. They are all sold out.” (Her English was better than my near-nonexistent French, but it still wasn’t great, and I think she meant sold out of red felt. When the student strike and its “squarely in the red” square symbol became popular, rumor has it that red and even off-red felt disappeared from the shelves of every Montreal store. So people started knitting squares out of red yarn.) The pair both eagerly pinned their new red badges of solidarity to their shirts.

Minus One: Like the two clerks, I too wanted a red square, way back after my first illegal night demo some two months ago. That evening, after hours and kilometers on the streets with thousands, I was walking back the hour or so to where I was staying, at 1 or 2 a.m., and at one point noticed a flash of red on the pavement. There it was! My little red felt square! I’ve worn it, daily, ever since. So today, as usual, I had it pinned to my shirt. Just moments after I left the now-happy cashiers each sporting their own carré rouge, a guy on the street yelled out at me, in English: “Hey, red square! Yeah, you! You’re a fucking douche bag!”

I’ve experienced a few disapproving gazes and downward-pointing thumbs for wearing a red square here, but the only times people have directly confronted me, verbally, briefly or for extended conversations, has always been in English. And that’s never been preceded by a “bon jour” or other nicety, then allowing someone — via my accent in response — to ascertain whether to speak French or English to me. French is the official and most-often-spoken language here, and by and large, the language of the student strike. This person didn’t know, of course, that I’m from the United States and barely know French; those two facts only heighten, for me, the legacy of the history of domination in which the English language plays a part. Even without that knowledge, or particularly without it, this person is signaling the still-felt tensions of the legacy of the French-English divide here, which for them (and the other folks who’ve chosen to instantly yell at me in English) is now displaced on to a little red felt square. A big part of the legacy leading to this student strike can be found in the 1960s’ and 1970s’ so-called Quiet Revolution, which illuminated many of the social inequities related to language (with, you guessed it, my English-speaking readers, the Francophones often receiving the short end of the stick), which in turn gave birth to many of the French-language colleges that are at the heart of Maple Spring and also underscored a host of other social injustices related to other languages (First Nations peoples, for instance, or the “body language” of gender). As a related aside, I want to again recommend the book The Empire Within: Postcolonial Thought and Political Activism in Sixties’ Montreal by Sean Mills.

Zero: Maybe the pleased cashiers versus the displeasured man on the streets don’t cancel each other out. Various polls while I’ve been here have hedged the truth or outright lied in order to claim there’s little support for the student strike, or have more “scientifically” leaned toward numbers emphasizing popular support. The felt experience of being among, say, five thousand, forty thousand, or two hundred thousand at a demonstration, not to mention seeing red squares on shirts and houses, tends to make one think there’s broad support. And the picket lines and other bold tactics of tens to hundreds of thousands of students and their allies to hold the strike for five months — often against scare tactics by school administrators and brutal tactics by the riot cops — add further proof that this struggle is indeed popular. But now, on this hot July day in anticipation of what may be a really hot August when the schools are supposed to start, every little + 1 – 1 = 0 can’t be ignored. As someone at the anticapitalist assembly I was at this afternoon said, whether the strike can stand strong in August against intensified policing, the chilling effect of special law 78 (whether or not it gets enforced and/or tossed out in court later), the distraction of provincial elections, and other pressures is, perhaps, “all a matter of our capacity.” That is, lived social solidarity, and whether it’s tangibly there or not when it really counts.

Which brings me around, secondly, to the -1 + 1 = 0 sort of solidarity.

Minus One: Me. I can now read the words in the photo that started this piece, and because I’ve been a participant-observer within a specific moment/movement, I can increasingly read key words and phrases, and maybe sometimes understand them when I hear them. Like grève étudiante: “student strike.” Or better yet, grève sociale: “social strike,” which I can also even somewhat pronounce. And I now generally get the play on (g)rève, with rève meaning “dream,” as in the above-photographed street art. At the time I snapped this shot about a month ago, I didn’t know that. I also didn’t know the designer behind this poster. Now I know both, so can share both (hence, credit and appreciation to LOKi design’s #ggi downloadable poster portfolio, ready for others walls, http://lokidesign.net/2356/2012/05/ggi-poster-portfolio/#more-3007).

Today, I could basically read the large-type summary sheets taped to the wall at the start of the anticapitalist assembly, offering ideas of, for example, various antiauthoritarian strategies related to struggling against hegemonic forces of social control like the state and capitalism while supporting the grassroots student strike as well as notions of a social strike. But when it came time for the meeting to begin and the facilitator checked in about who needed whisper translation from French to English, I was the only person out of some forty to fifty people. (And when the facilitator asked if anyone needed whisper translation into French when, or rather if, English was spoken during the assembly, no one did.)

Plus One: An anarchist I’ve known as an acquaintance from various anticapitalist convergences in Canada instantly volunteered to be my English whisperer (fortunately, he talks as fast as I do, but in two languages!). When I thanked him, with embarrassment, for having to translate the whole three- to four-hour assembly, he simply waved a hand in the air, tossed back his head, and muttered the French equivalent of “Pshaw, it’s nothing!” But of course, it is something: a huge act of solidarity, especially given that he’s an active participant in this social struggle and wants to talk at the assembly. Equally of course, he meant it: no big deal. We’re both anarchists, after all, and this is what we (try to) do for each other.

For a third of this assembly, we then broke down into discussion groups around topics and/or projects. I and my personal whisper translator both decided to go to the student-social strike conversation, which attracted some twenty to twenty-five folks. He looked around the circle, and exclaimed, “OK, is there anyone here who doesn’t speak and understand English?” Silence. “OK, let’s just fucking do this in English, since Cindy can’t speak or understand French.” He meant “fucking” in the kindest of ways (indeed, several times during his whisper translation from French to English in the main assembly, he apparently added that same word to sentences, and many people around the room who could hear laughed, finally explaining the source of their mirth to me, to which he laughingly responded to everyone, “I’m adding enthusiasm!”). Again I felt the sting of embarrassment, and again the implied “Pshaw!”

Zero: Maybe the fact that I could hear, listen, understand, and even speak a couple times versus the fact that one person spent two-thirds of the assembly whisper translating to me (and a hefty chunk of the assembly spent another third switching languages for me) don’t cancel each other out. A longtime anarchist friend who has lived here in Montreal for a long time, an Anglophone too, said that no matter how good their French gets, there’s still a way in which one can’t articulate oneself as well in political meetings, and thus it feels like it creates power dynamics around language, and who gets really heard and listened to politically. Being whisper translated to is, in some way, like experiencing a mediated or “representational” form of politics, where you’re getting the sense of what the person translating for you — kindly, out of solidarity — thinks is necessary or important for you to know, or worth adding enthusiasm to. On the other hand, it feels acutely, for me, like I’m a burden for needing this help, especially since I’m here only short term, so don’t need to be included substantively in the same way as, for one, the Anglophone anarchist mentioned above. I also, equally, acutely felt how it does indeed make you feel the outsider, or the less than fully “enfranchised” participant in a directly democratic assembly (where, as an aside, rather than “twinkles” for affirmation, the facilitator jokingly asked for a show of “caribou,” as in the animal antlers). In terms of me — the minus one — it is merely a “Pshaw” moment. In terms of social solidarity, much less solidarity among Francophone and Anglophone students, it’s been a factor that, at a minimum, makes it hard to translate this struggle to certain people, like my “Hey, red square” guy mentioned earlier, or across certain places, such as English-language schools, and that could be a bigger deal in terms of tangible solidarity come August.

Third, and finally, take yesterday, night 81, Mile-End’s Popular Assembly night.

Now solidarity equates to 1 + 1 = 2, or maybe a whole lot more.

One Plus One: We’re now in week four of the Popular Assembly of the Mile-End Quarter, which meets every Thursday at 6:30 to usually 9:00 or even 9:30 p.m. at a “park” wedged between two near-highway urban streets — hence, the assembly promo always adds quotation marks to the location of “Clark Park.” The park is always bustling with dinner picnics and kids running from the “water park” fountains to the playground equipment. Cars, trucks, and motorcycles whiz by. It’s hard to hear under the best of circumstances, and like the anticapitalist assembly, the popular one necessitates whisper translation. Fortunately, it’s been not only me but three, four, or six others we need it. We huddle in a corner of the assembly circle, hardly able to hear the already-circumscribed version of the conversation (again, the “translators” are always whoever kindly volunteers and are always doing their best!). Most of us English-as-first-language folks don’t speak up, except those who can speak French but have a harder time understanding it, so need the whisper translation.

Every Wednesday — well, the last two — we’ve also held a new casserole plus orchestra, or “orchestroles,” bringing instruments of all shapes and sizes along with pots and spoons mixed with good cheer and free lit/red squares together for an illegal marching band in the streets. It’s a powerful and noisy show of solidarity for the strike, and actually creates an incredibly rich and wonderful sound; the musicians are good, and the rest of us manage to make our cookware a palatable accompaniment. (One passerby this past Wednesday asked if we were from a music department, bringing songs to the neighborhoods, and another wanted to hire the horn section.) But it’s also just a whole lot of silly fun. And so it’s been an icebreaker of sorts for us. Switching and tangling up languages, or pantomiming what we mean, or simply laughing together, the past two weeks have opened up communication in a way our assemblies might never have accomplished.

So this Thursday — yesterday — after our breakout working groups, it turned out that those who stayed for our re-assembly into a big group again were majority English-language listeners/speakers, and only two people were exclusively French-language listeners/speakers. So it made sense to now whisper translate from English into French for them — a first at our popular assembly. One of the two Francophone listeners/speakers looked like she was struggling to hear/understand through the whole of this whisper translation. We wrapped up the assembly, in the gathering darkness, with feedback on how the assembly went. The Francophone woman, in French, explained that it was awful having to miss so much of the conversation, it was awful feeling left out, and yet it was wonderful to truly not only understand but also viscerally feel how awful it is to be in my (and others’) shoes when we’re getting French to English translation. Her face lit up as she explained how glad she was for that experience and, more specifically, our assembly now, because as she put it (translated to me, of course), “Together, we’ve finally broken through the wall of silence between us all!”

Equals Two, or More: This was true of the fourth Mile-End Popular Assembly, but also today’s anticapitalist one, and last week’s interneighborhood meeting, and a social strike consulta last weekend, plus the few other neighborhood and student assemblies I’ve gone to so far: there’s always talk about the ongoing student strike, on the one side, and notions of a social strike, on the other, and how the two are inseparable as a question, discussion, and problematic. Each time someone tries to separate them, it’s clear that’s impossible — that they need to breath together, and breath life into each other. Which is not to say that they are equivalent. There is this sense of reinforcement or complementarity, in terms of how they can and could lend solidarity to each other. Or perhaps reciprocity is the best word choice here.

The May 22 grand demonstration called monthly by CLASSE to display support for the student strike, for instance, brought upward of a half-million people to take the streets of Montreal, illegally according to special law 78, and for all intents and purposes, such an enormous march starting in the middle of a weekday was a social strike. People left jobs and other compulsory duties to participate; stores and offices didn’t open; traffic got snarled; public transit couldn’t run. Another night, on an illegal nocturnal demonstration, some forty thousand or so inadvertently shut down a main bridge into Montreal simply because it took about an hour to march up a lengthy north-south street that leads into that urban artery, again offering an albeit short social strike (as in “economic disruption” writ large; the definition of “social strike” is often a topic of conversation lately, but that will have to wait until another blog post).

But without the striking students physically blockading their schools’ entryways, so that strikebreaking students and other college-related people can’t get inside, can’t go to class, can’t teach and go about the (literal) business of academia, a social strike would mean nothing. The student strike has already been victorious in many ways. It is the heart and soul of this Maple Spring, but not as a cry for present-day students’ self-interest. It is a demand for solidarity across generations, where these present-day students understand that they are doing this for generations to come, so cheap or (as the demand now seems to be moving) free education is something that everyone desires, as a social good, in a good society. This has, in turn, emboldened others in what could be seen as newly emerging related struggles, to offer equally compassionate forms of solidarity. The Canadian government just passed an omnibus bill that included many awful measures, such as cutting off health care to adults and kids without citizenship status, and health care folks (along with others who see this as a first step toward privatizing all health care, and just plain inhumane) are starting to pledge to offer health care anyway, even if they have to do it for free.

All to say, that there are conversations going on at every assembly and consulta about what solidarity for the student strike is, what it will look like, and how it will be implemented as August inches closer and closer, and how that might or might not relate to a social strike, as solidarity and as something unto itself. All to say, there’s a whole lot of grand conversations about solidarity, and a whole lot of micro-examples of it, in the lead up to a grand experiment in solidarity on what’s possible next with this student-social strike.

Those conversations never fail to mention that each striking school and/or school department or association has its own autonomous decision-making structure, and that any real solidarity has to involve taking the strategic and tactical lead from each of these autonomous bodies. They explore moral and material forms of solidarity, such as neighborhood assemblies holding festive “block” parties as teach-in, socializing, and mobilizing spaces just before thirteen of the key striking schools are supposed to go back or raising funds for legal support in advance, or students informing assemblies of their needs or coming to do teach-ins, such is as happening now with CLASSE touring to share how students have organized this strike and their direct democracy (take 4.59 minutes at the end of this post to watch CLASSE spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau Dubois speak, mostly in English and with subtitles when in French, on the how and why of this strike at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=br0QdKC9a4I). The discussions also grapple with what can and cannot be said, because special law 78 (and the fallout from the G20) seems to criminalize so much that’s just common sense and humane, like voluntarily gathering with groups of people to speak one’s mind, and strategize toward social solidarity and social goodness.

What, then, does solidarity look like when those who want so much to be in solidarity with each other — students and neighborhoods, and assemblies of all types — can’t speak as openly as they’d like, in French or English, so have to read and whisper behind the lines, because of an emergency law meant to rip all this solidarity to shreds? Or just because of our own linguistic capabilities? Maybe our struggles to make language work, to hear and listen and speak and act in new ways, as a connective bridge between us, rather than a dividing wall of silence, are part of the answer. Or at least help to illuminate part of the (unintended) difficulties of reciprocity and solidarity in any language.

– Cindy Milstein –

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Repression of Free Expression at Art Walk in Downtown Los Angeles

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared at Resist, Occupy, Produce.

Los Ageles, CA–On Thursday at the Downtown Los Angeles monthly Art Walk, a police escalation erupted into an uprising of the people. All because Occupy Los Angeles activists organized an action around our right to free speech through chalking. The action started at 7pm, and immediately the police made aggressive arrests for using chalk on the sidewalk. By 9pm, hundreds of cops had amassed on 5th street, some in riot gear because the people of Los Angeles had taken it upon themselves to create their own art at Artwalk. Energy and anger buzzed around the crowd as people spilled into the streets from the filled sidewalks, furious and frightened at the amount of police. A woman of small stature was slammed to the ground, face first, and then arrested for using chalk on the streets. Her face was contorted in pain as three officers twisted her arms back to zip tie her wrists. People in the streets, yell “Shame.” Chants of “Whose Streets? Our Streets” and “Fuck the police” spread through the crowd.

But really, what did the police expect? They showed up in large numbers, with weapons and riot gear. A line of motorcycle cops formed, lights flashing, engines ready. As they moved forward, the crowd ran in a dizzying, angry and frightened manner. Riot cop lines formed on all sides of the intersection, pushing people in two directions – to Pershing Square and North on Spring. Guns with rubber bullets fired at the dispersing crowd. On Spring Street, I watched a man get shot at close range, stumble from the sidewalk into the street and collapse. I ran up to him to see if he was okay; as soon as I touched his shoulder, the police surged forward towards the man. One male officer pulled back his foot and kicked the man on the side. I saw him flinch, but ran back as an officer reaches for my arm. The man was grabbed and dragged behind police lines. His limp body was cuffed and taken away. The police continued to move forward, in what the media would call the next day clearing the area block by block. Every five feet, the police line stopped, and their commanding officer yes, “Maintain the line. Whatever you do, keep the line!” Otherwise, what? The several hundred frightened people on the street, who were at least thirty feet away, would rush the line? Was this a police who are supposed to protect and serve or a militaristic group attacking civilians?

Each time they advanced, both men on either side of the line would point their guns at the crowd threateningly aiming, occasionally firing in the crowd. I later heard that the Pershing Square contingent was tear gassed. Helicopters buzzed overhead, their lights shined on the streets. The crowd continued to mill around the streets, as the police continued to move forward. Tourists and groups of young people approached the riot line and take pictures. It was a spectacle now. Riot cops in downtown Los Angeles because of chalking. The city was shut down – streets are blocked off, freeways are jammed, the train stops are closed. Clearly this is bigger than just chalk.

When we started to organize around the Central City Association after May 1st, we  knew it was a good target. After all the CCA is money in politics, it is corruption, it is a pretty big gear in the system we are trying to fight. Since our siege on CCA began, we have continually faced state repression vis-a-vis the police. It has not stopped. Captain Frank is always there lurking in the background, at least when he’s not dressed in his suit and lunching with the CCA members (as he did last month!) We have a hit nerve. Several nerves. CCA. And then the idea of private property and free speech. Free speech is not really free – we are limited to where, when and how we can exercise our right to free speech. The state makes laws in order to repress the people. Our founding fathers had no qualms about admitting that – we cannot have a true democracy, because the mass of the people must be controlled. That is the basis of our principle of democracy, that only certain people have the authority to do what they want, the rest of us must obey their laws. The masses of the people are stupid, illiterate gremlins. We cannot allow the masses to rule. It is the marginalized masses who are criminalized by most laws. This is why you cannot sit, you cannot lie, you cannot have your belongings with you on the streets of Los Angeles. Laws are made to criminalize the bodies and the existence of those who do not fit into our society.

So this is not really about chalk. It is about repression. It is about who has the authority. It is about who has the control. It is not us, it is them. And they are trying to turn the rest of the us against us. But we have to see through the media fog and their justification of their action. We must stand together as humans and realize that there are bigger problems in our society: poverty, inequality and corruption – in a word, capitalism. Capitalism is the systemic problem. This movement, which is sometimes called Occupy, for better or worse, and may never admit it, is anti-capitalist. Somewhere in its decentralized core, Occupy is about abolishing the system and restructuring our society in a completely different way. Occupy dares to shake the status quo. What happened at Art Walk is what happens to us, activists, and us, houseless, poor, and of color, all the time. We are brutally arrested, we are kicked, we are harassed by the police. Welcome, Art Walkers, to our life; welcome to the new phase of this movement: state repression.

– Karo S –

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Chalkwalk Turns Ugly

This story first appeared on RFTFL blog.
LOS ANGELES, CA – It’s unfortunate that time and time again we have seen peaceful events grow to riots caused by an excessive show of force by the LAPD.  For a bit of background- the chalk walk event was organized by a group of activists associated with Occupy Los Angeles to bring attention to the arrests that have been occurring at 626 Wilshire (the Central City East Association building).  Arrests that have largely occurred due to activists chalking political messages outside of the building to bring attention to various initiatives being pressed forward by the CCEA to essentially strip downtown clean of people the ‘not-for-profit business corporation’  sees as undesirable.  Since NBC is uninterested in doing any research to coherently articulate what the organizers intention was and since even the Artwalk co founder seems to be incapable of reading a press release or stay aware of what people in his community do;  Let me state again.  The purpose of Chalk Walk was to bring attention to the arrests that had been occurring at the CCEA.

 

The action was planned to take place between 5th and 6th on Spring street and was intended to be a peaceful outreach event to encourage friendly dialogue.  Many Artwalk regulars (parents and their children included) stopped by to draw with us.

 

Many interesting conversations sparked from discussing MacKinney vs. Nielsen, the ninth circuit court of appeals decision that ruled that chalk could not be considered vandalism and was a constitutionally protected form of free speech under the first amendment.  8 arrests occurred between 7:30- and 8:45.  All for –  you guessed it – chalking.  Everything remained peaceful during the first 7 arrests as the chalkers remained calm as they were taken into custody.

 

The escalating incident happened during the 8th arrest.  Apparently the LAPD wanted the chalk gone, the rain wasn’t working fast enough, and formed a skirmish line in front of the chalkers.  Occupiers formed a line and started chanting.  A lot of the Artwalk patrons were confused as to why there were riot police when no riot was occurring.  A female art patron (not associated with OLA), trying to de-escalate the situation, walked in the middle of the two lines and drew a smiling stick figure.  She was then tackled to the ground with such force that it caused her boyfriend to panic and lunge toward the police to protect her.  He was shoved away by a couple officers.  The womyn was then grabbed, flipped over, dropped face down onto the street and then pinned down by an officer’s knee.  Her boyfriend was visibly upset and had to be restrained by 4 of his friends. It was at this point that a multitude of art walk patrons rushed into the street to protest her treatment.  Tear gas was fired.

 

As the crowd swelled, residents watching from their windows began to throw bottles at the police line. It was this excuse that LAPD took to begin firing rubber bullets into the crowd. Some Artwalk bystanders were hit by the less- lethal ammunition* and suffered some pretty ugly injuries as a result.

 

One man -not pictured below- was shot in his chest, had the wind knocked out of him and ended up collapsing right in front of the skirmish line.
A few female protesters holding the front line rushed forward to help him and called for a medic.  However we could not get to him before the police kicked the skateboard he was cradling into his face.

 

As we were all forced to take a step back we watched as he was trampled over, flipped onto his face, zipped tied and dragged onto the sidewalk.

 

It was at this point that some bar patrons came out and hurled a couple bottles at the police.  Two female occupiers mic checked and told the crowd, “Don’t throw bottles- when you do that the cops don’t care to aim at you.  They just shoot in your general direction. Keep your brothers and sisters safe, we are not prepared to deal with less lethal ammunition.”
At one point the police attempted a right flank to kettle protesters but everyone was able to get out of the designated area.  We believe an additional 3 people were arrested as LAPD pushed the crowd North on Spring, none of which was associated with Occupy L.A. A couple hours and probably hundreds of thousands of city dollars spent on LAPD machismo later, the crowd naturally dispersed and continued along with their night.

 

So- now the real nitty gritty- Why did this happen?  This wasn’t about chalk, this wasn’t about ‘people provoking the cops’- it was about finding any excuse to lock up individuals speaking out about what is going on in downtown.

 

The CCEA’s safer cities initiative is nothing more than a way to gentrify the area into a mono-socio/economic neighborhood that does not have to worry about “ethnic problems”.  Harassing the houseless population of skid row and co-ercing them to leave is just the first step to expand CCEA’s current 97 block territory to cover the whole of downtown.  Don’t believe the houseless get harassed without reason? Go to LACAN and talk to any of the individuals that work there and I guarantee you will have an entirely different perspective on what goes on in downtown.  The safer cities initiative also lays out a plan that CCEA plans to implement by 2020 that would in essence clear out all of the businesses from Santee Alley.

 

Skid row is comprised mostly of African American residents and Santee Alley is comprised mostly of Latino or Korean business owners.  While this 2020 plan may not be intentionally racist, it certainly brings into question the morality of determining someones future or making decisions about someones livelihood in a way that will not benefit them in any way.  As well as the morality of such decisions being made by people who only stand to benefit by other’s misfortune.  In the end, this is all about economics and keeping money in the hands of the “right” people.

 

Before LAPD
photo

 

After LAPD

 

RFTFL

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Making Our Own Revolutionary Dates, Montreal, Nights 75 & 78

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 elsewhere in solidarity to those causes. This post originally appeared at Outside the Circle.

Montreal, QC–It is probably to be expected, if one can “expect” anything in relation to novel social movements, that after some two and a half months of gathering at the same spot, at the same time nightly to take the streets without permission, thanks to and precisely in contestation of Quebec’s special law 78 criminalizing a variety of dissent, these nocturnal strolls would slow down. While the actual pace hasn’t mellowed much, the number of participants has certainly diminished. But even if there are just barely over the “magic” illegal number of forty-nine people on hand, and when there are even fewer, these marches go on, like clockwork. That fact alone makes them rather remarkable. There’s this notion that even if a lot of students are resting up after nearly five months of strike for the flash point of striking schools “starting” or likely not in August, and even if many other folks need breaks from night-after-night marches, the illegal demos are seen as a must — until victory. Still, of late it can be a dispiriting and often-annoying experience, given how few show up, and often who those few are.

So I’d (almost) forgotten how revolutionarily romantic it is to walk for five hours non-stop through a summertime Montreal evening with hundreds or thousands of fellow disobedients. Because as I realized last weekend, there’s nothing like a special occasion — consecutive illegal night 75 — to encourage the rebellious spirit & a big, festive, feisty evening demo, complete with enormous red flags (and lots of little ones too).

Some of the highlights of this particular night were careening through the last evening of the crowded, corporate-sponsored outdoor Jazz Festival, with us as clearly the larger spectacle that caused people to actually listen, whether with lots of thumbs up or more than the usual number of thumbs down; watching the cops “protect” people coming off a bridge from seeing fireworks, so we wouldn’t walk on the bridge; and coincidentally (?) meandering past UQAM’s college complex just as a circus-dance troupe dressed in red performed on four levels of a main building, including spinning red umbrellas from the rooftop and creating giant red squares out of red lights in windows on two floors.

But why these big, hours-long outlaw outings feel so particularly romantic is, as night 75 reminded me, the connection(s) we end up feeling toward each other and our temporary autonomous community. It’s like a great big special evening out, a great big wink between us all — reclaiming not just the streets but also that old spark, or a notion of what’s special among and about us, “the people,” as CLASSE’s manifesto brilliantly reminds us (printed in Le Devoir on July 12, as strategic brilliance and counter-move in the chess game of the government hinting strongly at setting elections for August in an effort to distract from and destroy the student strike and social crisis):

“For we, students, are also renters and employees; we are international students, pushed aside by discriminating public services. We come from many backgrounds, and, until the colour of our skin goes as unnoticed as our eye colour, we will keep on facing everyday racism, contempt and ignorance.  We are women, and if we are feminists it is because we face daily sexism and roadblocks set for us by the patriarchal system; we constantly fight deep-rooted prejudice. We are gay, straight, bisexual, and proud to be. We have never been a separate level of society. Our strike is not directed against the people.

We are the people.”

(For the English translation, see http://www.stopthehike.ca/2012/07/share-our-future-the-classe-manifesto/#more-1230; for a PDF of the likely much more brilliant French original, see http://www.bloquonslahausse.com/).

The law that catalyzed these illegal demos is not special at all; that’s the countermove of our special, revolutionary dates — to reveal the contrast, publicly, on the romantic streets of Montreal. Such laws are, unfortunately, increasingly ordinary, or what governments around the world are doing more and more — criminalizing everything and everyone that gets in their way, which is pretty much everything and everyone. More and more, people around the globe are not putting up with it. CLASSE’s manifesto briefly and beautifully lays out the great contest at hand: direct democracy, the commons, the people, the public good, and wholesale egalitarianism on the people’s side, and “representative” democracy, the commodity, the elites, private gain, and wholesale inequality, on their side.

As an acquaintance here in Montreal just noted, if you read nothing else from or on the student strike — and I’d add, if you read nothing else right now for a good long while — read this manifesto. And weep. It’s that poignant. It’s that revolutionarily romantic. But it’s also just the common sense that we know and feel when these consecutive nights are jammed packed with hundreds and even thousands of us, expressing a love for humanity and social goodness that seems to radiate between us. Because here in Montreal at least, so vastly different from that place called the United States a mere hour or so south, people still hold to a notion of a common good — which likely, sadly, makes a copycat of this movement near impossible.

Yes, I’d almost forgotten that feeling, which comes through so much clearer when you’re on hour two, still with hundreds and maybe thousands of people on the streets, always illegally, and an anarchist you just met offers to teach you their favorite chant in French (“no gods, no masters, no borders, no bosses…”). Or we’re all on hour three, and another person I don’t know good-naturedly makes fun of my US English accent on the French chants, thinking I’m trying to make fun of “Americans” saying those chants at solidarity demos in the United States, but then we end up talking and it turns out we were both in Quebec City in 2001 for the Carnival against Capitalism during the Summit of the Americas. Or a new Montreal friend dashes up to me with handfuls of bright-red felt squares, their safety pins shining under the street lights. We both then dash around together, handing them out to cab drivers stuck in our illegal street marches, people sitting in outdoor cafes who cheer when our demo walks by, parents out for the Jazz Fest with their kids, or groups of teenagers hanging out, just ’cause it’s Saturday night. Our red felt squares makes person after person smile, and my new friend and I laugh and smile at each other, as my hand is refilled for our two-person gift economy spree.

All the little interactions that mean nothing and yet everything, happening in multiple microscopic ways, night after night, student assembly after popular assembly, the picket lines last winter and those to come in August, here in illegal Montreal. Because as the CLASSE manifesto notes, “Direct democracy should be experienced, every moment of every day. Our own voices ought to be heard in assemblies in schools, at work, in our neighbourhoods. . . . Our democracy banishes cynicism, instead of fuelling it. As we have shown many times over, our democracy brings people together. Each time we take to the streets and set up picket lines, it is this kind of democracy that at last breathes free.”

Earlier in the day (of night 75) at a directly democratic consulta, some striking students were worried about whether there was enough support to hold the line come mid-August when school is supposed to begin, which given special law 78 in particular, means students need a whole lot more tangible solidarity against the government/police trying to crush Maple Spring. That same night 75, it seemed to me that when there’s the need to rally, to get lots and lots of people out and activated, there’s a popular social movement ready to strike. The same was true three nights later, night 78 contra law 78, when again people came out to the streets in relatively large numbers, especially for a Tuesday evening, for yet another special night. And that same day, two Facebook event invites showed up in my messages: one for July 22, the monthly “grand demonstration” day, which has gathered hundreds of thousands on other twenty-seconds the past several months; and the other for August 1, illegal consecutive-night-demonstration 100.

In previous blog posts, I’ve talked about revolutionary time, when in rebellions past, radicals have shot out the clocks in the public towers so as to make their own time, or victorious revolutionaries started their own calendars, for the new times ahead. Or how time within social movements like Occupy and Maple Spring feels luxuriously ours, foreshadowing what it would feel like to have all time clocks, alarm clocks, or the constant smartphone clocks banished as our measures of us as “productive” members of society.

Night 75, night 78, July 22, and soon night 100 all point toward another time — the kind of time I experience on these evening strolls with hundreds and often thousands of others: revolutionary dates. Those times that Maple Spring movement has and does set aside, intentionally, as special nights to be together, voluntarily and with delight, even if the evening falls flat or is downright hard. Because sometimes that means facing off with riot cops and awful new laws and heartless governments and administrators, and not necessarily to people’s advantage in terms of personal safety and longer-term ramifications. For instance, the upcoming dates of August 13 to 17 are also intentionally being set aside, since thirteen of the key striking schools are supposed to go back to class during those five days, and pretty much everyone agrees that it’s going to be tense and intense — and difficult — and most or all of the striking schools will resist. At other times it means savoring the joy of our social power alongside the pleasure of simply, intentionally being together on a perfect summer evening — with the police playing pitiful chaperone.

I realized on night 75 and again on night 78 how many of these revolutionary dates there have been, and there are in the near future, and how people seem to only want to create more and more of them. At the Popular Assembly of the Mile-End Quarter, for instance, folks eagerly agreed this evening — at what someone pointed out was a slow first few dates, but that was OK, because it was important to get to know each other — that we will now always hold the assembly on Thursday nights and always hold the new casserole + orchestra, or “orchestrole,” on Wednesday evenings, which at the second one last night, offered not only the romance of “a little night music” but also a red-hued sunset behind our red-square-tinged gathering.

There’s something of a sensual pleasure in not only deciding for ourselves — a la direct democracy, like as the sun set this evening, but this time over the triangular neighborhood park during the Mile-End popular assembly, just as we were all marveling at the pleasure of this new form of gathering, discussing, and deciding. There is also pleasure in deciding for ourselves to make dates together where we both commit to each other and this movement, at least for the time being — which so far, has been a long time in this longest-running student strike in North American history; where you can always count on someone being there for you, with you, in innumerable special ways, even and sometimes especially because the dates can turn ugly (like on night 78, when the police kept insisting on crashing our date and then arrested about a half-dozen); and where people share intimacy with many, many people and a collectivity too over the course of one date.

Looming ahead, as I mentioned above, are some dates that this student strike is setting aside — that concentrated period when a baker’s dozen of striking schools are by law supposed to open — for their participatory student organizations and striking students to make their own tough choices. They will intentionally, autonomously figure out what they want to do — consensually. Do I stick by these people I’ve been going out with for many months now? Are we getting serious? If I decide to stay in this relationship, will my family — teachers, support staff, workers of all types, the popular assemblies, the wider populace — support me in a social strike?

But CLASSE’s manifesto offers the real love letter:

“For months now, all over Quebec, the streets have vibrated to the rhythm of hundreds of thousands of marching feet. What started out as a movement underground, still stiff with the winter consensus, gathered new strength in the spring and flowed freely, energizing students, parents, grandparents, children, and people with and without jobs. The initial student strike grew into a people’s struggle. . . . Now, at a time when new democratic spaces are springing up all around us, we must make use of these to create a new world.”

– Cindy Milstein –

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How Do You Sleep at Night?

New York, NY–Wednesday, July 11th I awoke refreshed. The day I had been anticipating since leaving Philadelphia  had finally come. The Guitarmy would land in lower Manhattan via Staten Island Ferry, some 99 miles from their departure point, and would return to our home in the concrete jungle. Sitting at work I found myself scanning livestreams, scouring Twitter feeds and counting down the seconds to 5:30.

Before I arrived at Zuccotti there were a few arrests, and an elderly woman had even been knocked unconscious. By the time I had made my way down, the park, though surrounded by police, was peaceful in stark contrast to the events earlier in the day. Friends were sitting and chatting, the familiar sound of jackhammers pounding in the distance. An announcement session broke out and I listened in as report backs circled. News broke that Occupy San Diego would be planning a National Gathering for 12.12.12, dubbing the action “A Day Without Borders,” as well as announcements on the GA reboot and other Occupy projects. Acoustic music and singing flowed over the park, people were laughing and smiling again.  It was almost like we had a chance in hell at a peaceful evening.

That’s when I noticed the wall closing around us. In two tight, single-file lines, the boys in blue stood at the top of the steps. Staring down at their prey as if they were hawks on the hunt, a new addition to their uniforms piqued my interest: gloves. Thick, black, leather gloves. My stomach dropped, they descended the steps and the powderkeg began to explode.Their sights were set, and in a clear attempt to incite a negative response they narrowed their focus on an elderly woman, sitting in a lawn chair, kitting. A clear and present danger to the general public, she had to be removed, immediately.  The swarm of blue sent chills up my spine, I was suddenly surrounded. With my cellphone in hand I began furiously tweeting and taking photos, being pushed around by the massive crowd attempting to protect our comrade from the forceful hands of the NYPD. I felt a strong shove and then a sharp pain in my arm. An officer was grabbing me, screaming at me that I had to leave the park.

“GET OUT! The park is closed,” he said.

“Pardon me, Officer, but this is a privately owned public space which is required to be open to the public 24 hours a day,” I replied snarkily. “The park is not closed, I do not have to leave,” I squeaked as he grabbed my arm tighter and shoved me face-first onto the cement bench.

I threw my arms in the air in an attempt to visually reinforce that I was not resisting any type of arrest, only their blatant disregard for our right to peaceably assemble. I was thrown backwards into the sea of blue, my arm still being squeezed by the brute. I screamed “I DO NOT HAVE TO LEAVE, THE PARK IS NOT CLOSED.”

He rang my arm tighter. “If you don’t get the fuck out, I’m going to arrest you.”

I fell to the ground as the stampede swept through the park, taking with it the beautiful energy we had created.

Over the next few hours, the game of cat and mouse continued. Targeted arrests left our voices hoarse, screaming “Winski, how do you sleep at night?!”

All we could do was shout and console each other. Dazed and confused we began to join hands. Only a few of us at first, then growing gradually larger, we came together to Ohm and bring peace back to the space. Bring peace back to our home. Eventually, it seemed as if the entire park was a part of the circle. Positive energy pulsing through our park once more, we erupted in a mic check and thanked each other for the beauty of the moment. We all needed it.

I lingered a while longer, but knowing I had work in a few hours decided to call it a night when most of the tension had died down. Usually, I try to reflect on the events of the evening or write down my thoughts when I leave an action but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. July 11th marked a new dawn in the NYPD’s tactical response to Occupy that shocked and revolted me.

I didn’t sleep at all that night.

– Nicole Rose –

Photos by Julia Reinhart

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Photos: Meeting up with the 99 Mile March

Editor’s note: This post is part of our #NatGat coverage. You may read more #NatGat-related stories here.

Princeton, NJ–The National Occupy Guitarmy leads the #99MileMarch July 5-11 from Philadelphia to NYC, in honor of Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday and the Occupy National Gathering.

I met up with them on July 7th camped in Morrisville, PA. They were just setting up lunch, painting some signs for the march ahead and belting out Woody Guthrie songs. Spirits seemed high and some of the marchers said that the reception from town to town has been well received. They said residents came out and offered water or a chance to run under the hose to cool off a little. Here are some photos I took during my visit:

Hanging laundry at the camp in Morrisville, PA

The next day we marched 5 miles  in close to 100 degree weather from Trenton to Princeton.


Heading out of Trenton on Route 206 north, a main street for many small towns in New Jersey

Guitarmy walking along Route 206 on their way to Princeton

Along Route 206 some Guitarmy marchers were hanging posters left over from the Occupy Caravan that crossed the country from San Francisco to attend the National Gathering:

 

Once we arrived in Princeton, NJ, Occupiers did a small banner drop on the Bristol-Myers sign outside the company’s headquarters:

Spirits were high especially when the march arrived at Trinity Episcopal Church (link goes to contact info for the church) in historic downtown Princeton. The church offered air conditioning and showers, the first for some marchers in weeks since leaving their hometowns for the national gathering and then heading north on their 99 mile march to NYC.

It didn’t take too long after everyone arrived at the church for police to show up supposedly on reports that there was a dead person lying just outside the grounds of the church. After confirming that there was not in fact a dead person but a very tired marcher the police left but the troubles didn’t end there. Soon after this incident the pastor of Trinity Church came out to tell the 60+ marchers that the church was receiving too many complaints from neighbors and the whole group would have to leave by 9:30 PM which at that point was about an hour away. The group tried negotiating with church executives because it would be near impossible to find housing for 60+ marchers in less than an hour but to no avail the church insisted the marchers leave. We were cleared out by 9:45 PM to numerous locations and decided to regroup in the morning.

One marcher decided to rest on the steps of Trinity Church in Princeton NJ after learning that the church had changed it’s mind about hosting the weary and tired marchers.

This story reminds me of another story about weary travelers showing up at a place they thought they were welcomed at only to be turned away into the night.

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Would They Really Do That to Veterans?

Editor’s note: This post is part of our #NatGat coverage. You may read more #NatGat-related stories here.

Philadelphia, PA–Last night I saw one of the most beautiful moments of my entire 40 years on earth. The Veterans for Peace and Occupy Marines acquired a permit to have a canopy and information table on Independence Mall next to the first amendment monument. They have been there, 24 hours a day, since Saturday. Yesterday afternoon the National Park Service notified the veterans that their permit had been revoked and that they would be evicted from their spot in front of Independence Hall at 9pm.

News spread quickly among the Occupiers, who have been camping on the grounds of an historic site owned by the Quakers at 4th and Arch Streets during the night and gathering at the city-owned Franklin Square Park at 6th and Race for workshops and festivities during the day.  We asked the Veterans to let us know what we could do for them to stand in solidarity. The Veterans were determined not to be removed from the space that they believe their brothers in arms had died to defend their right to be there, assemble, engage in free speech and petition their government for a redress of grievances. “That tent and info table will remain there until we have been physically dragged out of the park and the National Park Service comes in with a bulldozer.” Due to Independence Mall being federally owned land, any act of civil disobedience that takes place there will land you in the federal detention center with very serious charges and very high bail. One of the Veterans said “I signed up  to die for the right to stand here, jail is nothing compared to death.”

By 8pm the presence of park rangers, park service and city riot police, bike cops, US Marshals and Homeland Security forces began to escalate dramatically. A few minutes before 9pm the Veterans met with park officials at the edge of the park. It was a tense 5 minutes as the 20 or 30 of us who were there in solidarity with the Vets awaited the results of the meeting.  When the Veterans from the meeting returned, a mic check was initiated and the Vets announced that the park rangers would take no action until 11am the next morning when a high enough ranking park service official would meet with them to negotiate a possible compromise. Imminent eviction had been avoided, the fate still left to hang in the hands of some unknown bureaucrat, to be determined by his whim in the morning.

Just moments after the announcement was made a march of 400 occupiers led by a Revolutionary War-style drummer came around the corner. We ran to greet them and inform them that what had looked like it would be a massive confrontation was now a celebration! Shouts of joy went through the mass of Occupiers as they joined us in a now festive celebration of solidarity with the Veterans and the temporary retreat of the Park Service.

As songs, mic checks, sign wavers and even a hula hooper reveled on the sidewalk in front of the Vets for Peace canopy tent and info table, an extremely large contingent of police officers and federal agent remained all around us. About 20 riot police in full gear stood in formation just feet away from us, staring robotically straight ahead. The veterans asked us to move back 10 feet from the line of riot cops and promised us that the vets themselves would form a line of protection between the riot cops and us. As soon as that arrangement had been made the riot cops turned and marched in formation off of independence mall to rapturous cheers and clapping from all who had gathered.

The celebration continued for at least an hour before the Veterans mic checked us and asked anyone who wanted to remain overnight in solidarity do so by sleeping across the street, off of federal land, in front of the regional headquarters of Wells Fargo. Walking past on my way to the train for a quick pit stop at home, there were at least 30 groggy occupiers waking up from a night of sidewalk sleeping. I will return shortly and all of us, Occupiers and Veterans for Peace, will await the results of the meeting at 11am today.

It is impossible to describe the joy and beauty that I witnessed last night. I had a lump in my throat and am still beaming with positive vibes even though I too am exhausted after my 3rd night of sleeping on the ground in a Quaker parking lot.

– Mattymoo –

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