Archive | September, 2012

A Chronicle of #S17 (A GREAT, but LONG Day)

New York, NY – I set my alarm to go off at 5:00 so that I’d be able to leave by 5:30 to get to 55 Water (The Vietnam Veteran’s memorial) at 6:30. The alarm went off and I got up, but I figured “I showered last night I don’t have much to do before I leave, I can lay down for a second again and then head out.” I wake up again at 6:30…

I throw clothes on, pack up my battery pack, and book it. I get to Wall Street at 7:15. OccupyTime is a wonderful thing as they are still organizing.

A group of about 300 people leaves from 55 Water at around 7:30 and we march with intent to form The People’s Wall in front of the NYSE. This action’s intent would be to block anyone from entering the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). It is no surprise this action really just ended up with us marching in circles around the financial district. The area was heavily fortified and there was no way the police were going to let us anywhere near the NYSE. This was not terribly surprising but it was certainly discouraging to me. No matter, back to 55 Water St to regroup.

Now for the action entitled “99 Revolutions.” This is when the fun began. We left the Veteran Memorial in smaller Affinity Groups. The idea for 99 Revolutions was to disperse in small groups and block traffic at intersections in a very decentralized manner. The theory: the police know how to deal with a centralized group. The police will not be as able to stop a great many different groups, in various locations, around the financial district. Some groups would get stopped yes, but many would likely be able to cause traffic jams. This plan worked brilliantly.

I happened by about several different intersections where traffic was being slowed down considerably due to the protester and police presence. I saw several arrests as well. Here are some videos:

Congestion at William and Pine (video length approx 4 mins):
http://ustre.am/_1IVoF:1ehs

Arrests resulting from the congestion at William and Pine (video length approx 5 mins):
At the 3:00 mark of this video you can hear the crowd chanting “We! Pay Your Salary!”
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25483598

Marching in circles, blocking traffic, at Beaver and South William St. (video length approx 1:45)
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25484311
More at the same intersection of Beaver and South William St. (video length approx 1:45)
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25484367
More at the same intersection of Beaver and South William St. (video length approx 2:00) (dancing in street begins at 1:27)
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25484399
Chanting “A-Anti-Anticapitalista” in the same intersection of Beaver and South William St. (video length approx :18)
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25484443

It is very much worth noting the success of this tactic of intersection blockades can be seen through the action at this intersection lasted about 5 and a half minutes. During that time. Not one police officer came to stop us. I heard somewhere the officers were busy on dealing with our successful congestion of Broadway.

The intersection blockades lasted until 10, at which point we all met up at Bowling Green (the location of the Wall Street Bronze Bull Statue) for an environmental action. As usual the police had the bull completely surrounded and guarded from the threat of protesters who, at most, would have had difficult time putting a dent in the statue because it is made of bronze.

To gather everyone together, all 3 to 400 of us we had Reverend Billy Talen doing his thing with the Stop Shopping Choir
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25484918

Next there was a theatrical performance about the environment. To help the show the Rude Mechanical Orchestra rocked some background music:
http://ustre.am/_1IVPM:1eiq

Jill Stein spoke next
http://ustre.am/_1IVPM:1eir

My feeling about Jill Stein is as follows. I like what she says. However, there’s no chance she’ll ever win election. Until there is serious electoral reform (at least) the only candidates who will ever have a chance to win are those from the corporate whore parties (Democrats/Republicans). So though Jill Stein seems cool to me, I can’t get overly excited about her. At most I hope she inspires others.

After this we took a short break and had an Action Spokes council in Battery Park to discuss what actions would take place for the rest of the day. I didn’t attend this because my phone was not charging well off my battery which meant I needed a new cable. I headed to J&R. This unfortunately did not pan out well since J&R is owned by Jewish people and S17 was the first day of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. So I looked around, saw a Sprint store, assumed a cell phone store would have a cable to charge a cell phone, and went there to buy it. Success!

This is also when I realized I had an opportunity to get lunch so I hit up a halal cart and went to eat in Liberty Square. I met with friends, chatted, and nourished myself on Chicken and Rice. I was also informed of a march that would be taking place by VOCAL NY I believe after the rally that was about to take place.

I want to say right off the bat, I respect and appreciate every organization that came to the rally and said their piece. The more community groups we have the better. The more organized we are the better. The more we work to fix our own problems instead of relying on a leader the better. However, I really, really, really, really, really, really, really hate rallies. I find them incredibly boring and scripted. I can appreciate an organized march with a scripted demonstration within it. However, I get bored out my mind standing in one place for an hour listening to community organizations plug themselves. Some people like rallies because of the structuring, programming, and the way that they can learn about organizations. For learning about organizations, yes, rallies are cool. However, most of the time the speakers at rallies just say relatively generic stuff which appeals to audiences interested in the same causes they are.

Anyway, after the rally I got wind of another action to happen at the World Financial Center. I raced over.

As soon as I got there I noticed there was private event going on (it seemed to be a car show). I hit up the celly loop to get the word out. The new plan was apparently to meet up by the marina. Yup, there was a crowd there of probably 3 to 400. We had a short discussion over the fact that there were people in Liberty Square who wanted to join us. This however would have taken too long. The group ended up splitting at this point. One group went to Goldman Sachs to do a civil disobedience where I believe 5 people were arrested. Another group went to the FDR drive to block traffic for about a minute. I went with the group to Goldman Sachs. Unfortunately my camera angles weren’t very good here so there’s not much to post.

Next we went back to Liberty Square. By this point the atmosphere was vibrant in the park. Full of celebration, discussion, nostalgia, singing, dancing, drumming. It was just like the days of the Occupation when the movement had finally gotten mainstream attention to draw in the crowds, and we hadn’t put up tents yet. It was perfect and words can’t describe it, just watch…
(approx video length 30:00)
http://ustre.am/_1IWNz:1eix

The next march we did was at about 3:30 and we wanted Wall Street. The restrictions on the area had dropped a bit from the morning’s attempts and we got so far as a block from the New York Stock Exchange. Upon reaching Nassau Street and Pine Street I had already made my way to the front of the march and I got a surprise. THE PEOPLE’S GONG! It was unfortunately cut short as the police realized what we were doing and viewed it as something which could be a potential “win” if we were allowed to recite the whole thing; so they pushed the entire crowd back. It was awesome though.

At this point I took down my feed and needed lunch. My lunch had left me relatively unfulfilled, I was dehydrated, and dealing with the shock of being EXTREMELY close to police brutality on the last march (I saw an officer ram an Occupier’s head into the scaffolding on Cortlandt St. I’d post this footage, but even though my phone never showed any kind of signal problem, the footage is no longer in my archive and I never deleted it).

The GA happened at 8 in Liberty Square and I just wanted to relax for a bit and talk to friends, and gather myself. I took my feed down for maybe an hour.

At around 10 was when we got the first sign of the police saying “okay kiddies, time to end the celebration.” The lights over the park turned off, and the police presence had grown to some degree around the park. This caused some concern amongst those present in the park which a few people (GA provocateurs from back when) took full advantage of and almost manipulated us into a march. A march would have led to a beat down as it was after hours, and past sundown, in New York. We were saved though. Occu-cake was served.
(video length approx 3:30)
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25495512

The rest of the night consisted of the police intimidation tactics and not much else. They shined 6 floodlights into the park. Yes, 6 floodlights, because 7 would have been too many… They came in and escalated the environment for no reason and then left. We reacted with some cop hate getting spewed on one side of the park while people danced for Anarchy on the other side. Some of us dealt with the the police escalation with a massive Occupy Ohm Circle. It was a wonderful, trademark way to end the 1 year anniversary.

I remember, when the park was raided back on November 15 and the newspapers were saying “Occupy faces an uncertain future,” my response was “the raid saved the movement because it forced us to band together and stand our ground.” The raid also gained us a lot of support from the general public as, on raid night, the Occupy Wall Street trend eclipsed ALL other trends on twitter. Everyone who was involved in the movement just laughed at the media’s death sentencing of us. We got together and we organized, we did road trips, we made friends, we started building alliances with community organizations. We started Interoccupy. We resurfaced on May Day and inspired tons of other groups to join the May Day march (who’d never wanted to associate with it before). We went to the NATO summit in Chicago in spite of the fact that everyone was terrified of what might happen to us, and we ended up becoming very acquainted with Michigan Avenue. We held the National Gathering. We did a 99 mile march. We went to the RNC and the DNC.

Now however I do need to ask whether or not we face an uncertain future. Occupy succeeded in changing the conversation of the nation, which is no easy task. There has also been a lot of inspired activism from Con Ed workers, the Chicago Teacher’s strike, and smaller more under-unionized groups like Car Wash Workers. It’s wonderful how we’re starting to see a growth in activism in the country. I do need to ask, though. What does Occupy do now? We spent a year complaining, and there was a LOT to complain about. However, amidst the complaining, we’re going to have to start offering solutions. Maybe not concrete solutions, but we need to start offering ideas and having discussions. You can’t only talk about the negatives without exploring ways to fix them. This does not necessarily mean reforms. It just means we have to start giving people reasons why they should still believe in us.

The anniversary proved that Occupy never died (even though the Mainstream Media has said the 1500 protesters in Zuccotti Park/Liberty Square only numbered “a few hundred” protesters on S17). What do we have to show for it though? Great, we never left, what did we learn in over the past year about ourselves and about organization? Where did we mess up? Where did we succeed? Where did we wander with a lack of understanding what we were doing? How do we do outreach? How do we communicate better with one another? What does it mean to Occupy?

No matter what the answer is we can’t be stuck on particulars. In-fighting wont solve anything, and we’ve seen too much of that already. We have to work towards the world that we want, but we CANNOT be certain of what that world will be. The main reason for this is, we’re not prophets, and we if we try to be extremely rigid in our visions of the future, we’ll fail at accomplishing any vision for the future besides a dispersed, and divided one. One of the values of true Anarchy, as I understand it, is learning to respect one another and accept our differences, coexisting but making sure we hold each other accountable. Can we do this? We wont reach solve everything in a year from now, and we wont do it in two years either. However, what can we accomplish in a year? What would be significant, yet practical?

I’m in this for the long haul, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

-StopMotionSolo-

Posted in StoriesComments (0)

From a Mother

My story is about my daughter. She is a young adult who graduated with a Master’s Degree in Education. She was unable to find a teaching job and has been working at temporary positions for several years. She did receive loans and grants for her education but also worked throughout her college career. Because of her student loans, her credit has been destroyed. She has lost hope and is beginning to feel that she is “less than” other people her own age. All she ever wanted was to be a teacher and have a positive effect on the lives of young people. I would do anything to help her, but I am a widow on a fixed income. She is such a bright, compassionate person with so much to offer, but because of her debt, she feels she doesn’t have a future. Debt influences every aspect of her life in such a negative way. What a sad commentary on our socio-economic system. Her story is so depressing and I know there are many others who face the same circumstances. What can be done to help these young people?

-Susan Taylor-

Posted in Debt StoriesComments (0)

#S16: Occupy Town Square & Occupy Rosh Hashanah

New York, NY -So I really should be going to sleep and resting up for tomorrow, but instead I’m going to write this up because I’m stupid. Today started off with a march from Gansevoort and West St (the construction sight of the Spectra Pipeline). I got to this late and had to log into another channel to get directions and a location for the march.

The march was a lot of fun. I caught up with it around 3rd avenue and 14th street and followed it to Union Square, where we saw a few speak outs and some music from the Guitarmy. Then we marched to Foley Square, where Occupy Town Square would take place with a permitted concert. Yes, that’s correct, Occupy Wall Street got a permit for something. Hell has frozen over…

On the way to Union Square there were two arrests of members of the group Code Pink. Both arrests were of women. These arrests were done to quell the momentum of the march, as the arrests were of two of the main speakers. As a result of both arrests the remaining Code Pink members lost their initiative to make their statement in front of Bank of America. This is unfortunate because Code Pink rocks.

Anyway upon getting to Foley Square I took my feed down to go and exchange the Galaxy S3 I bought on S15. The next Galaxy was just as bad and didn’t connect to my hotspot. So now I’m using the original phone which unfortunately means I can’t livetweet pictures. Also, the biggest issue I have is that my hotspot is not very good. I need one that is more reliable; unfortunately this costs a lot more and I don’t have the money for monthly fees.

The Occupy Town Square was fun and we had nice music. Most of the artists I wasn’t terribly impressed by but Tom Morello played and he always kicks ass. At the end of his set he also asked the Occupiers present to rush the stage!

Following this we had an action spokes council meeting… I don’t wanna say much about this until things are carried out tomorrow. I have opinions but I’d prefer to comment on the events after seeing them in action and not speculating about them from a theoretical perspective. The only thing I will say is the meeting was held in a humorous location… One Police Plaza!

Next we had Occupy Rosh Hashanah, which was really beautiful. I was surprised how many Occupiers could accurately mic-check in Hebrew. We broke Challah bread, drank grape juice (no alcohol in public) and blew Shofar. I thought some of the readers were REALLY over the top but whatever. It was a nice night.

Now the fun begins…

-StopMotionSolo-

Posted in StoriesComments (0)

Bagging the Tea Party

New York, NY–So literally last night an email was passed around in one of the affinity groups I’m in, citing an article about an Anti-Occupy Wall Street/Anti-Obama rally to take place in New York. The rally was part of the “Obama’s Failing Agenda Tour.” It was paid for by Americans For Prosperity (AFP), the SuperPAC funded by the Billionaire industrialist Koch Brothers, who co-opted the original Tea Party movement to get the current Republican congress (Headed by John Boehner) elected. There was a buzz in the listserv about attending the demonstration and making an ass of them. I was really looking forward to getting some sleep, but as soon as I saw that, I was down for streaming. Even if no one went to it I would have gone and been the most sarcastic person on the planet. As it turned out we had about 6 people go there to fool around.

I get to Times Square at around 9:30 and see no one from the affinity group. So I headed to 6th and 50th because, whether I was alone or not, I was gonna have fun at that demonstration. I ended up finding the group and we headed to the rally with signs reading “I dream of a white president…Just like they used to be,” “Every Man For Himself – Jesus,” “Get the government out of my social security,” “Let them eat cake,” and others. With friends I could livestream, I was just gonna watch the magic unfold…

We get there at the end of a speech, from a paid representative for AFP doing the normal, tax-the-rich-less BS. We quietly join the crowd and hold up our signs. Once they realized what we were doing, the Tea Partiers began efforts to block our signs. Standing in front of us, or holding their signs in front of ours–what ever they could do to shield us and our infiltration from the cameras. Didn’t work. By the way I saw two Tea Partiers holding signs that reading “Thank you Koch Brothers” and “99% Shut Up.”

Once the speaker finished we started getting more attention. Our intention was just to engage them in discussion, and we did just that. An Occupier using the pseudonym Warren Bancroft, representing his Facebook group Americans For Inequality, took the Tea Partiers to school.

Warren Bancroft talks about how the banks didn’t get a bailout (0:17)
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25555451

A woman gets baffled when Warren Bancroft talks about his group Americans For Inequality (0:39)
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25555466

Warren Bancroft talks about the need to reverse the Narrative (0:30)
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25555529

Warren Bancroft talks about how to deal with inequality (0:54)
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25555494

It was a great action and we ended up in tons of different news outlets.

The Guardian even came out with an article called “Occupy Wall Street activists commandeer anti-Occupy Wall Street rally.” Read it here.

This was such a success, and we completely stuck it to the Koch Brothers. It is very likely the Koch Brothers planned this rally to counteract the success (maybe) of the Occupy Wall Street 1-year anniversary. Well, I’d say Occupy took the reigns and built on the momentum of the September 17th day of action.

Happy Birthday Occupy!

-StopMotionSolo-

Posted in StoriesComments (0)

3 “Silly” Stories from #S17

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on Occupywallstreet.net

Monday was a funny day. I went incognito as a worker in the financial district, and, slipping past a checkpoint, clicked my heels on the cobblestones plunked in front of the stock exchange.

One of my clients, who works in the tallest building above the stock exchange, was blocked from entry because he looked like a dirty hippie.

A cop impersonating an anarchist blew her cover.

And a News 1 reporter with an inch of make-up on his face was called out as a little bit of a fraud.

5 a.m.: Getting into disguise

I wake in the dark, put on a fitted black skirt, to the knee.  I look at my dogwalking shoes – can I get away with wearing them? I can’t afford to get arrested – I have to go to work at noon, and may need to do some running to evade the police. I reach for some pearls, step into heels. Then I realize I probably need to shave off that 4 months of hair on my legs, too.

Downstairs I run, to unlock my massive bike chain and skim down the street, pedal by pedal in my precarious heels. Soon I am flying over the Brooklyn Bridge as dawn rises, the pink financial district nearing by the millisecond.

7:30 a.m.: Trading places

We converge at the Staten Island Ferry terminal, and then, holding aloft flourescent green and pink signs reading “Wall Street, the business of extinction”, and “System change, not climate change,” the Eco Block sings and skips our way down the streets. We near the center of power, lickety split.

Many of us are in our Wall Street best, dressed as the 1%. We know that from all directions, dozens of us, if not more, will go undetected.

There on Broad Street looms the Stock Exchange, its pillars swathed with the broad striped flag. Leaning against a delivery van, a guy with a semi-scruffy look is taking photos of a checkpoint blocking the way to Wall Street.

It dawns on me that I know this guy. “Zach?” I venture. He puts his camera down and his photographers’ look of concentration gives way. Yes, it’s Zach, one of my former “clients”, a nice guy who owns a nice chocolate lab named Umphrey. I was his dogwalker last year.

“I can’t get to work!”, he snickers.

“And where’s that?”, I ask.

“On the 30th floor, up there.” He points to the building just adjacent to the Stock Exchange.

“What do you do?”

“I work in finance.”

Probably because of his telltale beard, they cast him to the street like riffraff. Yet I actually sneak through a checkpoint nearby.

It’s absurd. I don’t have anything planned for this moment. I never thought they’d actually let me through. So I walk around the Police State that is the financial district this September morning, taking pictures of the long lines of Wall Street workers waiting to show their IDs at every juncture.

The police do our job for us – disrupting “business as usual.”

10:45 a.m.: Cover, blown

Several hundred people sit crosslegged in a circle, watching a puppet show like children enthralled. Faces old and young, striking and plain, are all lit with wonder and whimsy, sharing in the magic. The puppets tuck themselves away, a different kind of sharing set to begin: a Speak Out.

Then someone introduces Cheri Honkala and Jill Stein of the Green Party, and Honkala steps up to speak at Bowling Green. Neither celebrities nor politicians are to be privileged to rise above or attract more attention than anyone else. Stein is welcome to speak, but so is everyone else.

Yet the Speak Out is not happening as planned. Behind-the-scenes confusion breaks out (except right in front of everybody). Time is running out.

Jill Stein’s “handler” Kate, though young and lovely, looks pale, lined and distraught. She points at a woman standing behind Jill Stein, whose eyes are utterly obscured behind black bug-eyed hipster sunglasses. “This woman has been following us from engagement to engagement.”

Without thinking, I reach out. One hand instinctively lights on the “disrupter’s” tattoed shoulder. I ask what’s wrong.

“I want to speak! Politicians are speaking, and I’m an anarchist, and I can’t speak? Look at all these white women.” I agree with her that that’s not how things should go, that this is supposed to be a Speak Out, but things have gone screwy and time has stolen away. A nearby “friend” starts reasoning with her, but though she is being helpful, I don’t trust her. She seems a bit rehearsed.

“Why are you smiling at me like that, patronizing me in that white-woman-way. Take your hands off me.” I look away to face her companion, who is repeating that I am patronizing them with my smile. “I probably am,” I admit, thinking that a different kind of entitlement is at work here. I look back at Stein, who is wrapping up.

THEN IT HAPPENS. “If you don’t take your hands off of me right now…”, the bug-eyed eyeless hipster-punk growls, as two puppeteers holding a banner look on.

“Take your hands off of me or I’ll arrest… you.”

She falls silent. She’s said it as if she has said it many times before.

Her companion takes a deep breath.

“Ah, you’re doing a great job!” I smile snidely. “Or actually, come to think of it, you just fucked up, didn’t you, now?” And then, “I understand, you’re ‘just doing your job.’” Why do a lot of people become cops, I think, but because they felt powerless at some point in their lives. Threatened by my calm, or maybe genuinely triggered by my white, privileged, patronizing attitude, she’s reverted to cop mode to regain control.

“She’s not a cop,” says her friend, perturbed.

“No anarchist has it in them to say, ‘Get your hands off me or I’ll arrest you.’” I said. “Not even anarchists losing their minds.”

“She didn’t say that,” denies her friend, seemingly unconvinced by her own words. The bystanders, two puppeteers holding a banner, scoff.

“Yes,” affirms one of the puppeteers resolutely, but with the objective air of a witness on a stand. “Yes, she did say that.”

They drop it, don’t fight. “Let’s go,” the “friend” shrugs at the undercover cop. “This is bullshit.”

Never been so obvious and stupid as it was at that moment, my friends.

11:25 a.m. Unmasked

The people at Bowling Green have dispersed. People dressed as polar bears roll up dirty banners and head back to the storage unit, as everyone else convenes at Battery Park for the Action Spokes. The plaza in front of the Museum of the American Indian is close to empty.

A cameraman from NY1 sets up his shot, a shot looking out over a nondescript street with no significant backdrop save a lady with a pug-dog in a bicycle basket. The basket is a bed of fake flowers, and one of the synthetic, dusty, faded daisies crowns the pug’s ears.

I am highly attuned to their decision to shoot after the action is over. They have such a fantastic range of visuals to work with – the steps of the museum, the park that is Bowling Green, the Charging Bull sculpture, but instead, they focus on the distant blur of a gaggle of people across the street, and a bleak empty space.

With a sandwich in one hand, I hike up my skirt and swing my leg over my bikeframe, flashing someone for sure. Heel by heel I position my feet precariously on each pedal and, curious, wheel slowly behind the anchor, within the camera’s viewing range.

The anchor goes live: “People gathered here at 10 a.m. and nothing really happened, and then they left and went over there,” he says with a shake of the head. Rolling by one-handed while munching my sandwich, I declare, “That’s not true, there were 4,000 people here.” (There weren’t 4,000; forgive me, it is an impulsive moment.)

The cameraman’s face goes sour as he wraps up the live shot. The sound guy comes over calmly, and agrees, it’s true that sometimes some news-guys lie, but not this one. The anchor turns to me irate: “NOTHING happened here!”

“Sure, if you think that people taking a workday to assemble peacably and express their right to speak freely is ‘nothing’.”

“Ok but you’re messing with me as I am trying to do my job! I’m trying to work, here!”

“What does it mean to work as a journalist, if the result does not approximate the truth?” I ask him. I try to offer him an excuse: “Look, I get it, your producers aren’t interested unless there’s a violent conflict of some kind, there are arrests…”

He interrupts me: “I worked for FOX, but that’s not what’s going on here.”

“Alright, well our versions of the truth simply differ, then.”

The dude has makeup so thick, his pores scream to breathe. The closer I get, the more they enlarge, crying out for air, gasping, “must. escape. this mask!” His warm eyes can’t reconcile with that orange mask, as he insists he is one of the good guys, going after the truth. He does seem like a good guy. It’s true.

September 18th. Waking up

We all sleep a few extra hours. I am sure the reporter, the cop and the financial sector worker do too. It was a tiring Monday for us all.

In my morning daze, I realize none of us were as we seemed that day. We all were incognito.

The made-up NY1 reporter, the disguised financial sector worker, the undercover cop hidden behind sunglasses so big they obscured half her face. And me, the radical dogwalker, wearer of sensible shoes, in heels.

-Emma Said-

Posted in StoriesComments (0)

Post-strike. Post-modern. Post-mortem.

1.

After just one day, the strike seems like some strange, hazy thing that happened to other people. The scope and size and sizzle of it, the drumming singing dancing chanting rally cry, the physicality of it, the get in the streets aggressive civil disobedience of it, and the white lightning energy of the thing, it all seems like some rogue spirit of the 1960s that possessed us all for a few days and then floated on back to the historical ether.

I wake up at 5. I stretch, read, make breakfast porridge and drink coffee. Simone sits on my lap for a few minutes and we watch the sky lighten out the back windows. I brush my teeth, bike to work in a chilly wind that resists my pedaling the whole way.

The students are not resentful or angry. They’re happy. The parents don’t yell or throw things at us or even give us dirty faces. They say hello and wave and offer up big smiles. They’re happy, too.

I ascend the stairs to the library and shoot up the shades. A few things seem out of place, some of the chairs have been moved, but otherwise the library is unchanged.

The staff meets in front of the school, everyone wearing red. The idea was to re-begin the year with solidarity in our hearts. I’m late, and sort of half walk in with everyone else.

And just like that—as if the strike hadn’t happened—we’re back.

2.

I wanted to end my rambling essay on the strike with some killer writing, the same lived in attention to detail that consumed my thoughts during the strike.

But I can’t offer up the same minute to minute details, the conversations, my own drifting thoughts. I’m too tired, I’m preoccupied with my return to work, and the expositional needs of the wrap-up are many. Thousands of other writers can do this sort of thing better than me, but I lived through it, I’m up on the issues, and I’ve read much of the commentary, both before, during and after.

So here goes. The post-strike post-modern post mortem. Hold on to your butts.

The problems in Chicago’s public school system haven’t been fixed. The worst schools remain in the poorest neighborhoods. These are the schools that will, if the mayor gets his way and I have no reason to believe he won’t, be shut down. Charter schools will move in—often placed in the same building the old public school used to operate in—and the mayor can wash his hands of the whole affair.

Charter schools are held to lower standards; they often game the system by ejecting lower performing students and therefore appearing to do better than they actually do; and they are staffed almost uniformly by non-union teachers.

So the lowest educational areas in the city, which correspond to the poorest areas in the city, will have their children taught by teachers being paid less, in schools with less scrutiny, less support, and less state and federal funding.

And this is supposed to be a good thing.

It’s some type of bizarre shell game where everyone knows it’s rigged, but no one can quite figure out how the barker keeps up the con. Everyone knows this privatization thing is racist, but no one is quite sure how. It’s difficult to see through the murk. The “reforms” sound good, because if we call it reform—reform’s a good thing, right?—then we can ignore the racism made manifest by the mayor’s policies.

To his credit, the mayor I’m sure (mostly) believes that charter schools are the answer. But this is the scaffold—the howling crazy ghosts in the psychological sub-basement—that he’s bought into to protect his psyche from self-harm. (Mitt Romney has a similar scaffold in place, the idea that capitol should morally be taxed at a lower rate than labor. The fact that this moral good accrues millions of extra dollars a year to his bank account is simply a collateral benefit. His philosophy just happens to benefit him.)

But Rahm’s good intentions, and I’m being supremely generous here, mean nothing in the face of his hurtful policies.

He has powerful allies in this education reform movement, including the world’s richest man.

These bad guys rooting around in public education are a deep-pocketed and influential bunch. There are two major strands to these “reformers.” The first is the privatize everything people, such as the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom. These subscribers to the libertarian philosophy have a simple answer to all the world’s problems: privatize and let the free market do its moral magic. They cherry pick from history for examples of success, and totally ignore their horrifying, misery-inducing failures (Chile, Argentina, Zambia, Indonesia, the list goes on and on). Their answer to the problems of public education in the U.S.? Shockingly, privatize and let the free market do its moral magic. They want universal private school choice. They want nothing less than the total dismantling of public education. They want to plunge us even further into a corporate mindset, where everything runs on (a deeply flawed) cost/benefit analysis, everything except their own profits.

And they are called reformers.

The second group is the anti-union people, like StudentsFirst, led by Michelle Rhee. They are a well-funded lobbying group strangely obsessed with teacher tenure, seeing it as the major obstacle to students doing well. As opposed to smaller class sizes, access to cutting edge materials, or even pushing for teaching to be a professional advanced degree. Nope, just tenure. Get rid of it, pay teachers less, and the quality of education will improve. Dispose of tenure and pollution will decrease, worldwide unemployment will disappear and people will begin to read novels again.

3.

Back to Rahm, and his ease with the knock-around politics. The day we went back to school he began running ads saying that, because of the new contract, 100 to 150 neighborhood schools would have to close to pay for it. This is a cynical and disingenuous claim. One of the major reasons we went on strike in the first place was to protest the closing of neighborhood schools. (We used the aegis of teacher recall—where highly rated teachers from closed schools would have first crack at new job openings—as a way of addressing this issue. Like so many other things, we’re not allowed to strike over school closings.)

We expect cynicism from our politicians, but goddamn, this is extreme. Rahm is laying the blame on the teachers for bringing about the thing he’s been promising to do since elected. It’s heinous, and he should be lambasted for it. Plus, the money being spent on this tacky, public victory lap could pay for some of the very things we went on strike for to begin with.

“He won. He won. I love him,” C. says as we stand outside waiting for the official start time. The students know the drill. They stand near their lineup areas and listen to music through their handhelds, rap, pass gossip, flirt, inhabit the awkward end of adolescence with gaudy aplomb. A few wave, but most of the eighth graders try their best to look insouciant and uncaring.

C. is our security guard. He’s conservative politically but in an unpredictable way. Two weeks earlier he confessed to me that he hated the mayor. That he said “screw you,” to him at some Puerto Rican fundraiser. So this newfound love is a put-on, a gag, a dig. He loves to watch me get annoyed when he says a bunch of nonsense. “He’s going to close all those schools,” C. says.

“You don’t even like Rahm,” I say as Daryl laughs.

“I love him,” C. says. “He won. He beat the teachers. Ha!”

“Those neighborhoods will have to organize and protest,” I say. “We can’t use the strike to save them all. It’s too large and unwieldy a weapon.”

“You guys should have kept the strike going,” C. says, in a moment of rare candor. “Maybe you could have helped keep those schools open.”

“Maybe,” I say.

4.

It’s late and a school night and instead of reading or writing or watching a movie I foolishly begin reading various news agency’s response to the strike. It is a profound waste of time. Very few people seem to understand the core issues. Numbers are misrepresented. The union gave huge concessions on some issues that people outside of education don’t understand. For instance, we can now only bank up to 40 sick days. After that, we aren’t paid for them, they just disappear. This is fine, but if a teacher misses a day, the system has to pay a substitute to do the job. Even strong substitute teachers—not so rare but not so common either—create a disruption in the classroom.

So a teacher missing a day costs the city extra money and hurts the students, if only in small ways. So teachers should be encouraged not to take sick days. The old way had problems, too, I admit; some teachers would save up a year’s worth of sick days and then take the payout of those days at their retirement, at a much higher rate. I don’t advocate this, either. My point is now teachers have to use them or lose them. CPS has incentivized teachers into taking their sick days, instead of offering a reward to teachers who don’t take them. And the hidden costs of substitute teachers—not figured into any budget that I know of—is real.

The union also signed on to a health initiative. Every month I have to click a button on a website that says I’m physically active. If I forget, I get fined fifty bucks. This applies to Beth, too, as she’s on my insurance, and will apply to Simone at some point. We were given the opportunity to opt out of this health initiative—I don’t know why they don’t call it what it is, a monthly fine—for a flat rate of $600.

We also fought for textbooks for the students on the first day of school and smaller class sizes, both of which, incidentally, make students learn better. Are we praised for our attempts to help our students? No. In fact, the web chatter holds this against us, too, saying that we don’t really care about the students, we just put this language in there as window dressing.

We took merit pay off the table, thank god. We also reduced the evaluative power of standardized test scores. “Reformers” see the testing as a metric to see if a teacher is effective. Teachers see the testing as a biased and unreliable waste of time. It can only gauge a narrow range of things, and even these it does poorly. Finally, merit pay necessarily punishes teachers who choose to work in tougher areas of the city. Even testing student growth in some part of the city, where students experience immense regression over the summers, is biased and unfair.

Anyway, here’s a roundup of the first blast of critics, bloviators, and blowhards.

Stuffed shirt James Warren—of Newsweek (a magazine which, as I wrote in an earlier post, used far-right National Review editor Rob Long! to write about the teachers’ strike), and the Daily Beast— hides beneath a measured tone while giving a skewered view of the strike fallout. He calls the union “change-resistant.” He says that “reform” groups, and there’s that word again, were disappointed with the contract. He argues that the system has to shrink else it isn’t sustainable. He provides arguments that appear to be logical, but they aren’t. He is echoing Emanuel. The city is broke, the school system is too expensive, the teachers should feel lucky they have jobs. He reveals his hand, however, when he promulgates the bright and shining lie with this whopper: “The teachers, who now average about $74,000 a year and cost the system in the vicinity of $100,000 with benefits, will continue to ravenously suck up most of the system’s cash.”

My God, the horror.

First off, this number is flawed. It involves the pension pickup—imagine if someone factored in some of your future social security as part of your pay (and most Chicago teachers know that the pension money won’t all be there in twenty years)—and is still inflated. We should make this much, but most teachers don’t. I’ve heard the reason this number is so high is CPS is gaming its own system by including administrators who have teaching degrees into the average teacher pay. (They earn much higher salaries, in the $125,000+ range.) In fact, the average pay being reported is sneaking up. Two separate sources yesterday said that the average teacher salary in Chicago, under the new contract, will be $100,000. I wish someone would tell my bank account.

Second, and when sober Warren would admit as much—if he could pause from kissing his own rectum for a few seconds to open his syphilitic eyes—public school teachers are not rich. Most teachers work a second job in the summer or teach summer school. Many (I’m tempted to say most, at least at my school this is the case) teachers have to augment their salaries with after school tutoring. How many people in the city of Chicago, making $76,000, have to work a second job?

Warren’s line of thinking is hugely problematic, but I’ll only focus in on this. The city offers tax breaks to enormously wealth businesses—as well as tif money legally skimmed off the public education tax money, the real vacuum ravenously sucking up the system’s cash—to stay in Chicago, but gripes over modest pay raises for teachers working at advanced degrees within their profession. Utter madness. It’s blame the teachers all over again, ignoring the fact that the worst schools are in the bad neighborhoods, and the schools in the wealthier areas rank up as some of the best in the state.

If you want to throw up in your mouth, read it here.

The BBC gets much closer to the reasons behind the strike, placing the whole thing in an international context. Check it out.

Slate is right on the money as to why Chicago’s system is struggling, and if you’re only going to read one article, read this one.

And the Socialist Worker, which I never read, delivers up a hearty humming pump your first in the air victory lap on the strike here.

And after reading these articles and more, after a bout of angry dyspepsia and a spike in my blood pressure, after getting the taste of self-righteous blood in my mouth, I was no better informed, nor was I happier, so around midnight I had to let the whole thing go and try to drift off to sleep.

5.

One thing I learned from the strike is that we are, as a country, starved for causes to fight for. There’s a notion that all the worthwhile battles have been won. This with systematic voter disenfranchisement and the re-segregation of our public schools happening right out in front of our eyes and out in the open.

We haven’t progressed. We’ve regressed.

We’re backsliding. We’re teetering. We’re fragmenting. We’re fighting battles we thought were won back in the 1950s.

We’ve tricked ourselves into thinking the world is a better place. The technological bells and whistles have consistently blinded us to the misery most of the world lives with every day. Worse, the technological bread and circuses have blinded us to the blight and poverty and destitution in our own country, in our own backyards.

We’ve confused entertainment with quality of life.

We have Dwight Eisenhower reincarnate as the president and his challenger paints him as some fire-breathing Marxist.

A sensible healthcare overall, where individual risk can be sublimated and shared by everyone and save money in the process, is libeled with death panels and socialism.

After the worst oil spill in history blankets the Gulf Coast with toxic oil, people living in these ruined coastal towns call for less regulations.

Briefly, the strike awakened the community-minded little radical that lives in my chest. (He fights with the tiny libertarian who hammers away at my spleen.) Every teacher I spoke with saw the strike in terms of inequality and civil rights. In the streets and on the picket lines, we felt like we could change the world. The marching and the rallies and the political social economic arguing and the process felt so vibrant and alive.

I just don’t know if the civic awareness of the strike, the progressive spirit, can be replicated. I’m too busy, we’re all too busy, there’s so little time to sit and think.

6.

It’s night and Beth knocks over a half-full bottle of olive oil onto the kitchen floor. The crash startles Simone. Beth cannot pick up the glass without first cleaning up the olive oil; its slick, viscosity makes it almost impossible to sweep up the shards of glass. But she cannot clean the olive oil up until she has removed all the glass; the glass is sharp, and cuts one of her fingers. She leans over the lime green pool of liquid creeping towards the wall. The situation seems hopeless.

“Mommy, why’d you knock that over? Come on, mommy,” Simone says.

Beth gingerly wipes at the spill with old rags. She then tosses them into a large black plastic bag. It’s arduous work, and Beth soon is angry. Simone keeps saying, “Mommy, why’d you do that? That wasn’t smart.” I’m holding the black plastic bag, waiting, trying not to laugh at Simone’s commentary while Beth grows more and more annoyed. I offer to help but Beth wants to clean it up herself. I understand, but I’m forced to watch, and listen to Simone gripe about the mess.

We can’t fix the school system until we fix poverty. And we can’t fix poverty, without first fixing the (poorer schools in the) school system. It’s the chicken and the egg. The oil and the glass. There isn’t an easy solution, there can’t be. People saying otherwise haven’t worked at the frontline, in the classrooms.

Like healthcare, we have two public school systems in our country. One is top notch, the best in the world, churning out the best and brightest, super-educated people to the top schools in the country who go on to become professors and writers and scientists and experts and lawyers and bankers and the like. The other is squalid and miserable, a failed social experiment that loses students to the streets and graduates others at excruciatingly low reading levels and doesn’t have textbooks or computers or even enough desks and it’s a simple containment system in the worst schools, the students are being sent to keep them from committing crimes in nicer neighborhoods, and the explanation for this tiered system is the explanation for everything bad in this country, the soul-destroying condition of poverty.

To speak of the failures of Chicago public schools without discussing poverty and racism is to deal with the effects while ignoring the cause.

7.

It’s now eight days after the strike and I’m still holding onto the anger. The mayor continues to run his attack ads blaming us for the strike and for the upcoming school closings. The papers continue to inflate our salaries and deflate our accomplishments. If the trend continues, soon our average salary will be $250,000. Every public school teacher has a company car, unlimited paid passage on international flights, a new designer wardrobe every six months.

Inside the schools, we bustle about with the demands of the job and an internal, self-righteous ire. Outside, we move through a constant harangue, with resentment in our hearts.

I started yelling on the sidewalk today, yelling at people who were agreeing with me. The political undercurrents of the strike damaged one very close relationship and put a strain on half a dozen others. Most of my family and friends stayed quiet on the issue, leaving me alone. A wise decision.

“I’m glad I’m on your side,” my neighbor says, and moves along.

And again I’m slowly pulled back into the rancorous web ether. One article after another misrepresents the teachers’ union. Now we’ve ruined the city. Now we’ve bankrupted the state. Now we’ve quadrupled the national debt. Now we’ve assassinated half of the United Nations and dumped arsenic into Canada’s water supply. Now we’ve detonated a nuclear weapon in the New York subway system. Now we’ve released some anti-life sickness into the Milky Way and negated all of existence.

Time to put the thing to bed. I’ve written enough about politics. My dark imagination wants to run rampant, untethered by facts. (I’d make a good politician.) I don’t like it, I don’t like the factual demands. It’s elongated my anger. I’ve been too preoccupied to do the type of writing that makes me feel alive.

So my coverage of the Chicago teachers’ strike hath ended.

Go now and weep no more.

The strike is over. Long live the strike.

Posted in StoriesComments (0)

Massive Debt and No Job to Justify It

I received a B.A. in English and communication in 1999.  I couldn’t find any work except for sporadic temping, and by 2001, I was no longer able to find any of that, no matter how many staffing agencies with which I enrolled.  I had to file for bankruptcy in 2001, which left me only the student loan debt.

In 2003, I moved from Indianapolis to New York to begin a master’s program in cinema and media, graduating in 2005.  A week after I graduated, I had to call an ambulance, because I couldn’t get out of bed other than to roll out and crawl to where my phone was charging.  I was diagnosed with scoliosis, multiple herniated discs, and sciatica in both legs.  I had been suffering form chronic foot pain (finally diagnosed as plantar fasciitis in 2011), already affecting the sort of work I could do, since the mid-1990s. In 2009, I was 29 years old, and my regular doctor said that the only way I could have gotten through high school without the scoliosis diagnosis was through the incompetence of others.

At that point, I had to go on welfare, which is a slave labor scam, in which they force you to work or attend programs for 40 hours per week, paying you $36.50 for each of those weeks, paid in biweekly installments of $73.

By January 2007, I was working again.  My total student debt burden was $58,000 after consolidation, but my job paid $8.50 an hour, and lasted only 13 months.  During that time, my father passed away, and left me $37,000, but given the nature of my training and my lack of a vehicle, I chose to remain in New York City.  I eventually found a $30/hour teaching job in 2009, but it was 2.5 hours per week.  I was not retained after completing the terms of the contract because they were dissatisfied with the results after throwing me into a classroom with a textbook and a confusing syllabus that I kept questioning them about for weeks and weeks, then when the class was nearly over, they told me what I should have been doing, which they had never previously bothered to tell me no matter how much I asked, insisting that my education meant that I knew the material, even though I never knew what the material they wanted taught was, and teaching from the textbook chapter by chapter was g
oing faster than they intended, and I was too inexperienced to determine wht my students’ difficulties were.

From there, I was out of work until I work from home job that I landed in September of 2010, but was let go after three months because I had a slow computer, and with an $8 an hour salary, could not possibly afford to replace.  From there, I got tutoring work for $15 an hour, but never got more than 12 hours per week (and usually less, due to frequent cancellations), no matter how much I asked for more work.

By this point, my savings were gone, and I was about to get evicted.  A friend hired me at $12 an hour, 30 hours per week, or $18,400 per year, but when she realized that I needed marketing training to do what she wanted from me, she let me go.  The job allowed me to get a one-shot deal to keep me in my apartment, but now again without a job, I was headed straight back to housing court.

Almost immediately, I was hired by a graduate school colleague, who had me working from home, but refused to pay me unless he got usable results.  He then claimed that he had work for me in Jacksonville, Florida.  He told me he would give me $18,000 for the first three months, after which he would give me a raise, a relocation bonus, and health insurance, so I moved all belongings into storage and went, completely unable to stand without a cane by the time I finished loading it.  The job was nowhere close to what he described, and after 3.5 months, he fired me for taking four hours to return a phone call on a Saturday, stiffing me for the entire previous week.  I then contracted strep throat and had to go to the emergency room.

Soon after, I was on my way back to New York, but none of my friends could accommodate me for very long, and I was forced into the shelter system, even though I was granted $126 per week in unemployment benefits, since it’s not enough to live on, and I had penalty weeks, as well.

I learned recently that I have nearly $300 in tax debts due to a miscalculation in 2009, proving Mitt Romney’s 47% claim false, since I have never earned a total yearly income above the poverty line and owe income taxes.  I also owe nearly $300 because Shands Hospital rejected my New York state Medicaid; therefore, they are still trying to pursue me.  My student loan debt is expected to be $87,000 by the time I pay it off, but it seems like it will never happen when I have to keep getting it deferred.  I also owe another $3,000 for my old apartment, since I had a lease, and Verizon and ConEdison are continuing to hound me, even though I contest the latter, charging me for time after I had moved away.  The debts really aren’t high enough to justify another bankruptcy, but thy are also impossible to pay until or unless I am able to get a job commensurate with my education.  I have applied for approximately 740 jobs between May 5, when I was let got from the job in Jacksonville,
and yesterday, September 24.  To date, I have interviewed with six companies, two staffing agencies, and a “business opportunity” to which the tutoring service supposedly recommended me, even though I had no money to pay the startup fees and have never last more than a few weeks in a sales job.  The vast majority of the time, I get no response, or a form letter that they have gone with someone who has more experience.  Even earning certifications in Adobe products has done nothing but get my foot in the door long enough for an interview with a company that finds my experience lacking.  I am being faulted for taking the only work made available to me.

Posted in Debt StoriesComments (0)

#S15 Day 1 of Build-up to #S17

Editorial note: This story was originally published at the author’s blog. Read the original post here.

New York, NY- My interest of discussion is in my observations of police-protester relations.

The first boiling point of this movement may come to fruition this weekend. There are many out-of-towners in NYC right now and many rookie cops have been placed on Occupy duty. The out-of-towners are really cool people but do not know how to react to police repression. Specifically, NYPD repression. As I’ve been in other cities I have noticed something of a mutual understanding between the police and protesters. In those places there is a feeling, from the police, of “Okay, you’re gonna protest, we gotta watch you, do you’re thing, be respectful, don’t go overboard, you can go in the streets if you’d like but just keep it moving, and tomorrow will be another day.” I say this in regards to their treatment of us, not in discussion of the multitudes of Police that have been assigned to escort us.

In New York the feeling from the Police is drastically different: “Listen, you’re gonna protest, and we really don’t care, but if you even come close to stepping out of line even slightly, because you’re Occupiers, we’re arresting your asses and then you can take it up with the judge.”

As another friend of mine put it the feeling outside of New York is “get off, Get off, GET OFF!” In New York the feeling is “FUCK! OFF!”

If you live in New York, typically you will understand how to deal with this. Meaning, you’ll be more compliant. You will march, and you will say your piece, but you don’t fuck around and you know the drill and how to not get arrested. If you’re not from New York, and MANY of us this weekend will NOT be, you will not understand this. The first natural instinct of many will be to push back, as was the first instinct of the original Zuccotti Park Occupiers before they learned the score and gained first hand experience of some of the crap that minorities go through on a daily basis.

I am glad to have them here and the anniversary wouldn’t be the same without them, but even from the first march I can see the out-of-towners escalate REALLY fucking quickly. I don’t mean to blame them either, they are used to dealing with police forces that have been trained to be more lenient. All I’m saying is… it will reach a boiling point. There were 1000 in town today. The anniversary is in 2 days. People have heard the stories of the Zuccotti Park encampment back when and have been eager to come to the start of it all. They have heard of the police brutality and some may have an itch to give the officers a piece of their minds.

Some of the police officers are rookies. Some of them have heard of Occupy and want to know more about it, some probably joined the force because they wanted to laugh at, or beat the shit out of Occupiers. Some joined for the paycheck. No matter what many have not had the experience needed to decipher when someone is just screaming, or when someone is about to get physical. Many of the newer officers might scare easier as well. We all know how wonderful it can be for someone with military training, pepper sprays, and batons to get scared… On the plus side I highly doubt they will use their guns (I’m serious about that and thankful, it’s extremely unlikely they’ll pull their guns).

No matter what the background, rest assured folks, this weekend will get Occupy back on the map. I think it might also make the NYPD look like one of the worst trained police forces in the country…

As a journalist, I’m looking forward to this. As a person, and a friend of many Occupiers… I’m not…

- StopMotionSolo

Posted in StoriesComments (0)

Lady, We Don’t Even Have Charges for That!

New York, NY–It had been 72 hours since I had a good night’s sleep. Power naps between meetings had become routine,  fatigue was setting in but none of that mattered. It was Monday, September 17th.

My comrades and I had decided to gather extra early to allow time for prep and a good meal. 5am came quickly and by 6 we were on our way into the bowels of Manhattan.

Having dedicated much of my time over the past few weeks to the Education Zone with my affinity group All In The Red, Harrison and I made our way to South Street Seaport, careful to keep our eyes open. A small crowd had amassed by 6:30 and by 7am. After a short strategic review, our group seemed excited and prepared to face the day.

The following hour and twenty four minutes seemed to play in both slow motion and fast forward. Time frozen and flashing before my eyes. Then my arms were behind my back and I was being slammed into a concrete wall. Again.

“Am I being detained?” I screamed.

Hula hoops falling to the sidewalk. Clearly, I was being detained.

“Am I being detained?!” cameras came rushing.

“Shut the fuck up” I didn’t see his face.

“I do not consent to a search.”

“Do you want to make this difficult?”

Wrists twisting inside flexcuffs, backpack slipping from my shoulder, trapped. The weight immediately sent searing pain up my arms. All I could do was shake my head and keep my mouth shut; I have seen what they do to people who complain. Comrades caught my eye from across the street. I motioned that I was okay and to contact the NLG.

Just as soon as it began.

8:24 am.

I was in flexcuffs, with my hoops, in the back of a NYPD van.

To my surprise the following hour was spent reasonably comfortable. Air conditioning, Prince sing-a-longs and real conversations about mutual aid were the last things I expected when I was shoved in that van, but thankfully the first things I received. My “arresting officers” were actually School Safety Uniformed Division Officers, admitting themselves they would rather “be dealing with real crime”. Completely out of their element in lower Manhattan, they eventually started asking me for directions. I kept quiet and enjoyed the temperature-controlled view of the 99 Revolutions. Heart growing with pride, we pulled it off!

After what seemed like hours we arrived at 55 Water, where my van had been sent to pick up “the other prisoners.” Little did I know that as I was being moved between vans, my photo was being taken by a CNBC journalist–hoops and all. The caption would later read “Additionally: hula hoops confiscated”

From 55 Water, van fresh with new (political) “prisoners” we were transported to 1PP for processing. Each “prisoner” had their possessions tagged and photo taken, affixed with a “mass arrest” sticker and placed in a holding cell determined by gender discrimination.

To my pleasure my colleague at Occupied Stories, Julia, was in the same intake cell along with some other familiar faces. It’s always comforting to go through times like these with friends. After additional paperwork and a denied phone call, I was transferred to a concrete holding cell with four other women. A steel platform with dirty blue gym mats hung from the wall and the air reeked of piss. This was my home for the next 10 hours.

BUT WE OCCUPIED THE SHIT OUT OF IT! We shared stories, everyone having a good laugh when I told them how my “arresting officer” wanted to cut my cuffs: “What am I supposed to say? Prisoner did obstruct pedestrian and vehicular traffic with a hula hoop performance? We don’t have charges for this shit.” We stood shoulder to shoulder forming our own “Pee-poles Wall” singing “Solidari-pee Forever” whenever a sister had to use the facilities. It’s amusing to me that after all this time the NYPD still thinks arrest will drive us away from the movement. Some of the strongest bonds I have made since coming to Occupy have been forged in a jail cell.

The final hours of waiting passed painfully slow. I answered questions to the best of my knowledge, having taken some Legal training courses in the event that something like this would happen and I tried to keep everyone in the cell calm and comfortable. Unfortunately, there is only so much that can be done before the madness of a cage sets in. Catching a glimpse of my arresting officer down the hallway I called out to him, my new-found best friend, even offering a birthday card in exchange for my release.

It was roughly 6pm when the key turned in the lock of the cell door. Finally. As he led me down the corridor towards release the men’s cell erupted! Weaving through hands banging on plexiglass, the faces of my male comrades began to emerge. All of them making the same hand motion, a heart. We were all in it together.

After another processing and paperwork line I could finally see daylight, along with my hoops! Once one of the officers realized that I was “The Hula Hoop Girl” his coworkers were talking about all day, he immediately asked me to “do some tricks.” I couldn’t help but oblige as I walked through the gates of 1PP and into the arms of my jail support team. The only people left on the sidewalk.

-Nicole Rose-

Posted in StoriesComments (0)

Vets and Collection Agencies

I gave this idea to Senator Sherrod Browns staff and I was told the idea has merit, and since then follow-up inquiries are met with silence.

I proposed that it’s immoral and unethical to refer a medical bill to a collection agency incurred by any veteran when that debt is being submitted to, in process of or in appeal with V.A. Fee Basis. I have such debt. Fee Basis, like most of the V.A., is an overloaded agency. Bills submitted there can take 6 months to a year or more, same with the appeal process. In the meantime the collection agency is harassing the vet weekly and reporting this to the Big Three credit bureaus.

It’s immoral and unethical to destroy the credit of a veteran incapable of defending themselves due to limited income: social security disability and V.A. compensation.

And another story:

Vets on V.A. Pension have it even worse. V.A. Pension is means-tested. I.E. the vet’s wife, husband or family cannot have any form of income or their pension is reduced by the equivalent amount. That enforces poverty and encourages cheating. I’ve seen vets commit suicide, get divorced, not be able to married, and be threatened by V.A. Pension and Compensation Department in Minneapolis.

I spoke out about this about 5 years ago. I was interviewed by a reporter. My photo was published in the Toledo Blade. I contacted congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. At first she showed great interest but the story didn’t serve to further her political career, so she refused to speak any further to me. I tried and tried to contact Mr. Kucinich and failed.

Thanks for listening.

-Sharon-

Posted in Debt StoriesComments (0)