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From Mic Checks to Privilege Checks

How Occupy fails to address (straight, white, male) privilege

Editors’ note: This piece originally appeared at Anarchy Isn’t Easy.

I didn’t think Occupy would accomplish anything when I first started working with the movement. I didn’t think it would last longer than a day. There were individual friendships but no group solidarity what-so-ever at any of those early meetings before September 17th 2011, and in many ways there still isn’t. We didn’t really start supporting one another and working together until the NYPD brutalized us into cohesion last fall and the truth of Occupy is that we consistently stop supporting one another and working together whenever the NYPD stop brutalizing us. The most frequent, consistent and symbolically violent attack made by Occupiers upon other Occupiers within this movement is the ironic demand to “check your privilege.” The concept of privilege as it is used in this phrase refers to the social advantages that certain straight white men enjoy over other individuals of other orientations, ethnicity and genders. This concept also automatically and incorrectly implies that straight white men necessarily oppress other people who are not straight, white and male in order to maintain their privilege. This concept further and even more erroneously and dangerously implies that people who are less privileged than straight white men are incapable of oppressing others precisely because they are oppressed themselves, as if straight white men are the only ones capable of oppression. This essay isn’t about the kind of caucasian, male, hetero-normative privilege that I am supposed to check as much as it is about how the check itself is oppressive and how it ironically prevents an actual redistribution of privilege from ever occurring.

The practice of calling out the privilege of, and demanding that straight, male caucasions step back and give others–that is non-straight, male caucasions–the chance to speak isn’t considered and defined as divisive, exclusionary, let alone as discriminatory within Occupy due to the seemingly widely shared agreement within the movement that “reverse-racism,” or more descriptively perhaps, reverse-discrimination doesn’t exist: a myth which enables those without privilege to use their voice within Occupy to silence the voices of those who are perceived as possessing more privilege as if this’ll somehow enable the voices of those who are more marginalized to be better heard. A privilege check isn’t really a demand to be silent as much as it is a demand for a masochistic confession of guilt from the privileged so that the oppressed might momentarily reverse the hierarchy of oppression and egotistically experience what Nietzsche called the “pleasure of mastery” via “the pleasure of violation.” The chatter of the confession, however ironically, ensures that privileged occupiers wind up speaking more than marginalized occupiers if the bait is swallowed.

My objective however isn’t to argue that discrimination against those who are perceived to benefit from conventional discrimination is still discrimination, or even that occupiers checking each other’s privilege is bitterly prejudicial not to mention discriminatory, as much as it is to argue that privilege checks are an unfortunate, redundant, counterproductive, self-defeating waste of collective time, energy and sacrifice. Devoting all of my time, energy, material resources, and commodifiable skills towards an advertising career, finishing my research and PhD, and/or charming my way into some rich girl’s family would’ve been a more reliable way to have furthered my own privilege compared to working with Occupy over the past twenty-two months. I’ve knowingly ruined my chances at any sort of career in spite of the fact that I’m drowning in student, medical, credit-card debt and IRS. I’ve made a generous sacrifice of blood for the movement last summer in Chicago and I’ve sacrificed a digital strategy job and therefore my home for the past eight years as well I fear in order to work with Greenpeace this summer. I have checked my privilege, my social advantages over and over again.

I’m Oneida according to my mother who I lived with during the school week. A direct descendent of the rouge tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy who had been practicing democracy in America long before it ever became the United States of America. The Oneida are perhaps best known for keeping George Washington and his army from dying of starvation at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778. They were attacked by the rest of the Iroquois after the Revolutionary War ended, Washington set aside some land for them which was encroached upon in subsequent generations, and many of them moved to a reservation in Wisconsin, and from there into the racial ghettos of the city of Milwaukee, from which my family managed to move into a working class suburb of Polish-Americans which prided itself on educating some of it’s children into middle-class workers. The white people of this town neither perceived, nor treated me as white. They would tell me I was Indian as their sadistic children harassed and attacked me in one way or another on what seemed like a daily basis. They knew I was Indian (as opposed to Oneida) because I tried to learn the language, a traditional pow-wow dance style and lacrosse in order to fit in with the sadistic children from the rest and the Indian Community of Milwaukee who would tell me I was white when they attacked and harassed me.

Racially oppressed people of all varieties can and do oppress other people precisely in order to feel less oppressed themselves via ‘the pleasure of violation’ and racial oppression, much like rape, is something which unfortunately occurs between friends, family, and acquaintances more so than total strangers. The police used to beat my step-father long before I became his first son and they would needlessly search through his car and question him in front of his children even after he got too old for beatings. He used to call me “Casper the Friendly Ghost” because of how white my skin is. My mother recalls deliberately ignoring the way he would deliberately neglect to give me anything to eat, not because he hated me or was consciously trying to punish me but because he loved me and because shit always rolls down-hill after it’s been eaten recycled. He would grab my head and fart in my face so often that I grew up under the impression that this was socially acceptable.

The means of oppression in my father’s house on the weekends with him, my stepmother and the gay artist she had been married to before he had died of the AIDS virus was a bit less complicated and tended to revolve around spoiling and guilt, privilege indeed more so than neglect and degradation.

I was but I wasn’t Oneida in my father’s house, just like I was and wasn’t Oneida in my mother’s house. I’m too Oneida to ever be white but too white to ever be Oneida. My mother tells me that things have changed and that Oneidas look like whites, African-Americans, Hispanics and even Asian folks these days but my identity will never be acknowledged in the minds of world that can’t think about American Indians without also thinking about head-dresses and whooping calls, and this unfortunately, ironically, includes the #OWS community of NYC, which of course prides itself on combating such ignorance. Being told to check my privilege or to step back and let someone else speak up after throwing on a suit and challenging stereotypes on MSNBC or Fox reminded me of being harassed by Indians at weekend pow-wows even though challenging stereotypes about Indians was something I had to do daily at school.

I wouldn’t have joined Occupy in the first place had I not already been painfully aware, not only of the vast inequities in the distribution of wealth and privilege but also how these inequities ruin the chances of every individual in this society from living out their specific version of a fulfilling life. My critical consciousness and awareness of privilege and oppression is far more advanced than that of anyone in this movement morally sadistic enough to demand anyone else to check their privilege and I am far too outraged to patiently elucidate the ironies of oppression to the hypocrites of this movement, even though I know that I must rise above my rage in order to truly be a change that I would like to see. Anyone who has come to Occupy to listen and to be listened to has effectively engaged in a privilege checking process by virtue of collective participation itself, and any demands made on that individual by another individual to check their privilege while in midst of collective processes is essentially the same thing as halting the movement of the whole heard so as to beat a once lame dead horse.

The first time I was publicly told to check my privilege wasn’t because I talked about Occupy on a few cable news networks but because I found and reported that well over 70% of the followers on occupywallst.org were white/Caucasian and I’ve since seen the same trend not only on follow up surveys on st.org but also on peoplebrowsr gender breakdowns of all the big Occupy twitter hashtags. All the pages and channels I have access to, including Facebook Insights and YouTube analytics, confirm the same trend, and all of this raises an important question relevant to a critical discussion of privilege in Occupy Wall Street. Who is Occupy Wall Street? The individuals who work within the movement and who represent spectra of genders, ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, and educational experiences and political intentions? Or is it the people who consume the news we produce because they want to know what we have to say? They appear to be overwhelmingly single, heterosexual, white, angry males who can’t earn enough to pay off all of their debts like white males are supposed to be able to.

The answer to this question hardly seems to matter however given that both groups should at least in theory be working together if this truly is a movement of the 99%. Telling predominantly white males, assumingly educated enough to know about privilege, and likely single precisely because they’re broke and in debt that they should check their privilege will only alienate them away from the movement, make it smaller, weaker, slower and prevent the sharing of privilege, or a flow of mutual empowerment from occurring between individuals which in turn will not create any kind of social movement capable of creating the massive redistribution of wealth necessary to abolish the inequalities in privilege by distributing ever more of it to those who have need of it.

-Harrison Schultz-

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We Are the 6%

Brooklyn, NY–I felt extremely empowered at the March 15th Rally against the 6% budget cuts, yet at the same time I’m profoundly sad, a little frightened and very worried that we live in a society and a culture that can shun and throw away disabled people like my brother Stephen, the poor, the working class, yet celebrate the rich, wealthy and moronic celebrities. How is it that in America, my country that I love and served in the Military (U.S. Army) to protect, has become a place where the poor and disabled have to fight for the basic dignities of life, whereas the Koch Brothers, Mayor Bloomberg, Rockefellers, Bushes, Rupert Murdoch, and the 1% are automatically entitled to not only the basics but even the small luxuries that should be available to all Americans? Disability rights and activism is also part of the Gospel of Inclusion. We refuse to go back to the days when developmentally and physically disabled children and adults were hidden away in attics or cast into torture chamber institutions never to be seen or heard from. Let’s view disability in a different light as being differently abled, not less than but a person with unique and special abilities.

It’s a crying shame the way we’ve devalued people with disabilities! We should have an allegiance to our most vulnerable populations, especially the disabled. It’s scary to see things moving backwards. I don’t want to see my brother Stephen warehoused in some institution. Willowbrook was a living nightmare for developmentally disabled people and a true disgrace. However each of us has to stand up and fight. I, Stephen and four van loads of his fellow residents went up to Albany on Tuesday in all that pouring rain to face off our elected officials. I’m doing my part to make sure the disabled are not cast aside like garbage on the trash heap. We need more alternative voices. We all must speak up. The rally more than proved that for me. We must not be lulled into apathy and compliancy by fear or the right wing media. We need to return to the civil disobedience of Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parks.

One of my girlfriends from the Bronx informed me that I made the 11pm Channel 7 Eyewitness news and on the local Bronx Cable station. I believe that God hears the cries of his children especially the disabled and he will turn Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s heart towards us and restore the 6% budget cuts. Faith without works is dead. We have to make our government accountable to our most vulnerable citizens and for all Americans. Protest. March. Advocate. Be an Activist. Indifference equals death to our basic rights and freedoms. Be the solution and make it so!

-Deborah Ann Palmer-

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The Theft of Everyone’s Home: A Personal Account of the Fall of #FuerzaHernandez

Los Angeles, California–At 4:30 am on December 27, 2012, over 200 members of “Law Enforcement”, including some 50 LA county sheriffs deputies, and more than 150 LAPD officers descended on 14620 Leadwell St. in Van Nuys. They brought with them the implied violence of firearms, armored vehicles, tear gas and full riot gear, all to throw one family out into the street and end the longest post-eviction foreclosure defense in California history.

That morning, on Sherman Way and Van Nuys Blvd., one block away from the Hernandez home, a homeless woman was set on fire at the bus bench that had been her spot for years. Even though 200 sworn officers were just down the block, a civilian had to chase down the attacker, and hold him for 30 minutes till the police arrived because the police were too busy with their eviction plan to make more people homeless.

Even though we had known this moment was coming for the last 124 days, as the 30 of us were led into the chill of the early morning air at gunpoint past the seemingly endless lines of nervous cops equipped with shotguns and bulletproof vests, I could not help but be surprised at the extreme response to what had been an entirely peaceful protest. I shouldn’t have been. Having been involved in many police incited confrontations on the streets of downtown LA, I should have been well aware that the first response of the reactionary monied class to any attempt by the people to enforce their basic human rights is to criminalize us, using the very agencies we pay for to deny us our rights. But still, the response was, in a word, overkill.

Despite the direct and obvious evidence of fraud on the part of Countrywide and BOA presented by the Hernandez family, both directly to the police and in court, our elected officials spent nearly half a million dollars in public money to harass, patrol, surveill and criminalize an innocent family, simply to evict them from a house with a market value of barely $260,000. I remember thinking, how, in a country where vacant homes outnumber homeless people 5 to 1, in a city where hundreds of thousands of people sleep on the streets every night, is this ridiculous waste of public funds even slightly justifiable?

The pigs finally shuffled us out from behind the police lines and into the parking lot of the Lucky’s supermarket, which had recently closed down because of all the displacement in the area. Guadalupe Hernandez, who we had come to call Mama Lupe, stood on the sidewalk across Wynedote St. wrapped in a purple blanket, looking distraught, and shivering in the cold. Ulisses stood next to his mother, eyes fixed on the ground, the heat of his anger palpable in the early morning air, while Antonio and a few supporters mocked the police’s ridiculous show of force on live stream. But it was the look on Javier Hernandez’s face, that mixture of sorrow, guilt, and shock, as he took in the scene of his mother, brothers, and the rest of his newly adopted family, huddled with whatever meager possessions they had managed to save, that still haunts me to this day.

A gray Mustang followed by two U-Haul trucks pulled onto Wynedote and was stopped at the police line, until the driver announced that he was from the bank, and the jeering from our people began, at which point the police surrounded the car as if President Obama himself was inside. This served only to reinvigorate our makeshift clan of family members, houseless activists, and organizers, and shake us out of our dejection.

The rest of the morning was a blur of activity as our team sprang into action, testing the police lines, herding the media, and destroying the police’s credibility in front of the neighbors, our people were in rare form, and I was never more proud of them than in those immediate post eviction hours.

A little past 10am, after the U-haul trucks pulled away illegally carrying out the Hernandez families memories and possessions from their home of 7 years the sheriffs returned to their armored vehicles, patting themselves on the back for following orders, and we hoped they might hate themselves a little. The LAPD slinked wearily back to their patrol cars after a rough morning of oppressing the people behind them, and the neighbors finally poked their heads out of the houses only to be told to “get the fuck inside” by the pigs. Antonio and Javi led us back down Leadwell st, to the place that had, until that morning, been everyone’s home.

I walked a few steps behind Mama Lupe. The wooden barricade painted with the large letters “Government of for and by the people” had been replaced by a 12 foot chain link fence- how fitting. The banners reading “housing is a human right” and “Bank stolen property” were gone, replaced by a 2×2 foot sign, “For Sale, Ben Soifer Realty”. Mama Lupe sighed deeply to herself “Mi casa”, then looked around at her children, the ones she had given birth to, and those of us she had taken in over the last 4 months, we were dejected, depressed, powerless. Swallowing her own pain, Lupe did what needed to be done, what only a mother could do. She grabbed a lone metal lawn chair, left behind on the curb by the real estate company that had just stolen all of her earthly possessions, pulled it up in front of the fence, sat down, threw her fist high in the air, and proclaimed “La Fuerza Sigue!”, the strength continues.

Those words, spoken in the kind and powerful tones of her voice sparked something in those of us who couldn’t speak, nor think, nor do anything in that moment but silently stare at the ground and one another with confusion and sadness. It was as if the sun finally burst through the clouds after a rainstorm. A reminder of why we had come to Leadwell st in the first place, to empower the people. She continued, translating through Javier, “ Thank you all for all of your hard work. I love you all. Our fight isn’t over, it has just begun. Anyone else that needs help, we will be there to fight with them.” It was at this moment that the tears I had been repressing all morning finally pushed their way past my anger.

See, that’s what made #FuerzaHernandez, and the Hernandez family, so special. Not only was the one story house with the 9 foot painted barricade around it there to protect the Hernandez families human right to housing, and many houseless organizers and activists, it had become the unofficial heart of the local community. A place where children’s parties and know your rights classes were held, where tenants could go to learn how to fight their evictions, or neighbors could stop to have a friendly conversation. For 4 months, Van Nuys finally had a real community center. The Hernandez resistance served to inspire housing victims across the country, and presented a strong example of people coming together to fight an unjust system to the world. The Lucero family, of east LA, had also built a barricade to protect against their eviction, and as of this writing they are still standing strong 91 days after their November 4, 2012 eviction date. La fuerza sigue indeed.

But, not a day goes by that I don’t think of the look on Javi’s face on that cold December morning, looking at all of us with such sadness and guilt, as if he had failed us, when, the way I see it, it was the other way around. If the #FuerzaHernandez action was any kind of victory, it was a Pyrrhic one. When Lupe left that morning, her and her family were forced to cram 12 people into a small apartment down the street from their stolen home. When they tried to pick up their belongings, a representative from Soifer’s office tried to get Javi to sign off on the contents of the storage space without being able to examine them, everything the family owned still being held ransom.

A month and a half later, Lupe still can’t find work, and may be forced to move back to Mexico with Adrian, her youngest son. The breakup of the family we fought so hard to prevent, may well still happen anyway, while Ben Soifer, the board of BOA, and all the other money grubbing scumbags involved in the their fraudulent eviction are safe in their homes with their families. Homes purchased by perpetrating the suffering of others while 150 million of us struggle to breathe under the crushing weight of poverty, and the police spread terror in the name of those who exploit and oppress us.

The Hernandez family will survive, and thrive, have no doubt. Their family and community solidarity has never been stronger. Their courage and self determination in the face of a corrupt vampiristic system serves as an inspiration to us all. BOA had to send it’s minions to destroy #FuerzaHernandez, it’s very existence exposed the illegitimacy of the US financial system, simply by telling millions of other people in the same situation that they were not alone, and they could fight back. Now imagine if everyone facing forced eviction did the same. What would happen? We would win.

So what is holding us back? Fear? Everything that has happened to the Hernandez family post-eviction, would have happened whether they had resisted or not. A lack of leadership? It is time to stop waiting on someone to lead us out of the darkness, and turn on the lights ourselves. You are the next great leader in your community. You are the next Malcolm X, the next Ella Baker, the next Fred Hampton, the next Guadalupe Hernandez. If you or your neighbor are facing eviction, do not panic, do not move, organize. The power is yours sisters and brothers, all you have to do is seize it.

Take back your land! Take back your homes! 

Amandala Ngawethu! Power to the Poor People! And peace to you all, if you are willing to fight for it.

-Adam Rice-

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Arrested While Driving the Illuminator Van

This post originally appeared at occupywallstreet.net

Recently I was arrested in Brooklyn while driving a van outfitted with a projector. Long story short, it was pretty horrible; friends and fellow activists have encouraged me to set down precisely what happened and put it in the public record.

If you don’t know, there is a van with a heavy duty projector that comes out of the roof like a turret. It was created by an OWS offshoot with funding from Ben Cohen, and was named The Illuminator. Some months ago, ownership and control was passed on to a campaign called the Stamp Stampede, created by Ben Cohen, and was referred to as the Project-O-Van.

A month ago, Animal New York, a website that covers culture and politics, arranged to carry out a joint action withthe Stampede campaign, using our van.. Together, we visited a number of locations throughout the city to project images highlighting the problem of money in politics corrupting our democracy. We visited the offices of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Trump Tower, some walls in Soho and the LES, and…. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s home on 79th Street.

It was exciting to get a picture of a ballot box being stuffed with money projected onto Bloomberg’s 3rd floor. As the residence is protected by police, our team was approached by cops who chatted with Animal New York folks and filmed our van. I stuck around for about one minute – just long enough to take a few photos.

The next evening I got called at 11pm by police from the NYPD’s Intelligence Division. They wanted my address so they could visit me at home and ask a few questions. It turned out they were researching the ownership of the vehicle and trying to track me down for many hours. An entire team was active on this ‘case’ which included sending two officers to Ithaca (4 hours away) to track down whoever lived at the address on our registration form. (This was the head of a nonprofit used briefly as a fiscal sponsor of the nonprofit that actually owned the vehicle.)

My concern was having some cop cars with lights flashing show up at my apartment building and then getting arrested in full view of the neighbors. So I persuaded them to meet me at the nearby police precinct (the 90th). I spent an hour answering questions about the van, it’s history, ownership, how it operates, and the absence of any ongoing threat to Mayor Bloomberg. They explained that the order to take such drastic measures (midnight interrogations & a trip to Ithaca) came from very high up, and they simply had to make sure that any and all questions could be answered. Their immediate superior in this was Mohammad Newaz of the Intelligence Division– the same unit that engages in counter-terrorism.

Fast forward to last Friday. Our van had spent 10 days at a garage for repairs. I was driving in a light rain for two blocks, when an unmarked SUV pulled me over. A plainclothes officer told me I was driving with my lights off in the rain – very unsafe. A few minutes later I was arrested for driving with a suspended driver’s license.

The arresting officer? Mohammad Newaz of the Intelligence Division. Did I mention there were three unmarked police vehicles that were part of this operation?

[Side note: perhaps a year ago, I was given a summons for riding my bicycle on a sidewalk in Bushwick. Stupidly, I neglected to take care of the matter. This was the reason why my license had been suspended, and I wasn’t aware that this had happened.]

There are many things that could happen at this point. For example, they could have allowed me to leave the vehicle where it was (I pulled over into a legal parking spot) and given me a ‘desk appearance ticket.’ Instead, they impounded the van ‘for evidence’ and sent me to Central Booking. I ended up spending 36 hours in jail. When I appeared before the judge for arraignment, attorney Yetta Kurland helped me to plead guilty to a violation, amounting to a $75 fine.

Many of my friends have been arrested before, usually with other protestors engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience, or for things like stepping off the sidewalk during a demonstration. I’ve been arrested before, mostly in Israel, where I once spent two months in prison for refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories. If you haven’t been arrested, please know this: it can be traumatic. The facilities in Brooklyn are filthy beyond belief, the food is disgusting, some of those detained are pretty ripe, and folks have to arrange themselves on the floor with no bedding or bunks. On the other hand, most of the cops behaved decently towards the detainees. (Yes, that surprised me.)

Thinking about what happened to me, the first thought that keeps rattling around in my head is how stupid I was to have allowed my license to become suspended. And then there are some other questions:

  • Was I or the van being tracked closely by police from the Intelligence Division because of our one minute projection on Mayor Bloomberg’s home?
  • If so, were they tracking it for a whole month, or did they wait until my license was suspended (this happened in that last few weeks!) so they could lie in wait for me?
  • Is there any justification for the massive expenditure of resources on ‘The Case of the Project-O-Van’?
  • Was I and/or the vehicle targeted because of the relationship to Occupy Wall Street?
  • Why did the police choose to arrest me and send me to booking, given my profile? (Employed, stable residence, no prior arrests in NYC, living with my family, etc.) Was that decision influenced by my political activism?
  • Not sure if this is the end of the story. Some say, there are grounds for – at minimum – demanding some answers from the NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg. What do others think?

PS: I mentioned Yetta Kurland briefly. Knowing that she was out there working on my behalf was part of what kept me sane in jail. She is a fighter, a friend, and a leader. And she refused to take a dime for her services. God bless her.

PPS: At the start of the video embedded above, you can hear me say “this is of dubious legality, but fuck it!” Folks should know that was part of a conversation about parking, not about the operation of the Project-O-Van.

-Clencher-

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Occupy Boston Protesters: Guilty and Sentenced Without Trial

This story originally appeared at Daily Kos.

As one of those who was awaiting trial, I find the whole affair, from the illegal arrests, to the injurious treatment of myself and others, to the harassment of making us show up at multiple hearings, with many delays, to the propagandist stenography of the Boston Globe, to be a heinous abuse of justice.

Please keep reading to learn of the final bit of foul play by our government. They saw the writing on the wall and, once again, they abused their position of power and cheated.

Personal request: Please spread the word about how the Boston Globe is printing lies in service to the government.

I wanted my day in court. It was clear, they were going to delay and delay. Over one year later, I still did not have a trial date. I was also never told with whom I would be a co-defendant. (we wanted one trial and the judge insisted we be broken into groups of 5. He then only named one group and the rest of us were left in limbo) All of this was designed to make it impossible for us to prepare. Trying to crush our resolve and our souls slowly.

When we pushed back and filed a motion for charges to be dismissed, the judge said he would rule this coming Monday. Preempting what the judge might say in court, the City surreptitiously dropped the charges today. During the beginning of a blizzard. On a Friday afternoon. Without letting any of the defendants know. We didn’t get the courtesy a single communication to us. We all learned by reading it in the Boston Globe. And that is where we read outright lies:

but at least five defendants will contest the dismissal in hopes of fighting the accusations on their merits.

um, we filed the motion to have the charges dismissed. the hearing for that motion was this past Monday. that’s on the public record. high quality stenography, I mean journalism, there.

“Our clients feel that they deserve a day in court to contest their arrests on constitutional grounds,” said Jeff Feuer, of the National Lawyers Guild, which is defending the demonstrators. “They were using a public park.”

that’s my lawyer. I wonder when they got that quote. I’m pretty sure that’s from an earlier time when we were being asked about why we didn’t accept a plea deal. Since we’ve had no contact from anyone about this latest move of dropping the charges, I doubt this is a contemporary quote.

A spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said prosecutors decided to resolve the cases because the defendants had abided by certain restrictions imposed by the court for more than a year. Other protesters charged with trespassing and unlawful assembly had agreed to similar conditions in resolving their cases.

What restrictions? This is just outright fiction. I pleaded not guilty. I was not under any restrictions, as I had not been found guilty of any crime and I would not consent to be punished as though I had. I dare the Boston Globe to tell me exactly what restrictions I have supposed adhered to and to prove that I consented to and complied with them.

“There’s now parity with prior cases arising from the protests,” Jake Wark said. “They’ve served essentially the same sentences.”

This is their way of saving face. Trying to claim that we somehow accepted guilt by serving a pre-sentence. Who needs a trial when you can just get people to agree to “restrictions” and then say that they’ve “resolved” their case by “essentially” serving a sentence?I will not stand idly by and be portrayed in the public as though I have served a sentence for a crime I did not commit. Nor will I allow our justice system to proclaim that they can determine, without a trial or a sentencing process, that someone has paid enough of a penalty that they can consider the case resolved. It’s bullshit. And makes me wonder what they thought the judge was going to say, on the record, on Monday.

Here is the press release about this from the National Lawyers Guild, who are representing us.

NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD, Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.
14 Beacon St., Suite 407, Boston, MA 02108
PRESS RELEASE
__________________________
Contact:
Urszula Masny-Latos
Tammi Arford (defendant):  617-686-8892 National Lawyers Guild, Mass. Chapter
Andrea Hill (defendant):      574-206-5632        617-227-7335
__________________________
CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST OCCUPY BOSTON DEFENDANTS DROPPED
Boston, February 8, 2013.   Today, without any notice to defense counsel or the defendants, Suffolk County prosecutors went into court and in an unscheduled, unilateral action dismissed the criminal cases that had been brought against five Occupy Boston activists which were scheduled to begin trial on Monday, February 11.  The prosecutors also dismissed all of the criminal charges remaining against the other Occupy Boston activists who were still awaiting trial as a result of the mass police arrests in October and December, 2011.We believe that the DA’s decision amounts to an acknowledgment of the unconstitutionality of the arrests and criminal charges that had been brought against hundreds of Occupy Boston participants, and shows that the state has finally
admitted that the demonstrations by Occupy activists were legal and constitutionally protected.

Fully ready to contest the charges at trial, the defendants and their representatives from theNational Lawyers Guild (NLG) had subpoenaed Mayor Menino, Police Commissioner Ed Davis, and Nancy Brennan (former head of the Greenway Conservancy) to explain why the City of Boston and its police department unconstitutionally applied the Massachusetts trespass and unlawful assembly laws to impinge upon Occupy Boston participants’ rights to assemble, to express their protected speech, and to petition the government.  In addition, they had also subpoenaed Joshua Bekenstein and Mitt Romney (of Bain Capital), and Robert Gallery (CEO of Bank of America) to address their role in constructing and perpetuating excessive corporate power and an economic system that favors the wealthiest 1% of the population at the expense of the remaining 99%– an undemocratic system in which the voices of the people are ignored.  The police action in arresting occupiers demonstrated that voices of conscience that speak out against
social and economic inequality are not only ignored, they are unlawfully silenced by the state’s use of violence, fear, threat, and repression.

This decision by prosecutors comes after 14 months of delay, during which defendants were repeatedly required to show up for court dates, only to have their day in court and their right to a jury trial delayed time after time.   Defendants and their NLG lawyers spent months working to prepare a case that would potentially embarrass the City and set valuable precedent that would reaffirm the constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.

In making this decision, Suffolk County prosecutors have not only prevented the defendants from having their day in court, they have employed yet another way to trample upon those who voice dissent and discouraged them from challenging injustice and inequality in this country.  In fact, a spokesperson from the District
Attorney’s office today admitted that these defendants, who never had the chance to present their case to a judge or jury, “served a sentence” imposed unilaterally by the actions of the District Attorney without ever having been found guilty of any criminal offense.

###  END ###

Don’t be complicit in the repression of voices of dissent. Please take in the way this was handled: peaceful protesters arrested by using a battalion of militarily-armed riot police, then dragged through repeated courtroom delays, then charges dropped with a statement that they had “essentially” served a sentence. See how that works? Guilt determined and sentence handed down without the bother of a pesky trial.Raise your voices, people. When these things happen, we need to yell louder that we will maintain our rights.

-UnaSpenser-

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Love In A Time Of Mass Incarceration

Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared at the Suicide Girls blog.

Chicago, IL–“What are you doing for New Year’s?” The question, posed by friends and family members this past week, seemed innocent enough. When I cheerfully answered, “Protesting the prison industrial complex,” however, most people were taken aback.

My sister-in-law tried to convince me that a prison protest on New Year’s Eve would accomplish nothing beyond annoying the guards. A friend said I should take the day off of political activism and do something fun. My parents have given up making sense of my extracurricular activities altogether.

But to me, a prison noise demonstration was the only place I wanted to be. I have been very active in supporting political prisoners this past year, primarily the NATO 5 and Jeremy Hammond. Through my interactions with them and the system that has taken them hostage, I have come to recognize how many lives are ruined when we lock people in cages. I no longer trust the “justice” system to determine guilt or innocence, and I know that the prisons have done far more harm to individuals and our society as a whole than can ever be justified.

The first noise demonstration began mid-afternoon at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago, a federal prison. Like many protest actions I have attended, there was a festive spirit to the gathering. Many protesters wore brightly colored masks and used a variety of New Year’s party noisemakers to add to the general ruckus. The plaza was still cordoned off with yellow CRIME SCENE tape from a recent prison break, in which two bank robbers successfully wove a rope out of bed sheets and lowered themselves down 15 stories. One of the men remains at large. We asked people to bring their old bed sheets and knotted them into a rope of our own right there in the plaza. It was a symbol of liberation for all who are incarcerated as well as an embarrassing reminder of the facility’s recent security breach.

We chanted and sang, shouted and danced. A few people swung the bed sheets like a jump rope. We marched around the building, followed closely by Chicago Police Department and Department of Homeland Security vehicles. The building goes straight up and has only the narrowest of windows, but we were soon able to see prisoners waving at us from every floor. Some turned their lights off and on repeatedly to get our attention. We cheered. The guards just stood their ground and glared at us.

The first noise demo ended at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building. A woman spoke about travesty of workplace raids, as well as whole families rounded up in home raids, all resulting in record numbers of deportations. These immigration detention centers are like a shadow prison system – “detention” is not considered “incarceration” and a different set of rules apply to the undocumented.

***
After a short break to allow people to warm up, we met at Cook County Jail for a second noise demo. This time we armed ourselves with glow sticks and were joined by a ragtag anarchist marching band. Also joining us was a veritable fleet of CPD and Cook County Sheriff cars, and two bike cops who must have drawn the short end of the stick. By this point it was very cold, and getting colder by the minute.

The plan was to circle the perimeter of the jail, which is close to a 2-mile walk. (Cook County is not only one of the most notorious jails in the country, but also the largest, and houses 10,000 inmates at any given time.) But first we veered off course and crossed the street to stop by Division 11, the newest section of the jail, built outside of the main compound. The other divisions are set back behind rolls of razor wire or overlap with other buildings, blocking our view of the windows. But Division 11 has windows facing directly onto an open plaza, and we were able to easily see and be seen by those inside.

The reaction of the inmates to our presence was incredible. We saw rows of silhouettes waving, clapping, dancing, jumping with joy. They banged on the windows and flickered their lights at us. One inmate took off his uniform shirt and swung it around his head. It was the most electric, uplifting feeling imaginable. The band played louder, we danced and clapped and made some noise. We ignored the guards yelling at us and the lights flashing atop squad cars and gave it everything we had. When we finally turned back to circle the main compound, a young woman stopped banging on a pot lid long enough to exchange a high five and irrepressible grin with me.

The jubilant spirit did not last long. Within a few minutes, we were having a tense confrontation with our law enforcement escorts, which result in a violent and entirely unnecessary arrest. The protester would later be charged with felony aggravated battery, but the only violence I saw that night was perpetrated by officers of the law on unarmed, peaceful activists.

Still, we made a complete circuit around the jail. On the last leg of the journey we spent some time blocking a side street with the bed sheet rope snaked between us, dancing and singing. It was a glorious moment, in no way diminished by the police officers watching us dubiously from every direction.

As a society, we try to hide our problems, to lock them away instead of working proactively on solutions. When our problems inevitably worsen and multiply we lock those away, too – and find a way to make the whole system profitable for well-connected individuals and corporations. We do everything possible to make prisoners –– most of whom are serving time for non-violent offenses, most of whom have dark skin –– invisible.

Noise demos such as these, in solidarity with others held on New Year’s Eve across the globe, refuse to buy in to that mentality. We stand up and say: They have hidden you away, but we see you. They have told us to forget, but we remember you. They have demanded that jail be miserable and dehumanizing –– but we brought you a marching band.

In a call from Cook County Jail on the morning of December 31st, one of the NATO 5 explained to me: “It’s hard to be in here this time of year. Even if you aren’t big on celebrating the holidays, other people are feeling it. Everybody is missing someone.”

I feel good about how we spent New Year’s Eve. It was exciting to see prisoners expressing joy, which they get to do so rarely. It was cathartic to unleash my own pent up frustration at the jail’s unforgiving walls in the form of a primal, wordless scream. Most of all, it was inspiring to see so many others committed to supporting prisoners in 2013 and beyond.

This is what solidarity looks like.

-Rachel Allshiny-

Photos courtesy of Lee Klawans and Chicago Indymedia.

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A Midsummer Night’s Occupation

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared at Occupy LA.

New York, NY–I ran like a fleeting shadow up a dark New York City street. All about me was the occupation.  Not the “take a plane to NY and lounge around Zuccotti Park for the afternoon on the One Year Anniversary of OWS” crowd.  This was the night-time Birthday March to Times Square on the night of September 16th, 2012–a hardcore crowd.  It was unlike any other occupation experience that I’ve ever had.  What is the occupation?  Who are you people?  Tonight those questions would be answered to me in a more profound way.  We’re the glue that holds American society together.  The playful spirits who appear, not with violence nor its threat, but with a vision of how the world could be—and act on it.  But all around us on this march were dozens and dozens of NYPD cops on foot, in cars, in vans, on motorcycles, etc., to keep, in a sense, Queen Hippolyta’s order.  But as Bottom’s head was transformed into an ass—magic was soon to be squeezed into the cops’ and the world’s eyes.

At the head of our column was Puck.  That’s not his real name, of course, but still apropos.  His delight in playing pranks on these foolish mortals no less than the enchanting sprite.  We took off from Zuccotti Park on a trek to Times Square—many, many blocks away—to be there when the figurative ball would drop on our one-year-old world.  Night time, long urban march, lines of riot cops, the press nowhere in sight—this is where things get violent quickly.  But you wouldn’t know it from observing Puck.  It was as if, literally, he was from a different world.  He’d wander this way, that way, ahead of the group, behind the group, but he was leading us.  Not like the NYPD Commander leading his troops a few feet away.  It wasn’t just that the local occupiers would defer to him at key points—an undercover cop could pick up on that—if they could get this close to us.

No, this was different.  We weren’t being sucked up a river like in Apocalypse Now.  We were being compelled forward, by an unseen energy as if from the shadows, much like what compelled us all to show up in the tents last year.  A sense that the order of the world was against the common man and something must be done to change how the people around us see the world.  What would Puck squeeze into their eyes?  We were about to find out.  We were hippies and trouble-makers to many of the cops on this march.  Would we make asses of them?  We are America.  Just as the Tea Party is also, but we’re very proud of our inclusiveness.  The Tea Party panders to peoples’ dark side, their fears, intolerance, selfishness, etc.  Preaching loudly to their flocks, but then shying away when the mainstream media arrives.  At the end, in the glow of Times Square, celebrating the fact that we’re still going strong, even the cops seemed uncomfortable, out of place.

The march came to a pause by Macy’s.  “We have to keep moving!”  It was Puck’s voice.  Suddenly, very much in this world.  Our “escort” of motorcycle cops slowed also, sheepishly staring at us from their bikes.  BEEP, CRACKLE, WAIL.  The strangest sounds will pop out of some of these police vehicles.  Occupation marches are like snakes.  They coil and contract.  Punkish girls with red, white and blue spiked hair, teens with backpacks pockmarked with political and social buttons, glistening young eyes above bandit-strewn bandanas.  But NY is very different from LA.  Where are the U-Streamers?  I could swear that I’m one of the only people taking photos while the group’s moving—still and video.  The group “coiled” forward.  A chant began: “We are unstoppable!  Another world is possible!”  Over and over, echoing throughout the Manhattan canyons.  And then–and then–there it was.  Glowing in the distance.  Times Square.  The pace of the march picked up.  The cycles dropped off and lines of cops on foot would take over.  STOMP, STOMP, STOMP.  Puck would be here, then there, then disappear.  Closer.  Wow!  Talk about lights.  Story after story of commercial ads packed with models up into the dark sky.  It was then that the real symbolism of this march became clear to me.  Yes, be where the ball drops at our midnight, but also be at the center of the over-commercialization of American society.  We flooded into the center of the square as if from another world, and we are, aren’t we?  We speak the truth when your normal world of TV channels and news rags seem morally empty.

A cake appeared, as if by magic.  Occupiers delighted in taking a bite, though there were no forks.  The police formed rings around us.  We ignored them.  Our eyes were on the figurative ball in the sky Puck had brought us here to imagine.  10, 9, 8, 7, 6, Puck sat down.  Others joined him.  5, 4, 3, 2, and then Puck spoke.  It wasn’t like anything I’d ever heard from an occupier before.  Why we were still here after a year…  What we’d accomplished…  But in my mind’s eye I heard: Why the potion had worked that we’d all squeezed into society’s eyes.  How people stopped focusing on distractions such as whether or not to raise the debt-ceiling limit, but on the reality of the plight of our very real fellow Americans whom we care about deeply—who have been deceived by the serpent’s tongue of the ultra-rich.  After Puck’s speech, the crowd dissipated and even the cops fell away—as if the occupation had been a dream.  Puck from NYC, Nowhere Man from Hollywood, all of us “meddling fairies” vanished back into the semi-darkness of Manhattan like shadows who’d overstayed their welcome in the mortal world of driven, but dishonest men.  But all of us, Puck included, had one phrase on our minds.  “We’ll be back.”  We are the pressure in society to make amends.

I’ll let Shakespeare’s Puck (a.k.a. Robin Goodfellow) have the last word:

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding, but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend;
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck,
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long:
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

Occupy!

-Nowhere Man-

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Always Low Wages

Black Friday is always day of resistance for me, at least it has been in recent years. Last year I remember Occupy said it was “Buy Nothing Day” and I didn’t really do much, other than sitting around my house. This time I didn’t want to sit around. I heard about the Wal-Mart Strikers and so my whole family got in the car and drove the nearest plaza with a Wal-Mart. Happy with glee, I found there were protesters.

My family and I climbed the hill, where at the top there were 20 protesters with signs in solidarity with the workers. My mom left after asking a few people and determining that there were no workers there. Instead, my dad and I stayed up there, and looking around one could see people of all colors and creeds. I took a sign they had and stood there on the corner as I held the flimsy sign blowing in the wind. I felt such solidarity standing there with others, on that corner. People were sitting up on a white-painted wall, as others stood by the curb side, while cars honked in support of workers. Then, after about an hour, I and my dad left, saying we’d return.

After a series of delays and such, we came back about two hours later. But the other protesters were gone. We engaged in what one would call vigilante activism. We protested on the corner, as I sat up on the wall with a sign that said “HONK IN SUPPORT OF WAL-MART WORKERS” while my dad had a sign that said “WAL-MART=ALWAYS LOW WAGES,” a sign I had made earlier but used again. I ended up taking the major role, sitting on the wall as people honked for workers (probably about 100 honks), and my dad yelled out at cars. It was exhilarating no doubt, sitting on that white-painted wall, thanking people for honking in support of workers. It was a two-man show, but that was okay because we were standing for the workers. This action seemed to follow these thoughts in my head, of Charlie Chaplin leading a march in Modern Times, and when I walked around before with a sign against Israel’s war of aggression in Gaza. Then it all ended. My mom came in a car, calling from the parking lot below. Then she came to the hill where we were, my dad and I taped up a sign that said to honk for Wal-Mart workers, and it was over. But I knew this time wouldn’t be the last time I would stand for justice in the world.

-Burkley Hermann-

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Videos: Walmart Workers Strike on Black Friday

A compilation of videos from actions around the country supporting striking Walmart workers on Black Friday (AKA Buy Nothing Day) 2012. Check back often for more videos!

from @occupiedstories on twitter

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Earth Evictions, Disaster Relief, and a Whole New World

When I first heard that earth eviction was the theme for the November 17th day of action, I was excited and a little saddened. I was excited because the day continues a push back against Wall Street we saw escalated by Occupy. “Wall Street is Drowning Us” would be our main theme. “Climate crisis = economic crisis.” Saddened because we have been pushed out so many times, sometimes by developers or the city, or today by planet itself.

Last year on N17, we planned a direct action on Wall Street. I was part of the shrub block.

We were part of the Liberty park which we had been kicked out of, finding our way into the streets throughout the city. “Kick us out the parks, we’ll take the streets,” we chanted throughout the rally. “Hey Bloomberg, Beware! Now Liberty Park is everywhere.”

Times Up! held a planning for this year’s N17 action at ABC No Rio. If earth eviction was the theme Times Up! would highlight a few of the other evictions which happen every day, especially in New York. Life here involves a constant process of navigating between spaces where we organize and build community, and the ongoing displacements, when we are forced to flee from spaces where we have slept and connected, which are just part of life in this neoliberal city. So, Times Up! organized an earth evictions ride in which we would revisit a few of these sites on the way to the N17 action beginning at the New York public library.

Riding over the action I stumbled upon police parked in bike lanes, as they texted and chatted. That these spaces represent opportunities for safety for riders seems to mean very little to them. The police are more than comfortable occupying community spaces, rendering them functionality useless. It is a phenomena taking place all over Brooklyn and New York.

 Bikes parked on Hoyt and Stanton Streets, photos by B. Shepard

The earth eviction ride met at ABC No Rio, a squatted arts building on Rivington Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan which has eluded eviction, though its been under constant threat. Riding up Avenue B, we passed East 7th St site of Esperanza Community Garden, a place where people shared space, a coffee, warm moments by a bon-fire during its eviction defense and subsequent bulldozing by the city in 2000.

Trees outside the Lower East Side Ecology Center were still suffering after branches has been ripped from them during the storm. Up Avenue B, we rode past Kate’s joint, a veggie dive which provided food for the encampment at Esperanza back in the day, before it finally shut its doors, a victim of high rights and changing times. Further up B we rode past Charas, a community center, and Chico Mendez, a garden. Both were spaces where Lower East Siders converged, battered about ideas, and exchanged resources before their subsequent evictions by the Giuliani administration. Spaces where we meet for cross class contact are always a threat to the powers that be. Over and over again, the neo-cons of the world dismantle “the institutions that promote communication between classes, and disguising [their] fears of cross-class contact as “family values.” Unless we overcome our fears and claim our “community of contact,” it is a picture that will be replayed in cities across America.” Spaces where we connect are always facing evictions. These evictions take multiple forms.

Today, it seems like the earth is evicting us. At least this is how it feels riding past the dislocated neighborhoods, ravaged by Sandy. Our ride continued past the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Spaces, whose basement was flooded by the storm. The museum’s opening was supposed to take place last weekend, but it is being pushed up to December 8th.

And of course, a year ago this week, we were evicted from Zuccotti Park, by the NYPD.

All these evictions zoomed through my head riding up to the NY Public Library for the N17 Earth Eviction Defense. Arriving at the NY Public Library, a mob of college students and members of Occupy the Pipeline were there to connect the dots between environmental struggles. Moving down the now sanitized 42nd street we staged a street theater performance outside of the JP Morgan Chase “to prevent the 1% from foreclosing on the planet,” noted the Tar Sands Blockade. “The Earth Eviction Defense is occurring ahead of UN climate talks in Doha this November. As the Kyoto Protocol expires this year, what happens at this gathering will have a long lasting impact on the future of the earth.”

Scenes from N17. Photos by Stacy Lanyon

Photo by Stacy Lanyon

A central piece of this activism has recently involved the mutual aid networks expanding from those evicted from Zuccotti Park to the relief stations organized via Occupy Sandy in Staten Island and the Rockaways. My group, Times Up! has been organizing Fossil Fuel Disaster Relief Bike Rides to carry food and supplies from 520 Clinton Avenue to the Rockaways. In the days after the storm, cycling increased citywide, as cycling came to be seen as a solution to a myriad of problems. As the group’s press release explains:

Time’s Up Delivers Foods, Blankets, Bike-Powered Charging Stations, and Mobile Bike Repair to Neighborhood Devastated by Sandy.

The weekends of Nov 10th & Nov 18th Times Up! organized Fossil Fuel Disaster Relief bike rides to deliver food, blankets and other much-needed supplies, over 10 bike-powered charging stations, and mobile bike repair units to neighborhoods in the Rockaways devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Using human power & their fleet of bike-trailers, cargo-bikes & baskets they picked up heavy loads of supplies from Occupy Sandy’s main distribution center at 520 Clinton Street in Brooklyn and cycled them over to the Drop-off center in the Rockaways run by Rockaway Taco & Veggie Island at 183 96th Street.

From there the volunteers distributed individual packages to home-ridden families in hard to reach areas, helped with clean-up, demolition and construction, and provided free bike repair and bicycle-generated power – sustainable solutions to the devastation caused by climate changed from the burning of fossil fuels.

The Time’s Up! energy bikes, used to generate bike power for OWS last year, will stay in the Rockaways to be used by the community as an alternative to the gas generators currently being used to charge devices operating only at 1% capacity and pollute the air we breath.

These rides highlight the need for relief not only from the immediate disaster, but also the root-cause of this disaster and others – the burning of fossil fuels.

Throughout the week, Keegan (a fellow Times Up! member) and I had talked about the similarities between Shakespeare’s Tempest and the efforts of Occupy Sandy. New York really was hit by a tempest. Yet, in response, we have started creating a new world based on care, mutual aid, and innovation. At Judson on Sunday, Michael Ellick suggested that such a world requires a framework for radical forgiveness of not only debts but of sins and personal flaws. It imagines creating a new form of ethics, something new of our social relations. It also requires care.

Arriving at the Times Up! space Peter Shapiro and Keegan greeted me. I said hello, introducing myself to a few of the other riders. One man worrying about his knees before the ride, when Peter chimed in that he needed not worry about he knees or feel like he needs to rush. Afterall, “even a crotchety guy” like him “could find this ride to be transformative” after he took part the previous week. The Rockaways are full of lovely oxygen, great air we can all enjoy. Air that will revitalize us, he explained. Throughout the trip from 99 S. to 520 Clinton Ave, we all talked, enjoyed the air, and the convivial social relations.

When we got there, we all enjoyed the mutual aid signs seem all over the church. Mutual aid is a different set expectations; it asks us all to share, to be fully human. It helps highlight who we are and can be. And most of all it is direct action.

Signs and literature on mutual aid at 520 Clinton Ave.

Gandhi implored his followers to spin their own fabric in defiance of British colonial rule. In doing so, he suggested they could create their own power. Energy emanated from spinning their own clothes. “The spinning wheel represents to me the hope of the masses,” stated Gandhi. The same thing happens people powered energy, Times Up cycling events and energy bikes, recharging people’s phones, while sharing our lives with others. Through these rides, we divest ourselves from dependence on fossil fuels, while sharing what we have with others. The joyous rides, in which we pull trailers of supplies from 520 Clinton to Veggie Island, are our form of mutual aid.

“I just really enjoy it,” explained one of the riders. “You can’t say I am not getting something out of this.”

With these expanding mutual aid networks in mind, Alexandre Carvalho , of the Occupy Revolutionary Games Working Group, sent a post on “The #MutualAid network and the aftermath of #OccupySandy” to the September 17th list serve on November 19th.

I really see the advent of #OccupySandy as the beautiful religare to Occupy’s spirit of Zuccotti Park. a relational atmosphere that was missing from the scene in a while and is the cornerstone of what we do – a deep respect and solidarity with human beings in suffering, first and foremost. Meaningful movements have Lost Paradises, certain lost times, which serve as ethical compass for political dispositions. the park is our Paradise Lost. that eerie smooth human atmosphere that is at the core of what makes us human. The parks and streets and communities of the world are our roving Paradises – this time, Paradises that can be found and built together.

Aristotle once wrote that #poiesis is to “learn by making”. the new #Mutual Aid network of OWS should stay even after the destruction of the hurricane is over and done: there will always be natural disasters, and human-caused disasters to struggle side-by-side against, such as poverty, oppression, violence, environmental degradation, labor exploitation, injustice.

These silent daily disasters also need a hurricane of mutual aid. a grassroots #MutualAid arm, delivering direct [mutual aid] action from the people, by the people, to the people. seems to be the rebirth of OWS, from a political and ethical standpoint: always inviting and invited, respectful of differences, listening first and talking last, non-controlling or mass maneuvering, and above all making love the highest play.

if we are to have dogmas – and maybe we all need to believe in something… maybe the only one really worthwhile all along was love.”
Making his argument, Alexandre looked to the absurdist spirit of the Dada movement to suggest:
“MADA this,
MADA that
NADA this
DADA that!

Mutual Aid as Direct Action is a meme that wants to fly.”

Much of this spirit powered our ride down Bergen across Brooklyn on Flatbush to the Rockaways. “It was a wonderful ride,” noted my friend JC as we crossed the bridge to Jacob Riis, where piles of rubbage fill what was once a putt putt golf course. “That’s so telling of our culture,” mused JC. A peddi cab driver, he had taken part in our puppy pedal parade earlier in the spring. The rambunctious ride was enjoyed by kids, animal lovers and cyclists. “Love seemed to emanate from that ride,” he mused.

With piles of wreckage to the right and water to the left, we rode along the waterline down to Veggie Island at 96th Street. “The sea looks like it wants to run over the wall and up the street,” Keegan noted looking at the water lunging up to the sea wall. Rising sea levels are transforming the way we understand cities. And none of this phenomena is new. Cities such as Venice, Italy have been coping with rising sea levels for years now. New York’s waterfront has always been permeable. Battery Part was once a landfill from the World Trade Center. One day, the wreckage may be covered by sea once again.

“The earth does not have opinions. It just does what it does,” noted Peter, overlooking the piles or rubble.

“It looks like a third world country,” noted my friend Stephen, who lead the ride, as we arrived in Veggie Island. Piles of trash lined the streets, houses condemned, couches in the middle of the streets – scenes of Sandy along the waterfront. It was all so reminiscent of Katrina.

I dropped material off, turned around and rode back up Flatbush home, past Brooklyn’s neighborhoods, along the Botanical Garden, where yellow leaves line the sidewalk, once mighty trees coping without broken-off branches, open skies where there were once trees. Down Union Street my ride took me through Park Slope, across the Gowanus Canal, home and back to school to teach. It’s a good tired finishing a ride like this, a good tired of nearly forty miles connecting my life with larger movements of people, hopes, aspirations, tragedies, pleasures and anguish of a world far bigger than myself.

Photo by Juan Carlos Rodriguez

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