At the height of this beauty the NYPD came into the park and began arresting someone for drumming. This man had been drumming the entire day but the orders were not given to come in and make arrests until we were all at the height of our solidarity, that thing which threatens state and corporate power so absolutely. Another man was filming the arrest and then cops jumped on him, threw him to the ground, and beat him before arresting him. I witnessed this entire scene personally as did many others. The occupiers from other locations were dumbfounded by the militancy of the New York Police Department. Of course, when beatings and arrests like this happen we converge and it all becomes very emotional because the brutality of the state, while they are doing the bidding of neo-liberal capital power, is the embodiment of what we are rising up against. It is a very direct tactic the cops use to break up our communal experience; it is when we are at the height of our peaceful experience and connecting with each other that they break it up thru violence.
Needless to say after this the momentum of our gathering was interrupted and cops began marching through the park randomly picking people and making futile efforts at intimidation. It was a scene I have seen so many times at protests, scattered people in shock. This went on for some time while the violence and threat of violence only grew as did the separation of the masses. After the police action the crowd that was originally a cohesive body of people was a mass of individuals and small gatherings who were in shock and awe of the violence.
It was in this space that I began to hear something. It was very low like a background noise but it was growing. It sounded calming, like a humming of some sort. I looked over and saw a few individuals who had come together and where ohming, you know, going “ooooohhhmmm,” a meditative sound. It was so calming that the shocked individuals began gravitating toward the sound and joining the circle.The circle slowly began to grow and grew and grew, bringing more people into it. As the circle grew the calming sound grew. I joined, and the feeling of peace while I stood in that circle ohming was so powerful that it took me away and grounded me at the same time. I closed my eyes and let myself go into that experience. When I opened my eyes the circle had grown so large that it had encompassed much of the park, and all of the cops were now on the outside of the circle, and outside of the park. What remained in that space where violence, fear, shock, awe, and fragmentation had existed only moments before was now peace, calmness, safety, solidarity, and love.
I promise you all that another world is possible and we can create it–even in the face of greed, violence, and selfishness. We created it that night at Zuccotti Park.
– Sean McAlpin –
Editor’s note: You may read another perspective of the same night in Zuccotti here. If you were there as well, share with us your story. Photo by Julia Reinhart.]]>
New York, NY–The first Occupy National Gathering had just come to an end, and occupiers lined the fence surrounding Independence Hall, waiting to depart on the Guitarmy 99 Mile March from Philadelphia to New York. The march would take seven days, but I was only able to accompany them for the first three.
We made our way through some pretty unpleasant areas on the first day. Hours after the march had begun, we hadn’t even encountered the smallest park. There wasn’t even an attempt to recreate nature. Someone made an observation that we had lost our connection to it. “We paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” they said, making reference to Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi. We usually drive though cities so quickly. It’s harder to recognize what you’re missing when you move so fast. We slowed down time that day, and it was really unsettling seeing just how much we’ve paved away the beauty of this world. The last time I remember feeling that out of touch with nature was when I first walked the streets of Florence, Italy, where the streets are so narrow that they can’t even line them with trees. It leads me to ponder what was behind the drive to almost totally remove ourselves from that which gives us life.
We encountered many people over those first three days. Some people would look on us with an air of total confusion. “Why would anyone walk in this heat? What are these people doing? Are they crazy?” Then, there were those who would look on with curiosity, look on as if they were searching for something and didn’t fully realize that this was it yet. They were undoubtedly intrigued. They wanted to know more. I was able to pass out a flyer for my blog in those situations hoping that they would pull up the web address and come to see the real reason why 70 people would march 99 miles in that heat, why we felt it so important to bring our message to the road. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t have the time to really relay that message in person.
Of course, we encountered a handful of people who felt the need to throw pure venom. A car would pass throwing phrases like, “Get a job” or “Take a bath.” One man even honked at us just to give us the finger. One’s first reaction to this might be anger or retaliation, but I just get sad now when I witness this because it’s so uninformed. The ones who are confused or curious are half awake or in the process of waking up, but the ones that are that angry are still so deep in slumber that it really demonstrates how far we still have to go. Luckily, those people were the exception.
I would say a good majority of the people we encountered responded in a very positive way. Some were overcome with joy at the sight of Occupy. The sound of horns honking in support of us was quite frequent and definitely uplifting. People would often smile and throw their arms up as we’d pass. The first of three encounters that had the most affect on me was where a man strung a hose out of his basement window to give us a break from the heat of the day. He told us, “I’m too old to be out there with boots on the ground, but I’m grateful that you guys are doing it.” A woman at his house offered their bathroom to the marchers, and he decided to march a mile or so with us, getting a taste of what he longed for and supported from afar. The second incident was when a young girl and her mother were running cold water out to us from their refrigerator, and the third was when we passed a bar with all of its windows open, and people came to the windows to cheer and wish us success. It was amazing to see the faces of the people who struggle with us and clutch to hope that this might bring the shift that they’ve so longing for.
There were occupiers from all over the country on the march, as well as an indignado from Spain. Among the marchers were occupiers from Houston and Portland and New Haven and Los Angeles and Philadelphia and New Jersey. All would form a real bond by the end. There was tension in the first few days arising from some miscommunication and the lack a horizontal structure that occupiers so long for. We’re all still learning how to walk. People made some mistakes, but every time we have the courage to put ourselves in these situations that can be uncomfortable, we learn from them, and that will make us more prepared for some of the things we might have to face in the future on a much larger scale.
It’s beautiful that some put so much of their time into putting such an action together, and it’s extremely beautiful that we are among people who refuse to just be taken care of. Occupiers want to have their hands in it. They prefer horizontal rather than hierarchical. It’s important that everyone is able to contribute and play a role in society, and for that week, the march was a society. Like Zuccotti, as I’m sure other occupations around the world, building a functioning society is not done without its tribulations. I wish I had been able to stay for the entire march to watch that evolve.
Another challenge that the community faced was the serious mental instability of one of the members. It was clear that the trauma this person had experienced living in this dysfunctional world had really had a debilitating affect on her. She was poised for confrontation. Even saying something nice to her at the wrong time would provoke an insult, and at times when she would come to you and seem in a better state, the littlest thing could trigger her and send her into a rage. In the time I was there, I started to observe things that would mitigate here. She liked to cook, and she liked to sing. She even expressed during one of her moments of clarity that she needed to keep busy to stay out of her head. It would have been a real sign of progress if the community had been able to keep her on and encourage the activities that made her feel good about herself. Unfortunately, she was given a bus ticket to New York. Perhaps it was too difficult a situation to really give her the time and energy that would have been required. I really feel that the movement needs to work at creating a safe and empathetic place for people like that. This society that we’re fighting against has created a lot of dysfunction and instability. I think Occupy was probably the most accepting environment she had ever been in. At times, she begged us to work with her condition. I think a great deal of healing could come from an environment that really took the time to do so.
It was overall a really beautiful experience, and nothing to me brings beauty in a way that music does. The first night at the farm, we had a concert. It was a time that we really got to see our old and new friends shine individually. Each person brought their beauty to the experience, a collective beauty that erupted when we reached the Staten Island Ferry Station. An Occupier from Houston belted out the beautiful lyrics from a song called One Day by Matisyahu, and the rest of us sang along. I can’t imagine a more relevant song for our current situation. It was a beautiful moment. The energy and love and passion and determination all swam together in a colorful symphony. Everyone was beaming with joy, accomplishment and hope.
On our arrival to Zuccotti, the marchers sang it again to all of the New York occupiers who came out to welcome them, and for one day, we were able to again experience the vibrancy and energy of our occupation at Liberty Square, and it will not be the last time. The NYPD can harass us. Congress can make laws to try and stifle us. They can even incarcerate a beloved member. We will not stand down. This revolution is happening. Embers of it can be seen in cities all over the world, and each step we take forward brings us closer to a time when it’s a blazing inferno of love. The members of this march took a lot of those steps, and I am honored to have been able to share some of those steps with such beautiful people.
– Stacy Lanyon –
Photos by Stacy Lanyon. Check out Stacy’s website, At the Heart of an Occupation, which profiles individuals of the Occupy movement.]]>
Before I arrived at Zuccotti there were a few arrests, and an elderly woman had even been knocked unconscious. By the time I had made my way down, the park, though surrounded by police, was peaceful in stark contrast to the events earlier in the day. Friends were sitting and chatting, the familiar sound of jackhammers pounding in the distance. An announcement session broke out and I listened in as report backs circled. News broke that Occupy San Diego would be planning a National Gathering for 12.12.12, dubbing the action “A Day Without Borders,” as well as announcements on the GA reboot and other Occupy projects. Acoustic music and singing flowed over the park, people were laughing and smiling again. It was almost like we had a chance in hell at a peaceful evening.
That’s when I noticed the wall closing around us. In two tight, single-file lines, the boys in blue stood at the top of the steps. Staring down at their prey as if they were hawks on the hunt, a new addition to their uniforms piqued my interest: gloves. Thick, black, leather gloves. My stomach dropped, they descended the steps and the powderkeg began to explode.Their sights were set, and in a clear attempt to incite a negative response they narrowed their focus on an elderly woman, sitting in a lawn chair, kitting. A clear and present danger to the general public, she had to be removed, immediately. The swarm of blue sent chills up my spine, I was suddenly surrounded. With my cellphone in hand I began furiously tweeting and taking photos, being pushed around by the massive crowd attempting to protect our comrade from the forceful hands of the NYPD. I felt a strong shove and then a sharp pain in my arm. An officer was grabbing me, screaming at me that I had to leave the park.
“GET OUT! The park is closed,” he said.
“Pardon me, Officer, but this is a privately owned public space which is required to be open to the public 24 hours a day,” I replied snarkily. “The park is not closed, I do not have to leave,” I squeaked as he grabbed my arm tighter and shoved me face-first onto the cement bench.
I threw my arms in the air in an attempt to visually reinforce that I was not resisting any type of arrest, only their blatant disregard for our right to peaceably assemble. I was thrown backwards into the sea of blue, my arm still being squeezed by the brute. I screamed “I DO NOT HAVE TO LEAVE, THE PARK IS NOT CLOSED.”
He rang my arm tighter. “If you don’t get the fuck out, I’m going to arrest you.”
I fell to the ground as the stampede swept through the park, taking with it the beautiful energy we had created.
Over the next few hours, the game of cat and mouse continued. Targeted arrests left our voices hoarse, screaming “Winski, how do you sleep at night?!”
All we could do was shout and console each other. Dazed and confused we began to join hands. Only a few of us at first, then growing gradually larger, we came together to Ohm and bring peace back to the space. Bring peace back to our home. Eventually, it seemed as if the entire park was a part of the circle. Positive energy pulsing through our park once more, we erupted in a mic check and thanked each other for the beauty of the moment. We all needed it.
I lingered a while longer, but knowing I had work in a few hours decided to call it a night when most of the tension had died down. Usually, I try to reflect on the events of the evening or write down my thoughts when I leave an action but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. July 11th marked a new dawn in the NYPD’s tactical response to Occupy that shocked and revolted me.
I didn’t sleep at all that night.
– Nicole Rose –
Photos by Julia Reinhart]]>
Princeton, NJ–The National Occupy Guitarmy leads the #99MileMarch July 5-11 from Philadelphia to NYC, in honor of Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday and the Occupy National Gathering.
I met up with them on July 7th camped in Morrisville, PA. They were just setting up lunch, painting some signs for the march ahead and belting out Woody Guthrie songs. Spirits seemed high and some of the marchers said that the reception from town to town has been well received. They said residents came out and offered water or a chance to run under the hose to cool off a little. Here are some photos I took during my visit:
The next day we marched 5 miles in close to 100 degree weather from Trenton to Princeton.
Guitarmy walking along Route 206 on their way to Princeton
Along Route 206 some Guitarmy marchers were hanging posters left over from the Occupy Caravan that crossed the country from San Francisco to attend the National Gathering:
Once we arrived in Princeton, NJ, Occupiers did a small banner drop on the Bristol-Myers sign outside the company’s headquarters:
Spirits were high especially when the march arrived at Trinity Episcopal Church (link goes to contact info for the church) in historic downtown Princeton. The church offered air conditioning and showers, the first for some marchers in weeks since leaving their hometowns for the national gathering and then heading north on their 99 mile march to NYC.
It didn’t take too long after everyone arrived at the church for police to show up supposedly on reports that there was a dead person lying just outside the grounds of the church. After confirming that there was not in fact a dead person but a very tired marcher the police left but the troubles didn’t end there. Soon after this incident the pastor of Trinity Church came out to tell the 60+ marchers that the church was receiving too many complaints from neighbors and the whole group would have to leave by 9:30 PM which at that point was about an hour away. The group tried negotiating with church executives because it would be near impossible to find housing for 60+ marchers in less than an hour but to no avail the church insisted the marchers leave. We were cleared out by 9:45 PM to numerous locations and decided to regroup in the morning.
One marcher decided to rest on the steps of Trinity Church in Princeton NJ after learning that the church had changed it’s mind about hosting the weary and tired marchers.
This story reminds me of another story about weary travelers showing up at a place they thought they were welcomed at only to be turned away into the night.