Below is a selection of images from the photographer; more photos from the protests may be found here.
– CourtneyOccupy –]]>
Philadelphia, PA–There was a synchronicity manifesting at the Gathering:
In one of the Trainings, there was talk about making a direct action at Independence Hall. A smaller group took the idea up. People agreed that some action should be taken on such a symbolic day and symbolic place as July 4th, 2012 at Independence Hall–but no one could agree on what to do. We started organizing, spreading the word, and drafting a statement, but as the day approached, it gradually fell apart. Me and another fellow decided to make a last-ditch effort, but he was delayed, and so it turned out that on the morning of Independence Day, I was the only one who showed up.
The Occupy Legal Team had requested that they be notified of any Autonomous Actions beforehand, and this was turning out to be an entirely autonomous, Autarchic Action, so I called them and notified them.
At 9:00 in the morning, I continued on to Independence Hall, and took the first tour. At the end of the tour, in the room where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration, I stepped over the barrier. I said “don’t worry” to the other citizens, and I walked right up to the desk where the original Declaration of Independence was signed by John Hancock. It got really quiet.
I set down the written Declaration I’d brought with me, and I signed it right there on the desk. Then I unfolded the Solidarity Economy flag I’d made, and I spoke extemporaneously to the citizenry. This is approximately what I said:
“In the name of People of the United States–the American People–we declare our independence from Corporations, and our Interdependence with one another. This is a flag for an Interdependent Economy of America–for an Occupied Economy achieved through the Separation of Business and State.”
The other citizens were calm and listened to me. When I’d finished, the ranger said that he understood and related to “what you all are trying to accomplish”, and requested that I leave. I had said what I came to say, and I wrapped myself in the flag and walked out.
In the foyer of the Hall, the National Park Police and Rangers were in full scramble mode. I was arrested and imprisoned in the Federal Detention Center. It was worth it.
In there, I met up with the one Occupier who was still in prison, who’d been imprisoned since the tent-ring on Saturday: 20-year old Nate St.-Martin from New Haven, CT.
I was accused of two misdemeanors: Entering a Closed Federal Area and Interfering with a Federal Officer. We were both released the next afternoon, July 5th.
(Side note: when we organize an Occupy event, we ought to make sure we tell participants to write the phone number of the legal team ON THEIR ARM WITH PEN OR MARKER when they are going on a march or action, because police simply take all one’s papers, including slips of paper with phone numbers, and won’t give them back. Both Nate and I were not able to phone the Occupy Legal Team because of this.)
I got my own “occupy uniform” because the Federal Bureau of Prisons mailed my clothes to my home in upstate NY. So I left with a cool gray federal prison jumpsuit, size XXX Large. It’s actually pretty comfortable, and I felt it was a fitting outfit for present-day America. And it made a striking complement to my “Red Square, Blue Stripes” economic flag that served as my sun-screen and blanket as I continued on.
As I was leaving town that night, I walked up to a random person on the street to ask for directions, and he was astonished (and I was too): he was the Park Service tour guide at the Declaration of Interdependence! We spoke amiably for awhile, he asked to take my picture, and he looked on his phone for directions for where I needed to go. We shook hands and wished each other good luck.
– Travis Henry –]]>
Philadelphia, PA–The third day of the Occupy National Gathering was full of energy and good conversation. Speaker Amadon DellErba from Spritualution discussed the importance of ending all “isms,” Gina McGill from Alabama promoted the ideas in Beyond Plutocracy, and Matt Taibbi exposed bank collusion. Captain Ray Lewis declined to speak in the group because of the many side conversations, but made himself available for any individual conversation throughout the afternoon.
At 5:00pm, a march began against Comcast and Verizon, and in solidarity with the NATO 5 (and the NatGat Occupier being held in the federal courthouse). It included a join up of union members and Occupiers, speeches from homeowners who have been foreclosed upon from Action United, and an energetic dancing protest down Broad Street and around City Hall.
The evening included songs from Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping and a General Assembly on racism. The assembly was cut short so that Occupiers could join the veterans on Independence Mall who were going to be evicted at 9:00pm. However, the veteran protesters were granted a twelve-hour extension, with negotiations to be held in the morning. Some Occupiers went to a bank sleep at Wells Fargo while others went back to the Friend’s Center parking lot to sleep.
– Zachary Bell –]]>
Philadelphia, PA–The second day of the Occupy National Gathering began with some sense of stability, with Franklin Square set as the permanent location for workshops and the Friends Center’s parking lot as the permanent sleeping area. However, the day of speakers and skill-shares precipitated an evening of arrests, with 25-30 reportedly taken into custody.
The morning of thematic meet-ups was followed by a series of speeches by activists like Occupier Lisa Fithian and CounterPunch contributor Mark Provost. At around 2:00pm, Occupiers broke out into workshops that ranged from the Money Out of Politics Voting Bloc to Code Pink.
A group of protesters, including many who are part of All In The Red, led a casserole march against debt, in solidarity with Montreal’s student strike. The protesters donning red squares were blocked off at Penn’s landing by a line of police. While there were arguments with police, and brief physical contact when cops let civilians pass through the line, there was no real confrontation.
At 6:00pm, Chris Hedges addressed the crowd of Occupiers. Hedges described the state of political America, including the death of the radical class, the “monstrosity of faux liberals like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama,” and the marginalization of structural critique in political discourse. He addressed Occupy’s future, articulating Occupy’s immediate goal “to reverse the corporate coup d’état and put the power back in the hands of people.” Hedges opined that the black bloc’s tactics are destructive because it plays into the hands “of those who want to destroy us” by demonizing Occupy in the mind of the public. But he remained hopeful and urged patience, citing his experience in movements that took time to build: “This is the dress rehearsal for the end of the corporate state.”
At 7:15pm, the first Occupy National Gathering Feminist General Assembly met. Through small and large group discussions, the participants in the FemGA shared how feminism can be alienating, shared common objectives (like ending sexual violence and strict gender roles) and listed the main goals of the FemGA.
By 9:00pm, Occupiers some were getting ready to settle into the parking lot at 4th and Arch and others were preparing to march in a jail solidarity protest. At around 10:30pm, a group of marching protesters were kettled and arrested. Cops used bikes to push Occupiers and refused calls by protesters to explain the charges. Of the 27 reportedly arrested, 7 were released by 9:45am. Others are being released slowly.
– Zachary Bell –]]>
Philadelphia, PA – After arriving by bus from New York late Sunday morning, I found the National Gathering in Franklin Square. The crowd was smaller than expected: a few hundred people sat in thematic clusters, hiding from the heat in the shade and wrapping up the morning discussions. In the afternoon I joined a march with All in the Red but the highlight, by far, of my first day was going to sleep.
Around 10pm a group of nine of us left the main group that had gathered at the Quaker house parking lot in search of an appropriate bank to sleep in front of. Along the way we picked up another occupier and the ten of us found a PNC bank at Walnut and 9th Street and set up camp. While we began to lay out our yoga mats and sleeping bags, one of the group, who had split off in search of nearby materials we could scavenge, announced he had found a dumpster full of cardboard boxes and even couches and chairs. A team went out to pick up whatever we could use. Once our cardboard beds were made we turned our energy into making signs about our protest; my favorite was a play on the bank’s initials and read ‘People Not Corporations’ on the side of the bank, hanging above our couch. While we were still setting up, a taxi stopped and offered us a ride.
“No we’re sleeping here,” we told him.
“Occupy?” he asked with a heavy accent.
“Yeah,” we told him.
He gave us a big smile and beeped his horn.
Over the next hour two of our group left to make their way back to the Quaker house but two more occupiers passing by joined us, keeping our group at 10 all night. Other occupiers and pedestrians stopped to chat, debate and lend their support. The police and a Homeland Security SUV came by but left us alone, and aside from one heckler who shouted at us, it was all positive.
Our sleepful protest captured some of what I loved so much about Liberty Plaza in the fall: the protest was not a temporary reprieve from our everyday life; our everyday life, both waking and sleeping, was protest.
The actual sleep was not very good, but when the sun rose I still felt refreshed and reenergized. When the bank opened we picked up our cardboard signs and formed a mini picket to greet the arriving employees and customers.
Philadelphia, PA–On the first day of the Occupy National Gathering, the excitement to meet one another was hampered by police confrontation. This led to indecision and internal arguments over contingency plans, but by the evening, Occupiers were safely assembled at jail solidarity or at the National Gathering Comedy Show.
The afternoon began with workshops around issues like the All In The Red debt campaign and the War on Drugs. Through the afternoon, the Occupy Caravans delivered activists from Tuscon, Wichita, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and many more cities from around the country, who were all formally welcomed at the informational meeting at 3:30 on Independence Mall. At the meeting, National Gathering Working Group members explained issues from food to legal safety, reviewing the logistics Occupy National Gathering Welcome Packet.
At 6pm, an enthusiastic and dance-filled March to End Corporate Personhood began at Wells Fargo and looped around to the park behind Independence Mall. The heavy police presence prompted a series of mic-checks, in which Occupiers shared a range of opinions about Occupy’s relationship with the cops.
Around 7pm, an Occupier attempted to put down a cot and police officers and park rangers informed the group that any setting up of bedding was prohibited. Occupiers set down a tent and surrounded it in solidarity. Members of the Philadelphia Police strike force pushed through the protest line using bikes to clear Occupiers. In the clashes, one Occupier was arrested while others were knocked to the ground. The officers carried away all sleeping material, including those not being set up.
Still surrounded by police, the conversation was strained about what to do next. NatGat Working Group members informed the assembled that Occupiers were legally allowed to sleep on sidewalks, which would also show solidarity with Philadelphia’s homeless, or stay at 4th and Arch in the parking lot of the Philadelphia Friend’s Center. However, the ring of police around the meeting made some feel uncomfortable with a discussion about strategy, causing the attempted impromptu assembly to largely devolve. Most went to 4th and Arch, although others remained in the park or went elsewhere.
At a little after 9pm, a group of Occupiers gathered in the Friends’ Center parking lot for the upcoming entertainment, while another group went to the Philadelphia roundhouse to do jail solidarity for the arrested protester — who was reportedly arrested for assaulting a police officer on federal property. The National Gathering Comedy Show was hosted by N.A. Po of Occupy Philly and included several local comedians. Activists drank from water jugs and enjoyed pizza and snacks in the parking lot where many settled for the night.
– Zachary Bell –]]>
Philadelphia, PA–I’ve done the All in the Red casseroles marches weekly in New York and was curious to see what it would be like in a different city. Arriving to the Occupy National Gathering in Philadelphia on Sunday, this was my first march as part of the National Gathering, and my first ever protest in Philadelphia, and I was unsure of what to expect but mostly optimistic and excited. It would be interesting to participate in a march that (as far as I knew in the United States) was only happening on a regular basis in my home city, but this time in a new place with a group of unfamiliar people.
Shortly after we began, there was a split between those who wanted to take the streets and those who did not. I recognized those who organized and were pacing the march were from New York; where we’re from, taking the streets is a risk in which you may be arrested immediately for setting one foot in the road. But the cops here cruised on their bicycles, letting us move freely. The pacers responded by mic checking that they supported autonomous action but were not recommending or suggesting we walk in the street. But once it seemed as though the police truly did not care, they and most of the march poured into the street.
Because many of us are from different cities, and therefore have varying experiences with different police forces, everyone seemed to react differently to the authorities. I was not in Philadelphia the day before, so I had no previous experience with the Philadelphia Police Department and could only go by their indifference to our taking the street, and felt that the police were being very permissive and respectful. But a few people taunted the police while others yelled at comrades in the streets things like “Good luck getting arrested!” Few of us from out of town anticipated the police’s leniency, and I probably wasn’t the only one who wondered how long this would last.
The bulk of the march was spent walking east on Market Street. I had been here before a few times years ago, going across the river to Philadelphia for concerts in my teen years, but the new context made the place seem rather alien. The last time I visited here was before I moved to New York, and today the city seemed desolate and devoid of people—but here on Market Street, people stopped, stood and watched us.
We approached Penn’s Landing, and many of us out-of-towners weren’t quite sure where the bridge led to. We took the bridge, and when we made it half-way across we circled around and came back. “We shouldn’t have turned around,” I heard someone say behind me. “Why don’t we cross to the other side?” A few steps after our turn-around we stopped again with a mic check from a pacer: apparently, we were originally meant to cross the bridge but the front of the march had come upon a wall of cops on the other side. Not wanting to start conflict with them, those in front decided to turn around and walk back. But some protesters took issue with this and wanted to face the cops. Would we continue on this new path, off the bridge on the side we entered, or confront the police?
Opinions divided, and the march did as well. I followed the group that went back towards the police, but there was no clear strategy as to what to do once we met with them. What were we here for? Some said confronting the police was exactly the reason why we had all come together; others said this march was only to educate and raise awareness to the student debt crisis, and that conflicts with the police would only muddy that message and invite criticism we didn’t need. So we ended up doing a lot of standing and sitting on the other end of the bridge in front of the police. I heard one guy gossip that obviously an undercover had suggested that we move back towards the police instead of re-routing; another one was showing rumors that he received on his phone that police re-enforcements were on their way to kettle and arrest us all.
There was slight conflict with civilians when the police opened up space in their wall to allow civilians from a street festival on the other side of the bridge to pass. I wasn’t so close to see what happened—I expect protesters tried to squeeze through—but I heard a lot of yelling as a mother and her kids (and then other civilians, but she was doing the yelling) walked past us looking flustered. One girl said it best: “They see us as an inconvenience, and don’t realize that this inconvenience is a public service.”
We eventually decided to march back to Franklin Square Park. Again, we were divided between those in and out of the street, but the walk back was largely casual, with fewer chants. We made it back with pretty much no conflict, and lots of support from bystanders and drivers.
– Joe Sutton –]]>
As I approached the park I was a little confused as to where the SDS crew was. There were two reasons for this: first, this happened to be the day where a huge skating event was to take place, so the entrance to the park was clogged with a crowd of people and skateboards that was tough to navigate and see through. Second, I am of the rare breed of occupiers who makes every effort to arrive on time to an event, which means the group I sought was, at that moment, very, very small.
I found the handful of people waiting for Summer Disobedience School to begin, and was glad to be one of the first there, as there were a few familiar faces who I haven’t yet had the chance to sit down and talk to. But this quiet moment as we awaited more to come finally provided the opportunity to get to know others and discuss things in an unstructured environment, free of any goal or consensus-seeking. The popular topic among us was the ongoing trial for those accused of trespassing in Duarte Square on December 17 and facing possible jail time. Everyone traded the latest gossip they’d heard from the trial and shared their own stories of ridiculous arrests, or questionable arrests of others that they’ve witnessed recently.
Eventually, we had a nice-sized group going. Now running maybe an hour late, we did a very short and quick practice of melting, linking arms and hup-hup-hupping before hearing what today’s action would be: we would use the space to our advantage, using one of its attractions as a symbol for the thing we wanted to raise awareness of: hydro-fracking. We would march to the fountain at Bethesda Terrace, focusing on outreach along the way, passing out hundreds of flyers and shaking maracas. We did not want to appear angry today; instead, we would be jubilant and inviting.
So why the fountain at Bethesda Terrace? We learned that the fountain was built to celebrate the completion of the Croton Aqueduct , which brought into New York City some of the finest drinking water in the country that we continue to enjoy today—whereas beforehand the poor were reliant on wells that contained contaminated water and spread cholera. But with hydro-fracking the Marcellus Shale, New York once again runs the risk with dirty water, as evidenced by those in other communities who have been able to ignite their tap water.
On our small march, some of us carried maracas, some had flags, bright blue balloons to symbolize drops of water, and most of us carried flyers to pass out to spectators that we passed. The people at Central Park were very receptive; they were overall happy to take our flyers that explained the dangers of hydro-fracking, and those riding by on their bikes often raised their hands in support as we passed. We received the best response from the group of skaters close to where we began, who roared in unison when someone called out “Occupy Wall Street loves skaters! Join us!” While we wanted to both spread awareness and get people to join in on the march, we were unable to pick up new participants. There was also a very minimal police presence; I only saw some park rangers, and there was no conflict whatsoever with authorities.
When we approached the fountain, we marched under the terrace and chanted “Frack Wall Street, not our water!” which echoed nicely from within the hall’s darkness and demanded the attention of all those around. We walked to the pond behind the fountain and formed a wall, where we mike checked this statement explaining why we were there:
This beautiful space is called Bethesda Terrace. Its centerpiece is the Angel of the Waters Fountain. It celebrates the completion of the Croton Aqueduct in 1842.
Before the Aqueduct was built, most New Yorkers had no reliable source of clean, safe water. Rich New Yorkers could afford to buy water, but poor New Yorkers shared common wells. Wells were often contaminated with sewage. Thousands of people died from the contaminated water.
Ever since the Croton Aqueduct was built, New York has had some of the best drinking water in the United States. Its sources are so pure that it doesn’t need treatment on its way to our homes.
Hydro-fracking may change that.
Hydro-fracking involves injecting millions of gallons of water and toxic chemicals underground to release trapped gas. This waste water, and the heavy metals and radioactive particles that are released in the process, can find their way to our ground and surface waters. Methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times worse than carbon dioxide, is also released in the process. This has led to residents near drilling sites being able to set their tap water on fire.
New York State wants to crack its portion of the Marcellus Shale, which is in the same region as our unfiltered watersheds. If a filtration plant is needed, it would cost us 10 billion dollars to build. Fracking is both economically and environmentally a complete disaster. Fracking places profits over people. Ban fracking and protect our remaining sources of clean water.
Utilizing the space concretely to get a message across was a smart tactic. You can imagine that many people at Central Park may be tourists, and opening with a brief history lesson on what it was they were enjoying around them seemed to be a great draw. But not just an interesting fact, it also brings attention to history, of promises made to us by our ancestors—in this case, clean drinking water—which, it’s becoming apparent, are our responsibilities to hold those in power accountable for.
We climbed the steps to the terrace—which was a moment of confusion, our group breaking formation, some far ahead of others and many not knowing that we intended to do a banner drop from the terrace. After our brief photo-op and the passing out of more flyers, we made a casual walk back to our starting point for debrief.
– Joe Sutton –
Photo by Julia Reinhart]]>
Chicago, IL–There were so many actions taking place during our time in Chicago that it would be too lengthy to recount them all. Occupiers were constantly on the streets, making their presence known. When they protested outside Rahm Emanuel’s house some of his neighbors provided refreshments. One anecdote worth sharing is when my wife and I were trying to catch up with a jail solidarity march. The occupiers moved too fast, constantly changing direction, and we couldn’t catch up. Finally, my wife and I jumped in a taxi, an odd way to get to a protest, and tried to find the march. We got close enough to see the marchers several blocks away, but the streets were blocked by police. The cabdriver caught on to what we were doing and began weaving through the streets to find a way around the barricades. Telling us it was like a movie he saw a couple days before, he was clearly enjoying this serendipitous adventure and expressed support for the movement. With some deft maneuvering, he got us within a block. Of course we tipped him well.
May 20th was the day of the Anti-NATO rally and march. Numbers have been estimated at 20,000. A number of anti-war groups, CANG8, occupiers, and concerned citizens took part. There were more protestors present than during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Unlike that historic action, this one had a permit. Also, while there was a massive police presence, law enforcement acted with more restraint–at least at first. The march went down Michigan Street as hundreds of people watched from the sidewalks and windows above. There were many acclamations of support, though a few called us dirty hippies and yelled, “Get a job.” Actually, most of us were pretty clean and many of us have jobs. Critiques about employment ought to be mitigated by the fact that we are in an economic crisis and unemployment is most certainly higher than government statistics claim.
The march ended at the permitted spot at Michigan and Cermak. There was a moving ceremony as veterans spoke against war, then threw their medals in the direction of McCormick Place, where NATO was meeting, but the actual site was blocks from where we were. Unfortunately, the majority of marchers were backed up down the street and could not really see the event. As the veterans spoke the crowd began to thin (with some encouragement from the police) and near the end there was only a small group left. There was an eerie moment when I looked around and realized we were surrounded by police, who now outnumbered us.
They closed in slowly, ordering people to leave. Many people did. Others simply got on the sidewalk and continued protesting. Cameras recorded from all around, even on some roof tops. There was a police film crew as well. I could not see over the crowd that had remained in the street, but it was clear that things were becoming volatile. Cops came out of the crowd dragging people in handcuffs, some of them were bleeding. The protestors became angry and started shouting. Two cops grabbed me by the shirt and threw me up onto the sidewalk. I would have fallen, but, instead, stumbled against the people packed on the sidewalk. One cop stuck a nightstick in my face and told me I’d be arrested if I stepped into the street. At that moment, I was more worried about the nightstick than getting arrested.
The police cordon tightened around the remaining crowd. I looked around for my wife. She was surrounded by police, and I could only see her hands held up high, giving the peace sign. My daughter was somewhere further in the crowd and, because of what I saw, I was frightened for her. Then the cops started driving us back, demanding that we leave the area. They pushed us with their nightsticks and there was a discernible threat of violence in their demeanor.
At the same time worse things were happening in the remaining cluster of protestors, who were trying to stand their ground. The police basically beat and pummeled people until they were driven away or arrested. I won’t say that every single occupier was behaving peacefully, but, as a CNN reporter said later that evening, they did not deserve what was done to them.
My wife made it out and we began to search for my daughter. We found a “wellness center” run by a church about a half mile away. My daughter was there, clearly traumatized. She had been pushed around and thrown, and had seen and video recorded worse. The Wellness Center seemed more like triage after a battle. There were people lying around with injuries and/or just trying to recover from the shock. I saw several people with serious wounds on their heads. The liquid running down their faces was not red paint. Some were taken to the hospital. As one was put in the ambulance, I saw a group of cops across the street jeering him.
– Stuart Leonard –]]>
Chicago, IL–Now that I’ve had time to take in everything that occurred during the trip to Chicago and recovered from a nasty virus that came home with me, it’s time to reflect on this amazing event. So much happened during the actions from 5/17 to 5/21 that it is difficult at first to know what to write about. From the moment we stepped on the bus to the moment we returned there was an overflow of exploits and encounters. We all need to recognize the importance of our efforts there and, more importantly, ponder how these efforts relate to the hard work ahead of us. There has been ample documentation of the events and actions, so this is a time for a personal touch, as well as to reflect on the bigger picture.
I would judge the gathering in Chicago a success, with some qualifications. It was the largest gathering of its kind. Occupiers from all over the country came together, worked with other organizations, and succeeded in staging numerous actions which showed that the Occupy movement is very much alive. It wasn’t a cakewalk; there were many difficulties during the trip, and one thing that really moved me was the incredible fortitude and resilience shown by the occupiers, who overcame the obstacles and stayed focused on the mission. The efforts of Occupy Chicago deserve special recognition. They worked incredibly hard on dealing with the needs of the 800 occupiers that came flooding into their city. Such dedication serves as a hallmark of what our movement can be. The churches and other groups that provided lodging and services also deserve our thanks.
None of this would have happened without the support of the National Nurses United. This union provided more than just money, and their commitment and support of the Occupy movement was courageous. I worked closely with members of NNU, and (trust me) this was a complex and arduous endeavor. The nurses took a chance in backing us because they believe in the goals we are all pursuing. An important element of this venture was the cooperation that existed between Occupy and the NNU (as well as other groups.) It showed that Occupy can work with other entities without being co-opted or losing its unique identity. Indeed, at our best, it is our message and energy that appeals to others. More than a few nurses asked me and other occupiers about participating in further actions.
The first large event was the NNU rally on 5/18. Attended by thousands, it served as a positive, festive starting point for the events which followed. The main focus was on the Robin Hood tax: a tax on speculative financial transactions that will get those corporate entities which caused the financial crisis to finally pay up. This tax has worldwide support. It is not an ultimate solution to our grievances, but could act as an important step in taking our world back from the Neo-liberal elite. However, there was more to the rally than supporting the Robin Hood tax: it was a gathering of many people from diverse groups and backgrounds who came to demand social and economic justice, and an end to the tyranny of the 1%. The sea of colorful bobbing signs protesting all the things we’re pissed off about was a beautiful sight.
As the rally was ending Occupy took the streets of downtown Chicago with a wildcat march. It was a feisty action with several thousand participants, yet was not destructive or erratic, and many people on the streets showed their support. The march ended at the Michigan Street Bridge as a line of cops blocked the way and used their old school wooden billy clubs to emphasize the point. Perhaps they were angry because an occupier had just ripped down a NATO banner from one of the pylons abutting the bridge. I thought that was the highlight of the day. As the occupiers walked away they chanted “We’ll be back,” and we were.
– Stuart Leonard –]]>