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American Spring | Occupied Stories - Part 3

Tag Archive | "American Spring"

99Solidarity Occu-Bus Day 5: #M20


Editors note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO. Don’t let the corporate media speak for you, if you were in Chicago tell us what you saw. Submit your story. This post originally appeared on Suicide Girls Blog. 

Excitement for the dawn of a day that had taken much planning was severely tempered by the harsh reality of the night before. Sleep deprived but running on adrenalin, our group headed over to Grant Park.

In the same way the powers that be had tried to frame the narrative for the May Day ‘General Strike’ action by conveniently breaking news that morning of a terrorist plot by supposed Occupy activists, news of the arrest of the NATO 3 on the eve of M20 had been a prominent talking point over the past day. However, by now, more details were emerging, which made the whole scenario seem very suspect.

A pattern had started to emerge that had distinct similarities to the alleged May 1st plan to blow up an Ohio bridge – a scenario that turned out to be facilitated by the FBI to entrap a group of unfortunates who, left to their own devices, would likely be barely able to set off fireworks on bonfire night. Similarly, with the NATO 3 there was much talk of planted evidence and a highly suspect search warrant.

Following a speech by Jesse Jackson, Chris Geovanis of Chicago Indymedia briefed members of the media under the shade of a press not-quite-tent. She told us that when the police conducted the search that had lead to the NATO 3’s arrest it had taken them four hours to produce a warrant which was unsigned when it finally arrived. “That is the hallmark of dirty policing in this town,” said Giovanis, “There may very well be police entrapment here.”

The sun was beating down on Grant Park, so as the rallying cries began in the band shell, protesters were mostly scattered to take advantage of any shade they could find. Tactical and medic briefings wisely took place amidst clumps of trees.

Just before 2 PM, the protesters – and police – began to take formation, lining up in the road alongside the park. Protesters took their place in the center of the street, which was lined by police in riot helmets on either side. At the top of the march, ahead of the official rally banner, press were kettled in a pen of their own. Two police trucks were parked in front of the press pen, and in front of them, somewhat bizarrely, there was a red double-decker sight-seeing bus, the top floor of which was filled with news camera crews.

As the march set off, with the indie media segregated from the protesters, they resorted to interviewing each other. This made more sense that it might otherwise have, since the persecution of key livestreamers and members of the Twitterverse and Bloggersphere, had become one of the main stories of the day.

Walking through the streets of Chicago, I fell in step with Luke Rudkowski a.k.a. ‏‪@Lukewearechange, who was giving an on camera interview as he did his livestreaming thing. Listening in, I heard him talk about how he’d spent the night at a “safe house” outside of the city. This was a precaution several other streamers had thought it prudent to take. “We stream live, raw and unedited for people to make up their own mind,” explained Luke to the old guard reporter. “It’s a very weird situation when homeland security is interviewing your friends about you.”

When they weren’t comparing war stories from the past 24-hours, those in the press kettle were gleefully mocking the news crews atop the double-decker bus. Physically separated from the actual march by the two police trucks, these so called “journalists” were limited to reporting a perspective the police controlled. It served as a graphic illustration as to why the world is tuning into livestreams as mainstream news audiences continue to fall.

Halfway through the march, I ducked under the leading “NO to NATO warmakers” banner and worked my way back through the impressively large mass of bodies. I found my friends just as the march ground to a halt at a point where a group of veterans intended to symbolically hand back their medals. Hot, tired, and too far back to hear the speeches, we spread our large banner on the ground and lay down on top of it.

As I lay back and sunbathed with my eyes closed, I could hear the crowd at the head of the march taunting the cops on horseback who were blocking their way (“Get that animal off that horse”). When I open them once more, much of the crowd has already dissipated. Parched, I left my group, and went in search of somewhere to buy a drink. This turned out to be a highly fortuitous time to act on my thirst.

As I headed back along the march route I encountered massive formations of ominously attired officers from a variety of law enforcement agencies. The state police I passed in full RoboCop body armor looked particularly threatening, sporting batons of a size and length more akin to baseball bats. Before ducking into a convenience store I passed one who was clearly in a leadership role. His smile, swagger, not to mention the large, lighted cigar he made a huge show of savoring all seemed highly inappropriate.

Heading back with supplies in hand, I bumped into my California 99% Solidarity media bus comrade @CodeFrameSF. He was one of several new but fast friends I’d made over the course of this hectic and historic weekend. As we made our way back towards the rally the CPD issued their first dispersal warning. A few minutes later the first of several injured and bloodied protesters began to trickle by, the most severe cases were being tended to and/or carried by Occupy medics. At this point, having got a fair idea of what was likely to come watching the livestreams the previous night, this reporter decided to get the fuck out of dodge.

Back in the relative comfort of the 99% Solidarity base camp, I monitored the livestreams. With the permit having timed out at 4 PM for the official march, it had now morphed into one of the wildcat variety, which was being policed with increasing ferocity.

Once again, the mainstream press were paying attention to Occupy for all the wrong reasons. Members of our group clustered around the TV and channel surfed through several network news reports.

The visions of violence were so shocking that the collective tone of the anchors was distinctly sympathetic to those on the business end of the batons. “We’ve also seen police officers pummeling people and we don’t know why,” noted CNN’s Don Lemon. Later on in the same report, after viewing a particularly brutal shot, he exclaimed, “My goodness! Does anyone deserve that?”

Reports of injuries and arrests were coming in thick and fast. At this point one of our number with legal experience peeled off to do jail support.

[“Does Anybody Deserve This!” – CNN’s Don Lemon]
 

Disturbed by the riot porn that was taking over the TV on all channels, and in need of food and beverages of the alcoholic variety, the rest of our group decamped to a local eatery. The conversation was subdued, as our number stared down at their iPhone and iPad screens, keeping tabs on the wildcat marches that continued on for several hours.

As we walked back our base, a by now beyond capacity Red Roof Inn room, a brief moment of semi-delirious levity took hold as we spontaneously broke out in a chorus of our new favorite chant: “What do we want? Time travel. When do we want it? It’s relevant.” Yeah, I know, it’s occu-humor. Like much about the movement, you either get it or you don’t.

Full disclosure: Nicole Powers has been assisting with 99% Solidarity’s efforts and is in no way an impartial observer. She is proud of this fact.

Related Posts:

99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 1 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 2 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 3 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road TripFrom Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 4 (Pt. 1) Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 4 (Pt. 2) Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago

Posted in #noNATO, StoriesComments (2)

99 Solidarity Bus: Day 4 (Part 2)


Editors note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO. Don’t let the corporate media speak for you, if you were in Chicago tell us what you saw. Submit your story. This post originally appeared on Suicide Girls Blog. 

Chicago, IL – The action that had taken up much of the first part of my day had gone down in my personal history as one of the most civilized political protests I’d ever participated in (see previous post). It was in a great neighborhood – the mayor’s – in the midst of a handsome tree-lined street, which provided just the right amount of shade. The neighbors we surprisingly happy to see us, which is testament to how popular Rahm Emanuel is in his own hood. There was lots of beautiful flowering shrubbery, albeit with riot cops popping up out of it at regular intervals, and vendors were serving ice cream and fruit popsicles out of carts.

Afterwards I’d hopped onto a train and returned to 99% Solidarity’s temporary base to edit images and exploit their wi-fi so I could upload them. I’d also intended to post an updated blog, but then shit started hitting the proverbial fan…

I first began to realize that something was awry when several sources warned me it might be best if I refrained from attending a National Streamers Meeting that was planned for that evening. Then Twitter started to explode with news that superstar livestreamer Tim Pool’s (aka @Timcast) Chicago lodging had been surrounded and searched. Later Pool tweeted that his car had been stopped and that he, fellow streamer Luke Rudkowski a.k.a. @Lukewearechange, and three others has been detained by CPD at gunpoint (see video below). Other 140 character or less posts confirmed the monitoring, detainment and/or arrest of several other online personalities and streamers.

 

[Sunday M20 at approx. 2 AM: Luke Rudkowski, Tim Pool & Crew Detained at Gunpoint by Chicago Police]
 

Justified paranoia set in amongst their ranks as they realized they may have become targets of a coordinated effort to silence the truly free media. @YourAnonNewsperhaps summed it up best, when they called it a “a war on bloggers.”

The rationale for this strategy became all too apparent after two marches – one in support of the NATO 3 who had been arrested earlier in the day and another against police brutality – converged and rapidly devolved into a brutal cat and mouse game. After several hours, the police kettled increasingly panicked protesters in Millennium Park.

At this point, I got a call from one of our #CaliDST members @TRWBS, who’d been shooting at close quarters when a police van had seemingly deliberately plowed down a protester (he was later identified as Jack Amico of Occupy Wall Street). @TRWBS’ footage of the incident was among the first to be archived, and rapidly went viral (see video below). There were numerous other images being posted of shocking uses of force, arrests, and bloody injuries.

Video streaming by Ustream

Like a deer in headlights, at one point I just sat head in hands, overwhelmed by what was coming through on the various Twitter and Livestreams. Events were unfolding faster than I could process them. I was at a loss for words, so I stopped even trying to type. And just when I thought shit couldn’t get crazier, it did.

Likely panicked by footage of the carnage on the street, which by now had hit the mainstream news, a call came into 99% Solidarity’s base saying that the bus company had cancelled all of the NNU-sponsored buses which had been booked to transport protesters from Occupy Chicago’s Convergence Center to the main #M20 #NoNATO rally at Grant Park the next day. The tone of the bus coordinator’s voice, which I overheard as it was broadcast on speakerphone, said more than any of the words he actually used as he laid out a litany of so last minute they were implausible excuses as to why suddenly absolutely none of the fleet of 14 buses would be available the next day.

With chaos still raining on the streets, I monitored the livestreams to make sure my fearless #CaliDST friends were OK. One by one they signed off for the night, and as the Twitterverse calmed down I finally succumbed to sleep.

Full disclosure: Nicole Powers has been assisting with 99% Solidarity’s efforts and is in no way an impartial observer. She is proud of this fact.

Related Posts:

99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 1 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 2 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 3 Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road TripFrom Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago
99Solidarity Occu-Bus: Day 4 (Pt. 1) Of Our Epic Coast-To-Coast Road Trip From Los Angeles To New York By Way Of Chicago

Posted in #noNATO, StoriesComments (1)

The Accidental Medic: A Short Narrative From The NATO Protests


Editors note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO. Don’t let the corporate media speak for you, if you were in Chicago tell us what you saw. Submit your story.

Chicago, IL- I’m sharing this story in order to give credit where credit is due, and to express my love and appreciation for a fellow Occupier, who always goes above and beyond the call.

On Sunday, my friend, and fellow Occupier, Matt, bravely stood up to a white shirt, to negotiate my entrance into an alley where protesters were seriously injured.

Most of our friends were trapped inside a massive kettle, and the police were continuing to push most of us back.  A handful of injured protesters had been helped into a triage area by street medics, at the mouth of an alleyway.  The police were in head busting mode, and just talking to them felt dangerous.

There were too few medics in the triage area, and the police had just barricaded the alley. The medics inside were crying out for more assistance. I tried to talk my way in, but the police, including the white shirts, would not listen.

Matt appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and approached one of the white shirts, to ask that I be allowed inside.  The exchange was obviously quite contentious.  I didn’t hear everything that was said, but the white shirt eventually barked, “Okay, just her,” and ordered the blue shirts move the barricade. I looked back at my friends, and with mutual worry in our eyes, we parted ways, and I darted forward.

In that alley, we had three bloody head injuries, and one blunt force trauma injury to the chest. The police would not let EMS anywhere near us. We tried calling 911 dispatch, but to no avail. The police had total control of the next street over, so there was absolutely no excuse for their actions. We were told we had to move these people.

Patients with head injuries, for the record, should not be moved in this way. One man began to vomit the moment he stood up. We were told to take them all the way to State Street. One of the out of town medics gave me a street medic patch to put on, as I had no red tape on, at the time. I have various certifications, but I hadn’t planned on acting as a medic that day.  Ultimately, I had little choice, as the police had kettled numerous medics, and restricted the movements of others. They had injured peaceful protesters, and then kept medical assistance at bay.

I have witnessed police brutality, and general indifference to suffering, in the past, but I must admit that this experience got under my skin in a way that others have not.  It’s actually very hard to put into words.  The memory of it feels like a wound that will probably take some time to heal.  I suppose I am fortunate.  The bruises I suffered that day are quite minor, compared to some.

I suppose I am also fortunate, as are we all, that people like Matt are part of this struggle.  Occupiers like him make this fight possible, and remind me that no matter what happens, we still have each other.

To anyone who is still naive enough to believe that the police are our potential allies… I can’t begin to tell you how wrong you are.

To Matt… thank you for being brave, and for being strong, and for looking out for your fellow protesters. You are an inspiration, and I’m proud to stand alongside you.

-Kelly Hayes-

Posted in #noNATO, StoriesComments (3)

#SolidaritySunday March in NYC


Editors note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO. Don’t let the corporate media speak for you, if you were in Chicago tell us what you saw. Submit your story.

New York, NY–Since the beginning of the #noNATO protests, I’d been following news and tweets from Chicago religiously, and was troubled by what I saw and heard happening: the apartment raid and its ensuing terrorism charges, the protester intentionally struck by the police van, the targeting of live streamers, the shameful and unfortunately usual police brutality—and all the while, I had friends who were there. But here at home in New York, caught between busy “real life” and a virtual experience of protest and action. The more I heard what was happening, the more I wanted to do something myself—so you can imagine my excitement when it was announced that Occupies all over were to show their solidarity with those in Chicago, Frankfurt and Montreal on Sunday, M20.

In New York City, we would meet in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan to show our solidarity. I headed there after work and found a fairly large group of people congregated around an umbrella-covered table. This must be Occupy, I thought. I pulled over a chair and sat with the rest, everyone gossiping about what had been going on in Chicago earlier in the day, comparing facts and accounts they had heard. A couple tourists came and asked what the hubbub was all about, and listened respectfully as occupiers explained the CPD’s dubious practices over the weekend as well as our general grievances against NATO.

I myself wasn’t sure what we were specifically going to do tonight—a speak out? A meeting? A march? But shortly after 8:30 we lined up and marched north on 6th Avenue. We were to stop at three different locations in the city, where we would mic check a statement in solidarity with those in Chicago, Frankfurt and Montreal. We crossed to the west side of the street and stood outside News Corp, where we were instructed to lock our arms and stand in a circle, emulating those who had protected Jack from the media and prying eyes after his injury, after being hit by a Chicago Police van the night before. We mic checked the following statement as passersby stopped and listened:

“Mic check! Mic check! Do you know the story of our friend Jack? How he was intentionally run over by the Chicago police last night? How his comrades formed a ring around him after the assault? How they overcame fear in the face of state violence? How they showed the spontaneous beauty of affinity?

We are here at News Corp standing together in a ring of solidarity with our comrades in Chicago, in Montreal, in Frankfurt and across the world as they rise against oppression, inequality and injustice.

We are all Chicago; we are thousands in the streets! We will not be terrorized into silence as we protest the illegitimate power of financial and military elites from the G-8 and NATO.

Mic Check! We are all Montreal; we are thousands in the streets! We refuse the draconian emergecy law invoked by the government; we will continue to rise up and strike against tuition-hikes. Free education is a right!

Mic Check! We are all Frankfurt; we are thousands in the streets! We stand against the globalization of austerity and the punishment of the people for the crimes of the bankers. Another world is possible, and she is on her way!

The 1% uses the police, the military, and the media to prop up a collapsing system. We have our voices, our bodies and our hearts. We are here, we are everywhere, we are not afraid!”

 

During the statement, some police and white shirts tried to get those standing to keep moving, to not stop on the sidewalk and listen to us, but a few of us shouted that the sidewalk is public space and, if you’re not obscuring 50% of the space, it’s within your right to stand as long as you need or want to. By my memory, it did not seem to be an argument the police felt was worth pursuing.

With our work there finished, we continued west on 47th Street to the Times Square area. Those meandering through were now at a standstill as we passed through, watching us silently as we chanted: “From Chicago to NYC, stop police brutality!” I imagine that many of them, who likely had no idea what was going on outside of our city due to the mainstream media’s poor coverage of the protests, thought we were crazy. But the importance of tonight’s action—aside from showing support to our friends and comrades—was that we together were delivering our statement, which explained the power of affinity, solidarity and friendship against a violent police force programmed to oppress dissent—a force that many of us, if given the choice, would rather deny exists in America. Tonight, we demanded to be heard.

As we approached the plaza in front of the red steps, some in our march entreated those sitting on the steps to come down and join us. To my surprise, huge groups were leaving the steps—all of them were stepping down! But I eventually realized that this was not because they were inspired to join us; NYPD was removing everyone from the steps to set up barricades before them. Again, we locked arms in a circle and mic checked our statement of solidarity.

Obviously, there was a bigger audience to our action here than at News Corp, and to shout our statement in front of them was a moving experience. At any Occupy action or event you feel an intense sense of community, but in this case it felt especially good to express in unison the feelings I had felt throughout the past four days. And the fact that we were outward-facing, locking eyes with those standing before us—whether they be tourists, New Yorkers, or the police—made the moment especially touching. The majority of faces looking back at us were solemn, and no matter what they thought of our actions or political philosophy, they were listening.

Afterwards we walked a few blocks south to 43rd Street and 7th Avenue, stopping outside the armed forces recruitment center that’s located just across from the police department. The scene was similar to our last location, with one really great difference: after finishing our statement with “We are here, we are everywhere, we are not afraid!” a bystander shouted out: “And we support you!” Our group erupted into cheers and dancing, backlit by the American flag. The single sentence that man declared in solidarity made the entire night feel worth so much.

After our third reciting of the statement, we quickly “went civilian,” and encouraged anyone around who was not part of Occupy to ask us questions or speak to us if we captured their interest. We would return to Bryant Park at 10; it was now almost 9:30. For now, we basked in the light of Times Square, entranced and hypnotized by the larger-than-life advertisements that surrounded us.

Back at Bryant Park, a small group of us congregated at the corner of 6th Avenue and 42nd Street, where a livestream of the protests in Chicago was projected on a screen held by an occupier. It was bumpy at first—each stream we tried was either choppy, or we went offline—but eventually things were moving. We sat and chatted, and many tried to encourage passersby to watch, with the sad but true statement of “I bet you won’t see this on the news tomorrow!” Once again, what we did tonight seemed very important: passing the message along, creating awareness of this faraway thing that was happening to our friends a few states over—that was happening to all of us.

-Joe Sutton-

Posted in #noNATO, StoriesComments (0)

Whose Summit? The People’s Summit!


CHICAGO, IL – You may have heard the news: a small, friendly neighborhood organization known as NATO is holding a summit in our city.  I’m sure they wouldn’t mind it if you stopped by to welcome them to town.  I know I’ll be there to say hi – it’s the neighborly thing to do.

We’ve been discussing the NATO/G8 protests since the inception of Occupy Chicago, and it feels kind of surreal that the week is finally upon us.  In just 8 months we’ve grown from a ragtag bunch gathering in the financial district to a group capable of hosting a two-day event for hundreds of participants that drew media attention from every outlet.  Hell, someone working for the government was so concerned about Occupy’s influence and participation in the protests that the G8 summit was moved to a secluded military encampment.  One summit down, one to go.  Imagine what we can accomplish in another 8 months and beyond.

In response to the elite group of appointed (not elected) officials meeting in our city to plan global military actions that will cost the lives of untold thousands, we organized a summit of our own.  The People’s Summit (May 12-13) sought to explore issues we face both globally and locally while upholding Occupy Chicago’s core values of transparency, horizontalism, direct democracy, non-violence, and non-partisanship.  The schedule was full of speeches, panels, teach-ins, and trainings – as well as food, entertainment, and general good cheer.  The Summit was held in the converted warehouse at 500 W Cermak where we have been renting space since January and included services such as catering via Food Not Bombs, child care, and after-hours live music.

I missed the first day of the People’s Summit, but the reports I heard kept me eager to attend on Sunday.  It was incredible to see the halls full of people engaged in activism and hear the impassioned and intelligent conversations taking place.  As one of the active organizers in Occupy Chicago, I didn’t attend any specific set of events throughout the day.  Instead, I popped in and out of various panels and discussions to get a sense of how they were going and what needed to be done to facilitate a smoother ride.  I heard bits and pieces of discussions on Syria, Afghanistan, economic justice, workers’ resistance and more.  Most rooms were close to capacity, some standing room only.

This  panel-hopping allowed me to get an overall sense of the atmosphere and energy at the Summit, and can I say: WOW.  It’s powerful to see so many people coming together to discuss problems and solutions, dreams and goals, ideas and actions.  As important as it is to be seen in the streets airing our grievances, the movement’s lasting power will come from our ability to sit down to learn from one another and share our resources to create a better world.  This is only the beginning, but from what I saw this weekend, we’re off to an excellent start.

As the night wound down with a final workshop by one of our star NLG lawyers on how to (peacefully) disarm a police officer, I joined members of the Arts & Recreation committee who were working on banners for our upcoming week of action.  Luckily they are more talented than I am when it comes to drawing designs out, but I helped put down some paint and kept them company.  Lying across the floor with a fresh sunburn (thanks to an outdoor press liaison training), filling in bubble letters on canvas, I felt at home.  Occupy people are my people – an extended family if you will.  And I think we should have them over to visit more often.

Thanks to everyone who joined us in solidarity from out of town, and to all the Chicagoans who have put in countless hours of work to make this People’s Summit happen.  I’ll see you in the streets.

-Rachael Allshiny-

Editor’s Note: You can read more #noNATO coverage on Occupied Stories by clicking here.

Posted in #noNATO, StoriesComments (0)

May Day 2012


Below is a list of first-person accounts from May Day actions across the country. Stories are still coming in so check back often to read what happened from the people who lived it; and tell us what you saw on May Day. Submit your story

New York, NY –Wildcat March and Late Night Arrests *Featured*

Montreal, Canada – What Really Happened at the Montreal May Day Protest? *Featured*

New York, NY – The Black Bloc and Wildcat Rally: One Perceptive *Featured*

Miami, FL – May Day Miami – Heating Things Up  *Featured*

New York, NY –  When the Rain Goes Away *Featured*

Oakland, CA – Black Bloc in Oakland

New York, NY – May Day General Strike!

New York, NY – Report: Occupy Wall Street, Music and Protest 

Portland, OR – M1: A First Hand Account of the Heinous Crime of Jaywalking

New York, NY –  Report back: Bryant Park and 99 Pickets 

New York, NY – My May Day

Western Mass –  May Day Loner 

Washington, D.C. – Transportation Workers, Day Laborers Join Occupy DC’s May Day Protest

Pasadena, CA – Report back: Pasadena

Port Townsend, WA –  A May Day at Home

Harrisonburg, VA –  A Songful Day

New York, NY –  The Universal Pilgrim 

Detroit, MI –  May Day Confusion at Grand Circus Park

New York, NY – Tell it to Your Lawyer

New York, NY – Occupy Peace

New York, NY – May Day NYC: How the Police Are Occupying Wall Street Too

Miami, FL – A Review of May Day in South Florida

Tacoma, WA – May Day Speech at Occupy Tacoma

——-

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Reportback: No Pipeline Bike Ride Action


NEW YORK, NY–The event was in coordination with Occupy’s Another City is Possible national call to action.  The ride, organized by Time’s-Up, began at 2pm at Union Square south where about 40 cyclists gathered.  We read aloud the Sane Energy Project’s top ten reasons to not build the Spectra pipeline and then set down Broadway, our bikes decorated with windmills and colorful signs reading “Disrupt Dirty Power,” “Protect Our Commons” and “No Gas Pipeline,” and while the sound bike blasted music, we handed out hundreds of fliers to passersby in the village.

We arrived at Pier 54 by 3pm to be joined by a couple dozen more people.  We spread out along the Hudson at the pier with beautiful banners made by Direct Action Painters, costumes, bikes, folks from the neighborhood and from across the river, our partners in fighting the 16-mile pipeline that would originate in Jersey City and end in the West Village, storing fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale directly under the new Whitney Museum and the High Line Park.  Reverend Billy gave us a rousing welcome and handed over the People’s Mic to Denise Katzman from the Sane Energy Project, who described the details of Spectra’s plan and their spotty safety record.

We led a Plus+Brigade Training of mobilization tactics on the pier, forming a mass Wall and Melt, and then marched over to the High Line with songs like, “Can we get off of fossil fuels?  Oh how I want to be in that number when we get off of fossil fuels!” (to the tune of Saints Go Marching in) and “Get Up! Get Down!  No spectra pipeline in this town!”

Our procession now included a cymbal bicycle wheel, drums, a horn, and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir leading the songs along the smiling brunch-goers. We arrived at the end of the High Line at Washington and Gansevoort streets, and circled up at the base of the stairwell, police on all sides. Reverend Billy preached while police were dismantling our puppets and banners hanging from above. The choir sang: “It’s gonna rain.  Spectra pipeline, you’re killing this town.  People are angry.  People are proud.  Spectra Pipeline get out of town!”

In a moment of improvisation, after the police foiled our plan for “toxic frack chemicals” to rain down from the High Line onto a group of “unsuspecting West Village gallery-goers,” I set up a tarp behind the gathering and poured the black, yellow and orange paint over my head, as a symbol of the radon, carcinogens and other toxins the spectra pipeline would be releasing into our environment.

Two groups, on bicycles and and on foot, continued onto a garden clean-up and party at La Plaza Cultural in the Lower East Side.  We danced, visited the new Museum of Reclaimed Urban Spaces, chatted with gardeners and ate pizza as the sun went down.

The fight continues!  Let’s keep it vibrant, colorful, visual and loud!

-Monica Hunken-

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May Day Speech at Occupy Tacoma


TACOMA, WA–This is a video recording of the May Day speech I gave at the lovely and historic Wright Park in Tacoma, Washington State, to a rally organized by Occupy Tacoma and others. This park is a beautiful patch of green in the middle of an urban area, quite close to downtown.

For those of you in other parts of the world, Tacoma is west-coast port city and is quite close to the northwest corner of the United States. At the time of our May Day rally, we experienced what was typical weather for this time of the year here in Washington State (For those of you not familiar with American geography, Washington State is not the same place as Washington DC, the USA capital, thousands of kilometers away).

We had periods of sun and warmth, then rain, and even a bit of ice, followed by warmer sun. The sky looked spectacularly dramatic, a mosaic pattern of clear sparkling blue patches intermixed with other patches of dark clouds, sometimes with bright fringes. The scents of spring floated in the air, wafting up from the many trees, plants, flowers and the moist good earth under our feet. Eddies of chill wind whipped around us, stirring up nature’s perfumes, and then the air would be still and warm. One minute, the sun shown brightly, and then just seconds later, a big black cloud would obscure the sun. As I gave my speech, we went through spots with sun and still air, followed by spots of icy rain, followed by brisk cool breezes, and then more warming sun embracing our faces.

At the time of our May Day rally, the hospital workers had had an informational picket line at several nearby hospitals, and many of those picketers had taken some time off to come to our rally. And before our rally, many of us Occupy Tacoma supporters and friends had joined the hospital workers in their picket line to show our solidarity. After our rally, many of us attended their union rally at a nearby church, and it was quite inspiring to hear these workers talk about their situation and their plans.

I support those workers. My wife spent her last days in one of those hospitals now being picketed, and the workers were super, making every effort to make the last days of her life as comfortable and pleasant as possible. She was very grateful to them.

Representatives from other unions attended our rally and walked with the hospital workers on the picket lines as well, and supporters and members of Food Not Bombs and Jobs With Justice also came by. We had food cooking, and some homeless people came by and shared a meal with us.

The speech I gave at the rally was a bit different than many of of my other speeches in that I delivered this speech in verse, mostly blank verse. When you see the video, you’ll probably notice that.

The sound recording was a bit problematical at times because sudden gusts of wind whipped by the microphone, muddying the sound, and sometimes the microphone picked up too much ambient noise.

Nevertheless, I’m quite happy with the way this video turned out, despite a few technical difficulties in producing it, and I hope you enjoy seeing my speech as much as I did in delivering it.

I’ve lived a good long time now, and the sudden rise of the Occupy movement, the related European movements, and the movements of young people in Africa, Asia, and our sister countries of the American continents has, in the autumn of my life, warmed my heart, more than I can say in mere words. These wonderful young people have given my soul reason to soar high on the wings of hope and sing a song of the new spring.

To the activists all over the world and here in the USA, thank you for all you are doing to make this a more decent world and to challenge the rule of the 1%. This can be a difficult and tedious process, even irksome at times. But I believe in the end, we will win, and the world will rise on new foundations.

Karl Marx said these interesting words:

When people speak of ideas that revolutionize society, they do but express the fact that within the old society, the seeds of a new one have been created, and that the dissolution of the old ideas keeps even pace with the dissolution of the old conditions of existence.

At this historic moment of history, we are creating the seeds of a new society, and they are sprouting and taking root in the very fabric of the old.

We shall overcome! ¡Venceremos!

-Alan OldStudent-

Editor’s Note: You can check out more May Day stories and coverage here.

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The Black Bloc And Wildcat Rally: One Perspective


Editors note: this was originally published in the Thought Catalog.

New York, NY – Surrounded by hundreds of police officers and protesters, I was sitting on the steps of Sara D. Roosevelt Park, on the south side of Houston between Chrystie and Forsyth, eating half of a tangerine. It was 1 p.m., and I was there for a rally that was unpermitted by the New York Police Department and unsanctioned by Occupy Wall Street (whatever that means).

Waiting for the rally to start, I noticed more and more protesters arriving in all black clothing, their heads covered with hoods, masked with bandanas or balaclavas. They were in small clusters of friends, each group seemingly unfamiliar with the rest of the demonstrators and even most of their black-clad peers. The crowd swelled to three or four hundred protesters, surrounded to the north, east and west by a hundred police officers. Banners were unfurled with slogans like “Kill Capitalism, Save the World” and “F-ck the Police.”

At 2 o’clock, the march commenced. A push was made by the head of the march to cross east against a line of police officers. A shoving match ensued between protesters wanting to make their way across the street and the police officers stopping them. Individual demonstrators were picked off by the police, pulled from the crowd into a swarm of hands and batons, pinned face down to the asphalt with knees on their backs, cuffed with thick plastic ties and dragged away. Some managed to get free and dove into the anonymity of the crowd, like calves returning to the herd for protection after a close call with the wolves. In this fashion, the standoff took on a particular dynamic: The front line of protesters crashed against a line of police officers, who attempted to sequester and subdue individuals, who in turn retreated farther back into the crowd while a wall of shoulder-to-shoulder protesters impeded the pursuing officer.

When police officers from all sides — north, east and west — advanced against the crowd, a collective fight-or-flight response gripped everyone: the protesters, the reporters, the photographers, the legal observers. Hundreds of us began streaming back into the park, running south, the only direction not cordoned off by police. We jumped the park rails to the east, rushing onto Chrystie Street against traffic, which came to a standstill. For the moment, we had lost the cops.

Traveling south on Chrystie, we organized again into a march, with banners at the fore and chants picking up. Zigzagging through Chinatown, a scuffle broke out amongst us: a demonstrator wishing to remain anonymous and a photographer cataloging the scene. Punches were thrown, but the two were quickly separated, and we continued on.

We reached Canal Street, overtaking a lone traffic cop and all of the westbound lanes to march through Chinatown. Our side of the avenue was devoid of cars, all replaced with hundreds of bodies. When a chant of “F-CK THE POLICE” was taken up, bystanders sang along. Reaching Broadway, we turned north, the flood of us pouring up in between the stalled oncoming vehicles, shoppers, tourists and department stores.

Throughout the entire procession, there was nothing leading us. There was no parade route to follow nor conductor who decided which direction the lot of us would go. One of us would simply run into the approaching intersection, survey the options and shout back recommendations — “Cops to the left! Go straight!” Their advice fell to whoever heard and was combined with the common wisdom — another shout: “The park is ahead but it’s fenced off! Go right!” — and the unwieldy will of the masses to determine which direction the march should go.

Like rabid dogs nipping at the feet of their fleeing victims, the police would occasionally catch up with us, tearing an individual from the crowd to be collared. They sped up behind us on scooters and sprung out on top of us from undercover vehicles, mostly Ford Econoline vans, Kia minivans and Impalas in white, silver and grey. We told ourselves to stay in a tight formation to prevent being isolated, we picked ourselves up when we fell, we tore ourselves free.

The rear was watched nervously and a cry was raised each time the police approached, sending us stampeding down avenues as far as our burning lungs and raw legs could take us. To cover the rear from encroaching police vehicles, we laid obstacles in the street — things that were easy enough to avoid on foot, but would be difficult for a scooter or car to maneuver around: trash cans; newspaper dispensers; metal barricades that we found stacked on corners around Broadway and Prince by the NYPD in anticipation of a permitted march from Union Square to the Financial District that was to begin at 4.

We zigzagged through Greenwich Village, marching, chanting, waving banners and flags, raising our fists, linking our arms together. Somewhere in the back of our minds, we knew that we weren’t doing much — walking, talking, making gestures, holding up signs, helping each other when we needed it and, of course, running from the police — but those doubts were suppressed by the simple freedom to walk in the streets and say to ourselves “Whose streets? Our streets!” without being penned in on all sides by cops. It was a silly thing to relish, but it was even more absurd that we couldn’t enjoy it every day.

Travelling west in the Village, I had sprinted ahead of the march before an intersection and was suddenly left alone when the entire procession turned north towards Washington Square Park. I kept going west, thinking I would come around the block to meet them once more. As I approached Sixth Avenue, I noticed a grey minivan speeding down the street behind me. When I stopped at a newsstand, it pulled over. When I continued to walk, it suddenly began driving. Unnerved, I ran down into the West 4th Street subway station, through the turnstile and caught a Brooklyn-bound C train that was just pulling in. Standing in the corner of the subway car, I realized that my shirt was soaked through with sweat, that I was panting, that my hands trembled.

After getting off at Spring Street and stopping by a bar to change my shirt in the bathroom, I made my way to Washington Square Park. An NYU-related demonstration was going on at its center, with speeches being made through the human microphone to a patient crowd. I recognized a few unmasked people from the Wildcat rally, who were now sitting at picnic tables, laying in the sun or calmly walking about. Even more uncanny, I noticed people laughing, jubilant and carefree, though with familiar backpacks, worn shoes and steely eyes. The black bloc was nowhere to be found.

-Arvind Dilawar-                                                                                                                                                                     ADilwar.com                                                                                                                                                                @ArvSux

(photo credit: Jessica Lehrman)

Editors note: Read all our May Day coverage here.

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Wildcat March and Late Night Arrests


Editors note: This post originally appeared On Globetrotting 

New York, NY – While living in Europe I was was witness to some intense May Day scenes, from evicted squatters smashing windows in Zurich to lingering tensions from the break-up of Yugoslavia spilling onto the streets of Vienna. From that perspective what happened this May Day in New York City was relatively sedate. Still, the day turned out to be far more violent than necessary. A group from Occupy Wall Street had announced a so-called Wildcat March and promised some shenanigans. Whether that prospect alone put the NYPD response into overdrive, I do not know, but the level of force on display was hardly proportional to the threat the marches actually posed.

Mind you, I don’t want to walk down Fifth Avenue through a sea of broken glass. I don’t condone violent tactics, and forgive my French, but if you start breaking shit, you loose me. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if the very tactics NYPD deployed may not ultimately bring that scenario about. After all, actio = reactio, as the old saying goes. And both sides have been ramping up their antics.

NYPD ground troops were observed conducting exercise drills in full riot gear on Randall Island in the days leading up to May Day, while their Intelligence Unit stormed the homes of several organizers on a series of pretenses (More on that here, and here if you like). And finally, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly deployed his second in command, Deputy Ray Esposito, in person to supervise police actions in response to the Wildcat march. So, whatever happened that day was not only approved, but implemented from the very top of the chain of command.

Occupiers meanwhile showed up with an enormeous “Fuck The Police” banner, goggles, bandanas, and black hoodies. So, what exactly did they expect?

I had tried to meet the march from Brooklyn across the Williamsburg Bridge on the bridge itself, walking up from the

Manhattan side. But I was blocked from entry and made to wait at the foot of the bridge, along with Deputy Commissioner Esposito, Captain Lombardo (more on him here) and 100+ riot cops.

As the march finally arrived, three protesters had already been arrested on the bridge and were brought down first. Later on, about 300 marchers came along, chanting slogans, carrying signs, and generally doing what protest marchers do. Hardly cause to deploy 100 riot cops.

A bike squad was also part of the march, and they gave the scooter cops a good run for their money riding up and down Houston Street, having NYPD quite literally run in circles. The mood until then had been fairly relaxed. Deputy Commissioner Esposito was busy talking on his phone, while everyone else basically waited to see what would happen.

All that changed the moment the hoodies appeared. After a peaceful assembly in Sarah D. Roosevelt Park on Houston Street and 2nd Avenue, a group of protesters emerged in black hoodies and goggles. They barely made it to the street corner, when the first shoving match ensued, leading to several arrests. While the police were making their first collars, and a group of protesters tried to hold them back, the rest of the marchers snuck out the back entrance of the park and started running through Chinatown.


   

What followed was a cat and mouse game between cops and protesters with some trash cans and some paint bombs thrown about. I didn’t hear any glass break, but not for lack of trying. Both protesters and police were agitated, one side

trying to get away with taunts and running in the street, and the other side hellbent on shutting down any such action. Also, Deputy Commissioner Esposito did not go back to his office. He rolled up his sleeves and went right in there.

Further up, around the corner of 8th Street and 6th Avenue, the next major melee occured, as protesters tried to run up 6th against traffic – a tactic that had proven successful in avoiding kettles and being herded into unwanted directions. One protester was slammed to the ground so hard, he wound up with a bloody nose. Another had suspicious discoloring on his torso, after he emerged back on his feet, hands cuffed in the back.

 

Finally, a bit further up the road towards Union Square, four protesters were arrested for “blocking the sidewalk”. After being told all morning that they were supposed to stay on the sidewalk, these protesters walked where they were told to, chanting “We refuse to obey by your laws” and waving a flag. A white shirt cop on a scooter came up behind me riding on the sidewalk and drove up to them. Next thing I know, they were arrested, again rather brutally. And, again, Ray Esposito was right there.

 

I wondered what he was thinking this display of force might actually achieve, other than further radicalizing a group of protesters already willing to push the envelope. I walked over to the Deputy to ask him, but he was busy shoving a protester. And as I waited for him to finish, I was pushed away by another cop. I looked for Esposito later on to ask him that question, but that was the last time I saw him that day.

Union Square was packed! I’ve never seen so many people there or at any Occupy event I have attended. The atmosphere was festive and the usual diversity of people and ideas was very well present. An odd dichotomy to the past few hours I had just spent running around downtown Manhattan. The oddity of the situation was rounded out when I went into Whole Foods on 14th Street to grab a drink. There was a long line for the restrooms. And after chasing each other through the streets, I found cops and protesters lining up for the same bathrooms …

The march down Broadway included an estimated 30,000 people, protesting for workers’ rights, immigrant rights, and for social justice. About 100 labor unions and affinity groups had sponsored this march, and turned out in force. Jesus and Captain America came along, too.

 

As the march reached downtown Manhattan, we found Zucotti Park barricaded off from the marching route (30,000 people wouldn’t have fit in there, either), and the procession moved on towards Wall Street. As had been the case during the Liberty Square occupation, the street was barricaded off for any pedestrian traffic. Somewhat odd, given that for the past three weeks, Occupiers had held a 24 hour vigil on the sidewalks and later on the steps of Federal Hall). Consequently, 30,000 people suddenly had nowhere to go, and a shoving match ensued again, as protesters voiced their anger at the protection Wall Street was receiving, both physically and figuratively.

 

The march finally moved on toward Bowling Green, where several union members held speeches. Afterwards about 1,000 of the Occupiers marched on toward the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Water Street for a People’s Assembly. The amphitheater behind the memorial wall was packed, as people caught up on events of the day around the country, and started to wind down and relax after a long day of marching. New York City councilmen Jumaane Williams and Ydanis Rodriguez, both plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the NYPD over their forceful tactics (more on that here), were at the assembly.

 

Councilman Williams urged everyone to “keep agitating, as change doesn’t come quietly.” The memorial however closes to the public at 10pm, and so again, NYPD assembled over 200 cops in riot gear outside the memorial to move in shortly after 10 to close the park. Questions whether NYPD actually had jurisdiction remained unresolved, given that war memorials tend to be federal properties.

Most protesters left before much trouble could arise, but some did get arrested. What followed was the truly saddening part of the day’s events. Admittedly everybody was tired at that point – cops and protesters both had been on 17 hour shifts – but arresting people brutally for no reason has no place in a democratic society. Had causes for arrests during the day been thin at times, at this point they were completely non existent. One man was arrested for walking his bike on a sidewalk. Seriously.

A group of protesters sought refuge near South Street Seaport at the Waterfront, but was driven away again, at which point I called it a day and went home. All in all, 97 people had been arrested that day, many under the direct supervision of the NYPD’s Deputy Chief. I wonder whether he needed to be there to make sure these arrests were happening. Several beat cops looked uncomfortable doing what they were told to do.

A friend later told me that as she was sitting with others in Zucotti Park around 2am, a white shirt cop walked by her and said “Ok folks, you stay here as long as you like. We’re going to bed …”

-Julia Reinhart-

Editors note: check out all our May Day coverage here. 

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