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Arrest | Occupied Stories - Part 3

Tag Archive | "arrest"

NYC Casseroles March: Multiple POV’s from the Chaotic Start


Editor’s Note: This story is a collection of short first-person accounts from the same five minute time span at the chaotic start of last night’s Casserole march from Washington Square Park in NYC. We believe that the truth behind any story is shared by the many who lived it. If you were there, send us a short account (200-300 words) from your point of view.                                                         —-

Joe Sutton – This march was my friend Audrey’s first action, and as we began the march I warned her that it’s very easy to get separated—so I wasn’t surprised that I’d lost sight of my affinity group pretty much at the moment we left the park and moved east on Washington Square South, though I tried to stay by Audrey’s side as a first-timer.

Like last week, we’d taken the street immediately after leaving the park, but as the front of the march turned south on Sullivan there was a lot of commotion ahead of me. I couldn’t see from my vantage point what was going on, but it was simple to guess: police rushed in to push protesters to the sidewalk, arresting anyone in the street. There would be no repeating last week’s free exploration tonight. I rushed ahead to the corner of Washington Sq. S and Sullivan, where I saw my friend Danny. He told me our friend Nicole got arrested. Was John (her boyfriend) with her? Was he arrested as well? “I don’t know,” Danny told me. For a moment I saw Nicole, hands behind her back, pulled away by an officer; I saw other familiar faces from the solidarity marches in conversation and shouting matches with the police.

The march began to move on, and I turned around and noticed Audrey was no longer with me. I knew she couldn’t have been arrested, as she’d been on the sidewalk by me during all the confusion. But since I was the only person she really knew on the march, I worried where she might be now in all the chaos. I tried to call her, but no answer—and I saw that my phone would soon die. I also noticed a missed call from John, and sent him a text asking if he was okay. Danny had disappeared, and I was now meandering alone at the back of the march unsure of where my friends had gone.

 

John – We stepped out of the park and immediately took the street. Police on foot and scooters, who had mobilized across the park, raced toward the front of the march and we turned left onto Sullivan Street to try and avoid them.  From the east we poured onto Sullivan and from the west police ran in; there was a surreal moment when we all mixed together, racing south on the asphalt. I was near the front and heard a police officer next to me yell “Start grabbing people!” At the same moment he grabbed my shoulder and jerked me back toward him. I lunged toward some protesters on the sidewalk and they reached out, grabbed me and pulled me away from the officer’s grip. I ran through the few protesters and police ahead of me and turned the next corner. Fearing the officer who grabbed me may try again, I took off my sweatshirt and stuffed it into my backpack—the hood had partially ripped off in the struggle.

I doubled back to check on my friends, and saw my girlfriend Nicole handcuffed and surrounded by police. The march was already starting to move on but the scene was still hectic. I crossed the street and got right next to Nicole. Her arresting officer was very sympathetic and pulled her aside to let me take her bag and talk. She even allowed us a kiss and for a brief moment considered just letting Nicole go before a higher ranking officer yelled “Get her in the van!”

“I’m sorry I have to do this, I wish I didn’t” the officer said with genuine concern as she took Nicole away.

You can see the police and protesters seemingly marching together at the start of this video. For an angle from across the street with great footage of the arrests see the bottom of this post.

Nicole Rose – Pan held high, spoon in hand, we marched south to evade the wall of blue under Washington Square Arch. The mood was jubilant, skies had cleared and the clanging of pots and pans was so powerful it became difficult to decipher the chant that had begun. Still high off the fumes of last week’s NYC Casseroles Night we were ready to take our message to the city once more. By the time I was able to understand and join in the chanting (1..2..3..4 STUDENT DEBT IS CLASS WAR) I was being slammed against a car. Frantically, I tried to turn around to see what was happening, figure out why I was being arrested. I was greeted with the response of “we’ll get to that later” and cold, tight metal cuffs.

Blinded by flashbulbs, I scanned the crowd for my boyfriend. We were pretty close to each other when we left the park and I was worried he had been grabbed too. Thankfully, after being thrown against a few more cars and finally onto my knees, I saw him, free. I breathed a sigh of relief. After unloading my belongings and some phone numbers on him, we kissed as I made my way to the paddy wagon and my comrades. I was honored to be standing next to them.

 

Adam H. Becker – How wonderful after the rain with blue sky coming in from the west to start marching for our righteous cause. We passed the fountain and my girlfriend and I decided to walk up to the front. On the south side of the park we started west with the happy din of pots and pans and enthusiasm. Just as we turned down Sullivan Street, empty of any traffic, the police came up on foot and scooters. Most people were not around the corner yet and not many of us were on the street. I did my usual thing of ignoring the police behind me on their scooters. No police said anything to me. There was shouting. I turned around and I saw a guy, whom I have seen at other events, face down on the ground with police on top of him. I stood and watched while hitting my small frying pan with a wooden spoon. Everyone was yelling but I was just watching hitting the spoon so hard that it broke, the head flying off awkwardly onto the lap of the cop on the scooter next to me. Next thing I know someone grabbed me and said I was under arrest. I asked why and told him that no one had asked me to move. The younger cops did not even know the names of the streets or where they were (whereas I have lived in this neighborhood for many years). The angry white cops in white shirts were yelling at the young recruits, mostly of color, about how to do this and that. I told the police that I was in a lot of pain from the restraints they put on me and that they were being cruel. My left hand is still numb as I type this.

 

Julia Reinhart – I’ve attended many Occupy Wall Street marches and actions since last September, mostly working as a photographer, some very large, others on the smaller sides. This week’s casserole march however included a record in how quickly NYPD stepped in to crack down on marchers. We had just left Washington Square Park and entered into Thompson Street when a group of marchers took the street. I was still on the sidewalk when next to me a white shirt cop with a bull horn started shouting at protesters to get off the street. From that moment on it usually takes a few minutes for things to get heated, but other white shirts started grabbing marchers pretty much immediately. It seemed to me that the cops knew who they were after, as I saw them grab some but not others initially. Three arrests happened literally right next to me. Usually I have to muscle my way into a throng of people to get a good arrest shot. Now they were right there. And we hadn’t even marched further than 200 feet from the park … Editor’s note: All photos in this story by Julia Reinhart

Video by WeAreChange.org

Editor’s Note: This story is part of our ongoing first-person coverage of protests in Quebec against student debt, tuition hikes and Law 78, as well as actions elseware in solidarity to those causes.

This post is also one of many recounting events on June 6th, in which cities all over the world marched in solidarity with protests in Quebec. You may read about an arrestee’s account of the march here, and a longer account on the progression of the march hereA story recounting jail support in Chicago may be found here.

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What Really Happened at the Montréal May Day Protest


Editors note: This story was originally published at The Portland Occupier.

Montréal, Cananda – On May 1, 2012, thousands of students and other protesters took to the streets for the Anti-Capitalist rally in downtown Montréal. I attended the protest with a couple friends, and having read the “news” emanating from the “stenographers of power” (the mainstream media), it’s important to set the record straight about what happened here in Montréal.

The Montreal Gazette reported the events with the headline, “Police respond as May Day anti-capitalist protesters turn violent in Montreal.” This exact story and headline were carried across the English-speaking media fresh for the morning’s papers: with the Vancouver Sun, the Province, the Calgary Herald, the Regina Leader-Post, the Edmonton Journal, and the Ottawa Citizen.

The story, as they tell it, goes like this: it started peacefully just after 5 p.m. (this part is true!), and then it “was declared illegal by police at two minutes after 6 p.m. following violent clashes.” A police spokesperson (who apparently is the only person the media chose to interview for their article) said that, “injuries to a citizen, police officers and vandalism on cars and property were the reasons for declaring the march illegal.” The article then blamed “black-clad youth [who] were seen hurling rocks at store windows,” after which the police began to launch flash grenades, and the riot police moved in after 6 p.m. “using batons to disperse the crowd.” At 7:10 p.m., “a full hour after declaring the demonstration illegal, police announced that anyone who refused to leave would be arrested.”

The CBC went with the headline, “More than 100 arrests in Montreal May Day riot.” CTV reported that of the 100+ arrests that took place, “75 were for unlawful assembly, while the remaining 34 were for criminal acts.”

  The first sign of trouble

So, arrested for “unlawful assembly”: what does that mean? It means that when the police unilaterally declare a protest to be “illegal,” everyone who is there is “unlawfully assembling,” and thus, mass and indiscriminate arrests can be made. In Part 1, Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is stated that “[e]veryone has the following fundamental freedoms”: conscience, religion, thought, belief, expression, media, communication, association, and “freedom of peaceful assembly.”

Having been at the protest from its beginning, I can say that it was a peaceful march. While there were individual acts of vandalism (the worst I saw was drawing on a bank’s window with a black marker), if police action were to be taken, it should be to arrest the specific vandal. Instead, they implemented collective punishment for exercising our “fundamental freedoms.”

The protest began in the Old Port of the city of Montréal, and made it’s way down rue Notre-Dame, up St-Laurent, and down to the financial district. The mood was good, people were in high spirits, with music, drums, the occasional fire cracker, young and old alike.

As we entered the financial district, the presence of the riot police became more apparent. When the protest made it to McGill College Ave. – crossing a wide intersection – as the march continued in its consistently peaceful path, the riot police quickly assembled alone the street below us. The crowd quickly became nervous as the protest was declared “illegal.” Before I could even take a photo of the police down the street in a long line, they began charging the crowd. Protesters dropped their signs and began up the street toward McGill University, while another section branched off along the intended direction, and others scattered.

   The charge

The march had been successfully split, and the small factions were then being isolated and surrounded. Suddenly, riot police were everywhere, marching up the street like storm troopers, police cars, vans, horses, motorcycles, and trucks were flying by. As one faction of the protest continued down another street, the riot police followed behind, while another massive onslaught of riot police went around to block off the protesters from the other side. When the police first charged, I had lost one of my friends simply by looking away for a moment. After having found each other up the street, we watched as the protest which descended down the street was surrounded by police from nearly every side. It was then that we saw flash grenades and tear gas being launched at the crowd of people. There was a notable smell that filled the air.

As we stood, shocked and disturbed by what had just happened, we made our way toward McGill to see where other protesters were headed when we saw a group of riot police “escort” three young protesters whom they had arrested behind a police barricade at the HSBC (protecting the banks, of course!).

Up the street, and across from McGill, one protester who had run to get on the bus was chased down by several riot police who then threw him face-first onto the pavement, and as a crowd quickly gathered around (of both protesters and pedestrian onlookers), the police formed a circle around the man and told everyone to “get back!” and then they began marching toward us, forcing the crowd of onlookers to scatter as well. The police then took the young man over to where the other protesters were being “collected” at the HSBC.

  Young man thrown to the ground

There was one young girl, with the notable red square patch on her jacket (the symbol of the Québec student movement) who had to be taken away on a stretcher into an ambulance. We don’t know what happened to her.

  Girl taken away on a stretcher

As more and more police gathered, we decided it was time to leave, walking down the street through which the police had chased the protesters, remnants of signs, red patches, and other debris spilled across the streets; the remains of a peaceful protest ended with police violence.

This has become all too common in Montréal and across Québec, as the student protest enters its twelfth week, having had over 160 protests, an average of 2-3 per day. As the demonstrations take place, the police have used obscure and unconstitutional city by-laws in both Montréal and Québec City which are so vague in their descriptions that any peaceful assembly or march can be declared illegal. Those who are indiscriminately arrested are fined $500, and if arrested again, are charged between $3,500 and $10,500.

It is clear that the State has decided – unilaterally – that freedom of speech and freedom of assembly do not confirm to their specific “by-laws,” and are clamping down on students and protesters in order to quiet and crush the student strike and the emerging social movement which is being referred to as the ‘Maple Spring’. The national media, for its part, has decided to demonize the students, the protesters, and the people; taking the word of a “police spokesperson” over everyone else. Having been at the protest, however, I must question whether these so-called “journalists” were at the same event, because we witnessed two entirely different scenarios.

We entered the march in good spirits, and the police ended it in violence and repression, leaving us standing still, scattered, and disturbed; but our spirits are not crushed, our resolve is only growing stronger, and for each act of violence the police and State impose upon the people, we begin to see them for what they truly are, and thus, what is truly at stake: our very freedom, itself!

-Andrew Gavin Marshall-

Editors note: read all our May Day coverage here.

 

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May Day Miami – Heating Things Up


MIAMI, FL–I remember when Occupy Miami had gained its respected reputation for having the most peaceful relationship with the police… Things are now a bit different.

As you can imagine, Spring has come and things have steadily been heating up here. There had been a few recent cases of police brutality and harassment on a more personal level that some our occupiers had been subject, not to mention March 13th’s infamous FBI and SWAT raid on our building, and let us not also forget that Miami has already had its own long history of corrupt police…

Despite the negativity and fear tactics thrown at us, a new revolutionary spirit had been growing within Occupy Miami as our movement has undergone internal changes; petty individual differences have been settled and forgotten with strong bonds and communication being established, enthusiastic and talented newcomers have been welcomed, new activists groups have emerged from our ranks creating a network of solidarity that has been long overdue, inspiration has come from all around and all bright minds are back in focus.

The past months have been really building towards May first and the following months.

Certain media aggressors such as the Miami New Times are entertaining the notion that May Day foretold an imminent death for Occupy Miami. However, those who were there will tell you that what we are now watching here is a rebirth of the movement in South Florida.

I have to be honest; we at Occupy Miami have a little history of half-assing our events in a way with lack of real promotion and many last-minute announcements which, of course, usually resulted in unsatisfactory turnouts. May Day and the events that preceded it had brought about new shows of effort and even a new radical side to our activists here altogether. I, myself, had to be convinced to stay until after May Day in order to help set things up, rather than leave to Oakland or Chicago, which is what I honestly wanted to do. So in the days leading toward May Day, there was a lot of excitement but also a desire to not get our hopes up for anything too exciting.

However, despite our skepticism, our general strike did not disappoint. Our numbers weren’t in the thousands like other major occupations you may have heard of, but this had been our largest turnout without union help since October 15. SEIU [Service Employees International Union] had set up a rally of their own at a hospital which had recently been privatized, and was now facing mass layoffs at the hands of Wachovia’s old CEO, Carlos Migoya, now Jackson Memorial Hospital’s own CEO.  Their rally probably had much more numbers as well, but it seemed to be overshadowed in a way. Though our numbers were estimated at only around 150, they carried a growing intensity and unity that the unions’ permitted rally could not compete with.

Occupy Ft. Lauderdale and Occupy Palm Beach were making attendance, along with other local groups such as anti-capitalist group MAS [Miami Autonomy and Solidarity] and One Struggle South Florida. We were even joined by a new feminist women’s caucus, RYPE.  Black Bloc elements, which Occupy Miami had lacked in earlier days, had also been emerging; a contingent of black and red flags, accompanied by a little variety of others, were leading the way as we departed from our rally at The Torch of Friendship, after a series of inspiring speeches and warm reunions. We were passing by the nearby port of Miami, and immediately the tone for radical action was set for the day. Without warning, black-clad protesters were joined by many others as they began to close off the port’s entrance with steel barricades that were so conveniently lining the surrounding sidewalks.

It was a valiant effort but, sadly, it seemed to have been predicted by police as blaring ambulances attempted to go down the very roads we had not even finished blocking. Though it seemed to be a strategic move to thwart our plans, bleeding hearts began to clear the way and were then pushed towards the sidewalk by police. We shook it off and continued to move, never neglecting to take the streets and not the sidewalk.

We stomped on toward downtown area in a very energetic and tight-knit coup, moving past a college and then an art school. Several students joined us and were welcomed by deafening cheers. We then marched through the inside of our county hall, Government Center, which was also graced with our campsites for three and a half months. This was our first time doing this and security could do nothing but hold the door open as we all went through and poured back out.

We walked in and out without trouble and continued to march through the surrounding streets, making a notable presence at all the nearby banks, eventually making our way to the financial district, Brickell. Spirits stayed cheerful and positive and were well lifted by cheers and chants of “WE ARE THE 99%!” from a passing school bus. We nearly set up camp at a very cozy Bank of America, but as police pressure started to build up, we gathered our ranks and began to march back toward the downtown area.

This is when things began to escalate and go down a different path. It seems police were growing weary of us taking the whole street. As we marched up the bridge back to downtown, they started ordering us to seclude ourselves to the right lane, but were defiantly ignored. An unmarked police car came aggressively into the picture and tried to push us into the prescribed lane. The driver blared his siren wildly which was lightheartedly answered by a bullhorn siren. The driver was not amused and began charging through the march, nearly running over a girl and her dog. The car was then approached by angry yelling protesters so it drove away and we continued on, still taking up multiple lanes.

Now things were getting heated but we hadn’t really expected the extent. We marched past a huge corporate Wells Fargo Center and were nearly fully past it when we were all urgently called back towards the building; one occupier, Rolando Prieto, was being arrested.

He later told me that as he’d straggled in the back of the march, he began to walk backward while police came behind us. He closed his eyes and began praying in the direction of the police as he walked. As another protester came up to hurry Rolando along, one officer ran up and gave Rolando what I was told to be an open palm punch to the chest. He was dropped to the floor and was then roughly arrested, which is when we were all called back by onlookers for help.

All cameras were on deck as we confronted officers about their actions. Protesters were being pushed and shoved onto the sidewalk for recording and asking questions. One occupier, Brian Tanghellini, had his back turned as he had one foot off the sidewalk. Police pounced on him and a game of tug-of-war ensued with Brian’s body. A few others and I attempted to give aid but then an enormous bike cop threw his bike at us and jumped in to the scuffle as it went to the floor. Another officer was standing on his car swinging his baton wildly at us. He struck one grounded protester in the mouth and then Brian, who was now on his back, grabbed the tip of the baton to put a rest to his onslaught. This is when the giant bike cop, which we have identified as Walter Byars III, began to throw his fists at young Brian, a 22 year old who could have been no heavier than 145 lbs.

Our livestreamer, Alfredo Quintana, (who’s even smaller) saw this happening and ran up to record. Officer Byars then turned his attention to Alfredo and delivered a heavy handed punch to Alfredo’s eye. This happened less than a yard in front of me. Due to Byars’ excessive force, he was pushed away but we’d simultaneously lost the battle for Brian as another female cop seemed to almost stand the heads of two guys who’d been holding on to Brian.

At this point, we were enraged. We were facing this line of very cocky police and were throwing every insult in the book at them. We looked in to their ranks and were surprised to see one officer bleeding heavily from in between his eyes. We figured he’d injured himself from diving at us but we were short on sympathy, due to their violent behavior.

As usual, they gave us no explanation as to why they’d begun arresting anybody in the first place. We remained to voice our disapproval for a long while as they drove off with our two comrades and then brought an ambulance for theirs. We were truly mad, but more united than ever.

After a long confrontation filled with harsh words, we finally proceeded to march back to our rally point at The Torch where moods were to be lightened with an anarchist puppet show put together by members of Occupy Ft. Lauderdale, titled “The Autonomous Playhouse.”

Unfortunately, our troubles were not over. Our bike police aggressors stalked us back to our rally point and watched us intently, waiting for us to vacate this area that was out of their jurisdiction. I was masked up and was about to unmask when I was approached by a couple others who warned me that officers were pointing and intending to target me for arrest. I didn’t doubt it because Officer Byars had been all over me since the beginning of the march and he was still giving me a lot of bad looks.

I wasn’t the only one, of course.

So some of my closer comrades and I began to clear out because it seemed that they were being targeted as well. We picked up the pace once an anonymous friend approached us; “You guys need to leave. Police are about to start making arrests,” he whispered.

That’s all we needed to hear, though it pained me not to be there if any of my fellows were to be in trouble. Still, it was for the best.

As we vacated the area, a helicopter began to patrol above and there seemed to be way too many police around. About an hour later, I’d been informed that our livestreamer Alfredo had been arrested as he tried to leave the rally. This was confirmation to us that our concerns about targeting had been valid and that we’d made a smart move by heading out early. This was the second time Alfredo had been arrested for what seemed to be his attendance at an Occupy event and we were itching to find out what the charges were this time, especially after seeing the video of his arrest, which only showed Alfredo with his hands up, asking why he was being followed and why they wanted to arrest him. Another officer was then explaining to a couple of our activists that what they’d done had been for our own safety–there’s very obvious issues with that logic.

The charges were apparently 3 counts of aggravated assault and one account of resisting with violence. The joke came about later that Alfredo had assaulted Byars’ fist with his face. Police apparently take that very personal, it seems… We were all pretty sure that Byars didn’t want the first-person view footage of his flying fist to be released. That night, we had a vigil outside of the detention center for our May Day 3. One correctional officer actually stated to us that “there’s no such thing as police brutality.”

All 3 were released within the next day and despite the mishaps it seems that everybody had been inspired and re-energized by the experience. We know, now more than ever, that Occupy Miami is not dead and we will now build upon the newly emerged foundation that we have. May 1st has triggered a new vibe and attitude, and perhaps a new day for these growing movements in South Florida. Spring is here and we are ready. Serious momentum has been gained and we are determined not to lose this momentum. Perhaps, if we utilize this momentum righteously, we’ll see a Miami Summer…

-Chris Mazorra-

Editor’s Note: Check out all our May Day stories here.

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A Review of May Day in South Florida


Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Food Not Bombs.

MIAMI, FL–Welcome to another withering criticism of a large-scale Occupy Miami event! Just kidding…actually for the first time in a long time it felt like Miami and Fort Lauderdale had as much going on as an area with a population of over 5 million deserves.

May Day in Miami started with a march starting down Biscayne Blvd. We took the streets and stayed in them. A sort-of black bloc then sort-of shut down the Port of Miami. That was short-lived as an ambulance immediately needed access and some people were pissed that someone tried to block the road in the first place. For these kind of tactics it is a learning experience around here. No one does this sort of thing here, period. So I felt somewhat refreshed just to see it tried, honestly.

So then we marched up and down Biscayne and Brickell, snarling traffic and jeering at bank buildings. Eventually an arrest finally occurred (which I happened to witness) where an activist that was slowing down the police pushing us by baby-stepping in front of the car got busted. Shortly thereafter a scuffle broke out in which another protestor was beaten and arrested and the cops also knocked one of their own on his face, which drew blood. There was also reports of a squad car that came dangerously close to running over protestors.

Afterwards there was a puppet show by our collective, the Autonomous Playhouse, and speakers.

AND THEN, another activist was arrested – Alfredo – who was dramatically arrested after the end of the event and is being charged with two counts of assault on a police officer. Which, in my objective opinion, is BULLSHIT!

There were some downsides. The liberals completely and intentionally abandoned the Occupy march in favor of having another show-protest in front of Jackson Community Hospital, and Occupy Palm Beach, which apparently has sworn off direct action, was nowhere to be seen. What was seen, though, was a vibrant level of engagement, especially by anarchists, in the South Florida area that is a new and encouraging phenomenon.

Great work from all involved (especially Miami Autonomy & Solidarity)…let’s do this again sometime.

-Nathan Patches Pim-

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

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My Court Statement Re: Barricading Myself in the Woodlawn Clinic


Chicago, IL – Since I did not get to publicly protest on this movement, I took an opportunity to put my thoughts into the public record in court when I pled guilty for criminal trespassing for being barricaded inside the Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic on 4/13.

They call me Sugar. Being a protester with the Occupy Movement has meant that ever since the mayor’s budget proposal, which included closing half of the mental health clinics while privatizing the other half, I knew my battle. My family has a history of mental health issues. I still have the scars on my wrists from when I tried to kill myself and I still fight panic attacks. I understand why these services save lives.

On Wednesday, April 11th, I heard a rumor that clients were going to occupy the Woodlawn Clinic. As a protester, I was motivated, but I knew my role in this battle was not to protest. It was to be a neutral medic providing a service to these clients in their desperate attempt to save their lifeline.

On Thursday, April 12th I took my place in a proud history of street medics, which began during the Civil Rights Movement out of necessity to treat protesters being brutalized by police, a system, and society. Today’s suppression and abuse comes from the Rahm Machine and focuses its violence on the mentally ill and poor, leaving it to the emergency rooms, police, and courts like these to replace treatment.

As the primary medic at the Woodlawn Occupation I have helped clients feel safe and cared for. I listen. I hug. And, more often than should happen, I treat handcuff injuries on protesters and the strong, amazing, and desperate clients who do not back down from the Rahm Machine. I have witnessed a community step up and lend their voices, provide food, and share their stories of why these clinics are important to them. This movement has moved me in ways that I do not even know how to express.

What Rahm is doing is wrong. His priorities are skewed. He claims that closing these clinics is about money. But how is it fiscally responsible to close these clinics to save “$3 million” when it throws onto the hospital and justice system the extra workload and expenses, which well exceed the $3 million in savings, and also allows people to die? How is it that he can pressure Pastor Finny to lie about owning property in order to illegally evict the Woodlawn Occupation and get away with it?

Everyone in this movement has personally felt the hand of this immorally, repugnant machine come smacking down. Yet we stand, unwavering. I am honored and humbled to have the backs of those on the front line.

I plead guilty today, not because I am on the wrong side of history, but out of necessity. I wish I could go to trial, but speaking today has got to be enough. I stand in solidarity.

The judge smiled and thanked us for the work we were doing to improve the community. She respected what we were doing and respected us as individuals.

-Sugar- (photo from the Occupied Chicago Tribune)

Editors note: Read more of our ongoing coverage of the Woodlawn Occupation (still going strong!)

Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic Occupation

The Woodlawn Occupation is Not Leaving

 

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The Woodlawn Occupation Is Not Leaving


CHICAGO, IL – Despite numerous arrests and previous dismantling of tents, the occupation at Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic on the southside of Chicago continues.  In its second week, Occupiers and mental health advocates opposed to the closure and privatization of half of the city’s remaining clinics began more formalized use of the space.  On Saturday we held a health fair open to members of the community.  On Sunday I brought a selection of books from the Occupy Chicago library out to distribute to those occupying the space and people just passing by.  And Monday saw local clergy come out to bless and pray with the occupation, as well as advocate for the clinics.

I want to take a minute to make a confession.  Before this occupation began, I don’t think I had ever visited Woodlawn before in my life.  It’s easy to say that I simply haven’t had any reason to; I live on the opposite side of the city, 20 miles away.  Except that the reality is I never wanted to visit Woodlawn before.  It’s a place I’ve only heard of in passing as the site of tragic shootings.

Woodlawn Clinic health fair

Dancing at Saturday's health fair. Photo Credit: Marcus Demery

I wasn’t sure how the people who live and work in Woodlawn would feel about someone like me setting up camp on their front lawn, to be honest.  But the reaction to our presence in the neighborhood has been overwhelmingly positive.  I couldn’t begin to count the number of people who have thanked me for coming down and spending some time with them, fighting their fight.  They’ve been welcoming and kind.  I don’t know if it’s the recent gentrification, the ever-present police surveillance, or my fellow Occupiers, but I feel safe there.  I would sleep there at night if I could.  Plus, it’s a lovely drive down the lakefront and through the heart of the city.  It’s so easy to become ensconced in the parts of the city I’m familiar with and forget how far it stretches, and what a beautiful place Chicago really is.

While occupying on Sunday, I heard more detailed plans for the clergy event, including the intention to set up tents again.  This time, each tent was named after a clinic being closed by the city.  It was a win-win situation; either the city arrested us during a prayer service with some prominent local religious leaders in our midst, or the tents stayed for a while.

I was still working when the event began, but made it down to Woodlawn by 8pm.  There were about 60 people present, speaking out in the form of a prayer circle.  They gave testimonies about themselves and loved ones who struggle with mental health issues and need this vital resource to continue being available.  They told of friends and family members who lost the struggle, and the horrifying consequences.  It was poignant and heartbreaking.  There is a heavy stigma attached to mental health problems that makes hearing them spoken about so openly truly inspiring.

Woodlawn Clinic health fair

Dancing at Saturday's health fair. Photo Credit: Marcus Demery

When the tents went up, before I arrived, police presence increased and threats of arrest were made.  But by the time I got there, only a couple patrol cars remained parked across the street.  The atmosphere was charged, but in a positive way.  Nobody doubted the police would be back, but for a time we were free to discuss exactly what is at stake when public clinics are closed or privatized.

As the prayer circle concluded, I wandered between groups of friends discussing the movement and speculating about what the night would bring.  A small group went to collect firewood and marched it back through the streets, chanting.  We built up the fire and stayed close for warmth.  Someone brought a guitar over and started singing in Spanish.  It was the most relaxed part of my day, despite sensing the squad cars (many unmarked) circling ever closer.

The calm was shattered by the sounds of sirens as two fire engines and an ambulance pulled up to the retirement home next to the lot we have been occupying.  As it turns out, this was a dry run for what was to come later.  But as the fire engines drove past us on their way back to the station, they honked and shook their fists in solidarity, eliciting cheers.

A while later, some of us went to a nearby church which has given us a key in order to use the bathroom.  On our way around the block, we noticed an unmarked car with plainclothes officers watching the encampment from a distance.  On the way back, three more unmarked cars were congregated.  We knew something was going to happen, and soon.

Woodlawn Clinic eviction

Arrests being made. Photo Credit: Marcus Demery

Sure enough, at 10:30pm (conveniently timed for when the news broadcasts all go off the air), a legion of police vehicles descended upon us.  The street was completely lined with them, all points of access blocked off.  We were given 30 minutes to clear out before eviction.  We all took to our phones to call, text, and tweet for supporters to join us.  And then the signs and banners came out, and it became a protest again.  That struck me as odd, how it had felt more like a friendly campfire sing-along until the authorities showed up and turned us back into the angry protesters you see on TV.

When the police came to make their arrests, most of us had moved to the sidewalk.  Two patients told their stories via megaphone as the supporters standing with them were cuffed and taken away.  Then they came for the patients themselves.  Have you ever seen a man arrested with his walker?  It’s not something I’m likely to forget.

The tents came down, and still CPD occupied our lot with officers numbering close to our own 40 or so people left.  They said we had to keep moving or we would be ticketed, so we marched in a circle, still protesting.  And then we found out what they were waiting around for as our new friends from the fire department returned, sirens blaring.  Several

Woodlawn Clinic eviction

Thanks to CFD for keeping us safe from the warmth of this grill. Photo Credit: Marcus Demery

firefighters jumped off the front engine and put out our grill fire in less time than it took to read this sentence.  It was the funniest thing to me, that they would call the fire department out to douse our small, contained grill fire.  An Occupier standing near the engines asked why they had given us thumbs up as they drove by earlier.  They said they support the occupation and were just following orders.  Their jovial attitude made it clear they felt those orders were as ridiculous as we did.  Then they pulled away, honking and waving in solidarity.

The cops left, with 10 of our friends in the paddy wagon.  What was accomplished?  The tents are down, but the space remains occupied.  Our fire was restarted within minutes.  Surely this whole operation, complete with semi-staged arrests on shaky legal ground, cost the city.  How much is it worth to afford us less of a visible, permanent status in the community?  And when will they learn that we don’t give up so easily?

The Woodlawn occupation is not leaving, and neither am I.

-Rachel Allshiny-

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Civil Disobedience on Wall Street


NEW YORK – I have come to three ‘Spring Training’ marches now—but today [April 20th] was by far the most exciting. The weekly marches on Wall Street have become increasingly well-organized and effective at getting occupiers in front of the stock exchange for the closing bell every Friday.

The marches are designed as a fun way to practice new protest tactics before May Day. The police stop us blocks away from Wall Street when we march in a group, so we have developed different tactics of going “civilian,” breaking into small groups to penetrate the police lines that circle the stock exchange before reforming the protest on the other side. This week, when we began to arrive, there were many occupiers already there who have been occupying the steps to Federal Hall since they got pushed off of Wall Street earlier this week. The police had barricaded the steps and control access to what they officially refer to as the “first amendment rights area.” Seriously, they really call it that. In addition to the NYPD, there were counter terrorism, federal park police and SWAT.

As the crowd swelled the police began making arrests and clearing the sidewalk. The police pushed aggressively and isolated everyone who had just arrived from the group that had been occupying the steps to Federal Hall, arresting at least three. Tension was high, but the crowd calmed before the people’s gong—our response to the closing bell of the stock exchange. We mic checked to the people behind police lines on the barricaded steps and celebrated together before breaking into the familiar chant, “A – Anti – Anti-Capitialista,” this time in the very heart of capital. There were police barricades and lines of officers keeping us apart, but there were a few hundred of us dancing right across from one of the most potent symbols of power; the energy was high.

A mic check broke our chant.

“Ten occupiers are laying down on the sidewalk right now, they know they will be arrested and wish to go peacefully!”

Two weeks ago a group began sleeping on the sidewalk, following the exact specifications for legally sleeping on the sidewalk as a form of protest from the the 2000 U.S. district court decision Metropolitan Council V. Safir. The occupation grew larger each night until last week, when the police started arresting people. The occupation shifted half a block to Federal Hall, which as federal property was beyond the jurisdiction of the NYPD. This was where the “first amendment rights area” had been set up. Direct Action had video cameras in place to film the occupiers laying down in accordance with the law, then immediately getting arrested for it.

“Mic Check! Next week we are going to invite everyone to come lay down!”

It was powerful. The NYPD has tried very hard to prevent us from growing roots anywhere in the city. The last few weeks have been filled with arbitrary arrests, sleepless nights and scant media coverage, but for the first time in a while, it felt like the tide was turning today; it felt like we were winning.

John Dennehy

Editor’s note: This is part of series of stories detailing how different occupies are getting ready for May Day. Read what other’s are up to and tell us what’s happening where you are.

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About Last Night’s “Reoccupation” of Chapman Square


PORTLAND, OR–If you were watching at least one or two news stations last night, and if you’ve read the Oregonian‘s website this morning, you might have heard about an aborted attempt to “reoccupy” Chapman Square—the heart of last fall’s Occupy Portland encampment.

I was out there, too, showing up a little before 11 and staying until well-after the cops cleared the park’s sidewalks (no one messed with the still-tender, still-fenced-off replanted grass). And it was a strange affair. (And the Oregonian story, relying on a morning report from a police spokesman, got a few details wrong, mostly in timing.)

The occupation was impromptu, led by one occupier, Remi, who put the call out on social media for reinforcements in hopes of making a stand on First Amendment issues. He brought a sign, his molecular biology textbook, and a backpack. The idea was interesting: Occupy and break park curfew hours without camping—a protest, not a party, etc. Whether and how to reoccupy isn’t yet a clearcut issue for Occupy.

Editor’s Note: This story is excerpted from the Portland Mercury; you may continue reading here.

-Denis C. Theriault-

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How Rose Found Her Roar


Editor’s Note: A version of this story originally appeared at the Portland Occupier.

Today it was my privilege to sit down with Rose and Pam Hogeweide at Anna Bananas in North Portland to discuss Rose’s arrest on the morning of Occupy Portland’s eviction. They are a dynamic and strong mother and daughter that I first met after seeing proud mother Pam’s Twitter posts announcing Rose’s first court date on December 13. They have been involved in Occupy Portland actions since October 6 and recently celebrated Rose’s 18th birthday in very Portland-like fashion with a tattoo that matches her mother’s.

I briefly visited with the family prior to court and we’ve kept in touch in social media circles. As was the case in many Occupy related arrests, Rose’s charges were dropped. By her account, this left Rose feeling very discouraged and ultimately dismissed, in the same way that she felt the entire Occupy movement was dismissed and disregarded. In the next 90 days, Rose actively participated in several actions, such as Occupy The Ports, with the full support of her family. Still feeling no sense of closure about the initial arrest, they decided that they needed to take further action and filed a complaint with the City of Portland. As a result of this complaint, earlier today [April 15, 2012] Rose participated in mediation with the officers who arrested her . She met with the pair of officers she was handed to after being pulled from the crowd in the following video around the 6:44-8:04 mark.

One of the most important questions Rose wanted answered was: why? Why her? She was 17, smaller than the protesters surrounding her, wearing a knitted hat in the shape of a lion, and as you can see from the video, was presenting no threat. Rose’s question initiated a tactical discussion in which she learned that she was arrested because she was in the “bubble”–the area defined by the supervisor standing behind the line of riot police. Anyone located in the bubble was subject to arrest, having supposedly been notified by the infamous “Ice Cream Truck” bearing the sound apparatus calling out a repeated warning to disperse. Rose stated she doesn’t remember hearing the dispersal warning and was suddenly being pushed forward right in the center of the line of scrimmage, in what was reported by officers as a somewhat tense situation. The police also told her that someone had thrown a water bottle or some small item, and that that was what began the series of arrests.

Simply put, Rose was arrested because she was there. She was detained for a short time, and asked a very reasonable question as she was being processed. She asked if she would still be able to attend college and one of the officers stated “this is Portland, this will help you get into college!” She was also told that she was “the nicest Occupier” they had ever arrested.

On that note, we discussed how her view of the political landscape has changed. She stated that prior to Occupy Portland, she wanted to go to college elsewhere, perhaps the east coast. She really had no thought or involvement in local or national politics. Pam stated that Occupy has caused a moment of enlightenment and a growth process in Rose and it is evident that she both supports and loves this awakening in her daughter. It is apparent to me that Rose began to Occupy as a child, and has emerged a more confident, self possessed and empowered young lady with a very bright future.

Through the past months, as Occupy has grown and progressed, Rose has learned that there is a method by which to express her feelings, and that there are solutions to the problems we all face. It has turned her into somewhat of a celebrity in her school, especially with her political science teacher, who looks to her for an opinion whenever Occupy is mentioned. She has gained a fierce sense of community pride and continues to demonstrate a civic consciousness that makes her mother’s eyes light up. Most importantly, she has found her voice and a sense of empowerment that will serve her well as she heads to Portland State University, to perhaps study political science.

-Angella Davis-

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A Sleepless Night at #Occupied Wall Street


NEW YORK, NY – Unseasonably warm air filled the streets of Manhattan as I climbed the stairs and exited the subway. I approached the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street, glanced to my right and knew I was exactly where I wanted to be.

I had found my comrades on the stairs of Federal Hall.

Generally, I enjoy taking some time after I first arrive to write, gather my thoughts or maybe even spin a hula hoop for a bit but I was greeted by a familiar face almost instantly. We shared our thoughts with each other until another familiar face began to mic check.

A group had been discussing their plan of action for the night and wanted to open that discussion to the rest of us. We openly discussed tactics ranging from breaking out into small groups and sleeping in packs around the financial district to surrounding Liberty Park and sleeping on its perimeter. It’s always so encouraging to be a part of these discussions. Our sense of community grows stronger as the days grow warmer; a true testament to the impending American Spring.

Inspiring speeches and playful ways to remember our rights echoed on the human mic following a brief “know your rights” teach-in where we all wrote the NLG [National Lawyers Guild] number on our arms, even though it has been etched in our minds for so long. 212-679-6018. All seemed quiet on the steps when out of the corner of my eye I watched a middle aged woman in a fancy coat and string of pearls drop off a small food donation before hurrying away. I smiled in hope that perhaps the metaphorical walls that separate us were beginning to come down.

That optimism quickly changed when around 9pm federal officers climbed the sides of the stairs and formed a line at their peak. It seemed we may have worn out our welcome. I along with many others stood our ground as journalists and livestreamers swarmed to document what seemed to be our imminent doom. Tensions were running high and things could boil over at any moment when in true occupy fashion we broke into inspirational song.

What began as the group joining together singing the same tune quickly changed to what I can only describe as a round, each of us singing/chanting something different but all in time with the original beat. The magic of our voices sent shivers up my spine until I heard hateful slurs in the distance attempting to overpower our peaceful message.

I looked away from our group to see another middle aged woman, again in fancy clothes. Only this time rather than helping her fellow man she was screaming profanities and flipping us off, looking more like a monster than the lady I’m sure she claims to be. As I scanned the rest of the opposite sidewalk I noticed other obviously disgruntled members of the affluent community. It was clear by the Blue Wall between the two groups, that had grown from about 20 officers to more than 50 seemingly instantaneously, that the powder keg was about to explode.

And explode it does as not 100 feet away from me I witness a resident of one of the neighboring buildings assault an occupier. Pushing, hitting, even grabbing and destroying his clearly threatening cardboard sign all while screaming profanities at this peaceful individual who does not fight back. This is the cue the boys in blue need to justify the horrors to come.

As the police simply pull the assailant away from his victim, they also use it as an opportunity to swarm in, grabbing people left and right for being on the sidewalk, singling out people doing NOTHING wrong, people trying to organize blankets and signs, slamming them onto the pavement, ripping their arms back and cuffing their wrists with the ever popular zip-ties. The residents continue to stand opposite us, seemingly protected by their Blue Army, chanting, screaming, clapping and laughing as the NYPD spits on the First Amendment in front of them, almost at their command. The visual is sickening and will stay with me for the rest of my life.

photo credit: Stacy Lanyon

We continue to respond to their taunts with peace as we cry and hug, mourning those wrongfully arrested. We begin to sing, soft at first, choking back our tears until we overtake the hateful slurs and our love resounds—“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”

I turn in response to a tap on my shoulder, it’s my roommate. We embrace on the steps of Federal Hall, glad to see each other safe after the chaos. She is headed home but wanted to make sure I had memorized her number so she could be there for me if I were arrested. Moments like this reaffirm my faith. We are on a good path; we have love in our hearts, always.

Short bursts of calm litter the next few hours as we wait for midnight. Still on the stairs we regroup & whisper songs and thoughts of hope to one another but when anyone attempts to amplify their voice above speaking volume they are immediately a target for arrest and mobbed by “white shirts” for speaking their mind, for daring to have a voice. The police climb the stairs of Federal Hall, in the shadow of George Washington and remove occupiers by force.

But as it draws closer to midnight the tensions ease. The rowdy neighborhood residents are gone, apparently we are no longer affecting their slumber and they don’t care to taunt us further. It’s just us and the cops. Federal Officers remind us that sleeping is prohibited but our presence is not and the “blue shirts” assure us that “everything is cool.”

I spent the next few hours consoling a friend whose brother was arrested. The three of us had been chatting earlier and I had tried to calm him then, warning her to keep a watchful eye on him. Sometimes no matter what we do, these situations cannot be avoided. We embraced as she wept on my shoulder. Wishing I could offer her more, knowing this was all she needed. Someone to listen, lighten the load, share her pain. We were all in pain.

I said my farewells around 5am, recording another sleepless night in the books for a good cause, knowing I would be back shortly. Oddly, as I walked back to the subway some 12 hours later the air felt warmer that it had in almost seven months and not from the spring sun beginning to fill lower Manhattan but from the love and loss we all shared on those steps.

-Nicole Rose Pace-

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