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Occupied Stories » D17 http://occupiedstories.com Read & contribute first-person stories from movements around the world Tue, 27 Jan 2015 04:54:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.14 A Visit With Mark Adams, J26, Part 2 http://occupiedstories.com/a-visit-with-mark-adams-j26-part-2.html http://occupiedstories.com/a-visit-with-mark-adams-j26-part-2.html#comments Fri, 29 Jun 2012 18:52:10 +0000 http://occupiedstories.com/?p=4452 Editors note: This is re-posted from Support Mark Adams, who is currently serving a forty-five day jail sentence on Rikers Island. Readers are encouraged to write to Mark, and may check here for letter writing guidelines (including the address to reach Mark.) This is part two of a two-part story; read part one here.

New York, NY–We were led to an old gymnasium, decorated with an odd juxtaposition of colorful murals of the NYC skyline – including a tragically ironic depiction of the Statue of Liberty – and plastic chairs arranged in neat rows, which were sorted by the number of seats for visitors. We were pointed to a set of three chairs across a round plastic table facing a lone seat – a setup designed to ensure our being physically separate from Mark. We were allowed to hold his hands (and did so – the entire time) but couldn’t move closer to him or sit on the floor near him.

We waited in anticipation for a few moments, and then, suddenly, there was the lovely, bearded man walking slowly across the room towards us, a wide smile breaking his somber face as he saw us. The three of us engulfed him in an amazing group hug (a corrections officer chuckled that we were going to suffocate him), and then long, lovely individual hugs before sitting down. His hugs are still super wonderful and feel as they always have – teddybearish, heartfelt, and huge. He looked a bit thinner (by, he later told us, about 8lbs), but bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked, and ostensibly healthy overall.

We started out conveying individual greetings and messages from a plethora of supporters who had asked us to give their regards. We told him about the solidarity actions outside Rector Coopers’ house and which are ongoing outside of Trinity Wall Street. We related the story of a comrade who had been turned away by corrections officers on a previous visit due to insufficient ID, and how a visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles had left him so frustrated that he had three-quarters of the DMV pumping their fists in the air shouting “[expletive] the system!” And we talked about the amazing community meeting that empowered the Otter Solidarity Team to set up his visits, and all the collaborative organizing throughout the community that has gone into supporting him while he’s gone. He was especially moved by this: “That might make this all worthwhile, in some way,” he said.

And Mark shared quite a bit with us – in fact, he spoke about as much as the three of us did, combined. We’d gone in somewhat concerned that he would be withdrawn, but found him to be extremely present and coherent. What he told us, though, was at times difficult to hear. He described feeling that he had left part of himself behind when he was taken to jail, and explained that “in here, this isn’t the real Mark Adams.” He expressed some anxiety about being able to rejoin his full self upon release, but it felt to us like the stories we brought from the outside had already relit – at least, momentarily – Mark’s internal Roman-candle-in-waiting. He grinned when we assured him that the Mark we know and love is very much outside the barbed-wire fences, in our hearts and conversations and on our signs, and will be waiting for him along with the rest of us when he gets out.

He said that he knew our visit would leave him happy for the next few hours but then he would go back to how he usually is. He spends most of his time in his bunk, reading, doesn’t go outside and tries to keep to himself.

He’s received quite a bit of written correspondence – so much, in fact, that the corrections officers remarked to him that he was getting mail “like Lil Wayne did when he was in Rikers!” Some of the letters came from quite a distance, and Mark said he was particularly tickled by some childrens’ drawings of the D17 courtroom – a big round judge, and Mark sitting on a bench with a big beard. He again reiterated that he doesn’t often feel up to writing back, and we assured him that every time this statement from him has been passed along, everyone’s all “pssh” and that he shouldn’t feel any sense of obligation.

An interesting and useful bit that came up: he loves all of the books he has been receiving but he doesn’t know who any of them are from because the packages are opened and discarded before he receives the books. In the future, if you are sending him a book and want him to know it’s from you, write a note inside the cover for him. He also voiced some amused bafflement at the amount of communist literature he had received: “whoever keeps sending those books – I get it!” he told us grinningly. He stores the books in a large tupperware under his bed- it is completely full and he is trying to figure out what to do with the surplus books. There is no library at Rikers and if they get left around, books often wander off with the corrections officers.

Mark brought up his hunger strike, and how it has helped him bring his protest to Rikers. “I came to Occupy Wall Street to march and hold signs, and I can’t do that in here,” he explained. His hunger strike has brought him the power to fight back against the trauma and disempowerment of his sudden abduction, and to politicize his time in jail. The heightened medical attention he has received has brought him many people – doctors, counselors – with whom to discuss his politics and Occupy Wall Street. We shared some of the community’s concerns about his hunger strike – related to his well-being, the outside-jail politics of it, and the impact it may have on the OWS community – and he welcomed the “honest” feedback and promised to consider the concerns. “I’m not one of those comrades who won’t listen,” he promised, and we assured him that we already knew that about him.

Mark described his perception that officers at Rikers were somewhat taken by surprise by his adamant refusal to agree to any normal medical treatments given to inmates upon admittance (many of us already know of Mark’s avowed dislike of allopathy) and even more by his decision to pursue a hunger strike during his incarceration. One of the results is he sees a doctor twice a day, a different doctor each visit, which gives him many people to talk to about his statement. He is on some semblance of a juice fast, but the only juice available comes from powder – so, it’s basically flavored sugar water. The healthiest thing he has access to is three bottles of Powerade he’s allowed from the commissary each week. His sugar levels are being monitored by doctors to keep his glucose at healthy-ish levels. He told us of the awful food available to inmates, and even if he wasn’t on a hunger strike there wouldn’t be much for him to eat. All meals involve mostly meat dishes. There are two options- regular, and kosher/halal, but no vegetarian or vegan choices, and what few vegetables accompany the meal would not constitute appropriate nutrition on their own.

We tried to run the visiting schedule by him, but Mark has enjoyed the surprise of not knowing who is coming, and trusts our judgment. “I mean, you guys know who my friends are, right?” he said with a big old Mark Adams grin on his face. And he knows who his friends are, too, and feels very loved.

We were given no warnings as to how much time had passed during the course of our visit, and seemingly out of the blue, the C.O. who had led us in handed us back our boarding passes. We looked at him quizzically, not ready to understand what that signified. “Time to go,” he explained. And that was it. We took our time for another minute of loving squeezes, and watched Mark shuffle back to the door through which he came (we caught him making a goofy face at a C.O. on his way out), as we were escorted back out the door we had entered, out past security and onto the bus. For all the hours of waiting and negotiating the Rikers bureaucracy to see Mark for that one bittersweet hour, the exit was rapid and painless. By around 5:30 we were back on the city bus and headed off of the island.

The contrast was stark, and tragic: we returned to our lives of freedom and companionship; he to his of confinement and isolation. We decompress, together, in a comfortable living room, while Mark – along with 14,000 other Rikers inmates, and another 7 million across the country – are left alone to process the injustice and dehumanization perpetuated by mass incarceration.

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A Visit With Mark Adams, J26, Part 1 http://occupiedstories.com/a-visit-with-mark-adams-j26-part-1.html http://occupiedstories.com/a-visit-with-mark-adams-j26-part-1.html#comments Fri, 29 Jun 2012 18:33:09 +0000 http://occupiedstories.com/?p=4448 Editors note: This is re-posted from Support Mark Adams, who is currently serving a forty-five day jail sentence on Rikers Island. Readers are encouraged to write to Mark, and may check here for letter writing guidelines (including the address to reach Mark.) This is one part of a two-part story; read part two here.

New York, NY–We spent the previous twenty-four hours preparing ourselves for what we imagined would be a difficult day: poring over the DOC website’s rules and regulations, reading and rereading reportbacks from the last two visits, seeking and receiving much great advice from lots of great people – and bracing ourselves emotionally. We were probably as prepared as we possibly could have been, but it took the visceral experience to truly grasp its weight.

Upon our arrival via the Q100 bus from Queens Plaza, we followed other visitors towards the entrance along a path that seemed constructed to immediately make you feel trapped and uncomfortable.  We stood in line for about 20 minutes between two chain-link fences with barely enough space between them for two columns of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder. The inside fence has large-print advisory signs on them, which were a challenge to read because there was no room to stand back. The only sign with reasonably-sized lettering was, for some reason, elevated about 20 feet in the air, making it just as difficult to read but in a totally opposite way. Almost every sign throughout the visit bore rules upon rules, and threats of arrest if any of these rules were broken – as if we needed the reminder.

The sun beat down. In the distance, we could see large, imposing buildings surrounded by barbed wire, and we wondered where Mark was. We were among only about six white folks of about 50 total people in sight. Almost all of the other visitors were women with young children, and most seemed inured to the dehumanizing bureaucracy that frustrated us at every turn.

We left everything in the first locker except our quarters, some cash, our IDs, and the books we brought for Mark — (The Gift, The Wu-Tang Manual, and a book of poetry by Adam Mansbach) — and proceeded through the first security checkpoint. We waited in another line inside for about 30 minutes, and when we got to the front of the line, we were each in turn identified, asked for an address, and quizzed as to our relationship with Mark. We were a little surprised when they fingerprinted us and took mugshots, which were printed out and given to us on rectangular paper that looked and served exactly like airline boarding passes.

After another 30 minute wait, we were pointed towards a white bus, which took us to the Eric M. Taylor Center. The short drive across the plaza reminded us we were now trapped in the belly of the beast – giving us the slightest taste of the “YOU CANT LEAVE” message that inevitably resounds for all prisoners throughout every moment of their sentence. It also allowed us a glimpse at Incarceration City – isolated buildings, each surrounded with violent tangles of barbed wire. Every inch of the place is a visual threat, its role as an institution of confinement and disempowerment constantly reinforced.

We received a brief lecture from a corrections officer before being let into the building, including mention that there had been “a slashing” at the building next door earlier that day and no one was being allowed in or out of that place today. After another security check, the back of our left hand was stamped with a clear substance. We were bewildered by the invisible stamp; we don’t know what it was. We were told it was to mark that we had been through security, but we don’t know how to read it and have no idea what, if anything, it says. (We would love to know more about this practice, if anyone knows.)

After an excruciatingly long hour (or so – without phones or watches, and no clocks on the walls, the entire visit felt as though it took place in a time vacuum) in a room full of chairs reminiscent of a free clinic’s waiting room (the soap opera and hysterical baby really set the scene) we were finally called to enter the “visiting floor”.

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Update from Mark Adams, June 23 http://occupiedstories.com/update-from-mark-adams-june-23.html http://occupiedstories.com/update-from-mark-adams-june-23.html#comments Wed, 27 Jun 2012 19:09:36 +0000 http://occupiedstories.com/?p=4423 Editors note: This is re-posted from Support Mark Adams, who is currently serving a forty-five day jail sentence on Rikers Island. 

Rikers Island, NY – As of today, I am on my sixth day of a hunger strike. I intend to use my body to make a political statement and to continue to draw attention to the fact that Trinity Church put me behind bars. What would Jesus do?

Thank you to all my friends, no, family, for supporting me. You mean the world to me and I intend to continue my hunger strike until I see your beautiful faces outside. I love you all and hope to see you very soon.

With rage and solidarity,

Mark Adams

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“We Are All Mark Adams!” http://occupiedstories.com/we-are-all-mark-adams.html http://occupiedstories.com/we-are-all-mark-adams.html#comments Wed, 20 Jun 2012 20:48:20 +0000 http://occupiedstories.com/?p=4269 New York, NY–Monday afternoon I refreshed my Facebook newsfeed to find some unsettling news: Mark Adams, one of the 8 occupiers on trial for trespassing on December 17 last year, had just been sentenced to 45 days on Rikers Island. Admittedly I hadn’t followed the trial as well as many others, nor do I personally know Mark, but I was familiar enough with the #D17 action and trial that Mark’s sentence, 15 days longer than what the DA had asked for, seemed excessive and that charges hadn’t been dropped by Trinity was ridiculous in the first place.

So I decided to halt things and run to Foley Square that evening to show my support for Mark with other protesters.

I got there early at 7pm, meeting with a small group of comrades sitting by the fountain near the southern part of the park. A live streamer was on hand, giving anyone who was there in support of Mark a chance to tell his audience their thoughts or feelings about the trial As we mulled about, a few made signs, many of which had drawings of thick beards to hold before one’s face, because “We are all Mark Adams.” I looked across Centre Street at the Supreme Court building, whose engraving read that “the true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government.” I didn’t know what to make of those words that evening, except for a feeling that as things continue, more and more can only wake up and see that the state is not working in their interests.

I had come out to support, unsure of what we would be up to tonight. I asked a few people but others were confused as I was. And just where was everyone? I overheard we would be marching and saw on Twitter that the Feminist GA was happening. The plan was to march to Reverend Cooper’s home in the village, where we would hold a vigil. By then, the Feminist GA would be done and would meet us there, after which we would discuss our feelings about Mark and what had happened to him.

We left Foley just around 8pm, chanting “Free Mark Adams and all political prisoners.” If there’s one thing you can count on our community doing, it’s making light of terrible situations, so another popular chant was “We want the sexy bearded man (and so do you!)” It was probably not the best chant for outreach, but it boosted morale in a situation that many were angered and deeply saddened by.  We eventually took the streets, mic-checking outside of opened-window restaurant fronts and tour buses to explain why we were out tonight.

One tour guide called the police, or threatened to, while we blocked her bus from moving, but we didn’t care; we’d established before leaving Foley Square that we would not be arrested, that if we saw the police we would simply rush to the sidewalk and comply with the rules. We didn’t want to be too controversial, because Mark would be upset if our rally to show solidarity with him ended up with more people being arrested. That isn’t to say there was no small drama: one man heckled us out his window, high above, and another threw an egg at us some blocks away. But we kept on.

Aside from passing a cop car that happened to be parked along a sidewalk we marched down, there was no police presence until we made it to Cooper’s home. We congratulated ourselves on marching through the streets with no conflicts with authority, and organized ourselves on the sidewalk, careful to keep it open for pedestrian traffic. Someone had brought small candles, which were passed out and lit.

A couple of police officers crossed the street to ask us what we were doing. There seemed to be nothing very accusatory about it, just asking what a random group of people congregating on a residential street planned to do there. We explained Mark’s story and that we were only here as bodies and to discuss what had happened. The police were cool about it and told us all was well so long as we kept the sidewalk open.

Eventually a white shirt came and interrupted us all to repeat to us that the sidewalk and stoop must be clear. The sidewalk and stoop were already clear, which made the whole thing redundant, and his tone lacked the courtesy that the previous two officers spoke with. He—and a couple new officers—spent the rest of the time occupying the stoop himself.

Someone who had spoken to the officers earlier said that Cooper was in fact home, that he’d called the police because he would not face us. Cooper was being cowardly and bringing in his own personal guards, courtesy of the NYPD. But still we complied with the police—we had no intent on blocking anyone from anything in the first place—and no issues arose. We watched out for each other, policing ourselves in regards to pedestrian traffic. We began our speak-out session, in which peoples words were carried down the line of us over different generations of mic-checks.

Where the march’s atmosphere was somewhere between celebratory and anger, this quiet moment was a mix between sadness and inspiration. Some talked about their hopes that Mark might organize from prison; others expressed that the best way we could support Mark would be through our actions and by looking at his enthusiasm and attitude as example. Someone pointed out that we kept talking about him in past-tense, that he was not dead and we would see him again. This comment got a few chuckles and brought the mood up a little bit.

I wondered what the police officers were thinking or feeling about all of these words. They understand sacrifice and must have understood that this trial was a moment in which we all realized that our sacrifices are in fact very real. But our group tonight was showing no signs of being discouraged, and I think the vigil presented a very human look at us that might sometimes be lost in the heat of an action. It’s consistently difficult to rank beautiful moments in the Occupy Wall Street community, but I think all of us coming together the night of June 18th is among one of the most poignant.

I went home carrying my cardboard Mark Adam beard. I didn’t want to throw it away or abandon it. So I put it on my desk, in the hopes that when I feel lazy or exasperated while working or question whether anything I do is worth it all, I can be reminded of Mark’s example and get shit done with a smile. So I’ll thank him for that when he returns, because he will.

– Joe Sutton –

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D17: Whose Army? http://occupiedstories.com/d17-whose-army.html http://occupiedstories.com/d17-whose-army.html#comments Wed, 20 Jun 2012 01:19:30 +0000 http://occupiedstories.com/?p=4226 Editors note: We revisit the occupation of Duarte Square on D17 today as activist Mark Adams prepares to serve forty-five days in jail after a judge handed down a guilty verdict this week stemming from his arrest in Duarte Square. We will have more coverage from solidarity actions happening right now later today. This story was originally published on We’ll Die When We’re Dead.

New York, NY – This past Saturday, December 17th, was the three-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Back in September, people began sleeping in a privately-owned public space a few blocks away from Wall Street in protest of the gross economic malfeasance the investors on Wall Street, the higher-ups at big banks, and the United States government has perpetrated against the American people, and people throughout the world. Whether or not you agree with OWS’s tactics and all of its beliefs, you can’t help but read the paper, watch the news, or look at your bank account and realize that, to quote the signage of one protester, “Shit is fucked up and bullshit.”

While I’m an adamant supporter of Occupy Wall Street, as anyone who has read this blog will likely know, I’ll admit that I was conflicted about the plans for D17, the anniversary celebration. OWS was going to take over a space that was not public, was fenced off, a space whose owners made it very clear that they did not want to be occupied. The owners of Duarte Square, Trinity Wall Street, have helped out OWS in the past, providing shelter and office space, food and some verbal support. This further complicated things in my mind, OWS was not quite biting the hand that feeds it, but close.

Do churches owe a movement that is committed to social equality anything? Trinity Wall Street is an Episcopal church that also happens to own about a third of the land south of Canal Street in Manhattan. They are equal parts church and corporation, like so many other mega-churches throughout the United States. A Christian church, you would think, would be committed to little more than the words of Christ himself, words like “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” or “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves” or “sell what you possess and give to the poor.” And while Trinity doesn’t owe anybody anything, you’d at least think that following Jesus’s words would be important to them.

OWS weren’t asking for money, or shelter, or anything, really. They wanted to set up tents on a piece of concrete that no one uses and is fenced off from the public. An actual presence is important to the movement, a place to meet and gather and discuss and call home. It doesn’t seem unreasonable that a church, supposedly devoted to spreading God’s message of helping the poor etc., would give up a scrap of land, of which they own billions of dollars worth, to create a home base for a movement they supposedly ideologically agree with. But that was too much to ask.

Not much happened between noon and 3pm on D17. Me and the handful of friends I was with hung out in the cold, talking, milling, and eventually Eric and I were asked to hold a sign on the side of the road, “Tune in to 99.5 FM/Follow the revolution.” 99.5 WBAI worked in conjunction with OWS, broadcasting a series of performers, including Lou Reed, from their studio. Protesters were encouraged to bring radios so that everyone could have a party in the park. This worked and didn’t, but it was done in good spirit.

At about 3pm, we headed to a Starbucks to warm up and use the bathroom. I was wearing an OWS button on my coat that someone had handed to me weeks earlier at another event. The cashier saw it, clapped her hands with glee, smiled, and didn’t charge me for my coffee. We waited nearly an hour in the immense bathroom line and when we made it back to the park, nearly everyone was gone. We thought the police had cleared them out.

From a ways down Varick Street we heard a loud but muffled “WE. ARE. THE 99%!” The protesters had gone a-marchin’. When the march returned, they took the square.

Banners held by protesters concealed two small sets of staircases. The staircases were put up against the fence, and the first to climb them was retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard, followed by dozens more. I chose not to occupy the space, I didn’t want to get arrested and knew that those who did go in, would be.

But that didn’t spare me from getting roughed up by the police. As the crowd chanted “BLOOMBERG’S ARMY!” and “FROM NEW YORK TO GREECE, FUCK THE POLICE!” you could see the anger in the police growing. No one wants to feel like they’re anyone’s lackey, and it surely didn’t make them feel good to know that Bloomberg himself claimed the NYPD were his army recently. As police attempted to clear the sidewalk on Grand Street where the stairs were going up, I was pushed multiple times by an officer, a nightstick held by both his hands and pressed across my chest. Behind me was a police van that I was repeatedly pushed into. “There’s a fucking van behind me! Where am I supposed to go?” was what I had to yell, over and over, before he let me go. And minutes later, on the park side of Duarte Square, I came across a man being hassled by riot-geared cops who wouldn’t let him near the fence to the Square. “What law am I breaking?” he kept asking them. He showed identification and was an assistant to the NYC Attorney General. A whiteshirt refused to give the man a straight answer and turned his back. The man tapped the whiteshirt on the shoulder and a swarm of riot-geared foot soldiers grabbed the man and threw him, multiple times, into me. I was pushed in the process, too. A stream of obscenities flew from my mouth and a friend held me back, thank God. Not that I’d ever touch a cop, because they are untouchable as this whole scene proved, but if a cop decided that I was out of line, all of my rights would’ve dissolved with the crack of a baton.

I didn’t shoot this video of George Packard being taken to jail, because I wasn’t arrested that day, but he points out that Trinity doesn’t want to help OWS because the people who can afford to lease land that Trinity owns won’t do business with Trinity if they help OWS. It’s disgusting to know that a church even worries about doing business with anyone. I’m no Christian, so what churches do in general I find odd and strange, but in my mind, the last thing a church should ever worry about is pissing off its business partners, or even having business partners in the first place. A church shouldn’t have business partners. A church should be there to a) worship their god and b) serve the community. Why else are they given tax-exempt status, if not for being a charitable organization?

It’s really too bad that Bloomberg’s Army has also become Trinity’s army, as well as the army of all those who oppose the common man and the struggle for financial and social equality. Though I’m not a Christian, I’m reminded of the Centurions in the Bible. While the Pharisees, the Jewish religious leaders of the time, the ones who believed in strictly following Rabbinical law but also loved making a buck, called for the execution of Jesus, it was the Centurions, Rome’s army, who carried out the orders, who dragged Jesus through the streets, who tortured him, who hung him on a cross to die and then gambled for his clothes. But it was also a Centurion, Cornelius, who was the first Gentile to convert to Christianity. I wonder who the first convert from the NYPD will be? Because they’re with OWS, they’re part of the 99%, whether they like it or not. It’s only a matter of time.

Duarte Square wasn’t taken that day, and OWS still does not have a physical base that’s open and transparent and welcoming. But that’s ok, for now. The few thousand who showed up on Saturday despite the cold have shown that the movement is still alive, even though corporations, church corporations, and their minions have tried to crush it.

-Matthew Stewart-

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#D17 – Sitting on the Group W Bench – Arrested for Committing Journalism http://occupiedstories.com/d17-sitting-on-the-group-w-bench-arrested-for-committing-journalism.html http://occupiedstories.com/d17-sitting-on-the-group-w-bench-arrested-for-committing-journalism.html#comments Tue, 19 Jun 2012 14:31:51 +0000 http://occupiedstories.com/?p=4100 Editors note: We revisit the occupation of Duarte Square on D17 today as activist Mark Adams prepares to serve forty-five days in jail after a judge handed down a guilty verdict this week stemming from his arrest in Duarte Square. We will have more coverage from solidarity actions happening right now later today. This story is via SuicideGirls and TheMudflats.net

New York, NY–My wrist hurts.

Really more that it possibly should. This is not good. I’m a writer, a photographer, I like to shake people’s hands. I need my wrist functioning.

And I’m not even arrested yet.

It’s 12 o’ clock and there’s maybe 100 people here…and that’s including the press. #D17 is not looking to be all it was cracked up to be, like an ‘N Sync reunion when Justin doesn’t show up. (It was intended to be a celebration of the 3 month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement and its encampment at Zuccotti Park, and was supposed to be marked by a reoccupation in New York at the nearby Duarte Square, a vacant plot of land owned by Trinity Wall Street, a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of NYC.)

It’s freezing, well, maybe not that bad, but I’m underdressed for the occasion, wearing a light jacket and no gloves or a hat. An hour and a half into standing around at Duarte Park in Lower Manhattan – I thought I’d be running after occupiers and dodging kettling nets.

I get the standard shots – the wide above the head shot (for crowd count), the protesters children (cute sells!), the old school occupiers (who knows AARP might run a piece on #OWS), the funny signs (always good for Internet reach), and then the pretty portraits (30mm f1.4 Sigma, wide open, manual focus – shallow depth of field).

Photo credit: Zach Roberts

Photo credit: Zach Roberts

Ok. So now it’s 1:30 PM. Our sources inside the OWS movement tell us that since the organizers were pre-arrested** – one of which is some guy named Zach – they’re not sure anything is actually going down during the day, maybe not until 7 PM.

Fuck.

CS (still photog), Andrew (still photog), Brian (still photog), Rosie (Village Voice writer) and I (SuicideGirls photog) huddle in a group, trying to decide what to do. I hate to admit it, I’m the first one to say fuck it, let’s go home – warm up and recharge for the night.

Brian, a shooter says he’s staying, has to and recommends that we all stay. Even if he didn’t have to, we all know he would anyway. He’s done Egypt and Greece already, so we kind of look to him for guidance. He’s known within his agency to be the one that will go for days without sleep just to get the shot. During the cleansing of Zuccotti he went for about 2 days without sleep, going from assignment to assignment carrying other people’s shifts. Our motley crew decide to take Brian’s advice and stick around until 3:30, and if nothing happens run home and file.

3:30 PM EST.

CS and I are chatting, talking about brunch, warm coffee, French toast…suddenly Brian runs by – we immediately follow blindly.

The crowd suddenly starts to move. Where? We haven’t a f’n clue – but like the lemmings that photojournalists are – we follow (well, actually we run to the front of the crowd and walk briskly backwards while taking photos).

Photo credit: Zach Roberts

Photo credit: Zach Roberts

Immediately I get that something else is going on. The crowd isn’t going anywhere in particular and the turns it’s taking seem to be just to throw off the police that are on scooters.

And then I go around a corner to get a wide shot of the march and almost run straight into a man in purple robes. Oh, it’s a diversion. Bishops only move diagonally though. Where’s the rook?

I quietly say to myself, “I see what you did there.” Realizing that something is afoot with all these religious figures randomly hanging out watching a protest go by, I stay back for a moment allowing the protest to go by.

Like a ADD kid that hasn’t had his Ritalin, I very quickly get impatient and see a scuffle with a cop and a protester, I take one last look at the Holy figures I’m standing next to and run off chasing the pretty pictures.

Did I say fuck before? Because you see this time I really mean it. Like a crap Chess player going up against Bobby Fischer, I immediately lose the Bishop. Chasing after pretty pictures, ones I have hard drives filled with – I lose what will very quickly become the whole point of this charade.

Fuck it, I follow the protesters back toward Duarte Square, I know I screwed up, but maybe I didn’t waste the whole day.

Photo credit: Zach Roberts

Photo credit: Zach Roberts

Slowly we turn the corner to Grand Street and to my surprise (and quiet anger) I see several hundred protesters already there – some setting up a step ladder up against the fence that surrounds the other half of Duarte Square. A purple flash of cloth begins to ascend the wooden ladder that the protesters have propped against the fence, as if playing out some medieval storming of the castle. Except the castle is a park and the battlements are a standard wire fence.

The Bishop doesn’t wait for the other half of the stepladder – like a boss he runs to the top and then lets himself down the other side slowly. People quickly follow behind him, nearly falling on top of him. I’m stuck in the crowd about 20 feet away from the ladder – I look to the fence and judge correctly that there’s no way in hell I can scale it myself and then push toward the ladder – a path opens up and suddenly as I tell OWS organizers that I’m going over they’re all smiles and hands helping me and my gear over. Climbing over and taking blind shots from the top, I suddenly realize what a bad idea this is – fuck it, I’m over and now officially in “criminal trespass” territory.

Photo credit: Zach Roberts

About 75 people are over – including CS and about 5 other journos that I can point out as pros. The occupiers start pulling at the fence bringing it upward so that the rest of the crowd can rush in – there are very few takers. This very clearly worries the people on my side of the fence – and worries me – any moment now the police will be here and numbers are the only thing protecting us from batons, plastic cuffs and a night in the clink. I give up on waiting for the shot of the protesters going all Steve McQueen under the fence and start grabbing every possible angle of the scene I can think of. Through the fence, the wide shot, the closeup…Then suddenly there’s a very large officer from the NYPD in my face yelling “GET THE FUCK OUT NOW!”

Photo credit: Zach Roberts

Photo credit: Zach Roberts

Photojournalists understand that as “YOU HAVE ONLY FIVE MORE SHOTS TO TAKE AND YOU NEED TO START MOVING TOWARDS THE EXIT.”

Photo credit: Zach Roberts

Photo credit: Zach Roberts

CS flies by me yelling at me “TIME TO GO, NOW!” For once he’s being the careful one.

I begin to comply and start moving towards the stepladder, the only “exit” I know of from this fenced-in park. I, of course, continue taking shots though moving towards my non-arrest, then I make it to the place where the stepladder used to be.

Oh, shit!

It’s not there.

Well, to be exact, it’s on its side.

Again, oh shit!

Also, on the other side of the fence, where just moments before the protesters and other journos were pushing forward, now the police are pushing them back. I looked around and couldn’t place CS, Brian or any of the rest of my crew. I also noted, with growing dread, that I was the only person that wasn’t a member of the New York Police Department who wasn’t handcuffed face down in the gravel.

“SIT DOWN, NOW”

Shit.

“I’m press! I’m a freelance photojournalist.”

“DO YOU HAVE CREDENTIALS?”

By this, he doesn’t mean from my agency or from my paper, he means the official New York City Press Credentials issued by the New York City Police Department.

Yes, the NYPD, the boys in blue that are currently in the process of arresting me are the ones that decide whether I am a recognized member of the media. They will not of course take in account my years of work for The Guardian, the dozen or so pieces I’ve produced for BBC TV, or any number of other works of journalism that I have done.

I don’t have NYC NYPD Press credentials.

Shit.

Photo credit: Zach Roberts

Photo credit: Zach Roberts

So, I sat the fuck down. The officers went on to deal with other people – so, I continued to take photos, from my seated position. Once I had taken everything I could from this angle I called my boss (day job) Greg Palast.

Me: “Greg, I think I’m arrested, they told me to sit down, but they haven’t cuffed me yet. I won’t be making it into work later today.”

Greg: [Chuckles] “Ok Zach, we’ll get the word out. Keep me updated.”

Photo of Zach, credit CS Muncy

Realizing that this whole arrest and day would be for naught if something happened to my memory cards – I (slyly as I could) removed the card from my camera and shoved it in my wrist brace.

Blanking on anything else that could be done I just sat there for a moment somewhat dazed as an old Phil Ochs song starts to run through my head…

There’s nothing as cold as the freeze in your soul
At the moment when you are arrested.
There’s nothing as real as the iron and steel
On the handcuffs when you protested.

The zip cuffs weren’t that cold, and certainly weren’t made of out steel, just heavy duty plastic that would need to be cut using utility shears. The officer that put on my cuffs was nice enough to ask about my wrist brace and put them somewhat loosely around that wrist, but made up for it on the other. I got off easy. The kid sitting next to me didn’t; very quickly his cuffs started cutting off the circulation to his hands and the cold didn’t help much either. After being helped up from the ground by the police he begged for his hat and sunglasses that had been knocked off in his takedown by the officer. Sunglasses and snowcap pulled over his head he looked like a reject from a Cheech and Chong audition. His banner and prop mannequin arm was to be left behind (I didn’t ask).

Lining us up by the exit of the park, we were taken off in threes to our respective wagons. I was with Cheech and a bearded protester from Canada who had a sad looking guitar case – he later confided with me that it wasn’t a guitar, but an axe (again, I didn’t ask).

It was now our turn to make the perp walk from the gated confines of the park to the paddy wagon.

Surrounded by about 40 police officers holding back protesters and photographers on both sides of us, we quickly walked to the awaiting wagon. I heard my name being yelled from both sides, on one Brian and on the other CS. Trying to give them both good shots I turned to one, held the look for a moment and then to the other doing the same. I tried to look serious, but not angry – honestly I was just dazed and somewhat confused – still convinced at some point the police would wise up and release me, allowing me to get back to my job as a photographer.

That didn’t happen of course.

Have I ever told you the one where the Bishop, the pastor and the photographer get into a paddy wagon together?

Yeah, I think not.

Bishop Packard is a tall man; dressed in purple robes, he commands attention just by his presence. Sitting beside him is a pastor, across him, luckily enough, is someone who worked out of her cuffs. Which is why we have this video. In it the Bishop breaks down why the Occupiers decided to take Duarte Square.

Even churches have a 1% and a 99%. The good Bishop is in the 99% – Trinity Church…well, I think you got it.

The ride to One Police Plaza is a long one and seemingly the bumpiest ride in all of Manhattan. But we’ve got the time – based on John Knefel’s reporting we have a long night ahead of us. The only problem is with each bump all of our cuffs get tighter and tighter. Cheech sitting next to me is in excruciating pain – the Bishop tries to see what we can do, but none of us can reach his cuffs to try to help.

When we finally make it to “The Yard,” as the police call it, it takes them another 40 minutes to process us and remove the cuffs. Paul Bunyan, the guy with the axe and beard, seems to have it the worst – the officers can’t find a place to get the scissors between the cuffs and his skin.

Moving from the yard, finally inside I realize that they never took my cell phone – so I quickly tweet out a couple of photos before they notice.

Photo credit: Zach Roberts

Inside the cell I noticed that I’m one of the first in my wagon to be processed – though there is a priest, a minister of some kind, and about 12 other occupiers.

I decide to make an entrance by announcing loudly, “My goodness is that a Priest on the Group W bench!?!?!” (doing my best Arlo Guthrie voice). Everyone over 30 in the holding cell starts laughing. Then one of the younger priests starts…

And I, I walked over to the, to the bench there, and there is, Group W’s where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after committing your special crime, and there was all kinds of mean nasty ugly looking people on the bench there.

Then with gusto – anyone who got the original joke starts singing…

You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant,
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant,
Walk right in it’s around the back,
Just a half a mile from the railroad track,
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.

I think Arlo would be proud. We went on to have a good old time swapping war stories. The Bishop joined us 20 minutes later and we all cheered. About a dozen other guys followed over the next couple of hours as we learned about the night’s continued actions. We held stack, talked about the future of the movement – I held a small working group trying to explain how to get better media coverage, and prep people for questions and so on.

I wouldn’t say the time flew by, but it moved. My arresting officer processed me out in about 8 hours – no iris scan – just fingerprints. I was lucky – some of the protesters coming in had some battle wounds. One 19-year-old kid had a shiner from what he said was getting punched in the face by a cop. Another, a main OWS organizer of #D17, was talking to us, reporting on the night’s activities and blood started streaming from under his winter hat. He calmly patted it with toilet paper and continued his report.

It’s surreal – 11 years I’ve been doing this shit. Years of anti-war protests, hanging with black bloc, shooting in Wasilla, Bed Stuy, and the reservations of the Southwest – and jumping over a ladder is the thing that gets me busted.

As I stepped out into the cold, a free man, the dry cheese sandwiches that they gave us to eat still festering in my stomach – I thought back to something that the Bishop had said. “There’s a reason we’re all here in this cell together; this is a moment and we need to keep it going.” I agree.

Fuck, this is beginning to sound like some odd redemption story – there’s no magical black man who can “acquire things” for me, and I’m not standing in the rain, covered in shit finally free…just the realization that none of us are safe – press, protester or priest.

Welcome to Bloomberg’s New York.

**Yes, pre-arrested – we’re talking Minority Report shit here. The police arrested an #OWS organizer for crimes that they assumed that he was going to commit later in the day.

-Zach Roberts-

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