Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/content/31/8254531/html/occupywallstreetstories/wp-content/plugins/pages-posts/functions.php on line 151

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/content/31/8254531/html/occupywallstreetstories/wp-content/plugins/pages-posts/functions.php on line 172

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/content/31/8254531/html/occupywallstreetstories/wp-content/plugins/pages-posts/functions.php on line 195

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/content/31/8254531/html/occupywallstreetstories/wp-content/plugins/pages-posts/functions.php on line 216
Direct Action | Occupied Stories - Part 3

Tag Archive | "direct action"

Thoughts on Chicago, Part 1: Gathering

Editor’s note: This story is part of our coverage of the #noNATO protests in Chicago.

Chicago, IL–Now that I’ve had time to take in everything that occurred during the trip to Chicago and recovered from a nasty virus that came home with me, it’s time to reflect on this amazing event. So much happened during the actions from 5/17 to 5/21 that it is difficult at first to know what to write about.  From the moment we stepped on the bus to the moment we returned there was an overflow of exploits and encounters.  We all need to recognize the importance of our efforts there and, more importantly, ponder how these efforts relate to the hard work ahead of us.  There has been ample documentation of the events and actions, so this is a time for a personal touch, as well as to reflect on the bigger picture.

I would judge the gathering in Chicago a success, with some qualifications.  It was the largest gathering of its kind.  Occupiers from all over the country came together, worked with other organizations, and succeeded in staging numerous actions which showed that the Occupy movement is very much alive.  It wasn’t a cakewalk; there were many difficulties during the trip, and one thing that really moved me was the incredible fortitude and resilience shown by the occupiers, who overcame the obstacles and stayed focused on the mission.  The efforts of Occupy Chicago deserve special recognition.  They worked incredibly hard on dealing with the needs of the 800 occupiers that came flooding into their city.  Such dedication serves as a hallmark of what our movement can be.  The churches and other groups that provided lodging and services also deserve our thanks.

None of this would have happened without the support of the National Nurses United.   This union provided more than just money, and their commitment and support of the Occupy movement was courageous.  I worked closely with members of NNU, and (trust me) this was a complex and arduous endeavor.  The nurses took a chance in backing us because they believe in the goals we are all pursuing.  An important element of this venture was the cooperation that existed between Occupy and the NNU (as well as other groups.)  It showed that Occupy can work with other entities without being co-opted or losing its unique identity.  Indeed, at our best, it is our message and energy that appeals to others.  More than a few nurses asked me and other occupiers about participating in further actions.

The first large event was the NNU rally on 5/18.  Attended by thousands, it served as a positive, festive starting point for the events which followed.  The main focus was on the Robin Hood tax: a tax on speculative financial transactions that will get those corporate entities which caused the financial crisis to finally pay up.  This tax has worldwide support.  It is not an ultimate solution to our grievances, but could act as an important step in taking our world back from the Neo-liberal elite.  However, there was more to the rally than supporting the Robin Hood tax: it was a gathering of many people from diverse groups and backgrounds who came to demand social and economic justice, and an end to the tyranny of the 1%.  The sea of colorful bobbing signs protesting all the things we’re pissed off about was a beautiful sight.

As the rally was ending Occupy took the streets of downtown Chicago with a wildcat march.  It was a feisty action with several thousand participants, yet was not destructive or erratic, and many people on the streets showed their support. The march ended at the Michigan Street Bridge as a line of cops blocked the way and used their old school wooden billy clubs to emphasize the point.  Perhaps they were angry because an occupier had just ripped down a NATO banner from one of the pylons abutting the bridge.  I thought that was the highlight of the day.  As the occupiers walked away they chanted “We’ll be back,” and we were.

– Stuart Leonard –

Posted in #noNATO, StoriesComments (0)

Congratulations for Subversively Preventing Free Speech & the Right to Peacefully Assemble

Editor’s note: This story is part of our coverage of the #noNATO protests in Chicago. The following post is excerpted from a story on Diatribe Media; the complete article may be found here.

Chicago, IL–I was born and raised in Chicago, and lived here twenty-five years. The past four years, I have been away from my city, led by my camera to have and document new life experiences. I traveled throughout the west coast and lived in rural Oregon, which included a couple years of communal living. Even while working in a small café/bookstore in rural Oregon, people would often comment on my accent, and knew I was a Chicagoan.

On hearing Chicago would host the NATO/G8 summits this year, I decided I had work to do back home. I needed to get back in touch with people who were connected to what was happening in preparation for the summits, and I contacted an old friend, Aaron Cynic. We met at Columbia College Chicago, during the 2003 Iraq war protests, so I knew he would be active on the ground in Chicago. As expected, he knew other independent videographers, photographers, writers, and live streamers. When I got into town we met for the May Day protest and made plans to assemble a team of indy journalists to work together documenting the summit protests.

The march of many kettles

After the well-attended “Healthcare Not Warfare” March to Rahm Emanuals house on Saturday, May 19, we regrouped after a quick meal and upload session. Aaron, John and I headed back to the loop for the Anti-Capitalist march, which began at the Haymarket Square, quite a symbolic location. As we exited the train and did equipment check before continuing on, nearby police shot us hard looks. I found it strange, but we had too much to do to pay it much attention at the time. We hit the march, heavily flanked by police on both sides. Soon after we caught up with the march, police kettled the crowd at a dead end street. There was anxiety and confusion between the out-of-towners who were unfamiliar with the city, and with the entire crowd attempting to head in different directions, not knowing where to go next. We found ourselves boxed in, and people became very tense. Thankfully, police lines opened up to the east, and the march continued for some time until reaching the loop.

Boxed in on State Street. Photo by Kate Harnedy

This became, in my mind, “the march of many kettles.” Kettling is a police tactic for controlling large crowds during demonstrations or protests. Large cordons of police form and surround the protest to contain a crowd within a limited area. Protesters are left only one choice of exit, determined by the police, or are completely prevented from leaving. The feeling of being penned in is very disconcerting, and people tend to react angrily to this tactic. This practice is considered controversial for many reasons, including the inclusion of innocent bystanders, and denied access to food, water and services, and the use of the tactic to create disorder and an excuse for excessive police force.

Another kettle appeared again, this time on State Street. Once more, the crowd became tense and started to get angry. Knowing the history and use of kettling as a tactic, the threat that they would close in and arrest everyone became very real. As the crowd tried to push forward, police began to pull demonstrators from the front lines and arrest them. They used their bicycles as weapons, swinging them at protestors. In multiple pieces of video footage, evidence shows officers swinging their clubs mercilessly at demonstrators. Eventually, lines opened towards the south and allowed the march to continue, this time with an even larger police presence.

The march made its way to Michigan and Balbo, between two hotels where NATO summit delegates were staying. Once again, the march was kettled on the corner. Feeling like they might actually be in earshot of delegates, the energy rose as the crowd chanted loudly. This kettle lasted awhile, and we once again wondered if arrests were imminent. After what felt like at least a half hour, the crowd pushed north Michigan Avenue.

Once again, the march was quickly boxed in. Buses and vans with riot police pulled up and they quickly surrounded the crowd. Aaron and I were caught just outside police lines, but John managed to make it inside. The police presence had grown to ridiculous proportions, making us quite nervous. We had heard many accounts of law enforcement targeting journalists for arrest, and both became preserved in our photography after being followed and watched closely by police. After John made his way out, we decided to head back to home base and get our footage to a secure location.

That evening, we continued to receive reports of arrests and fellow journalists being targeted. A car containing five live streamers was pulled over, and they were handcuffed and detained at gunpoint. The live streamers were able to post video footage of this event, where TWELVE police vehicles surrounded their car. Meanwhile, a police van drove through a crowd of activists attempting to defend fellow demonstrators. The van struck multiple people, sending one to the hospital.

“The CPD, they ain’t messing around. And this is Rahm’s city now. Watch your back.”

The official NATO summit began the next day, for which the largest permitted march was scheduled. Our team assembled at the Petrillo band shell in Grant Park, where many activists spoke out against NATO policies and the activities of Chicago police during the week. As the groups gathered for the march, the police closed in and flanked both sides of the street. We stayed at the front of the march, in what may well have been considered a media kettle. As the march began, we stayed at the front, along with at least 200 other journalists.

We joked that we should just document each other, since we felt practically cut off from the actual march. The march was lead by a double-decker media bus and two police trucks. There were bicycle and police on foot following along on both sides, and there was a line of police behind us leading the march. Frustrated by the lack of action, I contemplated leaving to go back into the march. But with the police lines as thick as they were, I was not confident I could get back in.

The route was long, and the weather pushed a sunny 95 degrees. The mainstream media falsely reported that protestors had access to water and cooling buses, but those were only for police. When we were asked for water, we were denied. I saw many journalists drop out simply because they did not have water.

The crowd at Michigan and Cermak. Photo by Kate Harnedy

The march ended with a rally at Cermak and Michigan, for that was as close to McCormick Place as demonstrators were allowed. Emotions were high when veterans spoke about their regrets participating in unjust wars and threw their medals towards McCormick Place (because the officals refused to come out to receive them I person.) Women from Afghans for Peace also spoke of the trauma caused in their country. It was a moving and peaceful event. Although the 10,000+ people were hot and crammed together, they cheered in support and the mood was celebratory. Sitting up on a friend’s shoulders, I was able to finally see the extent of the crowd, which was incredible. I had walked these streets every day when I went to school in this neighborhood, and seeing them full of people expressing their rights filled my heart. I felt proud to be a part of this event and movement, and proud it was taking place in my home city. Sadly, that feeling of joy was short lived.

The veteran who was acting as emcee of the event told the crowd they would be marching out to the west, that the rally was over and people should leave to the west. Some people started to move out to the west on Cermak, which was flanked by metal fencing. The majority of the crowd stayed, continuing in their excitement and celebratory atmosphere. We heard no order to disperse, but suddenly, the CPD presence increased dramatically. Before we knew what was happening, riot police flanked the crowd.

They came in aggressively, yelling “Move!” and pushing those of us on the outskirts west. Yet the majority of people were inside the police line. This incited tension very quickly. Many people started chanting, “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” and others linked arms and sat in the street. It all happened very quickly, and what was a peaceful rally quickly had turned very negative. The LRAD device started being used for communication, telling people to disperse to the west. I followed suit when I saw people putting in their earplugs, in fear of being deafened by LRAD if they decided to use it to disperse the crowd. I continued shooting what was happening as the tension built. I could hear a conflict deeper within the crowd, but I could not see nor get beyond the police line. It ends up this was the incident where protestors pushed forward, followed by harsh retaliation from the CPD. I started hearing cries for medics at this point.

After about ten minutes, things had not escalated any further. I had been out of water for over and hour, and was refused service by the only open business in the area (although they were happily serving police.) After seeing stars and feeling faint, I knew I had no choice but to leave. I regrettably exited the police line, knowing I would not be allowed back in.

Livestreamer Rebelutionary_Z, shortly before his arrest. Photo by Kate Harnedy

I saw video footage days later of what happened after I left. Police pushed forward and overtook the people sitting in the streets. They also broke rank and did a target arrest of livestreamer Rebelutionary_Z. I also got to see the footage of the commotion and violence inside the crowd that I could not see while I was there. I was appalled at the violence I saw in these videos. There is no justification for fully armed police officers to be indiscriminately swinging their clubs into a crowd of unarmed people, many of whom were trapped. My heart also went out to my fellow journalists who were injured. I was saddened to see pictures of a Getty photographer who had taken a billy club to the head, and to hear of others who were targeted, arrested, and had gear destroyed.

As I fell out and left the barricaded area, I was in shock at the police presence I saw for nearly a mile. CPD in full riot gear were lined up outside. As I continued on, I also saw battalions of Illinois State Police, with full riot gear and billy clubs that were twice as long. When I saw the state riot police with automatic weapons, the fruit punch I had just gotten from White Castle was the only thing that kept me from passing out.

It was a shock to see my city in this militarized state. I was aware that this was a National Security Event, and had expected a hefty police presence. But I could see no justification for a literal army going up against a group of mostly peaceful protestors. What I saw on Sunday I will never forget.

As I regrouped with my team in Chinatown, I went to freshen up in the restroom. A middle aged black woman came out of the stall and looked at me with concern. “You from around here?” I told her I grew up in Chicago, and she seemed a bit releived. She still gave me a warning. “Be careful out there, girl. The CPD, they ain’t messing around. And this is Rahm’s city now. Watch your back.”

After some much needed sustenance and a recharge, we hit the streets again. Like expected, we were not allowed to get anywhere near Cermak and Michigan. We were watched very closely, and with suspicion, by the police that lined the streets. We started getting word of people gathering in another location and headed north. The looks we got from people we passed on the streets were unforgettable. Although we were all carrying cameras, we were looked at with fear and uncertaincy. Perhaps it was the bandanas around our necks, which were good for preventing sunburn, and a weak protection against tear gas. I was amazed the fear we generated in people while the police-military was out in full force, and the real criminals were having their meeting at McCormick Place.

Presenting a press pass. Photo by Kate Harnedy

We one again ran right into a small impromptu march heading north on Michigan Avenue. Soon more small groups joined this group, and before long a large group took to the streets and circled back into the loop, where they met with the CPD again. The atmosphere was emotional, chaotic, and disobedient, but the march remained peaceful. There were attempts by police to reroute or stop the crowd, which lead to some small clashes. It was one of these moments where I got this picture of journalist Laurie Penny being shoved by police, even though she is holding her press pass.

The march eventually ended in a sit in at the Art Institute, where earlier in the evening Michelle Obama hosted to wives of the NATO delegates. A sit-in happened, and the mood was surprisingly celebratory. Once again, we called in a night and left to upload our material. On the way to the train, we passed a federal building surrounded by state police in riot gear holding large guns. When one of us asked what kind of weapons they were, they refused to tell us.

The following day the protests were calmer, but the police presence was not. After an afternoon of peaceful actions and marches, there was a rally at “The Horse” where Occupy Chicago holds G.A. Although nothing happened to incite any response, CPD once again closed in around the group. Our nerves were on edge, hearing about more “snatch and grab” arrests and the presence of police infiltrators. When a march broke out into the streets, we got the information to be careful, because the march was led by police informants. When I got back and looked at my pictures in detail, I found this picture of “anarchists” holding a sign, and was surprised by their footware. This woud be the first time I saw any protestor wearing dress shoes. They are hardly the best for days of marching through the streets.

Opposite Narratives, Opposite Worlds

One of the most frustrating things was to get home after 16+ hours in the streets (and 3-4 more hours of uploading) and turn on the news. We often wondered what they were reporting on, because it sure was not the truth we had just experienced. The biggest shock was Sunday evening, when reports were grossly underestimating the number of people at the march. Although the number was estimated around 10,000, the mainstream media gave numbers from 3,500 to as low as 1,200. It was infuriating. We were literally on the edges of our seats, cursing the television and the lies it was spreading. It is such a strange and sickening feeling to have lived something and then hear an entirely different reality from the media.

Considering the fear-mongering and oppression that happened leading up to and during the protests, I suppose I should not have been surprised by the lies I heard spread by the mainstream media in the days following the protests. And as the media says, so does the general public. I found myself having to correct people I knew who were spreading that misinformation they picked up from the news.

The misrepresentation in the media I have spoke of proved to me how history will inevitably write this truth out of the textbooks, as perhaps it always has. But I will continue to speak my truth and show my images so that people might understand what really happened this weekend. The people of Chicago and the entire country need to be aware of this militarization of the city, the oppression, and the lies. Chicago will always be my home, the place where I was born and big part of who I am. However this is not the city I grew up in. So much has changed. Political and corporate interests combined are destroying its character. Rahm Emanuel is doing whatever he can to break the unions. The cameras everywhere have Chicago as the second city again, this time in regards to surveillance. But the days following the summits gave me hope, for after the buses of out-of-towners left, many Chicagoans continue to meet, Occupy, and express their dissent. They continue to fight for those still in jail and the human rights violations that took place. It is time for the city of big shoulders to rise up and say no in the face of this destruction and oppression.

Protesters march in Solidarity with activists still in jail from the NATO summit protests. Photo by Aaron Cynic via Chicagoist

– Kate Harnedy –
Kate Harnedy is an independent photographer focusing on community, alternative culture, protest and social chance. Being rebellious with a strong opinion, she also enjoys writing and other forms of creative expression. She grew up in Chicago but has spent four years on the west coast living communally, and continues to live on the road to documenting live in American subcultures. You can find her work at

Posted in #noNATO, StoriesComments (0)

Summer Disobedience School Week Two: Dealing with the NYPD

New York, NY–Earlier in the week I had forgotten about the second day of Summer Disobedience School, and had planned on visiting family in New Jersey, from which I would return on Saturday night. But I was reminded that SDS was happening because a few of my friends were in on the planning for one of the actions—an SDS staple is that each week, your average activist with little experience facilitating actions is given the chance to bring his or her ideas to fruition—and it seemed too good to pass up, so I cut my New Jersey visit short and left for the city 40 hours after my New Jersey arrival there.

My train arrived at Penn Station right at noon, the official starting time for disobedience school, and I rushed to Bryant Park not knowing how much time was left before things really kicked off. I easily found the familiar group of occupiers, many of whom were present last week, along with many new faces—but first I had to make a pit stop at the bathroom. When I returned, the group had already begun a sort of salute; it sounded similar to the flag salute recited in unison during the opening minutes of elementary school, and it finished just as I’d found my place in the group.

As with last week, this session opened with a warm up vocabulary exercise; we “hup-hup-hupped” towards a central point, hopping like cartoon soldiers—a heckler from outside of the group said that our admittedly ridiculous, though very fun, method of assembling made us look like fools, which we found more funny than offensive—and we practiced melting and forming lines by linking arms.

One great exercise that hadn’t happened last week was practicing being aware of your body in your surrounding environment, and being aware of those swarming around you—an extremely important but easy-to-forget tactic within big marches. Standing in a large circle, we were told to find the point directly across from us and to run to it as fast as we could. You can imagine what happened our first time trying: a lot of confusion in the center, people bumping into one another in joyous confusion. The second time around, we were told to imagine ourselves each as a geometric shape, becoming aware of the shapes of our bodies in relation to those around us.

On a final note before today’s actions were to be revealed, a National Lawyers Guild member spoke out on some legal advice if you are approached by a police officer at a protest: ask if you are being detained, and if not, walk away; stay silent and do not speak otherwise; state multiple times that you do not consent to a search, if one is being performed on you. Little did we know at the outset of the day, but this advice would become important at the afternoon’s climax.

The day’s three actions were announced shortly after. One action was to sing popular Broadway hits outside of a Broadway theater, the lyrics changed to reflect the plight of student debt and raised tuition in light of Quebec’s protests and similar tuition hikes in New York’s own CUNY/SUNY systems, as well as schools everywhere. Another action would utilize a smartphone app to create flashmobs and stage images/live statuary at secret and unexpected spaces close to Bryant Park. The last action was to try out a new de-escalation tactic: stage a march around the park towards the Bank of America tower, which was to be picketed in the hopes of amassing a police presence; the march would then continue to the NYPD station at Times Square, where a statement would be mic checked to the police explaining that we understand their place in the 99% as well, after which flowers would be given to the officers.

Each action seemed very interesting or wildly fun; this week it would be hard to choose. I picked the last action, partly due to my friends’ involvement in the planning but also because I was very curious to see what the police response would be to our appeal to them. Our group was fairly small, initially somewhere between 10-15 people, but we were able to enlist the drummers into our group to add some raw energy. After practicing our march formation and picket, we marched out of the park’s south entrance and made our way east on 41st street.

It was a delightful surprise to see how much attention our small mini-march drew: people in the park, along the street and in front of the library paused to take pictures and video of our ruckus; we took advantage of the spotlight and were careful to snake around the park very slowly. The atmosphere was upbeat as bystanders raised their fists in solidarity, simply waved, or smiled and laughed with us as we made our way up 5th Avenue and west on 42nd Street. But despite attention from tourists and midtown’s lunching business class, police presence remained minimal; from what I could see, only one officer was following beside us until our first destination.

Reaching Bank of America at 6th Avenue, we began our picket. This also caused quite a stir from passersby—in fact, there were many more people watching us now than my last picket there on May Day. Thankfully, there was also a new handful of officers observing the action. After a few minutes of picketing, chanting “Bank of America, bad for America!” and singing, “Oh when the banks come crashing down,” we continued on our way to Times Square.

When we reached the police station, we broke out into an impromptu dance party, chanting “Dance for democracy!” while clapping and jamming to the beat of the drums. This, too, caught the attention of onlookers, and one couple even joined the dance briefly in the hubbub. After a few minutes of this, we amassed in front of the station before a small audience of NYPD officers and a large group of tourists watching us from across the street. We mic checked the following statement in support of the NYPD:

Mic check! Hello, NYPD patrol officers. During the turbulence of the past 8 months, many of us, and many of you, have experienced an entirely new relationship between peaceful citizens and street cops, which at points has been ugly. But we don’t need any more tune ups.

We recognize that in our struggle against the 1%, we have come into conflict with others of the 99% who are directed to shut us down by the very forces we oppose.

More and more rank and file police, who have chosen to put their lives on the line to protect us, to assist us when disaster strikes, to look for our lost children, are told to do more with less, and to work within the paradox of a quota system that places arrests for violations over pursuing real criminals; that angers over stop and frisk rather than serving the community; that criminalizes peaceful political dissent instead of fighting crime; that puts stats over duty.

All while the brass assumes that with your respect for the system and duty to your fellow officers, you would not speak out. But we hear you.

We know your pension fund is bankrupt because bankers gambled with your money, because your pension fund managers lied to you, because politicians refuse to raise taxes on rich corporations, because they need those corporations.

The banks have sold you out. The pension managers have sold you out. The politicians have sold you out.

The people you keep arresting are literally the only ones trying to change any of this.

You have the right to refuse an unlawful order. You have the right to refuse to arrest peaceful protestors. You have the right to stand up for yourself and your future, just like we’re doing.

You are us. We are all each other. Stand up for us as we are standing up for you.

After we finished, those of us with flowers dropped them in a line in the street where the officers stood. While they did not respond to the flowers, it was clear during the statement that they had been listening to the point it was we were trying to make, which seemed a good enough result given our small group and meager police presence. At least we gave these officers something to think about while watching over whatever next action they would be assigned to; it’s my personal philosophy that if one mind is changed, the overall action is a success. We then went civilian, and my friends and I went for a quick bite of lunch before setting off for the red steps in Times Square, where all of today’s Summer Disobedience School participants were to meet in a half hour.

When we reached the steps, a group of occupiers stood in pose in the plaza, their image being projected live on a large screen high up and across the street. This camera was meant for some sort of touristy kind of attraction whose point alludes me, but today’s flashmob action had commandeered it for their own purposes, spelling out “LOVE” with their arms for all of the square to see. Just when my friends and I took to the steps, the occupiers began the chant of “Come on up!” to attract anyone around to join our ranks. Just like last week, we mic checked the “people’s alarm,” describing our point of view that the American dream was becoming more and more a romantic nationalist fiction, and that it was time we awoke from our slumber with a call to action. We then made our march from the steps back to Bryant Park.

Our return to the park heralded arguably the best moment of the entire day, a new tiny victory. We arrived both pumped from our separate actions earlier in the afternoon and also from the unity shared in our collective march, but the atmosphere quickly shifted when we began to notice that a black man had been singled out from us by a few police officers, who were now checking his ID. Many of us stood close by on the steps at the park’s northwest entrance to observe and to try and find out what this was all about.

A girl made a mic check, in which she said something to the effect that this very same man had been standing right next to her a few minutes ago and, as far as she knew, he hadn’t done anything remotely illegal or suspicious. Was he being detained, she asked? (The police did not answer.) Why the police attention in the first place? She suggested that everyone who had been live streaming or recording video—there were a lot of those—come forth with their footage to get to the bottom of what was going on. The live streamers jumped up and approached the police to demonstrate that this man had done nothing wrong; by now nearly the whole march was surrounding the police, chanting things like “Stop, stop & frisk!” and “Let him go!” Lo and behold, the police walked away from the situation as we chanted “Racist, sexist, anti-gay; NYPD go away!” So after each of our small actions and outreach, here was a small, but very tangible, achievement of the day, which gave a huge boost to our celebratory atmosphere just before debriefing—and hopefully showed onlookers outside of occupy that all our running around and yelling did in fact bring results.

At the debrief, people from each action group gave the pros and cons to their day. From the group I had participated in, we realized how much energy the drums give to marchers and how we should make an attempt to have a drummer at every action we do. We also entertained the possibility of maybe doing a similar de-escalation action again, with a larger group of people or perhaps at an action already happening with a large police presence.

And where had the police been all afternoon, if not at the one action designed to attract as many NYPD officers as possible? Oddly enough, they were with the Broadway show tunes group—since the group had infiltrated a street fair happening close by on 6th Avenue, much of the police had followed to try and keep the hijinks in order. You win some, you lose some.

The day concluded with a planning meeting for the next week, as well as Free University’s teach-ins, though after a bleary-eyed, early morning and my rushed journey into the city from New Jersey, I decided to call it a day early and set off for my apartment in Brooklyn for a nap. As with last week, another successful and rewarding day of Summer Disobedience School!

– Joe Sutton –

Posted in StoriesComments (0)

Summer Disobedience School Now in Session

New York, NY–After the high drama of #noNato of the May 17th weekend, it was back to grassroots building at Occupy Wall Street with the new summer disobedience school series. I found a great group of dedicated occupiers and new faces in Bryant Park on a very muggy early afternoon at the start of the Memorial Day Weekend, all in all about 200 strong.

Many of them had broken up into smaller groups to march upon the seven banks in the area that are open on Saturdays, with the goal to shut them down for at least a little while. Change thrown to the floor and only very slowly being picked up, serious questions about ethical loan policies and other interactions kept the bankers unusually busy this Saturday until the cops finally intervened and kicked everybody out.

Back at Bryant Park, NYPD’s Community Affairs Outreach group was keeping a close eye on the occupiers, which led to some heated arguments, as some protesters felt unduly singled out. Cooler heads prevailed however, and no further arguments or arrests ensure.

We then all went to Times Square for a convergence with the marching groups from the other banks to raise the People’s Alarm on the State of our Nation.

For once, we didn’t have a massive police presence, as this was a holiday weekend, and marchers had approached Times Square in “civilian mode” i.e. in small groups, not identifiable as a protest march, and not displaying any occupy banners. Contrary to earlier attempts, we managed to take the steps and set up properly to raise the People’s Alarm, a mic check alerting onlookers to the State of our Nation and the economic realities we all face.

Many tourists who had been sitting on the stairs chose to flee rather than join us, an unfortunate occurance, as this was a great opportunity to reach out to them. Still, all remained peaceful despite the oppressive heat and some shouting private security officers.

After the People’s Alarm, the group set out to march through Times Square and back to Bryant Park. Along the way we passed a group of US Navy Sailors, Army Soliders, and Marines who had set up outside the Times Square recruiting station to show off their new toys and uniforms for Fleet Week, the traditional charm offensive by the armed forces leading up to Memorial Day weekend. They weren’t quite sure what to make of us, so most just scurried away or looked on bemusedly. Some Community Affairs Officers tagged along as well, but all in all the NYPD presence was very small.

Still, the ones that did show up were cranky, an officer in plain clothes giving me a hard time for my press pass that, while not issued by the NYPD, was still intended to identify me as a working member of the press (I am a member of the National Press Photographers Association, and as such qualify as a journalist.)

After crossing Times Square the march turned onto 42nd Street to return to Bryant Park for teach-ins, civil disobedience trainings and skill share sessions, as well as outreach to passersby.

I felt the outreach part of the afternoon could have been stronger. There were no info tables or occupiers with “ask me anything” shirts around, as they tend to be at pop-up occupations. These Summer Disobedience School sessions are a great opportunity to reach out to a new community, and should not be missed.

The atmosphere relaxed markedly once everybody was back inside Bryant Park, and the cops realized we were done marching. After a brief session with all participants, people broke into groups to learn more about economics, poetry and other topics; the National Lawyers Guild held a “Know Your Rights” session, which I attended; and the Direct Action group met to plan next Saturday’s event.

Most important take-aways from the “Know Your Rights” session:

– Your rights are, while maintained in the constitution, not treated as absolute during a confrontation. Yes, in court you will most likely succeed in reinforcing them, but a cop may choose, or be instructed to ignore them on the ground. It’s important to strike a balance of standing your ground and deciding what to fight later in court.

– It is important to build a level of trust with a group of other occupiers so you can share your fears and experiences prior, during, and after protest marches, arrests, and major events. It is important to have a community of people you can trust to take care of each other, remind you of the need to deal with any outstanding summonses or other legal implications of your actions that may impact your interactions with police during and after an arrest.

– Know your rights, share that knowledge but also be smart how far you push insisting on them during marches. Sometimes cops are ordered by their superiors to ignore your rights or break the law, so never assume that just because you have a right that the cop you’re confronting a) knows those rights and b) is willing / allowed to grant them to you.

– Work together, know each other to minimize risk of infiltration.

– It was also discussed what cops do with the footage the TARU unit films at protest. Expect it to be stored indefinitely and run through iris scans and facial recognition software.

– The NLG lawyers recommended that if we see TARU film that someone stand in the way of the camera and read the Hanshu Decree to them to make sure they know that we know what they’re allowed to film and what not.

Next Summer Disobedience School session is next Saturday. I’m quite certain NYPD will be present in bigger force and better prepared …

– Julia Reinhart –

Posted in StoriesComments (1)

Photos: Second Eviction Defense of the Cruz Family Home

Minneapolis, MN–At approximately 4am on Friday morning, 20-30 law enforcement officers from the Hennepin Country Sheriff’s Office raided the Cruz family home in South Minneapolis in order to follow through with an earlier eviction attempt two days before. Sheriff’s deputies rammed the front door open and quickly moved through the home. They created a large perimeter around the home, not letting anyone near on the sidewalk or on the street. They blocked traffic for the entire block and would not allow anyone near the home in the alley behind it.

For almost a month, the local Occupy Homes movement has maintained a presence in the foreclosed home. The house belongs to the Cruz family who are staying elsewhere since receiving their eviction notice. With the consent of the family, Occupy Homes has been using the house as a local social center while occupying the home and protesting an impending eviction.

Some people staying inside the home left willingly, while five people locked themselves to various objects throughout the home. The sheriff’s deputies used saws, jack-hammers and other tools to remove the remaining protesters. Ultimately, all five people were removed from the home and arrested.

Approximately 50 supporters arrived to protest the raid and eviction. The scene was tense at moments when people confronted the police line or when the police decided that the protesters should move further from the home. Eventually, a group of people ran around back to outflank the deputies. Some of them jumped the back fence in order to link arms and surround the home. Around this time, with all people removed from the home, and the doors boarded up, the sheriff’s deputies left the scene.

After all law enforcement left, the home was reopened for further occupation.

– Peter Leeman –

Editor’s Note: This is only a sampling of Peter Leeman’s photos of the eviction defense. To view the full series, visit Leeman’s website, which also features images from the first eviction defense. You may view the photos from the slideshow above at our Flickr page.

Posted in Pictures, StoriesComments (0)

Video Update on Chicago #noNATO M20 Protests

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

Aaron Cynic of Diatribe Media and the Chicagoist (and on our website, this account of #noNATO action) sent us this video last night in which, around 8:30 outside the Art Institute, he gives his audience an update on NATO protests as well as what’s happening in that moment.

View the video here:

-Aaron Cynic-

Posted in #noNATO, Stories, VideosComments (0)

Reportback: No Pipeline Bike Ride Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Monica Hunken-

Posted in StoriesComments (0)

Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic Occupation (Eviction Update)

CHICAGO, IL – As the Chicago Police Department closed in on those who had barricaded themselves inside Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic last Thursday, I realized this was a terrible time for me to be going away from Internet access for the next 48 hours.

If you aren’t up to speed, here’s the situation.  Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s budget, 6 of the 12 public mental health clinics in Chicago are scheduled to be shut down.  Adding insult to injury is the fact that the clinics slated for closure are uniformly located within the poorest, hardest-hit neighborhoods of the city.

In other words, those who need it most will no longer have access to mental health services.

The Mental Health Movement associated with STOP Chicago has been working for the past 4 years to protect mental health clinics from closures and privatization.  When Emanuel’s budget was about to pass, they staged a 10-hour sit in outside the mayor’s office that Occupy Chicago joined in solidarity.  With the Woodlawn Clinic set to close on April 30th, however, it was time for drastic action.

Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic

Photo Credit: Marcus Demery

Last Thursday night, doctors, patients, activists and Occupiers barricaded themselves inside the clinic while others supported the occupation from outside.  Shortly after midnight, CPD cut their way into the building with chainsaws, arresting 23 people.

When I returned to the land of Internet connections on Saturday, it was to the welcome news that the clinic had been re-occupied with a small tent city established on an empty lot across the street.  Eviction seemed imminent but they held through that night and the next, despite severe wind and thunderstorms.

After work on Sunday I was able to join the occupation for several hours in the afternoon and evening.  Before heading out, I blindly tweeted an offer to drive any interested northsiders down to participate in the occupation.  I got one reply, a political science and sociology student from Northwestern University named Isa–formerly a stranger, now a friend and first-time Occupier.  People at the encampment also tweeted me with supplies needed, which I was able to deliver.  And, naturally, I brought homemade cookies–because it’s not a revolution until somebody bakes cookies.

If I didn’t know better, my first impression would not have been that this was the site of an embattled protest.  As we approached the camp we saw people sitting together–talking, laughing, and sharing a bite to eat.  A long table was overflowing with food donated throughout the day and a makeshift grill gave off the scent of fresh barbecue.  Music played, people danced.  It had all the makings of a great block party–plus, of course, some large protest banners and a few police vehicles idling nearby.

Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic

Photo Credit: Marcus Demery

I introduced myself by my Twitter handle and joined the group in discussions of philosophy, recaps of the arrests, and just plain socializing.  One Occupier said (and I’m afraid my memory is not good enough for this to be an exact quote): “I don’t care if they arrest me.  My friends will bring me books to read, and when I come out I’ll have even more knowledge and power.”  It began to rain; everyone rushed to cover the food table with tarps.

The cafe on the corner has been more than kind about letting us use wall sockets and bathroom facilities during business hours.  A small group of us were recharging ourselves and our various electronic devices when I noticed an Occupier, one of the 23 arrestees, talking to a Chicago police officer.  It’s a conversation I wish could be duplicated with every police officer in the city.  She explained why we were out there protesting and how the closure of public mental health clinics would affect him directly, as he would be encountering untreated mental health patients out in the streets.  He listened attentively and seemed to understand what was at stake–but told her the order to arrest came from above.

Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic

Photo Credit: Marcus Demery

This occupation is the work of the Mental Health Movement and STOP Chicago–we at Occupy Chicago are joining in solidarity.  As such, the core Occupy Chicago members whom I’ve gotten to know over the past several months were interspersed with other activists and those whom use the clinic and know firsthand how devastating it will be to lose it.  It was humbling and inspiring to be amongst both those who have worked so hard to keep the clinics open and those who will be directly affected by the loss of this community resource.

The evening concluded with a meeting to discuss next steps and possible uses of the occupied space.  We haven’t held a space for over 24 hours in Chicago until now, and the possibilities are exciting.  It’s in a community where we haven’t held any actions or done much outreach, but now we’re out in the open, talking to the neighbors and spreading the word.  All of that gives me a great deal of hope that we can change hearts and minds by reaching out to those who need our help the most.

Update: As I was writing the final paragraph about being hopeful for the future of this occupied space, the encampment was surrounded by squad cars and threatened with mass arrest.  After dismantling the tents, the police left without making any arrests. Many stayed overnight anyway, sleeping in cars or staying on the sidewalk.

UPDATE (April 17th 5:35pm): Woodlawn was briefly re-occupied this afternoon just after 2pm.  CPD moved in almost immediately, demolishing tents and destroying personal property. Two Occupy Chicago participants standing on public sidewalks were arrested, including press liaison Rachael Perrota.

-Rachel Allshiny-

Posted in StoriesComments (5)

WI’s Overpass Light Brigade and Bridging the Embankments

The story was originally published at The Daily Kos.

When cars and trucks pass underneath our glowing signs, the drivers and passengers retain a memory of the message, distributing it to both nearby and far-flung locations. We hold the letters one-side-by-each, short-form messages of protest against long-form extremism, semaphores of solidarity picked up and swept across social media. This is the OLB, “coming soon to an overpass near you,” a group dedicated to tactics of visibility and voice, the importance of physical witness, community coherence and the power of purposeful play.

Last evening even the 80% prediction of rain broke in our favor. The 20% chance of no-rain won the early evening. It was odd being out and not feeling bone-cold. We had scoped out a pedestrian overpass we had never occupied before, a long arcing structure built over an extremely wide section of Milwaukee’s I-43, a bridge from East to West within an African American neighborhood of Milwaukee. These often overlooked structures are like fords in roaring rivers, stitching two banks of bisected communities back together.

More than twenty people showed up, so we were able to bring out multiple messages. “WALKER LIES” was newly possible because of the addition of a nice “S” to our lexicon, and as more people arrived we later spelled out “WALKER IS JOHN DOE,” referring to the ongoing investigation into campaign corruption that has enmeshed Walker and his closest Milwaukee County cronies. It is good to keep this reminder floating over the freeways. Our hope is that people either say “Oh, yeah… that issue is still out there!” or “Can you tell me what that whole JOHN DOE thing is all about?” Our first message of the night was pretty self-evident if you are paying attention. His lips move: he’s usually lying.

In order to get the beautiful photographs, I need to get down to highway level with my camera on tripod. The big gap in the fencing made this easy, and two of us were down taking pictures when the police came. Ugh-oh. Two squad cars pulled over, disco balls blazing and two Milwaukee County Sheriffs climbed the embankment towards us. They were fairly surly. I stood patiently waiting, taking pictures while I could, wondering what was coming next. I heard the lead cop in his walkie-talkie, “kkkssssshhh, yeah, we’ve got a bunch of protestors at the bridge…..  kkksssshhh…Trespassing on right of way….   kkkssshhhhh…. Complaints called in….” Complaints, I now understand, are called in whenever we come out. The frequency of police presence is dramatically rising in proportion to the increase in our national visibility.

They ran our licenses, told us to get off the easement. They reaffirmed our right to be on the overpasses, however, which was reassuring after our Portage incident.  “You can be up there as long as you don’t affix those signs!” the Sheriff curtly stated. “Which is why,” I pointed out, “we have all those people up there, each holding a sign…”

I do understand the logic of our embankment banishment, even though we were way up on the side, quite far from the freeway. The problem is in getting the pictures. You’ve got to get close to get the shots. I ask myself, “What would Werner Herzog do?” and begin to think of ninja gear, camo-paint and invisibility cloaks. Proceed and be bold…

When the Milwaukee Police came last Wednesday out near State Fair Park on I-43, the first squad car parked and just watched. It was a little disconcerting. We were coming off the bridge to end our action, and figured it would be fun to line up the signs against the fence right in front of the squad, in order to make a unique display for the officer. Once thusly arrayed, I went up to the cruiser. The officer rolled down her window, and I said to her, “I’m sorry, are we causing a problem for you?” (which I think is more effective than “Are we doing anything wrong?”). We both laughed because I caught her with her cell phone out, taking pictures of the signs. She was going to post them on Facebook. She couldn’t share her political feelings with me, but she was really nice and really friendly.

A few minutes later when the paddy-wagon came ready to check us out or roll us in, she was already on our side. The officers talked among themselves for a while, looked at our signs, looked at our motley crew of kids and elders and everyone in between, all down-home Wisconsinites. After a while they said goodnight and left. It was all pretty gentle, yet their presence was, of course, a large part of the communication.

Last night, our encounter with the law was a lot less friendly. Everything was fine, but it was pretty terse and tense. OLB gently yet insistently pushes at the constraints around public assembly and peaceful protest. We are not there to argue with cops. We are there simply to be there, and to be visible.

The message seems to be getting out. After being featured in the Sunday NYTs two weeks ago, our Facebook “reach” shot to 69,503 people, far-flung across 20 different countries. (Please “Like” our page here.) Care2 did a nice article about us this morning. We’re talking with a number of other protest groups around the country about possible splinter-group collaborations, and we are booked to appear throughout the state at events and overpasses. A lot is happening, and we try to balance it with other pressing duties of job and family.

Yesterday, at an academic conference at UW Milwaukee about the Occupy Movement, a student asked one of the panelists, “What does success look like to you?” The panelist, a brilliant radical Marxist (the kind of guy the rightwing is really talking about when they say the word “socialist professor”) got kind of esoteric and deconstructed the framing of the question and its blunt lack of nuance. I like direct questions, so as a moderator, I jumped in. “This movement succeeds or fails,” I said, “on whether it opens up new networks that bridge partitioned and multiple communities, including my own and your own. Success, for me, is about the opening of these new social spaces. The great thing about this model is how straightforward it is. It is all about process. All you have to do is go out and engage. By engaging, bridges will be built. It is that easy…”

It is that easy. Build bridges with diverse communities. Take the overpass as metaphor and arc yourself across bisecting structures. We can do this. It will take time, but through action and creativity and play we can model the same new and old solutions that are always within reach.

Overpass Light Brigade in Tosa from Noise of Rain on Vimeo.
-Noise of Rain-

Posted in Pictures, Stories, VideosComments (0)

#M24: March Against Police Brutality

This story was originally published at The Daily Occupier.


NEW YORK, NY – March 17 was the 6-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street moving into Zuccotti Park, renaming it Liberty Square and the beginning of the Occupy Movement worldwide.

We celebrated all day, in style—chanting, dancing, marching, holding a General Assembly that needed three waves of the People’s Microphone—until the police brutally crashed our party—beating and violently arresting over 73 Occupiers in the park and on the march that ensued. It was probably the most violent day in our short history, and we have not been able to determine that any of the incidents were warranted or incited by an Occupier.

Our response was two-fold. On Tuesday, March 20, we held a press conference at 1 Police Plaza with allied communities—Muslim, Latin@, LGBT, Black, undocumented, and the undomiciled—to call for an end to police repression, brutality, surveillance, and explicitly for the resignation of NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.

The second part, which was much more in line with our style, was to take our energy back to the streets. We, again joined by our allies, held an anti-police-brutality march.

On Saturday, m24, I got to Liberty Square around 11:30am to meet with about 10 other Occupiers, who had also volunteered to act as pacers for the march—folks who would help direct the march, respond to police kettling or obstruction, close gaps and maintain continuity in the middle, and help protect stragglers in the back from getting picked off by police.

We discussed the plan for the day. It would begin in Liberty Square with a series of speakers talking about their personal and communities’ experiences with the NYPD, which mostly consisted of violence and repression. Afterward we would march north on Broadway to Union Square, where a new, 24-hour occupation had been in place since the violent eviction at Liberty Square on m17.

The march route would pass in front of five locations at the heart of New York’s police and jail system—City Hall, 100 Centre Street, aka “the Tombs,” 1 Police Plaza, the Federal Building, and the ICE Detention Center. The exact route would be at the discretion of the pacers at the front of the march, and largely based on how much space the police gave us. Our primary mode of communication with each other was via a private text-message loop, which would help us coordinate throughout the march.

An interesting addition to this march was a group of about 30 folks from Veterans For Peace. They appeared to be somewhere in between their late 50s and late 60s. They were mostly white men and women who had served in the armed forces. Their gray sweatshirts bore their logo, and every one of them had plastic goggles hanging from their necks. They were prepared to be peppered sprayed.

Having seen photos, videos, and reports of the violence the week before, Veterans For Peace reached out to OWS. Not only did they want to march in solidarity with us, they wanted to put themselves on the front lines, or positioned anywhere in the march that we felt was vulnerable. They wanted to stand between us and the police, in order to protect our constitutional rights—to put their bodies on the line and spare us the brutality for one day.

I nearly cried when I saw them gathered on Saturday, and I’m crying now as I think about it. I’m crying because their sacrifice honors and humbles me. And because it didn’t work.

The first speaker of the day was Eric, an organizer and street medic with Occupy Wall Street, who was one of those arrested during the m17 eviction of Liberty Square. Eric chose not to speak of his own experiences, as violent as they were, but instead to connect our current struggle and experiences with those of people who have come before us. With Sean Bell, Troy Davis, Amadou Diallo and so many more black and Latin@ men and women murdered by the NYPD and the police state.

A speaker from the National Lawyers Guild, which provides all of the legal support for Occupy Wall Street, highlighted how some people are treated as criminals based on their actions, but in New York City, the NYPD has criminalized the entire Muslim community simply because of who they are.

City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez (Democrat, District 10, Manhattan) and Jumaane Williams (Democrat, District 45, Brooklyn), longtime OWS supporters spoke on the history of NYPD violence.

“It is not an accident that all the people killed by the NYPD are black and Latino,” Rodriguez said.

On OWS, Rodriguez asserted, “This movement is the voice of the working and middle classes.”

Councilmember Williams flipped up his hoodie, which he said that he wore in solidarity with Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black youth murdered by a man in Florida who targeted him because of his clothing and his race. Williams asked those of us with hoodies to put on our hoods as well. We wore them with pride.

It was nearing 1pm, the crowd in Liberty Square had filled out dramatically, energy was building, the sun was shining, and we were ready to march.

The pacers spread out, the drums started to beat, and we marched.

It was a large procession, stretching for at least a few blocks. As we left Liberty Square, a headcount put the march at over 600 people. For the first half hour or more we stayed on the sidewalk.

One of the first chants that I remember was “RACIST! SEXIST! ANTI-GAY! N-Y-P-D GO AWAY!” This is a favorite chant for many of us. It is confrontational without being physical, while making a bold statement to the police, as well as bystanders, on how Occupy regards the NYPD.

We slowly made our way up Broadway until we passed the home of the FBI and Homeland Security at 26 Federal Plaza. Both of these federal agencies have played a role in the suppression of the Occupy Movement. In the weeks leading up to the violent evictions of Occupy encampments nationwide in November and December, Homeland Security provided assistance to local cities in the form of intelligence monitoring and information gathering.

As we passed the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge, the sight of six cops on horseback could not be ignored. Following the October 1st action that took over the Brooklyn Bridge, resulting in close to 700 arrests, the NYPD has been very protective of this monument.

The march veered east past Foley Square on its way to “The Tombs” of Central Booking at 100 Centre Street, where at least 7 our comrades were being held for arrests from the day before.

I was one of about 5 pacers holding up the back of the march and trying to ensure a tight formation as we moved through intersections—a typically vulnerable point, where police can kettle, redirect, or break up a march if there are gaps.

Instead of reciting our usual chants, the back of the march had a bard of sorts leading us in song, which we repeated for many blocks:

Mama, mama, can’t you see
What police have done to me;
They keep trying to beat us down,
But we’re rising all around;

Mama, mama can’t you see
What police have come to be;
They keep trying to beat us down,
But we’re rising all around.

As we lined up in front of the Tombs, we held a die-in. Everyone melted to the ground, and we lay there until our bard sang, “… but we’re rising all around.” As if on cue, we got up, cheered, and continued marching.

Because of the slow pace of the march and in an effort to maintain energy levels high, the pacers decided to skip some of the more out-of-the-way destinations and head for Union Square, while we still had a large number of protestors. It’s not uncommon for marches to peter out after the initial momentum and energy wears out, even when a final destination is set and events are planned. If marches are slow, or winding, or met with significant police blocks or resistance, people tend to peal off gradually, and the march shrinks.

Shortly after this, the tone of the march changed dramatically. The front of the march saw an opportunity and decided to take to the streets, veering off the sidewalk and breaking through the line of cops along the edge of the street monitoring the march.

As has become common practice, the NYPD targeted two female protestors—Amelia and Negesti—who could be isolated and arrested. A white-shirt pointed to them and said, “Those two.”

They were quickly surrounded and told that they were being arrested. Since there was nowhere to go, they decided to lie down in the crosswalk.

Word of their arrests, as well as the arrest of another Occupier, Chris, in the same intersection, made its way through the march very quickly.

Sensing that the police were getting tired of escorting us, we decided to make the march a bit more militant and active, diverting off of major streets into the more intimate, consumerist, and tourist-destination Nolita neighborhood.

The narrower one-way streets allowed us to more easily move in and out of the street, filling it with Occupiers who continuously chanted about police brutality and about the better world we know is possible. In order to protect marchers from being hit by police vehicles, some people began non-violently laying barricades in the streets.

Walking north on Elizabeth Street, as we approached Prince Street, suddenly, I heard the all-too-familiar shout for cameras—an unmistakable signal that the police were doing something that required monitoring.

I looked up the street and saw Mesiah, a 16-year-old girl, being held up by two cops. She looked shocked. Someone called for a medic. She started to cry.

I took a step off of the sidewalk and into the street, which was being blocked by a line of cops on scooters along side the march. Then I turned around to address the crowd of people that had amassed on the sidewalk behind me.

“MIC CHECK! MIC CHECK!” I yelled. After it was repeated back to me, I continued, “SHE IS 16-YEARS OLD!” The crowd repeated it over and over, but they only encountered the NYPD’s blank stares and deaf ears.

Turning back toward the street, I saw five cops carrying Mesiah down the street, her shirt pulled up, much of her torso exposed. I screamed at the cops that they should be fucking ashamed of themselves. I called them fucking animals. I asked if they were proud to have beaten up a 16-year-old girl. I asked why it took so many of them to carry her off.

As the march continued up the street, I had a heated exchange with the white-shirt officer who oversaw Mesiah’s arrest.


“OK, well you have a nice day.”


On the northwest corner of Prince and Spring Street a group of tourists watched us pass by. I stopped in the middle of them and recapped, as loud as I could, what had just happened a mere few feet from where they stood. My voice cracked, and my stomach cramped. I can only hope that they shared with others what they heard.

My friend Anthony came up to me, put his arm around my shoulder and told me to take a breath, to center myself and focus, we still had a long way to go until we reached Union Square, and we had a role to fill.

I tried. But I was so angry.

As we walked along Houston I think I yelled at the line of cops acting as our escorts. I know that I had three separate interactions with the police, but with the exhaustion of the moment, I don’t remember the second one clearly. I remember holding my stomach. My muscles ached from yelling, I was hungry, and my throat burned. I was fuming.

When the march had mostly crossed Houston on Broadway, we encountered another large pack of tourists. My anger overwhelmed me. I stopped in front of them and yelled with all of my remaining energy.


I turned the corner, not feeling any less angry. This time, Anthony ran up to me, put his hand on my back and said, “A Community Affairs cop just pointed at you and said, ‘He’s next.’ Get out of here.” And he pushed me forward.

I ran up the march; took off my bandanas, my hoodie, and my glasses; and stashed them in my bag.

Turning onto Great Jones I shot west towards Lafayette, and then ran up to Astor Place. While I was disappointed to leave the march, I was overwhelmed with pride. I could hear our chants reverberating off of the buildings blocks away.

“ONE! We are the people!
TWO! We are united!

I watched the march make its way up Lafayette and then snake along Astor back to Broadway. I ran up a few blocks to stay ahead of it, and, hopefully, well away from the cops who were targeting me on its south end. I found out later that, just after I left the march, a group of white-shirts were examining a photo on a phone, and one said, pointing, “This one; I think he just ran off.”

On Broadway, as a line of police marched by, I ran into a friend making his way south from Union Square. Usually one of the happiest, funniest, and most loving Occupiers, his rage was palpable that afternoon. He’d heard about “a 16-year old being brutalized” and was trying to find the march.

When he found out that it was Mesiah, he almost lost it. He looked at me and said that he was afraid he was going to do something stupid. I put my hand on his shoulder and told him to consider that he was more good to us out here than inside.

“We need you.”

He looked at me, and the tears ran off of his face. I pulled him close. He held on to me, as if letting go would only add to the day’s tragedies. And all I could say was, “I know.”

The march caught up to us and we continued, rather uneventfully, for 4 more blocks to Union Square.

The mood in the square was energetic, but something felt off. We intended to do our spring clowning training as a way to burn off any remaining energy. But we had just been brutalized on an anti-police brutality march. The irony was not amusing.

Two of my closest friends, Nathan and Jason, entered the park with the march. They could tell how angry I was. And they knew that I had been targeted, both from a tweet that I sent out after leaving the march and from witnessing the cops examining the photo on their phone. We decided not to stay in the park. Several of our comrades, including two close friends and a scared, potentially injured underage Occupier, were in jail.

We left the park quickly. We needed to find 19 Pitt St, somewhere beneath the Williamsburg Bridge. Our friends were there, at the NYPD’s 7th Precinct, and they needed jail support.

(photography and videos in this article via @poweredbycatskatertott129juliacreinhartSign0fH0pejskagon, & owsNaSh)

-Brett Goldberg-

Posted in StoriesComments (0)