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Eviction | Occupied Stories - Part 2

Tag Archive | "eviction"

How Rose Found Her Roar


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Angella Davis-

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The Battle to Re-Occupy Minneapolis


MINNEAPOLIS, MN -As planned, groups met today [Saturday, April 7th] in both Loring Park and Peavey Plaza at 12-noon. Around 2:00pm Minneapolis Police officers came to Peavey Plaza to state to us that we were in violation of a state law (609.74) in which our tents, banners on strings, and tarps were in violation of the law and were to be considered as a public nuisance. This was, of course, the first that we had heard about such a law in the state. When the Lieutenant and Sergent were speaking with me, they literally stated that this law had been found by the City Attorney and that the order to enforce it was sent from the Minneapolis Mayor’s Office. News reports prior to the re-occupation essentially guaranteed our right to erect tents upon Peavey Plaza and if you look back at the Minneapolis Business Journal, it quotes the Minneapolis Police Department stating that this was the case. When the officers approached us, we asked for them to return with a printed ordinance so that we could decide what we were to do with the new enforcement of this law.

Around 6:00pm, the officers returned to Peavey Plaza with copies of the ordinance to pass out. The ordinance itself applies to any type of item that is infringing upon the public’s right-of-way. It is important to note that while we had tents erected, they were not on the sidewalk, but rather they were upon the plaza itself. It is also important to note that the city of Minneapolis had just recently erected signs along the edge of Peavey Plaza advertising the planned renovation, and that those sit (unpermitted) upon the sidewalk itself along with the Minneapolis Police Department’s stationary cameras. They would not comment as to whether or not they felt that their own signs and camera were within the jurisdiction of the law itself.

After we received this notice, occupiers held a meeting to decide what it was we were to do when the officers chose to enforce the law itself. They had not given us a time-frame as to when they would be back to enforce this.

At around 8:30pm, the Minneapolis Police Department including Chief Dolan had returned to Peavey Plaza to enforce the law that they had found and chosen to enforce against Occupy Minneapolis. As they ordered us to either remove the structures or have them forcibly removed, we chose to pick up our tents and march through the streets. We marched to Loring Park where our other Brothers and Sisters were gathered, and were followed by the Minneapolis Police. Upon vacating Peavey Plaza, the remaining items were taken by the Minneapolis Police. They also removed all signs, sidewalk chalking, and any other trace of the day’s events from the plaza itself.

After gathering in Loring, we decided as a group that we would attempt to take back Peavey Plaza and place our structures upon the plaza itself. It is important to note that while the law has been on the books in Minnesota for a while, there was no mentioning of it prior to our reoccupation and the enforcement of the law is a clear sign that the City of Minneapolis has no respect to our First Amendment rights of both freedom of assembly and free speech. (Congress shall make no law…)

photo: occupyminneapolis.mnWe marched from Loring Park, up Hennepin Avenue, and then back down First Avenue until we arrived at Peavey Plaza. We sat our tents and canopies back down, and began to have an open discussion as to why we all occupy. This was interrupted by the Minneapolis Police Department as they gave us a warning that the structures were in violation of the law and that we must remove them. Again, they gave no time-frame of how long it would be until they acted. After I literally forced them to give us a clear deadline (they gave us 10-minutes) we decided that we would take to the streets again. Individuals raised up our tents and canopies again and began walking up the Nicollet Mall.

While we were walking up the Nicollet Mall (in the streets) the police tried to block us from continuing our march. As they had not completed their barricade, they ordered us onto the sidewalks or risk arrest. Protesters complied with their request, and went onto the sidewalk. After passing through their failed barricade, most protesters remained on the sidewalk and continued heading North near the Target store on the Nicollet Mall. A few protesters took to the streets again but were met by mounted police (on horseback) shortly after crossing the intersection to continue North. Police then grabbed the canopy that these individuals were holding and began to bend the metal legs of it, whilst shaking the grips of protesters from it. Several protesters were knocked to the ground by the force of the police along with the fact that the mounted police were commanding their horses into the protesters. Those that remained in the streets were arrested.

While the police arrested the individuals in the streets, they also began to grab onto others that were standing upon the public sidewalk. These individuals had complied with the police, however several were still arrested without proper cause. During that time the mounted police then directed their horses onto the sidewalk itself in an attempt to intimidate and possibly injure those that were peacefully complying with their orders. I was one of those individuals. A Minneapolis Police Officer had grabbed me in what seemed to be an attempt to take me into custody, however a mounted officer began to direct his horse onto the sidewalk at that time. I was pushed into stanchions that were on the sidewalk (the stanchions were placed there to separate a restaurant’s patio from the main sidewalk itself) and as the horse pushed me, it was also kicking. If I did not have my bicycle in front of me blocking the hooves of the horse, I surely would photo: occupyminneapolis.mnhave ended up being trampled.

During this time, across the street, Minneapolis Police Officers had grabbed onto the camera of a local reporter from KSTP. The reporter himself claims that he was assaulted. They threw his camera onto the ground and kicked it despite the fact that he had vocalized that he was with KSTP. The camera itself was ruined and his footage could not be salvaged.

According to our most recent confirmation, 9 individuals were arrested. We have been working to bail all of them out of jail tonight. After the confrontation with the police, we moved from the Nicollet Mall back to The People’s Plaza to debrief about our evening and hold a solidarity rally for those that were placed under arrest.

It concerns me that the city of Minneapolis had intentionally searched for a law to cite against us whilst claiming that they respected our First Amendment Rights. It is clear to see that the type of behavior that the Minneapolis Police Department showed to us is beyond aggression, it is clearly oppression. A reporter for a local media outlet had his camera ripped out of his hands tonight, which shows that the freedom of the press itself is not being respected. The Occupy Movement focuses upon using civil disobedience as a method of protest, and tonight’s marches were no different than those that we had last fall.

-Osha Karow-

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Zuccotti Park: The Revolution of an Idea


NEW YORK, NY –

Although the Zuccotti Park occupation was forced to end Tuesday (November 15th), the idea of it is far from over. In the minds of many, that idea has just shifted. This holds true for the occupations in Portland, Oregon, shut down Sunday, and the one in Oakland, California, which was also forced to come to an end.

During my first visit to Zuccotti Park, the site of the Occupy Wall Street occupation, in mid-October, I was given a shirt on which was stenciled a powerful message: “You can’t arrest an idea.”

That is true. But you can occupy it, which is what hundreds of people with disparate backgrounds and political beliefs chose to do when they took over Zuccotti Park on September 17, 2011: occupy the notion that people, that is the 99 percent who have been suffering injustices at the hands of greedy corporations and government, have a right to demand change, call for justice, and shape a better world.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement in Zuccotti Park was modeled on the occupations that rocked Europe and the Arab world this summer and repeated in cities around the country. The movement, decentralized and leaderless, is far from rudderless. Its aim, to raise consciousness, harks back to the feminist and gay movements of the 1960s. In those movements too, the personal was political.

“We are all in this together,” its participants seem to say. In truth, every area, even the most affluent, even Fort Lee, has suffered in the economic downturn. Stores have closed; unemployment lines are growing. During the last three years, my household alone offered temporary shelter to three homeless women, two of whom are acquaintances. Last week, a homeless person was discovered sleeping on a bench in front of the Fort Lee Historical Society. As long as one person is affected by poverty and economic deprivation, we are all affected. And, as we all know this, the phenomenon of protest in Zuccotti Park was something that attracted many – those wanting to participate in the change and those wanting to witness it.

In October, a friend, Linda from Fort Lee, and I met up with two more Bergen County friends – Peggy from Fort Lee, who actually works on Wall Street and is supportive of the movement, and Patrick, an artist and activist from Hackensack, who rode his bike to and from Zuccotti Park to join the protests every day. We were struck by the attention to what is important – a library with books that helped to explain why the OWS even exists; an altar with tokens from every religion.

The messages on signs held up by Zuccotti Park protestors and by activists around the country—Tax the rich; End corruption; Greed is a family value—are deeply felt, personal and political. They don’t represent abstract ideas. Protestors are a diverse lot, and they are sharing their stories of loss, deprivation and injustice; they are individuals fighting foreclosures, looking for jobs, struggling to pay back loans, and just wanting to make a difference or help out a neighbor.

Christine, a young woman who volunteered to help provide blankets to occupiers in Zuccotti Park, said her life felt empty as an artist, working alone. She wants to make a difference. She is one of many students I encountered at Zuccotti Park who can’t repay their college loans.

Intelligent, hungry for a change, she, like so many there, appears as intent on protest as on offering herself up to benefit the cause of peace and social justice. Kristle, one of several kitchen volunteers, said she helped to feed vegan meals to approximately 800 people at the park every day. Artists, musicians, chefs, techies, medical students, union workers, the unemployed and just plain sick and tired helped to create a small, peaceful community in Zuccotti Park, modeling for the rest of the country, perhaps what could be.

It was a hopeful sign that support for the protestors was also unprecedented. Friends came from near and far, including the Bergen County contingent, to stand with activists and offer support. A network of truth, support and justice will go on and the Occupy Wall Street Movement will manifest itself in new ways.

For many activists, the Occupy Movement became a success the moment government officials and the media took notice. One thing is certain, the 99 percent in this country who “have not,” who have lost homes and jobs, who can’t repay loans, who are tired of corruption in government and oppression by a system that has failed to live up to its promises, will no longer remain invisible and silent.

© 2012 Arya F. Jenkins.

——-

From the anthology, The (Un)Occupy Movement: Autonomy of Consciousness, Practical Solutions, Human Equality – prose & poetry  www.allbook-books.com

 

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A Personal Account of the Eviction of Occupy the Midwest


This story was originally published at Anti-State STL

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“Hey, would you help me unfurl this banner?”

So I found myself holding a corner of a massive banner, the size of a billboard that read “Police State.” The moment that my friend asked me this question I knew that the attempt to hold the park had failed. What occurred thirty minutes prior – a group of 100 or so people successfully shouting back the police – would not occur again. Pigs amassed in force. Suddenly, the agreement the group had made before the 10pm curfew that no one would talk to the police was forgotten, and politicians from both sides of the situation began to negotiate… well, it was more of the same “Occupy Movement” attempt to convince a city official that we had a right to set up a camp. The ridiculous 1st amendment argument that some people think is a ticket to freedom… because freedom is apparently synonymous with “rights.”

As I stood there, confused about all the conversations I see occurring at the bottom of the hill, pissed off that people are talking with the cops and the mayor’s aid, the police began to multiply. The first group of pigs stood there, rubbing their batons, obviously fantasizing about avenging their earlier show of weakness. As their numbers continued to swell, it became clear that to prevent ourselves from being arrested in the context of civil disobedience, and to end this night with some measure of power, we had to move. With spontaneity, a march was called, this billboard banner leading the way. As we began to walk south, blocking both lanes of traffic due to the size of the sign, the cops stopped their conversations and conceivably received some kind of vague order. They were pissed. They were disorganized.

I found myself on the west side of the street, closest to the sidewalk with my good friend Ryan on my left. The banner was approximately my height, so the fact that I couldn’t see anything except Ryan and the cars parked to my right made me extremely anxious. Less than 20 seconds went by since we crossed into the road and suddenly, I hear screams of “get on the sidewalk!” and “holy shit, holy shit!” I freeze in confusion and Ryan grabs me and pulls me on to the sidewalk. Several feet in front of me I see another protester… already the cops had picked off their first victim. Half of his body was on the sidewalk, the other half in the street, three cops incapacitate him with their knees. After a moment, I realize that this person happens to be a close friend, and I grab Ryan as we yell “let him go!” and “fuck you!” at the cops. To my right I see another friend get chocked by an officer with a baton and taken to the ground, without any provocation or warning. In an instant, this person went from standing in silent shock, to being kicked in the face, as he lies impotent on the concrete. I stand overwhelmed between two of my friends while I watch their identities be stolen by thugs and turned in to defenseless, nameless bodies.

But I yell, and I do what I can to let my friends know that at the very least, we’re all bearing witness to this attack. For a moment I lose track of Ryan as I see pigs lunge after any bystander within their reach, some run away, some get caught. I step back towards a side street to prevent my own arrest – the cops grope for any body they can get their fist around or bring their baton down on; with this kind of disorganized chaos everyone was at risk for their brutality. A moment passes, and I see Ryan bolt down this dimly lit side street chased by 3 to 4 pigs. It was the first time I watched someone run for their fucking life with the fear that if they got caught, they might not make it out. I find myself screaming “RUN RYAN!” But I stand, immobilized. A second passes, another friend also named Ryan (to prevent confusion this person will be referred to as Ry), sprints around the corner and down the street. I instantly realize he is running to put his body between Ryan and the police chasing him. I begin to comprehend the gravity of the situation: that two people I deeply love are being chased down a dark street by 6 to 8 cops… and my feet move in their direction, just a little… and then I am struck with the disabling realization that more pigs await behind me. What good am I in this situation? How does my certain beating help my friends? Some white shirt runs a few feet down the street and commands “come back, don’t chase them!” No response.

I glance to my right, I hear a friend shouting, demanding that the pigs who are arresting him explain what he has done wrong. They provide no answer. They read him no rights. They simply take him. Another comrade standing near as this is occurring, letting the pigs know what he thinks of them, gets chosen to go down… he manages to out run the fat fuck.

Another moment has passed. I see strange faces with wide eyes all around me. I feel that I am standing in the center of 360 degrees of tumult. I have not moved. I look back down the shadowy street. Ryan is now on the sidewalk. His face smashed against the concrete. There are at least two pieces of shit taking out their dissatisfaction with their lives on his face and body. He is beaten with feet. He is beaten with an archaic bludgeon they euphemistically call a baton – as though they spin and twirl them on their nights off. I am so scared. I am so fucking scared. I think of his little daughter. This beautiful, little person who doesn’t deserve to have to experience the misery and violence of life so early. They pick him up. The very people who chased him down a street, beat him, now have the power to take away all of his defenses and determine his fate. As he is walked up the street, I see his face covered in something and I pray to a god I don’t believe in that it is dirt. I know it is not dirt, but all I can do is hope that what I just saw didn’t actually happen. His stare is blank. He looked so confused. I was the first person he saw but I don’t think he actually saw me. I asked him, “did they hurt you?” Of course I fucking knew they hurt him, but I just wanted to hear his voice and let him know that this person on the sidewalk gives a shit. His voice quivered, “Yes.” One of the pigs is repeatedly yelling, “I fucking showed you respect.”

I watch him be lead up the street and a friend comes out from the shadows and follows behind the three. The same cop who just declared himself such a respectful individual lunges at her, puffs up his chest and shouts “don’t you walk behind me, woman.” She backs up and I start following behind her, up to the main street that only minutes earlier we attempted to march down. As Ryan is being escorted through the crowd, people chant “shame.” And the white shirts start to disperse the crowds.

I find some friends, and we are all in shock. I somehow didn’t see Ry get escorted up the street. I knew what he did, but I can’t imagine how he did it. I don’t have words to describe the feelings I have when I think about him running to help Ryan. I have never seen such love for another person. I have never seen something so full of life. I will never forget what he did that night. I learn that he was also brutally beaten by the pigs. We all know our friends are fucked. They tried to hold on to their autonomy and that is what would most condemn them… later we learned that they were being charged with absurd crimes. How else would the state justify the violence of their paid enforcers?

For those that have never witnessed police violence, I want to make something clear. Nothing about this situation followed the prescription of an arrest – this media image of a “You are under arrest. You have the right…” is not what happens in real life. A friend said it best, what happened Thursday night was some gangsta shit. It was angry, vicious people jumping unarmed protesters and bystanders. It was an attack. It was intentional brutality. They did not follow any procedure of kettling, “less lethal” tactics, etc. Their actions were directly targeting individuals and beating the shit out of them. It was so fucked up.

The rhetoric of violence vs. non-violence is utterly irrelevant and insulting. My friends disappeared for 24 hours. Some strangers, who were weaponized and free from scrutiny, were deciding what was to be done with them. Pigs and judges have been given the power to determine the course of their lives. There is no such thing as non-violence. There is no such thing as safety. These ideas are complete illusions, and one can only hold on to them as long as one has the privilege to avoid the violence that maintains society. As we participate and live our lives, all we are doing is avoiding repression.

I am traumatized. I am having flashbacks, and the more I try to make the motions of my mundane life the more vivid they become. Work, school, friendly conversations all seem completely devoid of meaning. All I can do is tell the story of my experience and force the people I surround myself with to question the society we participate in. I am so fucking angry.

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#M17: Occupy Reignited


I boarded the World Trade Center-bound E train on March 17th (M17) not knowing what to expect when I got out on the other side, a few blocks away from the now infamous Zuccotti Park. It’s been a long winter for Occupy Wall Street. The past few months have seen the movement deal with increasingly violent repression and evictions nationwide, as well as – at least in New York City – a lot of internal bickering and debate on everything from nonviolence to funding sources to housing of occupiers. Many occupiers have been referring to winter as an “incubation” period. The mainstream media pretty much considers the movement dead. Whatever it is, it is vastly different than the Occupy Wall Street of 6 months ago. Or at least it was until M17, the movement’s six-month anniversary.

I spent most of the train ride to Liberty Plaza (Zuccotti’s reclaimed name) conjuring the many nights of elation and frustration I have had in that park – the countless general assemblies, free meals, cigarettes, stimulating conversations, rain storms, arguments, marches and finally, the brutal eviction that brought it all to a screeching halt. Since the eviction, the park had been empty. Or maybe barren is a better word. A cold (literally), lifeless slab of concrete in the valley of the gargantuan buildings surrounding  it. Whatever vitality we brought to that place had long been replaced with barricades, security guards, and an eerie stillness.

When I emerged in Lower Manhattan, I was hit by a wave of déjà vu. I could hear the drums and chants inside the park reverberating throughout the neighborhood. I realized that even the sound of the neighborhood had changed since the eviction. A flash flood of warm familiarity washed over me. On the six-month anniversary of our movement, I was transported back to its beginning. I picked up the pace and almost sprinted to the park. When I arrived, I found it once again brimming over with occupiers and police.

 It was wonderful to see the park electrified with people power again. That powerful feeling of remembrance and recognition continued to surge through my body like a kind of muscle memory being reawakened.

As soon I walked into the park, I witnessed someone being arrested by the NYPD. The mood was tense and rowdy. I was surprised by the number of police, all with a dozen or so zip-tie handcuffs hanging from their belts. I saw a few old friends and gave and received many hugs. We talked about the insane tug-of-war in which we are constantly engaged with the NYPD. They show up with batons, handcuffs, guns, and riot gear and raise the tension level in the park, then put the onus on us to deescalate. There were a few other arrests, and the police shouted at us where we could and couldn’t stand and what we couldn’t bring into the park.

Throughout the day, different marches left the plaza and came back to cheers and raised fists. It was as if we were in the midst of a mighty stretch after a long slumber. As afternoon turned to evening, the overall mood of the park shifted and the police presence seemed to taper off a bit. The chants going around and the drum circle in full swing filled the park with that familiar cacophonous buzz. There is something amazing about chanting and dancing around with complete strangers. One of the more popular chants of the day was taken from the Spanish Indignados and proclaims simply and rhythmically: “Anti-capitalista!” It was refreshing to hear so many chant that radical declaration. Even through the winter, we had kept our radical roots.

At 7pm, as customary, we had our general assembly (GA). This was my first time attending a GA in a good while, and by the time it was over I was re-enamored with direct democracy and twinkling fingers. There were hundreds in attendance – probably our biggest GA of the year. It was also surprisingly lacking in rancor or squabbling, except for the traditional begging of the drum circle to keep it down or move away from GA. We consensed on signing on to a letter calling for a federal investigation of the NYPD for spying in Muslim communities and broke out into discussion groups to talk about our ideas for May Day. There was a palpable spirit of camaraderie and solidarity in the air, and many OWS veterans commented to me that they felt truly transported to “the good ol’ days” before the eviction and even before the tents went up at Zuccotti, fighting with drummers and all.

After GA a large march which included Michael Moore and Dr. Cornel West arrived from the Left Forum. Suddenly there were over a thousand people communing in the park, some playing games, some doing interviews or making media, others just talking and smoking. There was a Capoeira circle, a mic-check speak out, and of course plenty of drums and dancing. The mood was jovial in spite of everyone’s noticing that the police presence seemed to be increasing as the night went on. At one point, a barrage of bag pipes could be heard on the southwestern corner of the park. This being St. Patrick’s Day, a small Irish marching band had either purposely or by coincidence found its way to Liberty Plaza, equipped with bag pipes and snare drums. The crowd in the park erupted with cheers and applause and ran to the park’s northern perimeter to greet the band. In a confused scuffle (at least from my vantage point) the police moved in, forced the band to stop playing and moved them to the other side of the street. One officer told me they feared the band would “cause a riot.”

Suddenly an orange net appeared. Usually, this means that you have been kettled by the police and are about to go to jail. But this orange net had the words “Occupy” and “99%” stenciled on it. A group of protesters were extending the net and creating a barrier between the police and the occupiers. I admit, being surrounded by that net gave me a creepy feeling , even though I knew it was ‘on our side.’ Yellow OWS caution tape started to go up all over the park too, tied on the trees and cutting through the crowd in odd angles. I wasn’t really sure what was going on, but I could almost sense the tension in the park boiling over. An exorbitant number of police were amassing on the northern side of the park. I stood on one of the benches in the park to try to get some perspective, and I saw what all the fuss was about. A group of occupiers were erecting tents in the center of the park. The net, the tape, all of it, was to protect the tents. A light came on inside the first tent and the words stenciled on its side became visible: “You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.”

I watched as the tent was hoisted into the air and cheered with the crowd, but I knew that what had been a glorious and rejuvenating day would have an ugly ending. We paraded around with two tents for a bit, all of us enjoying what we knew were the last exquisite moments of our resurrection. Then, as if someone hit a fast forward button, we jumped from reliving those first amazing months of Occupy to November 15 – eviction day. Much like that night, the police lined up on the Broadway stairs and announced that the park was closed. They told us that being in the park was now an arrestable offense. And so those who were willing to risk arrest moved to create a human wall on the eastern end of the park, a few meters from the line of police officers. I moved toward the middle of the park and stood on a bench to see the NYPD march in and start arresting people. After about half an hour they had moved everyone out of the park and began erecting barricades around the park’s perimeter. After being pushed and shoved out of the park, those of us who remained stood on the sidewalk, most of us bewildered by the brute force we had just witnessed. We were on the western end of park, isolated from the far greater brutality happening on the eastern side. In the background I could hear people calling for a march.

By this point, I was both mentally and physically exhausted from this behemoth roller-coaster of a day, but I just couldn’t tear away. I ran through the gamut of emotions and questions we all ask ourselves in moments like these, trying to balance my sense of duty and solidarity with the sheer terror of the situation at hand and its possible outcomes. Do I want to get arrested? Or beat up? Is it worth it this time? In truth, I had to fight off the urge to wave the white flag and go home. But I was angry, dejected, and so was everyone else. In the end, I decided to march with my comrades.

A few hundred of us wound our way through Lower Manhattan, flanked all the while by police in scooters and squad cars. We turned sharply down side streets a few times, which seemed to confuse the police, but definitely caused confusion amongst the marchers. I found myself running down the sidewalks and streets with large groups of other occupiers just to keep up. This, plus the sheer volume of the police response, made for some moments of pandemonium. We took the streets several times throughout, prompting arrests and batons. Police smashed an occupier’s head against a glass door. We passed a least one broken store window (though it was unclear if it was broken by Occupy) and at one point on a side-street in the Village, some protesters emptied several trash receptacles into the streets to block the police. It worked, to everyone’s excitement. I saw several police scooters with trash and plastic bags caught in their wheel wells.

When the march reached E. Houston shortly after that, I decided to hop on the nearby F train and make the trip back to Queens. I wanted to stay, continue the march, be with my comrades, express my anger and my joy – but I just had to break away. I knew that things would only get uglier, and I was already delirious with a cogent mix of exhaustion, frustration, and the high of marching through the streets. It felt as if I had lived the whole history of occupy in the span of 10 hours. On the train ride home, I found myself thinking that despite its dystopian ending, M17 had been a success. It was a re-ignition of our imaginations; a reminder of all the beautiful things we built from scratch in that small park, and all the hardships that came with them, and how easily it can be wiped away.

Spring has definitely sprung at OWS, and it’s only the beginning.

– Danny Valdes –
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March to Freedom


New York, NY–My Mom and I live in a first floor apartment down on 9th Street, not far from the YMCA.  She works at the local grocery store a few days a week, which helps towards the rent, and I take the B61 bus every day down to Brooklyn where I work as a class assistant in the catholic high school.  Dad left us when I was 13.  I used to think it was my fault he left because I was horrible to him, but Mom told me later that he had been seeing the waitress at the diner on the next block for months before he moved out.  I don’t know whether I felt better that he didn’t leave because of me, or worse because I thought Mom must have been really hurt.  She doesn’t smile much anymore anyway.

Life is pretty boring for both of us I guess.  Mom spends her time in the apartment.  She only leaves to go to work or shop and then come home again.  I never go anywhere much because money is tight these days and I am studying from home to get more qualified.  I hope that I will be able to train to be a teacher in a year or so from now, but I need to graduate first so I can get on the training course.  We weren’t doing too badly when Dad first left.  I guess he felt guilty enough about walking out to help out with money for a while.  Eventually the money stopped though and he didn’t drop by to see me anymore.  I found out from an old school friend, whose dad knew him, that he and his new girlfriend had had a baby.  Sometimes I wondered if he would walk out on her too, but I never heard any more about him after that.  Anyway, things got pretty tight then.  I was still at school and Mom couldn’t manage very well on the money she was earning.  I wasn’t far off from graduation when I came home one day to find Mom looking the happiest I’d seen her in a long time.  She’d been talking to one of the regular customers who came in the store and they had told her about a company that was almost literally handing out loans.  She had put in an application for a loan and been accepted.  The money had hit her account that day and she had been out and filled the larder.  Not only that, but there were new clothes for both of us, which Lord knows we had needed, and she had bought a few things for the apartment too.  It felt like a birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Mom had trouble meeting the repayments and things started getting behind little by little.  In the end I left school before graduation and took a job waitressing to help out.  Between us, we could manage just fine, but that was the end of my education for more than a few years.  That’s why I study from home now, so that I can try to catch up on what I missed by leaving early.

I guess all this is why I feel so strongly about the Occupy movement.  Strongly enough to have joined the OWS guys in the early days of Zuccotti Park.  I had heard about the New York General Assembly from one of the other staff at school who was crossing the bridge from Brooklyn to attend the meetings in Washington Square Park and Liberty Park.

Like most people who struggle to make ends meet and sit on the sidelines watching the rich get richer, I feel angry and frustrated at the blatant inequality of so called democracy.  I despise the system that promises fairness and opportunity for all, but then undermines any attempt to better yourself.  I started to join my work colleague at the meetings.  It wasn’t long before I was signing petitions, helping stop foreclosures on families threatened with the loss of their homes and joining any protest that didn’t clash with my work.  Home became a place I went to lay my head, grab a bath and some fresh clothes before dashing off again and I did the bare minimum of studying needed to make the grade.  I could see the worry in Mom’s face.  She didn’t hold with upsetting the status quo,  but I couldn’t find the words to tell her that none of us had any choice any more.  It was time to stand up and be counted.  I would kiss her and hurry out the door.

* * *

On March 17th, St Patrick’s Day, I crossed the bridge and made my way to Zuccotti Park.  It was the 6 month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street and I was determined to be there.  I arrived early in the day, maybe about 8:30am, and people were just beginning to gather in small groups.  The mood was good – we were all on a high and I could hear plenty of chatter and laughter across the open space.  Someone was doing face painting and not far away from them, another girl was painting henna tattoos on the arms of a blonde haired guy.  Everyone was sharing breakfast – some people had brought bags of bagels or donuts and coffee – no one was going hungry.

As the day went on, the crowd grew and we started chanting.  One or two tents were being put up in available spaces and a few people were catching some sleep, curled up in camping bags and oblivious to the noise and movement around them.  The cops were on the sidelines, just watching.  Occasionally a protester would wander over, say something to one of them and move away again.

The evening came and dark arrived.  I heard from someone that Brookfield, who owned the Park, were getting edgy about us all being there and they finally asked the cops to clear us all out of the area.  That’s when it started getting nasty.  We were being pushed – herded – towards the edges of the park and were resisting the movement.  Then I heard someone yell.  I couldn’t see what was happening, but then the action moved closer to where I was standing – a line of cops pushing forward, swinging their batons at anyone who was in the way.  People started falling back.  I saw a girl not far away from me catch a baton across her chest and she crumpled.  A couple of guys close to her started shouting at the cops.  They ignored them and the guys lifted the girl up and beat a quick retreat.  I saw someone else with blood running down their face from a gash on their forehead.  Suddenly I was being pushed roughly backwards.  I stumbled, almost lost my balance and fell, but managed to steady myself at the last moment.  I protested at the grim, set face of the cop in front of me.  He just gave me the hardest stare I’ve ever seen and told me to get lost before he took me in.  I almost felt, rather than saw, movement to one side of me and that was the last thing I remember.

I came round in New York downtown hospital.   My mom was there looking as though she’d been crying for hours.  My head hurt so bad I almost felt that it would split open if I moved.  I lifted a hand to reach for Mom and she shushed me quickly, told me that I had been knocked out and had a concussion.  They’d X-rayed my skull to check for damage, but it seems I got away with that one, and I was being kept in overnight for observation.

I heard later that they’d arrested dozens of protesters that night and that I wasn’t the only one to have landed up in hospital, although I was luckier than some – apparently one girl had had a seizure or something.  They let me out to go home the next day.  Mom had stayed overnight in my room, sleeping in a chair, and we caught the bus together.  Walking down 9th Street to our apartment was kind of weird.  Everything looked the same as it had been all my life but somehow it was different.   Or I was different perhaps.

– Beth Harrington –

Beth Harrington no longer writes politics using her real name, although she hopes that one day the powerful forces that oppress us all will fall just as they always have throughout history and the people will be able to live in peace. She now lives in the UK which has its own set of problems.

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Occupy Tucson Continues to Occupy Public Land


Editor’s note: The accuracy of this story and the credibility of the author has been challenged by multiple people involved with Occupy Tucson. After you read the story, make sure to also read the comments.

 

It has been a long strenuous battle for Occupy Tucson with the City of Tucson to establish a hub on public land in order to practice freedom of speech and assembly. What started off as a series of ticket writing sessions and named ticket time stacked up to over eight hundred tickets in a matter of three months, became an unquestionable win from a group of people that held strong to their rights and belief that one person can make a difference.

Occupy Tucson began as a handful of people (Sky Napier, Michael Migliore, Jon McLane, Craig Barber) developing a Facebook page and picking a place to host the first Occupy Tucson General Assembly. There were two General Assembly meetings, hosting over three hundred people combined, to decide to commence a twenty four hour on-going occupation (encampment) on Oct. 15th, 2011 at Armory Park. The first day at Armory Park there were over twelve hundred people that participated in the occupation. That evening the Chief of Police Villasenor went to Armory Park and let everyone in attendance know that they would be arrested if they were in the park after 10:30pm. Several left upon receiving that news. But, there were fifty individuals that decided to continue the encampment, and lined up to be arrested and released with a $1,000 citation.

On Oct. 28th, 2011 Occupy Tucson established 2 other occupation sites; Veinte De Agosto Park, and Joel Valdez Library Grounds. The encampment continued at Armory Park until Nov. 4th 2011, when the Tucson Police Department told Occupy Tucson that anyone or anything found in Armory or Library park would be arrested and detained. Upon receiving that news Occupy Tucson had Armory Park completely cleared and cleaned within two hours. The twenty four hour encampment continued, even under stressful situations, and continued to feed people by the thousands all while educating the community on the flaws in our system.

Occupy encampments were being shut down all over the United States, and Occupy Tucson was one of the only ones standing. Then came Dec. 21st, 2011, the day that T.P.D. finally said, “Anything or anyone found in any park after dark will be arrested.” The one-time working group of Occupy Tucson Occupy Public Land (OPL) saw the writing on the wall that this would happen, and even had a good line on Dec. 21st being the date. So, luckily for Occupy Tucson there was a back-up plan. OPL applied for a park permit on Dec. 9th, and researched the sidewalk laws as a back-up to that. OPL knew the permit would not go through in time so they set-up on the sidewalk outside of Veinte de Agosto Park on Dec. 15th, and were uninterrupted when the park was raided.

Occupy Tucson and Occupy Public Land continued to reside on the sidewalk outside of Veinte de Agosto Park for the next month and a half, until Feb. 2nd, 2012 when Occupy Tucson set-up tents and a full operating encampment on the sidewalk outside of De Anza Park. Occupy Tucson has held the longest ongoing encampment in the nation, and now is in a position that they can continue to deliver their message without the fear of having their rights violated.

Jon McLane

*On Feb. 5th, 2012 Occupy Public Land began working with #OccupyPhoenix in developing a strategy to recreate a twenty four hour encampment in the valley. The template has been created in Tucson, and the Phoenix Metro area is full of cities that have a lot of public land that can be occupied.

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Eviction: A Medic’s Perspective


It was a particularly warm night, and I decided to go down to Zuccotti Park after my shift was over. I arrived at about 11pm and as usual the place was still pretty alive. We just got our bicycle powered generator for our lights, and we had a volunteer riding the stationary bike. At about 1am things seemed to be winding down, there were a few of us in the tent…we heard the megaphones (obviously outsiders, we weren’t allowed to use them) and saw the blue flashing lights. A surly policeman came into the medical tent and handed us a piece of paper. It was an eviction notice, telling us that we had 30 minutes to pack up and get out. It was chaotic. People outside were yelling. I stayed in the tent, fiercely wanting to defend it. We had become a community health center.

People not involved with OWS were coming to us for services. We had doctors and nurses, herbalists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, chiropractors, reike practitioners, EMTS, paramedics and street medics. We had an entire social work department! We gave out flu shots! We made rounds in the park and went out on marches, we not only helped those who sought us out, we sought out those who needed our help. All of our services were free! The community stepped up and donated every supply we could think of. We never ran out of anything. We were the most amazing clinic I’ve ever worked in! It was inconceivable that the police would be throwing us out, but they were. At this point there were 3 of us in the tent – doctor, our volunteer bike rider and myself. None of us wanted to leave.

I called our lawyer to let him know what was going on. As I did this the police came in with their cameras and yelled at us to get out. I saw a knife slash into the tent and then make a long tear. I tried to cover the opening they made with a piece of cloth, but that was ripped down, then another knife slash, the were ripping the tent down with us in it. The doctor and I tried to reason with the police, but they wouldn’t hear it. They lied to us and told us that they would pack up all of our supplies and that we could pick them up at the department of sanitation the next day. Finally I grabbed what I could, a box of herbal supplies, some medical equipment, a grapefruit and a stuffed elephant. (I can’t tell you what exactly I was thinking at the time). An angry cop grabbed my arm and thrust me out of the tent and out of the park, I wasn’t even allowed to stand on the sidewalk.

We watched the police throw the remains of our medical tent into a garbage truck and then compact it. We were holding medications for young occupiers, he had expensive defibrillators, we kept records of our patient’s conditions, we had ace bandages, and gauze bandages, foot care products, and lots more. It all got destroyed. It was that night when I decided I was in, I was an occupier, this was a cause worth fighting for. Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD kicked a hornet’s nest!!!! We are not gone and we are stronger than ever….we will win, we have to, all we are asking for is a world worth living in for everyone. People maybe fighting against us, but they will wake up someday and realize we are on the same side.

– Nurse Janet

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You Can’t Evict an Idea…


As more and more occupations face eviction and police violence, we present a series of stories from occupiers on their experiences during police raids in Miami, New York, Oakland, Saskatchewan and more. Read the stories here: http://bit.ly/evictionstories

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Political Repression on the Streets of Miami?


As many Cuban-Americans living in Miami, my family’s nightly dinner-table conversations were thoroughly (and, course, regularly) dominated by discussions about the economic, social, and political conditions in Cuba. My family’s impressions rendered the sacred tempered by the profane; Cuba was our “lady in waiting,” who had been defiled by a totalitarian regime. But this is neither surprising nor paradoxical.

My family came to this country not necessarily to avoid communism, but to escape the state repression of an authoritarian government. While our Miami streets are not infiltrated by the same type of omnipresent masses of boogeymen (who seemingly lurk at every corner, at every hour, threatening to arbitrarily report every action as possibly “subversive”), the crackdown on Occupy Miami protestors which I witnessed last night could only be described as an outrageous application of the unmitigated might of state authority.

It was an intensely authoritarian might that seems more fitting in my family’s region of Camaguey, along with every other town and city of Cuba. Just as in Cuba, where the exercise of this sort of might certainly doesn’t spring from “enlightened” concern about the well-being of the community, this might was unleashed onto protestors to squash political dissent aimed at criticizing our government’s callous and flagrant rejection of economic democracy.

Peaceful young activists gathered last night at Government Center to take a peaceful stand, in the militantly non-violent tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, against the city’s planned destruction of the Occupy encampment (otherwise known as “Peace City”). In the dark of night, numerous contingents of riot police, in full combat gear and armed to the teeth with various types of menacing weaponry that seemed more fit for a combat zone, created a human barricade around activists and media, effectively trapping us onto the street directly behind the Government Center.

As they did this, another group of riot police formed a wall around the media and pushed them off the camp entirely, so that the media could not properly document the police escalation which was planned to take place. This occurred despite numerous attempts by Occupy Miami liaisons who, before the action, spoke to the commander-in-charge and implored him numerous times that respect for media and civilians should be a paramount priority — this, to no avail.

Not very long after sunset, riot police closed in and physically pushed us onto sidewalks until we were fully engulfed; block by block, away from the encampment, police beating their metal batons on their shields, chanting “Back! Back! Back!” The images of police repression elicited flashbacks of the awful stories about Cuba that I had heard during my childhood.

I was reminded of the trials and tribulations that traumatized my people. We, the children of Miami, were threatened with bodily harm and treated as outright criminals — merely for disagreeing with our government. The dreams of freedom that my family sung to me, as lullabies, had become a discordant nightmare of oppression that would cause any freedom-loving person to recoil in disillusionment, if not disgust.

In the Occupy movement, I have had the amazing honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with young Cubans who embody much of the future of this city. We carry with us the hopes and dreams of our parents and grandparents, and we fight, as they did… for liberty. Our families came to this country, as many do, to seek solace in what we are told is a free nation. But the scenes of last night beg a few very important questions:

Where was that freedom last night in Miami, as dozens of peaceful activists were viciously chased by riot police in full combat gear? Where was that freedom in the midst of an imminent threat of tear gas, the blows to our bodies by batons, the threat to use pepper spray to douse our spirits in unsolicited submission, and the threat to use rubber bullets to shatter our dreams of a better society?

The corporate media described the situation as being inherently violent, but, as so many intelligent, strong-willed, young activists pleaded with the riot police over and over as they surrounded us in a terrifying display of repression, we are reminded of an old saying: “The only weapon we have is our voice!”

I do not want to live in a nation in which our voices are the most feared weapons of all. A silent nation is a nation on the verge of death. To ensure that the dreams of our forefathers can truly become a living reality, we must embrace freedom and denounce repression, wherever it takes place. Failing to do so means we will have embraced the very tyranny our ancestors labored so diligently to escape and overcome.

Mo Tarafa
Political educator, Seed305

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