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Eviction | Occupied Stories - Part 3

Tag Archive | "eviction"

Occupy: What Now?

The action at Liberty Plaza, New York, began on September 17th 2011. Inspired by the indignados of Spain and the brave Egyptian souls of Tahrir Square and others in the Middle East, the Occupy movement in the U.S.A. is not yet 4 months old. In that brief period of time we have traversed incredible territory and achieved almost unbelievable success. Political conversation in the U.S. has been transformed, the majority of the U.S. electorate now say they support the changes Occupy is calling for, and cities throughout the nation are home to nightly General Assemblies and long-term encampments – at least in those cities without over-zealous mayors or police departments.

I have been involved in my local Occupy Santa Fe movement since our first day of action, outside Bank of America, on October 1st. I was struck then by the hope and inspiration that lit up the 60 or so faces of the people around me, and the almost constant sound of honking horns as passing drivers enthusiastically signaled their support. Since then we have held further rallies, organized marches, mic checks, workshops, teach-ins, and begun political campaigns. We have gathered for General Assembly three times a week, we have launched countless Working Groups, and we maintained a physical occupation almost consistently for three months.

However, the Occupy movement is not without its struggles. The energetic honeymoon period of those first few weeks, when revolution and transformation was on everyone’s lips and appeared eminently possible, even inevitable, is over, and we are now dealing with the stark reality of all that we must confront and all that we must transform.

We have attempted to bridge the gap between the highest aspirations and values of the movement and the reality of the culture in which we live. We have not always succeeded.

The harmony of the early actions and meetings has given way to division and arguments over tactics, strategy, process, and identity. General Assemblies have at times become fractious, and on one occasion even violent, and have led some of the founders of the local movement to walk away in despair at ever creating a better world. The structure and process of General Assembly and Working Groups have attracted criticism, complaint, obstruction and sabotage. Activists have turned on one another, and it sometimes seems as though we spend more energy fending off personal attacks and responding to spurious gossip than we do working for change.

Santa Fe had one of the longest-running camps in the U.S.A., which inspired community support and opprobrium in roughly equal measure. Though the camp attempted to model itself on that of Liberty Plaza, with zero tolerance of drugs, alcohol and inebriation, the reality was a series of disturbing alcohol-fueled episodes, occasional outbreaks of violence, theft, and discord. Camp was the source of much disagreement in General Assembly, with those wishing to withdraw support pointing to the dysfunction of the camp, while others focused on historical oppression of those marginalized by our society – the homeless and the victims of alcoholism and addiction – and their right to our support. In the end, just as the City of Santa Fe started to make noises about closing down the camp, the General Assembly of Santa Fe took action and withdrew funding and logistical support. An incredibly difficult and painful decision for many to take, it was ultimately supported by consensus, including some of those who had been campers.

What is happening? Why has this movement, that began with the vibrant fall colors reflecting the depth of our belief and hope, so quickly lost its luster? What has happened to the promise of Occupy?

I believe that the transformation we are trying to bring about is huge and that the problems we are facing are an inevitable result of the size and nature of the task.

Occupy is trying to bring our community together, to reconcile, to welcome all voices, and to work together toward common values. But participatory, consensus-based, grassroots democracy is not easy, and we are not practiced in it. Rather we are conditioned to give away our power to others or to scapegoat.

We live in a culture that has forced us all to turn away and suppress our natural inclinations toward compassion, relationship, and respect. It is a culture so violent and oppressive that we have grown to believe it is natural to make war on those we disagree with. It is a culture so greedy that we don’t hesitate to exploit the riches and beauty of the earth for our own comfort and pleasure. It is a culture so individualistic and selfish that we barely blink at the vast inequalities in material wealth that surround every one of us. It is a culture so riven by fear and dominated by power that true social justice for all is a dream that seems all but impossible to achieve. And, most importantly, it is a culture that has become enslaved to the impersonal systemic forces of economics that, at some level, exploit us all.

To transform such a culture requires that we transform ourselves and our political and social processes. And transformation is, at best, disorienting, and at times destructive in its process of upheaval and change. Having grown up in this culture, so far from what our hearts know is possible and continue to long for, we all carry within us internalized anger, fear and distrust. In relation to the dominant culture and the established power elites, those emotions are not misplaced. On the contrary, they are both understandable and rightly placed.

We come to Occupy carrying all of this cultural baggage with us. No wonder then that the growth of this movement is challenging and fractious. No wonder that common ground is hard to find when the dominant culture has so divided us.

But Occupy’s struggles are necessary and beneficial. The disagreements and challenges we face are the “grist for the mill,” the vehicles by which we learn, the opportunities to take another step in our growth as a movement and society.

In order to support that transformation, we must come to see these moments for what they are – opportunities to grow and learn. And we must find a place of equanimity and gratitude within ourselves in the face of each learning experience, both towards the situation itself and to the people who are challenging us. We only start to go astray when we perceive what is happening as the problem, and we start casting about for the people who are to blame, the forms and procedures that are wrong. Instead, we must all examine ourselves and our own capacities to rise out of the dominant culture of violence and oppression.

This is not to bring a Pollyanna perspective. When we disagree with someone, we must tell them; when we see the flaw in a strategy or tactic, we must say so; when a step in consensus decision-making has been missed, we must name that; and when personal agendas trample over process and consensus, we must not stand by silently in progressive, liberal apathy.

This is a call to invest in the integrity of our actions and the moral focus of the movement. Gandhi’s teaching is now so oft-repeated that it has become a cliché, but right now the necessity to “be the change we want to see in the world,” is paramount. That is true for each individual activist and for the Occupy movement as a whole. We are not there yet, I am not there yet, but this aspiration must be our guiding star, for under that light we will occupy the moral high-ground and catalyze a societal transformation that will be so much more than cosmetic change.

Occupy is about evolution and transformation, not revolution. We will not replace existing leaders with new leaders or attempt to fix what is broken in the existing power structures; instead we must bring forth a new story. The root of this new story is love — love for ourselves, love for each other, love for our planet, and a deep and profound love and longing for justice.

That love is backed by a fierce commitment to seeing this through. I know that because I feel it in my own heart and I see it in the eyes of all the beautiful, brave souls alongside whom I am so proud to work. And it is that quality of love that I believe must guide our interactions with each other as we find our way through the storms of challenge and the disorienting dilemmas of these early days of our transformation. In that love and commitment rests the hope that Occupy will become truly worthy of the 99%.

– Thomas Jaggers

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New York is Oakland, Oakland is New York

Last night was the most amazing night of my life…

The day started like any other. We woke in the truck in Brooklyn to find Julie outside her apartment. She let us take some quick showers and gave us a cup of coffee while we chatted about anything from what we do for a living to the movement–small talk, really, but nice small talk. After that, we put in our time at Milk & Roses to knock out some work as fast as possible to get down to the protest a little earlier. Unfortunately, I had a good amount of work to sift through, so we didn’t make it down to Liberty Park until about 6pm.

As has become our tradition, Joe and I walked around the park to check out any new additions to the grounds. One small table was set up near where we entered the park. They were passing out food separate from the people’s kitchen. It was the second time I’d seen them, so I was curious. When I asked who they were and what they were up to, they said they were from the shelter (they lived there, not worked there) and they were serving food to anyone at the park. They’d made it, donated it, and served it, and they were living in the shelter, themselves! Incredible!

Joe and I hung out for a while with nothing much happening. David Peel was back leading sing-a-longs, so I hung around that circle and sang and filmed for a while. I found Joe after that, having gotten separated at some point, and he was busy grubbing on dinner. I wandered off while he ate his food and we became separated again for an hour or so, until I spotted him on the south end of the park talking to a couple people–an old Italian woman and a younger friend or relative of hers. I didn’t get their names.

After talking with those folks for 45 minutes or so, my feet were anxious to move, so I told Joe I was going to go get a couple slices of pizza since I’d missed the dinner servings in the kitchen. We said our goodbyes and Joe and I headed down to Pronto Pizza, where they overcharged me for three slices of pizza, a soda, and a beer.

After dinner we wandered back to Liberty Park, a mere block away, not expecting much to happen for the night. The crowd was relatively small compared to other nights, and it was generally quiet. A small march in solidarity for Oakland passed by once, but it was tiny, so I figured it was just a marginal march, but when they came back around the park with slightly more people, I decided to join in. I grabbed Joe and we jumped into the march.

We circled the park one more time, gathering a larger crowd, then headed off down Church past the 9/11 Memorial. We paused in front of it for a moment to gather together, chanting, “New York is Oakland! Oakland is New York!” and chants of every other sort, like “Hey hey! Ho ho! Police brutality has got to go!”

From there we made our way to city hall, trying to take the streets at every opportunity. A block down, a fireman opened a fire hydrant and yelled out, “If you stand here, you’re going to get wet! I’ve gotta open it!” “Bullshit!” I yelled at him, sticking a camera out at him.

By the time we made it to City Hall, we’d become quite a large group of people. Hundreds, if not a thousand. We circled City Hall slowly two or three times, gathering together in a close-knit group to make it harder for police to drag one of us out of the crowd. On the second trip around City Hall, people started spilling into the streets, and the cops quickly took out their clubs and threw a guy to the ground, jumping on him like a swarm of jackals, beating him, throwing their elbows and knees at everyone, pushing us all back with wild looks in their eyes as we tried to drag the person being arrested to safety and the group. That guy didn’t make it and was hauled off. A few steps beyond that, I saw three or four police officers, including a detective in a plain suit violently pushing and throwing a young girl and two young guys toward the sidewalk. The girl wasn’t taking any shit, swinging at the police officers with her fists, but they didn’t arrest her, they just violently shoved them onto the sidewalk with their clubs.

I screamed everything I could in those cops’ faces when they arrested that guy moments before. “Shame! Shame!” “The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching!” and every foul thing I could think of. I was literally nose to nose screaming in their face. When they pushed me with their clubs, I linked arms with the people around me and yelled as forcefully as I could, “Don’t you fucking touch me! Don’t you touch me!”

We made our way a few blocks away from there and by then we were riled. We were peacefully marching in solidarity against the police brutality in Oakland and here the police were beating the hell out of people and arresting them for stepping into the street. In most cities, under normal circumstances that constitutes a whistle blow and a dirty look from a traffic cop, or at worst, a ticket. Now that we were riled up, we were absolutely determined to take the streets, and we did, but we were quickly pushed back onto the sidewalk. But now, whenever they pushed us onto the sidewalk, people would run ahead of the cops and take the street again, then we’d all rush forward and we’d completely control the street, stopping traffic and chanting. It was incredible!

Another man was thrown down and beaten by at least six or seven policemen, and even more formed a circular wall around the arrest to keep us from seeing what they were doing and to keep us from trying to drag the victim away from them. The guy next to me took a club to the gut, but we all held our ground and surrounded the cops, yelling in their faces exactly what we thought of them, who they work for–anything we could think of to shame them into seeing what they are doing is wrong, but many people also, such as myself, were so disgusted and sickened by what we saw, anger took over and we very aggressively yelled in their faces, nose to nose. I’m talking centimeters away. As long as you don’t touch them, you’re good. But if you even accidentally bump them, they’ll call it assault and beat you down.

After we had to give up and let the man be arrested, we turned to continue the march, but the police had blocked off the intersection with one of their plastic orange net barricades. People plowed through over and under it. They couldn’t stop us. Once we burst through, we grabbed it and won a tug of war match with the police. I somehow ended up at the front of it, leading the way through the streets, screaming and chanting with the crowd, holding the police netting above our heads and peace and victory signs above our heads, pumping our fists, smiling and in love with life and our brief grasping of freedom. I could feel it in my hands and heart as real as the police netting. Cabbies and truckers were honking in solidarity with us, slapping us five out their car windows as we walked by. Traffic was completely shut down. Every time I passed a cab with open windows in the back, I ducked my head in and thanked the passengers for their patience.

By then, the police were largely helpless. A way up the street, there was a bottleneck in the middle of the street between to cabs. People were spilling all around them, but the people who tried to go between the cabs were suddenly met by a singular cop out of nowhere. All the other cops were somewhere else, trying to set up another block and ambush for us, but this guy was suddenly right there. “Ah, we’ve got a fucking hero over here!” I yelled. The cop started violently pushing and punching at the protesters who came his way. We yelled, “Go around! Go around!” and kept marching. I don’t know what became of that.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but we were marching toward Washington Square Park. We held and controlled the streets from City Hall to Washington Square Park and back to Liberty Park. The police were absolutely ineffective and helpless. They couldn’t control us. We chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!” changing it up now and then with “city” and “world”, rather than streets.

Everywhere you looked people were cheering, chanting, skipping, jumping, announcing updates from other Occupancies. Someone yelled out, “Oakland just took back the park!” and we all cheered and chanted as loud as we could.

We wandered through the village and everyone came out of the bars and restaurants in awe of us. Some joined in. People leaned out their windows to watch what was happening. I blew kisses at everyone I saw and yelled to them, “We’re making history! Join us!” Then we all chanted, “Join us! Join us!”

We wound our way through the streets in many directions to keep the police guessing as to where we were going. I hadn’t seen the mounted police since city hall, where we chanted, “Get that pig off that horse!” but the motorcycles were suddenly everywhere–the same motorcycles that have been used to run us over in the past. The police would head us off at each intersection and form a wall with their bikes, but we’d just run around them. Some people ran and tried to leap over them, but they were quickly snared by police and beaten to the ground.

Joe told me the guy who tried to talk us into getting arrested at Washington Square sidestepped one motorcycle that tried to run him over, only to have another come up on the other side of him trying to do the same thing. He then kicked down a police bike, knocking over several more, and the cops spilled over him in a massive horde and beat the hell out of him.

On the way to Washington Square, one guy in the march a few people in front of me suddenly started pissing on a car parked next to him and he almost got his ass kicked by fellow protesters for doing something so stupid and foul. We took care of him instantly and reigned in any violence that might have erupted from it.

In trying to evade the cops with their cars, vans, and motorcycles, we ran down one street and dragged wooden police barricades into the road to block their path. As soon as people saw what was happening, everyone started grabbing anything they could to do the same–garbage cans, many garbage bags, more barricades–anything we could find. Then we would run forward and always stay ahead of the police. They couldn’t do a damn thing.

At one point, I got a charlie horse in both of my calf muscles at the same time. I thought, “Ah hell; not now!” I just kept moving forward the best I could and was able to jog it off, thank god.

That Sgt. who’d made national news for chewing out the NYPD at Times Square marched with us, too, as did another man in uniform.

After controlling the major streets in downtown NYC, like Broadway, we decided to head back to Liberty Park and seize our victory before something unfortunate happened, or before police figured out a way to break us up. We marched back toward Liberty Park chanting, jumping, hugging strangers… Oh! and we WERE able to drag one victim out of the police’s clutches, to which we all cheered massively.

As we made our way back to Liberty Park, we dominated the streets, linked arms, slowed down, seizing our power, and sang “Solidarity Forever”.

We entered Liberty Park arm in arm in solidarity and everyone met us with cheers, applause, and noise of all kinds. It was an incredible night! The march was followed by a few speeches of love and devotion to the people. I was exhausted and drenched with sweat. I gave absolutely everything I had in me to that march. We wanted to show Oakland serious solidarity for their dedication and we did just that. We made history, and Oakland took back the park!

We are the 99%! We are too big too fail!

Dylan Hock

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Occupy Oakland: Jan. 4 Night Raid & March on Courthouse

On Wednesday night, Jan. 4, 2012, #occupyoakland’s site at Oscar Grant Plaza was raided with little to no warning by armed, angry, & non-peaceful Oakland police officers. An estimated 14 occupiers were arrested with out any charges.

Minutes after the surprise raid, the occupiers held an emergency GA which led to a group of 50 – 100 people marching in the streets on their way to the local police station where the arrestees were being detained. Once there, we were met with a line of agitated “peace officers” who shouted at us to “get the fuck away from them.” Some were slamming their batons on the ground in a failed attempt to intimidate the growing crowd of protesters who began giving the “pigs” a piece of their mind.

After finding the entrance, a group of about 5 of us let ourselves in to attempt to have a reasonable conversation to gather information about those who were arrested earlier in the evening. Pratibha Gautam, an attorney and member of “The Fresh Juice Party,” offered her legal knowledge and engaged the clerk in a civilized manner. I began to film with my cell phone & within seconds a disembodied male voice firmly requested that we shut the door. As I began to walk over to shut the door, 15-20 armed police officers filled the space and instantly demanded that we pick one person to speak to the gang of officers and the other four of us were given a 10 second warning to leave the building or stay the night with our fellow occupiers in a jail cell for “trespassing.”

Gautam was chosen to speak to the officers while the rest of us waited outside the glass doors. Unfortunately the OPD was uncooperative and did not give her any useful information, but rather a lie designed to send us to an empty building in search of our abducted comrades.

Occupiers yelled messages of love & solidarity to the prisoners with a loud and clear collective “OCCUPY!”

-Fresh Juice Party

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Occupying Saskatchewan

In regards to police, we had a much different experience than other Occupy cities. There were some online threats of violence against us before the camp started, so on the first night, when there was only a dozen of us, I stayed awake, sitting in the a.t.m. lobby of the bank, coming out whenever someone was walking around. I had some good conversations late that night after the bar closed, explained what we were doing to people who had either not heard of Occupy Regina or who had only heard negative or vague media. This was one of the most important aspects of Occupy for us, the fact that we were able to communicate with the kinds of people who don’t go to protests, who don’t seek this kind of information out. As we grew, the nightwatch became institutionalized. Every night a few of us would stay awake, not just to do security, which was all too necessary because of the area, but because it gave us the opportunity to have discussions about various issues with the many random people going through downtown at every hour of the night. From before the first night, Occupy Regina had a police liaison, the police told us to keep the drugs and the alcohol out of the park and phone them if there was any violence or threats. By the way, Victoria Park, where the Occupy Regina camp was located, is in the middle of downtown, it is the main “drug park” for Regina. But while we were there, the dealing stopped. For the month that we were there, we kept that part of downtown safer than it had been in decades.

To put this in perspective, I am currently, for the record, the director of the Saskatchewan chapter of the National Organization For The Reform Of Marijuana Laws, and I’ve been the Regina event coordinator for the last 10 years. So for 10 years I’ve been organizing legalization rallies, including mass civil disobedience exercises like the annual 4/20 smokeout, and the vast majority of these actions have been held in Victoria Park. Other Occcupy residents were recreational users, some of them people who usually bought and used in Victoria Park. But we spent 4 whole weeks enforcing the “drug free zone” policy the group had agreed on to establish positive relations with the police when we started. This was surreal for me. We had a friendly, working relationship with the police throughout the existence of the camp, some came through quickly while off duty and out of uniform to donate.

We have a housing crisis in Regina, and there were nights when all the homeless shelters in the city were full. They’d direct the overflow to us, because we had a community tent. It was safer than sleeping in an alley somewhere alone, where many of those people are now that the Occupy Regina camp is gone.

Like many Occupy supporters, I’m kind of anti-capitalist on the whole, I believe we need an entirely new economic system, but we found common ground with the people who ran local businesses and family farmers from the downtown farmers market, and many of the union people who came around because we recognize that the banking system has fundamentally undermined capitalism itself,and we focused on finding and nurturing this common ground as much as possible. We did our dishes at local businesses, we had donated food, clothes, blankets, even tents, propane tanks, and money from people coming through. We had people who would come by to ridicule us based on something they heard in the media and come back the next day with donations because they discovered that they actually agreed with what we were saying.

Some businesses said that we were drawing more business downtown by being there, like a tourist attraction. This was especially true for the special acoustic solo performance by Joe Keithley from DOA, which brought out all kinds of different people. During the week before remembrance day, right wing talk radio kept harping about how we should shut down before Nov. 11 to “show respect for veterans”. Long before, we had agreed to take down political signs and banners and not campaign for that day, but not taking the tents down. The veterans, for the most part, liked us there, we were invited to the Legion hall and the Archbishop of the Quappelle Diocese, who led the remembrance day ceremony, gave us totally positive mention in his sermon, saying we were honoring the sacrifices of World War 2 by using the freedoms they fought for in the way they were intended.

We ultimately didn’t resist shut down. We recognized how uniformly Occupy camps were being shut down at the same time everywhere and realized that the decision was being made somewhere other than Regina, somewhere far away. We recognized that federal funding for projects might have been threatened to get City Hall to evict us even though we had an entirely positive relationship with the public, only 4 complaints and lots of compliments. We also didn’t want to put the police in the position of having to forcefully remove us, because we had a totally positive relationship with them and wanted to keep that for future events.

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November 17th Brooklyn Bridge March

Like many people I was disgusted by the Zuccotti Park raid that took place Tuesday morning.  So when I heard about the Brooklyn Bridge march on Thursday night I felt compelled to act.  I was impressed by how many people came out to show their support at this critical point in the movement.  But what really caught my attention was the overwhelmingly positive reaction we received from the drivers on the Brooklyn Bridge.  In a spontaneous gesture of solidarity hundreds of drivers slowed down, honked their horns, waved their fist in the air and cheered us on.  I imagine the last thing many of them heard about Occupy Wall Street was the nationwide crackdown that culminated in the Zuccotti Park raid.  Many may have assumed that would be the end of the movement.  For those, I believe it was especially important and uplifting to see thousands of people from all walks of like marching in defiance of brutality and in support of social change for a better society.  And this all took place in view of an amazing guerrila light show on the Verizon building.  It was quite a galvanizing moment.

(((video from the bridge)))


-Tate Harmon-








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11/15 And Moving Forward

LIBERTY PLAZA, NEW YORK – First, I would like to tell you a little something about myself. My name is Sean, but that doesn’t really matter. I’ve been a part of Occupy Wall Street for 35 days, and that does. Most recently I have been a part of the Fire Safety team that was recently formed at Liberty Plaza to ensure that no generators were used unsafely in the park until we could put together a fire plan and electrical wiring plan for generator use in the plaza to be audited by the FDNY, to earn for the Occupation and the residents of Liberty Plaza the right to be warned of noncompliance in advance and given time to come into compliance with FDNY safety guidelines, but that point has become rather moot.

Today, Liberty Plaza was taken from us. For some, it was our homes. For all, it was a symbol: a symbol that free speech was still possible, for us in the park yes but not only for us, but for us as Americans in specific and as residents of the world in general.I would have us build a new ten times better than that which was taken from us.

I wish I could tell you that for my part I felt I had ideas that were too big to risk, last night; that I felt myself too important, too ‘unarrestable,’ to put my body on the line in defense of Liberty Plaza. I was at Canal Street and Broadway at midnight when we saw a mass of approximately three hundred police officers and 30 NYPD vans gathering on that street corner as a staging area for what we all too quickly learned was just the backup to the force gathering against the Occupation at Liberty Plaza, which saw fit to go up against unarmed protestors with riot gear and not just the threat but the reality of force. I and my friends drew on our arms the number for the National Lawyer’s Guild—212 679 6018— better safe than sorry. We returned down to Liberty Plaza though we knew what was assembled against us, and that we would not be able to get within the cordon to actually reach the park. I lost them quickly in the crowds, but stood with those I found, and stood by the side of a man who identified himself to police as the district representative for the district they were taking action in, an elected official with direct authority over the neighborhood in which we were standing. This man demanded, repeatedly and very clearly, to speak with their supervising officers about the actions they were taking. I saw that man pushed by an officer behind a riot shield, and I caught him before he could fall over a fire hydrant and seriously injure himself. I saw that man bent over a nearby car and arrested with zip ties, and then I saw a woman chanting in defense of the Occupation pepper sprayed in the face.

So much for free speech. In the face of that, I didn’t see anything I could do, so I took the easy exit down a subway hatch and waited to be taken home to the bed I meant to be in hours ago. I fielded calls to our Legal team to relay what I knew of our fire safety efforts in the week leading up to that night, how we were actively stopping any generator use within the park ourselves, how we were choking the Media working group down to only as much as they could accomplish off of battery-stored power recharged during the day. If you watch the Livestream channel for last night, you’ll see that even without anything more than battery power to work from, the Media team was still able to do rather a lot. I stumbled home half in a daze, wishing tears would come but finding somehow that I could not cry, and neither could I rest as I made it to the bed I convinced myself was where I actually wanted to be that night.

I have for the past several weeks been working on a proposal for Occupy Wall Street at Liberty Plaza, called simply ‘Winter Proposal: Event Tents’ on the forums. It’s still a work in progress – for example, I had been asked by our Legal department to defer any negotiations with Brookfield Properties until we received the results of a Freedom of Information request to determine the exact legal status of the park, before trampling all over the place setting precedents that the rest of the Occupation would have to honor and obey regardless of what that request determined as the current legal status of the park.

We thought at the time we had some time to burn; it wasn’t too cold yet, and save for a freak October snow the weather was mild. I let the information request go play itself out and readied my proposal for discussion with Brookfield to discuss its salient points. I met with the architecture firm Feingold and Gregory, Architects, to learn more about permits and what would be necessary for the project, before they could vet the project to New York Tent Co., the contractors I had chosen to bring the project to in order to design it in actuality using their expertise to build frames upon which to hang event tents all winter long over Liberty Plaza as a solution to all of our safety needs. It was hoped that these tents would enable us with the ability to access electrical power just by paying for it, rather than having to worry about the complexities and safety of a generator providing power to the park; the ability to have heat, common sleeping space again, and a roof over our heads all winter long without losing a single resident of the Occupation to an enemy so simpleminded and yet so implacable as the inconvenience known as snow.

It is clear we do not have time quite as I had hoped we might. I will be bringing an emergency proposal to the General Assembly tonight, to discuss the merits of waiting for the outcome of this Freedom of Information request versus moving forward on discussing this proposal with Brookfield Properties sooner rather than later, and will abide by the ruling of the General Assembly regardless of their decision. That’s the way this works. I will be advancing this proposal, then, at the timeframe they see fit: as early as tomorrow, if they so see fit, or perhaps in a week or so, after the five days required by law for a Freedom of Information request to be returned, plus the extra time it actually takes regardless of what the law says on paper, Legal tells me it’s more like two weeks, so we can expect another week on top of the five business days that expire this coming Thursday. If it’s to be discussed with Brookfield, I’m happy to advance that discussion; if it’s something we can do without Brookfield’s needing to be involved, I am prepared to pursue that as well given the information that shows this to be the case.

In the meantime, they say money is free speech, and if that is so, I would ask that if you support this proposal to rebuild the symbol that was taken from us all this morning anew, ten times better than it was before, support it with your hearts and with your words, but also with your pocketbooks. We do not believe that money is free speech, but money will be needed to make this project happen, and money is something that we can raise for this project to see if it is supported by the world that watches so intently upon us in our time of crisis. I am starting this on Kickstarter with two facts explicitly stated:

1. This will not be a tax-deductible contribution. 501(c)3 donations cannot go towards political speech or action, and this would be providing for the winter a forum for exactly that, as well as a symbol that would be the definition of such.

2. This project will not fire without the direct and expressed consent of the New York City General Assembly, and no matter how much is collected for it, nothing can happen without that prerequisite first being met.

If you wish to donate money in a tax-deductible way to Occupy Wall Street, we thank you, but we must point you here, to the website and its Donation link.

The proposal I bring forward for consideration is simply this: to raise over Liberty Plaza for the duration of winter three event tents, using New York Tent Co. for this purpose and their permit expediters Feingold and Gregory, Architects, to seek all permits for this proposal on our behalf. Exactly whom we must ask for permits or permission to do this, we do not yet know, but shall learn in exacting detail as we pursue this forward, in the manner deemed best by the New York City General Assembly that represents Occupy Wall Street of Liberty Plaza and in the manner required to accomplish this legally and with full permission, so that which we have raised cannot be taken from us as Liberty Plaza was today.

These tents will serve as clean, open, and inviting space to serve as a public forum during the day, for all who wish to visit the Occupation to come and join us in discourse and debate as we exchange ideas and opinions to the purpose of repairing our financial system, our political system, and the culture in which we find ourselves living. These tents will let the sun shine on all of our faces, as well as the plants and trees that called Liberty Plaza home before we of the Occupation came to join them, while keeping rain and snow off of us, and will enable us to safely heat Liberty Plaza by day and by night to provide a comfortable atmosphere to those who visit as well as to those who call it home.

By night, the tents will serve to host our General Assembly and Spokes Council, with power turned on in the park and built-in amplification for speakers and facilitators… to answer them back, I suspect we will still be happy to use The People’s Mic. And they will also serve as shelter and home to those of the Occupation who call Liberty Plaza home and are those who actually occupy Liberty Plaza, without whom we have an idea but not an Occupation, those who put their bodies in harm’s way this evening to make a better world for themselves but also for the rest of the world as well, the 99% as well as the 1%, for it is not a very good world at all that does not accommodate for 100% of the people. With these tents in place, sleeping bags and cots will be more than enough to keep us warm at night, and we can return to the communal sleeping arrangement that served us so well at the beginning of the Occupation.

These tents will house our Working Groups as they go about their work on our behalf, changing the world or just changing a trash can, no task too big or too small to be undertaken cheerfully and with purposeful drive. And they will serve as the symbol that says to the world: change is necessary, change is coming, change.

These tents will also be works of art – living installations in addition to living spaces.  We will be covering them with our words, our ideas, and the images that spring forth from our imagination as we seek to change the world into a better image.

-Sean McKeown-

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