At the height of this beauty the NYPD came into the park and began arresting someone for drumming. This man had been drumming the entire day but the orders were not given to come in and make arrests until we were all at the height of our solidarity, that thing which threatens state and corporate power so absolutely. Another man was filming the arrest and then cops jumped on him, threw him to the ground, and beat him before arresting him. I witnessed this entire scene personally as did many others. The occupiers from other locations were dumbfounded by the militancy of the New York Police Department. Of course, when beatings and arrests like this happen we converge and it all becomes very emotional because the brutality of the state, while they are doing the bidding of neo-liberal capital power, is the embodiment of what we are rising up against. It is a very direct tactic the cops use to break up our communal experience; it is when we are at the height of our peaceful experience and connecting with each other that they break it up thru violence.
Needless to say after this the momentum of our gathering was interrupted and cops began marching through the park randomly picking people and making futile efforts at intimidation. It was a scene I have seen so many times at protests, scattered people in shock. This went on for some time while the violence and threat of violence only grew as did the separation of the masses. After the police action the crowd that was originally a cohesive body of people was a mass of individuals and small gatherings who were in shock and awe of the violence.
It was in this space that I began to hear something. It was very low like a background noise but it was growing. It sounded calming, like a humming of some sort. I looked over and saw a few individuals who had come together and where ohming, you know, going “ooooohhhmmm,” a meditative sound. It was so calming that the shocked individuals began gravitating toward the sound and joining the circle.The circle slowly began to grow and grew and grew, bringing more people into it. As the circle grew the calming sound grew. I joined, and the feeling of peace while I stood in that circle ohming was so powerful that it took me away and grounded me at the same time. I closed my eyes and let myself go into that experience. When I opened my eyes the circle had grown so large that it had encompassed much of the park, and all of the cops were now on the outside of the circle, and outside of the park. What remained in that space where violence, fear, shock, awe, and fragmentation had existed only moments before was now peace, calmness, safety, solidarity, and love.
I promise you all that another world is possible and we can create it–even in the face of greed, violence, and selfishness. We created it that night at Zuccotti Park.
– Sean McAlpin –
Editor’s note: You may read another perspective of the same night in Zuccotti here. If you were there as well, share with us your story. Photo by Julia Reinhart.]]>
Saturday night, there was an unofficial call put out on Twitter for friends of Occupy Chicago to Chalkupy in solidarity with Occupy LA. We have incorporated sidewalk chalk into other actions, most recently at the NATO summit protests and Occupy Independence on July 4th. We’ve also had confrontations with CPD, most notably when a Bank of America security guard called them out because a small group of occupiers was eating a donated dinner and chalking messages of hope and peace on a street corner in Chicago’s financial district. (In that instance, Streets and Sanitation came and power-washed it all away.) Luckily, though, we’ve never had the kind of violent reaction seen in LA.
The location chosen for Saturday night’s action was a section of Uptown that had been blocked off by the city that weekend for Ribfest. It was perfect for our purposes – the streets were closed, so we had a rather large canvas to work with. We were right outside a train stop, so there were plenty of people walking by to see our work. And the next morning the streets would be full of hundreds more who could be influenced, however slightly, by our messages.
As I parked my car nearby, I sent a message to the friend who had initially tweeted out the action to check exactly where everyone was meeting. When I glanced at my Twitter feed, however, I saw that he was in the process of being arrested. Whoops. He was charged with disturbing the peace for the chalking, along with another unrelated charge. Not the best start to the night.
After CPD got done threatening everybody else with arrest, they took him away and the rest of us continued chalking. Many people stopped to talk with us – most in support or out of curiosity, although a few were upset by our action. They said it was vandalism and illegal. They said it was a childish way to express ourselves. They said it wasn’t a proper use of our First Amendment rights. Of course, we disagreed. We tried to explain why but the few who came looking for an argument weren’t interested in listening, unfortunately.
Thankfully we had an overwhelming amount of support from others we spoke with. We moved to two other locations and had the opportunity to talk to many more people–including Ribfest security guards, who didn’t try to stop us at all but actually encouraged us to continue. They told us they agreed with our messages and pointed out open areas that we hadn’t chalked up yet. “You missed a spot over there!” they would say, pointing, a mischievous grin pulling at the corners of their mouths.
The only disheartening thing to me was the number of people walking by who refused to take the chalk I offered and leave a message of their own. They would say, “No, it’s okay, you write one for me,” or “I don’t really have anything to say.” I want to do this again, all summer, all over the city, but put a greater emphasis on getting non-occupiers to leave their own messages. I want to give a voice to the people of Chicago in a simple, easy, dare I say fun way. I want to fill our streets with the words and ideas, hopes and dreams of the people who live and work here. I want to show my neighbors that you don’t need someone else to speak for you, that you don’t have to ask permission to be heard, that it’s acceptable and even laudable to share your thoughts creatively and publicly. I want to empower others as I have been empowered by the Occupy movement.
In one of the hottest, driest seasons our city has seen, our messages are likely to remain visible for a while. But even when they fade into the hot, dirty pavement, our words will live on. After all, chalk is temporary – ideas are forever.
Before I arrived at Zuccotti there were a few arrests, and an elderly woman had even been knocked unconscious. By the time I had made my way down, the park, though surrounded by police, was peaceful in stark contrast to the events earlier in the day. Friends were sitting and chatting, the familiar sound of jackhammers pounding in the distance. An announcement session broke out and I listened in as report backs circled. News broke that Occupy San Diego would be planning a National Gathering for 12.12.12, dubbing the action “A Day Without Borders,” as well as announcements on the GA reboot and other Occupy projects. Acoustic music and singing flowed over the park, people were laughing and smiling again. It was almost like we had a chance in hell at a peaceful evening.
That’s when I noticed the wall closing around us. In two tight, single-file lines, the boys in blue stood at the top of the steps. Staring down at their prey as if they were hawks on the hunt, a new addition to their uniforms piqued my interest: gloves. Thick, black, leather gloves. My stomach dropped, they descended the steps and the powderkeg began to explode.Their sights were set, and in a clear attempt to incite a negative response they narrowed their focus on an elderly woman, sitting in a lawn chair, kitting. A clear and present danger to the general public, she had to be removed, immediately. The swarm of blue sent chills up my spine, I was suddenly surrounded. With my cellphone in hand I began furiously tweeting and taking photos, being pushed around by the massive crowd attempting to protect our comrade from the forceful hands of the NYPD. I felt a strong shove and then a sharp pain in my arm. An officer was grabbing me, screaming at me that I had to leave the park.
“GET OUT! The park is closed,” he said.
“Pardon me, Officer, but this is a privately owned public space which is required to be open to the public 24 hours a day,” I replied snarkily. “The park is not closed, I do not have to leave,” I squeaked as he grabbed my arm tighter and shoved me face-first onto the cement bench.
I threw my arms in the air in an attempt to visually reinforce that I was not resisting any type of arrest, only their blatant disregard for our right to peaceably assemble. I was thrown backwards into the sea of blue, my arm still being squeezed by the brute. I screamed “I DO NOT HAVE TO LEAVE, THE PARK IS NOT CLOSED.”
He rang my arm tighter. “If you don’t get the fuck out, I’m going to arrest you.”
I fell to the ground as the stampede swept through the park, taking with it the beautiful energy we had created.
Over the next few hours, the game of cat and mouse continued. Targeted arrests left our voices hoarse, screaming “Winski, how do you sleep at night?!”
All we could do was shout and console each other. Dazed and confused we began to join hands. Only a few of us at first, then growing gradually larger, we came together to Ohm and bring peace back to the space. Bring peace back to our home. Eventually, it seemed as if the entire park was a part of the circle. Positive energy pulsing through our park once more, we erupted in a mic check and thanked each other for the beauty of the moment. We all needed it.
I lingered a while longer, but knowing I had work in a few hours decided to call it a night when most of the tension had died down. Usually, I try to reflect on the events of the evening or write down my thoughts when I leave an action but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. July 11th marked a new dawn in the NYPD’s tactical response to Occupy that shocked and revolted me.
I didn’t sleep at all that night.
– Nicole Rose –
Photos by Julia Reinhart]]>
Philadelphia, PA–There was a synchronicity manifesting at the Gathering:
In one of the Trainings, there was talk about making a direct action at Independence Hall. A smaller group took the idea up. People agreed that some action should be taken on such a symbolic day and symbolic place as July 4th, 2012 at Independence Hall–but no one could agree on what to do. We started organizing, spreading the word, and drafting a statement, but as the day approached, it gradually fell apart. Me and another fellow decided to make a last-ditch effort, but he was delayed, and so it turned out that on the morning of Independence Day, I was the only one who showed up.
The Occupy Legal Team had requested that they be notified of any Autonomous Actions beforehand, and this was turning out to be an entirely autonomous, Autarchic Action, so I called them and notified them.
At 9:00 in the morning, I continued on to Independence Hall, and took the first tour. At the end of the tour, in the room where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration, I stepped over the barrier. I said “don’t worry” to the other citizens, and I walked right up to the desk where the original Declaration of Independence was signed by John Hancock. It got really quiet.
I set down the written Declaration I’d brought with me, and I signed it right there on the desk. Then I unfolded the Solidarity Economy flag I’d made, and I spoke extemporaneously to the citizenry. This is approximately what I said:
“In the name of People of the United States–the American People–we declare our independence from Corporations, and our Interdependence with one another. This is a flag for an Interdependent Economy of America–for an Occupied Economy achieved through the Separation of Business and State.”
The other citizens were calm and listened to me. When I’d finished, the ranger said that he understood and related to “what you all are trying to accomplish”, and requested that I leave. I had said what I came to say, and I wrapped myself in the flag and walked out.
In the foyer of the Hall, the National Park Police and Rangers were in full scramble mode. I was arrested and imprisoned in the Federal Detention Center. It was worth it.
In there, I met up with the one Occupier who was still in prison, who’d been imprisoned since the tent-ring on Saturday: 20-year old Nate St.-Martin from New Haven, CT.
I was accused of two misdemeanors: Entering a Closed Federal Area and Interfering with a Federal Officer. We were both released the next afternoon, July 5th.
(Side note: when we organize an Occupy event, we ought to make sure we tell participants to write the phone number of the legal team ON THEIR ARM WITH PEN OR MARKER when they are going on a march or action, because police simply take all one’s papers, including slips of paper with phone numbers, and won’t give them back. Both Nate and I were not able to phone the Occupy Legal Team because of this.)
I got my own “occupy uniform” because the Federal Bureau of Prisons mailed my clothes to my home in upstate NY. So I left with a cool gray federal prison jumpsuit, size XXX Large. It’s actually pretty comfortable, and I felt it was a fitting outfit for present-day America. And it made a striking complement to my “Red Square, Blue Stripes” economic flag that served as my sun-screen and blanket as I continued on.
As I was leaving town that night, I walked up to a random person on the street to ask for directions, and he was astonished (and I was too): he was the Park Service tour guide at the Declaration of Interdependence! We spoke amiably for awhile, he asked to take my picture, and he looked on his phone for directions for where I needed to go. We shook hands and wished each other good luck.
– Travis Henry –]]>
Chicago, IL–I was born and raised in Chicago, and lived here twenty-five years. The past four years, I have been away from my city, led by my camera to have and document new life experiences. I traveled throughout the west coast and lived in rural Oregon, which included a couple years of communal living. Even while working in a small café/bookstore in rural Oregon, people would often comment on my accent, and knew I was a Chicagoan.
On hearing Chicago would host the NATO/G8 summits this year, I decided I had work to do back home. I needed to get back in touch with people who were connected to what was happening in preparation for the summits, and I contacted an old friend, Aaron Cynic. We met at Columbia College Chicago, during the 2003 Iraq war protests, so I knew he would be active on the ground in Chicago. As expected, he knew other independent videographers, photographers, writers, and live streamers. When I got into town we met for the May Day protest and made plans to assemble a team of indy journalists to work together documenting the summit protests.
The march of many kettles
After the well-attended “Healthcare Not Warfare” March to Rahm Emanuals house on Saturday, May 19, we regrouped after a quick meal and upload session. Aaron, John and I headed back to the loop for the Anti-Capitalist march, which began at the Haymarket Square, quite a symbolic location. As we exited the train and did equipment check before continuing on, nearby police shot us hard looks. I found it strange, but we had too much to do to pay it much attention at the time. We hit the march, heavily flanked by police on both sides. Soon after we caught up with the march, police kettled the crowd at a dead end street. There was anxiety and confusion between the out-of-towners who were unfamiliar with the city, and with the entire crowd attempting to head in different directions, not knowing where to go next. We found ourselves boxed in, and people became very tense. Thankfully, police lines opened up to the east, and the march continued for some time until reaching the loop.
This became, in my mind, “the march of many kettles.” Kettling is a police tactic for controlling large crowds during demonstrations or protests. Large cordons of police form and surround the protest to contain a crowd within a limited area. Protesters are left only one choice of exit, determined by the police, or are completely prevented from leaving. The feeling of being penned in is very disconcerting, and people tend to react angrily to this tactic. This practice is considered controversial for many reasons, including the inclusion of innocent bystanders, and denied access to food, water and services, and the use of the tactic to create disorder and an excuse for excessive police force.
Another kettle appeared again, this time on State Street. Once more, the crowd became tense and started to get angry. Knowing the history and use of kettling as a tactic, the threat that they would close in and arrest everyone became very real. As the crowd tried to push forward, police began to pull demonstrators from the front lines and arrest them. They used their bicycles as weapons, swinging them at protestors. In multiple pieces of video footage, evidence shows officers swinging their clubs mercilessly at demonstrators. Eventually, lines opened towards the south and allowed the march to continue, this time with an even larger police presence.
The march made its way to Michigan and Balbo, between two hotels where NATO summit delegates were staying. Once again, the march was kettled on the corner. Feeling like they might actually be in earshot of delegates, the energy rose as the crowd chanted loudly. This kettle lasted awhile, and we once again wondered if arrests were imminent. After what felt like at least a half hour, the crowd pushed north Michigan Avenue.
Once again, the march was quickly boxed in. Buses and vans with riot police pulled up and they quickly surrounded the crowd. Aaron and I were caught just outside police lines, but John managed to make it inside. The police presence had grown to ridiculous proportions, making us quite nervous. We had heard many accounts of law enforcement targeting journalists for arrest, and both became preserved in our photography after being followed and watched closely by police. After John made his way out, we decided to head back to home base and get our footage to a secure location.
That evening, we continued to receive reports of arrests and fellow journalists being targeted. A car containing five live streamers was pulled over, and they were handcuffed and detained at gunpoint. The live streamers were able to post video footage of this event, where TWELVE police vehicles surrounded their car. Meanwhile, a police van drove through a crowd of activists attempting to defend fellow demonstrators. The van struck multiple people, sending one to the hospital.
“The CPD, they ain’t messing around. And this is Rahm’s city now. Watch your back.”
The official NATO summit began the next day, for which the largest permitted march was scheduled. Our team assembled at the Petrillo band shell in Grant Park, where many activists spoke out against NATO policies and the activities of Chicago police during the week. As the groups gathered for the march, the police closed in and flanked both sides of the street. We stayed at the front of the march, in what may well have been considered a media kettle. As the march began, we stayed at the front, along with at least 200 other journalists.
We joked that we should just document each other, since we felt practically cut off from the actual march. The march was lead by a double-decker media bus and two police trucks. There were bicycle and police on foot following along on both sides, and there was a line of police behind us leading the march. Frustrated by the lack of action, I contemplated leaving to go back into the march. But with the police lines as thick as they were, I was not confident I could get back in.
The route was long, and the weather pushed a sunny 95 degrees. The mainstream media falsely reported that protestors had access to water and cooling buses, but those were only for police. When we were asked for water, we were denied. I saw many journalists drop out simply because they did not have water.
The march ended with a rally at Cermak and Michigan, for that was as close to McCormick Place as demonstrators were allowed. Emotions were high when veterans spoke about their regrets participating in unjust wars and threw their medals towards McCormick Place (because the officals refused to come out to receive them I person.) Women from Afghans for Peace also spoke of the trauma caused in their country. It was a moving and peaceful event. Although the 10,000+ people were hot and crammed together, they cheered in support and the mood was celebratory. Sitting up on a friend’s shoulders, I was able to finally see the extent of the crowd, which was incredible. I had walked these streets every day when I went to school in this neighborhood, and seeing them full of people expressing their rights filled my heart. I felt proud to be a part of this event and movement, and proud it was taking place in my home city. Sadly, that feeling of joy was short lived.
The veteran who was acting as emcee of the event told the crowd they would be marching out to the west, that the rally was over and people should leave to the west. Some people started to move out to the west on Cermak, which was flanked by metal fencing. The majority of the crowd stayed, continuing in their excitement and celebratory atmosphere. We heard no order to disperse, but suddenly, the CPD presence increased dramatically. Before we knew what was happening, riot police flanked the crowd.
They came in aggressively, yelling “Move!” and pushing those of us on the outskirts west. Yet the majority of people were inside the police line. This incited tension very quickly. Many people started chanting, “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” and others linked arms and sat in the street. It all happened very quickly, and what was a peaceful rally quickly had turned very negative. The LRAD device started being used for communication, telling people to disperse to the west. I followed suit when I saw people putting in their earplugs, in fear of being deafened by LRAD if they decided to use it to disperse the crowd. I continued shooting what was happening as the tension built. I could hear a conflict deeper within the crowd, but I could not see nor get beyond the police line. It ends up this was the incident where protestors pushed forward, followed by harsh retaliation from the CPD. I started hearing cries for medics at this point.
After about ten minutes, things had not escalated any further. I had been out of water for over and hour, and was refused service by the only open business in the area (although they were happily serving police.) After seeing stars and feeling faint, I knew I had no choice but to leave. I regrettably exited the police line, knowing I would not be allowed back in.
I saw video footage days later of what happened after I left. Police pushed forward and overtook the people sitting in the streets. They also broke rank and did a target arrest of livestreamer Rebelutionary_Z. I also got to see the footage of the commotion and violence inside the crowd that I could not see while I was there. I was appalled at the violence I saw in these videos. There is no justification for fully armed police officers to be indiscriminately swinging their clubs into a crowd of unarmed people, many of whom were trapped. My heart also went out to my fellow journalists who were injured. I was saddened to see pictures of a Getty photographer who had taken a billy club to the head, and to hear of others who were targeted, arrested, and had gear destroyed.
As I fell out and left the barricaded area, I was in shock at the police presence I saw for nearly a mile. CPD in full riot gear were lined up outside. As I continued on, I also saw battalions of Illinois State Police, with full riot gear and billy clubs that were twice as long. When I saw the state riot police with automatic weapons, the fruit punch I had just gotten from White Castle was the only thing that kept me from passing out.
It was a shock to see my city in this militarized state. I was aware that this was a National Security Event, and had expected a hefty police presence. But I could see no justification for a literal army going up against a group of mostly peaceful protestors. What I saw on Sunday I will never forget.
As I regrouped with my team in Chinatown, I went to freshen up in the restroom. A middle aged black woman came out of the stall and looked at me with concern. “You from around here?” I told her I grew up in Chicago, and she seemed a bit releived. She still gave me a warning. “Be careful out there, girl. The CPD, they ain’t messing around. And this is Rahm’s city now. Watch your back.”
After some much needed sustenance and a recharge, we hit the streets again. Like expected, we were not allowed to get anywhere near Cermak and Michigan. We were watched very closely, and with suspicion, by the police that lined the streets. We started getting word of people gathering in another location and headed north. The looks we got from people we passed on the streets were unforgettable. Although we were all carrying cameras, we were looked at with fear and uncertaincy. Perhaps it was the bandanas around our necks, which were good for preventing sunburn, and a weak protection against tear gas. I was amazed the fear we generated in people while the police-military was out in full force, and the real criminals were having their meeting at McCormick Place.
We one again ran right into a small impromptu march heading north on Michigan Avenue. Soon more small groups joined this group, and before long a large group took to the streets and circled back into the loop, where they met with the CPD again. The atmosphere was emotional, chaotic, and disobedient, but the march remained peaceful. There were attempts by police to reroute or stop the crowd, which lead to some small clashes. It was one of these moments where I got this picture of journalist Laurie Penny being shoved by police, even though she is holding her press pass.
The march eventually ended in a sit in at the Art Institute, where earlier in the evening Michelle Obama hosted to wives of the NATO delegates. A sit-in happened, and the mood was surprisingly celebratory. Once again, we called in a night and left to upload our material. On the way to the train, we passed a federal building surrounded by state police in riot gear holding large guns. When one of us asked what kind of weapons they were, they refused to tell us.
The following day the protests were calmer, but the police presence was not. After an afternoon of peaceful actions and marches, there was a rally at “The Horse” where Occupy Chicago holds G.A. Although nothing happened to incite any response, CPD once again closed in around the group. Our nerves were on edge, hearing about more “snatch and grab” arrests and the presence of police infiltrators. When a march broke out into the streets, we got the information to be careful, because the march was led by police informants. When I got back and looked at my pictures in detail, I found this picture of “anarchists” holding a sign, and was surprised by their footware. This woud be the first time I saw any protestor wearing dress shoes. They are hardly the best for days of marching through the streets.
Opposite Narratives, Opposite Worlds
One of the most frustrating things was to get home after 16+ hours in the streets (and 3-4 more hours of uploading) and turn on the news. We often wondered what they were reporting on, because it sure was not the truth we had just experienced. The biggest shock was Sunday evening, when reports were grossly underestimating the number of people at the march. Although the number was estimated around 10,000, the mainstream media gave numbers from 3,500 to as low as 1,200. It was infuriating. We were literally on the edges of our seats, cursing the television and the lies it was spreading. It is such a strange and sickening feeling to have lived something and then hear an entirely different reality from the media.
Considering the fear-mongering and oppression that happened leading up to and during the protests, I suppose I should not have been surprised by the lies I heard spread by the mainstream media in the days following the protests. And as the media says, so does the general public. I found myself having to correct people I knew who were spreading that misinformation they picked up from the news.
The misrepresentation in the media I have spoke of proved to me how history will inevitably write this truth out of the textbooks, as perhaps it always has. But I will continue to speak my truth and show my images so that people might understand what really happened this weekend. The people of Chicago and the entire country need to be aware of this militarization of the city, the oppression, and the lies. Chicago will always be my home, the place where I was born and big part of who I am. However this is not the city I grew up in. So much has changed. Political and corporate interests combined are destroying its character. Rahm Emanuel is doing whatever he can to break the unions. The cameras everywhere have Chicago as the second city again, this time in regards to surveillance. But the days following the summits gave me hope, for after the buses of out-of-towners left, many Chicagoans continue to meet, Occupy, and express their dissent. They continue to fight for those still in jail and the human rights violations that took place. It is time for the city of big shoulders to rise up and say no in the face of this destruction and oppression.
I, like Chris Hedges, to name one of the liberal progressives I am referring to, and numerous members of the media that I’ve met at recent events in Oakland and San Francisco am white, greying and not dressed in black. I, like Chris Hedges, am deeply uncomfortable with violence as a protest tactic BUT unlike Chris Hedges, I am deeply sympathetic to those who feel their voices are not being heard and have never been heard and whose daily lives are impacted by an indifferent if not outright violent “peacekeeping force” we call the police.
I arrived about noon on May 1 to Oakland’s now infamous Oscar Grant Plaza to participate in the May 1st International Workers Day events. The streets around the plaza were cleared of traffic by the police until sometime around 2:30 pm when suddenly traffic was flowing through the streets demonstrators had been parading around for the duration of my time there. Instead of a few motorcycle police redirecting traffic about two or three blocks away from the square, there were now police two rows deep announcing all demonstrators had to get off the streets and stay on the sidewalks. A news van peeled out. Brave demonstrators faced the police line, tear gas canisters popped off, sirens could be heard and within minutes police were 6 deep all around the square. The air had become sharp from tear gas and the heightened sense of danger. Young men, in black from head to toe, calmly relayed the police dispersal order to those of us on the fringe and took extra time with parents who had kids in tow. I, along with others, headed for the 12th Street BART station. The gates were closed. It seemed there was no in or out. I walked in another direction even after organizers had earlier told us it was safer to stick together and because I was white and an obviously healthy woman, the police smiled, wished me a pleasant afternoon while giving me directions to the nearest open BART station just a few blocks away. One officer even moved the barricade aside so I could freely pass through.
I am not an experienced activist, I don’t want to get hurt and getting arrested is not a badge of honor for me. I know the fear of getting hurt is the reason put forth by many of my friends who stay away from the Occupy movement though I think their deeper reason is that they are comfortable so why fuss. But I, unlike many of my friends and maybe the seasoned mainstream liberal progressives like Chris Hedges who feel they have earned their stripes to say whatever they please about the Occupy movement’s “lack of focus” while blind to the awful reality of the oppressed in America and simultaneously glorifying the oppressed rising up in third world countries, feel heartache when I see police brutality enacted against our young people, against people of color, against those who were not born of privilege and against those who are sick– all of whom have been abandoned by those currently holding power in this country. I am sickened by the idea that this is the richest
country on earth and that our majority citizens feel no moral imperative to feed, house or provide decent heath care for all our people. I fear what the world and what this country will be like in another 30 years when my children will, most likely, be raising children of their own. I weep when I see what the establishment does to people exercising their First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly. Occupy started out as a protest movement against Wall Street greed and because of oppression against the movement in the name of protecting property over people, it has had to also become a protest movement against the system that uses violence against those who speak out against the numerous injustices suffered by the 99%.
I direct my comments specifically to Chris Hedges because he wrote a piece denigrating the Black Bloc group who then attempted to enlighten Mr. Hedges of their deepest motivations to care for and protect themselves and their fellow protesters from the excessive violent tactics of the police. Some months later I heard Mr. Hedges speak at a conference in Washington wherein he repeated his deep dislike of the Black Bloc and anyone who resorted to violence during Occupy protests as if he had never read the comments from Black Bloc members or demonstrators who had been helped by Black Bloc members. Mr. Hedges may not condone violence as a tactic of social change but he does not have to live as far too many others do– facing a bleak future if facing any future at all. What’s perhaps worse is that he fails to share with his readers that not every non-violent social movement succeeds – assuming there has ever been a flawlessly non-violent social movement. If Chris Hedges were directing his organizing efforts for the benefit of communities like Newark, New Jersey or Baltimore or SouthCentral LA rather than Manhattan perhaps his views of the “proper” conduct of protesters would be transformed by a greater understanding of the terribly harsh realities many face in today’s “Gilded Age”.
I do not condone violence, ever, even though I fail daily in my efforts to purge violence from my thoughts and deeds. But America does condone violence. Every day America enacts war in our streets, at our borders and around the globe. Violence is a language America understands. If our poor, our tired, our scared, and our sick are not being heard, then maybe the only alternative is to use the language power understands so intimately well. Chris Hedges has no formula to guarantee the success of this or any other political or social movement. None of us do but by participating we will move forward.
Check out all our May Day stories here.]]>
The marches are designed as a fun way to practice new protest tactics before May Day. The police stop us blocks away from Wall Street when we march in a group, so we have developed different tactics of going “civilian,” breaking into small groups to penetrate the police lines that circle the stock exchange before reforming the protest on the other side. This week, when we began to arrive, there were many occupiers already there who have been occupying the steps to Federal Hall since they got pushed off of Wall Street earlier this week. The police had barricaded the steps and control access to what they officially refer to as the “first amendment rights area.” Seriously, they really call it that. In addition to the NYPD, there were counter terrorism, federal park police and SWAT.
As the crowd swelled the police began making arrests and clearing the sidewalk. The police pushed aggressively and isolated everyone who had just arrived from the group that had been occupying the steps to Federal Hall, arresting at least three. Tension was high, but the crowd calmed before the people’s gong—our response to the closing bell of the stock exchange. We mic checked to the people behind police lines on the barricaded steps and celebrated together before breaking into the familiar chant, “A – Anti – Anti-Capitialista,” this time in the very heart of capital. There were police barricades and lines of officers keeping us apart, but there were a few hundred of us dancing right across from one of the most potent symbols of power; the energy was high.
A mic check broke our chant.
“Ten occupiers are laying down on the sidewalk right now, they know they will be arrested and wish to go peacefully!”
Two weeks ago a group began sleeping on the sidewalk, following the exact specifications for legally sleeping on the sidewalk as a form of protest from the the 2000 U.S. district court decision Metropolitan Council V. Safir. The occupation grew larger each night until last week, when the police started arresting people. The occupation shifted half a block to Federal Hall, which as federal property was beyond the jurisdiction of the NYPD. This was where the “first amendment rights area” had been set up. Direct Action had video cameras in place to film the occupiers laying down in accordance with the law, then immediately getting arrested for it.
“Mic Check! Next week we are going to invite everyone to come lay down!”
It was powerful. The NYPD has tried very hard to prevent us from growing roots anywhere in the city. The last few weeks have been filled with arbitrary arrests, sleepless nights and scant media coverage, but for the first time in a while, it felt like the tide was turning today; it felt like we were winning.
– John Dennehy –
Editor’s note: This is part of series of stories detailing how different occupies are getting ready for May Day. Read what other’s are up to and tell us what’s happening where you are.]]>
I had found my comrades on the stairs of Federal Hall.
Generally, I enjoy taking some time after I first arrive to write, gather my thoughts or maybe even spin a hula hoop for a bit but I was greeted by a familiar face almost instantly. We shared our thoughts with each other until another familiar face began to mic check.
A group had been discussing their plan of action for the night and wanted to open that discussion to the rest of us. We openly discussed tactics ranging from breaking out into small groups and sleeping in packs around the financial district to surrounding Liberty Park and sleeping on its perimeter. It’s always so encouraging to be a part of these discussions. Our sense of community grows stronger as the days grow warmer; a true testament to the impending American Spring.
Inspiring speeches and playful ways to remember our rights echoed on the human mic following a brief “know your rights” teach-in where we all wrote the NLG [National Lawyers Guild] number on our arms, even though it has been etched in our minds for so long. 212-679-6018. All seemed quiet on the steps when out of the corner of my eye I watched a middle aged woman in a fancy coat and string of pearls drop off a small food donation before hurrying away. I smiled in hope that perhaps the metaphorical walls that separate us were beginning to come down.
That optimism quickly changed when around 9pm federal officers climbed the sides of the stairs and formed a line at their peak. It seemed we may have worn out our welcome. I along with many others stood our ground as journalists and livestreamers swarmed to document what seemed to be our imminent doom. Tensions were running high and things could boil over at any moment when in true occupy fashion we broke into inspirational song.
What began as the group joining together singing the same tune quickly changed to what I can only describe as a round, each of us singing/chanting something different but all in time with the original beat. The magic of our voices sent shivers up my spine until I heard hateful slurs in the distance attempting to overpower our peaceful message.
I looked away from our group to see another middle aged woman, again in fancy clothes. Only this time rather than helping her fellow man she was screaming profanities and flipping us off, looking more like a monster than the lady I’m sure she claims to be. As I scanned the rest of the opposite sidewalk I noticed other obviously disgruntled members of the affluent community. It was clear by the Blue Wall between the two groups, that had grown from about 20 officers to more than 50 seemingly instantaneously, that the powder keg was about to explode.
And explode it does as not 100 feet away from me I witness a resident of one of the neighboring buildings assault an occupier. Pushing, hitting, even grabbing and destroying his clearly threatening cardboard sign all while screaming profanities at this peaceful individual who does not fight back. This is the cue the boys in blue need to justify the horrors to come.
As the police simply pull the assailant away from his victim, they also use it as an opportunity to swarm in, grabbing people left and right for being on the sidewalk, singling out people doing NOTHING wrong, people trying to organize blankets and signs, slamming them onto the pavement, ripping their arms back and cuffing their wrists with the ever popular zip-ties. The residents continue to stand opposite us, seemingly protected by their Blue Army, chanting, screaming, clapping and laughing as the NYPD spits on the First Amendment in front of them, almost at their command. The visual is sickening and will stay with me for the rest of my life.
We continue to respond to their taunts with peace as we cry and hug, mourning those wrongfully arrested. We begin to sing, soft at first, choking back our tears until we overtake the hateful slurs and our love resounds—“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”
I turn in response to a tap on my shoulder, it’s my roommate. We embrace on the steps of Federal Hall, glad to see each other safe after the chaos. She is headed home but wanted to make sure I had memorized her number so she could be there for me if I were arrested. Moments like this reaffirm my faith. We are on a good path; we have love in our hearts, always.
Short bursts of calm litter the next few hours as we wait for midnight. Still on the stairs we regroup & whisper songs and thoughts of hope to one another but when anyone attempts to amplify their voice above speaking volume they are immediately a target for arrest and mobbed by “white shirts” for speaking their mind, for daring to have a voice. The police climb the stairs of Federal Hall, in the shadow of George Washington and remove occupiers by force.
But as it draws closer to midnight the tensions ease. The rowdy neighborhood residents are gone, apparently we are no longer affecting their slumber and they don’t care to taunt us further. It’s just us and the cops. Federal Officers remind us that sleeping is prohibited but our presence is not and the “blue shirts” assure us that “everything is cool.”
I spent the next few hours consoling a friend whose brother was arrested. The three of us had been chatting earlier and I had tried to calm him then, warning her to keep a watchful eye on him. Sometimes no matter what we do, these situations cannot be avoided. We embraced as she wept on my shoulder. Wishing I could offer her more, knowing this was all she needed. Someone to listen, lighten the load, share her pain. We were all in pain.
I said my farewells around 5am, recording another sleepless night in the books for a good cause, knowing I would be back shortly. Oddly, as I walked back to the subway some 12 hours later the air felt warmer that it had in almost seven months and not from the spring sun beginning to fill lower Manhattan but from the love and loss we all shared on those steps.
-Nicole Rose Pace-]]>
Currently the debacle that has peaceful protesters banging their heads against the
wall in Tucson is the Tucson Polices denial of Tucson City Code 11-36.2(b)4. It
Section 11-36.2. Prohibited conduct; exceptions.
(a) No person shall sit or lie down upon a public sidewalk or upon a blanket, chair,
stool, or any other object placed upon a public sidewalk or median during the hours
between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. in the following zones:
Except a person:
(4) Who is exercising First Amendment rights protected by the United States
Constitution, including free exercise of religion, speech and assembly; provided,
however, that the person sitting or lying on the public sidewalk remains at least
eight (8) feet from any doorway or business entrance, leaves open a five (5) foot
path and does not otherwise block or impede pedestrian traffic.
In the past two months the Tucson Police Department has completely ignored this code
and used Tucson City Code 16-35 (No person shall obstruct any public sidewalk,
street or alley in the city by placing, maintaining or allowing to remain thereon
any item or thing that prevents full, free and unobstructed public use in any
manner, except as otherwise specifically permitted by law.) to arrest and remove
people from the sidewalk.
Being a person that has had my first and fourteenth amendment rights violated by the
actions of the Tucson Police Department obviously I hold a bias, but even the most
cop friendly people can see the obvious violation of our Federal, State, and Local
laws. This will seem even more obvious when I have the other twenty criminal
violations I hold dismissed, but that will not regain our rights.
I will continue to occupy the front-line putting my mental, emotional, and physical
safety at risk to expose the injustices in our city, state, and country. It will be
an uphill battle and I may not accomplish a thing. But, it feels great to have a
purpose, and if I do not do something now than when should I?
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…)
We 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 have 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.