For those of you in other parts of the world, Tacoma is west-coast port city and is quite close to the northwest corner of the United States. At the time of our May Day rally, we experienced what was typical weather for this time of the year here in Washington State (For those of you not familiar with American geography, Washington State is not the same place as Washington DC, the USA capital, thousands of kilometers away).
We had periods of sun and warmth, then rain, and even a bit of ice, followed by warmer sun. The sky looked spectacularly dramatic, a mosaic pattern of clear sparkling blue patches intermixed with other patches of dark clouds, sometimes with bright fringes. The scents of spring floated in the air, wafting up from the many trees, plants, flowers and the moist good earth under our feet. Eddies of chill wind whipped around us, stirring up nature’s perfumes, and then the air would be still and warm. One minute, the sun shown brightly, and then just seconds later, a big black cloud would obscure the sun. As I gave my speech, we went through spots with sun and still air, followed by spots of icy rain, followed by brisk cool breezes, and then more warming sun embracing our faces.
At the time of our May Day rally, the hospital workers had had an informational picket line at several nearby hospitals, and many of those picketers had taken some time off to come to our rally. And before our rally, many of us Occupy Tacoma supporters and friends had joined the hospital workers in their picket line to show our solidarity. After our rally, many of us attended their union rally at a nearby church, and it was quite inspiring to hear these workers talk about their situation and their plans.
I support those workers. My wife spent her last days in one of those hospitals now being picketed, and the workers were super, making every effort to make the last days of her life as comfortable and pleasant as possible. She was very grateful to them.
Representatives from other unions attended our rally and walked with the hospital workers on the picket lines as well, and supporters and members of Food Not Bombs and Jobs With Justice also came by. We had food cooking, and some homeless people came by and shared a meal with us.
The speech I gave at the rally was a bit different than many of of my other speeches in that I delivered this speech in verse, mostly blank verse. When you see the video, you’ll probably notice that.
The sound recording was a bit problematical at times because sudden gusts of wind whipped by the microphone, muddying the sound, and sometimes the microphone picked up too much ambient noise.
Nevertheless, I’m quite happy with the way this video turned out, despite a few technical difficulties in producing it, and I hope you enjoy seeing my speech as much as I did in delivering it.
I’ve lived a good long time now, and the sudden rise of the Occupy movement, the related European movements, and the movements of young people in Africa, Asia, and our sister countries of the American continents has, in the autumn of my life, warmed my heart, more than I can say in mere words. These wonderful young people have given my soul reason to soar high on the wings of hope and sing a song of the new spring.
To the activists all over the world and here in the USA, thank you for all you are doing to make this a more decent world and to challenge the rule of the 1%. This can be a difficult and tedious process, even irksome at times. But I believe in the end, we will win, and the world will rise on new foundations.
Karl Marx said these interesting words:
When people speak of ideas that revolutionize society, they do but express the fact that within the old society, the seeds of a new one have been created, and that the dissolution of the old ideas keeps even pace with the dissolution of the old conditions of existence.
At this historic moment of history, we are creating the seeds of a new society, and they are sprouting and taking root in the very fabric of the old.
We shall overcome! ¡Venceremos!
Editor’s Note: You can check out more May Day stories and coverage here.]]>
New York, NY – Surrounded by hundreds of police officers and protesters, I was sitting on the steps of Sara D. Roosevelt Park, on the south side of Houston between Chrystie and Forsyth, eating half of a tangerine. It was 1 p.m., and I was there for a rally that was unpermitted by the New York Police Department and unsanctioned by Occupy Wall Street (whatever that means).
Waiting for the rally to start, I noticed more and more protesters arriving in all black clothing, their heads covered with hoods, masked with bandanas or balaclavas. They were in small clusters of friends, each group seemingly unfamiliar with the rest of the demonstrators and even most of their black-clad peers. The crowd swelled to three or four hundred protesters, surrounded to the north, east and west by a hundred police officers. Banners were unfurled with slogans like “Kill Capitalism, Save the World” and “F-ck the Police.”
At 2 o’clock, the march commenced. A push was made by the head of the march to cross east against a line of police officers. A shoving match ensued between protesters wanting to make their way across the street and the police officers stopping them. Individual demonstrators were picked off by the police, pulled from the crowd into a swarm of hands and batons, pinned face down to the asphalt with knees on their backs, cuffed with thick plastic ties and dragged away. Some managed to get free and dove into the anonymity of the crowd, like calves returning to the herd for protection after a close call with the wolves. In this fashion, the standoff took on a particular dynamic: The front line of protesters crashed against a line of police officers, who attempted to sequester and subdue individuals, who in turn retreated farther back into the crowd while a wall of shoulder-to-shoulder protesters impeded the pursuing officer.
When police officers from all sides — north, east and west — advanced against the crowd, a collective fight-or-flight response gripped everyone: the protesters, the reporters, the photographers, the legal observers. Hundreds of us began streaming back into the park, running south, the only direction not cordoned off by police. We jumped the park rails to the east, rushing onto Chrystie Street against traffic, which came to a standstill. For the moment, we had lost the cops.
Traveling south on Chrystie, we organized again into a march, with banners at the fore and chants picking up. Zigzagging through Chinatown, a scuffle broke out amongst us: a demonstrator wishing to remain anonymous and a photographer cataloging the scene. Punches were thrown, but the two were quickly separated, and we continued on.
We reached Canal Street, overtaking a lone traffic cop and all of the westbound lanes to march through Chinatown. Our side of the avenue was devoid of cars, all replaced with hundreds of bodies. When a chant of “F-CK THE POLICE” was taken up, bystanders sang along. Reaching Broadway, we turned north, the flood of us pouring up in between the stalled oncoming vehicles, shoppers, tourists and department stores.
Throughout the entire procession, there was nothing leading us. There was no parade route to follow nor conductor who decided which direction the lot of us would go. One of us would simply run into the approaching intersection, survey the options and shout back recommendations — “Cops to the left! Go straight!” Their advice fell to whoever heard and was combined with the common wisdom — another shout: “The park is ahead but it’s fenced off! Go right!” — and the unwieldy will of the masses to determine which direction the march should go.
Like rabid dogs nipping at the feet of their fleeing victims, the police would occasionally catch up with us, tearing an individual from the crowd to be collared. They sped up behind us on scooters and sprung out on top of us from undercover vehicles, mostly Ford Econoline vans, Kia minivans and Impalas in white, silver and grey. We told ourselves to stay in a tight formation to prevent being isolated, we picked ourselves up when we fell, we tore ourselves free.
The rear was watched nervously and a cry was raised each time the police approached, sending us stampeding down avenues as far as our burning lungs and raw legs could take us. To cover the rear from encroaching police vehicles, we laid obstacles in the street — things that were easy enough to avoid on foot, but would be difficult for a scooter or car to maneuver around: trash cans; newspaper dispensers; metal barricades that we found stacked on corners around Broadway and Prince by the NYPD in anticipation of a permitted march from Union Square to the Financial District that was to begin at 4.
We zigzagged through Greenwich Village, marching, chanting, waving banners and flags, raising our fists, linking our arms together. Somewhere in the back of our minds, we knew that we weren’t doing much — walking, talking, making gestures, holding up signs, helping each other when we needed it and, of course, running from the police — but those doubts were suppressed by the simple freedom to walk in the streets and say to ourselves “Whose streets? Our streets!” without being penned in on all sides by cops. It was a silly thing to relish, but it was even more absurd that we couldn’t enjoy it every day.
Travelling west in the Village, I had sprinted ahead of the march before an intersection and was suddenly left alone when the entire procession turned north towards Washington Square Park. I kept going west, thinking I would come around the block to meet them once more. As I approached Sixth Avenue, I noticed a grey minivan speeding down the street behind me. When I stopped at a newsstand, it pulled over. When I continued to walk, it suddenly began driving. Unnerved, I ran down into the West 4th Street subway station, through the turnstile and caught a Brooklyn-bound C train that was just pulling in. Standing in the corner of the subway car, I realized that my shirt was soaked through with sweat, that I was panting, that my hands trembled.
After getting off at Spring Street and stopping by a bar to change my shirt in the bathroom, I made my way to Washington Square Park. An NYU-related demonstration was going on at its center, with speeches being made through the human microphone to a patient crowd. I recognized a few unmasked people from the Wildcat rally, who were now sitting at picnic tables, laying in the sun or calmly walking about. Even more uncanny, I noticed people laughing, jubilant and carefree, though with familiar backpacks, worn shoes and steely eyes. The black bloc was nowhere to be found.
-Arvind Dilawar- ADilwar.com @ArvSux
(photo credit: Jessica Lehrman)
Editors note: Read all our May Day coverage here.]]>
New York, NY – While living in Europe I was was witness to some intense May Day scenes, from evicted squatters smashing windows in Zurich to lingering tensions from the break-up of Yugoslavia spilling onto the streets of Vienna. From that perspective what happened this May Day in New York City was relatively sedate. Still, the day turned out to be far more violent than necessary. A group from Occupy Wall Street had announced a so-called Wildcat March and promised some shenanigans. Whether that prospect alone put the NYPD response into overdrive, I do not know, but the level of force on display was hardly proportional to the threat the marches actually posed.
Mind you, I don’t want to walk down Fifth Avenue through a sea of broken glass. I don’t condone violent tactics, and forgive my French, but if you start breaking shit, you loose me. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if the very tactics NYPD deployed may not ultimately bring that scenario about. After all, actio = reactio, as the old saying goes. And both sides have been ramping up their antics.
NYPD ground troops were observed conducting exercise drills in full riot gear on Randall Island in the days leading up to May Day, while their Intelligence Unit stormed the homes of several organizers on a series of pretenses (More on that here, and here if you like). And finally, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly deployed his second in command, Deputy Ray Esposito, in person to supervise police actions in response to the Wildcat march. So, whatever happened that day was not only approved, but implemented from the very top of the chain of command.
Occupiers meanwhile showed up with an enormeous “Fuck The Police” banner, goggles, bandanas, and black hoodies. So, what exactly did they expect?
I had tried to meet the march from Brooklyn across the Williamsburg Bridge on the bridge itself, walking up from the
Manhattan side. But I was blocked from entry and made to wait at the foot of the bridge, along with Deputy Commissioner Esposito, Captain Lombardo (more on him here) and 100+ riot cops.
As the march finally arrived, three protesters had already been arrested on the bridge and were brought down first. Later on, about 300 marchers came along, chanting slogans, carrying signs, and generally doing what protest marchers do. Hardly cause to deploy 100 riot cops.
A bike squad was also part of the march, and they gave the scooter cops a good run for their money riding up and down Houston Street, having NYPD quite literally run in circles. The mood until then had been fairly relaxed. Deputy Commissioner Esposito was busy talking on his phone, while everyone else basically waited to see what would happen.
All that changed the moment the hoodies appeared. After a peaceful assembly in Sarah D. Roosevelt Park on Houston Street and 2nd Avenue, a group of protesters emerged in black hoodies and goggles. They barely made it to the street corner, when the first shoving match ensued, leading to several arrests. While the police were making their first collars, and a group of protesters tried to hold them back, the rest of the marchers snuck out the back entrance of the park and started running through Chinatown.
What followed was a cat and mouse game between cops and protesters with some trash cans and some paint bombs thrown about. I didn’t hear any glass break, but not for lack of trying. Both protesters and police were agitated, one side
trying to get away with taunts and running in the street, and the other side hellbent on shutting down any such action. Also, Deputy Commissioner Esposito did not go back to his office. He rolled up his sleeves and went right in there.
Further up, around the corner of 8th Street and 6th Avenue, the next major melee occured, as protesters tried to run up 6th against traffic – a tactic that had proven successful in avoiding kettles and being herded into unwanted directions. One protester was slammed to the ground so hard, he wound up with a bloody nose. Another had suspicious discoloring on his torso, after he emerged back on his feet, hands cuffed in the back.
Finally, a bit further up the road towards Union Square, four protesters were arrested for “blocking the sidewalk”. After being told all morning that they were supposed to stay on the sidewalk, these protesters walked where they were told to, chanting “We refuse to obey by your laws” and waving a flag. A white shirt cop on a scooter came up behind me riding on the sidewalk and drove up to them. Next thing I know, they were arrested, again rather brutally. And, again, Ray Esposito was right there.
I wondered what he was thinking this display of force might actually achieve, other than further radicalizing a group of protesters already willing to push the envelope. I walked over to the Deputy to ask him, but he was busy shoving a protester. And as I waited for him to finish, I was pushed away by another cop. I looked for Esposito later on to ask him that question, but that was the last time I saw him that day.
Union Square was packed! I’ve never seen so many people there or at any Occupy event I have attended. The atmosphere was festive and the usual diversity of people and ideas was very well present. An odd dichotomy to the past few hours I had just spent running around downtown Manhattan. The oddity of the situation was rounded out when I went into Whole Foods on 14th Street to grab a drink. There was a long line for the restrooms. And after chasing each other through the streets, I found cops and protesters lining up for the same bathrooms …
The march down Broadway included an estimated 30,000 people, protesting for workers’ rights, immigrant rights, and for social justice. About 100 labor unions and affinity groups had sponsored this march, and turned out in force. Jesus and Captain America came along, too.
As the march reached downtown Manhattan, we found Zucotti Park barricaded off from the marching route (30,000 people wouldn’t have fit in there, either), and the procession moved on towards Wall Street. As had been the case during the Liberty Square occupation, the street was barricaded off for any pedestrian traffic. Somewhat odd, given that for the past three weeks, Occupiers had held a 24 hour vigil on the sidewalks and later on the steps of Federal Hall). Consequently, 30,000 people suddenly had nowhere to go, and a shoving match ensued again, as protesters voiced their anger at the protection Wall Street was receiving, both physically and figuratively.
The march finally moved on toward Bowling Green, where several union members held speeches. Afterwards about 1,000 of the Occupiers marched on toward the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Water Street for a People’s Assembly. The amphitheater behind the memorial wall was packed, as people caught up on events of the day around the country, and started to wind down and relax after a long day of marching. New York City councilmen Jumaane Williams and Ydanis Rodriguez, both plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the NYPD over their forceful tactics (more on that here), were at the assembly.
Councilman Williams urged everyone to “keep agitating, as change doesn’t come quietly.” The memorial however closes to the public at 10pm, and so again, NYPD assembled over 200 cops in riot gear outside the memorial to move in shortly after 10 to close the park. Questions whether NYPD actually had jurisdiction remained unresolved, given that war memorials tend to be federal properties.
Most protesters left before much trouble could arise, but some did get arrested. What followed was the truly saddening part of the day’s events. Admittedly everybody was tired at that point – cops and protesters both had been on 17 hour shifts – but arresting people brutally for no reason has no place in a democratic society. Had causes for arrests during the day been thin at times, at this point they were completely non existent. One man was arrested for walking his bike on a sidewalk. Seriously.
A group of protesters sought refuge near South Street Seaport at the Waterfront, but was driven away again, at which point I called it a day and went home. All in all, 97 people had been arrested that day, many under the direct supervision of the NYPD’s Deputy Chief. I wonder whether he needed to be there to make sure these arrests were happening. Several beat cops looked uncomfortable doing what they were told to do.
A friend later told me that as she was sitting with others in Zucotti Park around 2am, a white shirt cop walked by her and said “Ok folks, you stay here as long as you like. We’re going to bed …”
Editors note: check out all our May Day coverage here.]]>
As you can imagine, Spring has come and things have steadily been heating up here. There had been a few recent cases of police brutality and harassment on a more personal level that some our occupiers had been subject, not to mention March 13th’s infamous FBI and SWAT raid on our building, and let us not also forget that Miami has already had its own long history of corrupt police…
Despite the negativity and fear tactics thrown at us, a new revolutionary spirit had been growing within Occupy Miami as our movement has undergone internal changes; petty individual differences have been settled and forgotten with strong bonds and communication being established, enthusiastic and talented newcomers have been welcomed, new activists groups have emerged from our ranks creating a network of solidarity that has been long overdue, inspiration has come from all around and all bright minds are back in focus.
The past months have been really building towards May first and the following months.
Certain media aggressors such as the Miami New Times are entertaining the notion that May Day foretold an imminent death for Occupy Miami. However, those who were there will tell you that what we are now watching here is a rebirth of the movement in South Florida.
I have to be honest; we at Occupy Miami have a little history of half-assing our events in a way with lack of real promotion and many last-minute announcements which, of course, usually resulted in unsatisfactory turnouts. May Day and the events that preceded it had brought about new shows of effort and even a new radical side to our activists here altogether. I, myself, had to be convinced to stay until after May Day in order to help set things up, rather than leave to Oakland or Chicago, which is what I honestly wanted to do. So in the days leading toward May Day, there was a lot of excitement but also a desire to not get our hopes up for anything too exciting.
However, despite our skepticism, our general strike did not disappoint. Our numbers weren’t in the thousands like other major occupations you may have heard of, but this had been our largest turnout without union help since October 15. SEIU [Service Employees International Union] had set up a rally of their own at a hospital which had recently been privatized, and was now facing mass layoffs at the hands of Wachovia’s old CEO, Carlos Migoya, now Jackson Memorial Hospital’s own CEO. Their rally probably had much more numbers as well, but it seemed to be overshadowed in a way. Though our numbers were estimated at only around 150, they carried a growing intensity and unity that the unions’ permitted rally could not compete with.
Occupy Ft. Lauderdale and Occupy Palm Beach were making attendance, along with other local groups such as anti-capitalist group MAS [Miami Autonomy and Solidarity] and One Struggle South Florida. We were even joined by a new feminist women’s caucus, RYPE. Black Bloc elements, which Occupy Miami had lacked in earlier days, had also been emerging; a contingent of black and red flags, accompanied by a little variety of others, were leading the way as we departed from our rally at The Torch of Friendship, after a series of inspiring speeches and warm reunions. We were passing by the nearby port of Miami, and immediately the tone for radical action was set for the day. Without warning, black-clad protesters were joined by many others as they began to close off the port’s entrance with steel barricades that were so conveniently lining the surrounding sidewalks.
It was a valiant effort but, sadly, it seemed to have been predicted by police as blaring ambulances attempted to go down the very roads we had not even finished blocking. Though it seemed to be a strategic move to thwart our plans, bleeding hearts began to clear the way and were then pushed towards the sidewalk by police. We shook it off and continued to move, never neglecting to take the streets and not the sidewalk.
We stomped on toward downtown area in a very energetic and tight-knit coup, moving past a college and then an art school. Several students joined us and were welcomed by deafening cheers. We then marched through the inside of our county hall, Government Center, which was also graced with our campsites for three and a half months. This was our first time doing this and security could do nothing but hold the door open as we all went through and poured back out.
We walked in and out without trouble and continued to march through the surrounding streets, making a notable presence at all the nearby banks, eventually making our way to the financial district, Brickell. Spirits stayed cheerful and positive and were well lifted by cheers and chants of “WE ARE THE 99%!” from a passing school bus. We nearly set up camp at a very cozy Bank of America, but as police pressure started to build up, we gathered our ranks and began to march back toward the downtown area.
This is when things began to escalate and go down a different path. It seems police were growing weary of us taking the whole street. As we marched up the bridge back to downtown, they started ordering us to seclude ourselves to the right lane, but were defiantly ignored. An unmarked police car came aggressively into the picture and tried to push us into the prescribed lane. The driver blared his siren wildly which was lightheartedly answered by a bullhorn siren. The driver was not amused and began charging through the march, nearly running over a girl and her dog. The car was then approached by angry yelling protesters so it drove away and we continued on, still taking up multiple lanes.
Now things were getting heated but we hadn’t really expected the extent. We marched past a huge corporate Wells Fargo Center and were nearly fully past it when we were all urgently called back towards the building; one occupier, Rolando Prieto, was being arrested.
He later told me that as he’d straggled in the back of the march, he began to walk backward while police came behind us. He closed his eyes and began praying in the direction of the police as he walked. As another protester came up to hurry Rolando along, one officer ran up and gave Rolando what I was told to be an open palm punch to the chest. He was dropped to the floor and was then roughly arrested, which is when we were all called back by onlookers for help.
All cameras were on deck as we confronted officers about their actions. Protesters were being pushed and shoved onto the sidewalk for recording and asking questions. One occupier, Brian Tanghellini, had his back turned as he had one foot off the sidewalk. Police pounced on him and a game of tug-of-war ensued with Brian’s body. A few others and I attempted to give aid but then an enormous bike cop threw his bike at us and jumped in to the scuffle as it went to the floor. Another officer was standing on his car swinging his baton wildly at us. He struck one grounded protester in the mouth and then Brian, who was now on his back, grabbed the tip of the baton to put a rest to his onslaught. This is when the giant bike cop, which we have identified as Walter Byars III, began to throw his fists at young Brian, a 22 year old who could have been no heavier than 145 lbs.
Our livestreamer, Alfredo Quintana, (who’s even smaller) saw this happening and ran up to record. Officer Byars then turned his attention to Alfredo and delivered a heavy handed punch to Alfredo’s eye. This happened less than a yard in front of me. Due to Byars’ excessive force, he was pushed away but we’d simultaneously lost the battle for Brian as another female cop seemed to almost stand the heads of two guys who’d been holding on to Brian.
At this point, we were enraged. We were facing this line of very cocky police and were throwing every insult in the book at them. We looked in to their ranks and were surprised to see one officer bleeding heavily from in between his eyes. We figured he’d injured himself from diving at us but we were short on sympathy, due to their violent behavior.
As usual, they gave us no explanation as to why they’d begun arresting anybody in the first place. We remained to voice our disapproval for a long while as they drove off with our two comrades and then brought an ambulance for theirs. We were truly mad, but more united than ever.
After a long confrontation filled with harsh words, we finally proceeded to march back to our rally point at The Torch where moods were to be lightened with an anarchist puppet show put together by members of Occupy Ft. Lauderdale, titled “The Autonomous Playhouse.”
Unfortunately, our troubles were not over. Our bike police aggressors stalked us back to our rally point and watched us intently, waiting for us to vacate this area that was out of their jurisdiction. I was masked up and was about to unmask when I was approached by a couple others who warned me that officers were pointing and intending to target me for arrest. I didn’t doubt it because Officer Byars had been all over me since the beginning of the march and he was still giving me a lot of bad looks.
I wasn’t the only one, of course.
So some of my closer comrades and I began to clear out because it seemed that they were being targeted as well. We picked up the pace once an anonymous friend approached us; “You guys need to leave. Police are about to start making arrests,” he whispered.
That’s all we needed to hear, though it pained me not to be there if any of my fellows were to be in trouble. Still, it was for the best.
As we vacated the area, a helicopter began to patrol above and there seemed to be way too many police around. About an hour later, I’d been informed that our livestreamer Alfredo had been arrested as he tried to leave the rally. This was confirmation to us that our concerns about targeting had been valid and that we’d made a smart move by heading out early. This was the second time Alfredo had been arrested for what seemed to be his attendance at an Occupy event and we were itching to find out what the charges were this time, especially after seeing the video of his arrest, which only showed Alfredo with his hands up, asking why he was being followed and why they wanted to arrest him. Another officer was then explaining to a couple of our activists that what they’d done had been for our own safety–there’s very obvious issues with that logic.
The charges were apparently 3 counts of aggravated assault and one account of resisting with violence. The joke came about later that Alfredo had assaulted Byars’ fist with his face. Police apparently take that very personal, it seems… We were all pretty sure that Byars didn’t want the first-person view footage of his flying fist to be released. That night, we had a vigil outside of the detention center for our May Day 3. One correctional officer actually stated to us that “there’s no such thing as police brutality.”
All 3 were released within the next day and despite the mishaps it seems that everybody had been inspired and re-energized by the experience. We know, now more than ever, that Occupy Miami is not dead and we will now build upon the newly emerged foundation that we have. May 1st has triggered a new vibe and attitude, and perhaps a new day for these growing movements in South Florida. Spring is here and we are ready. Serious momentum has been gained and we are determined not to lose this momentum. Perhaps, if we utilize this momentum righteously, we’ll see a Miami Summer…
Editor’s Note: Check out all our May Day stories here.]]>
MIAMI, FL–Welcome to another withering criticism of a large-scale Occupy Miami event! Just kidding…actually for the first time in a long time it felt like Miami and Fort Lauderdale had as much going on as an area with a population of over 5 million deserves.
May Day in Miami started with a march starting down Biscayne Blvd. We took the streets and stayed in them. A sort-of black bloc then sort-of shut down the Port of Miami. That was short-lived as an ambulance immediately needed access and some people were pissed that someone tried to block the road in the first place. For these kind of tactics it is a learning experience around here. No one does this sort of thing here, period. So I felt somewhat refreshed just to see it tried, honestly.
So then we marched up and down Biscayne and Brickell, snarling traffic and jeering at bank buildings. Eventually an arrest finally occurred (which I happened to witness) where an activist that was slowing down the police pushing us by baby-stepping in front of the car got busted. Shortly thereafter a scuffle broke out in which another protestor was beaten and arrested and the cops also knocked one of their own on his face, which drew blood. There was also reports of a squad car that came dangerously close to running over protestors.
Afterwards there was a puppet show by our collective, the Autonomous Playhouse, and speakers.
AND THEN, another activist was arrested – Alfredo – who was dramatically arrested after the end of the event and is being charged with two counts of assault on a police officer. Which, in my objective opinion, is BULLSHIT!
There were some downsides. The liberals completely and intentionally abandoned the Occupy march in favor of having another show-protest in front of Jackson Community Hospital, and Occupy Palm Beach, which apparently has sworn off direct action, was nowhere to be seen. What was seen, though, was a vibrant level of engagement, especially by anarchists, in the South Florida area that is a new and encouraging phenomenon.
Great work from all involved (especially Miami Autonomy & Solidarity)…let’s do this again sometime.
-Nathan Patches Pim-
Editors note: check out all our May Day coverage here.]]>
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.
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Most of us have met a union worker we like or have loved. Many of us have worked a union job. This American worker, so unemployed now and for so long, is a group we can really stand up for and celebrate. There was a police presence there too and they are also in a union.
It occurred to me that the NYPD are occupying also. These are hard working union men and women, doing a job that most of us would never want to do. Yes, the police have been behaving badly. In the beginning of the Occupy movement, they herded young women into nets and assaulted them with pepper spray. They beat up young men with brutal tenacity. When Occupy Wall Street began to step up civil action in the spring, the police met them with seemingly more violence than they have used before, after comments that Mayor Michael Bloomberg made about the police being his “private police force” and after we found out that Wall Street gives huge money to the NYPD, when we all thought their salaries were paid by the taxpayer.
No matter how you want to look at it though, the New York Police are Occupying Wall Street with us. They are there every day. They stay as long as we stay. Most of the time, there is very little tension, and most of the police do not want physical conflict. Their pensions are being cut also. They are losing their jobs as a result of a bad economy in most cities and towns. In fact, many city cops still have their jobs JUST to police the Occupy Movement.
If we started to think about the ever present police presence as being part of our Occupy family, would our relationships with them change? Could we teach them that they are just like we are – Occupiers; city union workers who’s jobs, pensions and benefits are being slashed while they perform work that most of us would never want to do?
If we all felt the kinship that is there, would the police stand down? Would the violence deescalate? We are not going to stop committing acts of civil disobedience. We have a world to change. I would love to see what will happen when we all realize that the police are actually with us, and not against us.
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I left late in the day Sunday, around 4:30, with a questionable truck, limited funds, and a load of revisions piled up in my classes at WNMU, in addition to a pile of grading at Everest. Cranked up on coffee and good music, I drove as far as mile marker 78 in Pennsylvania and crashed in the back of my truck at a TA Travel Center with the parking lot lights shining through my tinted windows. The next morning I drove the rest of the way into Brooklyn, found a spot to park after a bit of driving around, and spent the rest of the day at Milk & Roses trying to return grades to my students at Everest with a laptop that refuses to connect to the internet. After four hours of slugging it out with faulty internet, I was tired of sitting on my ass, so I swigged down a glass of wine, packed up, and headed back to my truck to take it easy before the May Day General Strike the next day. Sitting in my truck, imbibing on the few treats I’d brought with me, wondering what the next day
would bring, full of hope for a massive showing, but also filled with anxiety that the day would be small, splintered, and the movement dying, I couldn’t help but think how odd it was to find myself there, sitting in the back of my truck, back in Brooklyn for OWS, without my cousin, Joe. (You sure missed a beautiful day, Joe. I wish you could have been here…)
I couldn’t get over to Manhattan until I moved my car to the other side of the street, so I slept in a bit, killed some time having a cup of coffee at Julie’s—a great gal who’d befriended Joe and I when we were in town last October (I haven’t seen the older lady, Alice, who lives next door, yet) and took a quick shower. (Thanks, Julie!) A few minutes to 1 pm, I moved my truck and headed into Manhattan. I was hoping to link up with the Guitarmy to sing along with them as we marched.
In Manhattan, I found my way to Bryant Park. There was a large group gathered there to be sure. Teach-ins were taking place in various pockets around the park, a large group was meditating on a set of steps with an Occupy Wall Street banner, and the Statue of Liberty puppet was there dancing to the drums. The air smelled of sage and the crowds energy filled me with happiness.
I walked around and dug Bryant Park, checking out the protestors, the teach-ins, the literature being passed out, the signs and flags waving in the air, even the spectators watching from their tables. The crowd was smaller than I’d hoped, but still large, alive, and kicking. I also knew from the schedule that many groups were out and about the city protesting at various locations. Many of the unions were off doing just that. Soon enough, a march started, leading the way to Union Square, where Tom Morello, Immortal Technique, and many others were to perform.
The march to Union Square was fairly tame. We took the streets a few times, but the cops continually pushed us back onto the sidewalks. The police presence was large, but nothing like we’d see as the evening progressed. At one point, I actually came across my old professor and mentor, Anne Waldman, who I was thrilled to see. We chatted it up on the street for a bit before she ran off, away from the bus fumes blasting our direction. The most beautiful moment in the march was once I caught up to the Guitarmy and we were trapped by a traffic light away from the rest of the march. We had an enormous group of marchers behind us, and we ended up at the tip of a triangular median, playing and singing, “This Land Is Your Land.” We marched and chanted to Union Square, and then the marchers diffused into all directions around the park.
I had no idea how big the group was at Union Square until I saw an aerial shot later that night online, but you could feel it as we were often pressed against each other with nowhere to go. The police brought in an army of mopeds then, literally a platoon of cops ready to run you down—there were so many of them! The police who were not on scooters formed human barricades in addition to the metal barricades that were up everywhere you looked. They did an annoyingly good job at compartmentalizing people and squishing us together. People were getting irritable and claimed the police were trying to incite a riot. I think that has a lot of validity from what I saw and felt. We all wanted to kick those barricades down and push those cops back just to breathe. There were women with strollers who grew more and more concerned as people were pushed into the park and not let out. Finally, after the crowd continued chanting “Let us out! Let us out!” the cops opened a barricade and let a group of tens of thousands of people file out between them and their barricades like a bottleneck. It was aggravating to say the least, but we kept the peace, showed our strength, patience, and simply marched by them. All day, all night, I saw no signs of violence and somehow missed the group of Vets and clergy who were arrested defending our GA at Battery Park later in the night.
From there, we marched and marched and marched. It’s a bit of a blur, really. We danced in the streets, chanted, sang songs. I ran all over the place taking pictures and videos until a guy marching next to me asked if I’d push his bike so he could take out his drum and join the drummers. I obliged him long, long after it was necessary, as it turned out he was the best drummer there. Finally, after dusk had turned to night and we’d passed by Zuccotti Park, which I thought was our destination, I gave him back his bike by the bull and the crowd of tens of thousands of us stopped.
Each time the police stopped the march, people would think it was over and trickle off. We started a sit-in in the middle of the street, but the drums were still playing and all those thousands of people in the back couldn’t see or hear what was happening. We were halted for so long, we lost a lot of people then. Finally, after the sit-in communication failed and the police bowed to the crowd and let the march continue, we headed to Veterans Plaza for a GA.
Veterans Plaza was packed. It was there that I really reflected once again, on what an honor it is to be here, to be part of this, to be with these people. We talked about the fact that the police were surrounding us and had cut off a majority of the march back on the other side of the street. The GA filled Veterans Plaza, but many thousands were not able to be let in, due to the police and the size of the park. The more people announced the police surrounding us, the more people would trickle away, until finally there were maybe a couple hardcore hundred who stayed and talked about the tactics we would use to defend the park. As more and more police formed around us and more and more people trickled away as we neared the 10 pm curfew, we decided the risk was too futile, so we tapped back into the crowd on the other side of the street to march to a 24 hour location. Unfortunately, by then, our Vets and clergy had been arrested defending our GA and much of the thousands of people had splintered off. Some headed to the waterfront, I later learned, but I never did see that group again.
The rest of us marched, noting how small we were by then, considering the tens of thousands we’d started out with. The police planning to splinter us off from each other and continuously herding us around through barricades, scooters, and their own bodies, worked fairly well. In the end, after trying to take Wall St. through any crack we could think of, including the subway underpass and cutting through a large store, always meeting with more barricades, we did a temporary sit in on the street to discuss our next action. In the end, we opted to go home to Zuccotti, where only a couple hundred of us, if that, gathered. There we went through park defense training, talked about how we would hold the park down, and waited for the folks from the waterfront to show up before the cops raided the park. As midnight approached, there was no sign of the crowd from the waterfront, and though a few more police showed up, the park was largely free from officers compared to many other nights. Last night, they were scattered all over the city.
After a small GA to discuss if and how we would try to hold the park, we all waited around to see if we would be kicked out, or if our reinforcements would show up. Around 12:30, seeing no reinforcements and no raid from the police, watching more people trickle home, I decided to head back to the truck in Brooklyn and catch some z’s. My legs were stiff and it takes a while to get back to Brooklyn at that time of night, so off I went. Today is largely uneventful for me, unfortunately. I haven’t checked the schedule for OWS yet, as I have to sit in this coffee shop and get some writing done for my WMNU classes. I will have to do the same tomorrow, but if I get up early I am hoping to make it over to Manhattan for the night’s activities after I help Julie move a refrigerator up from her basement apartment in the evening.
Editors note: Inspired by Occupy Wall Street and angered by the mass arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge, Dylan drove to NYC to join the movement last fall. Read about it here.
And read the rest of our May Day coverage here.]]>
Most city police ware dark blue uniforms, and here are a few cop cars and the bus parked on Woodward:
The talk last night was that these guys where Homeland Security. At about 9:30, they announced that everyone must leave the park by 10 pm. With the understanding that the sidewalks where a legal public space, a group of people congregated around the Pingry statue. Then the guys in black, with the company of about 40 city police, decided that we were not aloud to assemble on the sidewalk, saying that this was an illegal assembly. The protesters asked where they could go and were told to go south. To me this indicated that no one cared where we were as long as we didn’t stay in Grand Circus Park.
We regrouped in another park for about an hour or so and started getting visitors from the city police. They asked the group to go back to Grand Circus, and when told that that’s where we came from and why, they didn’t even know about the events. That makes me wounder just who was calling the shots in Grand Circus…
All in all, it was a good day. Occupy had a food line for the homeless people in the area and a few musical groups played some tunes.
Editors note: Check out our other May Day stories here.]]>