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Occupy Boston Protesters: Guilty and Sentenced Without Trial

This story originally appeared at Daily Kos.

As one of those who was awaiting trial, I find the whole affair, from the illegal arrests, to the injurious treatment of myself and others, to the harassment of making us show up at multiple hearings, with many delays, to the propagandist stenography of the Boston Globe, to be a heinous abuse of justice.

Please keep reading to learn of the final bit of foul play by our government. They saw the writing on the wall and, once again, they abused their position of power and cheated.

Personal request: Please spread the word about how the Boston Globe is printing lies in service to the government.

I wanted my day in court. It was clear, they were going to delay and delay. Over one year later, I still did not have a trial date. I was also never told with whom I would be a co-defendant. (we wanted one trial and the judge insisted we be broken into groups of 5. He then only named one group and the rest of us were left in limbo) All of this was designed to make it impossible for us to prepare. Trying to crush our resolve and our souls slowly.

When we pushed back and filed a motion for charges to be dismissed, the judge said he would rule this coming Monday. Preempting what the judge might say in court, the City surreptitiously dropped the charges today. During the beginning of a blizzard. On a Friday afternoon. Without letting any of the defendants know. We didn’t get the courtesy a single communication to us. We all learned by reading it in the Boston Globe. And that is where we read outright lies:

but at least five defendants will contest the dismissal in hopes of fighting the accusations on their merits.

um, we filed the motion to have the charges dismissed. the hearing for that motion was this past Monday. that’s on the public record. high quality stenography, I mean journalism, there.

“Our clients feel that they deserve a day in court to contest their arrests on constitutional grounds,” said Jeff Feuer, of the National Lawyers Guild, which is defending the demonstrators. “They were using a public park.”

that’s my lawyer. I wonder when they got that quote. I’m pretty sure that’s from an earlier time when we were being asked about why we didn’t accept a plea deal. Since we’ve had no contact from anyone about this latest move of dropping the charges, I doubt this is a contemporary quote.

A spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said prosecutors decided to resolve the cases because the defendants had abided by certain restrictions imposed by the court for more than a year. Other protesters charged with trespassing and unlawful assembly had agreed to similar conditions in resolving their cases.

What restrictions? This is just outright fiction. I pleaded not guilty. I was not under any restrictions, as I had not been found guilty of any crime and I would not consent to be punished as though I had. I dare the Boston Globe to tell me exactly what restrictions I have supposed adhered to and to prove that I consented to and complied with them.

“There’s now parity with prior cases arising from the protests,” Jake Wark said. “They’ve served essentially the same sentences.”

This is their way of saving face. Trying to claim that we somehow accepted guilt by serving a pre-sentence. Who needs a trial when you can just get people to agree to “restrictions” and then say that they’ve “resolved” their case by “essentially” serving a sentence?I will not stand idly by and be portrayed in the public as though I have served a sentence for a crime I did not commit. Nor will I allow our justice system to proclaim that they can determine, without a trial or a sentencing process, that someone has paid enough of a penalty that they can consider the case resolved. It’s bullshit. And makes me wonder what they thought the judge was going to say, on the record, on Monday.

Here is the press release about this from the National Lawyers Guild, who are representing us.

NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD, Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.
14 Beacon St., Suite 407, Boston, MA 02108
Urszula Masny-Latos
Tammi Arford (defendant):  617-686-8892 National Lawyers Guild, Mass. Chapter
Andrea Hill (defendant):      574-206-5632        617-227-7335
Boston, February 8, 2013.   Today, without any notice to defense counsel or the defendants, Suffolk County prosecutors went into court and in an unscheduled, unilateral action dismissed the criminal cases that had been brought against five Occupy Boston activists which were scheduled to begin trial on Monday, February 11.  The prosecutors also dismissed all of the criminal charges remaining against the other Occupy Boston activists who were still awaiting trial as a result of the mass police arrests in October and December, 2011.We believe that the DA’s decision amounts to an acknowledgment of the unconstitutionality of the arrests and criminal charges that had been brought against hundreds of Occupy Boston participants, and shows that the state has finally
admitted that the demonstrations by Occupy activists were legal and constitutionally protected.

Fully ready to contest the charges at trial, the defendants and their representatives from theNational Lawyers Guild (NLG) had subpoenaed Mayor Menino, Police Commissioner Ed Davis, and Nancy Brennan (former head of the Greenway Conservancy) to explain why the City of Boston and its police department unconstitutionally applied the Massachusetts trespass and unlawful assembly laws to impinge upon Occupy Boston participants’ rights to assemble, to express their protected speech, and to petition the government.  In addition, they had also subpoenaed Joshua Bekenstein and Mitt Romney (of Bain Capital), and Robert Gallery (CEO of Bank of America) to address their role in constructing and perpetuating excessive corporate power and an economic system that favors the wealthiest 1% of the population at the expense of the remaining 99%– an undemocratic system in which the voices of the people are ignored.  The police action in arresting occupiers demonstrated that voices of conscience that speak out against
social and economic inequality are not only ignored, they are unlawfully silenced by the state’s use of violence, fear, threat, and repression.

This decision by prosecutors comes after 14 months of delay, during which defendants were repeatedly required to show up for court dates, only to have their day in court and their right to a jury trial delayed time after time.   Defendants and their NLG lawyers spent months working to prepare a case that would potentially embarrass the City and set valuable precedent that would reaffirm the constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.

In making this decision, Suffolk County prosecutors have not only prevented the defendants from having their day in court, they have employed yet another way to trample upon those who voice dissent and discouraged them from challenging injustice and inequality in this country.  In fact, a spokesperson from the District
Attorney’s office today admitted that these defendants, who never had the chance to present their case to a judge or jury, “served a sentence” imposed unilaterally by the actions of the District Attorney without ever having been found guilty of any criminal offense.

###  END ###

Don’t be complicit in the repression of voices of dissent. Please take in the way this was handled: peaceful protesters arrested by using a battalion of militarily-armed riot police, then dragged through repeated courtroom delays, then charges dropped with a statement that they had “essentially” served a sentence. See how that works? Guilt determined and sentence handed down without the bother of a pesky trial.Raise your voices, people. When these things happen, we need to yell louder that we will maintain our rights.


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A Visit With Mark Adams, J26, Part 2

Editors note: This is re-posted from Support Mark Adams, who is currently serving a forty-five day jail sentence on Rikers Island. Readers are encouraged to write to Mark, and may check here for letter writing guidelines (including the address to reach Mark.) This is part two of a two-part story; read part one here.

New York, NY–We were led to an old gymnasium, decorated with an odd juxtaposition of colorful murals of the NYC skyline – including a tragically ironic depiction of the Statue of Liberty – and plastic chairs arranged in neat rows, which were sorted by the number of seats for visitors. We were pointed to a set of three chairs across a round plastic table facing a lone seat – a setup designed to ensure our being physically separate from Mark. We were allowed to hold his hands (and did so – the entire time) but couldn’t move closer to him or sit on the floor near him.

We waited in anticipation for a few moments, and then, suddenly, there was the lovely, bearded man walking slowly across the room towards us, a wide smile breaking his somber face as he saw us. The three of us engulfed him in an amazing group hug (a corrections officer chuckled that we were going to suffocate him), and then long, lovely individual hugs before sitting down. His hugs are still super wonderful and feel as they always have – teddybearish, heartfelt, and huge. He looked a bit thinner (by, he later told us, about 8lbs), but bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked, and ostensibly healthy overall.

We started out conveying individual greetings and messages from a plethora of supporters who had asked us to give their regards. We told him about the solidarity actions outside Rector Coopers’ house and which are ongoing outside of Trinity Wall Street. We related the story of a comrade who had been turned away by corrections officers on a previous visit due to insufficient ID, and how a visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles had left him so frustrated that he had three-quarters of the DMV pumping their fists in the air shouting “[expletive] the system!” And we talked about the amazing community meeting that empowered the Otter Solidarity Team to set up his visits, and all the collaborative organizing throughout the community that has gone into supporting him while he’s gone. He was especially moved by this: “That might make this all worthwhile, in some way,” he said.

And Mark shared quite a bit with us – in fact, he spoke about as much as the three of us did, combined. We’d gone in somewhat concerned that he would be withdrawn, but found him to be extremely present and coherent. What he told us, though, was at times difficult to hear. He described feeling that he had left part of himself behind when he was taken to jail, and explained that “in here, this isn’t the real Mark Adams.” He expressed some anxiety about being able to rejoin his full self upon release, but it felt to us like the stories we brought from the outside had already relit – at least, momentarily – Mark’s internal Roman-candle-in-waiting. He grinned when we assured him that the Mark we know and love is very much outside the barbed-wire fences, in our hearts and conversations and on our signs, and will be waiting for him along with the rest of us when he gets out.

He said that he knew our visit would leave him happy for the next few hours but then he would go back to how he usually is. He spends most of his time in his bunk, reading, doesn’t go outside and tries to keep to himself.

He’s received quite a bit of written correspondence – so much, in fact, that the corrections officers remarked to him that he was getting mail “like Lil Wayne did when he was in Rikers!” Some of the letters came from quite a distance, and Mark said he was particularly tickled by some childrens’ drawings of the D17 courtroom – a big round judge, and Mark sitting on a bench with a big beard. He again reiterated that he doesn’t often feel up to writing back, and we assured him that every time this statement from him has been passed along, everyone’s all “pssh” and that he shouldn’t feel any sense of obligation.

An interesting and useful bit that came up: he loves all of the books he has been receiving but he doesn’t know who any of them are from because the packages are opened and discarded before he receives the books. In the future, if you are sending him a book and want him to know it’s from you, write a note inside the cover for him. He also voiced some amused bafflement at the amount of communist literature he had received: “whoever keeps sending those books – I get it!” he told us grinningly. He stores the books in a large tupperware under his bed- it is completely full and he is trying to figure out what to do with the surplus books. There is no library at Rikers and if they get left around, books often wander off with the corrections officers.

Mark brought up his hunger strike, and how it has helped him bring his protest to Rikers. “I came to Occupy Wall Street to march and hold signs, and I can’t do that in here,” he explained. His hunger strike has brought him the power to fight back against the trauma and disempowerment of his sudden abduction, and to politicize his time in jail. The heightened medical attention he has received has brought him many people – doctors, counselors – with whom to discuss his politics and Occupy Wall Street. We shared some of the community’s concerns about his hunger strike – related to his well-being, the outside-jail politics of it, and the impact it may have on the OWS community – and he welcomed the “honest” feedback and promised to consider the concerns. “I’m not one of those comrades who won’t listen,” he promised, and we assured him that we already knew that about him.

Mark described his perception that officers at Rikers were somewhat taken by surprise by his adamant refusal to agree to any normal medical treatments given to inmates upon admittance (many of us already know of Mark’s avowed dislike of allopathy) and even more by his decision to pursue a hunger strike during his incarceration. One of the results is he sees a doctor twice a day, a different doctor each visit, which gives him many people to talk to about his statement. He is on some semblance of a juice fast, but the only juice available comes from powder – so, it’s basically flavored sugar water. The healthiest thing he has access to is three bottles of Powerade he’s allowed from the commissary each week. His sugar levels are being monitored by doctors to keep his glucose at healthy-ish levels. He told us of the awful food available to inmates, and even if he wasn’t on a hunger strike there wouldn’t be much for him to eat. All meals involve mostly meat dishes. There are two options- regular, and kosher/halal, but no vegetarian or vegan choices, and what few vegetables accompany the meal would not constitute appropriate nutrition on their own.

We tried to run the visiting schedule by him, but Mark has enjoyed the surprise of not knowing who is coming, and trusts our judgment. “I mean, you guys know who my friends are, right?” he said with a big old Mark Adams grin on his face. And he knows who his friends are, too, and feels very loved.

We were given no warnings as to how much time had passed during the course of our visit, and seemingly out of the blue, the C.O. who had led us in handed us back our boarding passes. We looked at him quizzically, not ready to understand what that signified. “Time to go,” he explained. And that was it. We took our time for another minute of loving squeezes, and watched Mark shuffle back to the door through which he came (we caught him making a goofy face at a C.O. on his way out), as we were escorted back out the door we had entered, out past security and onto the bus. For all the hours of waiting and negotiating the Rikers bureaucracy to see Mark for that one bittersweet hour, the exit was rapid and painless. By around 5:30 we were back on the city bus and headed off of the island.

The contrast was stark, and tragic: we returned to our lives of freedom and companionship; he to his of confinement and isolation. We decompress, together, in a comfortable living room, while Mark – along with 14,000 other Rikers inmates, and another 7 million across the country – are left alone to process the injustice and dehumanization perpetuated by mass incarceration.

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A Visit With Mark Adams, J26, Part 1

Editors note: This is re-posted from Support Mark Adams, who is currently serving a forty-five day jail sentence on Rikers Island. Readers are encouraged to write to Mark, and may check here for letter writing guidelines (including the address to reach Mark.) This is one part of a two-part story; read part two here.

New York, NY–We spent the previous twenty-four hours preparing ourselves for what we imagined would be a difficult day: poring over the DOC website’s rules and regulations, reading and rereading reportbacks from the last two visits, seeking and receiving much great advice from lots of great people – and bracing ourselves emotionally. We were probably as prepared as we possibly could have been, but it took the visceral experience to truly grasp its weight.

Upon our arrival via the Q100 bus from Queens Plaza, we followed other visitors towards the entrance along a path that seemed constructed to immediately make you feel trapped and uncomfortable.  We stood in line for about 20 minutes between two chain-link fences with barely enough space between them for two columns of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder. The inside fence has large-print advisory signs on them, which were a challenge to read because there was no room to stand back. The only sign with reasonably-sized lettering was, for some reason, elevated about 20 feet in the air, making it just as difficult to read but in a totally opposite way. Almost every sign throughout the visit bore rules upon rules, and threats of arrest if any of these rules were broken – as if we needed the reminder.

The sun beat down. In the distance, we could see large, imposing buildings surrounded by barbed wire, and we wondered where Mark was. We were among only about six white folks of about 50 total people in sight. Almost all of the other visitors were women with young children, and most seemed inured to the dehumanizing bureaucracy that frustrated us at every turn.

We left everything in the first locker except our quarters, some cash, our IDs, and the books we brought for Mark — (The Gift, The Wu-Tang Manual, and a book of poetry by Adam Mansbach) — and proceeded through the first security checkpoint. We waited in another line inside for about 30 minutes, and when we got to the front of the line, we were each in turn identified, asked for an address, and quizzed as to our relationship with Mark. We were a little surprised when they fingerprinted us and took mugshots, which were printed out and given to us on rectangular paper that looked and served exactly like airline boarding passes.

After another 30 minute wait, we were pointed towards a white bus, which took us to the Eric M. Taylor Center. The short drive across the plaza reminded us we were now trapped in the belly of the beast – giving us the slightest taste of the “YOU CANT LEAVE” message that inevitably resounds for all prisoners throughout every moment of their sentence. It also allowed us a glimpse at Incarceration City – isolated buildings, each surrounded with violent tangles of barbed wire. Every inch of the place is a visual threat, its role as an institution of confinement and disempowerment constantly reinforced.

We received a brief lecture from a corrections officer before being let into the building, including mention that there had been “a slashing” at the building next door earlier that day and no one was being allowed in or out of that place today. After another security check, the back of our left hand was stamped with a clear substance. We were bewildered by the invisible stamp; we don’t know what it was. We were told it was to mark that we had been through security, but we don’t know how to read it and have no idea what, if anything, it says. (We would love to know more about this practice, if anyone knows.)

After an excruciatingly long hour (or so – without phones or watches, and no clocks on the walls, the entire visit felt as though it took place in a time vacuum) in a room full of chairs reminiscent of a free clinic’s waiting room (the soap opera and hysterical baby really set the scene) we were finally called to enter the “visiting floor”.

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Update from Mark Adams, June 23

Editors note: This is re-posted from Support Mark Adams, who is currently serving a forty-five day jail sentence on Rikers Island. 

Rikers Island, NY – As of today, I am on my sixth day of a hunger strike. I intend to use my body to make a political statement and to continue to draw attention to the fact that Trinity Church put me behind bars. What would Jesus do?

Thank you to all my friends, no, family, for supporting me. You mean the world to me and I intend to continue my hunger strike until I see your beautiful faces outside. I love you all and hope to see you very soon.

With rage and solidarity,

Mark Adams

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An Account of Two Arrests in One Week

NEW YORK, NY–I have had strange confrontations with Bank of America lately.  In the last 8 days I was arrested twice only on the verge of approaching the Bank, steps away from the unknown possibility. And what was the NYPD working so hard to protect Band of America from? First I was dressed as a clown with a team of merry pranksters who sought to enact a short, harmless skit of pulling down the pants of “unsuspecting executives” to expose ALEC, an organization that allows corporations to draft legislation–which, no surprise, Bank of America is a prominent member.

It was raining and biting cold but the +Brigade Shenanigan team, a newly formed OWS effort of creative resistance, was suiting up in Bryant Park on F29 with bright monochromatic colors and the “executives” scavenging in trash cans for Starbucks cups to look authentic. But our pantsing skit was deterred, because as soon as we tried to cross the street, a police barricade of bodies and scooters lined up alongside us. The Bank of America tower, like the Death Star, loomed in the distance surrounded by police, like clusters of black mussels clasping onto its mammoth shape.

We had the light. There was the flashing white man walk sign taunting us with the rite of passage. Struck by the absurdity of police barring 8 clowns from crossing the street, I was immediately on my hands and knees crawling between their legs. I was promptly lifted up and put in handcuffs. I didn’t want and wasn’t expecting to be arrested. I was in that precious liminal space of free play. I felt like I could do anything.

But corporations have a way of smashing any spark of the unique human spirit rising up. As the crowd looked at me for some words of inspiration, something, I could only muster a call to bravery for the clowns to carry on, and a bad joke: “Why did the clown cross the road?  To get arrested!” As they marched me off into the paddy wagon, I began singing and dancing, “I’m Singing in the Rain!  Just Singing in the rain!  What a glorious feelin!  I’m happy again!” But as I was placed into the wagon alone, watching my comrades carry on valiantly with their march, my ridiculous wet spandex costume began to chill me to the bone at the thought of being a drenched clown in the tombs tonight. That day I was lucky to be released within 5 hours at the precinct, where I was joined by a fellow bicyclist friend, Joe, whose bike was confiscated for “evidence”; a 16 year-old mega force, Mesiah; and another cyclist, Mandolin, who tried to carry a tent on the march.  In my cell, Mesiah and I did yoga and talked about housing rights.  In the other cell, Joe and Mandolin were starting a men’s group to discuss privilege.

My next encounter, I was not so lucky. This time it was a call from the courageous Code Pink on International Women’s Day. The plan was to gather at the Bank of America at Zuccotti Park as super-Sheroes with message-ready breasts for a BUST-ing up the Big Banks action, harking on a thousand year old tradition of women putting their bodies on the front lines. I dressed in a denim jumpsuit with a red scarf on my head, re-appropriating Rosie the Riveter. I met Savitri in the park, that empty park once so full of life.  It was hot with gusts of wind shooting through the trees. She wrote on my arm, “We can do it!” and I  painted “BofA, You can suck it!” across my chest. We began to walk casually into the bank.  Savitri, Medea and Rae, all wearing suits, made it in.  As soon as I stepped up to the doors, the cop locked the door in my face.  Ah yes, the paint was peaking out from my jumpsuit.

Mark and I walked around to the other side to look for another entrance and saw customers slipping out.  People could get out, but no one could get in. Well, at least we shut down Bank of America again. I called Savitri on the inside, who said there were only three of them and they were very vulnerable.  She had a beautiful baby to get to after this.  We waited at the side exit and suddenly Savitri bounded out the door like a leaping gazelle and raced off to safety. Soon after, Rae ran out with the policeman close on her heels. I called out to him, “Hey Officer! Over here!” but he was hot on the pursuit. He grabbed Rae roughly. Mark was quick to de-arrest. The burly policeman grabbed her by the neck and threw her head down into the concrete, all the while she was crying out that she had a neck injury.

As they were detained in the bank lobby, the choir gathered and decided to sing in solidarity, walking along the sidewalk in front of the bank. As we walked past once and I began to circle back, a cop told me I couldn’t sing and had to keep moving. I said that I was moving and was not obstructing traffic. Instantly, the same rough cop threw me over the scaffolding to arrest me, my things spilling out of my bag. I lifted my leg over the scaffolding so as to not have my stomach jammed into metal and try to kick my things from falling into the gutter and another cop snapped, “Stop resisting arrest!” And off the 4 of us were carted away, at the bank manager’s request. I watched the rough cop throw around several woman walking by for no apparent reason.

Maybe it was the full moon, or the solar flares in the sky, but there seemed to be a lot of crazy in the air that day. In the precinct, two men in Mark’s cell seemed dead set on winning the crazy war. A white man in an all black suit skirted over to our side when he was released to go to the bathroom and starting messing with the cops, “How crazy do I have to be?  What do I have to do so you’ll take me to the hospital so I can get a meal?  How CRAZY do I have to be?”  The other, a young black man, was far more sympathetic in his rants.  Screaming bloody murder about injustice and racism. Despite all the machismo, you could understand his anger. We began to sing to try to calm him.  Love, Love Love, all you need is love. When we quieted, he surprised us by calling out, “Love is what I need. Keep singin’, ladies! I need you to sing.” We sang every song we knew.

First they told me I would be there for 15 mins to an hour because I didn’t enter the bank. Four hours later, we were all taken to Central booking, which was packed with men lined up against the wall in chains.  Throughout the whole process, Medea was brought in again and again to try to capture her prints, and they made ageist remarks, like she was so old that her prints were rubbed off or that she was some kind of alien. We said goodbye to Mark, fearful of what he was being led into.  Later we found out there was huge brawl in his cell and he got punched in the back of his head.

Rae and I were led into the women’s cell. Medea’s fingers were still being pushed and prodded. We had about 16 women in there, mostly in their early 20s, all of color, almost all of whom were new mothers too. It was freezing cold, the window open, a fan on. We weren’t allowed to keep our jackets because of the zippers. Rae’s neck had fingerprints on it still and she was sore. We told jokes, arrest and action stories, talked about what ideal brunch we would have. For awhile we tried to huddle on one mat but I couldn’t get warm and fall asleep until hours later, when a kind prostitute offered to cover me with her fur coat and to share her mat. We snuggled tightly and she asked me if I had lice. Said she’d been there 36 hours already, had been working the same streets for 28 years.

They woke up everyone at 5am and said we had to clean up and get ready to go to court. Only 3 women were taken. Later on, everyone felt up to chatting again and they all wanted to hear why we were arrested. They laughed and laughed, couldn’t believe we’d be arrested for protesting a bank, let alone for singing. The women there were smart, knew what was going on in the world, knew all about Bank of America and its foreclosures, its corruption. There was no surprise that corporations are criminals. They were arrested for fighting back against an abusive boyfriend, getting in a screaming match with her boyfriend, bringing in a cigarette to her son in jail, smoking pot, selling fake watches. But none of them were interested in protesting. They agree it has to be done but they can’t do it. They have to work, take care of their babies, survive. They said things have to get really bad so people will get up and do something. How much worse does it have to get?

We waited and waited. Didn’t want to drink the dirty water or the milk or the vacuum packed sandwiches. Finally, after 3pm, our names were called.  We were all charged with criminal trespassing.

It wasn’t until I was sitting in the courthouse next to Rae, when I saw my friends out there, looking tired but smiling supportively, that a rush of anger flooded over me.  The parody of this system.  There we were in this dressed up, fancy court when a foot behind us lay filthy floors covered in cockroaches and a system that has no interest in improving society. Police protect the corporate personhood and never our freedom of speech. There’s no telling what we could be arrested for any more. I can’t gauge actions by the same standards any more. As Spring blossoms, the spirit of the people is heating up again, we’ll be out on the street in big numbers. We will fill those cells so packed, the walls might explode.

-Monica Hunken-

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What It Was Like To Be Locked Up – Arrested At Occupy St. Louis

ST. LOUIS, MO – As we approached the holding cell, we began to hear cheers from the approximately 30 people inside.  When we entered, we were asked if we were part of the protest that got broken up.  We told them we were, and to my surprise the appreciation for what we were doing began to pour out from a wide variety of people.  Some of them were in for minor violations, some for more serious crimes, but the consensus was clear. They seemed to have a fundamental understanding of what we were doing, and believed, as I do, that it should have happened a long time ago.
The condition of the jail was atrocious.  Some had been in for as many as seven days, and were 30 deep in a cell meant to hold about 10.  There was no tissue, blankets, pillows, mats, and there surely wasn’t room for everyone to sleep so people had to go in shifts.  The meals were not enough to sustain someone over long periods of time, and medication was being withheld from many.  They asked us if we could add to our cause the conditions of the corrections system.  It immediately made me think of the phrase “Innocent until proven guilty” that is often attributed to the 5th Amendment which states “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law …”.
As I pondered this, questions started to arise amongst the group about the concepts of corporate greed and corrupt politicians, and how they play out in the lives of these particular men.  To my amazement, it didn’t take long for the natural progression of the “one voice”, and “equal time to share ideas” became part of this discussion.  Neither was stated, but they were implied.  As I listened, and occasionally chimed in, the ideas shared were almost word for word what we have been saying all along.  In short, this affirmed to me that this cause is not just for those at the Occupy encampments, or those politically active.  It is a plethora of common grievances by all Americans that transcends any boundary.

I thought the willingness to give up 13 hours of my freedom to make a point of my solidarity would be the boost I needed to continue on with this occupation; but I was proven wrong.  It was the voice of these 30 men, not involved in any way, and in only 20 minutes, coming to the same conclusions I have after much research and debate.  I have to ask myself, how asleep must I have been to not see this massive elephant in the middle of the room clear enough to get off my ass and take action long before now?


-Angelo J. Dower-
One among many

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Resonant Resolve after the “Battle of Brooklyn Bridge”

NEW YORK, NY –  Despite the rain and ever-creeping cold, activists continue to occupy Liberty Plaza; slowly coalescing demands, continuing to debate and love and dance. The sheer energy of this movement is utterly undeniable. Occupations, though mostly small in scale, have sprouted up in multiple cities around the country and more are planned as October rolls into the end of 2011. There is a sense in the square now that this is real. The gravity and electricity of what we’re building here is bouncing off the buildings all around us. We all feel more alive. There are incredible ups and downs. Elation can very suddenly plunge into abject frustration, and then turn sharply upward again.

Case in point: Saturday’s march over the Brooklyn Bridge. Truly one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I was one of the 700 marchers kettled and arrested en-mass by the NYPD on that famed expanse of stone and steel. It began at Liberty Plaza, where thousands gathered to rally in solidarity with the occupation. From there, we marched through the streets of the Financial District and toward City Hall. At the outset the march was united and organized, with none of the weaving through traffic and violent pepper-spray scuffles with police that marked the march of a week earlier. We were determined to get to our destination together this time – just over the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn Bridge park where another contingent would be waiting for us with food, speakers, and activities. Or at least that was the plan. I was toward the back of marching crowd of some 2,000 people when we arrived at the bridge only a few blocks from Liberty Plaza. The exact details of what happened next are still fuzzy to most. The planned route was for marchers to use the pedestrian walkway to cross the bridge, but at some point a contingent of marchers broke away and took to the roadway, walking past a slew of cars already caught up in the spectacle of the march. Once the initial crowd of protesters marched onto the road, some 500 or more followed, most (including myself) not knowing that they were risking arrest by doing so.

The NYPD claims that they warned the initial group that stormed the road that doing so would mean arrest, but in reality they did little to deter us. In fact, I assumed that they were clearing the pathway for us because there was simply no way 2,000 people were going to use the pedestrian walkway at once. Once on the roadway, we were ecstatic. It was like no other feeling. Here we were, walking with 500 other people over one of the world’s most iconic structures. We chanted “Who’s bridge? Our bridge!” We drummed loudly and waved fists in the air in solidarity with the marchers 20 feet above us on the pedestrian walkway. Then suddenly, before we had even reached the first stone tower, the march came to a screeching halt. Nobody was really sure what was going on. I couldn’t see far enough ahead of me to know that the police had formed a blockade with the same orange nets they used at Union Square the week before. When I looked behind me and saw yet another line of police approaching, I knew that things had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. It wasn’t long before they had surrounded us with orange netting and panic overtook the crowd suspended hundreds of feet in the air over the East River on a slab of concrete.

Some 40 feet higher still the marchers who had used the pedestrian walkway luckily had a bird’s eye view of what was going on. Using the people’s microphone, they kept us updated on what was going on. I could feel the intensity of situation but also felt a wave of calm and solidarity. Like some ragged guardian angels, our fellow protesters were keeping on eye on us, telling us what was happening on either side of us, and livestreaming it all to 30,000 people around the world. We anxiously repeated their updates verbatim. “Mic check! It looks like they have surrounded you on both sides and they’re not letting anyone through. The best thing for you to do is to sit down and lock arms!” And so we did.

We spent the next eight hours in anxious limbo. We waited for what seemed like an eternity on the bridge for the police to arrest each and every one of us. They grouped us in fives and cuffed us, then put us on any vehicle they could – I was put with about 30 others on an MTA bus and taken to the 90th Precinct in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Once we arrived at the station we sat on the bus and kept waiting, this time for the police to process the inordinate amount of arrestees. As we waited, all manner of conversations erupted on the bus between protesters – gender rights (the police had separated us by gender before arresting us), organic farming, community organizing – the usual fare at an activist gathering. It was something of a party. Even our arresting officers engaged us in conversations, and they seemed genuinely interested in “what we’re all about.” Some were even borderline sympathetic! Others poked fun at our dreadlocks and discussions about GMO foods. “A tomato’s a tomato, don’t matter how it got there.” One officer, who as one protester later jested was “too Italian for his own good,” was especially talkative. He told us he agreed with the Verizon worker’s strike and was disappointed when they returned to work without a deal. I asked if he would arrest the strikers if he was given the orders to do so. He responded with a smirk and said “yeah, it’s my job.”

Inside the station, more waiting. First to be searched, then to be put in a one-person cell with 5 or 6 others. We passed the time singing and starting conversations about our lives outside of the occupation. After a while, an officer came by with cheese sandwiches and water and promised us we’d be out “in one or two hours.” Three and half hours later, close to 3:00am, we were finally released into the cold night air. It was heart-warming to find a group of people from the occupation and the National Lawyer’s Guild waiting for us.

A group of us took the J train back to Liberty Plaza, laughing and recounting the whole way. Six hours earlier, we had no idea the other existed, now we were the best of friends. This is what the NYPD doesn’t understand. The more they arrest us, the more solidarity they create between us. We built a community on that bridge and on that bus and in that cell. All of us went through this experience that was dehumanizing, but also jovial and absurd. All the arrests did was reinforce our resolve, commit us more to the occupation and make us even more connected.

I remember during the intense moments on the bridge when we all knew arrest was imminent someone yelled out and we repeated: “Mic check! It is an honor and a privilege to be arrested with you all today. 50 years from now, when you tell your grandkids about this, you can say that you were a soldier in the Battle of the Brooklyn Bridge!” And there among the tears and the worries and the panic, we found a place to cheer and stand together.

-Danny Valdes-

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