OAKLAND, CA – Here’s a song by Fresh Juice Party called “99″ and an accompanying slideshow of our photos from Occupy Oakland and SF. Happy holidays and don’t forget to #SupplyOccupy!
Posted on 26 December 2011.
OAKLAND, CA – Here’s a song by Fresh Juice Party called “99″ and an accompanying slideshow of our photos from Occupy Oakland and SF. Happy holidays and don’t forget to #SupplyOccupy!
Posted on 23 December 2011.
In regards to police, we had a much different experience than other Occupy cities. There were some online threats of violence against us before the camp started, so on the first night, when there was only a dozen of us, I stayed awake, sitting in the a.t.m. lobby of the bank, coming out whenever someone was walking around. I had some good conversations late that night after the bar closed, explained what we were doing to people who had either not heard of Occupy Regina or who had only heard negative or vague media. This was one of the most important aspects of Occupy for us, the fact that we were able to communicate with the kinds of people who don’t go to protests, who don’t seek this kind of information out. As we grew, the nightwatch became institutionalized. Every night a few of us would stay awake, not just to do security, which was all too necessary because of the area, but because it gave us the opportunity to have discussions about various issues with the many random people going through downtown at every hour of the night. From before the first night, Occupy Regina had a police liaison, the police told us to keep the drugs and the alcohol out of the park and phone them if there was any violence or threats. By the way, Victoria Park, where the Occupy Regina camp was located, is in the middle of downtown, it is the main “drug park” for Regina. But while we were there, the dealing stopped. For the month that we were there, we kept that part of downtown safer than it had been in decades.
To put this in perspective, I am currently, for the record, the director of the Saskatchewan chapter of the National Organization For The Reform Of Marijuana Laws, and I’ve been the Regina event coordinator for the last 10 years. So for 10 years I’ve been organizing legalization rallies, including mass civil disobedience exercises like the annual 4/20 smokeout, and the vast majority of these actions have been held in Victoria Park. Other Occcupy residents were recreational users, some of them people who usually bought and used in Victoria Park. But we spent 4 whole weeks enforcing the “drug free zone” policy the group had agreed on to establish positive relations with the police when we started. This was surreal for me. We had a friendly, working relationship with the police throughout the existence of the camp, some came through quickly while off duty and out of uniform to donate.
We have a housing crisis in Regina, and there were nights when all the homeless shelters in the city were full. They’d direct the overflow to us, because we had a community tent. It was safer than sleeping in an alley somewhere alone, where many of those people are now that the Occupy Regina camp is gone.
Like many Occupy supporters, I’m kind of anti-capitalist on the whole, I believe we need an entirely new economic system, but we found common ground with the people who ran local businesses and family farmers from the downtown farmers market, and many of the union people who came around because we recognize that the banking system has fundamentally undermined capitalism itself,and we focused on finding and nurturing this common ground as much as possible. We did our dishes at local businesses, we had donated food, clothes, blankets, even tents, propane tanks, and money from people coming through. We had people who would come by to ridicule us based on something they heard in the media and come back the next day with donations because they discovered that they actually agreed with what we were saying.
Some businesses said that we were drawing more business downtown by being there, like a tourist attraction. This was especially true for the special acoustic solo performance by Joe Keithley from DOA, which brought out all kinds of different people. During the week before remembrance day, right wing talk radio kept harping about how we should shut down before Nov. 11 to “show respect for veterans”. Long before, we had agreed to take down political signs and banners and not campaign for that day, but not taking the tents down. The veterans, for the most part, liked us there, we were invited to the Legion hall and the Archbishop of the Quappelle Diocese, who led the remembrance day ceremony, gave us totally positive mention in his sermon, saying we were honoring the sacrifices of World War 2 by using the freedoms they fought for in the way they were intended.
We ultimately didn’t resist shut down. We recognized how uniformly Occupy camps were being shut down at the same time everywhere and realized that the decision was being made somewhere other than Regina, somewhere far away. We recognized that federal funding for projects might have been threatened to get City Hall to evict us even though we had an entirely positive relationship with the public, only 4 complaints and lots of compliments. We also didn’t want to put the police in the position of having to forcefully remove us, because we had a totally positive relationship with them and wanted to keep that for future events.
Posted on 21 December 2011.
PORTLAND, OR – Last night I was speaking at Occupy Portland, and an inebriated individual was standing next to me suddenly, preaching a duet with me. I had to fight through my defensiveness. Finally I gave him the mic and he commenced a peoples’ history of the song “Amazing Grace” and then began to sing it, but couldn’t remember the words. People from the audience one by one walked up and each sang a phrase until the great song was completed… “was blind but now I see.” And we all whooped – it felt like a poignant variation on the peoples’ microphone.
Posted on 14 December 2011.
NEW YORK – Today ushers in the 44th day of the OWS movement. It has been 21 days since I first began to wear a collar at OWS to signal myself as a spiritual presence. As a seminarian, I am preparing for ordination to become a minister in the United Church of Christ. Being a visibly queer clergy-person affords me opportunities of observance and experience that are unique to this particular kind of embodiment. Looking obviously queer upon first glance is exhausting. I am also often the token Gender-Queer, which means receiving the special task of defending my sexuality AND my gender expression in one fell swoop; put a collar on that mess and now I am the target of people’s angst and anxiety of unresolved sexuality issues, gender woes, and religious baggage.
Churches hurt people. Ministers say hateful things. That turmoil often gets projected on me in my work at Zuccotti. Unintentionally, I have suddenly become the symbol of shattered dreams and unspoken rage. Sometimes this results in angry looks and questions of why I am part of “such a fucked up and oppressive system.” Other times I find myself in a full on debate about the correct place of a spiritual person inside of politics. I receive this turmoil as best I can, with a gentle spirit and a calming way. Every once in a while I get hugs and heartful words of gratitude. I take the good with the bad. This is what it means to be with people when shit gets real.
My religious tradition has been ordaining folks like me since 1972. In my previous life I came from a denomination that was not quick on embracing its queer members and clergy hopeful folks. I get the frustration; I receive the pain from a place of genuine knowledge. This being said, I also feel the strength of a long lineage of religious leaders who aren’t afraid of shouting yes into arenas where people are screaming no. Fredrich Buechner says that vocation is “where your deepest longing meets the world’s greatest need”. For every one of me there are hundreds who think I am living in sin and are in grave disapproval of my “lifestyle,” much less my vocational choices. But I don’t really care. I don’t do this work just to trump the religious right, evangelical fundamentalists, or anyone else who has traditionally had serious problems with my community. Just like my sexuality and gender expression, this calling is not a choice. The only choice I made was to accept this life. Boldly, I go into this work with radical love in my heart and the struggles of folks like me in mind. Jesus always stands on the side of love; he would have been shoulder to shoulder with the occupiers. And so, I am reclaiming Christianity as I Occupy Wall Street.
2 Corinthians 4:8-10 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.”
-Jami A. Yandle-
Posted on 13 December 2011.
TYLER, TX – We’ve been meeting in Tyler, in different locations around the city, since October 15th. Most of our events have been at busy intersections around the city, where we shout out to our community about corruption in government and corporations and money driving policy in this county.
We’ve met every Saturday, since October 15th, with the exception of November 26th, when a few of us met with Occupy Dallas, in Dallas Texas.
Saturday night, 12/3/11, some of us met at Hastings on Broadway to heckle Glen Beck, after having our normal Saturday morning meetup. He was in town visiting for a book signing. Wow, was that ever exciting! The followers of Beck, were very upset, but talked to us, filmed and took pictures of and with us!
Yesterday, 12/10, we met at Holiday in the Park, at Bergfield Park. Wow! It was lively and festive, with tons of people there! We set up our ‘booth’ and educated curious passersby with a layout of posters illuminating some of the truths about our economy and incomes, that the medias failure to report adequately. As well we had handouts for those who wanted to study more.
As of yet, we have no official committees, about 50 people showed up to our first event, some 8 to 20 of us at the events thereafter.
We don’t have official GA’s per se, we have lunch together after each event for discussion and planning. There are 7 to 8 of us diehards who show up each week and a few stragglers here and there, including some local Code Pink members!
-I am Nannette Thornton Rainer on Facebook. I belong to Occupy Tyler, in Tyler, Texas. We have an Occupy Tyler Group and we also have an Occupy Tyler Community Page on Facebook-
Posted on 02 December 2011.
Los Angeles, CA–The air is cool and the ground is damp from a recent downpour when I pitch my tent on one of the few unclaimed patches of dirt on the southwest lawn of Los Angeles City Hall. It’s just two weeks since the movement took root here and this is prime real estate, a couple hundred feet from the steps of the nightly General Assembly of Occupy Los Angeles. I stomp my last stake in the ground as night falls and the lights on the plaza steps come on like some kind of tribal hearth. It’s the nightly call to gather and conspire to change the world. Jimmy, a sixty-year-old schizophrenic I recognize from Skid Row, isn’t going to make it. He’s shuffling to an R&B classic that’s been playing in his head since he left Detroit in ’72.
I’m not going to make it either. I need to mark my territory. So I curl up in my sleeping bag and take stock of my immediate surroundings. Hollywood gangbangers are posted up on one side of me. On the other are Cliff and his mute wife. Cliff says they’re here for the free food. Drum circles carry on endlessly to the south and a tribe of feral teens makes a den directly across from me.
I check my camera gear and doze off. Sometime around 1 a.m., a body topples onto my tent and wakes me from a dreamy sleep. I crawl outside and find myself in the middle of a scene that could have been happening at a warehouse party in Pomona. A mob of twentysomethings from Nowhere, California—white hippie chicks, Venice Beach drifters, cholos, neoanarchists—are drinking, dancing, flirting, and fighting in the walkway in front of my new home. Clearly crystal meth and acid are in the mix. It doesn’t take long to see that Occupy L.A. after dark is the best party in town if you’re a disenfranchised kid on the economic margins.
But it isn’t all fun and games. As the mainstream media keeps its eyes on Oakland and New York, Los Angeles will quietly and steadily become one of the largest and longest-running occupations in the movement. Before its end, Jesse Jackson, Bill Maher, Deepak Chopra, Cornel West, and other name-brand liberals will drop by to pay their respects. The fifty-eight-day occupation will hold numerous teach-ins, workshops, marches, rallies, and acts of community outreach. The Day of Action march on November 17 will bring more than 2,000 protesters into the streets of downtown, and the block party on November 27 will bring thousands more to City Hall. Occupy L.A. pressure will also help stir Councilman Richard Alarcón’s responsible-banking ordinance from its two-year coma.
After a few hours of fitful sleep, I take a stroll around the neoclassical/art deco mash-up that is L.A.’s City Hall. Inside, a weak mayor tries to preside over council-member-run fiefdoms in what often plays like a sloppy political sitcom compared to the one-man show in Michael Bloomberg’s bloodless New York. Around here, consensus is always hard to come by, whether you’re indoors or out.
Walking the grounds, I see how the tent clusters have formed. The music tribe takes the south lawn; the meditation tent and people’s library are on the north; an artist colony of sorts is forming at the northwest corner; some other less identifiable contingencies form on the west. The east is no-man’s land sprinkled with freelancers that include marijuana reformers. Throughout, people are hard at work in places like the media tent, the wellness tent, the welcome tents.
Then there’s Chris, a scrappy young guy from Louisiana who is camping in the Bike Scum tent. Chris is not an activist in the traditional sense. He doesn’t attend the General Assembly. He isn’t on any committees or a member of any affinity groups. He doesn’t go to the teach-ins or work groups, nor does he listen to any of the G.A. guest speakers who come to show solidarity. He’s just out of prison and he’s getting ready for the crackdown.
“I’m here to fight,” he says, twirling a rock wrapped in a long, leather strap. “I love it.”
Journal entry—October 9, 2011
This is a place of cultural violence and bad breath; patrician manners gone missing. This is the revolution. The anarchists, the advocates, the activists, the militants, the socialists, the communists, Skid Row psych patients, off-season burning men, the gangsters, the enraged, the curious, and the middle-class parents who bring their children to the frontline of the American class war for a lesson in the price of democracy.
One week into my occupation and I’ve already met most of the campers, know most of their faces, some of their names, and why they are here. Mario Brito, Occupy L.A.’s liaison with the city, is a Catholic activist who in his teens got involved with the Cesar Chavez-led United Farm Workers movement. Elise Whitaker from the actions committee is a twenty-one-year-old Midwestern transplant with a lot of energy and organizing skills. She seems to magically appear wherever something’s about to jump off. Max Funk is an economist from Coachella who developed a software program he says could route all financial transactions through the U.S. Treasury, eliminating the need for banks. Anthony is an eighteen-year-old from East Los Angeles who has joined the facilitation committee.
Occupy L.A. embraces a policy of inclusion just a block from Skid Row. Among the campers, one can see the human embodiment of the issues that propel the movement: deficits in income, education, housing, health care, and mental health, the prison-industrial complex. The bursting seams of our social fabric have names and faces and are living in tents on City Hall’s lawn.
Like David, a fifteen-year-old SoCal hippie who needs to get his schizophrenic father treated. But if he does, child services will send him back to live with his grandparents in a gang-infested neighborhood. As with a lot of folks these days, David doesn’t feel like he has a lot of good options. For now, pitching a tent at Occupy is just the least-worst one.
Most mornings Juan, a former schoolteacher, can be found sweeping the south plaza at the base of the steps just outside the mayor’s office. His makeshift broom is a large piece of filthy cloth tied to a stick that he drags from one end of the camp to the other. The bank foreclosed on his home, so Occupy L.A. is a temporary safe haven. With his leathery face, rotted teeth, quirky yellow harem pants, and whatever headdress he’s got on that day, Juan routinely disrupts the General Assembly with his ranting and prancing. Juan can be loud, chaotic, annoying, or incredibly entertaining depending on the day. The wheels of direct democracy move too slowly for him and he isn’t afraid to let folks know.
“We need to find a place of our own now,” he says in a thick accent, taking a break from his housekeeping duties. While others fantasize about creating a sustainable living situation in the middle of downtown, Juan, with more real-life experience than most occupiers, understands that the camp’s days are numbered, no matter how much love Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck publicly profess.
Journal entry—October 19
A constant influx of new arrivals includes an increasingly large collective of defiant outliers who take the camp hostage nightly, producing a relentless racket and making it impossible to sleep. Fatigue almost makes me reconsider my commitment to the new revolution, but not really. Truth is, I’m head over heels.
I haven’t seen Santiago all day. My tent neighbor is short in stature but has a big heart. A Salvadoran gangbanger who followed a girl to City Hall, he’s been seduced by the cause. Now he’s part of the internal peacekeeping force and says he’s had a big transformation. I ask his tentmate, the guy with the Sinaloa Cartel tattoo, if he’s seen Santiago. He says Santiago took some guy to Lamp Village, a homeless shelter on San Pedro and Fifth Street, to get cleaned up.
When he gets back, Santiago tells me he’s never heard of the Spanish “Indignant” movement or the magazine Adbusters or any of the many Occupy creation stories. He blazes a bowl of weed and says he did some horrible things after his parents died when he was a teenager, but that was all in the past. Now he’s going to become an activist. “Now I can feel, like, my heart beating. Like, now!” he says. “I wanna help people. I wanna stand up for what I believe in. I wanna take the light back to my hood and shine it on my homies.”
How he’ll make the transition from gangbanger to activist is unclear, even to him, but he says he doesn’t care. He’s twenty-three. “It’s like, fuck … what the fuck else am I doing? Shit. There is no place else. This is it. That’s obvious.”
For these kids, protest is the thing, the Occu-party is just a perk. Lacking education and experience with formal conventions, they express themselves and support the movement with what they have—their bodies. You can almost feel them sucking in the positive reinforcement like oxygen, or weed.
Later that night, as the General Assembly kicks off, I sit on the plaza steps with Temper Goldie, a delightfully aggro, cherub-faced young woman from San Diego. Goldie has HIV, hep C, and no medical insurance. She says she was pregnant with twins when the San Diego police shot and killed her first husband last year. I don’t ask why. She says she lost the babies. She’s also lost her patience with the chaos at the L.A. occupation and is heading for Oakland tomorrow. I guess she prefers a different kind of drama.
Announcements about upcoming actions and other business are aired, then proposals, including one about adopting a set of community norms so we can all get a good night’s sleep.
Fat chance. Around midnight, a band with a portable P.A. system powers up in a tent cluster across from me and blasts music till dawn. A hundred hipsters show up and party down. The scene could have easily been happening at the Dragonfly on Santa Monica Boulevard on any Saturday night. The next day the wellness tent is out of condoms.
Journal entry—October 26
Kurtz upriver. I’m now three weeks in a tent and haven’t seen a mirror in days. I’m not exactly sure who people are looking at when I talk to them. Occupy L.A. is a time-release love drug, an ecstasy-and-coke cocktail with a Demerol garnish. She comes on slow and then opens you up like a randy teenager at a sixties peace rally. The morning after is another story altogether.
The occupation of City Hall is just shy of one month old. I get up early and head to Starbucks in Little Tokyo, a block east of City Hall. I haven’t been out of the camp for days and can’t stomach the stench of the few Porta Potties. On the way back to camp, I run into Commander Andrew Smith near the plaza’s south steps. Smith has been one of my LAPD sources for years, and a cover story I did on him for the L.A. Weekly in 2005 when he was captain at Central Division didn’t hurt his career. Now Smith is in charge of media relations and community affairs and is LAPD’s public face vis a vis the occupation. Smith strolls the plaza in his starched blues with a confident ease.
He tells me the department respects people’s right to protest. He reminds me that Chief Beck came up through the ranks during Rodney King and Rampart. As Smith puts it, the department wants to show that “this is not Daryl Gates’s LAPD.”
It’s not just the LAPD that wants to put its best foot forward. Activists from around the city have been spring loaded, waiting for an opportunity like this. So far, it’s symbiosis. L.A. gets to occupy in peace and the police get to show how far they’ve come since Rampart or even the MacArthur Park May Day melee in 2007.
I run into Julia Wallace in the plaza at dusk on November 3. She is gearing up for the anti-police-brutality march in solidarity with Occupy Oakland, which has been taking a beating from the cops. A social activist from Inglewood, Wallace is a member of a revolutionary organization called SU/LU (Struggles United/Luchas Unidas). She and her twin sister can often be found riding the bullhorn at the frontlines of most marches.
The plan is for an unpermitted march through the streets of the financial district. It is defiant by design. Unlike the other marches, the cops haven’t been notified. People from Occupy Oakland are here to support the protest. The crowd is a little rougher around the edges and darker in hue than the typical Occupy L.A. Not that Occupy L.A. is an Anglo affair. By my estimate it’s about 40 percent white, 35 percent Latino, and 20 percent black, with a mix of other ethnicities making up the rest. It’s also overwhelmingly male.
“We have the power! We have the numbers! There’s no amount of helicopters that can change that! Organize, occupy, strike, power!” Julia leads the charge. You can almost feel the heat rising from the pavement under the feet of 400-plus marching from City Hall to the financial district. No one is intimidated by the police officers clocking the procession. The undercurrent of rage is palpable.
Thirty minutes into the march, cops appear in large numbers. Young officers, looking like they might be questioning which side they should be on, white knuckle factory-fresh batons. Someone asks, “Why would you feel like a criminal for expressing your First Amendment rights on public property?”
Journal entry—November 3
Tonight’s march against police violence was ecstatic. The power of the people is intoxicating. My heart was banging so hard I thought it would split my ribs. I met an old friend from the seventies in the streets of L.A. tonight—me. A defiance that I’d put into a box sometime in the eighties is reasserting itself. The world is unhinging from the rusty moorings of economic, political, and corporate oppression.
While Oakland gets ready to rumble and New York is about to get evicted, Occupy L.A. more or less does what Los Angeles does—gets shit done. Occupy L.A. will sanction more than sixty actions in fifty-eight days through an ad hoc network of committees, subcommittees, affinity groups, and occupiers holding teach-ins, workshops, marches, and rallies. There will be solidarity marches, bank transfer days, Citizens United protests, a National Action Day march with the Service Employees International Union and Good Jobs L.A., and regular appearances by high-profile progressives on the City Hall stairs. For the most part, the atmosphere remains festive and serious, accommodating but not overly indulgent.
Things are going well. Occupy L.A. is producing results. You can still bring your kids to the plaza and have a good time at the revolution, as long as you don’t let them wander out of sight. Arrests are still an anomaly.
The we-can-all-get-along vibe between the cops and the camp starts to shift when a group of fifty or so occupiers join a flash mob at the Bank of America branch on Seventh and Figueroa. There, they confront customers, chanting, “Bank of America, bad for America.” Some protesters plan to pitch a tent near the entrance. A young black guy in a mask lays down his sleeping bag and chants through a bullhorn, “Don’t forget your inner child.”
The whole action is more stunt than hostile confrontation. But when the cops show up, it is with an old-school confrontational stance. Lieutenant Paul Vernon, Central Division head of detectives, snarls, “We don’t owe you anything. We’re not doing First Amendment gestures here.”
Meanwhile, turns out Mayor Villaraigosa has been on the phone with other mayors trying to reconcile the desire to appear down with the cause with the need to appear in control of the situation. After the first Oakland clampdown, Mayor Jean Quan admits to participating in a strategy call with the mayors of seventeen other occupied cities. The crackdowns in Oakland, New York, Portland, Seattle, and Atlanta play out similarly: an overwhelming show of force, mass arrests, night-time mobilizations, the use of nonlethal projectiles, pepper spray, sound cannons, tear gas, and clubs. Los Angeles holds out, even though Villaraigosa, as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, is obviously in the loop.
Finally, November 24, Thanksgiving, cops post signs announcing that City Hall grounds will be closed at 10:30 p.m. nightly. As a compromise, the city offers Occupy an office space across the street and a patch to pitch tents at an urban farm in South Los Angeles. It feels like a weak attempt to retain some moral high ground and official affinity with the 99 percent. The gesture is refused and a press conference is scheduled for the next day.
As word circulates that the Occupy camp is getting the boot, some pack up and some climb into trees. Others prepare for violent confrontation. Santiago helps me pack up my tent. He is already thinking about moving his to the next occupation, wherever that may be.
All the usual suspects are gathered for the Friday press conference at the third-floor conference room in City Hall. Villaraigosa stands at the podium with Chief Beck at his side. Network news personalities, local affiliate reporters, and print media journalists wait patiently to be spoon fed the official line. Throughout, the media has all but refused to take the movement seriously, opting instead for lazy condescension, calling it an “endless slumber party.”
When an Occupy activist interrupts the show to read from the General Assembly minutes rejecting the city’s relocation proposal, the journalists shush him. Villaraigosa cites health violations as the reason for the eviction just moments before admitting that Department of Health has found no actual violations. The bobbleheads don’t register the inconsistency. A news babe from KTLA asks if there will be special eviction procedures for Occu-pets.
The mayor declares the 500 tents will have to vacate City Hall Park by 12:01 a.m. on the twenty-eighth. The announcement’s timing, in the vacuum of a postholiday Friday afternoon, all but ensures it won’t be contested in court. In response, the G.A. sanctions a block party for Sunday, November 27, to protest the eviction. Two thousand gather in the plaza for the assembly and the block party floods the streets until midnight. All the TV crews show up. Santiago is elated as theLAPD show up in riot gear and parade like peacocks before surprisingly backing off.
Journal entry—November 25
Quote of the day: Two young homies in hoodies enter camp from Main Street as Esai Morales is singing with a band on the south steps. “Can we get some Adele up in this bitch?” Occupy L.A. is not without humor. It just feels that way sometimes.
Monday morning, the City Hall lawn is like an empty battlefield. A few die-hards still tweaking from the block party linger in the plaza. It would have been the perfect time to raze the Occupy village, but perhaps the timing lacked drama, or news coverage. An eerie détente settles in as the movement and police regroup.
By Tuesday evening, though, a thousand people are back at the plaza steps for the General Assembly. Up-to-the-minute tweets have everyone alerted that the LAPD is staging at Dodger Stadium. News trucks line the streets; the media is fully present and sufficiently caffeinated. A pretty-boy newscaster from KTLA has a gas mask hanging from his belt. CNN tries to pull up next to City Hall, but protesters block its path and kick the van. Cops have to escort the van away. It’s CNN’s first Occupy L.A. appearance.
Journal entry—November 30
If you flatten one tent, ten more will reappear.
At 12:15 a.m., Wednesday, November 30, 500 riot-gear-clad police burst through City Hall doors and spill into the camp, passing under the Cicero quote etched in the building above the south plaza steps: He that violates his oath profanes the divinity of faith itself. Another thousand police broach the camp’s perimeter, where hundreds of occupiers link arms, chanting, “We are peaceful.”
Cops with billy clubs chase hundreds through the streets. The bomb squad, the arson unit, and cops in hazmat suits are all on the scene. The police even break out that little dune buggy thing not seen in public since the Lakers championship riot back in 2009.
Helicopter searchlights and news-crew spotlights illuminate the action. A pool of reporters surrounded by police guards watches the spectacle. The mayor stands near the patch where I’ve pitched my tent for the past two months. He wears an enigmatic grin and an LAPD windbreaker. Commander Smith and other officials are caught in the frenzy, unavailable for comment beyond what everyone already knows: it’s closing time.
After weeks serving on Occupy’s action committee, Elise Whitaker is terrified as she links arms with others in the middle of the plaza. Whitaker is arrested and will spend three days in jail, including fourteen hours in solitary confinement after protesting the treatment of another prisoner. Police will make 300 arrests. Among them is an eighty-five-year-old woman who will be forced to urinate in a plastic bag while she’s detained.
Occupiers who aren’t arrested regroup at La Placita Olvera across from Union Station. A medical tent is up and ready, but so far there are no injuries. The buzz of having played cat and mouse through the streets of downtown with the police is undeniable. It feels like rebellion.
At 5 a.m., I walk with Santiago through the aftermath. The camp is leveled. Construction crews put down concrete barriers and chain-link fencing. City Hall looks more like a prison yard than a symbol of public service.
“This is like the future of tomorrow, today, at City Hall,” says Santiago with the particular metaphorical panache of a young cholo. “And they, like, brought the bomb squad? Shit.”
Journal entry—December 1
Tents are vortexes of accelerated transformation. My place on the Westside, far from the physical nexus of Occupy, is not a sanctuary anymore. Mailbox full of bills and empty of checks. Whatever doesn’t feel real is falling away like a dried scab. Convictions that had been replaced with counterfeit aspirations are resurfacing. Today, I am packing up everything that I need. It isn’t much. Getting rid of everything that isn’t essential. I’m leaving the house I’ve been occupying for the past four years.
A few weeks after the eviction, Santiago calls from county jail. He was popped on a weapons charge but let out after three days. I guess we can’t afford to keep people locked up indefinitely anymore. I pick him up across from Union Station, where he was still occupying a tent. We go to Philippe’s. He likes the 9-cent coffee (soon to be 45 cents).
Santiago’s posteviction transformation, like my own, is not going to be easy. But he’s sticking with it. He’s been to almost every Occupy action since the encampment was shut down, including the Bank of America foreclosure protests the week after the eviction and Occupy the Port in Long Beach on December 12. He went to protest public education cuts and rising tuition at the University of California regents meeting at UC Riverside on January 19. If he can find a ride, and isn’t in jail, he’ll probably occupy Chicago on May 1, when the G8 and NATO hold summits. He definitely won’t want to miss the DNC in Charlotte in September 3. He’s now a foot soldier in the class war.
- Sam Slovik -
Posted on 29 November 2011.
Los Angeles, CA–I arrived to Occupy Los Angeles at 5:20PM on November 28th. By 5:23PM, while taking in the scenery and wondering where to explore first, a guy stumbled over and was the first person to talk to me. “Hey, dude, is that a joint in your mouth? Do you have any pot?” After I informed him that it was a pen and that he shouldn’t smoke – especially in public – he told me to keep my opinions to myself. This, ironically, was funny, as he is part of the 99%; a movement in America that appears to be one of the most iconic forms of public expression and activism in recent years.
I laughed, grabbed my notepad and started to walk around. This man is the poster child for which is often portrayed to the general public by media outlets; a disheveled, inarticulate guy on a quest for drugs and alcohol. This is not the movement and sadly, this aspect of portrayal is what people eat up, which makes it easier for folks to brush these protests aside.
When I arrived, the occupation had been in occurrence for 58 days. Many hours before, at 12:00AM, an eviction order deadline was given by Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa. The reason for said eviction was: “It is time to close the park and repair the grounds so that we can restore public access to the park.” Restore public access? Although I am new to Los Angeles, it didn’t take an expert to understand this was probably the largest and widespread use of the park in the history of the city.
In all honestly, the park did smell like urine, pot, and body order – but any recent college graduate has probably smelled worse at an off campus house party. It does not matter what the park smelled like, or the type of people that were there, because at the root of it, beyond the shenanigans of the “tag-a-longers,” also known as, the people who are occupying for the hell of it, there is a core movement that was started well beyond the recent recession. And many people at Occupy Los Angeles believe so.
“The LAPD hate the mayor; they fucking hate him. Well, most of them,” he said. “They are part of the movement, every last one of them. They are underpaid, overworked, and at 3AM, when there are no camera crews around and it’s just us and them, we talk.” Among the people I spoke with, one of the best-versed, intelligent, and articulate was David Pierce, 33, a Santa Barbara native who was laid off from IMB, known as one of the most influential companies in the world, just six months earlier. He came to Los Angeles to use his college degree, past work experience, and determination in order to find another job. Instead, he found Occupy Los Angeles.
Pierce expanded and said he believes if the LAPD are given the order to make arrests in the future, most will lay down their badge and return home to spend time with their families. He added that, “just because they are not here with us, camped out in front of City Hall, does not mean they don’t agree with us.”
I told David Pierce about my website and the how it is catered to Generation Y. We spoke about how, quite possibly, our generation has the upper hand on a lot of things, particularly when it comes to social movements, activism, and freedom of expression.
“You are all hackers. Well, most of you,” he said. “And not hackers in the general sense. You guys know your way around things. If the cops are flashing lights in your eyes, you’re not only going to find a way to escape it, but to reflect it back onto them. If you can’t get in the front door or the window or even the sewer, you’ll find another way. Your generation, or more so, our generation, has that unique ability that many other generations don’t possess – and it’s going to be an awesome tool for activism and change.”
After our half hour talk, I realized that I probably picked the best person I could have at Occupy Los Angeles. Slightly older than the Generation Y demographic, he is one that is able to look upon are age group with hope and inspiration; David knows, and can see, the awesome tools that we take for granted.
“When it comes down to it,” said David, “they can arrest us tonight and we’ll be back tomorrow. They can arrest us the next day and we’ll be back and so on. I don’t think people realize that.”
As I left, I realized that the first step of any movement is standing your ground, even if you are knocked, dragged or pulled away. And quite honestly, the saying is true: you can arrest a person, but you can’t arrest an idea.
- Jeffrey Hartinger -
Posted on 12 November 2011.
NEW YORK -Let me start off by saying I had no idea what to expect from this visit to New York. An acquaintance of mine that I had met through the college I currently attend told me she was going to Zuccotti Park in Manhattan to see what was going on with the protesting. She was leaving 8am Friday morning (it was already 11pm Thursday night). Being an amateur photographer and long time insubordinate I was immediately attracted to the idea of getting out of our small college town for our 4 day weekend and soaking in some of NYC’s lively atmosphere. It had seemed as an opportunity to catch some great event photos and a call to arms had found me. I thought about it for roughly 5 short minutes, charged the battery for my Nikon D80, grabbed 2 lenses, packed 4 days worth of clothes and the next day, got my ass to Manhattan. This is what I saw.
The drum circle was audible for at least 10 blocks. There were people playing music everywhere. People were shouting about why they were there. They wanted to be heard.
People of all ages. All races, genders, people of all faiths. Some tired of the same old system we’ve been living with. Some there just for the company of a warm welcoming environment, which for many native New Yorkers is a spectacle in itself.
At first I thought it was just a mob of people babbling on about our economy, the war, justice system, politics, anything they could complain about. Yeah, that’s pretty much what it is. A melting pot of every protest you’ve ever seen or heard about. But that’s just it. This isn’t like the rest. The sheer magnitude and media attention this thing was getting is hard to describe. It’s the people’s megaphone. They, or WE were there to be heard and we weren’t going to leave until something gave. That was it for me. I spent my first night in Zuccotti park. I was in and I wasn’t going anywhere.
I was tired and sore. I slept maybe 2 hours on the hard concrete that the city had provided us for our stay. There were no fresh towels here. I spent a few hours getting some free coffee and breakfast (which was all gourmet and delicious by the way!) and reflecting on the first day. To say the least, I was still unsure of my surroundings. I noticed some sketchy characters lurking in the night. I later found we would all eventually become one of those people. Showerless, exhausted and wearing the same dirty pants for days. Walking down a nearby city block, it was easy to separate the occupiers from the observers. People were tagged with all sorts of clever attire and make shift signs.
My second day there I started to pick up on the whole purpose of the occupation and got to see some inner workings which showed me how organized everything really is. There was energy everywhere, as always.
People dancing, playing music.
A lot of parents brought their children. It was really wonderful to see that people trusted the movement. It’s a lot to ask of a parent to bring their child to such a seemingly chaotic environment.That didn’t stop most.
The faces of fallen soldiers were among the living.
As well as those who still speak for us every day. It was inspiring to see the amount of love and support for the cause from even the most unsuspecting celebrities.
I slept well that night in a sleeping bag given to me by the comfort center work group. A vital asset to the occupied community. I’d also like to shout out to the sanitation work group who kept our living space cleanliness to a tolerable level. Without those working groups, there would be no community.
I experienced my first march.
It was loud, courageous, chaotic behavior that left police feeling threatened by unarmed protesters. Why would police be afraid of unarmed civilians? Because there were a freakin’ lot of us and we all wanted a piece of the media. All it took was one stunt to set off a chain reaction of angry protesters willing to go to jail for the cause. These non-violent direct actions are the lock stock and barrel of the movement. It’s an ongoing battle of legalities and loop holes. I attended an entire class describing direct action right in battery park! I learned a whole lot about non-violent demonstrations.
I walked right into the belly of the beast. What had started as a covert surveillance mission to find an appropriate point of entry to the golden streets, had turned into just getting a few good shots of life in a day on wall street. Prestigious golden towers hung way above the heads of those who live without worry. No financial struggles, just the comfort of their fortune. Pigs rolling in mud. It was sickening. I didn’t belong there. I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out a way to bring down wall street.
Things were calming down. Less Marching, less protesting, more coordination and more building of the community.Unfortunately, I had to return to my home in upstate New York to attend classes. It wouldn’t make sense to fight against loans I’m not going to make use of ;P
I returned home, eager to get back to the park. I was obligated to go to my classes and to finish what I started. 3 short days later, I went right back to the park.
The energy was still flourishing. Drums drumming, crowds crowding, protesters protesting. I felt back at home.
I felt stronger, I wanted to do something! I was piss drunk on helping the cause, I started going to meetings, writing down ideas, interviewing people. I didn’t care about the photos anymore. I just wanted in. I helped coordinate a march! (which later turned out to fall through the cracks after discussing the idea with some more experienced protesters.) It taught me something. There was no room for leadership here. All decisions were made based on a general consensus of the community’s population. A true democracy. My work had already been done long before I got there. The start of a new political party owned by the people, not corporate interest.
Zuccotti park was occupied. And no one was leaving until something changed.
My journey ended on day 7. I had been occupying for a week now. I felt a sense of accomplishment, enlightenment, relief, confidence, hope…really just a combination of emotions that equate to a plain good feeling. Most of all I was smelly and tired. I am one of the fortunate souls that has the comfort of a place to call home outside of the park. I felt I had done my due diligence. Something is being done out there, and with occupations spreading, this movement’s goal is starting to seem more and more plausible. I miss my people at Zuccotti park, and I wish you all the best of luck and sincere gratitude. My hopes are to return as soon as I can WITHOUT an expensive camera to worry about losing, so I can focus on occupying wall street!
-Mike Cosentino -
Posted on 10 November 2011.
The well off
The most rational
And the most metally ill
The Ron Paulers
The Atheists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Quakers, Hare Krishnas and the Agnostics
and The calm
and The co-operaters
and The motivators
and The innermost city residents
and The white
and The native American
and the others
and The able bodied
Those active in the movement
and Those who have simply come for comfort.
This is why we say we are the 99%
not because we represent the opinions of the 99%
but because we represent every slice and stripe
of the 99%
who are tired
who are angry
who are hopeful
who are hopeless
The still employed
and The unemployed
the “retched refuse”
of your and our teeming shores.
The 1% has shown by their actions that we are their retched refuse
We deny this ascribation
we are human beings
what you have done to the least of these
you have done to me.
We are one
no man is an island
if I fight for me
I fight for you
if we fight for our survival
we fight for yours.
Posted on 07 November 2011.
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.