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March | Occupied Stories - Part 2

Tag Archive | "march"

The Workers Rising in Union Square


New York, NY–Yesterday afternoon I attended the Workers Rising rally in Union Square. I had visited the ConEd rally a week before, and this time around found a similar scene: handfuls of unions represented by hundreds of people assembled at the northern plaza of the square passing out flyers, embracing one another, and cheering against speakers recounting their struggles.

Last week’s rally had many unions showing solidarity for workers affected by the ConEdison lockout, it being a primary example of injustices against labor workers. This week, ConEd was just one of many targets of the day of action, including a group of delinquent employers such as Toys R Us, JC Penney, Chipotle, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burlington Coat Factory and more. The crowd was diverse, and altogether the mood seemed festive, but not without bite: a banner held high read “Gov Cuomo does not care about union workers,” and some class war rhetoric was tossed around mixed with religious sermons denouncing the powers-that-be as evil—to wild applause and cheers.

After the speakers were finished, energy was cultivated with a short hip-hop performance before the crowd departed the square to march. Most would be marching towards ConEd, and other groups would tackle the other targets along the way. I came to the rally with little information on what was going to happen, so my uninitiated self was confused at first with how the march operated. I had assumed there would be defined separate marches each going to the different targets to picket outside; instead, everyone left in one big march that broke off and divided itself. Just as the march crossed Park Avenue, some continued moving east while others turned to walk south on Park; those moving down Park divided again when some stood outside Babies R Us and others continued on to ConEd. Some seemed confused as I was, and at one point I didn’t know if I was marching or simply walking alongside civilians caught in the shuffle.

I stood with the group outside Babies R Us. Initially the police halted the action to give the familiar rule: do not take up more than half the sidewalk. We tried to spread out but the group admittedly did spread across the whole sidewalk, and police seemed not to care after all and let the action continue. A member of the clergy blessed the store of its bad karma, a funny sight as customers continued to enter and exit the place. After this, we backtracked north and onto 16th Street, assembling outside the NYC Human Resources building. There were maybe 50 of us here, a line of civilians across the street standing or sitting on the sidewalk watching to see what was up. I noticed on nearby Irving Place a cavalcade of protesters moving south towards 15th Street. I was eager to follow the action, so I scurried over that way.

Here’s where the party was: an estimated 4,000 people assembled (according to a Twitter update) on the west sidewalk blowing horns, playing music, chatting and cheering alongside ConEd’s locked out workers. There was a series of barricades: a line of them in the street, allowing protesters some space in the street, and another in the sidewalk to facilitate pedestrian traffic. Funnily enough, as we stood together in this moment of solidarity, a large line of civilians stood packed against us waiting for a show at Irving Plaza.

Again, the police were being lenient in this permitted action. Every so often one or two protesters would walk down the street just to be there, enjoying applause from us on the other side as they walked by, but the police didn’t care as much as I’ve seen on Occupy-related marches, in which literally one wrong step is enough to put you in a jail cell for the night. Eventually police tightened up the barricades, but as a few entered the streets—and I’m surprised so few did—there remained no conflict between the people and the police.

Once 7pm came around, the permit was up and many dispersed quickly. One protester went in the street and yelled “Let’s go! Time to go home!” to encourage people to leave before there could be any conflict. It was weird to hear fiery language at both rallies only to find protesters reticent to be daring in their actions; within the span of 10 minutes maybe half the people who were there had left. I crossed 15th Street only to find a whole other section of the action between 15th & 14th (I stood between 15th & 16th the whole time), where there was a big push for noisemaking before closing the action. On my way out, rounding the corner on 14th, I was happy to see a large group picketing outside Chipotle. And then I went on my way.

– Joe Sutton –

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From Philadelphia to NYC: the #99MileMarch


Editor’s note: This story is one of many that recount events related to the Occupy National Gathering in Philadelphia. You may read another account from the 99 Mile March here.

New York, NY–The first Occupy National Gathering had just come to an end, and occupiers lined the fence surrounding Independence Hall, waiting to depart on the Guitarmy 99 Mile March from Philadelphia to New York. The march would take seven days, but I was only able to accompany them for the first three.

We made our way through some pretty unpleasant areas on the first day. Hours after the march had begun, we hadn’t even encountered the smallest park. There wasn’t even an attempt to recreate nature. Someone made an observation that we had lost our connection to it. “We paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” they said, making reference to Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi. We usually drive though cities so quickly. It’s harder to recognize what you’re missing when you move so fast. We slowed down time that day, and it was really unsettling seeing just how much we’ve paved away the beauty of this world. The last time I remember feeling that out of touch with nature was when I first walked the streets of Florence, Italy, where the streets are so narrow that they can’t even line them with trees. It leads me to ponder what was behind the drive to almost totally remove ourselves from that which gives us life.

We encountered many people over those first three days. Some people would look on us with an air of total confusion. “Why would anyone walk in this heat? What are these people doing? Are they crazy?”  Then, there were those who would look on with curiosity, look on as if they were searching for something and didn’t fully realize that this was it yet. They were undoubtedly intrigued. They wanted to know more. I was able to pass out a flyer for my blog in those situations hoping that they would pull up the web address and come to see the real reason why 70 people would march 99 miles in that heat, why we felt it so important to bring our message to the road. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t have the time to really relay that message in person.

Of course, we encountered a handful of people who felt the need to throw pure venom. A car would pass throwing phrases like, “Get a job” or “Take a bath.” One man even honked at us just to give us the finger. One’s first reaction to this might be anger or retaliation, but I just get sad now when I witness this because it’s so uninformed. The ones who are confused or curious are half awake or in the process of waking up, but the ones that are that angry are still so deep in slumber that it really demonstrates how far we still have to go. Luckily, those people were the exception.

I would say a good majority of the people we encountered responded in a very positive way. Some were overcome with joy at the sight of Occupy. The sound of horns honking in support of us was quite frequent and definitely uplifting. People would often smile and throw their arms up as we’d pass. The first of three encounters that had the most affect on me was where a man strung a hose out of his basement window to give us a break from the heat of the day. He told us, “I’m too old to be out there with boots on the ground, but I’m grateful that you guys are doing it.” A woman at his house offered their bathroom to the marchers, and he decided to march a mile or so with us, getting a taste of what he longed for and supported from afar. The second incident was when a young girl and her mother were running cold water out to us from their refrigerator, and the third was when we passed a bar with all of its windows open, and people came to the windows to cheer and wish us success. It was amazing to see the faces of the people who struggle with us and clutch to hope that this might bring the shift that they’ve so longing for.

There were occupiers from all over the country on the march, as well as an indignado from Spain. Among the marchers were occupiers from Houston and Portland and New Haven and Los Angeles and Philadelphia and New Jersey. All would form a real bond by the end. There was tension in the first few days arising from some miscommunication and the lack a horizontal structure that occupiers so long for. We’re all still learning how to walk. People made some mistakes, but every time we have the courage to put ourselves in these situations that can be uncomfortable, we learn from them, and that will make us more prepared for some of the things we might have to face in the future on a much larger scale.

It’s beautiful that some put so much of their time into putting such an action together, and it’s extremely beautiful that we are among people who refuse to just be taken care of. Occupiers want to have their hands in it. They prefer horizontal rather than hierarchical. It’s important that everyone is able to contribute and play a role in society, and for that week, the march was a society. Like Zuccotti, as I’m sure other occupations around the world, building a functioning society is not done without its tribulations. I wish I had been able to stay for the entire march to watch that evolve.

Another challenge that the community faced was the serious mental instability of one of the members. It was clear that the trauma this person had experienced living in this dysfunctional world had really had a debilitating affect on her. She was poised for confrontation. Even saying something nice to her at the wrong time would provoke an insult, and at times when she would come to you and seem in a better state, the littlest thing could trigger her and send her into a rage. In the time I was there, I started to observe things that would mitigate here. She liked to cook, and she liked to sing. She even expressed during one of her moments of clarity that she needed to keep busy to stay out of her head. It would have been a real sign of progress if the community had been able to keep her on and encourage the activities that made her feel good about herself. Unfortunately, she was given a bus ticket to New York. Perhaps it was too difficult a situation to really give her the time and energy that would have been required. I really feel that the movement needs to work at creating a safe and empathetic place for people like that. This society that we’re fighting against has created a lot of dysfunction and instability. I think Occupy was probably the most accepting environment she had ever been in. At times, she begged us to work with her condition. I think a great deal of healing could come from an environment that really took the time to do so.


It was overall a really beautiful experience, and nothing to me brings beauty in a way that music does. The first night at the farm, we had a concert. It was a time that we really got to see our old and new friends shine individually. Each person brought their beauty to the experience, a collective beauty that erupted when we reached the Staten Island Ferry Station. An Occupier from Houston belted out the beautiful lyrics from a song called One Day by Matisyahu, and the rest of us sang along. I can’t imagine a more relevant song for our current situation. It was a beautiful moment. The energy and love and passion and determination all swam together in a colorful symphony. Everyone was beaming with joy, accomplishment and hope.

On our arrival to Zuccotti, the marchers sang it again to all of the New York occupiers who came out to welcome them, and for one day, we were able to again experience the vibrancy and energy of our occupation at Liberty Square, and it will not be the last time. The NYPD can harass us. Congress can make laws to try and stifle us. They can even incarcerate a beloved member. We will not stand down. This revolution is happening. Embers of it can be seen in cities all over the world, and each step we take forward brings us closer to a time when it’s a blazing inferno of love. The members of this march took a lot of those steps, and I am honored to have been able to share some of those steps with such beautiful people.

 – Stacy Lanyon –

Photos by Stacy Lanyon. Check out Stacy’s website, At the Heart of an Occupation, which profiles individuals of the Occupy movement.

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Photos: Meeting up with the 99 Mile March


Editor’s note: This post is part of our #NatGat coverage. You may read more #NatGat-related stories here.

Princeton, NJ–The National Occupy Guitarmy leads the #99MileMarch July 5-11 from Philadelphia to NYC, in honor of Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday and the Occupy National Gathering.

I met up with them on July 7th camped in Morrisville, PA. They were just setting up lunch, painting some signs for the march ahead and belting out Woody Guthrie songs. Spirits seemed high and some of the marchers said that the reception from town to town has been well received. They said residents came out and offered water or a chance to run under the hose to cool off a little. Here are some photos I took during my visit:

Hanging laundry at the camp in Morrisville, PA

The next day we marched 5 miles  in close to 100 degree weather from Trenton to Princeton.


Heading out of Trenton on Route 206 north, a main street for many small towns in New Jersey

Guitarmy walking along Route 206 on their way to Princeton

Along Route 206 some Guitarmy marchers were hanging posters left over from the Occupy Caravan that crossed the country from San Francisco to attend the National Gathering:

 

Once we arrived in Princeton, NJ, Occupiers did a small banner drop on the Bristol-Myers sign outside the company’s headquarters:

Spirits were high especially when the march arrived at Trinity Episcopal Church (link goes to contact info for the church) in historic downtown Princeton. The church offered air conditioning and showers, the first for some marchers in weeks since leaving their hometowns for the national gathering and then heading north on their 99 mile march to NYC.

It didn’t take too long after everyone arrived at the church for police to show up supposedly on reports that there was a dead person lying just outside the grounds of the church. After confirming that there was not in fact a dead person but a very tired marcher the police left but the troubles didn’t end there. Soon after this incident the pastor of Trinity Church came out to tell the 60+ marchers that the church was receiving too many complaints from neighbors and the whole group would have to leave by 9:30 PM which at that point was about an hour away. The group tried negotiating with church executives because it would be near impossible to find housing for 60+ marchers in less than an hour but to no avail the church insisted the marchers leave. We were cleared out by 9:45 PM to numerous locations and decided to regroup in the morning.

One marcher decided to rest on the steps of Trinity Church in Princeton NJ after learning that the church had changed it’s mind about hosting the weary and tired marchers.

This story reminds me of another story about weary travelers showing up at a place they thought they were welcomed at only to be turned away into the night.

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Photos: #NatGat, Day 3


Editor’s note: This post is part of our #NatGat coverage. You can read the author’s coverage of the first day of #NatGat by clicking here, and can find day two here.

Philadelphia, PA–The third day of the Occupy National Gathering was full of energy and good conversation. Speaker Amadon DellErba from Spritualution discussed the importance of ending all “isms,” Gina McGill from Alabama promoted the ideas in Beyond Plutocracy, and Matt Taibbi exposed bank collusion. Captain Ray Lewis declined to speak in the group because of the many side conversations, but made himself available for any individual conversation throughout the afternoon.

At 5:00pm, a march began against Comcast and Verizon, and in solidarity with the NATO 5 (and the NatGat Occupier being held in the federal courthouse). It included a join up of union members and Occupiers, speeches from homeowners who have been foreclosed upon from Action United, and an energetic dancing protest down Broad Street and around City Hall.

The evening included songs from Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping and a General Assembly on racism. The assembly was cut short so that Occupiers could join the veterans on Independence Mall who were going to be evicted at 9:00pm. However, the veteran protesters were granted a twelve-hour extension, with negotiations to be held in the morning. Some Occupiers went to a bank sleep at Wells Fargo while others went back to the Friend’s Center parking lot to sleep.

– Zachary Bell –

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What Would William Penn Do?


Editor’s note: This post is part of our #NatGat coverage. You may read more #NatGat-related stories here.

Philadelphia, PA–I’ve done the All in the Red casseroles marches weekly in New York and was curious to see what it would be like in a different city. Arriving to the Occupy National Gathering in Philadelphia on Sunday, this was my first march as part of the National Gathering, and my first ever protest in Philadelphia, and I was unsure of what to expect but mostly optimistic and excited. It would be interesting to participate in a march that (as far as I knew in the United States) was only happening on a regular basis in my home city, but this time in a new place with a group of unfamiliar people.

Shortly after we began, there was a split between those who wanted to take the streets and those who did not. I recognized those who organized and were pacing the march were from New York; where we’re from, taking the streets is a risk in which you may be arrested immediately for setting one foot in the road. But the cops here cruised on their bicycles, letting us move freely. The pacers responded by mic checking that they supported autonomous action but were not recommending or suggesting we walk in the street. But once it seemed as though the police truly did not care, they and most of the march poured into the street.

Because many of us are from different cities, and therefore have varying experiences with different police forces, everyone seemed to react differently to the authorities. I was not in Philadelphia the day before, so I had no previous experience with the Philadelphia Police Department and could only go by their indifference to our taking the street, and felt that the police were being very permissive and respectful. But a few people taunted the police while others yelled at comrades in the streets things like “Good luck getting arrested!” Few of us from out of town anticipated the police’s leniency, and I probably wasn’t the only one who wondered how long this would last.

The bulk of the march was spent walking east on Market Street. I had been here before a few times years ago, going across the river to Philadelphia for concerts in my teen years, but the new context made the place seem rather alien. The last time I visited here was before I moved to New York, and today the city seemed desolate and devoid of people—but here on Market Street, people stopped, stood and watched us.

We approached Penn’s Landing, and many of us out-of-towners weren’t quite sure where the bridge led to. We took the bridge, and when we made it half-way across we circled around and came back. “We shouldn’t have turned around,” I heard someone say behind me. “Why don’t we cross to the other side?” A few steps after our turn-around we stopped again with a mic check from a pacer: apparently, we were originally meant to cross the bridge but the front of the march had come upon a wall of cops on the other side. Not wanting to start conflict with them, those in front decided to turn around and walk back. But some protesters took issue with this and wanted to face the cops. Would we continue on this new path, off the bridge on the side we entered, or confront the police?

Opinions divided, and the march did as well. I followed the group that went back towards the police, but there was no clear strategy as to what to do once we met with them. What were we here for? Some said confronting the police was exactly the reason why we had all come together; others said this march was only to educate and raise awareness to the student debt crisis, and that conflicts with the police would only muddy that message and invite criticism we didn’t need. So we ended up doing a lot of standing and sitting on the other end of the bridge in front of the police. I heard one guy gossip that obviously an undercover had suggested that we move back towards the police instead of re-routing; another one was showing rumors that he received on his phone that police re-enforcements were on their way to kettle and arrest us all.

There was slight conflict with civilians when the police opened up space in their wall to allow civilians from a street festival on the other side of the bridge to pass. I wasn’t so close to see what happened—I expect protesters tried to squeeze through—but I heard a lot of yelling as a mother and her kids (and then other civilians, but she was doing the yelling) walked past us looking flustered. One girl said it best: “They see us as an inconvenience, and don’t realize that this inconvenience is a public service.”

We eventually decided to march back to Franklin Square Park. Again, we were divided between those in and out of the street, but the walk back was largely casual, with fewer chants. We made it back with pretty much no conflict, and lots of support from bystanders and drivers.

– Joe Sutton –

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Casseroles & Anticapitalism, Montreal, Night 61


Editor’s Note: This story is part of our ongoing first-person coverage of protests in Quebec against student debt, tuition hikes and Law 78, as well as actions elseware in solidarity to those causes. This post originally appeared at Outside the Circle.

Montreal, QC–Ah, after about 5 days of me having to miss the nightly demos in Montreal — because I had to catch up on my freelance wage work –  what a lovely way to return!

1. Five hours in the streets, always illegally, starting with a tiny casseroles in Mile End, my temporary home for a couple weeks. It was just one part of  “the Casseroles Are Going Downtown!” neighborhoods & neighborhood assemblies, with their pots & spoons (& hopefully a newly formed “people’s orchestra” springing from the first Mile End Neighborhood Assembly two days ago), decided to march, make noise, and illegally wind their way to Gamelin Park to join up with the equally illegal night (61) demonstration–for more marching & more noise in another defiant display that maple summer is alive & well. Some of the convergence points this evening were: 6:30 pm at the corner of Jarry & St-Denis, 7 pm at Beaubien & St-Denis, 7:15 pm at St. Viateur & Waverly (where I joined in), and 7:45 pm at Laurier & St-Denis.

2. So yes indeed, walking to converge here & there with other casseroles, we headed downtown, growing in noise and numbers, increasingly (like all casseroles) drawing people out on to their balconies, out their doors, looking up from cafes, etc., to wave, bang pots in solidarity, and otherwise show their support.

3. Unlike any other of the casseroles, though, this one unexpectedly stopped for a short direct-action swarm of casserolers to rush into a Renaud-Bray, which describes itself as “the Largest Network of Francophone bookstores in North America,” because apparently its commitment to, again in its own words, “friendly meetings, discussions, and discovery” doesn’t apply to its employees if they wear a red square.

4. Onward from there, we continued walking as we wished against traffic, in the streets, to Gamelin Park next to Berri-UQAM Metro stop for the 8:30 pm nocturnal manif. Finding many more comrades awaiting us at the night demo 61 now-usual meeting spot, we quickly retook the streets in even larger numbers, not even giving the police time to drive their van up for the now-usual loudspeaker announcement that we’re illegal, they are here for our protection, we shouldn’t do this, that, and the other. Humorously, they tried amplifying that same message while following us from behind–almost visual acknowledgment of how the people are leading, and the police can’t figure out how to catch up or gain control.

5. As with other June Saturday night demos, this one had included a call for an anticapitalist/anarchist bloc (sporting this new CLAC banner), which also meant–happily–so many good conversations with various antiauthoritarian radicals & friends (old & new) about the history, meaning, and translatability (or not) of this movement to elsewhere. When we were finally down to about 100, mostly anticapitalists at around 11 p.m., and the police issued yet another of dispersement warning, people got on the sidewalks and headed off for poutine w/friends, etc., and I decided to start on the long walk to my temporary home, running into two great new student-radicals for more conversation. One of them asked about the dispersal (since they’d been part of our march earlier in the evening), kind of looked disappointed, and said, “People should have told the cops to disperse.” Then they quickly perked up and added, “But we’re just pacing ourselves. After all, this has been every night on the streets, and sometimes three times a day during the early part of the strike, for months, and it will likely be going on a lot longer.”

– Cindy Milstein –

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“Queer & Feminista! Anticapitalista!” Montreal, Nights 53 & 60


Editor’s Note: This story is part of our ongoing first-person coverage of protests in Quebec against student debt, tuition hikes and Law 78, as well as actions elseware in solidarity to those causes. This post originally appeared at Outside the Circle.

Prologue, Night 60

Montreal, QC–I started this blog post about night 53 on night 53; tried to continue it on the afternoon of night 54, and then got thoroughly waylaid by all the marvelous things going on here in Montreal related to maple spring-summer. That meant little writing time, save for short vignettes from nights 54 and 55. Then, bam, reality check: capitalism! I had to turn to my paid freelance work, since I suddenly was precariously and foolishly close to missing a deadline.

I’m fortunate, relatively, within the unfortunate system of capitalism that so unconsensually structures the whole of our lives; I have a “flexible,” “self-employed” way of making “a living” that is by and large “pleasant,” and due to online “communications” technology, I can do “whenever I want to.” All those words ring hollow under capitalism, even if I do generally like my job, given the alternatives. Yet I’ve said this before, and it always bears repeating: even if I like my job, I still hate capitalism. The type of work I do for capitalism — copyediting — always feels qualitatively better when I do it for free as part of self-organized projects. It’s not “work” then, nor it is my “job.” And it’s rarely “my,” since these projects are always collective and collaborative. I don’t yet have a language for it, since we’re not in that world yet, but I know it’s a thoroughly different experience. I already know, though, that it feels like living one’s life, not merely inhabiting a life that’s manufactured for us. Or maybe it’s the different between the aspiration of “everything for everyone” and the reality of “almost nothing for almost anyone.” That sentiment is embodied in what people kept repeating to me during Occupy Philly and other occupy neighborhoods that I visited — “I’ve never felt so alive” — and is now being articulated in this maple spring-summer — “I want this to last.”

All to say, the writing that I want to do here — that I’m so compelled to do, consensually and joyfully, as what I hope is a gift and contribution to this moment — got interrupted by my relatively fortunate, relatively pleasant wage work. Hence my increased desire to want to live in a world where we can be wholly different selves in a wholly different society. Hence the beauty of what’s being enacted, in bits and pieces, in Montreal on a doggedly daily basis — and yesterday, June 22, in Quebec City, where thousands responded to CLASSE’s call to march in solidarity and without permission in the monthly “grand” demonstrations (manifestations) kicked off by the student strike on March 22, and, as dusk fell, many folks then defied the new city rule there against night demos, illegally continuing to reclaim the streets after the 11:00 p.m. curfew.

We are, increasingly, all illegal. We are all increasingly queer, in the sense of not fitting into the heterogeneous (even if sometimes pleasant for some of us) box or cubicle, cage or prison cell, of capitalism. On the crowded, untamable streets of Montreal yesterday for the grand demonstration of some 100,000 or maybe many more people, a friend told me about someone who is facing deportation — not as part of maple spring, but due to the suspicion of suspicion of suspicion of being maybe suspected of something by those who still fight the “war on terror” (oh, if only Kafka were still alive and writing!). It’s one of those stories that, if I could share the details, tear at the heartstrings. Yes, increasingly, in what we can only hope is the last gasps of nation-states that know that can’t contain us, “Western democracies” are turning to criminalizing the entirety of their populations, making everyone illegal in some way or another. But of course, increasingly, nation-states cruelly and evenly target specific people, or the queerest of queer, again speaking broadly: “misfits” within this racist, heteronormative, inhumane, hierarchical (to name a few) system that tries to destroy the whole of our lives.

So maybe it’s appropriate that I’m now “troubling” linearity and leaping backward — ever with the aim of leaping forward — to night 53.

Queering It Up, Night 53

Two mornings ago [night 51], while working in a cafe, a guy sat down next to me to read Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle. This simple act not only warmed my heart; it got me thinking. I and at this point hundreds of thousands of others haven’t so much been participating in illegal marches night after long-walk night in Montreal. Instead, we’ve been engaging in illegal and subversive dérives, in which we encounter the city in new and authentic ways — hence the subversive part — letting serendipity self-direct us, rather than the commodified or policed cityscape.

In a few hours, it will be consecutive night 54, with a call this evening for an anticapitalist bloc. Last night, a pink bloc got an early start, leaving at 7:30 p.m. (it later, serendipitously, crisscrossed paths with the 8:30 p.m. crew at about 9:30 p.m.). And the evening before that, night 52, some 300 people showed up early for a $10 red square tattoo just before they took to the streets. As the Facebook page for this collective inking read:

“They would like us to remove (our red squares). That is why we will put them on our chest in permanently. Imagine hundreds of people getting red squares tattooed on the chest at the same time, all in the same evening. A monumental ‘FUCK YOU’ to the authorities who would like to see (the squares) disappear.”

Night 1, so long ago now, began serendipitously too: to contest special law 78 until it was revoked. As a UQAM student explained to me two days ago, someone made a Facebook page at 5 p.m. on the same day that the emergency measure to criminalize dissent was passed, and by 8:30 p.m. that night, thousands and maybe tens of thousands showed up at Émilie Gamelin Park next to the Berri-UQAM Metro stop. Now, it’s common knowledge that every evening’s disobedient meandering begins there. This meeting point is also right next to UQAM [Université du Québec à Montréal], the public French-language university that came out of the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, “a time when Quebecers became maîtres, or masters, of their own province, instituting changes that gave Quebec a more left-leaning bent than elsewhere in North America” (http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2012/05/11/from-quiet-revolution-to-not-so-quiet-riot/), and a hot spot/stronghold for the 2012 student strike. (As an aside, two UQAM students told me the same story separately a couple nights ago: when they first tried to do hard pickets — blockades — to enforce the strike in the early morning chill of winter, they suddenly realized that the above-and-below-ground UQAM sprawl was like “a pasta strainer [in reverse]: students and teachers can pour in from any direction.” That meant extra amounts of mobilizing to make sure they had every entryway covered starting around 5 or 6 a.m.–and could supply coffee to each other, plus rotate between those doorways with sun and those in the icy-winter shade.)

The point is: while these marches are and always must be illegal, because they are intended to defy the law that outlaws such manifestations, they are also turning everyone who joins them into, for all intents and purposes, what I’d lovingly call “criminals against capitalism” on a grand collective dérive. We nightly break with the way that “the spectacle” in the Debordian sense compels to walk through, see, and consume the city, whether as spectators (Debord’s day) or participants (present-day capitalism). Our encounters are always contingent, experimental, and random. We relate to the street as a giant board game of our own making and playing (since, as Debord observed in the 1960s — relatedly, around the same time that UQAM was birthed from radical social struggle — “boredom is counter-revolutionary”). I keep coming back to a friend’s Twitter post of many weeks ago: “the city is ungovernable.” Yes, but its usage also is daily — especially nightly — being redesigned or, in an embryonic sense, governed from below. More than that, we relate to each other and nearly everyone we pass–from concertgoer to cop–in contingent, experimental, and random ways, allowing curious or courageous as well as genuine interactions to unfold, along with new social relations (of cooperation and egalitarianism, say, not competition and exploitation).

Usually, here in Montreal, all I can see is red — recolored from its murderous, totalitarian associations, for me, with the Communist Party, orthodox Marxism, and various Communist states into something antiauthoritarian, or to put a prefigurative spin on it, liberatory. I incessantly stop on the unending walks here to snap photos of red squares, which I’m now archiving and sharing in a growing collection at http://seeingredmontreal.tumblr.com/archive, thanks to setup help from my friend Kevin Caplicki. (Several folks have kindly offered to add their own snapshots to this ever-increasing sampler, but besides being an archival account of red squares in Montreal, my “Seeing Red” tumblr is an archival account of my own dérive encounters.)

On night 53, though, all I could see was pink. It wasn’t so much that the maybe 100 or so folks who formed the pink bloc actually wore all that much pink; there was probably just as much red — from ruby lipstick to glittery gowns — and black — from painted-on moustaches to the (stereo)typical anarchist attire — within fabulous grouping. Sure, the main banners were fabulously pink, but there were relatively few of those either. And as we mingled in a corner of Émilie Gamelin Park, preparing to strike out into the streets on our lonesome an hour before the regular nightly demo, this bloc felt almost pitifully bedraggled despite all the flamboyant drag.

But I hadn’t counted on its courage, not to mention its cunning. From the moment it put high heel or heavy boot to the pavement, this pink bloc — which I soon found out was heavily weighted toward anarcho-feminist queers — (gender)fucked up the streets and befuddled the cops in a way that seemed as if it were a 1,000 or 10,000 people. And in its nearly 3 hours of wending its own merry way through the downtown, it seemed one of more footloose and headstrong of these illegal demonstrations that I’ve gone on. There may have been a plan — we were, for instance, supposed to leave at 7 p.m. and, I think, supposed to return to Émilie Gamelin Park in time for the now-regular 8:30 p.m. nightly manifestation, yet for no apparent reason we left late (7:30 p.m.) and for no apparent reason we brushed by the park (around 8:30 p.m.), ignoring the “normal” illegalista crew — but it felt more like whimsy carried us on its wings. That, and a whole lot of sassiness.

Perhaps the power of this small pink bloc was in its figurative meeting point: the intersection of queer-as-fuck and anarchist-as-fuck.

For example, there was nary a cop in sight when we first strode out of the park and into the Village, Montreal’s gayborhood, a closed-off street that’s maybe a mile long filled with open-air bars, clubs, and restaurants, and canopied (this summer) by tens of hundreds of thousands of strings of little pink “pearls” overhead. And gays. Lots and lots of partying gays. Our campy crew stood out, as did our queered anticapitalista chants, as spectacle and perhaps subversion of the spectacle we encountered.

Once we hit the end of this pink-lined playground, though, and turned on to a wide open and trafficked street, motorcycle cops quickly steered our way, lights flashing and sirens wailing. They weren’t even pretending to play officer friendly. As genderqueer folks brazenly just pushed past them, the cops grew increasingly aggressive with their motorcycles, running them into the legs of pink bloc participants, who then started this mix of taunting with bodies and chants — like “Police, you suck, but do you swallow?” — and simply outmaneuvering the police. This entailed turning on to streets with oncoming traffic and walking in between cars, so that the police motorcycles couldn’t fit, which at one point so angered the cops they not only really tried so hard to hit us with their motorcycles but turned on near-deafening sirens. More often, this outmaneuvering involved skirting (often in glittery skirts) around the police, in a move that seemed so obvious, it was a wonder it fooled the cops–a whole bunch of times. A few genderfuck folks in the front of our itty-bitty pink bloc would pretend to comply with the cops when they formed a line in the street in front of us, and would walk over to the sidewalk, step up, kinda smile, and then simply dart around the police line, and jump back in the street with glee, while the rest of us raced around past the confused police to catch up with our comrades (up on sidewalk fast too and then back down the street again). Amid all the mayhem whenever this happened, I heard one pink bloc person yell exuberantly: “Are we anarchists?!” And another one of our bunch replied, “Qui! Pink anarchists!”

One of the remarkable things here in Montreal, in general, in relation to this student strike is that people increasingly don’t seem afraid of the police and don’t comply with their orders. The police, in turn, seem to keep trying every trick and tactic in the book — and then some — and increasingly nothing seems to really work. People only grow bolder and less afraid. So on the one hand, what amounted to a handful of queers showing no fear and outfoxing a nearly equal number of cops shouldn’t be that surprising. But on the other hand, it’s a whole hell of a lot harder to face off with police when there are so few of you, when the ratio is probably 1:1, when there are kids marching with you and a lot of people in inappropriate shoes for running (both true in this bloc), and when homophobia is so obviously apparent on the cop’s faces. So the tenacity of this bloc was extra remarkable, yet not because it stood up to the police like many people are doing, but it did it in a way that time and again worked. We went where we wanted to go.

And now I circle back to the dérive.

Seeing pink this evening helped me also see how being in the streets night after night, always illegally, intentionally so — whether “Queer & Feminista! Anticapitalista!” as in this pink bloc, or during the nightly marches in general — has blurred the lines between protestation and reclamation. And maybe that line has been so queered, now after nearly 2 months of contingency, experimentation, and randomness, that we have freed ourselves up to remake the streets on these night strolls in ways we’re hardly aware of and don’t think twice about. Of course we’ll try to outwit the police, sans fear! Of course, they won’t tell us what to do and where to go! Naturally, we’ll zig and zag our way where we please, seeing things anew, falling (or refalling) in love with Montreal, because it’s a different type of Montreal, one that we’re making our way through together.

I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog post or two, but it’s as if the nightly demonstrations are grand civic experiments — in illegality and exercise — but on this queered-up night 53, it seems to me it’s also a grand experiment in dérives. No longer the province of a few artists and intellectuals, or something we do to mimic May ’68, but what dérives really should be: a collective exercise in uncommodifying our world, even if only in temporary ways that begin to show us how we could inhabit our streets, parks, schools, and neighborhoods. Or our festivals. But not just a collective one, and not just a collectively big one either. It’s when it also holds the power in its hands, even if temporarily, putting the powers-that-be on the defensive, where they are having to race around to try to catch up to us, and yet can’t figure out how to do that — like here, in Montreal, this fabulous maple summer, where a few rowdy and well-dressed queers can out-race the police over and over again.

And in this grand, people-powerful dérive that has already outlasted anyone’s wildest fantasies and desires, walking through the streets on these evenings always feels sensuous. One never knows where one will end up or with whom, who one will run into for a good conversation, how many new people you’ll meet or chance encounters, lovely and startling, that you’ll experience, what corners of the city you’ll see for the first time or in a different way, from a different angle — like prancing on the yellow line in the middle of busy street that can’t be busy anymore because it’s ours. On this pink bloc night, there was an extra dreamy quality of serendipity and remaking the city. Maybe it was because, randomly, anarchist friends I hadn’t seen in years suddenly appeared in front of me, for a big hug, and then hours of conversation during which our feet took us places we hadn’t planned to go. Or maybe it was because I’d come downtown thinking I was going to do the pink bloc for an hour, then join the nightly march, but the only time I encountered the nightly march was when it was marching toward our pink bloc as we crisscrossed inside this enormous free French-language music festival, Francofolies, around Place des Arts — surrounded by literally thousands upon thousands of concertgoers cheering us all on, after we’d already “crashed” this music festival, stopping to form a circle for dancing while singing/chanting “Dance, Dance, Dance, the Social Peace Is Over!” while encircled, again, by thousands of supportive concertgoers.

Or maybe it was because of how these nightly dérives are indeed going the distance to reshape social relations.

About a week before this pink bloc evening, our nightly march walked in the direction of the opening night of Montreal’s Francofolies Festival. As we trooped toward one of it’s “free” entrances, a line of police cut us off. Suddenly, from behind the cops, thousands of people raised red flags or pulled out a pot & ladle or simply applauded. The police thought they were separating protesters from nonprotesters; but we encountered “us” on both sides, with the police line suddenly losing all meaning or control. Still, we were barred from entry.

On this pink-bloc night, no one stopped us at the entrance. After dancing, we took our pink-square politics right up to the front of one of the main stages, to then wave anticapitalist and anarchist flags at the heels of one of the bands, as they displayed a red square on the stage above us. One security guard mumbled something about how we were “only girls,” so wouldn’t cause trouble. Then another security guard told one of our posse that the festival organizers had informed the private security and police that all those in favor of the student strike were welcome at the festival, that the festival welcomed and supported the strike. In fact, a bit later on this evening, on the biggest of the main stages, some of the striking-student spokespeople along the School of the Red Mountain artists’ collective were invited up on stage with the Canadian hip-hop group Loco Locass for their last song (“Free Us from the Liberals”) in a grand show of solidarity for this “squarely-in-the-red” movement.

It’s a complicated solidarity, at this festival and elsewhere among the supportive populace of Montreal. It’s partly related to sympathy for the students’ demand of low-cost –and increasingly, maybe even free — education for all those who come after them (contrary to what “popular wisdom” or the mainstream media would have people believe, these student strikers are clear that they won’t be the ones impacted by the tuition hike, which would be phased in after they have graduated, but are demanding that society live up to its promise of this social good). It’s partly related to anti-austerity struggles, here and globally. And it’s partly related to the unique history of Quebec Province, including righting what’s seen as historical wrongs, and related to cultural, language, and sovereignty issues.

But at the end of this long night of walking and dancing at least — night 53, that is — it was definitely solidarity all the way, as in one of our favorite “squarely-in-the-pink” chants:

“Sol-sol-sol, so fucking gay!”

p.s. If you want a good intro to “queer” from an antiauthoritarian perspective — as in something so much more expansive than who you sleep with, because queering that up is often healthy and sex positive too, and so much about how you think about who you are and especially who you could be in so many ways if the socialization and institutions of heteronormativity (so bound up with capitalism and states, but distinct) weren’t constraining us all — then please download, cut, fold, staple, and read the “Gender” pamphlet by Jamie Heckert in our (’cause I’m part of this marvelous collective) Institute for Anarchist Studies new Lexicon series, hosted on the Web site of our good friends at AK Press: http://www.revolutionbythebook.akpress.org/ak-tactical-media/ias-lexicon-pamphlet-series/.

– Cindy Milstein –

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Photos: Silent March Against Stop & Frisk


New York, NY–On June 17th, an estimated 50,000 people silently marched down 5th Avenue in protest against the city’s Stop & Frisk policy.

The most impressive thing about the day was the silence. It spoke volumes as the marchers walked; you could hear the feet quietly shuffle and the birds chirp in the trees of the adjacent Central Park. The amount of people matching with the complete silence was awe inspiring. They came in seemingly endless lines and kept coming, block after block after block. People from all walks of life. People who are fed up with racial profiling, marching in complete silence… It was an amazing afternoon of peace, reflection and unity. Even the NYPD, whom they were protesting against, had to bow their heads in respect.

More of Tim Schreier’s photos, including photos of this event, may be found here.

– Tim Schrier –

Photographer’s note: These photos are “open source” and “public domain” with the condition that no product or service uses them for commercial purposes.

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Photos: June 10, Metro Profiling at the Grand Prix


Editor’s Note: This story is part of our ongoing first-person coverage of protests in Quebec against student debt, tuition hikes and Law 78, as well as actions elseware in solidarity to those causes.

Montreal, QC–The Grand Prix racing event kicked off Sunday morning. I entered the metro around 10:15am with Nicolas Quiazua, editor of McGill University’s Le Délit newspaper. Our bags were searched, and we were told that no media was allowed to go onto the metro that day — so we entered as civilians. When I asked allowed “Is that even legal?” someone behind us responded, “Everything is legal under law 78!”

At the entrance to the event, the profiling was significantly more intense. Anyone with a red square (sign of solidarity with the student movement), or anyone suspicious looking (young) was searched and many were told to leave.

– Zachary Bell –

More photography by Zach at ReCovered

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Photos: June 9th, Anti-Sexism and Nighttime Mayhem


Editor’s Note: This story is part of our ongoing first-person coverage of protests in Quebec against student debt, tuition hikes and Law 78, as well as actions elseware in solidarity to those causes.

Montreal, QC–At 5pm, activists gathered at Phillips Square for the anti-sexism demonstration. The manifestation was controversial among Montreal protesters because it explicitly advocated the abolition of sex work — prompting the moderator of the anti-capitalist CLAC (labor union association) listserv to issue an apology for disseminating information for the event.

The march stopped at various places to deliver speeches against Formula One’s chauvinist culture, like one at the Delta Centreville hotel, which condemned the business as a well-known spot for prostitutes to go with clients.

– Zachary Bell –

More photography by Zach at ReCovered

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