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:
The next day we marched 5 miles in close to 100 degree weather from Trenton to Princeton.
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.
Philadelphia, PA–There was a synchronicity manifesting at the Gathering:
In one of the Trainings, there was talk about making a direct action at Independence Hall. A smaller group took the idea up. People agreed that some action should be taken on such a symbolic day and symbolic place as July 4th, 2012 at Independence Hall–but no one could agree on what to do. We started organizing, spreading the word, and drafting a statement, but as the day approached, it gradually fell apart. Me and another fellow decided to make a last-ditch effort, but he was delayed, and so it turned out that on the morning of Independence Day, I was the only one who showed up.
The Occupy Legal Team had requested that they be notified of any Autonomous Actions beforehand, and this was turning out to be an entirely autonomous, Autarchic Action, so I called them and notified them.
At 9:00 in the morning, I continued on to Independence Hall, and took the first tour. At the end of the tour, in the room where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration, I stepped over the barrier. I said “don’t worry” to the other citizens, and I walked right up to the desk where the original Declaration of Independence was signed by John Hancock. It got really quiet.
I set down the written Declaration I’d brought with me, and I signed it right there on the desk. Then I unfolded the Solidarity Economy flag I’d made, and I spoke extemporaneously to the citizenry. This is approximately what I said:
“In the name of People of the United States–the American People–we declare our independence from Corporations, and our Interdependence with one another. This is a flag for an Interdependent Economy of America–for an Occupied Economy achieved through the Separation of Business and State.”
The other citizens were calm and listened to me. When I’d finished, the ranger said that he understood and related to “what you all are trying to accomplish”, and requested that I leave. I had said what I came to say, and I wrapped myself in the flag and walked out.
In the foyer of the Hall, the National Park Police and Rangers were in full scramble mode. I was arrested and imprisoned in the Federal Detention Center. It was worth it.
In there, I met up with the one Occupier who was still in prison, who’d been imprisoned since the tent-ring on Saturday: 20-year old Nate St.-Martin from New Haven, CT.
I was accused of two misdemeanors: Entering a Closed Federal Area and Interfering with a Federal Officer. We were both released the next afternoon, July 5th.
(Side note: when we organize an Occupy event, we ought to make sure we tell participants to write the phone number of the legal team ON THEIR ARM WITH PEN OR MARKER when they are going on a march or action, because police simply take all one’s papers, including slips of paper with phone numbers, and won’t give them back. Both Nate and I were not able to phone the Occupy Legal Team because of this.)
I got my own “occupy uniform” because the Federal Bureau of Prisons mailed my clothes to my home in upstate NY. So I left with a cool gray federal prison jumpsuit, size XXX Large. It’s actually pretty comfortable, and I felt it was a fitting outfit for present-day America. And it made a striking complement to my “Red Square, Blue Stripes” economic flag that served as my sun-screen and blanket as I continued on.
As I was leaving town that night, I walked up to a random person on the street to ask for directions, and he was astonished (and I was too): he was the Park Service tour guide at the Declaration of Interdependence! We spoke amiably for awhile, he asked to take my picture, and he looked on his phone for directions for where I needed to go. We shook hands and wished each other good luck.
– Travis Henry –]]>
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 –]]>
Philadelphia, PA–The second day of the Occupy National Gathering began with some sense of stability, with Franklin Square set as the permanent location for workshops and the Friends Center’s parking lot as the permanent sleeping area. However, the day of speakers and skill-shares precipitated an evening of arrests, with 25-30 reportedly taken into custody.
The morning of thematic meet-ups was followed by a series of speeches by activists like Occupier Lisa Fithian and CounterPunch contributor Mark Provost. At around 2:00pm, Occupiers broke out into workshops that ranged from the Money Out of Politics Voting Bloc to Code Pink.
A group of protesters, including many who are part of All In The Red, led a casserole march against debt, in solidarity with Montreal’s student strike. The protesters donning red squares were blocked off at Penn’s landing by a line of police. While there were arguments with police, and brief physical contact when cops let civilians pass through the line, there was no real confrontation.
At 6:00pm, Chris Hedges addressed the crowd of Occupiers. Hedges described the state of political America, including the death of the radical class, the “monstrosity of faux liberals like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama,” and the marginalization of structural critique in political discourse. He addressed Occupy’s future, articulating Occupy’s immediate goal “to reverse the corporate coup d’état and put the power back in the hands of people.” Hedges opined that the black bloc’s tactics are destructive because it plays into the hands “of those who want to destroy us” by demonizing Occupy in the mind of the public. But he remained hopeful and urged patience, citing his experience in movements that took time to build: “This is the dress rehearsal for the end of the corporate state.”
At 7:15pm, the first Occupy National Gathering Feminist General Assembly met. Through small and large group discussions, the participants in the FemGA shared how feminism can be alienating, shared common objectives (like ending sexual violence and strict gender roles) and listed the main goals of the FemGA.
By 9:00pm, Occupiers some were getting ready to settle into the parking lot at 4th and Arch and others were preparing to march in a jail solidarity protest. At around 10:30pm, a group of marching protesters were kettled and arrested. Cops used bikes to push Occupiers and refused calls by protesters to explain the charges. Of the 27 reportedly arrested, 7 were released by 9:45am. Others are being released slowly.
– Zachary Bell –]]>
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Philadelphia, PA – After arriving by bus from New York late Sunday morning, I found the National Gathering in Franklin Square. The crowd was smaller than expected: a few hundred people sat in thematic clusters, hiding from the heat in the shade and wrapping up the morning discussions. In the afternoon I joined a march with All in the Red but the highlight, by far, of my first day was going to sleep.
Around 10pm a group of nine of us left the main group that had gathered at the Quaker house parking lot in search of an appropriate bank to sleep in front of. Along the way we picked up another occupier and the ten of us found a PNC bank at Walnut and 9th Street and set up camp. While we began to lay out our yoga mats and sleeping bags, one of the group, who had split off in search of nearby materials we could scavenge, announced he had found a dumpster full of cardboard boxes and even couches and chairs. A team went out to pick up whatever we could use. Once our cardboard beds were made we turned our energy into making signs about our protest; my favorite was a play on the bank’s initials and read ‘People Not Corporations’ on the side of the bank, hanging above our couch. While we were still setting up, a taxi stopped and offered us a ride.
“No we’re sleeping here,” we told him.
“Occupy?” he asked with a heavy accent.
“Yeah,” we told him.
He gave us a big smile and beeped his horn.
Over the next hour two of our group left to make their way back to the Quaker house but two more occupiers passing by joined us, keeping our group at 10 all night. Other occupiers and pedestrians stopped to chat, debate and lend their support. The police and a Homeland Security SUV came by but left us alone, and aside from one heckler who shouted at us, it was all positive.
Our sleepful protest captured some of what I loved so much about Liberty Plaza in the fall: the protest was not a temporary reprieve from our everyday life; our everyday life, both waking and sleeping, was protest.
The actual sleep was not very good, but when the sun rose I still felt refreshed and reenergized. When the bank opened we picked up our cardboard signs and formed a mini picket to greet the arriving employees and customers.
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 –]]>
So, we got a very early start on the road this morning, leaving from Wichita, KS at 8am. Our first part of the trip will be traveling to Okemah, OK, the hometown of Woody Guthrie, where we will be meeting up with the southern caravan.
We picked up two additional people from Wichita, Richard and Ben. Both seem to be very nice people, and seem like they will make a great addition to the group.
So, we made it to Okemah around 12pm, and met up with the southern caravan. We had lunch at this really cute restaurant called Daddios.
So, we are once again on the road. Sorry I have not been posting for the past couple of days, but between live streaming and participation in direct action in New Orleans yesterday, I have just been so exhausted.
In addition, I have been silent the past couple of days because I needed to think on something. You see, on the 18th, I found an article written by Powerline about the Caravan that not only was extremely right wing, but that the author used quotes from my blog and my photos from my blog without even the courtesy of asking my permission first.
Not only was the article so far in right field, but the author of the article, John Hinderaker, who is a lawyer, came to some of the most absurd conclusions. Not only was the article libelous, but you would think that a lawyer would be more familiar with intellectual property law. However, since he apparently is not, let me say now, all content in this blog, including but not limited to blog text and photos, are the intellectual property of myself, and may not be used or reproduced without my expressed permission.
Anyways, enough about that. Now on to how things went for us in New Orleans. First, allow me to say a special thank you to our hosts, Occupy New Orleans and Occupy The Stage. Not only did they give us an extremely warm welcome, they made sure that we will never forget our time there.
Our experience yesterday began at the Superdome when we went to protest the auctioning off of offshore properties in the Gulf of Mexico that were being bid upon for offshore oil drilling purposes. The auction bid reading was open to the public, so we went inside.
While we were inside, we were approached by security, and told we had to leave. At this point, all we had been doing was standing there and listening. At one point, one of the security people told me I was not allowed to be filming her, yet there were at least 10 video cameras filming the reading, including some from mainstream press. I pointed this out to her, and she apparently did not like it, because the next thing you know, she was calling for backup.
It was at this point that some of the media in the room began to notice what was going on. At one point, a person with mainstream media came over, and asked security why we were being asked to leave. He also pointed out that this was a public meeting, and that we were not creating a disturbance by standing there watching.
After a few more moments, security stepped away from the room, and I decided to go out for a cigarette (yeah, I know…smoking is bad!) I got lost trying to find my way out, and went to the wrong side of the arena, and by the time I found the right exit, I saw the rest of our group outside, and I found out that they had been asked to leave after doing a people’s mic and interrupting the auction (I hate when I miss the fun stuff due to smoking!)
Hey again folks. So, we had a very beautiful action this afternoon. We had a small rally of about 30 people who met up at Washington Square Park, where we got to listen to The Willow Family Band perform, before having a march to City Hall.
We marched through the French Quarter, and from what I could see, we had a number.
– James Jennison –]]>
Wichita, KS–Hey guys! So today was a really exciting day. First off, I got to sleep in until around 11am. It was the first time I have been able to sleep in, and it felt wonderful.
The big excitement for us today was the protest we did at Koch Industries. Granted, it was a Saturday, and there was nobody there other than a few security guards, but we did get some honks of support from vehicles that were passing by.
The building that houses Koch Industries, as you can see from the photo above, to me, seemed to be very monolithic. It was this huge, black glassed building, that to me, looked like it came directly from the belly of the beast. We were only on the property for about 10 minutes, before security came out and told us we had to leave and that we were trespassing.
There were 4 security officers that came out to confront us. They told us that we were on “private property,” and that if we refused to leave, they would call the police. Most of the folks who were there in protest stepped back from the property; however, there were a few of us, myself included, who refused to leave. When I asked for the security officer to show me a prominent sign posting that we were on “private property,” they were unable to do so.
Eventually, Wichita Police showed up, and also stated that we were trespassing on “Private Property.” According to Kansas Statute 21-3721 – Criminal Trespass, it states:
(a) Criminal trespass is:(1) Entering or remaining upon or in any land, nonnavigable body of water, structure, vehicle, aircraft or watercraft, other than railroad property as defined in K.S.A. 21-3761, and amendments thereto, or nuclear generating facility as defined in K.S.A. 2007 Supp. 66-2302, and amendments thereto, by a person who knows such person is not authorized or privileged to do so, and:
(A) Such person enters or remains therein in defiance of an order not to enter or to leave such premises or property personally communicated to such person by the owner thereof or other authorized person; or
(B) such premises or property are posted in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders, or are locked or fenced or otherwise enclosed, or shut or secured against passage or entry; or
(C) such person enters or remains therein in defiance of a restraining order issued pursuant to K.S.A. 60-1607, 60-3105, 60-3106, 60-3107, 60-31a05 or 60-31a06 or K.S.A. 2007 Supp. 38-2243, 38-2244 or 38-2255, and amendments thereto, and the restraining order has been personally served upon the person so restrained; or
(2) entering or remaining upon or in any public or private land or structure in a manner that interferes with access to or from any health care facility by a person who knows such person is not authorized or privileged to do so and such person enters or remains thereon or therein in defiance of an order not to enter or to leave such land or structure personally communicated to such person by the owner of the health care facility or other authorized person.
(b) As used in this section:
(1) “Health care facility” means any licensed medical care facility, certificated health maintenance organization, licensed mental health center, or mental health clinic, licensed psychiatric hospital or other facility or office where services of a health care provider are provided directly to patients.
(2) “Health care provider” means any person: (A) Licensed to practice a branch of the healing arts; (B) licensed to practice psychology; (C) licensed to practice professional or practical nursing; (D) licensed to practice dentistry; (E) licensed to practice optometry; (F) licensed to practice pharmacy; (G) registered to practice podiatry; (H) licensed as a social worker; or (I) registered to practice physical therapy.
(c) (1) Criminal trespass is a class B nonperson misdemeanor.
(2) Upon a conviction of a violation of subsection (a)(1)(C), a person shall be sentenced to not less than 48 consecutive hours of imprisonment which must be served either before or as a condition of any grant of probation or suspension, reduction of sentence or parole.
(d) This section shall not apply to a land surveyor, licensed pursuant to article 70 of chapter 74 of the Kansas Statutes Annotated, and amendments thereto, and such surveyor’s authorized agents and employees who enter upon lands, waters and other premises in the making of a survey.
I pointed out to the officers who showed up that according to section A, subsection B, that Koch Industries did not have a sign stating that it was private property. When confronted with this information, one of the officers arbitrarily determined what was to be considered the property line for Koch Industries, giving those of us that were protesting and area less than 2 feet from the side of the road.
I’m sorry, but it is getting very late here (1:12AM) and we are taking off early tomorrow. We will be heading to Oklahoma City, OK in the morning, and we are planning on leaving at 8am. I will continue with the recap of the Koch action tomorrow while we are on the road, as well as my regular updates as well.
Until then, I bid you goodnight.
– James Jennison –]]>
Wichita, KS–So, I have to apologize for not posting to the blog yesterday. Since I was traveling in a different van, with different people, I decided to try something different with my live stream. Since I had access to a consistent power source, I decided to stream non-stop for the day, so I did not have a chance to do any regular updates. I will however upload the pictures that I took yesterday, under the post called Day 4.
Today, I decided to do the same thing and stream non-stop, so I don’t have as many pictures as I would normally have taken. I’ll go back to taking more pictures beginning tomorrow.
So, today, we traveled from Denver, CO to Wichita, KS. To be honest, I wasn’t altogether impressed with the scenery. There really was nothing to see once we got into eastern Colorado…just dry plains as far as the eye could see.
We did have a great stop in the city of Colby, KS however. We stopped at this really cute little bar/restaurant called Mabel’s. We met both the owner of the bar, and the owner of the building. Both were extremely warm and welcoming, and they even made us a plate of something wonderful, of which for the life of me, I can’t remember what it’s called. I did take a picture of it, and have included it with this post. Lunch was fantastic, and I don’t remember the last time I had a bacon cheeseburger that tasted so good.
We arrived in Wichita around 9:30pm, and we drove to the Peace & Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas, where we were greeted by about 7 or 8 people with open arms. We also found out that we will be adding one more person to our group, by the name of Richard. He will be the first addition to our group since we left Oakland.
We will be staying in Wichita for 2 nights, and then heading to Oklahoma City, OK, where we will be converging with the southern caravan. That will be nice as I will be able to see some of my friends that I made in LA from when we went to Chicago. I only hope that the southern route is having as much of a good time with their group as I am with ours.
Anyways, I’m sorry that today’s post is not in as much detail as my previous ones. I will get back to my normal updates tomorrow as I am able.
– James Jennison –]]>