From this angle all I can see are his boots, more particularly the black military boot, buckled in silver that is blocking my ability to finish my chalk drawing. It is three in the morning and I am about to be arrested. I am using chalk to draw out the blueprints of where the tents had been prior to the dismantling of the Occupy Wall Street encampment by the NYPD in Zuccotti Park. The park sits on a north to south slope just two blocks south of Wall Street and just above the site of Ground Zero. Surrounded by a modern black framed building to the east and a marble brick building remnant of opulent French architecture to the west, in the waking hours these buildings cast an almost permanent shadow over the park, chilling its cement degrees colder than the surrounding areas.
I am kneeling on the cement in what had been the Meditation Circle during the encampment. I can hear the echoes of chants and vaguely see the circle of brightly dressed meditators in my memory. Time has left a shadow imprinted upon me, a memory of the altar built of candles varying from glass cased Virgin Mary candles to hundreds of tea lights. I can recall the heavy smell of sage and frankincense. I can see the yoga mats laid out neatly across the cement. Now the red and deep grey cement forms a circle around a small yearling elm tree, which in turn is surrounded by cold steel blue benches. A lonely businessman sits with his briefcase open on his lap, his eyes blank for he is merely a statue. Directly across the street is a towering, two floor Burger King. Its familiar lighted logo helps cast light onto my drawings.
I had already drawn the blueprints of most of the park under the watchful and suspicious eyes of a crowd of twenty NYPD officers and their white shirted captain. What had been the drummer’s arena was to the east of the meditation circle. Before the eviction, bright clothed drummers had hammered in unison for hours upon hours during the day and into the night, while crowds of tourists swayed unconsciously to the ever present beat. In this mostly dark moment, however, it was an empty set of four stairs overlooking the street and the Burger King and pizza joint on the other side. From the former drummer’s circle you could look straight up and to the right and be humbled by the frame of the 9/11 memorial building. Heavy steel frames, mostly deep red were piled, it felt, as high as the eye could stand to look without looking directly into the sun. What seemed like hundreds and hundreds of feet up the memorial frame someone had spray painted Local 616 in fluorescent orange.
The center of the park had served as our makeshift kitchen, which served 10,000 free meals every day. It had been a bustling center of operations, but now it was quiet. Two cement chess tables complete with benches sat beneath where an eight by ten tent had covered them. Two ten foot wide circles stretched out around another pair of saplings, these with white glittering Christmas lights. In fact, the entire cement ground of the park had been laid with intermittent lights. Every ten feet or so what should have been just another floor brick was a thick glass cover to a floor lamp. It had the effect of making the park appear to be a chess board in the evening.
On the side facing Wall Street was the 15 meter tall sculpture of bright orange. I had never taken the time to look into its origins but had heard the rumors it was called “Liberty.” There was in fact a certain spot where one could stand where the humbling orange sculpture seemed to appear as a massive dollar sign towering over the business people who rushed to and from their workplaces every day. As I drew, I heard the sound of the falafel trucks closing down for the evening. In the days of the encampment there would be almost ten of them circling the park, each truck highlighted by massive photographs of meal options. In this moment, in the tense darkness, there were only a few left. One or two I could see out of the corner of my eyes, packing up their tools for the few hours before dawn.
Now, as I stared at the boot of the police officer, who informed me if I got any chalk on him I was going to be sorry, I tried to recreate the beautiful altar in the meditation circle. I drew dripping candles with flames, flowers and sets of beads. I knew my arrest was imminent and put my heart into the last few flower petals. I wasn’t facing the park, but from my kneeling position I could imagine the empty chessboard behind me. I vaguely hear the park official tell me stop, and the sound of police officers echoing his commands, but I wasn’t finished. As the police officers circled around me and the captain made his order, I held on to my chalk as tightly as I could.
On Occupy Wall Street’s one-year anniversary, over 180 people were arrested–including journalists doing their jobs. Below are first-person accounts from journalists arrested at various actions throughout the day.
New York, NY – I set my alarm to go off at 5:00 so that I’d be able to leave by 5:30 to get to 55 Water (The Vietnam Veteran’s memorial) at 6:30. The alarm went off and I got up, but I figured “I showered last night I don’t have much to do before I leave, I can lay down for a second again and then head out.” I wake up again at 6:30…
I throw clothes on, pack up my battery pack, and book it. I get to Wall Street at 7:15. OccupyTime is a wonderful thing as they are still organizing.
A group of about 300 people leaves from 55 Water at around 7:30 and we march with intent to form The People’s Wall in front of the NYSE. This action’s intent would be to block anyone from entering the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). It is no surprise this action really just ended up with us marching in circles around the financial district. The area was heavily fortified and there was no way the police were going to let us anywhere near the NYSE. This was not terribly surprising but it was certainly discouraging to me. No matter, back to 55 Water St to regroup.
Now for the action entitled “99 Revolutions.” This is when the fun began. We left the Veteran Memorial in smaller Affinity Groups. The idea for 99 Revolutions was to disperse in small groups and block traffic at intersections in a very decentralized manner. The theory: the police know how to deal with a centralized group. The police will not be as able to stop a great many different groups, in various locations, around the financial district. Some groups would get stopped yes, but many would likely be able to cause traffic jams. This plan worked brilliantly.
I happened by about several different intersections where traffic was being slowed down considerably due to the protester and police presence. I saw several arrests as well. Here are some videos:
Arrests resulting from the congestion at William and Pine (video length approx 5 mins):
At the 3:00 mark of this video you can hear the crowd chanting “We! Pay Your Salary!” http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25483598
It is very much worth noting the success of this tactic of intersection blockades can be seen through the action at this intersection lasted about 5 and a half minutes. During that time. Not one police officer came to stop us. I heard somewhere the officers were busy on dealing with our successful congestion of Broadway.
The intersection blockades lasted until 10, at which point we all met up at Bowling Green (the location of the Wall Street Bronze Bull Statue) for an environmental action. As usual the police had the bull completely surrounded and guarded from the threat of protesters who, at most, would have had difficult time putting a dent in the statue because it is made of bronze.
My feeling about Jill Stein is as follows. I like what she says. However, there’s no chance she’ll ever win election. Until there is serious electoral reform (at least) the only candidates who will ever have a chance to win are those from the corporate whore parties (Democrats/Republicans). So though Jill Stein seems cool to me, I can’t get overly excited about her. At most I hope she inspires others.
After this we took a short break and had an Action Spokes council in Battery Park to discuss what actions would take place for the rest of the day. I didn’t attend this because my phone was not charging well off my battery which meant I needed a new cable. I headed to J&R. This unfortunately did not pan out well since J&R is owned by Jewish people and S17 was the first day of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. So I looked around, saw a Sprint store, assumed a cell phone store would have a cable to charge a cell phone, and went there to buy it. Success!
This is also when I realized I had an opportunity to get lunch so I hit up a halal cart and went to eat in Liberty Square. I met with friends, chatted, and nourished myself on Chicken and Rice. I was also informed of a march that would be taking place by VOCAL NY I believe after the rally that was about to take place.
I want to say right off the bat, I respect and appreciate every organization that came to the rally and said their piece. The more community groups we have the better. The more organized we are the better. The more we work to fix our own problems instead of relying on a leader the better. However, I really, really, really, really, really, really, really hate rallies. I find them incredibly boring and scripted. I can appreciate an organized march with a scripted demonstration within it. However, I get bored out my mind standing in one place for an hour listening to community organizations plug themselves. Some people like rallies because of the structuring, programming, and the way that they can learn about organizations. For learning about organizations, yes, rallies are cool. However, most of the time the speakers at rallies just say relatively generic stuff which appeals to audiences interested in the same causes they are.
Anyway, after the rally I got wind of another action to happen at the World Financial Center. I raced over.
As soon as I got there I noticed there was private event going on (it seemed to be a car show). I hit up the celly loop to get the word out. The new plan was apparently to meet up by the marina. Yup, there was a crowd there of probably 3 to 400. We had a short discussion over the fact that there were people in Liberty Square who wanted to join us. This however would have taken too long. The group ended up splitting at this point. One group went to Goldman Sachs to do a civil disobedience where I believe 5 people were arrested. Another group went to the FDR drive to block traffic for about a minute. I went with the group to Goldman Sachs. Unfortunately my camera angles weren’t very good here so there’s not much to post.
Next we went back to Liberty Square. By this point the atmosphere was vibrant in the park. Full of celebration, discussion, nostalgia, singing, dancing, drumming. It was just like the days of the Occupation when the movement had finally gotten mainstream attention to draw in the crowds, and we hadn’t put up tents yet. It was perfect and words can’t describe it, just watch…
(approx video length 30:00) http://ustre.am/_1IWNz:1eix
The next march we did was at about 3:30 and we wanted Wall Street. The restrictions on the area had dropped a bit from the morning’s attempts and we got so far as a block from the New York Stock Exchange. Upon reaching Nassau Street and Pine Street I had already made my way to the front of the march and I got a surprise. THE PEOPLE’S GONG! It was unfortunately cut short as the police realized what we were doing and viewed it as something which could be a potential “win” if we were allowed to recite the whole thing; so they pushed the entire crowd back. It was awesome though.
At this point I took down my feed and needed lunch. My lunch had left me relatively unfulfilled, I was dehydrated, and dealing with the shock of being EXTREMELY close to police brutality on the last march (I saw an officer ram an Occupier’s head into the scaffolding on Cortlandt St. I’d post this footage, but even though my phone never showed any kind of signal problem, the footage is no longer in my archive and I never deleted it).
The GA happened at 8 in Liberty Square and I just wanted to relax for a bit and talk to friends, and gather myself. I took my feed down for maybe an hour.
At around 10 was when we got the first sign of the police saying “okay kiddies, time to end the celebration.” The lights over the park turned off, and the police presence had grown to some degree around the park. This caused some concern amongst those present in the park which a few people (GA provocateurs from back when) took full advantage of and almost manipulated us into a march. A march would have led to a beat down as it was after hours, and past sundown, in New York. We were saved though. Occu-cake was served.
(video length approx 3:30) http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25495512
The rest of the night consisted of the police intimidation tactics and not much else. They shined 6 floodlights into the park. Yes, 6 floodlights, because 7 would have been too many… They came in and escalated the environment for no reason and then left. We reacted with some cop hate getting spewed on one side of the park while people danced for Anarchy on the other side. Some of us dealt with the the police escalation with a massive Occupy Ohm Circle. It was a wonderful, trademark way to end the 1 year anniversary.
I remember, when the park was raided back on November 15 and the newspapers were saying “Occupy faces an uncertain future,” my response was “the raid saved the movement because it forced us to band together and stand our ground.” The raid also gained us a lot of support from the general public as, on raid night, the Occupy Wall Street trend eclipsed ALL other trends on twitter. Everyone who was involved in the movement just laughed at the media’s death sentencing of us. We got together and we organized, we did road trips, we made friends, we started building alliances with community organizations. We started Interoccupy. We resurfaced on May Day and inspired tons of other groups to join the May Day march (who’d never wanted to associate with it before). We went to the NATO summit in Chicago in spite of the fact that everyone was terrified of what might happen to us, and we ended up becoming very acquainted with Michigan Avenue. We held the National Gathering. We did a 99 mile march. We went to the RNC and the DNC.
Now however I do need to ask whether or not we face an uncertain future. Occupy succeeded in changing the conversation of the nation, which is no easy task. There has also been a lot of inspired activism from Con Ed workers, the Chicago Teacher’s strike, and smaller more under-unionized groups like Car Wash Workers. It’s wonderful how we’re starting to see a growth in activism in the country. I do need to ask, though. What does Occupy do now? We spent a year complaining, and there was a LOT to complain about. However, amidst the complaining, we’re going to have to start offering solutions. Maybe not concrete solutions, but we need to start offering ideas and having discussions. You can’t only talk about the negatives without exploring ways to fix them. This does not necessarily mean reforms. It just means we have to start giving people reasons why they should still believe in us.
The anniversary proved that Occupy never died (even though the Mainstream Media has said the 1500 protesters in Zuccotti Park/Liberty Square only numbered “a few hundred” protesters on S17). What do we have to show for it though? Great, we never left, what did we learn in over the past year about ourselves and about organization? Where did we mess up? Where did we succeed? Where did we wander with a lack of understanding what we were doing? How do we do outreach? How do we communicate better with one another? What does it mean to Occupy?
No matter what the answer is we can’t be stuck on particulars. In-fighting wont solve anything, and we’ve seen too much of that already. We have to work towards the world that we want, but we CANNOT be certain of what that world will be. The main reason for this is, we’re not prophets, and we if we try to be extremely rigid in our visions of the future, we’ll fail at accomplishing any vision for the future besides a dispersed, and divided one. One of the values of true Anarchy, as I understand it, is learning to respect one another and accept our differences, coexisting but making sure we hold each other accountable. Can we do this? We wont reach solve everything in a year from now, and we wont do it in two years either. However, what can we accomplish in a year? What would be significant, yet practical?
I’m in this for the long haul, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
New York, NY -So I really should be going to sleep and resting up for tomorrow, but instead I’m going to write this up because I’m stupid. Today started off with a march from Gansevoort and West St (the construction sight of the Spectra Pipeline). I got to this late and had to log into another channel to get directions and a location for the march.
The march was a lot of fun. I caught up with it around 3rd avenue and 14th street and followed it to Union Square, where we saw a few speak outs and some music from the Guitarmy. Then we marched to Foley Square, where Occupy Town Square would take place with a permitted concert. Yes, that’s correct, Occupy Wall Street got a permit for something. Hell has frozen over…
On the way to Union Square there were two arrests of members of the group Code Pink. Both arrests were of women. These arrests were done to quell the momentum of the march, as the arrests were of two of the main speakers. As a result of both arrests the remaining Code Pink members lost their initiative to make their statement in front of Bank of America. This is unfortunate because Code Pink rocks.
Anyway upon getting to Foley Square I took my feed down to go and exchange the Galaxy S3 I bought on S15. The next Galaxy was just as bad and didn’t connect to my hotspot. So now I’m using the original phone which unfortunately means I can’t livetweet pictures. Also, the biggest issue I have is that my hotspot is not very good. I need one that is more reliable; unfortunately this costs a lot more and I don’t have the money for monthly fees.
The Occupy Town Square was fun and we had nice music. Most of the artists I wasn’t terribly impressed by but Tom Morello played and he always kicks ass. At the end of his set he also asked the Occupiers present to rush the stage!
Following this we had an action spokes council meeting… I don’t wanna say much about this until things are carried out tomorrow. I have opinions but I’d prefer to comment on the events after seeing them in action and not speculating about them from a theoretical perspective. The only thing I will say is the meeting was held in a humorous location… One Police Plaza!
Next we had Occupy Rosh Hashanah, which was really beautiful. I was surprised how many Occupiers could accurately mic-check in Hebrew. We broke Challah bread, drank grape juice (no alcohol in public) and blew Shofar. I thought some of the readers were REALLY over the top but whatever. It was a nice night.
New York, NY–So literally last night an email was passed around in one of the affinity groups I’m in, citing an article about an Anti-Occupy Wall Street/Anti-Obama rally to take place in New York. The rally was part of the “Obama’s Failing Agenda Tour.” It was paid for by Americans For Prosperity (AFP), the SuperPAC funded by the Billionaire industrialist Koch Brothers, who co-opted the original Tea Party movement to get the current Republican congress (Headed by John Boehner) elected. There was a buzz in the listserv about attending the demonstration and making an ass of them. I was really looking forward to getting some sleep, but as soon as I saw that, I was down for streaming. Even if no one went to it I would have gone and been the most sarcastic person on the planet. As it turned out we had about 6 people go there to fool around.
I get to Times Square at around 9:30 and see no one from the affinity group. So I headed to 6th and 50th because, whether I was alone or not, I was gonna have fun at that demonstration. I ended up finding the group and we headed to the rally with signs reading “I dream of a white president…Just like they used to be,” “Every Man For Himself – Jesus,” “Get the government out of my social security,” “Let them eat cake,” and others. With friends I could livestream, I was just gonna watch the magic unfold…
We get there at the end of a speech, from a paid representative for AFP doing the normal, tax-the-rich-less BS. We quietly join the crowd and hold up our signs. Once they realized what we were doing, the Tea Partiers began efforts to block our signs. Standing in front of us, or holding their signs in front of ours–what ever they could do to shield us and our infiltration from the cameras. Didn’t work. By the way I saw two Tea Partiers holding signs that reading “Thank you Koch Brothers” and “99% Shut Up.”
Once the speaker finished we started getting more attention. Our intention was just to engage them in discussion, and we did just that. An Occupier using the pseudonym Warren Bancroft, representing his Facebook group Americans For Inequality, took the Tea Partiers to school.
It was a great action and we ended up in tons of different news outlets.
The Guardian even came out with an article called “Occupy Wall Street activists commandeer anti-Occupy Wall Street rally.” Read it here.
This was such a success, and we completely stuck it to the Koch Brothers. It is very likely the Koch Brothers planned this rally to counteract the success (maybe) of the Occupy Wall Street 1-year anniversary. Well, I’d say Occupy took the reigns and built on the momentum of the September 17th day of action.
Editor’s Note: This story first appeared on Truthout.org. It is reprinted here with permission.
[All names of those arrested have been either omitted or changed to protect those with open cases.]
The first time I was arrested as a journalist covering Occupy Wall Street was a long and nightmarish journey through the intake procedure of what is mistakenly referred to as our criminal justice system.
The second time I was arrested – on September 17th, 2012, the one-year anniversary of Occupy – my time in custody was significantly shorter, but that was due to dumb luck, not a sudden respect for the press from the NYPD. My friend Jesse Myerson, also a journalist, often says that the fundamental question regarding the NYPD is whether they are driven more by stupidity or cruelty. Regardless of the specific proportions in my interactions with them, there has often been a healthy mix of both.
Shortly after 3:30 p.m., a march departed from the red cube across from Liberty Square with the goal of reading the People’s Gong – a passionate declaration of resistance to the supremacy of capital – at or around the intersection of William and Wall Street, close to the New York Stock Exchange.
After a lively march that I characterized on Twitter at the time as possibly the most festive I had ever seen for Occupy Wall Street, the protesters ended up at the corner of Nassau and Pine. The “ringing” of the People’s Gong commenced, and shortly afterwards I was on the ground with an officer telling me, “it’s all right, it’s over now.”
At 0:37, you can see an officer grab John, who is clearly standing on the sidewalk, and pull him into the street. His sister Molly is standing directly behind him when he’s grabbed.
My attorney has advised me not to describe the specifics of the arrest until my case has concluded, but I can safely say I was standing on the sidewalk at the time of my state-sponsored assault. The force with which I was thrown to the ground slid my glasses down the bridge of my nose, giving me the appearance of some sort of cartoonish professor. After being raised to my feet, a giant officer, softer around the edges than on the eyes, didn’t simply push my glasses back up my nose for the nerd-assist; he took them off and put them in my pocket. He meant it as a kind gesture, I think, which only serves to show the complete submission the police expect from people they’re charged with protecting. You’re with us now; your sight is unnecessary.
Two of the seven protesters in the arrest van had blood covering on their faces. I don’t know the specifics of either arrest, but one, a traveler named Todd, had a nasty-looking cut above his left eye, and possibly a bruised eye as well. He works handing out Metro or AM New York newspapers in the subway in the morning.
“If I have to stay over night, I’m gonna lose my fucking job,” he said as leaned his head back. Martina, a young Chilean woman, had also bled profusely from a cut above her eye. She had a makeshift bandage on her head such as you might see in an amateur Civil War re-enactment. Her flex-cuffs were on so tight, her hands were turning purple.
“You gotta fix this woman’s cuffs,” yelled Derick, a member of the legal support group Mutant Legal. “Her hands are turning purple man.”
A cop sat in the back corner of the van, taking down our names. “We’ll get to it,” he said. Derick told Martina to lean forward to help blood circulation, which she did.
“Hey, someone out there got a cutter so we can re-cuff this one?” the cop asked, nodding at Martina.
An officer standing outside said yeah, then walked away. A protester who had never been arrested before briefly joked about singing songs, as he’d heard that’s what people do in this situation.
The cop suggested against it. “Your morale depends on my morale,” he said, his voice empty of sarcasm, humor or empathy.
An officer standing outside slammed the door shut, and we proceeded to One Police Plaza for processing, with Martina, covered in blood, trying to keep quiet despite the pain in her hands.
When we got to 1PP, as it’s called, the police there looked over Martina and determined she had to go to the hospital because of the injuries sustained during her arrest. Martina might have weighed 115 pounds, and has a somewhat bird-like quality about her.
When they got to me, a thuggish bully named Czark looked at the non-NYPD-issued media pass hanging from a lanyard around my neck. He was a White Shirt, or high ranking officer, with between 15 and 20 years on the force, signified by the three arrows on his sleeve.
“I’m a journalist.”
“You’re wearing this around your neck, like a press pass though, right?”
I informed him that I was a journalist and that I wasn’t going to say anything else until I spoke with my attorney. He took the press pass off from around my neck.
“This is some bullshit, right? I mean, what, you make this yourself?”
I said nothing, although the pass had been issued by [radio station] WBAI.
He took the pass, which has my photo on it, told me to get back in the van, and said he was going to check with their press department to see if I was a “real” journalist. He returned shortly after to inform me that, “No, you’re not in the database.” He looked at the gentle young cop who would be referred to as my arresting officer and said, “Take him to that pen over there.”
While a protester who had had several buttons popped from his shirt in his arrest and I were processed in our outdoor pen, a cop taking down Todd’s information stopped, and looked around.
“Wait, we can’t take this guy’s picture,” which they were doing on our intake. The cop pointed at Todd’s bloodied face and gave a what-do-we-do-about-this shrug. I think Todd ended up going to the hospital, as I don’t recall seeing him in the group cell later on, though I could be wrong.
The police had reserved a large group cell exclusively for Occupiers, as near as I could tell. The cell was actually two rooms, each about 20 by 25 feet, bisected with an open cell door and with a pair of disgusting toilets in the far corner. The cell was filled with about 40 protesters when I arrived.
Each person who entered was greeted with uproarious applause and hugs, and hey-they-got-you-too?s from friends who had missed the afternoon action. I saw a friend who had been arrested with me on December 12th and we hugged and shared a back-here-goddammit moment.
The criminal justice system relies on its victims having a lack of information about their rights. Because of my previous experience I knew that the iris scans the police tell you to take are optional.
The iris scans – which, I know, sounds creepy – are a two-step process, the stated purpose of which is to make sure you’re the same person going to see the judge who was brought in initially. They scan your eyes on intake, and then again at arraignment.
Their real purpose is to gain bio-metric data about you for their database, same as fingerprints. The first time I was arrested, several of us didn’t consent to the first round of the eye scan. So, when it came time for the second round of the eye scan, right before we were set to see the arraignment judge, there was no first scan to compare it to. Despite this, we were threatened with an extra night in jail if we declined the second eye scan, even though its stated purpose – to match it with the first scan – was impossible.
I mic-checked this information to my cellmates, some of whom were familiar with it and some of whom weren’t. Derick, the guy from Mutant Legal, added some other helpful information, and then went back to sleep. You can tell the old-hats because they don’t get mad or shout or anything; they go to sleep.
I talked to Juan, from Puerto Rico, who was in the van with me. He and Martina kissed in the van in a few beautiful stolen moments – the only things stolen that day by activists – and I would’ve killed to get that shot.
“Martina’s your girlfriend?” I asked.
“For how long?”
I burst out laughing and hugged and congratulated him, and told him I hoped Martina was okay.
“Yeah, I’m pretty worried about her.”
I also talked to Jim, who told me that after crossing the street with the light and returning to the sidewalk, a White Shirt pointed him out to a rank and file cop, and said, “That guy.”
At one point, a 17-year-old kid named Clay jumped up onto a bench to address us.
“When they took my information in the other room,” he said loudly and clearly, “they told me I should be ashamed of myself. That my father isn’t proud of me. But being in here with you guys, I just feel so much love and solidarity and it’s really great.”
Amid the applause, an old activist yelled, “Kid, your father’s proud of you, I guarantee it.”
Most of the Occupiers hung out in the front of the cell, near the door, so they could hear their name if it got called. One guy in the back, though, saw a TV on the other side of the cage.
“Hey, look!” he yelled. “We’re on the news!” Several people rushed back to see a Chyron that read, “Over 100 arrested on Occupy Wall Street’s Anniversary,” and everyone burst into cheers like New Years Eve.
I was only held for a few hours, given a Desk Appearance ticket, and allowed to leave. Thankfully I had an amazing group of friends, including my sister and co-host on Radio Dispatch, waiting for me at jail support. Being released to a torrent of well wishes in person and online certainly makes the whole experience more bearable.
But despite the relative ease of this detainment, there is an anger inside me that I can’t shake. I can’t begin to imagine how Jateik Reed must feel, or how Ramarley Graham’s family must feel.
When you’re the ward of the system, it strikes you that at every opportunity, every touch point, the person dealing with you just wants to be done dealing with you. Both times I’ve been arrested, it’s been White Shirts who have grabbed me and thrown me to the ground, but they pass the paperwork off to some low level officer (both of whom have been quite nice in my cases) who, despite being identified as my “arresting officer,” had nothing to do with my arrest.
Then, if they transfer you to the tombs, you become the Department of Corrections problem. The DOC doesn’t care what you did or who you are, they just want to get rid of you. The arraigning judge spends less than five seconds, literally, on you. It goes on and on like that.
Our entire justice system resembles nothing so much as a factory farm. Instead of chickens in cages, we put black and brown people in cages. The product isn’t chicken nuggets, it’s politicians who run on Tough On Crime, or the contracts businesses get to sell prison supplies, or the money made in the private prison industry, an industry whose incentives are so evil that they very nearly defy description.
The byproducts – the pink slime – is disenfranchisement, cheap labor and a culture that continues to treat black men as inherently dangerous, as one step away from being rightly locked up.
This is to say nothing of the Muslims who have been kidnapped and killed by the United States. Adnan Latif, whom I wrote about for AlterNet, had been repeatedly cleared for transfer back to Yemen, but he died in Guantanamo Bay because the despicable Obama justice department intervened. Will any establishment journalists ask Obama about the death of Adnan Latif, or the hundreds of others murdered while detained by US forces?
A form of authoritarianism has arrived in the US. I don’t say this because I was arrested, but because to look over the past 11 years and arrive at any other conclusion is delusional. Police routinely pre-arrest activists before planned actions. Innocent men are held in cages with no hope of freedom. Elites are not only free from prosecution for their crimes, but are actively protected by the justice system and use the law as a weapon against those not in their class.
Trevor, who had been snatched up while taking pictures as a bystander, not a protester or journalist, is moving to California soon for undergrad.
“I had read about [Occupy] and the police and stuff, but I didn’t really realize how bad it was until I saw it,” he said, nervous like a young man who didn’t expect to go to jail that day. “I mean, it’s really, really bad.”
Monday was a funny day. I went incognito as a worker in the financial district, and, slipping past a checkpoint, clicked my heels on the cobblestones plunked in front of the stock exchange.
One of my clients, who works in the tallest building above the stock exchange, was blocked from entry because he looked like a dirty hippie.
A cop impersonating an anarchist blew her cover.
And a News 1 reporter with an inch of make-up on his face was called out as a little bit of a fraud.
5 a.m.: Getting into disguise
I wake in the dark, put on a fitted black skirt, to the knee. I look at my dogwalking shoes – can I get away with wearing them? I can’t afford to get arrested – I have to go to work at noon, and may need to do some running to evade the police. I reach for some pearls, step into heels. Then I realize I probably need to shave off that 4 months of hair on my legs, too.
Downstairs I run, to unlock my massive bike chain and skim down the street, pedal by pedal in my precarious heels. Soon I am flying over the Brooklyn Bridge as dawn rises, the pink financial district nearing by the millisecond.
7:30 a.m.: Trading places
We converge at the Staten Island Ferry terminal, and then, holding aloft flourescent green and pink signs reading “Wall Street, the business of extinction”, and “System change, not climate change,” the Eco Block sings and skips our way down the streets. We near the center of power, lickety split.
Many of us are in our Wall Street best, dressed as the 1%. We know that from all directions, dozens of us, if not more, will go undetected.
There on Broad Street looms the Stock Exchange, its pillars swathed with the broad striped flag. Leaning against a delivery van, a guy with a semi-scruffy look is taking photos of a checkpoint blocking the way to Wall Street.
It dawns on me that I know this guy. “Zach?” I venture. He puts his camera down and his photographers’ look of concentration gives way. Yes, it’s Zach, one of my former “clients”, a nice guy who owns a nice chocolate lab named Umphrey. I was his dogwalker last year.
“I can’t get to work!”, he snickers.
“And where’s that?”, I ask.
“On the 30th floor, up there.” He points to the building just adjacent to the Stock Exchange.
“What do you do?”
“I work in finance.”
Probably because of his telltale beard, they cast him to the street like riffraff. Yet I actually sneak through a checkpoint nearby.
It’s absurd. I don’t have anything planned for this moment. I never thought they’d actually let me through. So I walk around the Police State that is the financial district this September morning, taking pictures of the long lines of Wall Street workers waiting to show their IDs at every juncture.
The police do our job for us – disrupting “business as usual.”
10:45 a.m.: Cover, blown
Several hundred people sit crosslegged in a circle, watching a puppet show like children enthralled. Faces old and young, striking and plain, are all lit with wonder and whimsy, sharing in the magic. The puppets tuck themselves away, a different kind of sharing set to begin: a Speak Out.
Then someone introduces Cheri Honkala and Jill Stein of the Green Party, and Honkala steps up to speak at Bowling Green. Neither celebrities nor politicians are to be privileged to rise above or attract more attention than anyone else. Stein is welcome to speak, but so is everyone else.
Yet the Speak Out is not happening as planned. Behind-the-scenes confusion breaks out (except right in front of everybody). Time is running out.
Jill Stein’s “handler” Kate, though young and lovely, looks pale, lined and distraught. She points at a woman standing behind Jill Stein, whose eyes are utterly obscured behind black bug-eyed hipster sunglasses. “This woman has been following us from engagement to engagement.”
Without thinking, I reach out. One hand instinctively lights on the “disrupter’s” tattoed shoulder. I ask what’s wrong.
“I want to speak! Politicians are speaking, and I’m an anarchist, and I can’t speak? Look at all these white women.” I agree with her that that’s not how things should go, that this is supposed to be a Speak Out, but things have gone screwy and time has stolen away. A nearby “friend” starts reasoning with her, but though she is being helpful, I don’t trust her. She seems a bit rehearsed.
“Why are you smiling at me like that, patronizing me in that white-woman-way. Take your hands off me.” I look away to face her companion, who is repeating that I am patronizing them with my smile. “I probably am,” I admit, thinking that a different kind of entitlement is at work here. I look back at Stein, who is wrapping up.
THEN IT HAPPENS. “If you don’t take your hands off of me right now…”, the bug-eyed eyeless hipster-punk growls, as two puppeteers holding a banner look on.
“Take your hands off of me or I’ll arrest… you.”
She falls silent. She’s said it as if she has said it many times before.
Her companion takes a deep breath.
“Ah, you’re doing a great job!” I smile snidely. “Or actually, come to think of it, you just fucked up, didn’t you, now?” And then, “I understand, you’re ‘just doing your job.’” Why do a lot of people become cops, I think, but because they felt powerless at some point in their lives. Threatened by my calm, or maybe genuinely triggered by my white, privileged, patronizing attitude, she’s reverted to cop mode to regain control.
“She’s not a cop,” says her friend, perturbed.
“No anarchist has it in them to say, ‘Get your hands off me or I’ll arrest you.’” I said. “Not even anarchists losing their minds.”
“She didn’t say that,” denies her friend, seemingly unconvinced by her own words. The bystanders, two puppeteers holding a banner, scoff.
“Yes,” affirms one of the puppeteers resolutely, but with the objective air of a witness on a stand. “Yes, she did say that.”
They drop it, don’t fight. “Let’s go,” the “friend” shrugs at the undercover cop. “This is bullshit.”
Never been so obvious and stupid as it was at that moment, my friends.
11:25 a.m. Unmasked
The people at Bowling Green have dispersed. People dressed as polar bears roll up dirty banners and head back to the storage unit, as everyone else convenes at Battery Park for the Action Spokes. The plaza in front of the Museum of the American Indian is close to empty.
A cameraman from NY1 sets up his shot, a shot looking out over a nondescript street with no significant backdrop save a lady with a pug-dog in a bicycle basket. The basket is a bed of fake flowers, and one of the synthetic, dusty, faded daisies crowns the pug’s ears.
I am highly attuned to their decision to shoot after the action is over. They have such a fantastic range of visuals to work with – the steps of the museum, the park that is Bowling Green, the Charging Bull sculpture, but instead, they focus on the distant blur of a gaggle of people across the street, and a bleak empty space.
With a sandwich in one hand, I hike up my skirt and swing my leg over my bikeframe, flashing someone for sure. Heel by heel I position my feet precariously on each pedal and, curious, wheel slowly behind the anchor, within the camera’s viewing range.
The anchor goes live: “People gathered here at 10 a.m. and nothing really happened, and then they left and went over there,” he says with a shake of the head. Rolling by one-handed while munching my sandwich, I declare, “That’s not true, there were 4,000 people here.” (There weren’t 4,000; forgive me, it is an impulsive moment.)
The cameraman’s face goes sour as he wraps up the live shot. The sound guy comes over calmly, and agrees, it’s true that sometimes some news-guys lie, but not this one. The anchor turns to me irate: “NOTHING happened here!”
“Sure, if you think that people taking a workday to assemble peacably and express their right to speak freely is ‘nothing’.”
“Ok but you’re messing with me as I am trying to do my job! I’m trying to work, here!”
“What does it mean to work as a journalist, if the result does not approximate the truth?” I ask him. I try to offer him an excuse: “Look, I get it, your producers aren’t interested unless there’s a violent conflict of some kind, there are arrests…”
He interrupts me: “I worked for FOX, but that’s not what’s going on here.”
“Alright, well our versions of the truth simply differ, then.”
The dude has makeup so thick, his pores scream to breathe. The closer I get, the more they enlarge, crying out for air, gasping, “must. escape. this mask!” His warm eyes can’t reconcile with that orange mask, as he insists he is one of the good guys, going after the truth. He does seem like a good guy. It’s true.
September 18th. Waking up
We all sleep a few extra hours. I am sure the reporter, the cop and the financial sector worker do too. It was a tiring Monday for us all.
In my morning daze, I realize none of us were as we seemed that day. We all were incognito.
The made-up NY1 reporter, the disguised financial sector worker, the undercover cop hidden behind sunglasses so big they obscured half her face. And me, the radical dogwalker, wearer of sensible shoes, in heels.
Editorial note: This story was originally published at the author’s blog. Read the original post here.
New York, NY- My interest of discussion is in my observations of police-protester relations.
The first boiling point of this movement may come to fruition this weekend. There are many out-of-towners in NYC right now and many rookie cops have been placed on Occupy duty. The out-of-towners are really cool people but do not know how to react to police repression. Specifically, NYPD repression. As I’ve been in other cities I have noticed something of a mutual understanding between the police and protesters. In those places there is a feeling, from the police, of “Okay, you’re gonna protest, we gotta watch you, do you’re thing, be respectful, don’t go overboard, you can go in the streets if you’d like but just keep it moving, and tomorrow will be another day.” I say this in regards to their treatment of us, not in discussion of the multitudes of Police that have been assigned to escort us.
In New York the feeling from the Police is drastically different: “Listen, you’re gonna protest, and we really don’t care, but if you even come close to stepping out of line even slightly, because you’re Occupiers, we’re arresting your asses and then you can take it up with the judge.”
As another friend of mine put it the feeling outside of New York is “get off, Get off, GET OFF!” In New York the feeling is “FUCK! OFF!”
If you live in New York, typically you will understand how to deal with this. Meaning, you’ll be more compliant. You will march, and you will say your piece, but you don’t fuck around and you know the drill and how to not get arrested. If you’re not from New York, and MANY of us this weekend will NOT be, you will not understand this. The first natural instinct of many will be to push back, as was the first instinct of the original Zuccotti Park Occupiers before they learned the score and gained first hand experience of some of the crap that minorities go through on a daily basis.
I am glad to have them here and the anniversary wouldn’t be the same without them, but even from the first march I can see the out-of-towners escalate REALLY fucking quickly. I don’t mean to blame them either, they are used to dealing with police forces that have been trained to be more lenient. All I’m saying is… it will reach a boiling point. There were 1000 in town today. The anniversary is in 2 days. People have heard the stories of the Zuccotti Park encampment back when and have been eager to come to the start of it all. They have heard of the police brutality and some may have an itch to give the officers a piece of their minds.
Some of the police officers are rookies. Some of them have heard of Occupy and want to know more about it, some probably joined the force because they wanted to laugh at, or beat the shit out of Occupiers. Some joined for the paycheck. No matter what many have not had the experience needed to decipher when someone is just screaming, or when someone is about to get physical. Many of the newer officers might scare easier as well. We all know how wonderful it can be for someone with military training, pepper sprays, and batons to get scared… On the plus side I highly doubt they will use their guns (I’m serious about that and thankful, it’s extremely unlikely they’ll pull their guns).
No matter what the background, rest assured folks, this weekend will get Occupy back on the map. I think it might also make the NYPD look like one of the worst trained police forces in the country…
As a journalist, I’m looking forward to this. As a person, and a friend of many Occupiers… I’m not…
New York, NY–It had been 72 hours since I had a good night’s sleep. Power naps between meetings had become routine, fatigue was setting in but none of that mattered. It was Monday, September 17th.
My comrades and I had decided to gather extra early to allow time for prep and a good meal. 5am came quickly and by 6 we were on our way into the bowels of Manhattan.
Having dedicated much of my time over the past few weeks to the Education Zone with my affinity group All In The Red, Harrison and I made our way to South Street Seaport, careful to keep our eyes open. A small crowd had amassed by 6:30 and by 7am. After a short strategic review, our group seemed excited and prepared to face the day.
The following hour and twenty four minutes seemed to play in both slow motion and fast forward. Time frozen and flashing before my eyes. Then my arms were behind my back and I was being slammed into a concrete wall. Again.
“Am I being detained?” I screamed.
Hula hoops falling to the sidewalk. Clearly, I was being detained.
“Am I being detained?!” cameras came rushing.
“Shut the fuck up” I didn’t see his face.
“I do not consent to a search.”
“Do you want to make this difficult?”
Wrists twisting inside flexcuffs, backpack slipping from my shoulder, trapped. The weight immediately sent searing pain up my arms. All I could do was shake my head and keep my mouth shut; I have seen what they do to people who complain. Comrades caught my eye from across the street. I motioned that I was okay and to contact the NLG.
Just as soon as it began.
I was in flexcuffs, with my hoops, in the back of a NYPD van.
To my surprise the following hour was spent reasonably comfortable. Air conditioning, Prince sing-a-longs and real conversations about mutual aid were the last things I expected when I was shoved in that van, but thankfully the first things I received. My “arresting officers” were actually School Safety Uniformed Division Officers, admitting themselves they would rather “be dealing with real crime”. Completely out of their element in lower Manhattan, they eventually started asking me for directions. I kept quiet and enjoyed the temperature-controlled view of the 99 Revolutions. Heart growing with pride, we pulled it off!
After what seemed like hours we arrived at 55 Water, where my van had been sent to pick up “the other prisoners.” Little did I know that as I was being moved between vans, my photo was being taken by a CNBC journalist–hoops and all. The caption would later read “Additionally: hula hoops confiscated”
From 55 Water, van fresh with new (political) “prisoners” we were transported to 1PP for processing. Each “prisoner” had their possessions tagged and photo taken, affixed with a “mass arrest” sticker and placed in a holding cell determined by gender discrimination.
To my pleasure my colleague at Occupied Stories, Julia, was in the same intake cell along with some other familiar faces. It’s always comforting to go through times like these with friends. After additional paperwork and a denied phone call, I was transferred to a concrete holding cell with four other women. A steel platform with dirty blue gym mats hung from the wall and the air reeked of piss. This was my home for the next 10 hours.
BUT WE OCCUPIED THE SHIT OUT OF IT! We shared stories, everyone having a good laugh when I told them how my “arresting officer” wanted to cut my cuffs: “What am I supposed to say? Prisoner did obstruct pedestrian and vehicular traffic with a hula hoop performance? We don’t have charges for this shit.” We stood shoulder to shoulder forming our own “Pee-poles Wall” singing “Solidari-pee Forever” whenever a sister had to use the facilities. It’s amusing to me that after all this time the NYPD still thinks arrest will drive us away from the movement. Some of the strongest bonds I have made since coming to Occupy have been forged in a jail cell.
The final hours of waiting passed painfully slow. I answered questions to the best of my knowledge, having taken some Legal training courses in the event that something like this would happen and I tried to keep everyone in the cell calm and comfortable. Unfortunately, there is only so much that can be done before the madness of a cage sets in. Catching a glimpse of my arresting officer down the hallway I called out to him, my new-found best friend, even offering a birthday card in exchange for my release.
It was roughly 6pm when the key turned in the lock of the cell door. Finally. As he led me down the corridor towards release the men’s cell erupted! Weaving through hands banging on plexiglass, the faces of my male comrades began to emerge. All of them making the same hand motion, a heart. We were all in it together.
After another processing and paperwork line I could finally see daylight, along with my hoops! Once one of the officers realized that I was “The Hula Hoop Girl” his coworkers were talking about all day, he immediately asked me to “do some tricks.” I couldn’t help but oblige as I walked through the gates of 1PP and into the arms of my jail support team. The only people left on the sidewalk.
New York, NY–I awoke early and left my apartment at 6:15 to allow myself some time to get lost on my way to the Education Bloc assembly point. The air was frigid, and I shivered on my walk to the subway. Because I was temporarily without cell phone service, and therefore had no access to any text loops nor communication with anyone else, I hoped very much that “Plan B”—in which we assemble someplace else—would not be declared. But getting off the Fulton stop in lower Manhattan, I strolled to the South Street Seaport and found familiar faces. I greeted some friends and then made quick run across the street to grab something to eat and some orange juice; I hadn’t brought anything with me but my small notepad thinking that today it might be best to travel as light as possible.
My primary contacts here—those I knew best—were my friends Nicole and Harrison, though at the night before I met a group of out-of-towners from a few different cities that had organized itself into an affinity group. I chatted a little with them, amazed that friendships had been cemented with people met only 12 hours before. But such is typical within Occupy.
Just after 7:30, we departed for our roving marches, splitting up early on but then reconvening. We did the usual chants: “When education’s under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” We soon began taking intersections, first with simply a circular picket that occupied each crosswalk simultaneously. Some civilians stopped to watch us, and we moved away to continue the marches without any conflict. Our group split and it seemed agreed that we would go civilian to the People’s Wall, yet we remained a loud, chanting march. The march that I was in jumped into the center of an intersection to dance and sing “A-anti-anticapitalista!” Not quite ready to dance so early in the morning, I joined in the chant and ran circles around the inside of the intersection with others, clapping my hands. We put on quite a show for civilians and once again had no conflict with police.
Upon reaching the area around Wall Street—here is where locations become truly blurry for my memory—we found a swelling mass of other protesters crammed onto the sidewalks, some straying into the streets, and a glut of police officers standing.in the middle of the intersection, along curbs—everywhere. I think I missed most of the People’s Wall drama but it was tough to be sure: a great mix of joyful chanting and militant yelling all filled the intersection. Every so often you would head chants of “March! March! March!” but everyone remained where they stood. I wandered around the intersection to see what was happening at different angles. After standing into the street, police ordered all of us to get onto the sidewalk.
The sidewalk closest to me happened to be the corner where police were checking work IDs to enter the sectioned-off street. Of course, police then said that the side half of us were standing on was reserved only for those in line to have IDs checked. I, and others, then, had to move—but the corner was so crowded, with the street off-limits, that one had no space to move. So I stood on the curb. The police tired of us standing there, and suddenly I felt hands on my shoulders and an officer trying to raise me; he then pushed me forward into the man ahead of me, who fell forward into the people in front of him, causing many of us to push against scaffolding. Feeling a great deal of adrenaline and anger, I walked away from the situation to the outskirts of the group, where I found Harrison again. Luckily this situation was my only one in which I was at all handled by the police and I (and as far as I know, others in that situation) were not injured.
Meeting again with Harrison, we wandered a bit and expressed to each other some disappointment at how so many were caught in a standoff that seemed to be past its opportunity. There was no civil disobedience, really, in crowding the sidewalk where no one except protesters and police stood. Marching seemed to be the best strategy at the stalemate that had occurred but relatively few took the call.
But I was still in awe at everything I was watching. Even after my six months with Occupy Wall Street, it’s difficult to watch so many people get arrested for exercising rights that are to be guaranteed for them, or for “breaking” laws in ways the laws were not intended to be enforced—or to be arrested violently and aggressively. I watched a man red-faced and with tears in his eyes yelling to us as he was being taken away that he could not feel his hands. This is my city, this is my country, and this is what we do here.
Harrison split and now here I was wandering the financial district alone. I felt now less an activist than a sort of observer. I didn’t know where any of my friends were, although I would very much support the statement that we all in Occupy are friends already, a kind of weird, huge family. But what was great about September 17th is that we were all here together, and despite not having working service on my cellphone I happened to run into a group of friends—and we, then, happened to run into another friend in a march—without at all trying.
John, one of the people I ran into, was stringing yarn across streets and intersections to delay activity there. I stood by to scout for police as he strung the yarn on a side street (a large van quickly plowed through it.) The two of us and other friends of ours went in and out of marches and—if memory serves correctly—ended up near Trinity, where we wanted to cross the street. Today walk signals did not matter, as police officers themselves were controlling traffic—by only allowing cars to move from either direction, and never pedestrians. We stood on the street-side of the curb to wait to cross, other protesters crammed behind the scaffolding, and John began the chant: “Whose streets?” to which I and others answered “Our streets!” This went on for a couple minutes without police allowing us to cross. A white shirt pointed a few people out from the crowd, and suddenly officers were running towards us. We scurried, and one officer grabbed John’s arm. John broke free, ducked behind the scaffolding, but was caught and arrested; for a moment I wondered if, by being near John and joining in the chant, if I could have been another that the white shirt pointed to—officers were now chasing and arresting others who had been standing there—so I and my friends Shay and Thiago quickly left the situation, jogging down the block.
After the intense and stressful morning, we came across a parade of fun led by the Reverend Billy Choir of Stop Shopping, which was much needed to calm the nerves from all that we had seen and run from. After my dismay at police activity, I was once again inspired by the voices and singing of my Occupy family, the perfect antidote to the police state that attempts to wear us down—a great first half to a happy birthday.