Washington, DC–Having set my alarm for 6am at 4:30am the morning of June 5th, I went to sleep on an air mattress that fit the entire area of the foyer. The banners were set to dry and the blockade was most of the way complete. It only needed to be attached to the fence, gate and bar; tightened; and padlocked on the inside.
The plan seemed foolproof. They would have no choice but to spend hours cutting apart our insane barricades or to simply walk away thinking that we were insane. It may or may not have been a rumor, but we were working off of the assumption that the US Marshals only had an hour to execute a court order before they had to move onto the next.
We intended to give them at least two hours of work through an initial soft blockade and then the hard blockades we were erecting. We estimated that the soft blockade would take a half hour while the hard blockade would take an hour.
When my alarm rang an hour and a half after I had lain my head to sleep, I set about waking the others up after I hit the snooze button a couple of times. It took until about 7am before everyone was up.
I finished rigging up the barricade while Hippy Brian finished the banner. Marshall rigged up the first banner which read “Eviction Free Zone” in all capital letters with rope and connected it to the fence outside while Ricky and Marc fashioned their makeshift Sleeping Dragon. Melissa contacted media inside while Anne wrote a statement for the court for Dawn’s hearing that day.
I finished what I could of the crate-astrophe while still allowing the front door to be operable since Marc had glued the locks of the gates to the back door the night before. Ben, who had done much of the legwork in setting up the crates the previous night, went to get breakfast from the 7-11 down the street. He would later lead the soft blockade. Marc and I followed soon after.
When we came back, I did my part to hurry Anne in writing her court statement. The pressure to finish before the US Marshals were scheduled to arrive forced her to belie her sentimentality with her home. She wanted to remain inside, to go down with the ship. Although I was optimistic that the Marshals would never get inside for one of several reasons, I insisted that she must be out by 9am, that being out of the purview of any cameras or witnesses gave the officers a license to act with impunity, that they know that in a courtroom it is her word against theirs.
The house was empty of people by 8:52am.
We were all rather disappointed and somewhat appalled by the resulting media from the day. Nearly every story apart from one article on the Washington Times blog section led with clashes between US Marshals and protestors.
An article on WAMU seemed to imply that protestors assaulted law enforcement. The aforementioned Washington Times article stated that one protestor “became unconscious.” Social media talked of wounded warriors and displays of state militarism. Media left and right roiled in exaggerated tales of martyrdom and hooliganism.
By June 7th, Dawn was receiving calls from relatives reacting to certain news pieces that made it seem as if she was unable to make her rent payments. Marc and I both found ourselves misquoted in OccupyDC’s own newspaper, the DC Mic Check. If it wasn’t already, it became glaringly obvious: In the face of controversy, there is no such thing as truth.
Beyond the anti-state propaganda, tales of irresponsible radical rebellion, willful ignorance of fact, and stretching of truth, that we were fighting for the right to housing was almost invisible. Pictures of US Marshals with M-4 assault rifles circulated the internet while pictures of Anne Butler’s broken sake glass collection were distributed only by a few of us within Occupy Our Homes-DC.
Commenters poked fun at pictures of the US Marshal sitting on the ground dumbfounded at his self-inflicted injuries. Occupiers spewed calls for vengeance at pictures of Marc lying unconscious on the street, having been repeatedly strangled, pulled by the head, and having his head pinned to a wall by the leg of a US Marshal before passing out and being thrown into the midst of his comrades.
At least we could vent our collective frustration to each other on the Occupy Our Homes-DC list serv. This marks probably the only time that a list serv has ever actually calmed its members down and made them grow closer.
According to those who did not have themselves chained to the house, the US Marshals did not want to proceed with eviction given what they saw. The representative from Chase Bank which stole the house from the Butlers insisted that the eviction proceed.
The Marshals asked MPD to intercede with the blockades of people as such a task was not within the purview of the authority of the US Marshals in eviction orders. The MPD refused, insisting instead on doing crowd control on the sidewalk. According to our lawyers, the US Marshals had unlawfully assaulted everyone whom they touched that day.
The front gate had been padlocked with one of the Brinks locks and lashed closed with nylon rope. Marshall, Brian and I were attached to the milk crate blockade with a roller bar of a thin PVC pipe woven with wire rope. Marc and Ricky were braceleted downstairs with Marc outside so he could smoke cigarettes. Ricky realized he would not be able to roll cigarettes with one arm lassoed inside the PVC pipe.
Everyone who was part of the hard blockade was expecting to be arrested. The US Marshals moved in, pushing aside people who sat on the front steps. As they were pushed, they ran around to the neighbor’s yard in order to hop the fence to set up a second wave of blockades, much to the chagrin of the media who had posted up in the front yard.
Eli with a sprained ankle rejoined the soft blockade at least twice. Kelly at least once. Lash was thrown down the front steps. Melissa was thrown across the front lawn. Insults and expletives were hurled at the mostly silent Marshals.
Finally the Marshals got to the hard blockade. Brian wrapped his arms and legs around Kevin. Eli was pushed off of the stoop onto a rock in the neighbor’s yard. Kevin was pulled out. Brian’s arm was twisted through the gap between the PVC roller bar and the wire rope by a Marshal who appeared intent on breaking Brian’s wrist.
The US Marshals began frenetically pulling on the roller bar. Some of the milk crates began falling on our heads. Then a crack. The door came loose, and with it, the entire crate-astrophe tumbled over our heads into the line of Marshals.
Marshall was pushed over the side fence. Brian was dragged out of the yard. I was left sitting on the steps until the US Marshals hoisted me up and carried me upside-down across the yard. When my head was in a milk crate, the officers hoisted my upper body and carried me gently to the street.
Minutes later I saw Marc laying in the street unconscious. A US Marshall walked by with a bloody ACE bandage wrapped over his eye. Several occupiers were sobbing over Marc’s body. His head beet red. His eyes shut. His breathing shallow. Jeremy led us in a poorly worded but heartfelt prayer.
We harangued the MPD officers to call for an ambulance. When they said that they’ve called for one, we decided we didn’t believe them and make our own call. After 10 minutes of Marc being unconscious with his head in Kelly’s cross-legged lap, I impatiently made room in my hatchback for Marc’s body, lined it with my sleeping materials, and pulled the car around. I yelled for them to put him in. Everyone insisted that we can’t move him because we don’t know what damage has been done.
Fifteen minutes after being thrown into the street, Marc came to consciousness as the ambulances pulled up. A wave of relief swept over all of us. After the EMTs arrived, they helped Marc up and tested his mental well-being: “Do you know where you are?”
With a smile, he said, “Uh, DC?”