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A Story of an Eviction, Part 2


Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part story. Part one may be found here; the story was originally published here.

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?”

-ArchAngel-

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A Story of an Eviction, Part 1


Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part story. Part two may be found here. The story in full was originally posted here.

Washingto, DC–It was supposed to be a serendipitous tale of the American Dream:  A tenant, through a combination of luck and hard work, purchases the home she had been renting for six years.  Dawn Butler was willing to buy the house, her landlord was willing to cede the house, and even the bank at one point was willing to let her take over the mortgage.

However, real estate lawyers Rosenberg & Associates insisted on forcing a foreclosure.  Butler was denied a court hearing at every turn. When she got with the Occupy Our Homes-DC lawyer, her case was heard but quickly dismissed.

***

On June 6th, the day after the eviction, I found myself bawling outside of National Tire and Battery waiting for repairs to be made on my car.  The reality of these kinds of things always takes about a day to sink in.

It wasn’t the reality of my friend having been choked by a US Marshal into unconsciousness, nor was it the reality of many more of my friends having been thrown down brick stairs.

It was the reality that these people had lost their home.  It was the reality that six years of their lives, catalogued in a house full of personal possessions, had been tossed onto the curb like piles of Wednesday refuse after a spring cleaning.

The leather couch I had sat on the night before while planning our insane milk-crate experiment being dragged down the stairs upside-down.  The grandfather clock still ticking at 12:35pm.  A US Marshal personally handing a crystal vase to Anne, Dawn’s mother.  I wondered what had happened to the years’ worth of Mother’s Day cards on the mantel.

***

One June 5th, the night of the eviction, we had our regular Occupy Our Homes-DC meeting on the front lawn of the boarded up house.  The front door, which had broken in half horizontally when the US Marshals tore me and two others from our makeshift blockade, was wedged back in place behind two large planks of particle board.  The remainder of the milk crate blockade, our crate-astrophe, was lying in a heap on the lawn.

Despite the new location, I think the routine gave us all a sense of calm and resolve.  The tone of our conversations was hopeful and proud. There was not a trace of defeat in anyone’s voice.

Triumphantly, it was announced that we had stopped nine other evictions that day.  We discussed the reality of having to prepare for the next potential eviction.  How we weighed the value of property and human life.

Sitting on the steps at the auto shop the next day I would wonder how we could possibly manage a nationwide call to camp out at the headquarters of a certain banking institution.  How can we treat these throngs of people as more than a number?  More than a spot in line?

***

Dawn Butler has lived as a tenant in a house since 2006.  The lease she has had with the owner is based on sweat equity.  Over the course of those six years, Dawn and Anne have put over $200,000 into the home – an average of $27,77.78 a month.

In 2009, the owner of the house fell ill and fell behind on his mortgage payments in order to pay his medical bills.  Until she got with our lawyers at Occupy Our Homes-DC, she was castigated in every court hearing or was denied a hearing altogether.

While I was getting to the first defense of Dawn’s home on April 2nd, our lawyer Ann Wilcox won a stay of eviction.  The Marshals left; everyone rejoiced; I came late from an appointment for my car in Virginia.

A lot of this struggle has involved auto care for me.

***

At 8pm on June 4th, I was sitting in the Occupy DC Resource Center with Rooj when I got a call from Laura telling me that the US Marshals were due to evict Dawn at 9am.  Rooj and I immediately went to work texting everyone we knew in the city to be at Dawn’s house at 8am the following day.

She created an event on Facebook and blasted it across social media.  I drafted an announcement for an email blast on paper with a pencil since I didn’t have my laptop with me, having just come from a demonstration at the Freddie Mac Public Policy Office and the Washington DC Chase Mortgage Modification Center.

We called for an emergency meeting at 9pm at the Butlers’ home to plan the morning’s defense.  I stopped by my apartment to grab sleeping materials for the night.  I’m not sure if I’ll be spending the night, but I assume that it’s a pretty good possibility.

Marc threw his backpack in my car as he met me on Colorado Ave.  Having slept at my house the night prior, he was on the same amount of sleep that I was.  Having marshaled the march with me earlier that day, he was just as drained.

I think he took a nap on the way.

***

Four occupiers, Lash, Britta, Eli the Medic, Kevin, and Marshall piled into my car to visit Marc at Howard University Hospital at around 1:30pm on June 5th.  Lash had his shirt off and was leaning sideways in the front seat to avoid allowing the square foot scratch from being thrown down the bottom set of stairs by the US Marshals.

Eli the medic told us how she had offered to provide treatment for the US Marshal who had hit himself in the face while trying to pull me off the milk crate barricade even though she hates cops.  Britta talked about how she used how she was stereotyped as a womyn as a weapon in order to remain behind police lines, acting daft when given police orders.  Kevin and Marshall were silent as they had been all day.

I texted and then called Sean who had become Marc’s brother after his family took him in following the eviction of the OccupyDC camp at McPherson Square.  We pulled up to the hospital parking lot and sat in the waiting room as Marc went through several CT scans.  I laid on the floor in the hopes of adding to the one and a half hours of sleep I was running on.

I couldn’t get any.

***

By midnight on the 6th, we had resolved to erect a barricade out of milk crates collected from the remains of the OccupyDC library connected with whatever kind of chain we could find at Wal-Mart which we decided was likely our only bet for such material at such an hour.  Rooj had sent out a press release, and Melissa had sent out an emergency home defense announcement to our email contacts.

Marc and I set out to get the materials necessary for setting up the barricades: 3 padlocks, two hundred feet of chain, 2 U-locks, at least 20 crates, and superglue.  I pulled my car around and emptied it of the banner making material that had been taking up my trunk space for the past week.

We returned with what we could find: three Masterlocks, three Brinks locks, 180 feet of 30-foot sections of wire rope, superglue, and 18 milk crates.  Marc was dead set on a Sleeping Dragon or Tootsie Roll or Bracelet or whatever.  We didn’t have handcuffs, but he resolved to make do with the nylon rope that we had and the carabineer from his keychain.

I went back to McPherson Square to retrieve 12 more crates, a three foot section of wide PVC pipe, a 6 foot section of thin PVC pipe, and a tent pole that unfortunately did us no good.  By the time I got back, Hippy Brian was working on the second banner that read “Save This Home” in yellow spray paint outlined in black marker.  He had begun to outline the letters with black latex paint, but decided to help us rig up the crate-astrophe.

The crates would be chained to each other, the door handle, the fence on the right side of the yard, the gate to the basement under the stairs, and the bars over the basement window.  Marshall, Brian and I would be chained to the barricade while Marc and Ricky would be roped in a Sleeping Dragon through the gate to the basement under the stairs.

A Sleeping Dragon is a pretty ingenious means of slowing the dismantling of a human hard blockade.  Instead of merely locking arms or handcuffing to each other, two people’s arms are chained together inside of a length of PVC pipe.  In order to be detached, law enforcement must carefully saw through the PVC pipe and then cut the chain.  It’s a delicate process that’s usually very time-consuming.

***

At our regular Occupy Our Homes-DC meeting on May 29th, a week before the eviction, our lawyer Ann Wilcox briefed us on the meaning of the motion that was dismissed the day prior.

Despite both Dawn Butler’s and the landlord’s acknowledgement of the lease, as well as Chase Bank’s acknowledgement of the lease in their written testimony, Judge Wright decided that the work and material value that Dawn and Anne had put into the house did not constitute payment for a lease.  What do you expect from someone who doesn’t have to lift more than a pen or a gavel for an income?  Such is the illusory value of money over labor in capitalism.

According to Ann, the Marshals executed court orders in a different quadrant of the city every day.  The eviction was in a matter of days.  Ann had already filed another motion to reconsider to be heard the following Tuesday morning.  With a motion pending, we assumed that there was little to work on.  Plus, we had a barbecue and a rally with a secret march to plan by the end of the week.

And so we sat on it.

– ArchAngel –

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From Tahrir to Occupy


Tahrir Sq, Cairo–I’m an Egyptian living in the US, and after years of not being an activist but working in a poor community and trying to affect one person’s life at a time, I became an Egyptian American activist again during the revolution. Hundreds of people came out in cities across the globe to stand with the Egyptian people, and I work with others in NYC to keep showing up and to stand with them even after Mubarak stepped down.

After Mubarak stepped down a group of us worked on our right to vote from abroad. This really excited me as it would be the first time  I ever cast a ballot in a national election. It became clear that I would need to return to Egypt to get my national ID card and, come on, I wanted to see my country during these changes. I also look forward to visiting my sitter who moved back after the revolution. I planned my trip for early July. After I got my tickets it became clear that the youth would be returning to Tahrir on July 8th, one day before my arrival. I took along a sleeping bag and tent, as I knew my sister was going to be sleeping in Tahrir, and I planned to be right next to her. I spent 10 nights in the Square, only leaving to shower, see family, and sleep (I cannot sleep with all-night discussion outside my tent, so I mostly watched my sister sleep). I met so many wonderful life-long friends there, and because of Twitter and Facebook we stay in close contact and follow each others doing.

Once I returned to New York I started getting tweets  FROM EGYPT about the US Day of Rage, which would later become the OCCUPY  movement. I could not make any of the planning meetings, as I was in the middle of moving to DC, but I made a point of going out to Occupy DC/K Street often, and got as involved as a Mom could be. I brought my children down and even organized a Halloween event for families. I could write a whole another story about the shortcomings of Occupy and Tahrir, and there are many. But I thought is should warm some people’s heart to hear how Occupy and Tahrir  made me feel at home only a few months apart and how I have met some of the most amazing people because of these two movements.

– Anonymous –

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Transportation Workers, Day Laborers Join Occupy DC’s May Day Protest


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bus drivers and other rank-and-file union employees of Washington’s Metro bus and subway system, along with Hispanic day laborers from Virginia, joined us at Occupy DC’s May Day celebration at Malcolm X Park and marched alongside as we made our way across the city to the White House.

Workers with the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 addressed the evening gathering in the park on 16th St. NW at Meridian Hill, saying that the revitalization of the unions needs to come from the bottom, because the unions’ leadership isn’t doing the job.

Metro bus drivers Patricia and Shamika, whose surnames are being withheld as befits honorary Occupiers, said that their mission is to fight “racism, sexism and capitalism,” and that a change in the methods used by unions is long overdue.

“The strategy of the past 30 years is not working,” Patricia said. “Endless negotiation and accommodation doesn’t scare” those who would exploit labor and the poor, she explained. “Strikes scare them.”

ATU’s Mike Golash told several hundred of us assembled at the park that the labor movement has been sold out by a union leadership which “has no interest in defying the unreasonable restrictions that have been placed upon them” by such legislation as the Taft-Hartley Act, restrictions that say Metro workers are not allowed to strike.

Like Occupy DC, he said, “they are forcing us to become an illegal movement.”

The union workers suggested that we Occupiers could lend the unions a hand, and vice versa.

“Metro says it’s illegal to stage a sympathy strike, but there’s nothing to stop Occupy DC from conducting a protest” in support of the union strikes, Golash said.

And while the powers that be can feel unthreatened by Occupy’s actions at times, they’ll have a harder time being sanguine if we’re joined by the city’s transportation workers, Patricia said. “If a few hundred Occupiers protest, they can blow it off,” she said. “But when a thousand Metro workers go on strike, the whole city notices.”

“We are under attack,” she said, and castigated Metro for raising its rider fees and freezing wages to meet its budgeting goals instead of getting the money from the people who benefit from the it the most — the large corporate interests that cluster their outlets around Metro stations.

Those among us who worried last fall that the Occupy movement was being co-opted by the unions can rest easy, Golash said. “Occupy DC, and the movement in general, has by now clearly shown that it’s beholden to no one.”

The Washington Labor Chorus and Occupiers led the people in belting out labor classics “Solidarity Forever,” “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night” and “The Internationale,” each rendered in Spanish and English, and even, in the latter case, French.

Occupiers dressed as heroic figures from America’s labor history gave speeches, including Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who noted that the “impossible chasm between all workers and all exploiters” has not been bridged, and is in fact widening again.

A re-enactor dressed as Haymarket martyr August Spies read from the speech he gave before he was hanged:

“…Anarchism is on trial! …very well; you may sentence me, for I am an anarchist. I believe that the state of castes and classes–the state where one class dominates over and lives upon the labor of another class, and calls this order–yes, I believe that this barbaric form of social organization, with its legalized plunder and murder, is doomed to die and make room for a free society…but let the world know that in 1886, in the state of Illinois, eight men were sentenced to death because they believed in a better future; because they had not lost their faith in the ultimate victory of liberty and justice!”

Other historical figures invoked the 1971 May Day action to protest the Vietnam War, when 35,000 activists effectively shut down this city, noting some similarities between that movement’s leaderless structure and Occupy. The fact that the Nixon administration also changed the rules abruptly and raided the event despite the permits, knocking down tents and teargassing the legal protest, didn’t escape this Occupier’s notice.

The gathering featured poetry readings, a solidarity speech by an organization representing immigrant day laborers in Northern Virginia, the traditional dance of the Maypole,  and then, the march.

Our crowd, by now numbering about three hundred activists, rode and biked down the 15-20 block route accompanied by a giant dragon puppet made up of a dozen or so people in costume, wriggling along at the end of the pack. Chants rose:

“When the working class is under attack, what do we do?

Stand up, fight back!

Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.

The whole world is striking!

We are unstoppable; another world is possible.

At 2400 14th St, Hispanic construction workers high on a cable-supported work car shouted their approval and pumped fists.

“We are the 99 percent; we are the working class. And so are you!”

Horned blared along the route, but most of the honkers did it rhythmically, giving us a smiling show of solidarity.

“Don’t just watch us, come and join us! We’re only fighting for your rights.

Greed and corruption are weapons of mass destruction.”

“We hold the system up. We can make it fail,” one sign proclaimed.

On and on we went, accompanied by two saxophones, a guitar, a violin, and a drummer playing a bucket, to Lafayette Park across from the White House, and wrapped it up with a performance for its Occupants.

They didn’t grace us with an appearance, but it seems likely they heard our music.

-Jehovah Jones-

Check out all our May Day stories here. 

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Fear and Loathing in McPherson Square 2012


Editors note: This was written on January 31st, 2012. 

WASHINGTON, D.C.-

Mic check.

When viewed through the wall of your soaking tent, every flashing light looks like a
police raid. Every accelerating truck engine on the street a few dozen feet away
sounds like a bulldozer heading your way.

This is the second night like this at McPherson Square in recent weeks, with Occupy
DC’s “de-escalators” keeping an eye out from the perimeter and the Occupiers in
their tents listening with nervousness and dread.

The last time was a few days before Christmas. After a large, drunk, tank-shaped
ruffian kicked an arresting cop in the balls and left him puking in the street, the
camp buzzed with the rumor: Tonight’s the night we get raided.

For veterans of Zuccotti Park, Oakland, U.C. Davis and dozens of other Occupations
across the country, the conditions seemed right: wet, cold, dark, and cops had been
humiliated; it was now personal. Word was that it would happen around 3am.

On that night, our number included Occupy DC’s ambassador of goodwill, a
pipe-smoking man of substantial age who has lived in this park for years, who sits
in a prominent spot and greets every passerby with “Happy Holidays and Happy New
Year!” There’s a guy here who’s got a petition with 1776 signatures that he hopes
will get him–and his waist-length dreads–into the Coast Guard. A genial 50-year-old
unemployed laborer/short-order cook from Tennessee who calls everybody “brother.” A
40-year-old Deadhead who says that this is the best living situation he’s ever had;
he says he’s clueless about the political aspects of this venture, but if he’s truly
lived on the street for as long as he says, perhaps he has a clue even if he doesn’t
know it.

A former journalist who had stopped by regularly to donate food and blankets, I set
up a tent in early December in response to a friendly challenge from a few
Occupiers–“What else do we need? How about your body?”–who encouraged me to sleep
here as many nights as I could, even if I had to leave to go to work most mornings.

Elsewhere in the park there’s a working journalist who’s been here since October 1,
the first day of this Occupation. He’s here for the stories, sleeping here because
it gives him access that other media types don’t have, and because of the high price
of hotels in DC. I’m here for the most unprofessional of reasons: to experience
grassroots democracy in action.

I have long wondered if the people of this country would forever sit passively by
and watch our hard-earned gains in the direction of decency and humanity be reversed
by the Republicans (aided by weasel Democrats), watch as the clock is turned back to
the dark ages of crony capitalism. This group is trying to do something about that.

Mic check.

Sleep for many of us never did come that night in December, but neither did the
police. It was one of very few blessings that brutally cold holiday season brought;
the weather was about to take an even more drastic dip, one that would cost us some
Occupiers.

There are those who say the movement is incoherent. In a way, I can see the
point–the causes cited by Occupiers are myriad, and it’s not being packaged in those
convenient little soundbites that media talking heads prefer. But if you actually
think about it, my erstwhile colleagues–employing your own brain cells instead of
your tendency to lazily regurgitate–it becomes obvious why that’s the case. With so
many powerful people dedicating so much time to screwing up this country for their
own narrow benefit, the fact that one can’t simply hand over a concise statement of
purpose to cover it, says far more about the size of the problem than about those
trying courageously to begin to correct it.

Some say the movement is too inclusive for its own good, that those hangers-on who
aren’t here for a specific political reason need to be booted. But how can you kick
out the already marginalized, many of whom have things to teach you about surviving
in a hostile environment?

Among the hundreds of people who have come to watch the circus, many have clearly
joined it, at least in spirit. A steady stream of messages from the street tell us
how the revolution looks from there.

“Thank you for doing this for all of us. What can we do for you?” A carload of
elderly women stopped at the light close to my tent.

“God bless you from the rest of us. Don’t lose hope; you’re making history.” A
middle-aged Hispanic man, through the window of a battered pickup, to a chorus of
honking horns behind him.

“Go home, hippies. Get a job, dirty commies.” A series of SUVs and sports cars
barreling down 15th street.

If volume is the measure, the wingnuts win; one of their favorite tactics is to park
close by at 3am and blow their horns nonstop to keep us from sleep.

One of the more blatant hypocrisies I’ve heard is “Give us back our park!” I used to
work across the street, so I know that the main users of this park before October 1
were the homeless and the rats–and both are still here.

Tonight, the rumors fly again, probably with more reason this time: On Friday, the
Park Police, our nemesis/defender, apparently caving to pressure from a rabidly
partisan neocon congressman from California, issued an ominous warning: after noon
today, they will start enforcing the “no camping” rule. Nobody’s sure precisely what
form that enforcement will take, but it involves potentially arresting those
“sleeping or preparing to sleep.”

Once again, we wait. Will the dreaded crackdown come, and if so, what will happen to
my friends and neighbors who are unlucky enough to have no other place to go?

Mic check.

-Story and Image by Jehovah Jones-

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Occupy LA to DC: SEIU, Occupy, and a National General Assembly


Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Ryan Rice’s blog.

Washington, DC–The big question on everyone’s mind seems to be, “Did the SEIU try to co-opt the occupy movement?” We all knew the Democratic Machine would attempt this at some point, so was this the first attempt? I think they tried early in the week and got dealt a massive blowback by three hundred occupiers that defiantly marched out of the SEIU camp, held general assemblies to talk out strategy, and aired tons of grievances directly to the organizers.

Obviously I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. I assume something dastardly. But I know that the SEIU structure made a noticeable shift in power with our actions. They stopped enforcing wrist bands for food, allowing hungry but unaffiliated people to eat. They worked horizontally with some occupiers to open up two hours of us introducing the concept of a general assembly, consensus, the history of the movement, and all the spirit finger stuff.

We then posed a question to the audience of rank-and-file and participants. I recognized the three organizers in the audience that had been introduced from the meeting the previous day. So, everyone was in attendance, along with an estimated thirty occupiers in a crowd of about one hundred and fifty people. “What ways can the Occupy Movement and Labor further their similar goals?”

Excerpt:

  1. Beef up “direct” journalism
  2. Mass actions at the capitals of each state combining the spontaneous and organic nature of the Occupy movement with the resources and existing networks of the trade unions, especially the membership
  3. Overcome barriers to communication between the two movements; create direct and transparent lines of communication
  4. Labor and unions are top-down, bureaucratically-structured organizations while the Occupy movement is horizontal and “leaderless”
  5. National Labor Committee for National GA
  6. Further outreach to local community members through Local Labor Committees for local Occupy locations
  7. Get to know each other better, more dialogue, better planning

We lost a little bit of attendance and ended up taking the most interested parties (the three organizers were not among them) and moving to the international tent. We now had a split group of about fifteen occupiers and fifteen union members. I believe there was a writer for Truthout present and a Mother Jones writer who came in late. Either way, Gia shot video and recorded the discussion.

The conversation was really productive, in my opinion. These workers said the same types of things that people say on their first day visiting an occupation. Most of them were just as radical and excited about the “systemic change” needed. I said something about Occupy co-opting the unions and giving them their teeth back. I said I thought a great marriage would be using the direct and radical action that occupations have spearheaded and inspired with the numbers the unions can mobilize.

 

And Liz, who facilitated in OWS and helped us in our first days here in Occupy LA, made great points about questioning all of the privileges a capitalist society creates. Check that privilege! And stop policing our comrades that take the streets! I’m excited to see the media our people shot.

We exchanged contact info and agreed it would be helpful to continue organizing actions together in a transparent, local-level way. OccupyLA hopped into a ‘SEAL’ action [covert and risque] where we went to protest Speaker of the House John Boehner’s Christmas Party at the Chamber of Commerce. Great target, and it was a combination of clever renditions of Christmas caroling and angry boos when attendees arrived and had to walk around a “99% Carpet” with protesters prostrate underneath. It was a great photo-op, as union events tend to be.

I talked with a few occupiers about the week’s events, and no one could recall a protest against a Democrat. There was a “find your representative” action, but it was fairly neutral in messaging and more educational.

I spent the next hour at a sandwich shop with Occupies Boston, LA, Portland, and travelling occupiers. Strategy, shared meals, and a breakout spoken word session. Reminded me of just how protective we must be of this movement. Of course we will not be co-opted, even though they try. We are all too beautiful and brave to allow that. We all clearly march to the beat of our own autonomous drums, and poetry by fiery revolutionaries reassures me of that.

We walked on over to the Washington Monument for the second ‘national general assembly’ of occupiers and whomever else wanted to attend. There were 19 occupations and 5 organizations (unions, businesses, etc.) It worked more like a giant working group, where facilitation posed 2 questions:

  1. What does Phase 2 look like?
  2. How do we increase solidarity and cooperation between the occupations?

We shared contact info, and just like how OccupyLA started, we took down emails for a google group. Funny how organic processes can repeat themselves. Nevertheless, just like the first general assembly, it was like a family reunion. We were more determined to talk strategy, and I think the notes show that.

Personally, I feel like the initial backlash to the situation at the National Mall was real, collective, and necessary. And with the events and awareness that happened throughout the rest of the week, I’ll submit that the Occupy Movement passed with flying colors. We were all transparent in our gripes with unions and yet were still open to talking issues and vision of whatever it was that brought each occupier to the streets.

-Ryan Rice-


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