Salt Lake City, UT–So, I apologize for not being able to finish my blog post from yesterday, but the place we camped out last night had absolutely no cell coverage at all.
So, I am doing today a little differently today as I am not riding in either of the caravan minivans. I’m actually riding with Roy today, primarily because I want to avoid the problems I had with Allred yesterday.
I had a nice, pleasant surprise yesterday when I got a call from my old roommate Mark. He happened to be on his way back from New York to San Francisco, and was traveling along I80 towards Elko. We met up with him, and he donated some sleeping bags and sleeping mats to us. This was good because we had a few people with us who had no sleeping bags or gear of any kind really.
The place we camped last night was beyond beautiful. The group photo that is attached with today’s blog post was taken right next to a beautiful flowing river. It was quite majestic. And the view of the sky last night was breathtaking! Stars as far as the eye could see. Never in by life have I seen so many stars. I wish I could have captured it on camera, but it was too dark.
So, our next stop is going to be in Salt Lake City, UT. I’m looking forward to being able to play tourist there for a little while. As a former Mormon, I have actually wanted to visit the Mormon Temple there. This is yet another place I want to visit before I’m 40 that I can mark off my list.
Okay, so I am going to sign off for right now. I will post more later after we arrive in Salt Lake City.
Wow, this has been an amazing day! I have seen so many beautiful sites and locations today, as depicted by the photos included in this post.
The first thing we saw getting close to Salt Lake City was the Great Salt Flats. It was totally awesome. I think a quarter of the U.S. salt supply might come from there.
The next beautiful site was the Great Salt Lake itself. Standing at the edge of the water looking out at the horizon felt like I was standing looking out from Ocean Beach…there was water as far as the eye could see.
When we got to Liberty Park, we were greeted by the folks from Occupy Salt Lake City, and the reception was very warm and welcoming.
One of the folks from Occupy SLC played tour guide for Roy and me, and took us to see the Mormon Temple, which for me was a really huge treat, as I was a practicing Mormon for many years. Even though I’m no longer a practicing Mormon, I do appreciate the history and architecture of something that was a huge part of my life for so many years.
We finally ended the day going up into the foothills where we were greeted by even more folks from Occupy SLC. They had a campfire blazing, and soon after we arrived we were cooking hot dogs and hamburgers, and roasting marshmallows over the open fire.
Well, that about sums up today’s leg of our journey. Stay tuned for more updates tomorrow, as we make our way to our next stop, which will be in Denver, CO.
– James Jennison –]]>
Oakland, CA–So, I have to admit, I was extremely anxious about our departure this morning when I hot to 19th & Telegraph at 10am and saw nobody was there. My fears were soon relieved when I got a call from one of the organizers telling me that a second van was rented and that it would be there in about an hour.
My fears were also abated when I started seeing people start to show up. I don’t know how many people I was expecting to show up, but I have to admit, I was worried that we would not have enough room to bring everyone.
Fortunately, we left Oakland with 9 people. We have 4 people in each van, and one person traveling in his own vehicle. We have plenty of leg room, a power inverter, music, food and water…what more do we need?
Our first stop on our journey to the National Gathering will be Reno, NV, which we are scheduled to arrive around 6pm. I’ve been told that there will be a potluck and a march when we arrive. Looking forward to streaming that!
So, that’s my update for now. Keep checking back, and I will keep you updated as we progress along our trip.
Well, we just crossed into Nevada, and are about 20 miles outside of Reno. I have to say, the scenery out here is absolutely breathtaking.
We’re actually making really good time, with minimal delays…primarily restroom stops. We stopped in the town of Truckee for a couple of minutes, because of its history regarding the Donner party.
Incidentally, I forgot to mention earlier that I will periodically be live streaming the road trip to Philadelphia. If you want to tune in, you can click over to here. If you wanna follow my blog for the caravan, it’s here.
OK, that’s all for now. I will post more later after we have gotten settled in Reno. I’m looking forward to our reception there.
So, our reception in Reno has been nothing short of awesome. We met up with Occupy Reno at a cute little bar called Strega. It’s actually a house from 1912! We were met by Occupy Reno with a very beautiful potluck dinner followed by a short march.
We only had about 20 people on the march, but I was told that was due to the march being planned at the last minute. The interesting thing was that we marched on the sidewalk. Apparently, when folks were marching a couple of weeks ago, Reno Police surrounded them with rifles drawn. We don’t need that.
So, this is going to conclude my post and updates for today. Type to everyone tomorrow!
– James Jennison –]]>
Chicago, IL–We walked rapidly to meet hundreds gathered in front of the Art Institute. I found out from a comrade how the march there was started by four people, walking home from the large protest, who decided to take the streets. Yes, four people ignited hundreds! So together, at the intersection of Adams and Michigan Ave, we danced and draped our arms around each other and howled our favorite chants. “A-Anti-An-Ti-Ca-Pa-Ta-Lista. An-Anti-An-Ti-Ca-Pa-Ta-Lista.” People looked so beautiful in the streetlights, all faces absolutely shining. Oh, and it started to rain! We did not disperse! In fact, the rain was what actually gave rise to our complete exuberance. This was my favorite time, if someone were to ask me to choose.
But the riot police then moved in as a malicious force to snatch and grab a comrade (a new tactic for arresting “trouble makers”). I am sure they have a reason to put on paper, but really it was to divide us; to end our moment of cheerful solidarity. As my friend Ramon wrote of his experiences with the oppressors of his Basque people, “They don’t like seeing you having fun”.
So we voted to march, as our energy had shifted. We had a GA! And while most comrades who spoke expressed a longing to stay, to hold the space, to meet each other, when we voted it was overwhelming to march. So we marched. It was spirited at first, but became a sort of manic advance on unknown dark places as police lines blocked us from the fancy hotels filled with dignitaries we had hoped to reach. Some kids became interested in turning things over (benches, flower pots), for which Occupiers got to demonstrate our familiar beauty by turning things back and then talking to the youth. But cops moved in shortly after with a reason.
These cops were not the ones with the brimmed hats and the pressed suits, who stood on street corners engaging pleasantly with folks. These wore black body armor. They were huge. They looked like robocops. They reminded me of OPD. We were walking very fast in the back, and the scuffling sounds their back body armor made as all of them rushed in behind me… Do you know what that is like? When your body goes to “fight or flight?” And then they tackled someone, the scuffling sounds peaking, and I turned around and saw four or five holding a woman up against a wall, her arm pinned above her head, the shock on her face! A woman! We walked towards her and said “We are just watching you arrest our friend. We have a right to do so.” But they didn’t follow those laws, and we felt this and started for the march again. And again I heard hideous sounds and turned around to see another sister thrown to the ground with officers on top of her. I left. I headed for the nearest subway stop. I did not turn around again.
I spoke with other Occupiers during the convergence who have deduced that police go after women to insight our anger. How it is that police around the country are displaying similar tactics at the same time. Who is giving these orders?
I return to Oakland the next day to find that another young black man has been murdered by OPD. They claim Alan Blueford had a gun. But really, the officer shot Alan three times and then once in his own foot for his own protection. And now I find out they have just arrested my friend…
We are being systematically brutalized and murdered by the state because of who we are and what we represent. It’s very romantic to think change comes about in peaceful, non-interrupting ways. But that is not our consciousness yet, and now I struggle with the notion that maybe it is not the goal after all. So, I join my comrades on the street and yell, “Stand Up, Fight Back!”
What I saw in Chicago were so many brave people, using their bodies (no shields!) between others and police. To be on the front lines as the crowd attempts to push through and police beat heads with billyclubs… “What did they say back in ’68?” one officer said. “Billyclub to the fucking skull,” another officer replied.
I read an article about revolutionaries in Egypt, impoverished by the system, who come to the mosques for refuge, their eyes red from the tear gas, their bodies bloody from police weapons. They receive medical attention, food and water and then take back to the streets to return to the front lines. We are resisting! Please, don’t tell us to be peaceful. We have tried that long enough. And our redwood forests are gone; our black, brown and poor people and abducted, incarcerated and murdered by the state; the Keystone Pine line is being built! Lakota grandmothers are standing in front of supply trucks. Let us have our anger! Let us demonstrate outrage! It is necessary.
We are in the midst of great transformation. And we are being challenged physically, mentally, emotionally on so many levels. Our adrenal systems (controlling hormones), nervous systems (controls signals between different body parts), muscular systems, are all hypervigilant.
Let’s take care of ourselves. And take care of each other.
Love Live the Oakland Commune and Fuck the Police!
– Molly Batchelder –]]>
I, like Chris Hedges, to name one of the liberal progressives I am referring to, and numerous members of the media that I’ve met at recent events in Oakland and San Francisco am white, greying and not dressed in black. I, like Chris Hedges, am deeply uncomfortable with violence as a protest tactic BUT unlike Chris Hedges, I am deeply sympathetic to those who feel their voices are not being heard and have never been heard and whose daily lives are impacted by an indifferent if not outright violent “peacekeeping force” we call the police.
I arrived about noon on May 1 to Oakland’s now infamous Oscar Grant Plaza to participate in the May 1st International Workers Day events. The streets around the plaza were cleared of traffic by the police until sometime around 2:30 pm when suddenly traffic was flowing through the streets demonstrators had been parading around for the duration of my time there. Instead of a few motorcycle police redirecting traffic about two or three blocks away from the square, there were now police two rows deep announcing all demonstrators had to get off the streets and stay on the sidewalks. A news van peeled out. Brave demonstrators faced the police line, tear gas canisters popped off, sirens could be heard and within minutes police were 6 deep all around the square. The air had become sharp from tear gas and the heightened sense of danger. Young men, in black from head to toe, calmly relayed the police dispersal order to those of us on the fringe and took extra time with parents who had kids in tow. I, along with others, headed for the 12th Street BART station. The gates were closed. It seemed there was no in or out. I walked in another direction even after organizers had earlier told us it was safer to stick together and because I was white and an obviously healthy woman, the police smiled, wished me a pleasant afternoon while giving me directions to the nearest open BART station just a few blocks away. One officer even moved the barricade aside so I could freely pass through.
I am not an experienced activist, I don’t want to get hurt and getting arrested is not a badge of honor for me. I know the fear of getting hurt is the reason put forth by many of my friends who stay away from the Occupy movement though I think their deeper reason is that they are comfortable so why fuss. But I, unlike many of my friends and maybe the seasoned mainstream liberal progressives like Chris Hedges who feel they have earned their stripes to say whatever they please about the Occupy movement’s “lack of focus” while blind to the awful reality of the oppressed in America and simultaneously glorifying the oppressed rising up in third world countries, feel heartache when I see police brutality enacted against our young people, against people of color, against those who were not born of privilege and against those who are sick– all of whom have been abandoned by those currently holding power in this country. I am sickened by the idea that this is the richest
country on earth and that our majority citizens feel no moral imperative to feed, house or provide decent heath care for all our people. I fear what the world and what this country will be like in another 30 years when my children will, most likely, be raising children of their own. I weep when I see what the establishment does to people exercising their First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly. Occupy started out as a protest movement against Wall Street greed and because of oppression against the movement in the name of protecting property over people, it has had to also become a protest movement against the system that uses violence against those who speak out against the numerous injustices suffered by the 99%.
I direct my comments specifically to Chris Hedges because he wrote a piece denigrating the Black Bloc group who then attempted to enlighten Mr. Hedges of their deepest motivations to care for and protect themselves and their fellow protesters from the excessive violent tactics of the police. Some months later I heard Mr. Hedges speak at a conference in Washington wherein he repeated his deep dislike of the Black Bloc and anyone who resorted to violence during Occupy protests as if he had never read the comments from Black Bloc members or demonstrators who had been helped by Black Bloc members. Mr. Hedges may not condone violence as a tactic of social change but he does not have to live as far too many others do– facing a bleak future if facing any future at all. What’s perhaps worse is that he fails to share with his readers that not every non-violent social movement succeeds – assuming there has ever been a flawlessly non-violent social movement. If Chris Hedges were directing his organizing efforts for the benefit of communities like Newark, New Jersey or Baltimore or SouthCentral LA rather than Manhattan perhaps his views of the “proper” conduct of protesters would be transformed by a greater understanding of the terribly harsh realities many face in today’s “Gilded Age”.
I do not condone violence, ever, even though I fail daily in my efforts to purge violence from my thoughts and deeds. But America does condone violence. Every day America enacts war in our streets, at our borders and around the globe. Violence is a language America understands. If our poor, our tired, our scared, and our sick are not being heard, then maybe the only alternative is to use the language power understands so intimately well. Chris Hedges has no formula to guarantee the success of this or any other political or social movement. None of us do but by participating we will move forward.
Check out all our May Day stories here.]]>
The Occupy movement is a global social demonstration aimed at overturning the interconnectivity of money/economic/political entitlement. In 2011, acting under orders from Mayor Jean Quan, Oakland cops destroyed two Occupy encampments on public land. The immediate aftermath of their and other cities police forces’ wanton destruction of the camps created dialogue about the definition of public space, the role of elected officials and the need for the Occupy movement.
Occupy Oakland furthered the debate by their attempt to re-purpose the 6-year abandoned and shuttered Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. The convention center has no current plans for use and Occupiers intended to re-purpose it as a community center, intending to offer housing, medical and convergence facilities. The simple fact that Occupy Oakland decided to enact this bold move is an indication that the public’s needs are not being met by their elected officials.
According to an eyewitness account from an arrested Mother Jones reporter, during an all-day festival, thousands of Occupy Oakland supporters demonstrated against the broken system, but did not take the abandoned convention center. Still, hundreds of police officers dressed in riot gear arrived to face down over a thousand Oakland men, women, and children as they walked the streets and sidewalks carrying signs, chanting and singing. According to the Huffington Post, there was a volley of tear gas and bottles between the police and protesters on the streets. According to various YouTube citizen video footage, the cops shot tear gas and flash bang grenades into lines of protesters, including a group of shield-carrying people protecting a medic as the masked individual provided medical assistance to a fallen man. Protesters retaliated by throwing bottles, furniture and rocks. Last year, brave men and women waded into the tear gas to rescue Scott Olsen after he was shot in the h
ead by a tear gas canister. They were dispersed when an officer shot a canister of tear gas directly into their group.
While no one should ever attack police officers, the violence enacted against police was a reaction to violence demonstrated to them. Not even in a directly proportional sense, the police launched high velocity flash bangs, smoke bombs, and bean bag projectiles while a few demonstrators tossed hand-sized objects while fleeing the public street.
In Oakland, a city so rife with economic and repressive tensions, Mayor Quan and Police Chief Howard seem intent on ignoring the needs of the public and grinding them under the department-approved 5.11 ATAC boot heel. In the mainstream media, Occupy Oakland participants have been typified as the aggressive instigators when, according to citizen journalists, they were only reacting to the upswing in violent action.
Furthermore, later that Saturday, Oakland police further increased the violence when after ordering the hundreds of women and men to disperse, kept them kettled in a small area and arrested them for a range of violations, including failure to disperse. Among the arrested included journalists. The elected officials of Oakland are choosing to burn taxpayer dollars restricting freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Instead of throwing blame like tear gas canisters or rocks, city officials should consider the upside of allowing a community organization to repurpose an abandoned structure for the betterment of their city.
Locally, in Oakland, the police and state escalated the power struggle by attending a peaceful public demonstration dressed in riot gear. Nationally, the federal government has shown up with its finest billy clubs as First Amendment-curtailing laws like NDAA are signed in to existence, regardless of public outcry.
Escalation is occurring. The state and status quo are utilizing their momentum to further increase the acceptable allowances of violence. When Occupations move to take back their rights, we are beaten, gassed, pepper sprayed, concussed, kettled, and arrested. As one of the many signs I’ve held at my Occupy Chicago rallies reads, “They only call it class warfare when we fight back,” that statement is truth. We need to keep fighting the escalation of violence. Every local occupation needs more ideas, more voices, more bodies dedicated to building a better world where public needs are met and police are not ordered to fire on their brothers and sisters.
– Natalie –
The day started like any other. We woke in the truck in Brooklyn to find Julie outside her apartment. She let us take some quick showers and gave us a cup of coffee while we chatted about anything from what we do for a living to the movement–small talk, really, but nice small talk. After that, we put in our time at Milk & Roses to knock out some work as fast as possible to get down to the protest a little earlier. Unfortunately, I had a good amount of work to sift through, so we didn’t make it down to Liberty Park until about 6pm.
As has become our tradition, Joe and I walked around the park to check out any new additions to the grounds. One small table was set up near where we entered the park. They were passing out food separate from the people’s kitchen. It was the second time I’d seen them, so I was curious. When I asked who they were and what they were up to, they said they were from the shelter (they lived there, not worked there) and they were serving food to anyone at the park. They’d made it, donated it, and served it, and they were living in the shelter, themselves! Incredible!
Joe and I hung out for a while with nothing much happening. David Peel was back leading sing-a-longs, so I hung around that circle and sang and filmed for a while. I found Joe after that, having gotten separated at some point, and he was busy grubbing on dinner. I wandered off while he ate his food and we became separated again for an hour or so, until I spotted him on the south end of the park talking to a couple people–an old Italian woman and a younger friend or relative of hers. I didn’t get their names.
After talking with those folks for 45 minutes or so, my feet were anxious to move, so I told Joe I was going to go get a couple slices of pizza since I’d missed the dinner servings in the kitchen. We said our goodbyes and Joe and I headed down to Pronto Pizza, where they overcharged me for three slices of pizza, a soda, and a beer.
After dinner we wandered back to Liberty Park, a mere block away, not expecting much to happen for the night. The crowd was relatively small compared to other nights, and it was generally quiet. A small march in solidarity for Oakland passed by once, but it was tiny, so I figured it was just a marginal march, but when they came back around the park with slightly more people, I decided to join in. I grabbed Joe and we jumped into the march.
We circled the park one more time, gathering a larger crowd, then headed off down Church past the 9/11 Memorial. We paused in front of it for a moment to gather together, chanting, “New York is Oakland! Oakland is New York!” and chants of every other sort, like “Hey hey! Ho ho! Police brutality has got to go!”
From there we made our way to city hall, trying to take the streets at every opportunity. A block down, a fireman opened a fire hydrant and yelled out, “If you stand here, you’re going to get wet! I’ve gotta open it!” “Bullshit!” I yelled at him, sticking a camera out at him.
By the time we made it to City Hall, we’d become quite a large group of people. Hundreds, if not a thousand. We circled City Hall slowly two or three times, gathering together in a close-knit group to make it harder for police to drag one of us out of the crowd. On the second trip around City Hall, people started spilling into the streets, and the cops quickly took out their clubs and threw a guy to the ground, jumping on him like a swarm of jackals, beating him, throwing their elbows and knees at everyone, pushing us all back with wild looks in their eyes as we tried to drag the person being arrested to safety and the group. That guy didn’t make it and was hauled off. A few steps beyond that, I saw three or four police officers, including a detective in a plain suit violently pushing and throwing a young girl and two young guys toward the sidewalk. The girl wasn’t taking any shit, swinging at the police officers with her fists, but they didn’t arrest her, they just violently shoved them onto the sidewalk with their clubs.
I screamed everything I could in those cops’ faces when they arrested that guy moments before. “Shame! Shame!” “The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching!” and every foul thing I could think of. I was literally nose to nose screaming in their face. When they pushed me with their clubs, I linked arms with the people around me and yelled as forcefully as I could, “Don’t you fucking touch me! Don’t you touch me!”
We made our way a few blocks away from there and by then we were riled. We were peacefully marching in solidarity against the police brutality in Oakland and here the police were beating the hell out of people and arresting them for stepping into the street. In most cities, under normal circumstances that constitutes a whistle blow and a dirty look from a traffic cop, or at worst, a ticket. Now that we were riled up, we were absolutely determined to take the streets, and we did, but we were quickly pushed back onto the sidewalk. But now, whenever they pushed us onto the sidewalk, people would run ahead of the cops and take the street again, then we’d all rush forward and we’d completely control the street, stopping traffic and chanting. It was incredible!
Another man was thrown down and beaten by at least six or seven policemen, and even more formed a circular wall around the arrest to keep us from seeing what they were doing and to keep us from trying to drag the victim away from them. The guy next to me took a club to the gut, but we all held our ground and surrounded the cops, yelling in their faces exactly what we thought of them, who they work for–anything we could think of to shame them into seeing what they are doing is wrong, but many people also, such as myself, were so disgusted and sickened by what we saw, anger took over and we very aggressively yelled in their faces, nose to nose. I’m talking centimeters away. As long as you don’t touch them, you’re good. But if you even accidentally bump them, they’ll call it assault and beat you down.
After we had to give up and let the man be arrested, we turned to continue the march, but the police had blocked off the intersection with one of their plastic orange net barricades. People plowed through over and under it. They couldn’t stop us. Once we burst through, we grabbed it and won a tug of war match with the police. I somehow ended up at the front of it, leading the way through the streets, screaming and chanting with the crowd, holding the police netting above our heads and peace and victory signs above our heads, pumping our fists, smiling and in love with life and our brief grasping of freedom. I could feel it in my hands and heart as real as the police netting. Cabbies and truckers were honking in solidarity with us, slapping us five out their car windows as we walked by. Traffic was completely shut down. Every time I passed a cab with open windows in the back, I ducked my head in and thanked the passengers for their patience.
By then, the police were largely helpless. A way up the street, there was a bottleneck in the middle of the street between to cabs. People were spilling all around them, but the people who tried to go between the cabs were suddenly met by a singular cop out of nowhere. All the other cops were somewhere else, trying to set up another block and ambush for us, but this guy was suddenly right there. “Ah, we’ve got a fucking hero over here!” I yelled. The cop started violently pushing and punching at the protesters who came his way. We yelled, “Go around! Go around!” and kept marching. I don’t know what became of that.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but we were marching toward Washington Square Park. We held and controlled the streets from City Hall to Washington Square Park and back to Liberty Park. The police were absolutely ineffective and helpless. They couldn’t control us. We chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!” changing it up now and then with “city” and “world”, rather than streets.
Everywhere you looked people were cheering, chanting, skipping, jumping, announcing updates from other Occupancies. Someone yelled out, “Oakland just took back the park!” and we all cheered and chanted as loud as we could.
We wandered through the village and everyone came out of the bars and restaurants in awe of us. Some joined in. People leaned out their windows to watch what was happening. I blew kisses at everyone I saw and yelled to them, “We’re making history! Join us!” Then we all chanted, “Join us! Join us!”
We wound our way through the streets in many directions to keep the police guessing as to where we were going. I hadn’t seen the mounted police since city hall, where we chanted, “Get that pig off that horse!” but the motorcycles were suddenly everywhere–the same motorcycles that have been used to run us over in the past. The police would head us off at each intersection and form a wall with their bikes, but we’d just run around them. Some people ran and tried to leap over them, but they were quickly snared by police and beaten to the ground.
Joe told me the guy who tried to talk us into getting arrested at Washington Square sidestepped one motorcycle that tried to run him over, only to have another come up on the other side of him trying to do the same thing. He then kicked down a police bike, knocking over several more, and the cops spilled over him in a massive horde and beat the hell out of him.
On the way to Washington Square, one guy in the march a few people in front of me suddenly started pissing on a car parked next to him and he almost got his ass kicked by fellow protesters for doing something so stupid and foul. We took care of him instantly and reigned in any violence that might have erupted from it.
In trying to evade the cops with their cars, vans, and motorcycles, we ran down one street and dragged wooden police barricades into the road to block their path. As soon as people saw what was happening, everyone started grabbing anything they could to do the same–garbage cans, many garbage bags, more barricades–anything we could find. Then we would run forward and always stay ahead of the police. They couldn’t do a damn thing.
At one point, I got a charlie horse in both of my calf muscles at the same time. I thought, “Ah hell; not now!” I just kept moving forward the best I could and was able to jog it off, thank god.
That Sgt. who’d made national news for chewing out the NYPD at Times Square marched with us, too, as did another man in uniform.
After controlling the major streets in downtown NYC, like Broadway, we decided to head back to Liberty Park and seize our victory before something unfortunate happened, or before police figured out a way to break us up. We marched back toward Liberty Park chanting, jumping, hugging strangers… Oh! and we WERE able to drag one victim out of the police’s clutches, to which we all cheered massively.
As we made our way back to Liberty Park, we dominated the streets, linked arms, slowed down, seizing our power, and sang “Solidarity Forever”.
We entered Liberty Park arm in arm in solidarity and everyone met us with cheers, applause, and noise of all kinds. It was an incredible night! The march was followed by a few speeches of love and devotion to the people. I was exhausted and drenched with sweat. I gave absolutely everything I had in me to that march. We wanted to show Oakland serious solidarity for their dedication and we did just that. We made history, and Oakland took back the park!
We are the 99%! We are too big too fail!
Minutes after the surprise raid, the occupiers held an emergency GA which led to a group of 50 – 100 people marching in the streets on their way to the local police station where the arrestees were being detained. Once there, we were met with a line of agitated “peace officers” who shouted at us to “get the fuck away from them.” Some were slamming their batons on the ground in a failed attempt to intimidate the growing crowd of protesters who began giving the “pigs” a piece of their mind.
After finding the entrance, a group of about 5 of us let ourselves in to attempt to have a reasonable conversation to gather information about those who were arrested earlier in the evening. Pratibha Gautam, an attorney and member of “The Fresh Juice Party,” offered her legal knowledge and engaged the clerk in a civilized manner. I began to film with my cell phone & within seconds a disembodied male voice firmly requested that we shut the door. As I began to walk over to shut the door, 15-20 armed police officers filled the space and instantly demanded that we pick one person to speak to the gang of officers and the other four of us were given a 10 second warning to leave the building or stay the night with our fellow occupiers in a jail cell for “trespassing.”
Gautam was chosen to speak to the officers while the rest of us waited outside the glass doors. Unfortunately the OPD was uncooperative and did not give her any useful information, but rather a lie designed to send us to an empty building in search of our abducted comrades.
Occupiers yelled messages of love & solidarity to the prisoners with a loud and clear collective “OCCUPY!”
-Fresh Juice Party]]>
The rally gathered about 400 people, departing at about 5 p.m. and wove through downtown Oakland heading for the Alameda County Courthouse to show solidarity with those incarcerated from the raid. Police in riot gear were stationed in front, and about a block away as we approached a group of 10 or so riot police (previously forming a line across the street, but quickly overwhelmed by the mass) tore through the crowd, flailing batons, and tackled two protesters. The crowd surrounded the officers, who had formed a circle around the arrestees, chanting angrily. There was a stalemate that lasted about 15 minutes, while people threw what looked like colorful paint balls at the cops and some beverages in plastic cups, yelling “LET THEM GO! LET THEM GO!” I watched an officer radio for backup, and a few minutes later, more cops descended upon the group and teargas canisters were discharged. The crowd scattered. I started to run, and saw a couple up against a storefront, banging on the doors while a canister belched gas beside them. The owner opened the door and I ran in with them, and he locked it behind us. They were both in shock, and the girl was clearly having a panic attack. I told her to relax, and had her sit down. Our eyes were watering, the guy said his lungs were burning and he couldn’t breathe. I calmly told them they would be fine (though my adrenaline was pumping), the girl asked anxiously for water and I gave them my canteen. I asked what happened, or something to that effect, and the girl said, “They fired the teargas right AT us!!” The owners had brought some more water, and we thanked them profusely for providing a safe haven. We walked back to the windows and looked out, taking video on our phones. “This is a fucking police state,” was all I could mutter. I told them I had to get back out there, the crowd had cleared a bit and I wanted to be with the main group. The couple thanked me and I told them to stay safe.
The riot cops had started to vacate, apparently the group had c ircled the block and was coming back around, heading east towards Broadway. I reconvened with them, and we made our way down Broadway towards 14th and the plaza. The plaza was still cordoned off and a line of riot cops blocked all of 14th and the entrance to the park behind a barricade, as well as all other approaches to the plaza. As the group started to occupy the intersection, protesters removed the metal barricades between the crowd and line as more officers from the AC sheriff’s department jogged up behind them in full riot garb–including plastic shields and gas masks. Sergeant Banks of the OPD was giving warnings over a loudspeaker, declaring the group was an unlawful assembly, in violation of CA penal code 409, and if it did not disperse in 5 minutes that “chemical agents” and “force” would be used and injury would be possible. The crowd shouted back, chanting various memes, one of which stuck with me “WHO ARE YOU PROTECTING?” The marchers decided to head down Broadway, just as some of us began to sit down in the intersection. The group made its way, directed by none other than Boots Riley of The Coup, down to the intersection of 20th and Harrison amidst a cluster of Mega-Banks. We stayed for 10 minutes before heading 2 blocks east to Snow Park, site of the satellite Occupy camp that was also raided earlier today. Upon seeing how dark the park was, people amassed in the adjacent street underneath lamps for an impromptu General Assembly. After some group negotiations and a whole lot of cheering, it was decided to head back towards the plaza to reclaim it for the people.
Police and news helicopters were constantly circling, with spotlights periodically highlighting the crowd. At this point, the march had grown to over 1,000 strong. We took back up 20th to Broadway, where we made a left and headed back towards Grant Plaza. People were joining left and right, and the crowd had swelled considerably from the modest group gathered in front of the Library earlier. Back at the intersection of 14th/Broadway, Sgt. Banks repeated the same warnings from earlier. No time limit was given. At about 7:45 p.m., flash grenades and teargas canisters were launched into the intersection with a thunderous announcement. The group scattered and started running, and I had brief pangs about a stampede but no one seemed to be getting trampled. Explosions were going off all around us, and it felt like a war-zone. I looked back and pushed people ahead of me, spotting a disabled woman in a wheelchair still in front of the barricade and riot line. A man was behind her trying to push the heavy motorized chair away, and I started back to help him. Gas burned my eyes and lungs as explosions continued to go off around me. I felt a sharp pain on my arm and it took me a few seconds to realize I’d been hit by a projectile. The pain was excruciating and my entire right forearm went numb. I spun around and sprinted away as bullets hit me in my backpack and left heel. It all happened so quickly that none of it had yet registered. As I ran down the street cursing, I looked down and realized I was bleeding. There was a large, round welt on my arm and blood was dripping down my hand. I took my hankerchief and wrapped it around, jogging down 14th towards the marchers.
Though I was a couple blocks away now, the teargas effects somehow got worse, my eyes were watering and I couldn’t keep them open. I sat on a curb briefly, shaking from the intense pain and adrenaline, realizing that I needed to locate a medic. At that point I continued down 14th to Alice, where a group had stopped and someone was talking over a loudspeaker. “Has anyone seen a medic?!” I yelled. “Yes! Right here.” The woman beside me happened to be one. That was easy, I thought. She led me over to the sidewalk where two other gas-masked medics, who’d been present the entire march, assisted in cleaning and dressing my wound. I asked one of them if the bullets could break bones, as I was concerned that I’d suffered a fracture. They said yes, but I was able to move my arm and wrist so it probably wasn’t broken. A small group had gathered and 6 or 8 people were taking photos of my wound. I got up and thanked the brave medics, and we continued following the march. It looked as though they were circling and heading back for downtown. I was at the back, and a few people had stopped after seeing a line of cops one block down to the left. It seemed like they were going to box the crowd in and try to break it with force. We tried calling the group back, but it was too late. Some were in communication with others at the front, and our small group doubled back to circle around and meet up with the march again. I started chatting with a young woman that had just gotten there, and as we approached 14th I decided that I’d had enough excitement for one day. Call me a wussy, but I was not about to charge back into the lion’s den at that point. I walked back to the Library where my bike was locked, and slowly rode home like a defeated sportsman.
My arm is still aching, I can’t move it without pain, and a huge bruise had popped up when I checked it at home to take more pictures. Tomorrow I might get an x-ray, if I can afford it. The last one I got was $800. The helicopters seemed to have stopped circling for now, though I still hear one buzzing about. It’s almost 11 o’clock. I guess tomorrow’s another day.
10/26: I went to work for a couple hours, but my limited dexterity made it difficult. I couldn’t grip or use my wrist without a lot of pain. I went home with intentions of going to the hospital. Lacking medical insurance, I really couldn’t afford to pay for a visit (nor did I feel I should be financially responsible). It wasn’t easy to decide, but after removing the bandages and seeing how swollen my arm was (almost doubled), plus the pain when trying to move my arm muscles, I was convinced that it was the best idea. I went to Highland Hospital, an Alameda County-run community hospital. It was about 2 p.m. and the wait wasn’t too long. A doctor saw me, had me grip her hand and do some exercises and told me it didn’t appear to be broken. She sent me in for the x-ray to be sure. Apparently, the projectile had struck a large nerve, literally, that runs from your shoulder all the way to your thumb. This explained the debilitating pain and numbness I experienced . She explained that the swelling was still pressing on the nerve, which is why it was still numb around the wound. I didn’t find out about Scott Olsen until later, which made my meager flesh wound seem insignificant at best. Looking at footage of the scene, I realized that I was about twenty feet from him when he was hit. I’ve had a hard time reconciling my fortunate fate, and felt very lucky to say the least. The x-ray came back with no fracture. The doctor told me to take some ibuprofen, and I was on my way.
I went home for a bit, then headed back to the plaza around 6, unsure of what scenario I would find there. Traffic was normal as I approached on my bike, a good sign. There were scattered folks around the entrance, the ubiquitous news vans, and a chain-link fence around the grass that people were starting to pull down. Everything had been removed, and the plaza had been power-washed. There were no police anywhere, and combined with the quiet platitude of the plaza, it made for an eerie atmosphere. I kept looking nervously down the streets, expecting a line of riot cops to come marching down, but nothing of the sort happened. Still, I kept my bike helmet on and a scarf wrapped around my face. I made my way over to the rotunda, and couldn’t believe what I saw.
The amphitheater was packed with people. There was hardly any room to move. I stood on top of a wall by the ramp, and watched speakers as they recounted the horrors of the previous night, spoke about injustice, and gave riveting speeches to a very receptive crowd. Families were there, all kinds of folks from young to old, incensed by the violence they either experienced or saw video of. Some estimated the crowd to be about 3,000 in total. It was a deeply moving scene. Suddenly, people wanted to be involved. Sad though it was that it took a capitulating event of brutality to motivate this level of support, it was an amazingly heartwarming sight to see. Perhaps what happened was a blessing. A proposal for a General Strike on Nov. 2 was brought forth and announced. We broke into groups of 20 to discuss. It was so crowded, you couldn’t move. Between the shock of being in such a markedly different, emotional situation, and lack of sleep, I couldn’t contribute much to the discussion. But I did listen. There were a lot of new faces and a lot of new ideas, and it was beautiful. The proposal ended up passing with an overwhelming majority, by many people who were there for the first time.
Since Occupy Wall Street began, I have been arrested in both Oakland and in Los Angeles. Across this nation we have seen protesters being beaten, pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed, and shot with rubber bullets and bean-bag projectiles. As of Sunday morning, there are a total of 4,619 arrests across the country. You read that correctly. The United States of America has arrested nearly five thousand people made up of nonviolent students, citizens, seniors, activists, journalists, and legal observers. I hope my arrests may highlight the permeating cancer we’re fighting. I hope my arrests may illuminate the overt attempts by the oligarchs to inhibit freedom, incarcerate the dissenters, and further the continued destruction of this great experiment known as America.
I was in Oakland for their November 2nd General Strike, and was part of the 103 arrests in the nighttime raid of Alameda County Sheriff’s department on Occupy Oakland. I spent 16 hours in a cold, dirty holding cell in Oakland with other comrades bent on the devilish desire of restoring democracy to this country. The police took every opportunity to intimidate us, letting us languish in the jails with tight zip-tied cuffs for hours as many of us suffered bruises and wounds from the attacks at Occupy Oakland.
Those arrested were the ones within an arbitrary “no-zone” around the tent city. We were the ones who came to investigate in the dead of night the hundreds of shock troops assembled around a community encampment. We were the ones that raised a peace sign and held our ground. Those that fled the state’s power were spared. They who submitted to the fears of the helicopters, guns, paddy wagons, and tear gas were out of danger. Yet the First Amendment was the only permit we needed! The occupy movement is a 24/7 protest on public space because of the immediate and dire need to change the course of this nation. But still the raised shotguns fired and flash-bang grenades exploded.
I hope you have all seen the video of Ranger veteran Kayvan Sabeghi being beaten mercilessly by shock troops for standing up against injustice. I witnessed first-hand as his internal injuries grew worse and he screamed from the floor of the jail hallway for medical assistance. I observed the smirks on the guards’ faces as they did nothing until hour fifteen.
I was treated personally with mostly dignity. They saw my white skin, they heard me speaking policy, politics, and law, and they saw me look them in the eyes with a righteous indignation that I would wager they do not often receive. The National Lawyers Guild assured us of our timely release and the legal action they would be taking in our defense, so it turned into a waiting game.
The worst feeling of the ordeal was the utter powerlessness I felt when trapped unjustly. Here I was, witnessing wrongs that I was incapable to stop. In all honesty, it made me very angry. For me, Oakland was a transition of sorts. As a white, educated, heterosexual male from suburbia, I had never experienced many of the problems I was now standing up against. Hell, I was pulled for speeding and the officer happened to be my lifeguard at the country club I attended. He told me to run along and slow it down. That’s it. Meanwhile, my brothers and sisters have their Fourth Amendment rights violated at every corner in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods.
So my transition was one from vicarious experience to truth. What was a sad or maddening article of injustice in the New York Times suddenly became a reality check. I was no longer discussing the problems of the prison-industrial complex in a campus coffee shop. I was talking about the War on Drugs with a disaffected young black man hauled in for possession with intent to sell as we sat chained to the wall.
Once out of jail, cited and released for “Remaining at the scene: riot, etc,” I strapped on my gas mask, tied up my boots, and made a beeline for the occupation. Along the way, we passed a local black-and-white that rolled down their windows in a surprisingly friendly manner.
“You guys headed back? Be good!” they exclaimed with hot coffees in hand and ready for their beat. My revolutionary brother raised his shirt and displayed the perpendicular 18” bruise along the middle of his back. The officers immediately expressed a kind of dumb-founded shock. These were not the black-clad thugs from the previous night.
“Who did that to you? That could not have been us; we’re not trained that way. You can paralyze someone with a hit like that,” said the driver, disregarding a green light to further gawk at the police brutality.
My comrade’s back was bruised when he was peacefully meditating between the state gangsters and the youth barricading them from the violence to come. Seated in the lotus position, the first blow directed at him was parried by a Real Life Superhero’s shield. After he was beaten unconscious, they turned back to the danger-to-society pacifist and cracked him across the back.
On our return to Occupy Oakland, we were greeted with cheers, hugs, slices of cold pizza and freedom. We were back home.
Occupy Los Angeles
I spent a further 14 hours in a cold, dirty holding cell in Los Angeles with forty-six other freedom fighters. Ranging from ninety-three to nineteen, the wide collection of protesters served to show the LAPD how diverse this group was. This was the first mass arrest for this haven of a city. Since Occupy Los Angeles’ inception, the LAPD, City Council, and Mayor have all worked to facilitate a nonviolent protest around City Hall. This has also made Occupy LA toothless and my goal for November 17th was to raise awareness of the scope and seriousness of these protests.
We had several actions throughout the day that were unpermitted, which set the course for the LAPD to grudgingly show their truer colors. The beat cops in their blues disappeared and the riot cops in tactical gear and missing badge numbers took their place. What had been a relatively passive occupation on the lawns of City Hall was gaining steam. Members of the occupation wanted to toe the line of what this whole thing was about: money in politics.
So we marched to the plaza at Bank of America and set up a flash occupation on the grounds owned by Brookfield Properties – the same corporation that owns Zuccotti Park and a property that was smack dab in the middle of the hallowed halls of Los Angeles commerce.
I joined other comrades in a fast that day, in order to recognize that we are all responsible for the woes we were raising our fists against. I was not a part of Occupy LA in order to protest a specific rich CEO or attack a single corrupt politician. If I was in a position of power, I just may abuse it as our leaders have. So for me, a fast was a symbolic gesture that in absolving this system of oppression we must also absolve those selfish ideals within ourselves if we have any hope of succeeding.
Just like my personal transition in Oakland, Angelinos were feeling the reality of what the Occupy Movement is fighting as they witnessed hundreds of police assemble in riot gear around a tiny patch of symbolic grass. Deemed a ‘private persons arrest’ for trespassing by “Citizen Thompson,” the police moved in on 47 people at 4:30 pm that afternoon. They were blatantly taking orders from the 1% to move in and squash political action by the 99%. How threatening that rag-tag group of activists locking arms around a medical tent must have been.
As we were processed, I immediately saw a chasm between the treatments in LA versus Oakland. We were, as an officer told us, “being treated with kid gloves.” I did not thank her for that, as unfortunately some of my fellow arrestees did. Why should I thank an officer for doing her job and upholding the presumption of innocence and satisfactory levels of human decency?
Because of the kid gloves, I seethed from the injustice. Where were the dozens of detectives that were arresting and booking the white collar criminals that are destroying our planet? Where with the black-clad SWAT teams that were zip-tying the war-profiteers for making billions as millions of people died because of their purchased policies?
Just like in Oakland, my appearance, demeanor, and speech made room for officers to try the classic “divide and conquer” strategy. I was festooned with compliments and calls for me to “forget about the partiers and homeless just there to party.” I was advised by plainclothes detectives to get serious, leave the “South side” (of City Hall… where most of the divisive language about the “partiers” resides) to them, and work on getting into politics myself.
I met those suggestions with flat out rejection. I told several of the officers that strategy of throwing out the poor, wretched refuse is what helped fill their jails. Rejecting and discarding whatever he took a “partier” to mean was exactly what this movement was not. For one, I am wholly and totally against the wars on drugs and poverty that have imprisoned and oppressed millions. Why would I ever want to continue a policy that destroys lives?
Secondly, I have witnessed the disaffected and unserious become empowered and solemn about the issues that caused camps to spring up across the globe. How dare this elitist tool of the plutocrats work to divide a people’s movement. It is even silly to think that his tactics could work when I have seen social progress at occupations that is far and away more substantial than a strategy of throwing people who share a bottle of wine or smoke a joint together in the cold night under the bus.
The Future – More Arrests?
I do not know what the future holds. Two months ago, I could have never predicted that I would have had a shotgun in my face in Oakland, protested the President as he drove by in West Hollywood, helped galvanize Occupy Long Beach in the face of police psych-warfare and sleep deprivation, or been surrounded by goons in black protecting ATM machines as curious passersby looked on.
Here’s what I do know: Standing up is an action that a lot of Americans have forgotten or left in the dust out of disgust. For decades, dissent and empowerment has been attacked on all fronts. Provocateurs infiltrate, groups splinter, and our education system falls short of honest dialogue on political and economic systems. Voting rights are attacked, gerrymandering is pervasive, and money in politics ensures any progress for the people is undermined.
But I must resist. I am compelled to get on the frontlines and lock arms with Truth on my left and Justice on my right. Perhaps it is because of my youth that I have the nerve to imagine an alternative. However, that is who has always been the vanguard for change. Those that are naïve enough to think that people should be treated fairly are the ones that must Stand Up. Right now. See you out there.
– Ryan Rice –]]>