Tag Archive | "police intimidation"

A Chronicle of #S17 (A GREAT, but LONG Day)


New York, NY – I set my alarm to go off at 5:00 so that I’d be able to leave by 5:30 to get to 55 Water (The Vietnam Veteran’s memorial) at 6:30. The alarm went off and I got up, but I figured “I showered last night I don’t have much to do before I leave, I can lay down for a second again and then head out.” I wake up again at 6:30…

I throw clothes on, pack up my battery pack, and book it. I get to Wall Street at 7:15. OccupyTime is a wonderful thing as they are still organizing.

A group of about 300 people leaves from 55 Water at around 7:30 and we march with intent to form The People’s Wall in front of the NYSE. This action’s intent would be to block anyone from entering the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). It is no surprise this action really just ended up with us marching in circles around the financial district. The area was heavily fortified and there was no way the police were going to let us anywhere near the NYSE. This was not terribly surprising but it was certainly discouraging to me. No matter, back to 55 Water St to regroup.

Now for the action entitled “99 Revolutions.” This is when the fun began. We left the Veteran Memorial in smaller Affinity Groups. The idea for 99 Revolutions was to disperse in small groups and block traffic at intersections in a very decentralized manner. The theory: the police know how to deal with a centralized group. The police will not be as able to stop a great many different groups, in various locations, around the financial district. Some groups would get stopped yes, but many would likely be able to cause traffic jams. This plan worked brilliantly.

I happened by about several different intersections where traffic was being slowed down considerably due to the protester and police presence. I saw several arrests as well. Here are some videos:

Congestion at William and Pine (video length approx 4 mins):
http://ustre.am/_1IVoF:1ehs

Arrests resulting from the congestion at William and Pine (video length approx 5 mins):
At the 3:00 mark of this video you can hear the crowd chanting “We! Pay Your Salary!”
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25483598

Marching in circles, blocking traffic, at Beaver and South William St. (video length approx 1:45)
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25484311
More at the same intersection of Beaver and South William St. (video length approx 1:45)
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25484367
More at the same intersection of Beaver and South William St. (video length approx 2:00) (dancing in street begins at 1:27)
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25484399
Chanting “A-Anti-Anticapitalista” in the same intersection of Beaver and South William St. (video length approx :18)
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25484443

It is very much worth noting the success of this tactic of intersection blockades can be seen through the action at this intersection lasted about 5 and a half minutes. During that time. Not one police officer came to stop us. I heard somewhere the officers were busy on dealing with our successful congestion of Broadway.

The intersection blockades lasted until 10, at which point we all met up at Bowling Green (the location of the Wall Street Bronze Bull Statue) for an environmental action. As usual the police had the bull completely surrounded and guarded from the threat of protesters who, at most, would have had difficult time putting a dent in the statue because it is made of bronze.

To gather everyone together, all 3 to 400 of us we had Reverend Billy Talen doing his thing with the Stop Shopping Choir
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25484918

Next there was a theatrical performance about the environment. To help the show the Rude Mechanical Orchestra rocked some background music:
http://ustre.am/_1IVPM:1eiq

Jill Stein spoke next
http://ustre.am/_1IVPM:1eir

My feeling about Jill Stein is as follows. I like what she says. However, there’s no chance she’ll ever win election. Until there is serious electoral reform (at least) the only candidates who will ever have a chance to win are those from the corporate whore parties (Democrats/Republicans). So though Jill Stein seems cool to me, I can’t get overly excited about her. At most I hope she inspires others.

After this we took a short break and had an Action Spokes council in Battery Park to discuss what actions would take place for the rest of the day. I didn’t attend this because my phone was not charging well off my battery which meant I needed a new cable. I headed to J&R. This unfortunately did not pan out well since J&R is owned by Jewish people and S17 was the first day of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. So I looked around, saw a Sprint store, assumed a cell phone store would have a cable to charge a cell phone, and went there to buy it. Success!

This is also when I realized I had an opportunity to get lunch so I hit up a halal cart and went to eat in Liberty Square. I met with friends, chatted, and nourished myself on Chicken and Rice. I was also informed of a march that would be taking place by VOCAL NY I believe after the rally that was about to take place.

I want to say right off the bat, I respect and appreciate every organization that came to the rally and said their piece. The more community groups we have the better. The more organized we are the better. The more we work to fix our own problems instead of relying on a leader the better. However, I really, really, really, really, really, really, really hate rallies. I find them incredibly boring and scripted. I can appreciate an organized march with a scripted demonstration within it. However, I get bored out my mind standing in one place for an hour listening to community organizations plug themselves. Some people like rallies because of the structuring, programming, and the way that they can learn about organizations. For learning about organizations, yes, rallies are cool. However, most of the time the speakers at rallies just say relatively generic stuff which appeals to audiences interested in the same causes they are.

Anyway, after the rally I got wind of another action to happen at the World Financial Center. I raced over.

As soon as I got there I noticed there was private event going on (it seemed to be a car show). I hit up the celly loop to get the word out. The new plan was apparently to meet up by the marina. Yup, there was a crowd there of probably 3 to 400. We had a short discussion over the fact that there were people in Liberty Square who wanted to join us. This however would have taken too long. The group ended up splitting at this point. One group went to Goldman Sachs to do a civil disobedience where I believe 5 people were arrested. Another group went to the FDR drive to block traffic for about a minute. I went with the group to Goldman Sachs. Unfortunately my camera angles weren’t very good here so there’s not much to post.

Next we went back to Liberty Square. By this point the atmosphere was vibrant in the park. Full of celebration, discussion, nostalgia, singing, dancing, drumming. It was just like the days of the Occupation when the movement had finally gotten mainstream attention to draw in the crowds, and we hadn’t put up tents yet. It was perfect and words can’t describe it, just watch…
(approx video length 30:00)
http://ustre.am/_1IWNz:1eix

The next march we did was at about 3:30 and we wanted Wall Street. The restrictions on the area had dropped a bit from the morning’s attempts and we got so far as a block from the New York Stock Exchange. Upon reaching Nassau Street and Pine Street I had already made my way to the front of the march and I got a surprise. THE PEOPLE’S GONG! It was unfortunately cut short as the police realized what we were doing and viewed it as something which could be a potential “win” if we were allowed to recite the whole thing; so they pushed the entire crowd back. It was awesome though.

At this point I took down my feed and needed lunch. My lunch had left me relatively unfulfilled, I was dehydrated, and dealing with the shock of being EXTREMELY close to police brutality on the last march (I saw an officer ram an Occupier’s head into the scaffolding on Cortlandt St. I’d post this footage, but even though my phone never showed any kind of signal problem, the footage is no longer in my archive and I never deleted it).

The GA happened at 8 in Liberty Square and I just wanted to relax for a bit and talk to friends, and gather myself. I took my feed down for maybe an hour.

At around 10 was when we got the first sign of the police saying “okay kiddies, time to end the celebration.” The lights over the park turned off, and the police presence had grown to some degree around the park. This caused some concern amongst those present in the park which a few people (GA provocateurs from back when) took full advantage of and almost manipulated us into a march. A march would have led to a beat down as it was after hours, and past sundown, in New York. We were saved though. Occu-cake was served.
(video length approx 3:30)
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25495512

The rest of the night consisted of the police intimidation tactics and not much else. They shined 6 floodlights into the park. Yes, 6 floodlights, because 7 would have been too many… They came in and escalated the environment for no reason and then left. We reacted with some cop hate getting spewed on one side of the park while people danced for Anarchy on the other side. Some of us dealt with the the police escalation with a massive Occupy Ohm Circle. It was a wonderful, trademark way to end the 1 year anniversary.

I remember, when the park was raided back on November 15 and the newspapers were saying “Occupy faces an uncertain future,” my response was “the raid saved the movement because it forced us to band together and stand our ground.” The raid also gained us a lot of support from the general public as, on raid night, the Occupy Wall Street trend eclipsed ALL other trends on twitter. Everyone who was involved in the movement just laughed at the media’s death sentencing of us. We got together and we organized, we did road trips, we made friends, we started building alliances with community organizations. We started Interoccupy. We resurfaced on May Day and inspired tons of other groups to join the May Day march (who’d never wanted to associate with it before). We went to the NATO summit in Chicago in spite of the fact that everyone was terrified of what might happen to us, and we ended up becoming very acquainted with Michigan Avenue. We held the National Gathering. We did a 99 mile march. We went to the RNC and the DNC.

Now however I do need to ask whether or not we face an uncertain future. Occupy succeeded in changing the conversation of the nation, which is no easy task. There has also been a lot of inspired activism from Con Ed workers, the Chicago Teacher’s strike, and smaller more under-unionized groups like Car Wash Workers. It’s wonderful how we’re starting to see a growth in activism in the country. I do need to ask, though. What does Occupy do now? We spent a year complaining, and there was a LOT to complain about. However, amidst the complaining, we’re going to have to start offering solutions. Maybe not concrete solutions, but we need to start offering ideas and having discussions. You can’t only talk about the negatives without exploring ways to fix them. This does not necessarily mean reforms. It just means we have to start giving people reasons why they should still believe in us.

The anniversary proved that Occupy never died (even though the Mainstream Media has said the 1500 protesters in Zuccotti Park/Liberty Square only numbered “a few hundred” protesters on S17). What do we have to show for it though? Great, we never left, what did we learn in over the past year about ourselves and about organization? Where did we mess up? Where did we succeed? Where did we wander with a lack of understanding what we were doing? How do we do outreach? How do we communicate better with one another? What does it mean to Occupy?

No matter what the answer is we can’t be stuck on particulars. In-fighting wont solve anything, and we’ve seen too much of that already. We have to work towards the world that we want, but we CANNOT be certain of what that world will be. The main reason for this is, we’re not prophets, and we if we try to be extremely rigid in our visions of the future, we’ll fail at accomplishing any vision for the future besides a dispersed, and divided one. One of the values of true Anarchy, as I understand it, is learning to respect one another and accept our differences, coexisting but making sure we hold each other accountable. Can we do this? We wont reach solve everything in a year from now, and we wont do it in two years either. However, what can we accomplish in a year? What would be significant, yet practical?

I’m in this for the long haul, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

-StopMotionSolo-

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#S15 Day 1 of Build-up to #S17


Editorial note: This story was originally published at the author’s blog. Read the original post here.

New York, NY- My interest of discussion is in my observations of police-protester relations.

The first boiling point of this movement may come to fruition this weekend. There are many out-of-towners in NYC right now and many rookie cops have been placed on Occupy duty. The out-of-towners are really cool people but do not know how to react to police repression. Specifically, NYPD repression. As I’ve been in other cities I have noticed something of a mutual understanding between the police and protesters. In those places there is a feeling, from the police, of “Okay, you’re gonna protest, we gotta watch you, do you’re thing, be respectful, don’t go overboard, you can go in the streets if you’d like but just keep it moving, and tomorrow will be another day.” I say this in regards to their treatment of us, not in discussion of the multitudes of Police that have been assigned to escort us.

In New York the feeling from the Police is drastically different: “Listen, you’re gonna protest, and we really don’t care, but if you even come close to stepping out of line even slightly, because you’re Occupiers, we’re arresting your asses and then you can take it up with the judge.”

As another friend of mine put it the feeling outside of New York is “get off, Get off, GET OFF!” In New York the feeling is “FUCK! OFF!”

If you live in New York, typically you will understand how to deal with this. Meaning, you’ll be more compliant. You will march, and you will say your piece, but you don’t fuck around and you know the drill and how to not get arrested. If you’re not from New York, and MANY of us this weekend will NOT be, you will not understand this. The first natural instinct of many will be to push back, as was the first instinct of the original Zuccotti Park Occupiers before they learned the score and gained first hand experience of some of the crap that minorities go through on a daily basis.

I am glad to have them here and the anniversary wouldn’t be the same without them, but even from the first march I can see the out-of-towners escalate REALLY fucking quickly. I don’t mean to blame them either, they are used to dealing with police forces that have been trained to be more lenient. All I’m saying is… it will reach a boiling point. There were 1000 in town today. The anniversary is in 2 days. People have heard the stories of the Zuccotti Park encampment back when and have been eager to come to the start of it all. They have heard of the police brutality and some may have an itch to give the officers a piece of their minds.

Some of the police officers are rookies. Some of them have heard of Occupy and want to know more about it, some probably joined the force because they wanted to laugh at, or beat the shit out of Occupiers. Some joined for the paycheck. No matter what many have not had the experience needed to decipher when someone is just screaming, or when someone is about to get physical. Many of the newer officers might scare easier as well. We all know how wonderful it can be for someone with military training, pepper sprays, and batons to get scared… On the plus side I highly doubt they will use their guns (I’m serious about that and thankful, it’s extremely unlikely they’ll pull their guns).

No matter what the background, rest assured folks, this weekend will get Occupy back on the map. I think it might also make the NYPD look like one of the worst trained police forces in the country…

As a journalist, I’m looking forward to this. As a person, and a friend of many Occupiers… I’m not…

- StopMotionSolo

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How Dare You Protest?!


I was crossing Nassau Street within a mass of approximately 500 people during the first minutes of a peacefully festive early morning demonstration. I heard the words “get him” yelled from somewhere among the crowd. A group of 6 to 8 NYPD officers were standing quietly near the crosswalk as the crowd flowed around them. My hand was raised in the air at this moment with a camera phone as I was about to take a photograph of the Federal Hall National Memorial building.

I first realized that the “get him” was directed at me when one of the officers reached up and grabbed my right hand, which was holding the camera. The other officers moved to restrain me from behind, not allowing me to remove the camera wrist strap before applying plastic cuffs. I did not resist or complain to the officers, as it was obvious that they already understood the improper nature of this no-warning arrest. The telephoto camera lens was still engaged behind my back as one of the officers squeezed it shut with great force. I could feel the gears grinding as the end of the phone was still in my hand. The officer continued grinding his thumb into the phone screen as the others patiently waited for the glass to break.

That didn’t work so they turned their attention to ripping the phone from the tough vinyl fabric strap that was still stuck under the plastic handcuffs. The one officer alone could not break the strap so two officers pulled together. The strap was so strong that they had to leverage their weight against my body to break it. The cameras metal and plastic casing broke before the vinyl strap.

Several television news crews had surrounded us by this point, at which time I began yelling to the cameras that the officers were taking my phone and trying to break it. One of the cops then deliberately held up the phone for the cameras to see and placed it into my backpack. The camera phone still appears to function so I will not be requesting reimbursement.

My other complaint concerns an Officer Akopov(shield #19909). He was working at approximately 9AM in the first room that new arrestees enter during the booking process. Akopov searched me in one of two small cubicles located within this same room. He immediately exhibited mild physical aggression, grasping and pushing with more force than necessary.

I remained casually polite in tone and demeanor, following Akopov’s instructions to first remove a shirt and belt. The pants did not fit without a belt so I was going to ask for a rubber band to hold them up. “This is going to be a problem………..”, I said, not having time to get the words out before Akopov said, “It’s not a problem for me. Buy clothes that fit.”

He next asked for the elastic band around my ponytail. The band came off entangled with a few pieces of my long brown hair. “You’re disgusting”, said Akopov. My pants had fallen down to my ankles because he would not let me hold them up. The front of the cubicle was open and female arrestees were in the room. Akopov asked me to take my socks off then immediately added “get a move on” although I remained moving at a quick pace. I do admit loosing verbal patience with Akopov at this point, when I asked, “Are you a smart guy? A tough guy?”. He responded. “I’m not a tough guy…….but I’m a smart guy.”

Akopov’s behavior presents the potential to develop towards violence if he is assigned to work with other officers who also exhibit aggressive personality traits. Akopov and the NYPD officers who ordered over a hundred no-warning arrests on September 17th remain proud as they pollute the liberty of this great city.

……………………

And let me add, there was a group of people from Occupy and the National Lawyers Guild waiting on an adjacent street near the police station after the NYPD took nine hours of my life. They clapped and cheered as each person was released. The cops were not yet done making up laws for the day. A group of officers appeared saying that we could not stand on this 50-foot-wide segment of sidewalk. They herded us like cattle for one block, threatening arrest the whole time. Everyone complied, knowing after today that NYPD culture has gone completely rouge from the US constitution.

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Anaheim Solidarity Recap & March Against Police Terror


Denver, CO–On Sunday July 29, Occupy Denver marched to support the citizens of Anaheim, CA in their ongoing resistance against their city’s violent and racist police force.  This action brought attention to recent police atrocities in Anaheim, and served as a reminder that Denver’s own police department is essentially a taxpayer-funded street gang with a detailed history of murders, racist beatings, and political repression.  (See the links at the bottom for documented cases of Denver Police atrocities.)

Here is my personal account of my participation in the march and my false arrest by DPD:

I arrived at the march as it staged outside the skate park.  I had my bicycle with me, and rode my bicycle throughout the march, mostly because biking requires less energy than walking.  The march took the streets and went under the underpass by the Rockies stadium as we made our way downtown.  We unfurled our banner reading “Stop Police Oppression– Solidarity with Anaheim” and chanted phrases such as “Justice for Anaheim”,  “We want equality, stop police brutality” and “How do you spell injustice? DPD!”.  At least four DPD vehicles began following us at this point, and they blared their sirens in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the game day crowd from hearing our message.  The leading DPD vehicle was an SUV driven by one William J Andrejasich Jr, a Sergeant in DPD’s Special Events division.

We made our way to the downtown area of Denver, and Sergeant Andrejasich and his colleagues repeatedly attempted to use their voices and vehicles to discourage the march from keeping its message in the street.  DPD prefers to see political expression confined to the narrow sidewalk where it cannot affect business as usual.  This march had other ideas.  I myself chose to remain on my bicycle in the street, as riding my bicycle on the sidewalk would be a violation of traffic laws and DPD will use any excuse to harass and arrest known Occupy activists.

The march continued down the 16th street mall as we continued to agitate and inform the public about the police murders and subsequent attacks on residents in Anaheim.  Our police escort continued to ride very close to us until we arrived at Civic Center Park.  After the police caravan departed, we decided to resume marching.  We made our way through Lincoln Park and began marching past the Capitol on Colfax Ave.

As the march approached the intersection of Colfax and Pennsylvania, several DPD vehicles pulled into the middle of the street and officers stepped out of the vehicles.  Sensing that DPD was looking for a fight, the march diverted onto the sidewalk.  At this point, three officers charged our “Stop Police Oppression” banner, one of them striking it so as to break the wooden support pole holding it together.  After breaking the banner (which appeared to be the primary target), the officers proceeded to grab and arrest the protester who had been using the megaphone to decry police violence throughout the march.  They led him away into a car, and Sergeant Andrejasich barked at us that “if you go in the street again, we will arrest you.”  This threat seemed absurd given that whenever we march, DPD’s vehicles that follow us essentially shut down traffic anyway.   Sergeant Andrejasich was clearly hoping that by threatening arrest and possible violence, he could frighten our solidarity march into giving up and going home.   He should know by now that Occupy Denver doesn’t play like that.  Having seen DPD use violence or the threat of violence countless times to attempt to silence dissent, I figured someone should resolve Sergeant Andrejasich’s confusion about the relationship between his department and our subversive assembly.  Using the megaphone dropped during the recent arrest, I told him that “Occupy Denver does not negotiate with terrorists, and the Denver Police Department is a terrorist organization.”   Upon hearing this, Sergeant Andrejasich instantly went red in the face and grabbed my wrist, at which point he and another officer pulled me into the street, and while holding my wrists attempted to twist my arms into a painful position (I have a sprained wrist and was wearing a splint).  I was handcuffed, and when I asked Sergeant Andrejasich why I was being arrested, he replied “for obstructing the street.”  I told him that I was legally on my bicycle for the entire march route and he said nothing in reply to this.  He then handed me off to two other officers who placed me in a car and took me to DPD’s offices in the Downtown Denver Detention Center.  Interestingly,  Sergeant Andrejasich is not listed as my arresting officer, and none of my arrest paperwork contains any of his information.  We only know it was him due to his past interactions with our group.  Before I was processed into the jail, I sat in a DPD District 6 cell while I listened to three officers outside the cell flip through the book deciding what to charge me with, highlighting the fact that this was a false, politically-motivated arrest.  Upon being booked into the jail, I was informed that the megaphone I used had been confiscated by the police, presumably as “evidence” of my obstructing the street.

Two more arbitrary arrests of protesters were made after my own; during one of these arrests a ten-year-old child was forcefully knocked to the ground by one of the arresting officers.  The march continued well after my arrest, culminating in a heated standoff between the remaining protesters and a heavily armed line of officers outside DPD’s District 6 headquarters as the march chanted “free our friends” and continued to hurl passionate criticism at Denver’s corrupt, racist, and violent police force.

After the march subsided, a group of occupiers gathered outside the jail awaiting the release of myself and my arrested comrades.   Sergeant Andrejasich again approached this group, and told them that they were creating a disturbance (even though they were being quiet) and that as a warning had already been issued to the group, he could arrest any of them at any time with no further warning.   Sergeant Andrejasich seems to believe that he can operate with impunity, arresting activists simply because they irritate him or offend his political views even when no laws are broken.

Sergeant Andrejasich’s comic arrogance represents DPD’s belief that they have the sole power to decide who is breaking the law and have the right to choose when to selectively enforce these laws.  Everybody knows that jaywalking is common practice in Denver; one can jaywalk in front of a police officer without any fear of reprisal.   However, when one is walking in the street as part of a radical political march, DPD suddenly decides these laws are worth enforcing with great zeal and armed force.  Occupy Denver rejects the Denver Police Department’s twisted, politically selective interpretation of municipal codes, and we reject their claim that they protect and serve the citizens of this city.  Their long record of murders, racist beatings, and politically-motivated violence makes their moral depravity obvious to anyone who is paying attention.  We call on the City of Denver to condemn this corrupt and criminal police department, and to take their destinies and the safety of their communities into their own hands.

Our Anaheim Solidarity march was just one small part of the struggle against police oppression in Denver.  There is a long history of resistance against police oppression in Denver, and this resistance is ongoing.  We encourage everybody to attend the upcoming March Against Police Terror, which meets on August 21st at 6 PM in La Alma Park (13th & Mariposa).  More information on this important community event can be found here: 

Here is a short list of news stories related to Denver Police atrocities outside of their attacks on Occupy
Denver:

Recent murder by DPD 

DPD murdered an innocent man last summer, the murdering officers faced no consequences 

In 2009, DPD officers beat a man within an inch of his life while yelling racial slurs at him

DPD recently reinstated, with back pay, two officers involved in the infamous Denver Diner beating

In 2011, the City of Denver had to pay $1.34 million to resolve police brutality lawsuits

In 2010, Denver Sheriffs tased a man to death in the Denver jail simply because he would not take off
his shoes. All officers involved were cleared of wrongdoing.

In 2006, a 24-year-old woman in the Denver jail bled to death as officers ignored her pleas for medical
attention.

Solidarity with Anaheim!
Down with killer cops everywhere!

- @DrBenway2323 -

Photo courtesy of Thomas Melchor

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Class WARhol


This story was first published at Occupy The Social.

It was surreal standing in the middle of art walk with two friends knowing that Occupy LA were essentially banned from Spring Street due to a police riot that broke out a month before.  On July 12, 2011, the LAPD shot rubber bullets into a crowd of art walk attendees mixed with members of Occupy LA, myself included, because some were writing with chalk on the sidewalks. In an effort to avoid any more injuries from police violence, the Occupy LA General Assembly accepted a proposal effectively relegating all activities related to “chalking” to Pershing Square for the August 9th art walk. Occupy LA also called for solidarity “chalking” actions across the World on the same day.

In the week leading up to art walk, the LAPD arrested members of Occupy LA for chalking and other public misdemeanors, while the media published various articles debating the LAPD’s use of a vandalism law to arrest people writing with chalk.  Early in the morning of August 9th, the cops detained members of Fresh Juice Party shortly after they finished an enormous chalk mural in Pershing Square.  Later that day, the LA Times reported that a fist fight broke out between someone from Occupy LA and a visitor from Occupy Oakland over chalking skills.  This only compounded the tensions that were amplified in the media over the LAPD “bracing” for Occupy LA’s return to art walk.

“No stopping! No talking! Just buying! Everything’s fine!” I shouted as people passed on the crowded sidewalks of 5th and Spring.  My two friends and I posted up near a KCAL reporter on the corner and unfurled our “Class WARhol” banner, while another held a sign that read “Legalize Art.”

Within a few minutes we were asked to move by the LAPD.  We crossed the street and stopped again. This time we positioned ourselves behind a parked police car and a fire hydrant, so as not to disrupt the flow of pedestrians.  LAPD Sergeant Bogart approached us on his bicycle and said “I’m going to need to ask you to move.”

My friend replied, “Where to? Three feet this way? Three feet that way?  We were just told to move from the other corner.”

“I can’t tell you that.  You just have to move” repeated the Sergeant.

I was looking down at my feet, a bit nervous to be around so many police, when I saw spit land next to my right foot. I looked up and asked the Sergeant, “Did you just spit at me?”

He smirked and said, “Does that make you feel intimidated?”

Choking on my words, I quietly said, “Why? Should I be?”

The Sergeant spit to my left side and smiled, “Did it look just like that?”

My friend then asked the Sergeant if it was department policy to allow officers to chew tobacco while on duty, to which the Sergeant replied, “I see we are going to have a problem here.” The Sergeant then got off his bike and spit again.  This time it landed a little further from me, but still within a few inches.

My recent research into police tactics during protests made it easier to detect what the Sergeant was doing.  He wanted either me or my friends to overreact to his taunts, so that we could be arrested and the LAPD could declare a moral victory over Occupy LA in the morning’s press. I stepped back and stated loudly “I am backing up! No need to spit at me!”  By this time, there were at least five cameras on us, yet no one intervened.   Because the cameras were not there when the altercation began, there is no ‘proof’ of his assault, but because the cameras were present during the aftermath, they may have protected me from further insult. Ironically, I had two cameras on me, but did not want to be shot for “reaching into a pocket” like so many others.  Due to the Sergeant’s smugness, I have no doubt that this man has used a similar tactic to force compliance on other occasions. All that remains is my word and those of the witnesses against the Sergeant. I imagine the frustration I experienced is quite common in communities that are forced to interact with the police “for their own safety.”

The situation gives me pause to reflect again on police provocation, testimonies, and cameras.  If anyone surrounding me did intervene, the consequences for all could have been tragic.  There were no less than 30 police officers in that intersection, some on horses, others on bikes, and many on foot. The build-up by the local media to Occupy LA’s attendance at art walk, like Tyson Vs. Holyfield, put everyone on edge.  No one wanted to back down. By spitting at me, Sergeant Bogart could have triggered a much larger reaction that would have provided the rationale for deploying hundreds of extra police to stamp out the vestiges of political speech in Downtown LA.

I remained collected enough to walk away with my body intact, but my dignity obliterated.   The next day, The LAist wrote that Occupy LA claimed that the LAPD stood down (which they did because there were no arrests in a chalk covered Pershing Square), while the LAPD claimed that Occupy LA backed off (which they did because they did not go to art walk en mass).  Importantly, this battle of Los Angeles has nothing to do with the medium of chalk as reported in the media. For the LAPD, it is really about vilifying those already marginalized and legitimating the increased policing of downtown, but for Occupy LA it is about slowing the gentrification of downtown in defense of the very poor.

The abundance of police during art walk- and in downtown more generally- has been questioned many times before Occupy LA even existed.  In fact, the majority of Occupy LA unknowingly stepped into the debate after the raid on November 30, 2011. For years, the LAPD and The Central City Association’s private security have patrolled art walk to stave off the wayward homeless from neighboring skid row, so that the very poor, with their cries of hunger and untreated open wounds, do not disrupt the roving middle class crowd.  Moreover, the art walk crowd is taught to fear skid row as lines of cops audibly warn middle class attendees not to travel far from Main Street.

My “Class WARhol” banner was designed to engage intelligent art walk attendees in conversation about the on-going class war in LA’s historic downtown core.  I spoke with some art walk patrons who thought the banner was clever, but did not know much the treatment of the very poor in downtown LA.  Others knew about the dangers of life on skid row (including rampant police harassment), but did not know that the police typically searched and arrested homeless people from skid row in preparation for art walk.  While the galleries are busy washing their walls white to prepare for new art, the LAPD and CCA security are conducting their own kind of whitewash just outside.

CCA Prepares to “Clean Up” Skid Row

Clean streets” in downtown LA does not simply mean removing trash and washing human waste into the gutters, it really implies ridding the streets of poor people and what little they own.  Recently, it has come to include removing all memory traces of political speech by erasing the most ephemeral form of expression: sidewalk chalk.   In the case of Occupy LA, they are getting lambasted by the police for calling attention to the problems of the very poor. Even more disheartening though, the shifting demographics of Occupy LA over the last 3 months are used to justify the actions of the LAPD – the poor, gay, black, and brown are now at the forefront of the Occupy movement and consequently, they bear the brunt of the attacks from the police.  These populations are the favored marks of an institution that derives its own authority by depriving the people of their own power.

Lastly, I am beginning to better understand the imperative of ‘camera power’ to new social movements. Footage of cops enforcing their requests does in a flash what it might take years of filing official complaints to accomplish, the images reveal the non-institutionalized means by which compliance is actually accomplished: spitting, hair pulling, arm twisting, finger bending, and so on…  all the things that children usually resort to in order to get their way.  Resembling Tyson, when faced with an opponent that won’t yield, cops must also resort to cheating.  Sadly though, like DNA evidence, future reliance on technology is at a cost to human witnessing itself as people’s testimonies become a comparably less authoritative account of an event.  Like I said before, ‘give me the YouTube link, or it didn’t happen!’

- Joan Donovan -

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Solidarity Circle


New York, NY–We gathered downtown in New York City to welcome home our fellow Occupy Wall Street protesters and occupiers from around the country who had just marched in the blazing summer weather on a multi-day trek from Philadelphia to New York. We welcomed them and of course marched on Wall Street, converging at Zuccotti Park where it all began last September. It was beautiful: we were singing, speaking out, and talking with friends whom we had not been seen in a long time. It felt a bit like the park last fall. It was peaceful, loving, and communal.

At the height of this beauty the NYPD came into the park and began arresting someone for drumming. This man had been drumming the entire day but the orders were not given to come in and make arrests until we were all at the height of our solidarity, that thing which threatens state and corporate power so absolutely. Another man was filming the arrest and then cops jumped on him, threw him to the ground, and beat him before arresting him. I witnessed this entire scene personally as did many others. The occupiers from other locations were dumbfounded by the militancy of the New York Police Department. Of course, when beatings and arrests like this happen we converge and it all becomes very emotional because the brutality of the state, while they are doing the bidding of neo-liberal capital power, is the embodiment of what we are  rising up against. It is a very direct tactic the cops use to break up our communal experience; it is when we are at the height of our peaceful experience and connecting with each other that they break it up thru violence.

Needless to say after this the momentum of our gathering was interrupted and cops began marching through the park randomly picking people and making futile efforts at intimidation. It was a scene I have seen so many times at protests, scattered people in shock. This went on for some time while the violence and threat of violence only grew as did the separation of the masses. After the police action the crowd that was originally a cohesive body of people was a mass of individuals and small gatherings who were in shock and awe of the violence.

It was in this space that I began to hear something. It was very low like a background noise but it was growing. It sounded calming, like a humming of some sort. I looked over and saw a few individuals who had come together and where ohming, you know, going “ooooohhhmmm,” a meditative sound. It was so calming that the shocked individuals began gravitating toward the sound and joining the circle.The circle slowly began to grow and grew and grew, bringing more people into it. As the circle grew the calming sound grew. I joined, and the feeling of peace while I stood in that circle ohming was so powerful that it took me away and grounded me at the same time. I closed my eyes and let myself go into that experience. When I opened my eyes the circle had grown so large that it had encompassed much of the park, and all of the cops were now on the outside of the circle, and outside of the park. What remained in that space where violence, fear, shock, awe, and fragmentation had existed only moments before was now peace, calmness, safety, solidarity, and love.

I promise you all that another world is possible and we can create it–even in the face of greed, violence, and selfishness. We created it that night at Zuccotti Park.

- Sean McAlpin -

Editor’s note: You may read another perspective of the same night in Zuccotti here. If you were there as well, share with us your story. Photo by Julia Reinhart.

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#ChalkWalk LA


Last week, a peaceful demonstration in LA using chalk drawings on sidewalks turned into a full-out police riot. These are stories from the people who were there.

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Chalkwalk Turns Ugly


This story first appeared on RFTFL blog.
LOS ANGELES, CA – It’s unfortunate that time and time again we have seen peaceful events grow to riots caused by an excessive show of force by the LAPD.  For a bit of background- the chalk walk event was organized by a group of activists associated with Occupy Los Angeles to bring attention to the arrests that have been occurring at 626 Wilshire (the Central City East Association building).  Arrests that have largely occurred due to activists chalking political messages outside of the building to bring attention to various initiatives being pressed forward by the CCEA to essentially strip downtown clean of people the ‘not-for-profit business corporation’  sees as undesirable.  Since NBC is uninterested in doing any research to coherently articulate what the organizers intention was and since even the Artwalk co founder seems to be incapable of reading a press release or stay aware of what people in his community do;  Let me state again.  The purpose of Chalk Walk was to bring attention to the arrests that had been occurring at the CCEA.

 

The action was planned to take place between 5th and 6th on Spring street and was intended to be a peaceful outreach event to encourage friendly dialogue.  Many Artwalk regulars (parents and their children included) stopped by to draw with us.

 

Many interesting conversations sparked from discussing MacKinney vs. Nielsen, the ninth circuit court of appeals decision that ruled that chalk could not be considered vandalism and was a constitutionally protected form of free speech under the first amendment.  8 arrests occurred between 7:30- and 8:45.  All for -  you guessed it – chalking.  Everything remained peaceful during the first 7 arrests as the chalkers remained calm as they were taken into custody.

 

The escalating incident happened during the 8th arrest.  Apparently the LAPD wanted the chalk gone, the rain wasn’t working fast enough, and formed a skirmish line in front of the chalkers.  Occupiers formed a line and started chanting.  A lot of the Artwalk patrons were confused as to why there were riot police when no riot was occurring.  A female art patron (not associated with OLA), trying to de-escalate the situation, walked in the middle of the two lines and drew a smiling stick figure.  She was then tackled to the ground with such force that it caused her boyfriend to panic and lunge toward the police to protect her.  He was shoved away by a couple officers.  The womyn was then grabbed, flipped over, dropped face down onto the street and then pinned down by an officer’s knee.  Her boyfriend was visibly upset and had to be restrained by 4 of his friends. It was at this point that a multitude of art walk patrons rushed into the street to protest her treatment.  Tear gas was fired.

 

As the crowd swelled, residents watching from their windows began to throw bottles at the police line. It was this excuse that LAPD took to begin firing rubber bullets into the crowd. Some Artwalk bystanders were hit by the less- lethal ammunition* and suffered some pretty ugly injuries as a result.

 

One man -not pictured below- was shot in his chest, had the wind knocked out of him and ended up collapsing right in front of the skirmish line.
A few female protesters holding the front line rushed forward to help him and called for a medic.  However we could not get to him before the police kicked the skateboard he was cradling into his face.

 

As we were all forced to take a step back we watched as he was trampled over, flipped onto his face, zipped tied and dragged onto the sidewalk.

 

It was at this point that some bar patrons came out and hurled a couple bottles at the police.  Two female occupiers mic checked and told the crowd, “Don’t throw bottles- when you do that the cops don’t care to aim at you.  They just shoot in your general direction. Keep your brothers and sisters safe, we are not prepared to deal with less lethal ammunition.”
At one point the police attempted a right flank to kettle protesters but everyone was able to get out of the designated area.  We believe an additional 3 people were arrested as LAPD pushed the crowd North on Spring, none of which was associated with Occupy L.A. A couple hours and probably hundreds of thousands of city dollars spent on LAPD machismo later, the crowd naturally dispersed and continued along with their night.

 

So- now the real nitty gritty- Why did this happen?  This wasn’t about chalk, this wasn’t about ‘people provoking the cops’- it was about finding any excuse to lock up individuals speaking out about what is going on in downtown.

 

The CCEA’s safer cities initiative is nothing more than a way to gentrify the area into a mono-socio/economic neighborhood that does not have to worry about “ethnic problems”.  Harassing the houseless population of skid row and co-ercing them to leave is just the first step to expand CCEA’s current 97 block territory to cover the whole of downtown.  Don’t believe the houseless get harassed without reason? Go to LACAN and talk to any of the individuals that work there and I guarantee you will have an entirely different perspective on what goes on in downtown.  The safer cities initiative also lays out a plan that CCEA plans to implement by 2020 that would in essence clear out all of the businesses from Santee Alley.

 

Skid row is comprised mostly of African American residents and Santee Alley is comprised mostly of Latino or Korean business owners.  While this 2020 plan may not be intentionally racist, it certainly brings into question the morality of determining someones future or making decisions about someones livelihood in a way that will not benefit them in any way.  As well as the morality of such decisions being made by people who only stand to benefit by other’s misfortune.  In the end, this is all about economics and keeping money in the hands of the “right” people.

 

Before LAPD
photo

 

After LAPD

 

- RFTFL -

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How Do You Sleep at Night?


New York, NY–Wednesday, July 11th I awoke refreshed. The day I had been anticipating since leaving Philadelphia  had finally come. The Guitarmy would land in lower Manhattan via Staten Island Ferry, some 99 miles from their departure point, and would return to our home in the concrete jungle. Sitting at work I found myself scanning livestreams, scouring Twitter feeds and counting down the seconds to 5:30.

Before I arrived at Zuccotti there were a few arrests, and an elderly woman had even been knocked unconscious. By the time I had made my way down, the park, though surrounded by police, was peaceful in stark contrast to the events earlier in the day. Friends were sitting and chatting, the familiar sound of jackhammers pounding in the distance. An announcement session broke out and I listened in as report backs circled. News broke that Occupy San Diego would be planning a National Gathering for 12.12.12, dubbing the action “A Day Without Borders,” as well as announcements on the GA reboot and other Occupy projects. Acoustic music and singing flowed over the park, people were laughing and smiling again.  It was almost like we had a chance in hell at a peaceful evening.

That’s when I noticed the wall closing around us. In two tight, single-file lines, the boys in blue stood at the top of the steps. Staring down at their prey as if they were hawks on the hunt, a new addition to their uniforms piqued my interest: gloves. Thick, black, leather gloves. My stomach dropped, they descended the steps and the powderkeg began to explode.Their sights were set, and in a clear attempt to incite a negative response they narrowed their focus on an elderly woman, sitting in a lawn chair, kitting. A clear and present danger to the general public, she had to be removed, immediately.  The swarm of blue sent chills up my spine, I was suddenly surrounded. With my cellphone in hand I began furiously tweeting and taking photos, being pushed around by the massive crowd attempting to protect our comrade from the forceful hands of the NYPD. I felt a strong shove and then a sharp pain in my arm. An officer was grabbing me, screaming at me that I had to leave the park.

“GET OUT! The park is closed,” he said.

“Pardon me, Officer, but this is a privately owned public space which is required to be open to the public 24 hours a day,” I replied snarkily. “The park is not closed, I do not have to leave,” I squeaked as he grabbed my arm tighter and shoved me face-first onto the cement bench.

I threw my arms in the air in an attempt to visually reinforce that I was not resisting any type of arrest, only their blatant disregard for our right to peaceably assemble. I was thrown backwards into the sea of blue, my arm still being squeezed by the brute. I screamed “I DO NOT HAVE TO LEAVE, THE PARK IS NOT CLOSED.”

He rang my arm tighter. “If you don’t get the fuck out, I’m going to arrest you.”

I fell to the ground as the stampede swept through the park, taking with it the beautiful energy we had created.

Over the next few hours, the game of cat and mouse continued. Targeted arrests left our voices hoarse, screaming “Winski, how do you sleep at night?!”

All we could do was shout and console each other. Dazed and confused we began to join hands. Only a few of us at first, then growing gradually larger, we came together to Ohm and bring peace back to the space. Bring peace back to our home. Eventually, it seemed as if the entire park was a part of the circle. Positive energy pulsing through our park once more, we erupted in a mic check and thanked each other for the beauty of the moment. We all needed it.

I lingered a while longer, but knowing I had work in a few hours decided to call it a night when most of the tension had died down. Usually, I try to reflect on the events of the evening or write down my thoughts when I leave an action but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. July 11th marked a new dawn in the NYPD’s tactical response to Occupy that shocked and revolted me.

I didn’t sleep at all that night.

- Nicole Rose -

Photos by Julia Reinhart

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Would They Really Do That to Veterans?


Editor’s note: This post is part of our #NatGat coverage. You may read more #NatGat-related stories here.

Philadelphia, PA–Last night I saw one of the most beautiful moments of my entire 40 years on earth. The Veterans for Peace and Occupy Marines acquired a permit to have a canopy and information table on Independence Mall next to the first amendment monument. They have been there, 24 hours a day, since Saturday. Yesterday afternoon the National Park Service notified the veterans that their permit had been revoked and that they would be evicted from their spot in front of Independence Hall at 9pm.

News spread quickly among the Occupiers, who have been camping on the grounds of an historic site owned by the Quakers at 4th and Arch Streets during the night and gathering at the city-owned Franklin Square Park at 6th and Race for workshops and festivities during the day.  We asked the Veterans to let us know what we could do for them to stand in solidarity. The Veterans were determined not to be removed from the space that they believe their brothers in arms had died to defend their right to be there, assemble, engage in free speech and petition their government for a redress of grievances. “That tent and info table will remain there until we have been physically dragged out of the park and the National Park Service comes in with a bulldozer.” Due to Independence Mall being federally owned land, any act of civil disobedience that takes place there will land you in the federal detention center with very serious charges and very high bail. One of the Veterans said “I signed up  to die for the right to stand here, jail is nothing compared to death.”

By 8pm the presence of park rangers, park service and city riot police, bike cops, US Marshals and Homeland Security forces began to escalate dramatically. A few minutes before 9pm the Veterans met with park officials at the edge of the park. It was a tense 5 minutes as the 20 or 30 of us who were there in solidarity with the Vets awaited the results of the meeting.  When the Veterans from the meeting returned, a mic check was initiated and the Vets announced that the park rangers would take no action until 11am the next morning when a high enough ranking park service official would meet with them to negotiate a possible compromise. Imminent eviction had been avoided, the fate still left to hang in the hands of some unknown bureaucrat, to be determined by his whim in the morning.

Just moments after the announcement was made a march of 400 occupiers led by a Revolutionary War-style drummer came around the corner. We ran to greet them and inform them that what had looked like it would be a massive confrontation was now a celebration! Shouts of joy went through the mass of Occupiers as they joined us in a now festive celebration of solidarity with the Veterans and the temporary retreat of the Park Service.

As songs, mic checks, sign wavers and even a hula hooper reveled on the sidewalk in front of the Vets for Peace canopy tent and info table, an extremely large contingent of police officers and federal agent remained all around us. About 20 riot police in full gear stood in formation just feet away from us, staring robotically straight ahead. The veterans asked us to move back 10 feet from the line of riot cops and promised us that the vets themselves would form a line of protection between the riot cops and us. As soon as that arrangement had been made the riot cops turned and marched in formation off of independence mall to rapturous cheers and clapping from all who had gathered.

The celebration continued for at least an hour before the Veterans mic checked us and asked anyone who wanted to remain overnight in solidarity do so by sleeping across the street, off of federal land, in front of the regional headquarters of Wells Fargo. Walking past on my way to the train for a quick pit stop at home, there were at least 30 groggy occupiers waking up from a night of sidewalk sleeping. I will return shortly and all of us, Occupiers and Veterans for Peace, will await the results of the meeting at 11am today.

It is impossible to describe the joy and beauty that I witnessed last night. I had a lump in my throat and am still beaming with positive vibes even though I too am exhausted after my 3rd night of sleeping on the ground in a Quaker parking lot.

- Mattymoo -

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