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Police Intimidation | Occupied Stories - Part 2

Tag Archive | "police intimidation"

#NatGat, Day 1


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

Philadelphia, PA–On the first day of the Occupy National Gathering, the excitement to meet one another was hampered by police confrontation. This led to indecision and internal arguments over contingency plans, but by the evening, Occupiers were safely assembled at jail solidarity or at the National Gathering Comedy Show.

The afternoon began with workshops around issues like the All In The Red debt campaign and the War on Drugs. Through the afternoon, the Occupy Caravans delivered activists from Tuscon, Wichita, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and many more cities from around the country, who were all formally welcomed at the informational meeting at 3:30 on Independence Mall. At the meeting, National Gathering Working Group members explained issues from food to legal safety, reviewing the logistics Occupy National Gathering Welcome Packet.

At 6pm, an enthusiastic and dance-filled March to End Corporate Personhood began at Wells Fargo and looped around to the park behind Independence Mall. The heavy police presence prompted a series of mic-checks, in which Occupiers shared a range of opinions about Occupy’s relationship with the cops.

Around 7pm, an Occupier attempted to put down a cot and police officers and park rangers informed the group that any setting up of bedding was prohibited. Occupiers set down a tent and surrounded it in solidarity. Members of the Philadelphia Police strike force pushed through the protest line using bikes to clear Occupiers. In the clashes, one Occupier was arrested while others were knocked to the ground. The officers carried away all sleeping material, including those not being set up.

Still surrounded by police, the conversation was strained about what to do next. NatGat Working Group members informed the assembled that Occupiers were legally allowed to sleep on sidewalks, which would also show solidarity with Philadelphia’s homeless, or stay at 4th and Arch in the parking lot of the Philadelphia Friend’s Center. However, the ring of police around the meeting made some feel uncomfortable with a discussion about strategy, causing the attempted impromptu assembly to largely devolve. Most went to 4th and Arch, although others remained in the park or went elsewhere.

At a little after 9pm, a group of Occupiers gathered in the Friends’ Center parking lot for the upcoming entertainment, while another group went to the Philadelphia roundhouse to do jail solidarity for the arrested protester — who was reportedly arrested for assaulting a police officer on federal property. The National Gathering Comedy Show was hosted by N.A. Po of Occupy Philly and included several local comedians. Activists drank from water jugs and enjoyed pizza and snacks in the parking lot where many settled for the night.

– Zachary Bell –

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A Visit With Mark Adams, J26, Part 1


Editors note: This is re-posted from Support Mark Adams, who is currently serving a forty-five day jail sentence on Rikers Island. Readers are encouraged to write to Mark, and may check here for letter writing guidelines (including the address to reach Mark.) This is one part of a two-part story; read part two here.

New York, NY–We spent the previous twenty-four hours preparing ourselves for what we imagined would be a difficult day: poring over the DOC website’s rules and regulations, reading and rereading reportbacks from the last two visits, seeking and receiving much great advice from lots of great people – and bracing ourselves emotionally. We were probably as prepared as we possibly could have been, but it took the visceral experience to truly grasp its weight.

Upon our arrival via the Q100 bus from Queens Plaza, we followed other visitors towards the entrance along a path that seemed constructed to immediately make you feel trapped and uncomfortable.  We stood in line for about 20 minutes between two chain-link fences with barely enough space between them for two columns of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder. The inside fence has large-print advisory signs on them, which were a challenge to read because there was no room to stand back. The only sign with reasonably-sized lettering was, for some reason, elevated about 20 feet in the air, making it just as difficult to read but in a totally opposite way. Almost every sign throughout the visit bore rules upon rules, and threats of arrest if any of these rules were broken – as if we needed the reminder.

The sun beat down. In the distance, we could see large, imposing buildings surrounded by barbed wire, and we wondered where Mark was. We were among only about six white folks of about 50 total people in sight. Almost all of the other visitors were women with young children, and most seemed inured to the dehumanizing bureaucracy that frustrated us at every turn.

We left everything in the first locker except our quarters, some cash, our IDs, and the books we brought for Mark — (The Gift, The Wu-Tang Manual, and a book of poetry by Adam Mansbach) — and proceeded through the first security checkpoint. We waited in another line inside for about 30 minutes, and when we got to the front of the line, we were each in turn identified, asked for an address, and quizzed as to our relationship with Mark. We were a little surprised when they fingerprinted us and took mugshots, which were printed out and given to us on rectangular paper that looked and served exactly like airline boarding passes.

After another 30 minute wait, we were pointed towards a white bus, which took us to the Eric M. Taylor Center. The short drive across the plaza reminded us we were now trapped in the belly of the beast – giving us the slightest taste of the “YOU CANT LEAVE” message that inevitably resounds for all prisoners throughout every moment of their sentence. It also allowed us a glimpse at Incarceration City – isolated buildings, each surrounded with violent tangles of barbed wire. Every inch of the place is a visual threat, its role as an institution of confinement and disempowerment constantly reinforced.

We received a brief lecture from a corrections officer before being let into the building, including mention that there had been “a slashing” at the building next door earlier that day and no one was being allowed in or out of that place today. After another security check, the back of our left hand was stamped with a clear substance. We were bewildered by the invisible stamp; we don’t know what it was. We were told it was to mark that we had been through security, but we don’t know how to read it and have no idea what, if anything, it says. (We would love to know more about this practice, if anyone knows.)

After an excruciatingly long hour (or so – without phones or watches, and no clocks on the walls, the entire visit felt as though it took place in a time vacuum) in a room full of chairs reminiscent of a free clinic’s waiting room (the soap opera and hysterical baby really set the scene) we were finally called to enter the “visiting floor”.

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Photos: June 10, Metro Profiling at the Grand Prix


Editor’s Note: This story is part of our ongoing first-person coverage of protests in Quebec against student debt, tuition hikes and Law 78, as well as actions elseware in solidarity to those causes.

Montreal, QC–The Grand Prix racing event kicked off Sunday morning. I entered the metro around 10:15am with Nicolas Quiazua, editor of McGill University’s Le Délit newspaper. Our bags were searched, and we were told that no media was allowed to go onto the metro that day — so we entered as civilians. When I asked allowed “Is that even legal?” someone behind us responded, “Everything is legal under law 78!”

At the entrance to the event, the profiling was significantly more intense. Anyone with a red square (sign of solidarity with the student movement), or anyone suspicious looking (young) was searched and many were told to leave.

– Zachary Bell –

More photography by Zach at ReCovered

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Photos: June 9th, Anti-Sexism and Nighttime Mayhem


Editor’s Note: This story is part of our ongoing first-person coverage of protests in Quebec against student debt, tuition hikes and Law 78, as well as actions elseware in solidarity to those causes.

Montreal, QC–At 5pm, activists gathered at Phillips Square for the anti-sexism demonstration. The manifestation was controversial among Montreal protesters because it explicitly advocated the abolition of sex work — prompting the moderator of the anti-capitalist CLAC (labor union association) listserv to issue an apology for disseminating information for the event.

The march stopped at various places to deliver speeches against Formula One’s chauvinist culture, like one at the Delta Centreville hotel, which condemned the business as a well-known spot for prostitutes to go with clients.

– Zachary Bell –

More photography by Zach at ReCovered

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Photos: June 8th, Bahrain Solidarity and Grand Prix Clashes


Editor’s Note: This story is part of our ongoing first-person coverage of protests in Quebec against student debt, tuition hikes and Law 78, as well as actions elseware in solidarity to those causes.

Montreal, QC–Around 6:30pm, the demonstrations began with a (noticeably) small protest at Dorchester Square aimed to show solidarity with the people of Bahrain.

The petite march ignored a call by the police to clear the streets, but complied when the troops moved to enforce it. Still in good spirits, the protesters sang a French chant meaning “on the sidewalk, until victory.”

– Zachary Bell –

More photography by Zach at ReCovered

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Photos: June 7th Nude-In


Editor’s Note: This story is part of our ongoing first-person coverage of protests in Quebec against student debt, tuition hikes and Law 78, as well as actions elseware in solidarity to those causes.

Montreal, QC–At 5pm, there was a demonstration at the corner of Notre Dame and des Seigneurs, which began with a megaphone announcement condemning the Grand Prix for its elitism and sexism. The protest was kettled as soon as it began, forcing a standstill.

By 5:45pm, police began selectively arresting individuals and pulling them back behind the police line. It was unclear whether this was for violating Law 78 (for example, by wearing masks), or for some other reason. Many protesters resisted, and some were successfully “de-arrested” — prevented from being pulled across the police line.

– Zachary Bell –

More photography by Zach at ReCovered

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Thoughts on Chicago, Part 2: Cracking Skulls


Editor’s note: This story is part of our coverage of the #noNATO protests in Chicago.

Chicago, IL–There were so many actions taking place during our time in Chicago that it would be too lengthy to recount them all.  Occupiers were constantly on the streets, making their presence known.  When they protested outside Rahm Emanuel’s house some of his neighbors provided refreshments.  One anecdote worth sharing is when my wife and I were trying to catch up with a jail solidarity march. The occupiers moved too fast, constantly changing direction, and we couldn’t catch up.  Finally, my wife and I jumped in a taxi, an odd way to get to a protest, and tried to find the march.  We got close enough to see the marchers several blocks away, but the streets were blocked by police.  The cabdriver caught on to what we were doing and began weaving through the streets to find a way around the barricades.  Telling us it was like a movie he saw a couple days before, he was clearly enjoying this serendipitous  adventure and expressed support for the movement.  With some deft maneuvering, he got us within a block.  Of course we tipped him well.

May 20th was the day of the Anti-NATO rally and march.  Numbers have been estimated at 20,000.  A number of anti-war groups, CANG8, occupiers, and concerned citizens took part.  There were more protestors present than during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.  Unlike that historic action, this one had a permit.  Also, while there was a massive police presence, law enforcement acted with more restraint–at least at first.  The march went down Michigan Street as hundreds of people watched from the sidewalks and windows above.  There were many acclamations of support, though a few called us dirty hippies and yelled, “Get a job.” Actually, most of us were pretty clean and many of us have jobs.  Critiques about employment ought to be mitigated by the fact that we are in an economic crisis and unemployment is most certainly higher than government statistics claim.

The march ended at the permitted spot at Michigan and Cermak.  There was a moving ceremony as veterans spoke against war, then threw their medals in the direction of McCormick Place, where NATO was meeting, but the actual site was blocks from where we were. Unfortunately, the majority of marchers were backed up down the street and could not really see the event.  As the veterans spoke the crowd began to thin (with some encouragement from the police) and near the end there was only a small group left.  There was an eerie moment when I looked around and realized we were surrounded by police, who now outnumbered us.

They closed in slowly, ordering people to leave.  Many people did. Others simply got on the sidewalk and continued protesting.  Cameras recorded from all around, even on some roof tops. There was a police film crew as well.  I could not see over the crowd that had remained in the street, but it was clear that things were becoming volatile.  Cops came out of the crowd dragging people in handcuffs, some of them were bleeding.  The protestors became angry and started shouting. Two cops grabbed me by the shirt and threw me up onto the sidewalk.  I would have fallen, but, instead, stumbled against the people packed on the sidewalk.  One cop stuck a nightstick in my face and told me I’d be arrested if I stepped into the street.  At that moment, I was more worried about the nightstick than getting arrested.

The police cordon tightened around the remaining crowd.  I looked around for my wife. She was surrounded by police, and I could only see her hands held up high, giving the peace sign.  My daughter was somewhere further in the crowd and, because of what I saw, I was frightened for her.  Then the cops started driving us back, demanding that we leave the area.  They pushed us with their nightsticks and there was a discernible threat of violence in their demeanor.

At the same time worse things were happening in the remaining cluster of protestors, who were trying to stand their ground.  The police basically beat and pummeled people until they were driven away or arrested.  I won’t say that every single occupier was behaving peacefully, but, as a CNN reporter said later that evening, they did not deserve what was done to them.

My wife made it out and we began to search for my daughter.  We found a “wellness center” run by a church about a half mile away.  My daughter was there, clearly traumatized.  She had been pushed around and thrown, and had seen and video recorded worse.  The Wellness Center seemed more like triage after a battle.  There were people lying around with injuries and/or just trying to recover from the shock.  I saw several people with serious wounds on their heads.  The liquid running down their faces was not red paint.  Some were taken to the hospital.  As one was put in the ambulance, I saw a group of cops across the street jeering him.

– Stuart Leonard –

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My Near-Arrest Outside the NATO 5 Indictment


Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt of a post by an Occupy Chicago member.  Read the full post here.

Chicago, IL – I almost got arrested this morning: why? I was sitting on the grass with a few members of Occupy Chicago, outside the court at 26th/Cali, drinking coffee, enjoying the shade, and watching the belongings of others that went inside the court room to show support for 3 of the NATO 5. Twelve police officers, CPD and sheriffs, approached and demanded we move away from our belongings and show them our IDs. They claimed we could be starting fires, since cigarettes tossed in the area had been smoldering in the dry grass, and asked us to move to the other side of the street. I asked why I needed to show my ID and they said because they asked for it. While one cop was running our IDs, I took a picture of the assembled police. Immediately I was surrounded by four of the sheriffs, in all black with no visible badges or names. One demanded that I show them the picture or video I took and delete it. I asked them why? He said delete the picture. I asked why again and he said that I have to delete the picture. I asked what his name was and why he had no badge number. He told me his name was Chad Miller, badge #6431, and then repeated his “request”. I then asked him if he needed a warrant to look at the contents of my phone, and he said he did not. He said that it is illegal to film police in the state of Illinois and repeated that he does not need a warrant. Both of these statements are false. One, the 4th amendment states I am protected against illegal search and seizure and two, the status of the IL eavesdropping law is in question, since an appeals court has put an injunction on enforcing the law for now, due to possible infringement on 1st amendment rights.

But, I caved. out of fear, or “live to fight another day”, or whatever. I caved. I justified it several ways, the arrest wouldn’t be strategic, there were no NLG around to observe, etc. but, regardless of why, in the end, I let his act of power intimidate me. I deleted the picture, showed him I didn’t take any videos, and he stepped away.

Yes, I feel upset and violated from the blatant lies and implied threat of force and harm this sheriff made, a person in a role that, according to what I’ve been taught my whole life, is synonymous with truth, bravery, and heroics.

And this is nothing compared to the intimidation and harassment the police do on a daily basis around the country, especially towards the poor and people of color. The very reason I was at the court house was to support the 5 activists that are facing very serious charges because the city and mayor need to prove they have the bigger dicks than a peaceful protest group, and have fabricated some felony charges to justify their huge expenses. We need to stop allowing fear to control us and stand together to change this world!

-Micah Philbrook-

 

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Protesting the Empire from Oakland to Chicago


Editors note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO. Don’t let the corporate media speak for you, if you were in Chicago tell us what you saw. Submit your story. This post originally appeared on the Occupied Oakland Tribune.

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 – 

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Anti-Capitalist March: Brutality and Victory


Editors note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO. Don’t let the corporate media speak for you, if you’re in Chicago tell us what you’re seeing. Submit your story

Chicago, Il -A march that officially started around 6:30pm, but at 3:30 for those who simply traveled from one march to another, was focused around an anti-capitalist theme. The group of protesters started at Lake St. and Desplaines in Chicago’s West Loop. Following the success of a large, vocal, and influential rally and march the day before organized by the NNU (National Nurses Union), police seemed to be extra determined to dampen spirits and the confidence of the protesters who were running mostly on adrenaline, and the solidarity from their fellow brothers and sisters.

Within five minutes into the march, we were met with a line of riot police blocking the street in front of us and the right, and all of them had batons in hand. The front of the march took off to the left in a frantic sprint and everyone followed. This set the tone for the rest of the night, as we continued to try to out maneuver the police as we were trapped several times, and continually threatened with the stalking presence of riot police and mounted police officers. At one point to escape being kettled, we ran across the corner of a small garden then through a parking lot.

Never did we feel comfortable, tension and stress were consistently present, and the hot summer-like temperatures weren’t helping our endurance. Even when we were allowed (practically forced) to travel down certain streets due to blockades we were constantly surrounded and trapped at any given moment making an emergency escape for anyone impossible in case things got bad, but nonetheless we all did the only thing we could do: march and chant our asses off.

As the march came to Washington and State St. once again protesters found themselves trapped. Several times before and often the amorphous group was conflicted in which direction to go, and at times considered turning around and going back the way they came. This time though it seemed as if they had had enough. They came to exercise their first amendment right, had been intimidated and bullied and instead of trying to outmaneuver the police would try to move straight through the police line.

At that point a shoving match ensued, but the police quickly upped the ante and started swinging their batons, beating protesters. I quickly backed up to the sidewalk as I anticipated things getting bad. It didn’t take long for a woman to emerge from the crown bleeding from the head, with blood covering about half of her face.


Video from the Anti-Capitalist March via natoindymedia on YouTube

Those in my affinity group were quick to act and form a wall in front of her as to not incite panic, as well as to block off the media. We were effective in allowing the street medics to treat her while maintaining a relative calm as to not draw unnecessary attention to the violent situation.

As the march continued we were successful in doing the one thing the city of Chicago didn’t want: marching on Michigan Avenue, the world renowned Magnificent Mile, and the premier shopping street in the city, that is filled with large groups of people drinking, dining and shopping. We were able to put on display in front of the public an uncensored view of what a protest really looks like instead of relying on the media conglomerates. People were in awe of the display of police force as dozens of riot vans and police vehicles stormed in to provide back up. The march was then trapped onto Michigan and Congress, the location of Occupy Chicago’s GA’s (general assembly meetings), but hundreds of people were able to see from the median and the sidewalk the absurdity of the police state and how it treats those wishing to exercise their first amendment right.

Months ago we were scolded, jeered, and even threatened by the public, but now it seemed that the mood was overwhelmingly in support of the protesters. Those of us who were separated from the march started chanting in solidarity and quickly got other non-marchers to join. Creative, witty chants brightened and rather bleak situation because it was here last fall that those in Occupy Chicago was mass arrested twice.

It was in this climactic moment that energy skyrocketed as the divide between protester and civilian was removed. There was an instantaneous realization that what was occurring was wrong, as if everyone had a unifying moment of empathy for the march that was being bullied by the police state. Once the march was allowed to continue up Michigan virtually all the spectators followed along side the sidewalk and some even joined in on the street.

The power of the people had been unleashed Pandora’s Box and there is no way to put it back in. The stage is now set for the NATO protests in the next two days, and if this day is any type of a sign of things to come, then history will be made and Sam Cooke was right all along: A Change Gonna Come.

-David (oloroso.david@gmail.com)-

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