Sometimes, words can never describe how you feel. That feeling that is called “speechless”; yes, that is how I feel right now. I have witnessed what I have never thought I would witness. I have seen what I have never seen before. I have felt what I have never felt before.
I saw death in front of my eyes.
On July 5th 2013, I decided that it is time to speak up against all the unfairness that we face; I decided to go down the streets and protest and protect my revolution, our revolution.
Before joining the protests, I put on some sun block and wore my sunglasses; well, I never saw what was coming my way. As my parents and I headed towards the Nahda Square, we were adjusting our intentions; we are not protesting for Morsi, we are protesting for democracy, for our votes and for our freedom. As we entered the square, I could see my loved ones and friends that I always see at such times since January 25th, 2011. Surprisingly enough, my spirits started lifting up; I felt that there was still hope.
We joined the chants that were calling for the fall of the SCAF and the old regime: “يسقط يسقط حكم العسكر”. On the stage stood Bassem Ouda, the ex-minister of supply and internal trade, embedding in his audience the courage, hope and belief that we will win in sha Allah. My respect for that man increased the double; he was one of those respectful men who love this country truly from their hearts. As soon as Bassem Ouda finished his words, the square chanted in its loudest voice: “الإعلام فين، الشريف أهوه” (Where is the media, The noble man is here). I could see in the people’s eyes a lot of respect to that man; they carried him on the shoulders as he got down the stage. People hugged him and kissed his forehead; pictures were taken of him all the time; in those people’s eyes, he was a true hero and will always be.
After chanting for a few hours, we felt that our voices are unheard; there was no media coverage and no one acknowledged our presence, so we decided to march down the streets in Dokki and Mohand is in to make our voices heard. The march was marvelous; I could see more than 200,000 people in front me and behind me. The spirits were so high; the chants were so loud that we could hear the echoes as we march. We were so loud that the people in the buildings all came out to look at the march. We started our march at Al-Dokki street, then Al-Tahrir street, then Sheraton and Maglis Al Dawla. The chants were so powerful:
“دب برجلك طلع نار، إحنا معانا عزيز جبار”
“إرحل يا سيسى، مرسى هوه رئيسى”
(Leave Sissi, Morsi is my president)
“الإعلام فين الشعب المصرى أهوه”
(Where is the media, The Egyptian people are here).
The residents in the buildings started reacting; most of them were very supportive as they held Morsi’s pictures and cheered with us, while others would just take a look and turn around. Even though we marched with our loudest voices so that the media would cover this march and the world would know how we feel, not a single TV channel bothered to cover this march or even state that we were the longest human march done to support Morsi in Egypt.
We did our best. Now if the television won’t come to us, we will go to the television ourselves. And so, the march to Maspero (The Official TV station in Cairo) began. We won’t give up; we will make our voices heard no matter what. As we turned around to face the 6th October bridge, we started chanting in our loudest voices: “هما معاهم تلفزيون، و إحنا معانا رب الكون” (they have the television, but we have Allah, The God of the world)
We walked down the Korneish Street in the Agouza district till we reached the 6th of October bridge. I could see thousands of people climbing the bridge in front of me; hope, pride and dignity took over me. We can do it, God willing. Chanting all the way as we approached Downtown on foot through 6th October bridge, many people in their cars were chanting with us, showing their full support to our march. I started doubting; if all those people support Morsi, then what right does El-Sissi have to raise a Coup?!
As we crossed to the other side of the bridge to avoid getting near to Tahrir Square, we kept chanting “سلمية سلمية سلمية” (peaceful peaceful peaceful) to avoid any clashes with any of the protesters at Tahrir. Suddenly, we found the men standing in the middle of the bridge waving to the women to walk quickly and chant loudly. At the beginning, we did not understand what is going on, but when we asked one of those men, he said that there are some clashes on the other side and asked us to keep chanting loudly. As we descended the bridge, we could see thousands of people ahead of us in front of Maspero already; I was convincing myself by then that it was impossible for clashes to occur when we are in such great numbers, but apparently, I was totally wrong.
In front of Maspero, the men stood to pray Maghrib while the women prayed as they sat on the ground. It was time to take a breath and drink some water to get back to the chanting. Unfortunately, we were unable to enjoy 5 minutes of peace and rest; the men starting asking us to move forward in a hurry. I could see the panic in their eyes; what was going on?! The chanting started again: “عسكر عسكر عسكر ليه؟ هوه إحنا عبيد و لا إيه؟” (Why Military? Are we slaves or what?). I could see in the people around me that something wrong was going on. My doubt became certain when I heard the gun shots as clear as they can be. The men started shouting, urging the women to move faster and keep chanting, but everybody knows women; they worry, and my mother was the first to worry. As my mother grabbed my hand and told me to stay next to her, I turned around to take a peek at what is behind us; I was unable to see the clashes or the thugs, all I could see was fireworks in the sky on the other side, on Tahrir square’s side. With each firework, I could hear a gun shot. With each firework, somebody was injured. I turned back to see guys running towards us shouting for people to step aside; there was a car coming towards the crowds. I could see the women look inside the car then their faces turn pale. I swallowed. Did someone die? I took a glance at the car as it passed by me; there were many people in the car, but on the couch lied two injured people drenched in blood. One of them looked dead with his face covered by red blood, red cold blood; he was shot in the head. The other man’s abdomen was drenched with blood; it looked like he was shot in below the heart. It took the car a glimpse of a second to pass by us, but it will take me years to forget how those martyrs looked like. I looked around me to see a girl drenched in tears, a woman with her hands up in the sky screaming “يا رب” (Oh God) and many others stunned in pale faces. My mother was already crying and saying “ده مات، قتلوه قتلوه”. I stood there, unable to comprehend what I just saw. I felt something hurting in my heart, a lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes. I looked at my mum, I found her crying as she mumbled “they killed him, the killed him”; I was unable to pat on her shoulder or ask her to calm down, how could I?!
The girl next to me was still crying as she leaned on her friend’s shoulder.
This time, a motorcycle passed by; there was an injured man on it, he was covering his eye with a white piece of cloth that turned red.
A minute passed.
The girl was still crying.
Another injured man passed by us, this time the white piece of cloth was on the back of his head, he was unconscious.
My mother was at that time fine. She locked her tears in and started chanting with the rest of the women.
The girl next to me was still crying.
Another girl started dropping some tears on the opposite side.
Another injured man passed on the motorcycle, but this time there was no piece of cloth, the blood covered all of his shirt and face; the piece of white cloth wouldn’t have been enough.
I stood there numb. Tears started falling, questions revolving in my mind; why do they have to die? I could not control my tears; it hurt so much that I couldn’t control it.
Two injured men passed by on the same motorcycle.
The girl was still crying.
I turned my face away, tears rolling down my cheeks. All I could think of is one thing: “يا رب احفظهم يا رب احقظهم” ( Allah, please protect them, please protect them)
I looked around me again; many girls now were crying.
Suddenly, a woman stood between us and shouted at the top of lungs:
“Those who are crying, go cry alone, or lock your tears in. We are not here to cry. We have Allah on our side and He will never let us down. Stop crying and pray and say يا رب يا رب يا رب”
All the women raised up their hands in the sky as one of the women started praying as loudly as she could while we all said “Ameeeeen” after her.
I can’t find the words that can describe how I felt at that moment. Injured men were still brought in to the crowds while we raise our hands asking Allah for His mercy and help. It was something I have never experienced before. Death was so close, so close that it could have taken anyone of us, and it did; but it took those who deserved it.
I lost count of the number of injured men who were brought to the field hospital as well as the number of fireworks in the sky. All I could hear was the sound of stones breaking next to me and people shouting and others chanting.
Standing there within all of this, I had flashbacks in my mind of the way I used to criticize the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters. Is this how they felt each time there was a clash?! I got flashbacks of the people who always abuse them with their words or actions. I got flashbacks of Mubarak and his old criminal regime. I got flashbacks of revolution.
It hurt. I wanted to scream out loud.
WHY DID THEY HAVE TO DIE?
Those guys were defending me, protecting me from those thugs and police that were attacking us. And after all that, they were called the killers, liars and criminals. WHY?!
I found my mother pulling me towards the other side asking me to move faster; I didn’t understand where we were going; I knew I didn’t want to leave. Apparently, we were leaving through a boat in the Nile, since there was no way out except through the Nile.
We got into a boat with many other women and families; we were running away as if we were criminals through the Nile. Very humiliating.
The boat driver asked us to remain silent as we passed under the 6th October bridge in order to avoid getting caught by the police or thugs. I looked around me, I could see the thugs shooting at the courageous men on our side, and I could see the fireworks on the other side.
We were dying while they were celebrating.
I am home safe.
I am a coward. But that was only till today.
Michele Sibiloni is an Italian photojournalist who covers East Africa and the Congo. He is currently based in Uganda where he is doing a long term project. He was in Italy for vacation and monitoring the Turkish protests since the beginning. After a couple of weeks he decided to go there, because it seemed to him like something that would not end in a few days. He knew that these protests were being super-covered, so he was ready to do some personal work also in case there was no assignment. Michele contacted the agency that he normally works with and filled a few days of work for them. Then he kept working for himself and tried to understand the situation and to find a story that could develop after the big news would be over. He says: “I actually find the current situation very interesting because of the stories of transition that these young Turks are living. They want to stand up no matter what, and that is something that I admire so much.”
Here you will find his pictures with comments by Michele about the situation where were taken and some of his reflections.
Voices XXIII: Michele Sibiloni. Italian photojournalist who shares his work and thoughts
Taksim Square from the building
This image has been taken from inside a big building in Taksim Square. People were walking in and out without asking permission from anyone, you could even go on the roof. Everyone was taking photos of the square and of each other. I felt something was not right; I thought, “This is a construction site and no one is controlling anything. People are walking around for no reason. Someone is playing the saxophone and a bunch of photographers are taking pictures.” At that point, I looked outside and wondered about the square. It was packed… the sun was setting, people sang together… there was a great atmosphere, a sense of unity. The question that came up immediately in my mind was, “How long is this going to last?” Not long, I thought.
Besiktas Çarsi soccer supporters reached Taksim
After I was in the building, I wandered around the square, and suddenly fireworks started. It was nice, all those soccer fans with those red lights–people seemed to appreciate that. There was a lot of drinking; it was kind of a party atmosphere. Then I thought to myself, I don’t think Prime Minister Erdogan will allow this kind of atmosphere in Taksim Square for long.
A pharmacist in Gazi neighborhood looking outside the shop during a street battle
This image has been taken in Gazi, a Kurdish neighborhood where very often people are rioting against police. People of every age are there, from young boys to old men; women band together against the common enemy, the police. The protesters were happy to have so many journalists around. The general feeling was that those people were used to doing what they did: very organized with cars ready in case of injured people, a pharmacist with his shop open, wearing swimming goggles and a mask, ready to help out. In the meantime, very close to the spot, life goes on normally inside a bar and cafe. There is some concert in a bar and people are doing normal things, while others are fighting in the street–very unusual.
Police getting teargas back from protestors in Taksim
People carrying a guy who got shot in the head to the hospital
These guys are carrying a guy who got a teargas canister or plastic bullet straight in his head; he had a hole and the blood was gushing out, they were keeping a piece of clothes on his head to stop the bleeding. I’m not sure but think he is one of the few who passed out. While i was shooting the picture, I thought that I should be very careful, because when you work in such a situation, everyone is a target.
A protester throwing teargas back at Police in a street next to Gezi Park
A guy was throwing teargas back at police. In one of the corners where many people got injured, I was protecting myself behind a truck, but I was kind of limited and i did not want to move too much because I had previously seen the guy getting hit in the head.
Exhausted police resting in Taksim after a battle in the morning.
(six police committed suicide since the protest started, according to the Turkish media)
Police officers were resting in Taksim Square while the battle stopped for a while. I was surprised that they were resting there; some of them looked shocked, tired exhausted, and looked like they felt sorry for a second. People were not angry at them. Most of the protesters were pacifists; most of them were not fighting at all.
For those readers who don’t know, yesterday an interview with #durankadin was published
Michele Sibiloni’s website is coming soon; you can find his contact information here.
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-Gabriel Yacubovich Japkin-]]>
When Turkish riot police stormed Gezi Park yesterday evening (June 15) and lay waste to the tent city, where for more than two weeks Turks of all stripes had found peaceful community space to protest the increasingly authoritarian regime of the prime-minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, many of the exiled tent residents sought refuge in the nearby Divan Hotel. A luxurious, 10-story building in the center of Istanbul, it opened in 1956 as the first five-star hotel in the city, the stationary version of the Orient Express. But now, it was the Titanic.
The lobby, complete with plush armchairs and scintillating chandeliers, was transformed into a desperate fortification. Young people with gas masks were sitting around, nervously talking on cell phones and checking their Twitter accounts for the latest updates from the outside world. On the lower floor, in the spacious ball rooms, volunteer doctors were treating the injured, many of them suffering from tear gas inhalation. The reception staff had donned on gas masks, bravely trying to help and preserve some semblance of order, as outside riot police and water cannon vehicles (TOMA) had effectively besieged the hotel, occasionally lobbing off tear gas canisters and blasting water cannons at the entrance. Then, after a few hours, the police suddenly stormed the hotel and started shooting tear gas inside the lobby, sending people into a horrible scramble to the upper floors, many of them blinded, nearly suffocating.
I was in and around the Divan Hotel for most of the night and what struck me especially was the surreal contrast between the opulent interior, decorated with paintings and colorful tiles and the general mood of anguish and fear. In the following photographs, I’ve tried to document some of that.
Read more stories from the resistance in Turkey by clicking here.]]>
Here we go: I have been attacked; yet again, tear-gassed brutally by my own government. By my government, which is supposed to protect me. By my government, which is supposed to work for me. By police officers whose salaries, armors, batons and ammunition are paid by my friends’, by our families’, and by our taxes.
Make no mistake. We were not exactly protesting when the police started attacking us. Not that it is illegal to protest democratically in Turkey – though you would be hard pressed to believe that seeing how we are treated. We were just a lot of people standing together at the Taksim Square. We were not even chanting. I was talking to two friends standing next to me, an architect and a historian. The square was full with people arriving after work. We were in a good mood; worried, as there have been continuous police interventions during the day after police moved in onto the square, claiming they wanted to take some banners down; but with friends, running into people we know, just chatting; debating if we should move into the park where more friends were hanging out.
That’s when the gas canisters appeared, without any warning, like comets in the sky. I saw the white cloud afar on the other side of the square; I saw some commotion. But by now, we, the protestors of Turkey, are very much familiar with this particular sight and sound, tear gas canisters being fired – so I didn’t start moving immediately. See, it is not too bad if there is only one and the wind is blowing the other way. But people were moving, in fact, running. Unlike the streets on which I have been teargassed before, here, on the square, the effect was like a stone thrown into water – ripples of people – moving, fast; which in and of itself is very scary when you are in the middle of it. I did what I learned to do last week: I shouted with my hands in the air, “do not run, remain calm,” stepping back slowly, while trying to do what I preach; that is, remain calm. I looked around only to realize that I was already separated from my friends… I tried to shout at them “don’t move too fast, lets see what is going on” but it was too loud, and they were already far. In my mind I was going “maybe the shooting will stop, maybe it is not too bad, no need to run” when a gas canister landed next to my feet. I stepped back, looked up and saw, well, a shower of gas canisters landing left and right. As I started stepping back faster and faster, one landed in front of me, one to my left; I turned to run and another landed in my way… Turns out that I was mistaken; I was the naive one to think that the police would not attack a city square full of peaceful people; not after the governor has announced that they were not planning to attack. Really, how stupid am I to trust what the governor says at this point? We were under what looks like a tear-gas storm.
Dear friends who have been lucky enough not to have experienced tear-gas until this point in their lives; let me tell you; it hurts. It burns your eyes, your nose, and your lungs. You can’t breathe and you wanna tear your lungs out, you cough and cough and cough. You feel sick to your stomach; I was in so much pain that I was pretty sure I was going to throw up. It is really not pretty.
It was a white-out, I couldn’t see my friends at all and I just kept on walking; I was too afraid to run in case I stumble and fall; plus, I couldn’t breathe. I concentrated, one step after another, reminding myself “Do not panic, it is going to be over soon,” trying to put my goggles on, not being able to breathe, worrying if my contacts are going to melt into my eyes like some people have been claiming they do. Worrying if my lungs are actually burning, what if they are? What if they are damaged? They are still shooting canisters in my way, what if I can’t make it out? Will I faint? Will I be stuck here? No no, don’t panic. Just walk. One step. After another.
How long did that walk take from the square to Sıraselviler? It is a very short distance we are talking about. Not even a few minutes. But I was afraid. I was very afraid.
Yet, as many of us have learned by experience in these past 10 days in Istanbul, the effects of the tear-gas do not last long. The danger really is the canisters hitting you in the head, cracking your skull, or taking your eye out. If you are lucky and get out in the fresh air without being hit, things keep on hurting for awhile but then slowly, the pain wears off. After all the attacks, the backstreets of Istiklal and Galatasaray are full with people, sitting around, coughing, waiting for the pain to pass, sharing their antihistamine mixtures. Then, at one point, you forget that you were in pain. And of course, the adrenaline, the fear; you have to wait for those to wear off, too.
If there is one thing that does not seem to wear off – it is the anger. It is the disbelief that you, as a citizen of this country, someone who tries to voice her concerns, be open, negotiate, deliberate; someone who at one point actually believed that this country could democratise, is walking the streets of your city, tears streaming your face; eyes and lungs burning, in pain, because your government is attacking you, repeatedly. There is no question that none of us deserves this. No one deserves treatment like this. Even if we were marginals and radicals, as our PM claims that we are, we wouldn’t have deserved this. Silly me; I know I shouldn’t be surprised; this has been going on for a long time; this time it is us, other times it was other people. Logically, I am not surprised. But emotionally, I am. It is one thing to know of government violence when it is happening to others in far away places. You speak against it, you feel its injustice. Yet somehow, I find out it is another thing to actually face it. To be there when the gas canister is flying towards you. To wonder, in a millisecond, whether it is going to hit you, or not. To hear that your friends have been taken to custody. To feel helpless. If this is what is happening to us – to the most educated, most connected crowd that this country has produced, imagine what has happened to others who were not connected, who were not heard.
It is time to dispel the notion that Tayyip Erdogan is the “democratically elected leader” of a “democratic” country. While he might have been elected democratically, the actions, reactions, and the language of the prime-minister have been text-book authoritarian. These protests, which have started off as demonstrations to protect Gezi Parkı, have peacefully voiced very legitimate concerns against the JDP government. As I and many others have talked about before, the concerns are about the neoliberal-conservatism of the JDP government and about its authoritarian politics; the protests are about democracy, about our right to live as dignified human beings. They are shared by a very heterogenous group of people; this movement has brought many groups together that previously did not quite realize they were fighting similar fights; ecologist, neighborhood movements against urban transformation projects, feminists, urban planners, artists, students, secularists…The reason they are protesting is that there are no other channels to affect the government – the government rules with no opposition in the parliament, has silenced the media, coopted the judiciary, and does not care about any opposition that comes from the society.
Now, the demands of the protests have been voiced clearly – they are no secrets. They are not hard to understand. In fact, they are pretty minimal considering all the complaints against the JDP government.Yet, there has been no acceptable response from the government. The opportunity to negotiate, the opportunity to back off, the opportunity to grow, the opportunity to listen – there were many of those opportunities. But there seems to be no will by the government to do any of those. The prime-minister seems to have gone mad by his hunger for power; and the ministers and governors look like confused puppets. They do not want to negotiate; they want to wipe us out and continue as they please. For this, they are using very provocative language in their speeches, demonizing and targeting us, and they are putting on a PR show which largely consists of blatant lies, in fact, even staging police interventions where police fights undercover cops to air in the media.
Thus, just to clarify one more time:
At this point, I am back home. I got thrown onto the other side of the square and could not make my way back to the park because of the police. I am extremely afraid for everyone, for my friends and countless others who I don’t know personally, who are still in and around the park. I am afraid for the future of this country. I can’t see this end well. Not with this government; not with the way they have been acting. I wish to be proven wrong. I so wish to be proven wrong. But I’ve already been shown that I am naive when it comes to the limits of government brutality in Turkey.
Read more stories from the resistance in Turkey by clicking here.]]>
Cops wait on top of a hill as protestors stand near a fire. The smoke from the fire helps keep the tear gas away.
Protestors walking down the street as water cannon trucks approach from behind.
A protestor walking down the street as water cannon trucks approach from behind.
Protestors standing the street as water cannon trucks approach.
Protestors holding up peace signs in front of the water cannon trucks.
Protestors running down the street to get away from a water cannon truck.
A protestor holding rocks in his hands.
A police vehicle shining a light down a street to look for protestors after they were dispersed using water cannon trucks, flash bangs, and tear gas.
Protestors taking a break after being chased down the street by water cannon trucks.
Tear gas in the streets in Gazi where there have been clashes between protestors and police the past few nights.
A protestor standing near a fire after the area was tear gassed. The smoke from the fire helps keep the tear gas away.
I saw this graffiti as I returned to Taksim after photographing and being gassed in Gazi.
Read more stories from the resistance in Turkey by clicking here.]]>
Read more stories from the resistance in Turkey by clicking here.
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.]]>
The brutalization of random protesters was rampant throughout the day, apparently as another tactic by the NYPD to punish political dissent, and intimidate those not brutalized into leaving – and to intimidate those who were not there in the first place from ever coming to a subsequent protest or event.
The day began for my group (me, my girlfriend, and friend, who all trekked in from Brooklyn) similar to last year’s #N17 action. We left in a column from the Red Cube and marched down Broadway to Pine & Nassau. Some Occupiers sang parody lyrics to the tune of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated,” including lines like, “Hurry hurry hurry / Get me out of jail / I am an occupier / I can’t afford the bail / Oh no no no no / Ba ba ba / I was incarcerated.”
Police lined the streets facing protesters, who mostly stayed on the sidewalks. A saxophone-playing Occupier played The Star Spangled Banner. Protesters massed on all four corners of the intersection. As the song reached “the land of the free” climax, a glitter bomb was popped over Nassau Street. An arrest most of us couldn’t see occurred in the intersection. Chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” Then the saxophone played and we sang, “Which side are you on? Which side are you on?” Someone berated the police about how Bloomberg would be stealing their pensions and laying them off soon enough, and then they’d be on our side.
An occupier Mic Check’d saying, “If they block the streets here then go around!” But those of us who were attending and not wanting to be arrested didn’t know where to go around to – we were trying to be witness to those participating in the traffic-stopping sit-downs, as planned and announced on the S17 website.
The Amalgamated Bank (a Union-owned bank; and the bank I switched to from Chase last autumn) on Broadway greeted the day’s protesters with a large poster in their window: “Amalgamated Bank supports the UFT and the Occupy Wall Street Movement.”
By 8:15am, we decided to go find the Labor protest contingent, slated to begin at 8:30, and started heading back up Broadway. But this proved difficult with police lining the sidewalk (on the street). Particularly so because the police themselves relentlessly insisted that we “Keep moving. If you don’t keep moving you will be arrested for obstructing pedestrian traffic” even as they themselves impeded more pedestrian (and vehicular) traffic than anyone else. (Many Occupiers were sure to let the police know about this with chants of “You are blocking pedestrian traffic! You are impeding pedestrian traffic!”) One female protester called out, “The NYPD shuts the city down for us. Great job, boys!” I was reminded of May Day 2012, when police were so concerned that protesters would shut down the Williamsburg Bridge that the police themselves shut down the Williamsburg Bridge. Obviously who shuts it down is more important than that it is shut down at all.
As we marched north on Broadway on the sidewalk, spirits were high. A band of horns and percussion had everyone clapping and feeling good; spoons were used on scaffolding to accompany the band. And right on time the police entered the sidewalk, waded into the crowd to randomly grab a protester, slam them to the ground, and arrest them. This split the march into two as people recoiled from the brutality. Several white-shirt police with macabre faces lunged at us, grabbing a protester next to me by his backpack and slamming him to the ground, and then a blue shirt cop jumped on him, then cuffed him. I had no doubt that he was grabbed instead of me because he was black, young and male – and I was let alone because I was a white male.
It was at this moment that I felt a peculiar failure as a protester: I didn’t grab my fellow protester from the police and try to pull him back to me. In the split second between being grabbed and being thrown to the ground, he looked at me and said “Help me out!” and I didn’t do a thing. Should I have grabbed him back and probably been arrested myself? I don’t know. I know I should have gotten his name and followed up with jail support, but in the chaos I lost him and did not. The money I was able to contribute later was a minor penance for this failure, which I partially blame the police for creating (he had done nothing to warrant the arrest, after all) but mostly just myself, for not knowing enough going into the action and not being confident enough to know what I should and would be willing to do at any given moment. I hated the police for having created this situation, but that is a futile waste of time and energy.
Wall Street itself was barricaded at Broadway, with police behind the barricades, in front of the barricades, and on the street. Protesters were attempting to move their way north, but the police suddenly cut the march in two, separating me and my friend from my girlfriend. Several people were brutally arrested. The police pushed us north onto the sidewalk, and then stopped. Then they came at us again and pushed us further and further north, until we were practically to Pine Street.
I began calling my girlfriend over and over waiting for her answer, fearing she’d been brutally arrested. Finally she answered the phone and we re-convened. She told me that the police had been pushing her from behind to move south, and she’d told them she wasn’t going to push the people in front of her just because she was being pushed by the police. She told them she wasn’t going to hurt someone else just because the police were pushing her. Then a protester near her was thrown to the ground and arrested. The police continued to push her, and she asked them if her moving south was more important than the brutal arrest going on right in front of them. The police told her, Yes, it is more important. She told them they had fucked up priorities. They told her to move.
Eventually we found our way to Bowling Green, where hundreds of protesters were gathering. An enormous Debt Bubble was pushed from hand-to-hand over the top of the crowd. We set out to peacefully march around the bull, which was at least triple barricaded by this time, as well as lined with police on foot and on scooter. We were pushed back almost immediately, and ended back where we started. The immense resources going to protect this bull are always astounding. Protecting the bull from what? An occupier straddling it? Graffiti? What other harm could befall it? It is as though the city fears that Occupiers “taking the bull” would mean the downfall of the whole establishment. Is there a secret self-destruct button on there?
Back at Bowling Green near the Museum of the American Indian, some musicians playing guitar sang songs I didn’t know and some I did – including a rousing cover of Sublime’s “What I Got,” which rang true and pure over the OWS crowd: “Loving / Is what I got.” Signs in the crowd hailing the Love Generation, or Time For Love, were, like the Troggs song says, all around.
I felt transported in time, as though it were 1968 and 2012 at once. It was like I’d imagined the 60s generation, and I was no longer wishing it was the 60s – I was ecstatic to be alive today, to be alive to witness and participate in OWS.
At Bowling Green several people spoke using the People’s Mic, including Rev Billy, and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who said that the world was “on a breaking point. It’s time to change the breaking point to a tipping point” for the movement. Helicopters overhead lowered as though to drown us out with their noise, and then elevated again.
Taking a break for a seat, some coffee and a salad in a nearby lunch counter, we overheard some exhausted-looking protesters needing ibuprofen. We provided some from our pockets, glad to be helping.
In the afternoon protesters swarmed into Liberty Park. I was surprised the police had allowed anyone in at all. And of course the population was diverse: young and old, whites and blacks and Latina/o and etc., LGBTQ, the disabled. I spotted again the French fellow who’d kept shouting over police brutality all day, “This is a peaceful protest, thank you!” I spotted at least three city council-members. And perhaps best of all, plenty of people who supported OWS even though they had serious problems with it. It is a place of solidarity, but also a place of disagreement and debate.
For about an hour, I stood in the midst of the drum circle (complimented with sax and trumpet; drummers banging on drums, staircase-handles, the ground, etc.) and joined Occupiers in the jubilee of celebration. As someone announced after calming the drummers into quiet, “The greatest thing we have done is meet each other.” The number of actions, groups, events and change that come from us having met each other can probably never be quantified – which means Wall St will never understand or respect it. But it is an amazing achievement.
I and a few other ebullient, celebratory souls led the chants over and over, familiar ones like, “Banks got bailed out / We got sold out!” and “An / Anti / Anti-capitaliste!” But mostly the one refrain: “All day / All week / Occupy Wall Street!” The refrain, repeated so many times, took on new and different meanings. For one, the initial meaning: Occupiers occupying Wall Street non-stop demanding change. But further, it also meant: We support the movement that is Occupy Wall Street, and we support it all day and all week. Or: There is a movement called Occupy Wall Street, and it exists all day and all week; it exists in me right now as I stand here in the midst of my fellow Occupiers; and it exists in me as I move through the world making decisions and taking actions; it exists in me as I try to learn about the world and better the world; it exists in me and changes me, and I change it. And in Liberty Square it exists within me and all around me, palpably.
A drummer, taking a momentary break, reminded the crowd via the People’s Mic: “All you need to solve all these problems is to love each other. And that’s the truth.”
-Joel Chaffee –]]>
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
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
Solidarity with Anaheim!
Down with killer cops everywhere!
– @DrBenway2323 –
Photo courtesy of Thomas Melchor]]>