Atlanta, GA–I had been to Atlanta, Ga., before — running trainings with Occupy Our Homes Atlanta as part of the Wildfire Project. But until Saturday, I had never been to Atlanta the day George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin.
In some ways, it was strange to be away from New York when it happened — the city whose streets I’ve gotten used to marching in, the people I’ve struggled alongside for years, the cops I’ve learned so well. But in many ways, being in Atlanta felt lucky — away from the shiny glass of Wall Street, the manufactured dreams of Times Square, even the quiet Park Slopes that blur our vision and obscure hard truths. Instead, I was in a place where the faces of slave-owning Confederate generals still stand chiseled into the sides of mountains commemorating them, where a sizeable majority of the population is descendant from people kidnapped, enslaved and brutalized ever since. Being in the South felt somehow closer to the truth. But you know what Malcom X said: “Long as you south of the Canadian border, you’re south.”
The first night after the verdict came we marched in the streets, and the march grew with the very real anger and sadness and fear and hope drawing people out to join. The next day was even bigger, in the thousands. We must have marched five miles, much of it in the pouring rain. The city erupted in a symphony of car horns honking in solidarity, echoed by people cheering and clapping from their windows, emboldened by thousands of people stopping on every sidewalk with their fists up, and strengthened by people jumping out of homes, restaurants and cars to join. The music was loud — genuine mourning, righteous fury and deep purpose. I remember thinking, while marching to the beat, that this is the kind of music that revolutions come from.
The sound of the car horns struck me most — in anger, but not anger that they couldn’t get through, all in solidarity and encouragement. I heard from friends who were part of the demonstrations that took over Times Square that even there — in a city where people are so stressed out that they eat while walking — the honking was supportive. Tens of thousands were in the streets in dozens of cities across the country, and the media couldn’t help but report on it. Friends and family who have never identified themselves as political or radical were furious, and many of them took their first steps into a march. Maybe people have had it. Maybe the music is finally getting loud enough.
I suppose it’s like Aura Bogado wrote in The Nation: The question is not whether the Zimmermans of the world (or the rest of us) are white, brown or black; the question is whether we uphold white supremacy or fight to dismantle it. Oddly enough, in this sense, this case is black and white. In a country where a black person is killed by a cop or vigilante every 28 hours, where more black men are in prisons today than were enslaved just before the Civil War, where drones come home to rest after bombing people of color all across the world in the service of U.S. imperialism, you are either for white supremacy or against it.
The honking horns seemed to compel us — white, black and anyone else — to choose a side. They pierced through the wall of white guilt that threatens to handicap some of us, booming: Yes, you are different, your experience in this country is different, and your role in the struggle is different — but you, too, can choose a side.
Rather, You must choose a side.
As the march snaked through downtown Atlanta, the protesters flooded around cars like water. The drivers — the musicians of the day — sat with their windows down, high fiving or clenching a fist in the air. And every so often a marcher would stop at an open window, have a conversation and take down the driver’s phone number to put it on a list for future organizing. At moments like those I was reminded that people don’t march forever, that crisis moments pass and that we must always think of tomorrow today.
The sight of a young woman taking down people’s numbers reminded me how too often we tell ourselves the myth of spontaneity to avoid the hard work of organizing. There is nothing spontaneous about people streaming into the streets. It comes from a rage that builds over years and centuries, the hard work shifting narratives and raising consciousness, the organizing to bring people in and connect groups to one another, the movement-building to create structures to carry us as we fight. And, of course, people join only when an organized community is willing to step off the curb in the first place, ready to go into motion when confrontations are thrust on us and lines are drawn in the sand.
Then I drifted back into the music, an epic score dedicated not just to Trayvon Martin, but also to all the kids carried through the streets those nights by their parents, whose raised fists seemed to declare that they would no longer permit a world in which they were forced to fear for their children’s lives. The horns — and the rest of the music that gives life to our struggles — blasted through Atlanta and all across the country. The tune was unmistakable: Choose your side, organize and take to the streets.
The months leading up to the Zimmerman verdict were filled with vigils and protests, outcries and anger, not for 1 young soul taken away from the earth too soon, but for many youth who have been murdered because they are black. I remember sitting in the pew at the church where the 1 year vigil for Ramarley Graham was being held, listening to countless stories from a group called Stolen Lives. I couldn’t contain my tears, my pain for them.
I have a 6 year old boy who I have to fear will grow up to be not a successful beautiful human who contributes to his community, but a target because of his skin color. My son’s future is riddled with obstacles because they close schools to build prisons. My child is worth more money to this capitalist slave system as an inmate than a productive member of his community.
All of these things came to a head Saturday night, and I could not contain the rage, the anger, the disappointment, the fear. How in the Hell can I protect my child from being the next Trayvon Martin, Ramarley Graham, or Kimani Gray? I felt helpless because I can’t protect him from this world, and it only made me more angry.
My temporary therapy is expression on social media, and while I do this often, this time was different. Some family and “friends” reacted to my posts and became critical of me and upset. They tried to pacify my anger and rage. I was told that this behavior wasn’t good; I was told it wasn’t productive, and was even called a divider, a racist. This society is so fearful of words, especially when spoken from the mouths of the oppressed. An angry Latina anarchist who speaks her mind is viewed to be so dangerous and wrong, yet we passively watch as a controlling system wipes their ass with the Constitution and no one blinks.
My words aren’t the bullets that kill our youth, but rather the ones that blow holes through the oppressive state that systematically attempts to make us worthless, to make us afraid.
I used social media to process my very strong emotions about the verdict and what it means to a society of people who share that child’s skin color. They don’t care about Black people. They don’t care about our kids and they will never give us justice.
I had the amazing opportunity to process my anger in a more direct way because I was able to participate in the NYC Justice for Trayvon march. Over 5,000 stood together in Times Square to rally for Trayvon and his family as well as all the families who have lost their loved ones to senseless violence at the hands of a racist system.
It was so invigorating to take the middle of Park Avenue in NYC and march all the way to Harlem. “Whose streets?!” That night they were ours. I was able to belt out chants and hug my comrades, break down and cry when I needed. Why? Because we were all one community that night. We all worked together that night. We were all one.
That was the display of unity I needed to see and feel. That unity is what will move mountains. That unity is what my son needs to be enveloped in, in order to survive. That unity is what will save the lives of so many children in our communities.
I will stay angry and diligent. I will continue to be a connector, bringing the members of our communities together so that we don’t have to hold a rally for a child who was senselessly killed.
It has been less than a week since this verdict and while my voice has become sore from all the chanting, I will continue to organize, educate and equally agitate the system, which has failed to represent us–especially the darker shades of us in this society.
I recently returned to the US after spending about two weeks in Istanbul, Turkey, photographing the uprising and resistance of the citizens there. What began with about 20 activists occupying Gezi Park in an attempt to stop the demolition of the park in order to replace it with a shopping mall turned into a countrywide uprising against the oppressive, authoritarian government after police attacked the peaceful protesters with tear gas and water cannons. Below you can find my first-hand experiences and photographs from my time on the ground:
After making a last-second decision to travel to Turkey in order to photograph and report on what is happening there, I arrived in Istanbul on the morning of June 5th, camera in-hand. I had been following what had happened in Istanbul up until I arrived there, and had seen the situation change significantly, so I was unsure of what to expect. The police had viciously attacked the protesters in Gezi Park and Taksim Square the first few days of resistance, but had since pulled out of the area, leaving the protesters to govern themselves.
After arriving at the Ataturk airport in Istanbul, I caught a cab and told the driver to drop me off as close to Taksim Square as possible, as I was aware the protesters had built make-shift barricades on the streets leading towards the square. He ended up dropping me off directly in front of one of the barricades, telling me I would have to walk the rest of the way. So, I grabbed my gear, and headed towards the square. Below is a photo of where the cab driver dropped me off:
The first few days I spent in Istanbul, there were no police officers to be seen near Taksim Square. It was quite amazing to see how well people behaved themselves without law enforcement in the area. During this time, the mood in Gezi Park and Taksim Square felt extremely free and festive. People were playing instruments, lighting off fireworks, sending Chinese lanterns into the sky, waving flags, and singing songs. Below are several photos that were taken between June 5th and June 10th:
While Taksim Square was void of a police presence, protesters used that time to build make-shift barricades on the streets leading into the square in hopes of making it more difficult for police to enter the area when they came back. Some barricades were made with city buses, while others were made with police barricades and other materials that the protesters found:
On June 8th, I traveled to Gazi Mahallesi, Istanbul, which was about a 30 minute cab ride from Taksim Square. People there had been taking to the streets for several nights (as well as in many other cities and neighborhoods around Turkey), and police were responding to the protesters with water cannons and tear gas. Local activists said it was unsafe for me to go by myself, so they ended up connecting me to an activist who had been on the ground in Gazi for the past few nights. He didn’t speak any English, and I don’t speak any Turkish, so communication was a bit difficult. But, he watched my back, and helped keep me safe the entire night.
It was almost midnight by the time I arrived in Gazi that night, and many of the thousands of people who had been in the streets earlier had already gone home. A few hundred remained, and continued to face down water cannon trucks, tear gas, and flash bangs that were being used in an attempt to disperse them:
Three days after my trip to Gazi, on the morning of June 11th, police broke through the barricades that protesters had made and entered Taksim Square. As I had been awake all night, I was about to go to bed when I got word of what was happening. I quickly packed up my gear and headed towards the square. On my way, I passed many people who were frantically fleeing the area, coughing as their eyes watered from tear gas that had been deployed as the police entered the area. Many people were yelling at me in Turkish, clearly telling me to go back, but they didn’t realize that I had traveled many miles just to photograph this.
As I entered the square, my eyes stung from lingering tear gas. The police were announcing over loudspeakers that they only planned to remove banners and tents from the square, but did not plan to enter Gezi Park. Not long after, a small group of people began throwing molotov cocktails and rocks at police vehicles from behind a set of barricades. I spoke to many Turkish activists who said they believed this was staged in order to “justify” the actions of the police that day. The protesters found it odd that the police responded with less use of force on this small group of people than they had used during earlier protests. The police ended up using tear gas, water cannons, and plastic bullets on thousands of protesters in both Taksim Square and Gezi Park during clashes that went all day and into the night, lasting for over 20 hours:
Several hours after the attack on Taksim Square began, I was hit with a water cannon and was completely engulfed in tear gas so thick that I was unable to see. After making my way into Gezi Park to receive help from the medics for the effects from the tear gas, I decided it was best for me to head back to the apartment I was staying at in order to change into dry clothes and get a few photos posted. On my way back, I was hassled by a group of police officers who were several blocks away from the clashes. They saw my cameras and stopped me, then started grabbing at my arm as if they were trying to detain me. After I told them several times that I was leaving the area, they finally allowed me to walk down the closest street that led away from Taksim Square.
Later that night, I went back out with a couple of friends and we tried to get back to Taksim Square. We soon realized that police officers were keeping others from getting near the square, and were pushing protesters further and further down the streets away from the area. We ended up joining thousands of others on Istiklal Street, several blocks from the square where the police were launching tear gas into the crowd.
Once the situation calmed down, police remained in Taksim Square, along with several water cannon trucks and other armored vehicles. The next few days were filled with tension as protesters expected an attack on Gezi Park at any point. Make-shift barricades were erected at the entrance to the park:
In an attempt to ease the tension, Davide Martello, a pianist who was on an international tour at the time, decided to stop by Taksim Square. He set up his piano in the square two days in a row, and played for the large crowds that gathered, creating a calming effect on anybody who listened. Even the police officers seemed to become more calm while listening to his music. On his second night in the square, Davide played for 12 hours straight:
The calm didn’t last long, though, and on the night of June 15th, police attacked Gezi Park. They used tear gas and water cannons to clear protesters out of the park, and then continued to push them further away from the area. I had been taking a nap when the police first entered the park, but soon woke up and headed directly to the park. As I walked along the street next to the park with two other photographers from the US, police inside the park began yelling at us. Although we were the only three people in the area, they then shot tear gas directly at us:
As we walked towards Taksim Square, I saw the tents and other items that had been in the park being thrown into large trucks. Police guarded the entrances to the park, keeping protesters from re-entering it:
We then headed towards a large group of protesters who had been pushed onto one of the streets leading away from Gezi Park, and were waiting for police to advance with a water cannon truck. The clashes continued late into the night, with police officers pushing protesters further and further away from the park:
The following morning, police blocked the entrances to Taksim Square and Gezi Park. Turkey’s European Union minister, Egemen Bağış, had said that anybody who tried to enter the square would be treated as a terrorist.
At this point, I had been in Istanbul for almost two weeks, and my flight back to the US was scheduled for the following afternoon. Although a part of me wanted to stay and continue documenting, another part of me realized I had already documented a lot, and I felt that I needed to go home so I could reflect on my experiences and share them with others through speaking and writing about it.
As I sit here now, writing this blog post from the safety of a coffee shop in my neighborhood in New York City, even through the images of tear gas, water cannons, and riot police that threaten to cloud up my memory, I am clearly remembering the faces of the courageous, inspiring citizens of Istanbul that I met and photographed while I was there. I will soon recover from the physical and emotional effects of what I witnessed and experienced, but the people I met, and the positive experiences I had, will forever remain with me.
Her yer Taksim, her yer direniş.
Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance.
You can support Jenna’s work be making a donation 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.]]>
Chicago, IL–“What are you doing for New Year’s?” The question, posed by friends and family members this past week, seemed innocent enough. When I cheerfully answered, “Protesting the prison industrial complex,” however, most people were taken aback.
My sister-in-law tried to convince me that a prison protest on New Year’s Eve would accomplish nothing beyond annoying the guards. A friend said I should take the day off of political activism and do something fun. My parents have given up making sense of my extracurricular activities altogether.
But to me, a prison noise demonstration was the only place I wanted to be. I have been very active in supporting political prisoners this past year, primarily the NATO 5 and Jeremy Hammond. Through my interactions with them and the system that has taken them hostage, I have come to recognize how many lives are ruined when we lock people in cages. I no longer trust the “justice” system to determine guilt or innocence, and I know that the prisons have done far more harm to individuals and our society as a whole than can ever be justified.
The first noise demonstration began mid-afternoon at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago, a federal prison. Like many protest actions I have attended, there was a festive spirit to the gathering. Many protesters wore brightly colored masks and used a variety of New Year’s party noisemakers to add to the general ruckus. The plaza was still cordoned off with yellow CRIME SCENE tape from a recent prison break, in which two bank robbers successfully wove a rope out of bed sheets and lowered themselves down 15 stories. One of the men remains at large. We asked people to bring their old bed sheets and knotted them into a rope of our own right there in the plaza. It was a symbol of liberation for all who are incarcerated as well as an embarrassing reminder of the facility’s recent security breach.
We chanted and sang, shouted and danced. A few people swung the bed sheets like a jump rope. We marched around the building, followed closely by Chicago Police Department and Department of Homeland Security vehicles. The building goes straight up and has only the narrowest of windows, but we were soon able to see prisoners waving at us from every floor. Some turned their lights off and on repeatedly to get our attention. We cheered. The guards just stood their ground and glared at us.
The first noise demo ended at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building. A woman spoke about travesty of workplace raids, as well as whole families rounded up in home raids, all resulting in record numbers of deportations. These immigration detention centers are like a shadow prison system – “detention” is not considered “incarceration” and a different set of rules apply to the undocumented.
The plan was to circle the perimeter of the jail, which is close to a 2-mile walk. (Cook County is not only one of the most notorious jails in the country, but also the largest, and houses 10,000 inmates at any given time.) But first we veered off course and crossed the street to stop by Division 11, the newest section of the jail, built outside of the main compound. The other divisions are set back behind rolls of razor wire or overlap with other buildings, blocking our view of the windows. But Division 11 has windows facing directly onto an open plaza, and we were able to easily see and be seen by those inside.
The reaction of the inmates to our presence was incredible. We saw rows of silhouettes waving, clapping, dancing, jumping with joy. They banged on the windows and flickered their lights at us. One inmate took off his uniform shirt and swung it around his head. It was the most electric, uplifting feeling imaginable. The band played louder, we danced and clapped and made some noise. We ignored the guards yelling at us and the lights flashing atop squad cars and gave it everything we had. When we finally turned back to circle the main compound, a young woman stopped banging on a pot lid long enough to exchange a high five and irrepressible grin with me.
The jubilant spirit did not last long. Within a few minutes, we were having a tense confrontation with our law enforcement escorts, which result in a violent and entirely unnecessary arrest. The protester would later be charged with felony aggravated battery, but the only violence I saw that night was perpetrated by officers of the law on unarmed, peaceful activists.
Still, we made a complete circuit around the jail. On the last leg of the journey we spent some time blocking a side street with the bed sheet rope snaked between us, dancing and singing. It was a glorious moment, in no way diminished by the police officers watching us dubiously from every direction.
As a society, we try to hide our problems, to lock them away instead of working proactively on solutions. When our problems inevitably worsen and multiply we lock those away, too – and find a way to make the whole system profitable for well-connected individuals and corporations. We do everything possible to make prisoners –– most of whom are serving time for non-violent offenses, most of whom have dark skin –– invisible.
Noise demos such as these, in solidarity with others held on New Year’s Eve across the globe, refuse to buy in to that mentality. We stand up and say: They have hidden you away, but we see you. They have told us to forget, but we remember you. They have demanded that jail be miserable and dehumanizing –– but we brought you a marching band.
In a call from Cook County Jail on the morning of December 31st, one of the NATO 5 explained to me: “It’s hard to be in here this time of year. Even if you aren’t big on celebrating the holidays, other people are feeling it. Everybody is missing someone.”
I feel good about how we spent New Year’s Eve. It was exciting to see prisoners expressing joy, which they get to do so rarely. It was cathartic to unleash my own pent up frustration at the jail’s unforgiving walls in the form of a primal, wordless scream. Most of all, it was inspiring to see so many others committed to supporting prisoners in 2013 and beyond.
This is what solidarity looks like.
Photos courtesy of Lee Klawans and Chicago Indymedia.]]>
How were we expected to know about them without power, TV or phones? Every day we hear sirens. My power was restored last night. During the blackout I guarded my house from skulking looters, roaming from house to house with flashlights poking around our homes. We were left vulnerable and frightened. There were no police patrols on the ground, no National Guards, but for the first 3 days after the storm. The roads were hazardous, no traffic lights to navigate, and no one to police that either. It has been a complete fiasco here on the South Shore of Long Island. Terrible! We finally had trucks show up on our block filled with downed wires, poles, trees… only to back out and not reappear until we, the neighbors, cleared a path for their trucks to enter and fix the lines! I’m 50! Hauling tree trunks, branches and debris.
Occupy Wall Street participants have been pitching in all around the city. The below updates have been collected from coordination emails and Facebook status posts on Occupy Sandy’s facebook page. Shoot your relief stories to email@example.com and we will publish them as they roll in…..
Michael Premo: Rockaways
‘The air was thick with water spray and smoke…. a line for food at the community hub just opened tonight at B113th Street and Rockaway Blvd. We had the generator up and running with lights and served 60+ people warm food and distributed clothing, blankets (It’s cold tonight!) and supplies. We also met some really great new friends from the neighborhood. The FDNY continued to battle a fire throughout the evening behind us.’
Jackie Sheeler: Harlem
‘I made 60 sandwiches at home & gave them out to residents at Baruch Houses. NYCHA workers suggested a fire hydrant as a good place for food distribution, & they were right….people (were) carrying their buckets & bottles of water up many flights of pitch-black stairs in the projects. Many of them are doing it for elderly or disabled neighbors as well as their own families. The few open bodegas can’t take food stamps (the card readers are out) and some of them are price-gouging. $8 for a half gallon of milk. Sickening.’
Timothy Wheldon: Chinatown
‘…many of us spent the entire day in Chinatown at the CAAAV office talking to residents; manning our portable generator/cell phone charging station; handing out food, water, flashlights, and batteries; and going door to door in buildings to make sure people are okay and have what they need.
At one point, almost ten cops came with their lights flashing to tell us we had to stop, because all the people on the sidewalk were creating a “safety hazard,” and they were worried about “rioting” and “theft of iPhones.” They said this was all in the name of “helping the community.”
They made several announcements to the crowd of residents to disperse, at no point letting us interpret what they were saying so that the crowd of mostly Chinese Mandarin/Cantonese/Fujianese speakers could understand what the cops were telling them.
We were able to negotiate with them to keep our adhoc relief center open, but it was a stark reminder of who actually keeps our communities strong and resilient–our residents and our neighborhood organizations who actually give a damn.
At no point did we see anyone else from a city agency, or any relief agency (Red Cross, where you and your billions at?), or any elected official’s office.
SO MUCH LOVE to CAAAV members, staff, volunteers, and supporters who came out today to help. I’m feeling very tender-hearted today towards the city that I love and its people who keep it going.’
Danette Chavis: Chinatown (Smith towers)
‘…Please inbox me as soon as you hear “electricity” has been restored in the area! I couldn’t get any information about it and went there personally this morning… (There are elderly tenants in those high rise building, in the dark, with no heat and the elevators are not working) The manager of La Guardia apartments told me they had just got the “cold water” turned on today, and the information they’re receiving about the “electricity” being restored in the buildings “keep changing”.’
Stephanie Johnstone: Chinatown
‘There is definitely still a great need for…especially humans to go door to door – there are so many people stranded (especially in the projects at Cherry St.) who are without food and water. And those who could get down all the stairs often didn’t have clear information about what is going on or when power would be back on, etc….
…one woman, who barely spoke English said to/about us “This is why America is Number One. Because it is built on love. People loving each other.” I felt great warmth towards this woman, and also the statement is so layered, I don’t even know where to begin!’
Maria Gianas: Chinatown
‘We were there yesterday and although building doormen are saying they are knocking on doors, we contacted and gave bags of food and water to elderly residents who had not been contacted by anyone….especially on upper floors. Just show up with water and food and knock on doors. Give them time to get to the door!!!’
“Trick or Aid”: Greenpoint
‘North Brooklyn was hit hard in places too, but since many of us retained power and stayed dry, we may have a lot of resources direly needed by others…let’s go “trick or treating” for direly needed supplies. Wear your costumes–or don’t worry about it–but make sure to dress warm, it’s getting chilly out there!’
Daniel Florio: Central Jersey
‘Call for assistance: I’ve had no power since Mon night. We’ve been using a generator for my respirator and the boiler.
Will run out of fuel tomorrow and there doesn’t seem to be any in the area. My brother has tried many gas stations today! If anyone in N or Central Jersey can get cans of gas please do so! I live in Maplewood, but someone in my family could pick it up from you if necessary. I don’t have Internet or phone access.
UPDATE: I’m literally overwhelmed by the generous response from friends, acquaintances, and strangers to my posting asking for gas. I’m just now in a place a few towns away from home with internet access, so I literally haven’t started reading all of your posts. I’ll respond and thank you all individually when I’m better able, but I’m very grateful for your thoughts and concrete steps to help alike.
I now have enough gas for a couple more days, and there are some solid leads on getting more…. Thanks to my Aunt Elaine for the acting as Coordinator. This role was sprung upon her, and we had no idea how daunting the magnitude of the response would make this task. Thanks again, and hope you’re all safe.’
Udi Pladott: Rockaway
‘I would (send) some pictures of what I saw at Far Rockaway, but since the entire place is smothered in utter darkness, there’s little to see. You couldn’t really fully grasp it from the pictures, without breathing in the smell of recently burnt down city blocks. The scene is post-apocalyptic: entire streets blocked with huge pieces of the boardwalk thrown around like you would cast a bunch of tooth picks on your dinner table; some streets are just not passable with a conventional car because there is no remnant of the pavement; countless cars lying on the street at odd angles, some perched on top of other cars; more than anything – entire city blocks completely lifeless, without even the flicker of candle lights in the windows. But then, in the midst of all that, there are small groups of people huddled together, either around a bonfire, or around a generator. They need food. They need blankets. They need flashlights and batteries, and so much more. Some of them just really appreciate knowing that they’re not forgotten. They thanked us for simply being there.’
Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department: Rockaways
‘PBFD firehouse has severe damage we lost most of our equipment, our 2 engines are still operational but on borrowed time, we lost a Chevy Tahoe, everything was under 4 feet of salt water. If any departments have spare supplies we could really use it, flashlights, radios, turnout gear, 4×4 apparatus, office equipment, mobile trailer, etc. We rescued many people and saved a lot of houses under some extreme conditions. FEMA and OEM have been useless. Please spread the word and repost and share. Thank you’
Agnes Johnson: Rockaways
NADLER SHOULD BE CALLED ” The National Guard and FEMA were to distribute meals at 3:00 pm in Coffee Park, where over 200 people stood in line since noon to receive food. At 3:00 pm the supplies and foods were not at the site. I asked one of the lead Guards/Organizers at what time was the food expected, only to get a pathetic “I don’t know” look.
This is yet another example how the people cannot rely on the government to fulfill the needs of our people. When this system has never been able to serve the basic need of our people, we must take a step back and evaluate the work that we do and who we are working for. Only People Power can ensure the survival of our neighborhood no matter how many lies Bloomberg, the President and the Ruling class wants to feed us.’
Sofia Gallisa Muriente: 4 a.m. 11/2/12, Far Rockaway
Homeland Security personnel in military gear, bulletproof vests and holding long rifles pull over three young black men in the middle of blacked-out Far Rockaway as they walk down the street for a glorified Stop and Frisk justified as crackdown on looting. Meanwhile, the streets are full of people in desperate need for help, food, water, electricity, support and other resources.
Kelli Daley: Brighton Beach
The Warbasse houses are still without power making it difficult for the many elderly immigrant residents on the upper floors to get adequate food and water. On Friday there was amazing outreach as several unconnected groups teamed up to make sandwiches, donate groceries and bring those supplies to those in need. That could only be done by navigating the dark stairways, up to 23 floors, with headlamps and flashlights. Everyone was pitching in to share their lights and translation skills.]]>
When I first read about the beginnings of Occupy Wall Street, I remember my heart leaping into my throat. Could this be? I watched carefully, read the articles, and started following them on Twitter. Many say that Twitter has been an unwitting aid to revolutions around the world. It’s funny how the easiest, fastest, free service of global idea circulation can help organize the people, isn’t it? Sparks became flames quickly — if the Middle East could rebel against heinous dictators, could we not stand in our streets, in the belly of our free-market, free-doom dragon and demand justice?
Living in Chicago, I could not visit Liberty Park, or as one percenters call it, “Zuccotti Park”. I watched videos and looked at photos online, knowing I would be there if I hadn’t left Brooklyn two years before. So when seven hundred protesters were led by police across the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1st, I watched the video the next day of their entrapment and arrests as though it were my body on the line. As though on cue, an old friend from high school texted me about going to Occupy Chicago that day. I went down to the intersection of Jackson and LaSalle and was greeted by a warm, electric drum circle that would rise, burst, and hum down the block. All around me, people of various classes and races were entrenched in deep political conversations in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. There was a table with a paper sign that read “tech”, another table with food and coffee, and a buzz of excitement vibrating the air and making me smile. Back at this time, there w
ere a few cops present and they liked the occupiers, or so we thought. They brought us coffee in the morning!
Over the following month, I led chants at various marches and General Assemblies and learned how the most disparate group of people could operate via channels of democracy, expression, and 90% consensus for every decision. That consensus was so important, and yet of course made for long meetings at the Horse downtown, the cold concrete steps wearing down everyone’s strength. I closed my bank account with Chase, and made a sign out of my debit card pieces. Occupiers taught me the interconnections of our corrupted systems — the greed bearing down on every industry, squeezing labor in an endless pursuit of profits at all costs, at very human costs. I recognized the flood of money corrupting the powerful, drugging them to endlessly legislate the expansion of their own powers and fortunes. I peered deep into the cracks of our society: the empty houses and the homeless not allowed to sleep or exist, the prisons of profit, full of black men, the war against black people, the suppre
ssion of a race, enforced by our police, whom I stopped regarding as protectors.
One General Assembly towards the end of November, a man stood up and said he had written a play for artists within occupy to perform. I knew this was my skill set, and I felt immediately I would be a hypocrite not to approach the playwright. I had been looking for a way to give more to the movement, and found it by working alongside William C. Turck to flesh out the script, find a director and cast, perform the lead and co-direct the production. “Occupy My Heart”, a modern day Christmas Carol set against the backdrop of the occupy movement, was one of the purest labors of love I have ever been involved in. Every time we met, the cast had deep conversations about the role of art, how we could reach a wider audience than a protest, and the story of resistance we had to tell.
In the middle of the rehearsal process I had planned a weekend trip to New York. I was there just in time to witness the December 12th Winter Garden arrests, where a man holding a laptop livestreaming the event (that is, dancing and singing in a public atrium) was slammed violently to the ground at my feet: the first arrest that broke the crest of celebration, and dragged our spirits into the deep murky waters of the NYPD. I remember screaming desperately, “Why?!” My white privileged eyes had never seen a police officer grapple so violently with a clearly innocent man, and the realization of their intentional silencing of the press, as they targeted every person with a camera, and others shouting that they were journalists, crushed me. An officer took me by the arm, pulling me to the door with a tight grip. I asked over and over, “Why can’t I be here? This is a public space! What law am I breaking? Why can’t I be inside?” To which the officer mostly ignored me, then responded gruffly, “you know why,” and threw me out the door. When we crowded around the windows, the police put a line of men between the glass and us. Then they put a metal barrier up in front of them, and I saw the fear of the powerful written all over the police’s tactics, but only bland resentment on their faces. I told them that we were fighting for their pensions, for their children’s right to a good education, for their parents’ health care, and one officer turned quietly to me and said “Thank you.” I asked them to raise their hand if they thought this was a good use of their time, when probably someone was getting murdered in New York City right at that moment. None felt strongly enough about what they were doing to move. I noticed what looked like a graying business man in a suit behind the police line, keeping an eye on everything that was happening. I was followed after that event to a deli, where I waved at a man whom I guess, from his brazen stare and terrible overcoat, was an FBI agent. I went back to Chicago rattled, angry, and even more determined.
Occupy My Heart opened on December 23rd: we braved one incredible performance outside in Grant Park for Occupy Chicago, thirty of whom endured the cold to march to the site and watch us perform the hell out of our play. We made the Chicago Tribune, and followed up with four more free performances indoors. The response was incredible, our talk backs afterwards were unexpectedly inspirational and motivating for me. We were helping people understand that the world could be different, and that everyone could do something about that. More than once, the audience asked us, what will the Occupy Players do next? The group of artists glanced with blushes at one another — we didn’t know. At the fourth performance so many came that we had to turn people away, and the last performance was an absolute fire hazard, but no one cared. When another audience member asked that same question, I answered that I was going to start writing a play. Indeed, it had been in my head for years already –
– a factual re-enactment of the financial crisis, but now I knew it would be a street performance, and end with a people’s uprising which would further fuel the actual uprising happening in the streets at any protest.
From then on, I was hooked. The audience was hungry, and I knew what to feed them. The Occupy Chicago Rebel Arts Collective formed, I worked on my play, Machine Breaks Down, People Rise Up, and I began to lead Theatre of the Oppressed workshops at Occupy Chicago. Activism is already tangled up in that Brazilian theatre practice; it was created to revolutionize communities and I continue to love working with it and occupy. I met more occupiers from all over the country this way, threw multi-media art events and fundraisers for various causes within and without the movement, wrote performance poetry for occupy, and generally did my best to spread the message of occupiers to the public. In the meantime, a network of political artists of all forms blossomed in Chicago. I organized and created (with a lot of help), the interactive twelve-foot sculpture called the Wishing Tree, a symbol for Occupy Chicago’s April 7 Spring kick-off, to help display our thoughtful and peaceful intent
ions before the inevitable clash at the NATO summit. We performed our financial allegory (Machine Breaks Down) at three different events before NATO, including the People’s Summit, and it was performed in early September 2012 at the Occupy the Space theatre festival in Manhattan. These networks keep laying down more roots, growing higher and out, and my heart keeps expanding to include more causes as the movement opens my eyes to all kinds of oppression, injustice and inequity in this world.
I now recognize our occupation, our movement to occupy every form of oppression everywhere, to be the only possible tide to rise against the financial-governmental machine of privatization, profitization, racialization and devastation of our homes, lives, bodies and thoughts. The one percent demands that we believe in their systems and institutions even as they crack and fall all around them, but the time has come for human beings to evolve. I will continue to use my skills as a writer, performer, and organizer to fuel the worldwide revolution for a sustainable culture until I wake up every last sleepy consumer. I occupy my art and other’s minds as best I can — I see no other way to be!
I suspect the years ahead hold many ups and downs for our goals, but as I watch laborers of all kinds strike all over the world, and people rise up against their governments from Egypt to Spain to Lybia to Greece to Chile to Canada to China to Manhattan… I see the tide is rising, in more ways than one. With the arctic melting fast, we only have a few years to end our self-destruction. The time to stand up is now! On the anniversary of my first year with occupy, I ask you to occupy your life — in every and any way. Revolutionize your every day; radicalize your thinking. As I often chant with my brothers and sisters, while dancing uncontainably in the streets:
WE ARE UNSTOPPABLE, ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE!
Another world is coming — and all of us are making it.
– Teresa Veramendi –]]>
My State-Sponsored Assault, Courtesy of the NYPD: Journalist John Knefel recounts his violent arrest by the NYPD during #S17 and his subsequent experience in custody.
A Journalist’s Arrest at #S17: “I’ve learned how to get my story without getting bagged. Or so I thought.”
What’s Wrong With This Picture?: The Story of My Arrest by the NYPD: During the Occupy anniversary protests, a photographer is arrested for taking photos on a sidewalk outside the press pen.
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…