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Police | Occupied Stories - Part 2

Tag Archive | "police"

Lady, We Don’t Even Have Charges for That!


New York, NY–It had been 72 hours since I had a good night’s sleep. Power naps between meetings had become routine,  fatigue was setting in but none of that mattered. It was Monday, September 17th.

My comrades and I had decided to gather extra early to allow time for prep and a good meal. 5am came quickly and by 6 we were on our way into the bowels of Manhattan.

Having dedicated much of my time over the past few weeks to the Education Zone with my affinity group All In The Red, Harrison and I made our way to South Street Seaport, careful to keep our eyes open. A small crowd had amassed by 6:30 and by 7am. After a short strategic review, our group seemed excited and prepared to face the day.

The following hour and twenty four minutes seemed to play in both slow motion and fast forward. Time frozen and flashing before my eyes. Then my arms were behind my back and I was being slammed into a concrete wall. Again.

“Am I being detained?” I screamed.

Hula hoops falling to the sidewalk. Clearly, I was being detained.

“Am I being detained?!” cameras came rushing.

“Shut the fuck up” I didn’t see his face.

“I do not consent to a search.”

“Do you want to make this difficult?”

Wrists twisting inside flexcuffs, backpack slipping from my shoulder, trapped. The weight immediately sent searing pain up my arms. All I could do was shake my head and keep my mouth shut; I have seen what they do to people who complain. Comrades caught my eye from across the street. I motioned that I was okay and to contact the NLG.

Just as soon as it began.

8:24 am.

I was in flexcuffs, with my hoops, in the back of a NYPD van.

To my surprise the following hour was spent reasonably comfortable. Air conditioning, Prince sing-a-longs and real conversations about mutual aid were the last things I expected when I was shoved in that van, but thankfully the first things I received. My “arresting officers” were actually School Safety Uniformed Division Officers, admitting themselves they would rather “be dealing with real crime”. Completely out of their element in lower Manhattan, they eventually started asking me for directions. I kept quiet and enjoyed the temperature-controlled view of the 99 Revolutions. Heart growing with pride, we pulled it off!

After what seemed like hours we arrived at 55 Water, where my van had been sent to pick up “the other prisoners.” Little did I know that as I was being moved between vans, my photo was being taken by a CNBC journalist–hoops and all. The caption would later read “Additionally: hula hoops confiscated”

From 55 Water, van fresh with new (political) “prisoners” we were transported to 1PP for processing. Each “prisoner” had their possessions tagged and photo taken, affixed with a “mass arrest” sticker and placed in a holding cell determined by gender discrimination.

To my pleasure my colleague at Occupied Stories, Julia, was in the same intake cell along with some other familiar faces. It’s always comforting to go through times like these with friends. After additional paperwork and a denied phone call, I was transferred to a concrete holding cell with four other women. A steel platform with dirty blue gym mats hung from the wall and the air reeked of piss. This was my home for the next 10 hours.

BUT WE OCCUPIED THE SHIT OUT OF IT! We shared stories, everyone having a good laugh when I told them how my “arresting officer” wanted to cut my cuffs: “What am I supposed to say? Prisoner did obstruct pedestrian and vehicular traffic with a hula hoop performance? We don’t have charges for this shit.” We stood shoulder to shoulder forming our own “Pee-poles Wall” singing “Solidari-pee Forever” whenever a sister had to use the facilities. It’s amusing to me that after all this time the NYPD still thinks arrest will drive us away from the movement. Some of the strongest bonds I have made since coming to Occupy have been forged in a jail cell.

The final hours of waiting passed painfully slow. I answered questions to the best of my knowledge, having taken some Legal training courses in the event that something like this would happen and I tried to keep everyone in the cell calm and comfortable. Unfortunately, there is only so much that can be done before the madness of a cage sets in. Catching a glimpse of my arresting officer down the hallway I called out to him, my new-found best friend, even offering a birthday card in exchange for my release.

It was roughly 6pm when the key turned in the lock of the cell door. Finally. As he led me down the corridor towards release the men’s cell erupted! Weaving through hands banging on plexiglass, the faces of my male comrades began to emerge. All of them making the same hand motion, a heart. We were all in it together.

After another processing and paperwork line I could finally see daylight, along with my hoops! Once one of the officers realized that I was “The Hula Hoop Girl” his coworkers were talking about all day, he immediately asked me to “do some tricks.” I couldn’t help but oblige as I walked through the gates of 1PP and into the arms of my jail support team. The only people left on the sidewalk.

-Nicole Rose-

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Weaving Through Wall Street


New York, NY–I awoke early and left my apartment at 6:15 to allow myself some time to get lost on my way to the Education Bloc assembly point. The air was frigid, and I shivered on my walk to the subway. Because I was temporarily without cell phone service, and therefore had no access to any text loops nor communication with anyone else, I hoped very much that “Plan B”—in which we assemble someplace else—would not be declared. But getting off the Fulton stop in lower Manhattan, I strolled to the South Street Seaport and found familiar faces. I greeted some friends and then made quick run across the street to grab something to eat and some orange juice; I hadn’t brought anything with me but my small notepad thinking that today it might be best to travel as light as possible.

My primary contacts here—those I knew best—were my friends Nicole and Harrison, though at the night before I met a group of out-of-towners from a few different cities that had organized itself into an affinity group. I chatted a little with them, amazed that friendships had been cemented with people met only 12 hours before. But such is typical within Occupy.

Just after 7:30, we departed for our roving marches, splitting up early on but then reconvening. We did the usual chants: “When education’s under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” We soon began taking intersections, first with simply a circular picket that occupied each crosswalk simultaneously. Some civilians stopped to watch us, and we moved away to continue the marches without any conflict. Our group split and it seemed agreed that we would go civilian to the People’s Wall, yet we remained a loud, chanting march. The march that I was in jumped into the center of an intersection to dance and sing “A-anti-anticapitalista!” Not quite ready to dance so early in the morning, I joined in the chant and ran circles around the inside of the intersection with others, clapping my hands. We put on quite a show for civilians and once again had no conflict with police.

Upon reaching the area around Wall Street—here is where locations become truly blurry for my memory—we found a swelling mass of other protesters crammed onto the sidewalks, some straying into the streets, and a glut of police officers standing.in the middle of the intersection, along curbs—everywhere. I think I missed most of the People’s Wall drama but it was tough to be sure: a great mix of joyful chanting and militant yelling all filled the intersection. Every so often you would head chants of “March! March! March!” but everyone remained where they stood. I wandered around the intersection to see what was happening at different angles. After standing into the street, police ordered all of us to get onto the sidewalk.

The sidewalk closest to me happened to be the corner where police were checking work IDs to enter the sectioned-off street. Of course, police then said that the side half of us were standing on was reserved only for those in line to have IDs checked. I, and others, then, had to move—but the corner was so crowded, with the street off-limits, that one had no space to move. So I stood on the curb. The police tired of us standing there, and suddenly I felt hands on my shoulders and an officer trying to raise me; he then pushed me forward into the man ahead of me, who fell forward into the people in front of him, causing many of us to push against scaffolding. Feeling a great deal of adrenaline and anger, I walked away from the situation to the outskirts of the group, where I found Harrison again. Luckily this situation was my only one in which I was at all handled by the police and I (and as far as I know, others in that situation) were not injured.

Meeting again with Harrison, we wandered a bit and expressed to each other some disappointment at how so many were caught in a standoff that seemed to be past its opportunity.  There was no civil disobedience, really, in crowding the sidewalk where no one except protesters and police stood. Marching seemed to be the best strategy at the stalemate that had occurred but relatively few took the call.

But I was still in awe at everything I was watching. Even after my six months with Occupy Wall Street, it’s difficult to watch so many people get arrested for exercising rights that are to be guaranteed for them, or for “breaking” laws in ways the laws were not intended to be enforced—or to be arrested violently and aggressively. I watched a man red-faced and with tears in his eyes yelling to us as he was being taken away that he could not feel his hands. This is my city, this is my country, and this is what we do here.

Harrison split and now here I was wandering the financial district alone. I felt now less an activist than a sort of observer. I didn’t know where any of my friends were, although I would very much support the statement that we all in Occupy are friends already, a kind of weird, huge family. But what was great about September 17th is that we were all here together, and despite not having working service on my cellphone I happened to run into a group of friends—and we, then, happened to run into another friend in a march—without at all trying.

John, one of the people I ran into, was stringing yarn across streets and intersections to delay activity there. I stood by to scout for police as he strung the yarn on a side street (a large van quickly plowed through it.) The two of us and other friends of ours went in and out of marches and—if memory serves correctly—ended up near Trinity, where we wanted to cross the street. Today walk signals did not matter, as police officers themselves were controlling traffic—by only allowing cars to move from either direction, and never pedestrians. We stood on the street-side of the curb to wait to cross, other protesters crammed behind the scaffolding, and John began the chant: “Whose streets?” to which I and others answered “Our streets!” This went on for a couple minutes without police allowing us to cross. A white shirt pointed a few people out from the crowd, and suddenly officers were running towards us. We scurried, and one officer grabbed John’s arm. John broke free, ducked behind the scaffolding, but was caught and arrested; for a moment I wondered if, by being near John and joining in the chant, if I could have been another that the white shirt pointed to—officers were now chasing and arresting others who had been standing there—so I and my friends Shay and Thiago quickly left the situation, jogging down the block.

After the intense and stressful morning, we came across a parade of fun led by the Reverend Billy Choir of Stop Shopping, which was much needed to calm the nerves from all that we had seen and run from. After my dismay at police activity, I was once again inspired by the voices and singing of my Occupy family, the perfect antidote to the police state that attempts to wear us down—a great first half to a happy birthday.

– Joe Sutton –

 

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This is What Solidarity Looks Like!


New York, NY–When we entered One Police Plaza yesterday, we were greeted with a most uplifting scene of a crowded but jovial cell, full of singing, dancing, and warmth. I received huge hugs from the inspiring Bishop George Packard and Professor Steve Burghardt, who were arrested for civil disobedience in the morning. Steve had these wonderful words to share about solidarity and reclaiming our commons:

“Yesterday showed us how high the mountain is that we have to climb—and that it’s worth it. The harshness of police response, as I have written elsewhere, is inevitable due to the underlying threat that OWS continues to be. That threat is not that we will actually close the stock exchange, any more than that Rosa Parks’ refusal to move back on the bus was simply about seating arrangement on public transportation. State violence escalates when a movement threatens the authority of political and economic elites…not just about who owns stock and where people sit, but about everything: elections and levels of profit, who should pay for our debt and who deserves to be in jail. As long as OWS threatens to create this new discourse, we will continue to be met with violence and repression. We’re just going to have t get used to it as we grow.

“But yesterday down in that holding cell, I saw again why OWS is worth it. Early on I got to have a long talk with Dien, a resident at Montefiore with an 11-day old daughter, who sat down near me because he sees what our health care system is doing to poor people. He plans to be practicing social medicine some day, a program build on the liberational work of the Brazilian educator Paulo Friere—the same work that I use in my community organizing classes. About five hours into a long day, Luis, the young Latino arrested by the Wall Street bull, energized us all with two powerful OWS raps filled with rage about the present and hope for a better future. 15 guys, ranging in age from 21 to 71, sat and talked for an hour about strategies for our future—we listened and learned form each other, a rainbow of possibility sitting in a small, cramped circle.

“Sure, there were a few guys in there whose style drove me nuts, some crusties I’m convinced use their constant rage for personal, not political reasons. But you know what? About four hours in, we were all kinda’ down: we’d eaten those god-awful pb & j or American cheese sandwiches (now, thanks to Bloomberg, with tasteless wheat rather than white bread), it was clear we were not leaving for a while, and everyone was bored. One of those crusties had a better idea. He walked over to the empty water cooler jug and began to drum. Another guy joined in on the stand, getting into a nice, solid rhythm that carried throughout the cell. We began to pick it up, tapping on our benches in response. Soon the beat was everywhere, loud and strong, and fast.

“Two cops entered, pissed off, and took the water jug out. The drummer smiled, and walked over to the garbage can. Carefully removing the liner filled with leftovers (including empty 1%–1 per cent!—milk cartons) and began to drum again. The sound filled the room, even louder this time. 120 pairs of hands joined in, a little singing and whooping thrown in across the space.

“That drum soon left the room, too. Then Luis gave us his first OWS rap song. We all were talking again. The strategy group formed. Two high school kids from Pennsylvania were let in the room, a little scared. A cheer went and embraced them in welcome. They smiled, happy, aware that they were safe, too. For a few hours on September 17, 2012, One Police Plaza’s holding cell was transformed. It was OWS’s Holding Commons, where unity was possible and hope lived, too.”

– Steve B
(Professor of community organizing at Hunter College)

This is what solidarity looks like!

– Lucky Tran –

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What’s Wrong With This Picture?: The Story of My Arrest by the NYPD


New York, NY–There’s rarely a dull moment when they go marching in the land of Occupy, and the weekend of the 1-year anniversary ramped up to revive a lot of the energy seen swirling around Zuccotti Park last fall.

After a year of shaping their vision, forming their message, and battling with the police, the movement had a broad range of actions planned for Monday, September 17th, the day of the anniversary of the first tent pitched in Liberty Square. The overall plan showed that the past twelve months have forced Occupiers to evolve. No longer would the activity be focused on one massive march, but rather dispersed and mobile, adapting to responses by the police, but with the same goal they had from the beginning: To protest the machinery of Wall Street finance by shutting it down.

As I arrived near Zuccotti Park around 6 am, NYPD forces where already out and ready, Wall Street barricaded from all sides, as was Zuccotti Park, the bull statue and parts of Broadway. The news media was out in force, with TV trucks clogging both sides of Broadway. Little brings out the news crews in New York City like the possibilities of a potential blood bath … Both the police and mass media seemed ready for that. But the occupiers had other ideas.

By 7:30 am, about 500 protesters had assembled in this one of four assembly points, and led by Episcopalian bishop George Packard and other clerics, started marching down Broadway towards the intersection with Wall Street. The original plan was to block the intersection by sitting down in the street. However, barricades set up by NYPD forced protesters to stay on the sidewalk, and, rather than – as in the past – trying to battle their way through the barricades, the protesters decided to make their point by sitting down on the sidewalk instead. Still, the arrests quickly began, as now they were obstructing pedestrian traffic. Though the possibility that maybe the barricades and lines of cops the NYPD had set up might do a better job of blocking passage than anyone sitting on a pavement ever could, probably didn’t occur to the police commander in charge of the scene….

I had found myself stuck in the press pen that was handily provided on one corner of the intersection of Wall St and Broadway, so I couldn’t see the actual arrests, but several arrestees were quickly led away.

Looking for more freedom of movement and better angles for observation and photography, I decided to change venue and moved down Pine Street towards Nassau Avenue. As I reached the intersection of Nassau and Pine, the back side of Federal Hall, another popular flashpoint between OWS and NYPD, I encountered mayhem. Police had started to arrest protesters in this location and cops were grabbing at anything and anyone that couldn’t run fast enough, including a legal observer from the National Lawyers Guild, even though he was clearly marked by wearing a bright green hat marked “NLG Legal Observer”. I took some photos of arrests, but soon decided to move on further down towards Wall Street as I heard there were some activities going on there.

As I walked down Wall Street, protesters were marching on the sidewalk across the street from me, chanting and gearing up to block the intersection of Wall St and Pearl St. A massive contingent of police scooters along with cops in riot gear were standing at the ready for the encounter. A police officer started to read out a dispersal order to the protesters assembled at the street corner, and anticipating a new sit-in and some arrest shots, I crossed the street to photograph the officer with his megaphone, as well as any upcoming interactions. As I arrived on the sidewalk I started photographing the scene: The cop with his megaphone, other officers standing around that looking at the protesters, and I was just about to turn around and photograph the protesters, as I hear the voice over the megaphone saying “if you don’t move, you will be arrested.” I took one more shot of the cops standing at the corner, when the white shirt officer in charge of the scene pointed at me and said: “That’s it. She’s done. Take her,” and he promptly grabbed my hand. I shouted out that I’m an independent photographer, and showed him my credentials from the National Press Photographers’ Association. The officer looked at my badge and said “they’re not ours, so I’m not interested.” (an independent account and a great photo can be found here)

I was spun around and felt the zip ties tighten around my hands. This being my first arrest ever, I was surprised that I felt relatively calm and just let them do their thing, but I did notice that the cuffs were beginning to cut off the circulation in my hands. The white shirt officer handed me off to one of the cops standing next to him in riot helmets, and designated him to be the arresting officer, which meant he was now in charge of bringing me to the station for processing and staying with me until I was either released on a Desk Appearance Ticket or sent to court for arraignment. A couple of legal observers took my name, and information, and several other observers asked for it, too while I was being led away. At least I felt people would know where to look for me.

As I was being led to a van, my arresting officer was told that he couldn’t put me there, as only males were in there. So, the officer turned around and called over the radio “I have a body. I need a car.” — Well, while I was out of commission for the moment as a photographer, I still felt very much alive, and found that description of me rather disconcerting. Yet, the numbness in my hands continued to increase, so I decided that, rather than getting into argument with him over terminology, I’d plea my case for getting the cuffs loosened enough for the blood to be able to flow to my hands. The officer explained to me that the zip cuffs they were using could not be loosened without cutting them, and he couldn’t do that unless I was in a van. We walked back and forth searching for a van for me to be put into for another 10-15 minutes, until I was finally placed in front of a door, photographed with a Polaroid camera, and placed into the bus – joining four others already in there – with my backpack still on, and my camera and press pass hanging down in front. When I asked again to get my cuffs loosened, the officer said he didn’t have a knife, so that would have to be done at the station.

Other arrested protesters joined us in the bus and a dialogue started soon amongst everyone: About the day’s protests, occupy’s philosophy and other topics. One of the protesters started making his case for occupy to two of the arresting officers sitting with us in the van, who seemed nice enough to engage in the conversation. Whether any hearts or minds were changed remains to be seen, but it seemed clear that once the confrontation of the actual protest was out the way and a civilized conversation was possible to be had – and the boss wasn’t listening – some rank and file officers were not all that unsympathetic.

Before the cops were ordered out of the van again to accommodate more arrestees, one of them finally cut my cuffs, my hands now a darker shade of blue, and deep imprints from the edges of the cuffs visible on both my wrists. I was allowed to take off the backpack, put the camera into my bag, stretch out my fingers for a second, before I had to be re-cuffed, thankfully looser this time.

Overall the atmosphere in the van was quite festive. The other arrestees seemed to be at peace with their situation and were looking to make the most of it.  One of the late arrivals managed to access his cell phone and started livestreaming from our van. Another one, sitting next to him started reciting some rap poems he had written about Occupy, manifesting some accute wordsmanship and creativity, while another protester accompanied him with a drum beat by banging against the backwall of the van.

About 90 minutes after my arrest, we were finally delivered to Central Booking at 1 Police Plaza for further processing. There I noticed that we were referenced to as “perps”, short for “perpetrator”. While this term may seem a tad less dehumanizing than “body”, it still felt hardly appropriate for a group of people arrested for such “crimes” as sitting down in an intersection, or photographing on the sidewalk.

As we were herded across the outer courtyard of Central Booking, had our names and addresses taken, any cary-ons removed etc, the treatment I received seemed reasonably courteous. I had requested that the Swiss consulate be notified of my arrest, which seemed to make an impression. While I wasn’t necessarily expecting the need of diplomatic interference, I felt it important to ensure access to it, should the need arise. Given how little decision room I was given with every step being pre-ordained (“two steps over here, back against the wall, one step over there) it also felt good to mark at least a little corner of my territory.

I was pulled aside with another arrestee still wearing his press credentials around his neck. He was a livestreamer and reporter for a website based in Portland, Oregon. We were asked as to where our work could be seen and what we were doing exactly, then that officer went away. I’m not sure whether he was a regular plain-clothed officer, from the press office or the legal team, but he was dressed in civilian clothing. Finally, my press pass still hanging around my neck, I was led into the back door of central booking, where my identity was verified, I had to pose for another photo – this time with the arresting officer – and was placed into a holding cell for further processing. My arresting officer seemed pleased with the photo of the two of us and showed it to me. When I jokingly asked him whether we should put that on facebook he laughed but said no, that he didn’t want to be tagged.

In the holding cell I found Nicole, one of my colleagues from the Occupied Stories website, who is also trained as a legal observer. She was arrested for hoola-hooping while directing pedestrian traffic in an intersection, leading her arresting officer to complain “Lady, we don’t have charges for that.” But, on orders of his white shirt officer, he arrested her anyway.

After a while I was taken out of the holding cell and led past the holding den containing many of the male protesters that had been arrested that morning, by that time around 70 of them. They were having a party in there, cheering on every protester who was led by their den, chanting, drumming and even dancing. One officer passing by along with me shook his head and exclaimed “what a zoo!” Others seemed less amused, but unsure what to do about it, so for the time being they let the protesters be. The holding room had glass windows, not merely bars, so the noise level wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been, but they were clearly heard all the way down to the holding pen I was about to be placed into.

I was led to another intake officer who collected all the possessions from my pockets, my press pass, and also my shoe-laces. I was allowed to make my phone call but only to a number within New York City. Other arrestees behind me where not so lucky. Several of the out-of-town protesters who had come to New York for the OWS anniversary didn’t have a local number to call. So, they were sent off to their cells without being able to notify someone outside what had happened.

I was led into a block of 9 cells, each designed for one occupant but allowed to hold up to four, furnished with a wooden blank with some mats on top, a sink at the wall and a toilet besides that which didn’t provide any privacy what so ever. The front wall of the cells were metal bars, so everyone walking by could see right in. Nicole and I were placed into the same cell, along with a sleeping medic and two out of town girls. We could also hear and communicate with the occupants from the other cells, which by that point held around 30 other protesters (we maxed out at 37 in our block). The two female intake officers were in a very foul mood, so any chanting or singing between the cells was met with verbal abuse and threats of delaying our release. We knew they didn’t have the authority to make such decisions, but it clearly put a damper on the festive mood in our corner of the building. Still, we quickly built solidarity around the privacy issue of the toilets that were provided. Every time one of us had to use the bathroom, the others lined up in a wall around her, facing towards the hallway, to shield her from view, all the while singing “Solidari-pee Forever”. We called it our Pee-ples Wall.

As the day dragged on conversations swerved from philosophy to politics. Also, Nicole gave advice to us less familiar with legal proceedings surrounding arrests, as to what to expect in terms of release, possible punishment for different charges etc. While at that time I was not given access to a lawyer (I had asked my godmother to contact a good lawyer we both know on my behalf), it did feel good to have somebody knowledgeable on the subject in the room. Still, time is passing slowly in a prison cell even with the best of conversations, and gradually we all started to chomp at our bits to be released, feeling we were missing things still going on out there.

Some entertainment was provided by our guards trying to assemble a proper count of all female inmates in our block. First the one officer passed by, counting each head, expecting four arrestees to each cell, as they passed by our cell their count got out of synch with their expectations, since we had five people in ours. However, that would take a moment to sink in, so they passed us by, kept counting, and about 2 cells later started to realize that something was amiss. So, they’d come back and do it again, then send a second counter to do the math, and finally a third, and we still had five ladies in our cell. “But it’s not supposed to be that way”, one of them exclaimed, pointing at one of us. “You were supposed to be in number seven”. After a while of headscratching they gave up and left things as they were. Clearly, these ladies are not loaded down with student debt …

Around 1pm, we were served “lunch” which consisted of two sorry excuses for peanut butter-jelly or cheese sandwiches, and a small carton of milk. I didn’t mind the PBJ in principle, but these two comprised basically two pieces of cardboard that had been dragged past a jar of peanut butter and a gotten drop of sugary something plopped on top. I was grateful for some food, and I do understand the impact of budget cuts, but this was ridiculous.

As the afternoon dragged on, one of the out-of-town girls got increasingly agitated, as she became worried about what would happen to her and her friend. As she got more and more upset and started screaming at the cops about not getting her phone call, her friend tried to calm her down, but to little avail. Irrespective of the tone in which she asked to make the call, it was indeed disturbing that she was denied what is ultimately one of her fundamental rights.

Around 5 pm I was finally released with what is called a Desk Appearance Ticket and a charge of “Disorderly Conduct”, which photography in public apparently now qualifies as in the City of New York. Before I was let out, we had to retake those two Polaroid photos I had posed for during my arrest. Apparently, they had gotten lost in the shuffle, but I couldn’t help but notice that this time my press credentials were not hanging around my neck … The entire upper body is visible in these photos, so any press pass hanging around my neck would have been clearly visible.

While I found the experience of this arrest very insightful into a part of America I have never personally encountered before, it also angered me that I lost an entire day’s worth of photographic work over a bullshit arrest. I don’t blame the poor beat cop who got stuck with posing as my arresting officer. This issue begins with his superior who decided to arrest me for whatever reasons he had or was given. I can understand how the prison system can break people, given just how little humanity is allowed to those it oversees and is supposed to reform and prepare for re-admission into the general public. Obviously, with the view from my holding cell I’ve only scratched the surface of what prison life in America can be like, but the stories I’ve heard are beginning to make a whole lot more sense. My spirit is fine but my wrists still hurt, and parts of my hands still have no feeling, which sucks when you’re trying to hold a camera.

Also, if intimidation was the goal of me being snatched off the street, the plan has backfired. I have no intention to interfere with events as they unfold, but I believe that the emergence of a movement like Occupy is one of the largest news stories of our time, and as such it needs to be properly documented. That includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, I will keep taking my pictures, like it or not. But obviously, I need to take better care of staying one step ahead of the body snatchers …

Far from reformed, once out of jail I went straight back to Zuccotti Park to reconnect with the day’s events and people I had spent the better part of last year with and grabbing dinner at an Irish pub with some of the photographers I had met on marches and in the park. The park had much of the energy back that swept through it last fall. While the park was surrounded by a sea of cops, inside occupiers had a great time reconnecting, and sharing their experiences. It was fun to hear stories about everything that happened, and annoyed me once more that I couldn’t be there to see it myself. Still, I also realized that I was lucky, in that my arrest was not a violent one, as I heard some of the horror stories of what the others saw and experienced. Around midnight I finally went home, completely exhausted, but also well aware that this thing is far from over.

– Julia Reinhart –

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A Journalist’s Arrest at #S17


This story was originally published at The Phoenix.

I wasn’t supposed to be sitting in a bar, my right elbow bent like a bastard, on the night of September 17, 2012. It was the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street – a movement I’ve been covering for about a year – and the plan was to be out in the streets, tweeting, taking pictures, and scribbling obscenities in my notepad. That’s what I do. I’m a reporter. It’s my fucking job.

But I wasn’t on the streets, recording so much senseless brutality. Instead I was a victim of it, having gotten viciously tackled and abused less than two hours after reporting for duty. I hardly planned for this; if I had, I would have left my weed at my motel. But having covered comparable actions in more than 20 American cities over the past year, I’ve learned how to get my story without getting bagged. Or so I thought.

Owly Images

I intentionally slept through the early morning Occupy efforts to troll Wall Street suits as they arrived at work. I’d been up late tailing protesters to Times Square, plus I’ve written about journalist mistreatment in such circumstances, and had an inkling that there would be mass arrests during the rush hour festivities. It turned out that hunch was on point; when I showed up at noon in Battery Park, most people were rapping about how ugly the AM actions got.

After surveying the crowd of several thousand in Battery and smacking back some water, at about 1:15pm I went to work, and headed north toward Zuccotti Park. But between the tourists, cops, and activists there, every slab of pavement was mobbed, and I didn’t even enter the old encampment. Instead I followed about 100 protesters – an intriguing mix of hardcore Occupiers and labor picketers – east on Liberty Street.

Owly Images

It was hardly different from any other hot situation that I’ve covered. Signs were held, chants were yelled, and after about 10 minutes of people lambasting Chase bank, cops ordered everyone off of the sidewalk. I was in the street – tweeting, taking notes and pictures – when a cop chased me across the pavement and away from the action: “YOU – GET ON THE [OTHER] SIDEWALK – IT’S THE THING MADE OUT OF CONCRETE.”

No problem. I went exactly where they told me to go. But soon after, so did the crush of protesters, who by that point had been joined by at least another 100 comrades heading north on William Street. Once there, they all began to pile into a courtyard up some steps, but I stayed on the sidewalk, obeying orders, and snapping pics of what seemed like an imminent dispersal. That’s when the ringleader cop in the white shirt and black leather cloves pointed directly at me. All I heard was, “CHOPPER – SICK BALLS!”

Owly Images

I must be a seriously fat shit because, somehow, my nose didn’t hit the ground as I was pushed, grabbed, and tackled while standing alone, with no one nearby to cushion the blow. It did hurt, though, especially since despite not battling back, I was repeatedly jabbed in the lower back and told to stop resisting. Pleas for my cellphone, which went flying when they sacked me, and my screaming “I’M A JOURNALIST” just made the fuzz angrier.

One reasonable cop did rescue my horn, but only after one of his colleagues grabbed my right arm, forced my hand far enough up my back to touch my left shoulder, and twisted until we both heard the uneasy sound of muscle tearing. At that, they stood me up and asked if I was “okay,” to which I just nodded and continued to repeat, loudly, “I’M A JOURNALIST.” Surrounded by more than a dozen cops, I doubt that any civilians or protesters heard me ask for someone to call my editors in Boston.

Nobody was happy about how much shit I had in my pockets. Not me, not the dimwits digging through my pants, and not the nice young cop who was eventually assigned as my “arresting officer” despite having little to do with my beat-down. As they cleaned out my jeans near the police wagon, I was yelled at several times for carrying a notepad, pens, a towel, my camera, and a small container full of trees, which prompted some serious hilarity. When asked why I was holding marijuana, I told the officers that I smoke it to prevent anxiety – to which the biggest dope among them said, “Wait until the media finds out that you were working and doing drugs. You’re finished!”

After the dumbest cop of all accused me of trying to escape – while tied up, with my belongings in their custody, in the middle of a police state – the wagon doors were slammed, and I sat alone with no ventilation or air conditioning for about 10 minutes. Between the lack of oxygen and plastic cuffs choking my hands, I was sure that I would puke or pass out, but then the doors opened, and in came Tyler. A 21-year-old day trader from a wealthy Connecticuit family, Tyler was not a protester or a journalist. He was just a pedestrian who happened to be passing by when I got sacked, and who made the mistake of pulling out his cell phone to record the craziness.

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Tyler was absolutely freaked. On his way to lunch near Battery Park, his day had taken a dramatic turn, and by the time he wound up in the meat wagon with me, dude was really bothering the cops. I told him to shut the fuck up – several times – and for the most part he followed my directions, except for when he asked, half-seriously, if we were going to be water-boarded. To diffuse the situation and calm him down, I made a joke about there being seat belts in the bus, which only a contortionist could possibly fasten while cuffed from behind.

While in custody, I made it a point to tell every cop I came in contact with that I’m a journalist, and was either ignored or ridiculed each time. One steroid fiend with a pre-school education quipped, “So you’re one of the blogger idiots who thought you wouldn’t get arrested protesting.” Another cop at the station took my business card to a superior officer, who looked at it, then glanced at me, and determined there was no way that I was really a reporter.

After a not-so-awful booking process in which my balls were barely grazed, I was led into the holding cell where about 75 protesters were hanging and chanting. I realized right away that they were entertaining company, not to mention a diverse scrum if there ever was one. Before long I was trading arrest stories with New York anarchists, a senior citizen from Maine, two teenagers – aged 15 and 16 – who had come down from Philadelphia, an NLG volunteer who still had his green cap on, a minister from Somerville, two Veterans for Peace, and an aspiring MC who spit all types of flames for us to nod to.

If there’s one thing I’ve always found about Occupiers, it’s that they know how to flip shitty situations inside out. This was especially true in the can, a despicable 800-square foot dungeon with flickering fluorescent lights, two turd-filled toilet bowls, and a broken telephone. Given those conditions, activists used the slices of American cheese from our stale sandwiches to cover the security cameras. And when the five-gallon water jug was finished, they used it as a bongo until one of the steak boys came in to confiscate it.

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Other highlights included seeing such familiar faces as Noah McKenna from Occupy Boston, and John Knefel, a fellow journalist who does the internet show Radio Dispatch, which I’m sure will be waxing about this. And how could I forget the New York Occupier who, through the bars, kept berating a cop who was watching movies on his phone? Or the officer who entered the pen to tell the 16-year-old from Philly that his father had been contacted, and that his parents were extremely pissed off. We all got a real kick out of that one.

After roughly five hours of watching officers struggle with tall piles of paperwork – the NYPD apparently has yet to upgrade from pens and pads to computers – my name finally got called. So with Tyler and another new friend – Paul Mayer, an 81-year-old Catholic priest from New Jersey who had been in since about 8am – I collected my belongings (though they kept my weed) and walked with a desk appearance ticket for December 5, when I’ll argue that if anyone was guilty of “disorderly conduct,” it was the pack of Neanderthals who rammed me into that “thing made out of concrete.”

Owly Images

It should go without saying that, while I didn’t get to report as planned, the day was hardly a waste. Though half of my cellmates expected to be arrested for civil disobedience, an equal number had been fucked like me, and assaulted, cuffed, and stuffed because some dope in a uniform disliked the way they looked. Hearing their stories reinforced everything that I already knew about the extreme savagery that’s been aimed at this movement, especially in New York. To quote Mobb Deep, “There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from.” No woman either, as it turns out.

As for Tyler – he was kind enough to offer me some bong hits at his apartment near Union Square, where we got wicked stoned and ate tacos before I got to writing this. At 2pm yesterday, he was an aspiring broker who was walking to lunch, when he got violated by people who, up until that moment, he thought were there to protect him. By 4pm, Tyler was chanting in solidarity with a horde of Occupiers. And by the time that we got out, he was itching to head back towards Zuccotti and get more footage of police beatings. If that’s not the best birthday present that Occupy Wall Street could ask for, then I don’t know what is.

Chris Faraone

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Blocking the Bankers


On the morning of September 17th  at 7:15 a.m. I showed up at Liberty Plaza to find it closed by a private “security” force and downtown New York crawling with NYPD, as expected. But I knew the protest would be someplace, and found it over by the orange cube sculpture across the way from the stone bench I slept on during the first occupation of Liberty Plaza last year at this time. A mic check. A set of experiences elaborated by the human microphone. And we were off to block the corners leading into Wall Street and the Stock Exchange, with the aim of at least obstructing the normal operation of criminal banking practices.

And obstruct we did.

I felt alone, just one body in motion, when I showed up, but as the crowd walked down the sidewalks and into the connecting streets of the Wall Street area, I joined in what appeared to me to be an overflowing celebration of our vitality and connection. The brass band played. The guy with the guitar strummed along. We laughed, smiled. Another guy with a guitar and an American flag turned upside down–a signal of “distress” and of course that things are upside down here, and in the world.

We wandered in towards the Stock Exchange, filling the sidewalks. And as we got closer, it became apparent that our numbers were enough to hold the intersection. We flooded in to one intersection, and our flags and protest signs were raised. I looked around. I saw so many cameras, as if everyone were attempting to live this moment in multiple places at the same time–and that’s what it was. We were multiply present, here, everywhere at once, watched and watching, our bodies blocking the street, blocking and obstructing the flow of capital.

When a huge team of very large cops flooded into the center of the intersection, people didn’t resist. We just moved, let them flow past. Standing in the street I thought it wise to try for a piece of curbstone to avoid arrest, and I  managed to get my toes up on one, and hang on to a lattice of poles, to keep me up; then, a colorfully dressed, long-haired, older guitar-wielding guy and his wife eased in in front of me; and as the crowd gathered, one cop started barking orders: “On the sidewalk or you’ll be arrested!”

Behind me  protesters were laughing at a man in a suit who was trying to get to the Exchange. The guy in the suit was trying to squeeze through, and getting frustrated and nervous. He wasn’t going to get to work. I laughed too.

Then with swift force and violence, as the old guy with the guitar tried to get to the sidewalk 4 or 5 cops grabbed him and forced him to the ground, right in front of me. It was like a traffic accident, when you are in the middle of a moment of violence, it all becomes clear, heightened, and I started a cry, “The whole world is watching!” and the guy behind me started shouting it, and everybody started shouting it. We shouted, “Shame! Shame!” on the cops. The whole world is watching. But they used their testosterone-pumped bodies to block our view, our cameras, to make secret what they were doing to the guy as his wife screamed from the curbstone in a shrill pitch: “He didn’t do anything!”

Then I saw three well dressed bankers in suits just walk right down the middle of the cop-filled street. The cops parted like water before them. Big cops, stepping out of the way.The suits walked as if charmed.

Cops filling the street, parting before bankers, violently arresting protesters. It just made things so immediately clear to me. Things are upside down. They are arresting the wrong people. But I felt satisfied, saw, felt, “knew” and owned the obstruction we had all created: we filled the streets, the cops filled the streets, everywhere things had stopped. We did this. Placing our bodies here, multiply present, we delayed their work, we blocked the bankers.

It’s what Occupy Wall Street began as. And it’s fitting that on our anniversary we show what we are all capable of, again and again.

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Anaheim Solidarity Recap & March Against Police Terror


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recent murder by DPD 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solidarity with Anaheim!
Down with killer cops everywhere!

– @DrBenway2323

Photo courtesy of Thomas Melchor

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Photos: #OpAnaheim, July 28 & 29


Anaheim, CA–In the wake of two police-related murders, people in Anaheim protested against police brutality and violence faced by the community. The photos below portray the over-reaction of the law enforcement on peaceful citizens over a two-day span of protesting.

Below is a selection of images from the photographer; more photos from the protests may be found here.

CourtneyOccupy

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Critical Mass: Now Cycling is a Crime


Editor’s note: This story originally appeared at the Occupied Times.

The following is a personal account from one of the cyclists arrested for participating in Critical Mass on Friday 27 July, during the opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games™.

Critical Mass is a celebration of cycling, taking place on the last Friday of every month. A global event, it started in San Francisco in 1992 and came to London two years later. Being a keen cyclist, I was really looking forward to last Friday’s Critical Mass on the eve of the Olympics.

Hundreds of cyclists turned up at the starting point at Waterloo Bridge on the South Bank. The atmosphere was buzzing despite the presence of police, who had imposed unreasonable, disproportionate conditions on the event, including using powers under Section 12 of the Public Order Act to stop us to cycling north of the river.

We cycled peacefully over Blackfriars Bridge in defiance of the police who had parked their van across the bridge going north, blocking off lots of traffic and causing a hold up. Many of us outmaneuvered the police, which is quite easy when you’re on a bicycle, and continued the journey to Stratford High Street in East London, where many cyclists were eventually kettled.

Much of the journey was fun, with bystanders cheering and waving, but along the route I witnessed police aggression and antagonism on Bethnal Green Road as they pushed us away from their vehicles and accelerated away – recklessly endangering peaceful cyclists. There were also reports of police and other cars ramming into cyclists, and footage on YouTube shows police pepper spraying an elderly disabled man on a tricycle.

The police eventually arrested 182 cyclists. I was one of them, bailed without charge until, conveniently, after the games end in late September. The policing of Critical Mass demonstrated to me who the police serve; not innocent people who want to go about their lawful business free from oppressive interference from the State, but corporate interests bent on airbrushing out any possible dissent from the spectacle of the Olympics™.

That impression was reinforced when Sergeant Seffer QK75 told me he knew I was involved with “that Occupy lot”, which was “further evidence that I had committed offences.”

During the six hours I spent in a grotty cell, I was reminded of the words of Olympic Black Power hero John Carlos, who spoke in London recently and told us to repeat after him: “I am not afraid to offend my oppressor”.

– Melanie Strickland –

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In the Middle and In Between: A NATO Retrospective


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

Chicago, IL–It’s quieter than you might expect.  I’m in the middle of a crowd of NATO protesters, and nothing is happening.

Not “nothing,” exactly.  We are marching, though it may be more accurate to describe it as trudging.  (To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a person who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on.)

Hours earlier, we marched this route in reverse, in much larger numbers.  There was chanting and singing.  Bullhorns blasted our messages to curious residents and concealed snipers on high rises lining South Michigan Avenue.  Signs waved, flags flew.

In an hour-long ceremony, veterans of the misnomered War on Terror threw their medals back toward the leaders who made unilateral decisions that ended in needless loss of life.  The crowd alternately cheered and hushed in sympathy with the brave men and women standing up for their beliefs.  It was impossible to witness without being moved.

Even the violence was quieter than you might expect, at least from where I stood, slightly removed.  I could judge what happened by the injured being pulled from the epicenter.  Street medics tended to head wounds, carefully and methodically checking for evidence of leaking spinal fluid.  Their calm demeanors belied an underlying sense of urgency.  Hundreds of riot police stood behind the makeshift triage unit, silent in their all-black body armor, batons ready to inflict more pain if deemed necessary.

No Imperial March played in the hot sticky air as the Stormtroopers moved in to begin clearing the intersection.  With the exception of some shouted commands and a periodic dispersal order broadcast via LRAD, they simply pressed forward, forcing us back.  Their eyes stared through us from behind sealed visors as if we were not real, or as if they were not fully present in the moment.

A photographer took pictures of me filming the scene, streaming it live to the Internet.  We exchanged pleasantries and credentials.  The police line pressed ever closer.  If this were a movie, there would be a melodramatic soundtrack accompanying our slow retreat down Cermak.  Instead we moved through a sea of silent tension almost worse than the implied force itself.

We played cat-and-mouse games with columns of riot cops all afternoon.  They tried to contain us and direct our movements; we tried to outmaneuver them and get to the convention center.  We succeeded, making it to the eight-foot metal barricades three times only to be threatened by the Special Forces guarding the dignitaries meeting beyond.  I did a stand-up TV interview at one barricade, telling the reporter that our goal was to be seen and heard by those inside the summit.  I was only seen and heard by the soldier who cut the interview short, barking a command to leave the secured area immediately.

Now, hours wearier and sweatier, we have finally gotten ahead of the riot cop formations long enough to head north, back toward downtown.  It’s a four-mile trek and we have been marching all day in 90 degree heat.  There is no energy left for chanting; signs have mostly been discarded.  We just put one foot in front of the other, advancing our small offshoot protest march and its ever-present bike cop escort.

It’s about to get loud again as we meet up with the other marches downtown.  We’re about to stop traffic and close down Michigan Avenue.  We’re about to sit outside a dinner being held at the Art Institute for the NATO spouses, demanding to know why we weren’t invited to join them.  More people are about to get hurt, including my friend Harrison, who will be hit over the head by an overzealous baton for the crime of playing his tambourine in the street.  We’re about to end the night with a dance party in the rain, followed by another five-mile march to the jail where they took our friends.

But now, right now, all is quiet.  The sun is setting spectacularly over the skyline and we are blocking four lanes of traffic, winding our way back to the heart of the city.

This is the part that never makes it to the movie, or the textbook – how the protesters get back home.  These are the spaces in the middle and in between that automatically hit the cutting room floor.  This is supposedly the least interesting part of the day.

And yet it is also the most human.  After all, the media loves to paint a caricature of us in opposition with the stiffly regimented forces of law and order.  They look for the loud, flashy moments and show them in eight-second clips devoid of context.  But we are human.  We get hungry; we look for a bathroom.  We get sweaty and tired and thirsty.  If you hit us with a baton, we will bleed – human blood, not protester blood.  Yet we press on, because we feel righteous anger and indignation.  We eschew personal comfort in order to amplify our message and champion our ideals.  We shout our dissent from the pavement to the rooftops, and it echoes back to us through the concrete canyons that have been abandoned by all but the most dedicated this weekend.

This is the hardest part of the protest, when we are tired and alone and one blister away from giving up and finding a train that’s still running.  This is the part when I wonder if we made any kind of difference at all.  This is when reality sets in, that we face a long road ahead with no express route to the finish line.  We will put in the hard work, one step at a time, one day at a time.  I have friends by my side and more waiting ahead.  This isn’t the end; it’s just the first in a series of memorable adventures.

This is the part that nobody sees but me.  This is the true measure of my convictions, because to me it’s not a long, arduous journey back.  I enjoy every sweaty, bloody step of the way.

– Rachel Allshiny –

Photo courtesy of Kelly Hayes

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