New York, NY–I ran like a fleeting shadow up a dark New York City street. All about me was the occupation. Not the “take a plane to NY and lounge around Zuccotti Park for the afternoon on the One Year Anniversary of OWS” crowd. This was the night-time Birthday March to Times Square on the night of September 16th, 2012–a hardcore crowd. It was unlike any other occupation experience that I’ve ever had. What is the occupation? Who are you people? Tonight those questions would be answered to me in a more profound way. We’re the glue that holds American society together. The playful spirits who appear, not with violence nor its threat, but with a vision of how the world could be—and act on it. But all around us on this march were dozens and dozens of NYPD cops on foot, in cars, in vans, on motorcycles, etc., to keep, in a sense, Queen Hippolyta’s order. But as Bottom’s head was transformed into an ass—magic was soon to be squeezed into the cops’ and the world’s eyes.
At the head of our column was Puck. That’s not his real name, of course, but still apropos. His delight in playing pranks on these foolish mortals no less than the enchanting sprite. We took off from Zuccotti Park on a trek to Times Square—many, many blocks away—to be there when the figurative ball would drop on our one-year-old world. Night time, long urban march, lines of riot cops, the press nowhere in sight—this is where things get violent quickly. But you wouldn’t know it from observing Puck. It was as if, literally, he was from a different world. He’d wander this way, that way, ahead of the group, behind the group, but he was leading us. Not like the NYPD Commander leading his troops a few feet away. It wasn’t just that the local occupiers would defer to him at key points—an undercover cop could pick up on that—if they could get this close to us.
No, this was different. We weren’t being sucked up a river like in Apocalypse Now. We were being compelled forward, by an unseen energy as if from the shadows, much like what compelled us all to show up in the tents last year. A sense that the order of the world was against the common man and something must be done to change how the people around us see the world. What would Puck squeeze into their eyes? We were about to find out. We were hippies and trouble-makers to many of the cops on this march. Would we make asses of them? We are America. Just as the Tea Party is also, but we’re very proud of our inclusiveness. The Tea Party panders to peoples’ dark side, their fears, intolerance, selfishness, etc. Preaching loudly to their flocks, but then shying away when the mainstream media arrives. At the end, in the glow of Times Square, celebrating the fact that we’re still going strong, even the cops seemed uncomfortable, out of place.
The march came to a pause by Macy’s. “We have to keep moving!” It was Puck’s voice. Suddenly, very much in this world. Our “escort” of motorcycle cops slowed also, sheepishly staring at us from their bikes. BEEP, CRACKLE, WAIL. The strangest sounds will pop out of some of these police vehicles. Occupation marches are like snakes. They coil and contract. Punkish girls with red, white and blue spiked hair, teens with backpacks pockmarked with political and social buttons, glistening young eyes above bandit-strewn bandanas. But NY is very different from LA. Where are the U-Streamers? I could swear that I’m one of the only people taking photos while the group’s moving—still and video. The group “coiled” forward. A chant began: “We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!” Over and over, echoing throughout the Manhattan canyons. And then–and then–there it was. Glowing in the distance. Times Square. The pace of the march picked up. The cycles dropped off and lines of cops on foot would take over. STOMP, STOMP, STOMP. Puck would be here, then there, then disappear. Closer. Wow! Talk about lights. Story after story of commercial ads packed with models up into the dark sky. It was then that the real symbolism of this march became clear to me. Yes, be where the ball drops at our midnight, but also be at the center of the over-commercialization of American society. We flooded into the center of the square as if from another world, and we are, aren’t we? We speak the truth when your normal world of TV channels and news rags seem morally empty.
A cake appeared, as if by magic. Occupiers delighted in taking a bite, though there were no forks. The police formed rings around us. We ignored them. Our eyes were on the figurative ball in the sky Puck had brought us here to imagine. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, Puck sat down. Others joined him. 5, 4, 3, 2, and then Puck spoke. It wasn’t like anything I’d ever heard from an occupier before. Why we were still here after a year… What we’d accomplished… But in my mind’s eye I heard: Why the potion had worked that we’d all squeezed into society’s eyes. How people stopped focusing on distractions such as whether or not to raise the debt-ceiling limit, but on the reality of the plight of our very real fellow Americans whom we care about deeply—who have been deceived by the serpent’s tongue of the ultra-rich. After Puck’s speech, the crowd dissipated and even the cops fell away—as if the occupation had been a dream. Puck from NYC, Nowhere Man from Hollywood, all of us “meddling fairies” vanished back into the semi-darkness of Manhattan like shadows who’d overstayed their welcome in the mortal world of driven, but dishonest men. But all of us, Puck included, had one phrase on our minds. “We’ll be back.” We are the pressure in society to make amends.
I’ll let Shakespeare’s Puck (a.k.a. Robin Goodfellow) have the last word:
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding, but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend;
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck,
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long:
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
As soon as you were arrested lawyers from the Lawyers Guild of New York got your name and immediately provided legal service. I can’t say enough about The Lawyers Guild. They were present everywhere during the three days of gatherings, with their bright green hats, and they provided legal counsel for each person who was arrested.
My job with Occupy was to make sure that people coming out of jail were well taken care of. This involved making sure that they had a good snack or meal if they needed it. Or even a cigarette if they needed one. It involved staying close by for a hug or a suggestion about what to do next. Here is my jail support story.
During one of the Jail Support trainings the day before the actions in the Financial District one of the trainers mentioned that the police often take away a person’s shoelaces and then don’t return them. On Monday afternoon I went down to the courthouse, where some of the people that were arrested on Monday morning were being let out of jail. I sat down on the sidewalk in front of a man and woman who had just been released. They seemed rather shaken and talked about their experience getting arrested. Mostly they were happy to be out of jail and they were happy to have cigarettes and food.
As we talked, I looked down and noticed that they didn’t have any shoe laces so I asked, “Would like me to go and get you some shoe laces?”
“Yes!” was their amazed and appreciative response.
So I walked up to a store on Broadway and found them some shoelaces. After we laced them up together they got up and danced joyously in front of the court house.
Later in the afternoon I moved to another location, One Police Plaza, where people were getting out of jail. A group of Occupy Wall Street Jail Support people had set up shop in a small park close to this spot. I walked there with a small brass band who were also on the way. It seems that one of their friends had been arrested. They welcomed their friend with a rousing brass number.
The mood became more serious and intense when a priest and a nun who had just gotten out of jail appeared among us. I was concerned about the sister because she was shaking all over. She said that she had not been able to eat any of the jail food and she was starving. Fortunately, with a little food and some hugs her shaking stopped and she felt much better. The priest was extremely concerned because he had left his drivers’ license in jail. Later, a police officer came out and returned the drivers’ license. I even heard a report from a friend who said that when the sister was talking to the whole group in jail he saw tears in the eyes of a female police officer.
On Tuesday morning I was back in front of the courthouse. It was a rainy, windy day and one of the Jail Support people had asked me to bring some ponchos. This time I went right into the courthouse with one of the Lawyers Guild lawyers. As people came out of the courtroom I took some basic information from them. These folks were just getting out and they were kind of disoriented. I really wanted them to get outside and get some fresh air, and some food and human contact.
After lunch I went back outside the courthouse. Lots of folks who had gotten out of jail plus other Occupy people were there. Suddenly a woman came up to a young guy who was standing beside me. She was sobbing and saying something like, “They have destroyed my son’s life, they have destroyed my family’s life.” A young man, who was also doing Jail Support, whom I will call Billy hugged her and consoled her. She told us that her son, a 27- year- old Algerian, had been entrapped by the NYPD. He had emotional problems and they used this to their advantage to get him into trouble. She gave us some leaflets with information on how to help her son and left.
Billy started handing out the leaflets to people passing by. A man and woman walked by him and the woman snarled at Billy,“Get a job!” Billy got upset and started talking to the man and woman, explaining that he had tried to enrol in college but he couldn’t afford the tuition. Suddenly the man opened up his coat revealing an NYPD badge. At that point I walked toward the woman and said, “I am a retired school teacher. I have taught for over twenty-five years!” When she saw me walking toward her she shouted at me, “Move back!” It frightened me, and I moved quickly away from her. Billy kept on talking to them.
In the middle of all this I recalled the Jail Support training we had received earlier. One thing the trainers stressed, “It is a really bad thing if jail support people get arrested. Do everything you can to avoid arrest when you are doing jail support!”
So I said to Billy, “Remember, we don’t want to get arrested. Why don’t you move away?” My advice was not well taken. Billy said to me, “I have a right to talk to them!” At that point I just sat down on the steps and hoped for the best. Before too long the police walked away and a bad situation was averted.
I feel so fortunate to have been able to assist, even in a small way, those people who were arrested near Wall Street on September 17. Many of the people arrested chose to participate in non-violent civil disobedience. I remember the saying from the civil rights movement, “Keep your eyes on the prize!” I think that the people with the courage to accept arrest placed their entire beings in danger for all of us. They knew why they had taken the trip to the financial district. A remarkable cross-section of people came to New York on this first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. I think that what the people had in common was their powerful level of commitment and their deep understanding of the injustices in our country.
They took the risk of being arrested, and in spite of the extreme difficulties they faced all around them, they experienced so much love and support from their Occupy friends. I can’t help feeling that for those who were arrested their work will continue with an even greater sense of urgency and commitment.
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.
I throw clothes on, pack up my battery pack, and book it. I get to Wall Street at 7:15. OccupyTime is a wonderful thing as they are still organizing.
A group of about 300 people leaves from 55 Water at around 7:30 and we march with intent to form The People’s Wall in front of the NYSE. This action’s intent would be to block anyone from entering the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). It is no surprise this action really just ended up with us marching in circles around the financial district. The area was heavily fortified and there was no way the police were going to let us anywhere near the NYSE. This was not terribly surprising but it was certainly discouraging to me. No matter, back to 55 Water St to regroup.
Now for the action entitled “99 Revolutions.” This is when the fun began. We left the Veteran Memorial in smaller Affinity Groups. The idea for 99 Revolutions was to disperse in small groups and block traffic at intersections in a very decentralized manner. The theory: the police know how to deal with a centralized group. The police will not be as able to stop a great many different groups, in various locations, around the financial district. Some groups would get stopped yes, but many would likely be able to cause traffic jams. This plan worked brilliantly.
I happened by about several different intersections where traffic was being slowed down considerably due to the protester and police presence. I saw several arrests as well. Here are some videos:
Congestion at William and Pine (video length approx 4 mins):
Arrests resulting from the congestion at William and Pine (video length approx 5 mins):
At the 3:00 mark of this video you can hear the crowd chanting “We! Pay Your Salary!”
Marching in circles, blocking traffic, at Beaver and South William St. (video length approx 1:45)
More at the same intersection of Beaver and South William St. (video length approx 1:45)
More at the same intersection of Beaver and South William St. (video length approx 2:00) (dancing in street begins at 1:27)
Chanting “A-Anti-Anticapitalista” in the same intersection of Beaver and South William St. (video length approx :18)
It is very much worth noting the success of this tactic of intersection blockades can be seen through the action at this intersection lasted about 5 and a half minutes. During that time. Not one police officer came to stop us. I heard somewhere the officers were busy on dealing with our successful congestion of Broadway.
The intersection blockades lasted until 10, at which point we all met up at Bowling Green (the location of the Wall Street Bronze Bull Statue) for an environmental action. As usual the police had the bull completely surrounded and guarded from the threat of protesters who, at most, would have had difficult time putting a dent in the statue because it is made of bronze.
To gather everyone together, all 3 to 400 of us we had Reverend Billy Talen doing his thing with the Stop Shopping Choir
Next there was a theatrical performance about the environment. To help the show the Rude Mechanical Orchestra rocked some background music:
Jill Stein spoke next
My feeling about Jill Stein is as follows. I like what she says. However, there’s no chance she’ll ever win election. Until there is serious electoral reform (at least) the only candidates who will ever have a chance to win are those from the corporate whore parties (Democrats/Republicans). So though Jill Stein seems cool to me, I can’t get overly excited about her. At most I hope she inspires others.
After this we took a short break and had an Action Spokes council in Battery Park to discuss what actions would take place for the rest of the day. I didn’t attend this because my phone was not charging well off my battery which meant I needed a new cable. I headed to J&R. This unfortunately did not pan out well since J&R is owned by Jewish people and S17 was the first day of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. So I looked around, saw a Sprint store, assumed a cell phone store would have a cable to charge a cell phone, and went there to buy it. Success!
This is also when I realized I had an opportunity to get lunch so I hit up a halal cart and went to eat in Liberty Square. I met with friends, chatted, and nourished myself on Chicken and Rice. I was also informed of a march that would be taking place by VOCAL NY I believe after the rally that was about to take place.
I want to say right off the bat, I respect and appreciate every organization that came to the rally and said their piece. The more community groups we have the better. The more organized we are the better. The more we work to fix our own problems instead of relying on a leader the better. However, I really, really, really, really, really, really, really hate rallies. I find them incredibly boring and scripted. I can appreciate an organized march with a scripted demonstration within it. However, I get bored out my mind standing in one place for an hour listening to community organizations plug themselves. Some people like rallies because of the structuring, programming, and the way that they can learn about organizations. For learning about organizations, yes, rallies are cool. However, most of the time the speakers at rallies just say relatively generic stuff which appeals to audiences interested in the same causes they are.
Anyway, after the rally I got wind of another action to happen at the World Financial Center. I raced over.
As soon as I got there I noticed there was private event going on (it seemed to be a car show). I hit up the celly loop to get the word out. The new plan was apparently to meet up by the marina. Yup, there was a crowd there of probably 3 to 400. We had a short discussion over the fact that there were people in Liberty Square who wanted to join us. This however would have taken too long. The group ended up splitting at this point. One group went to Goldman Sachs to do a civil disobedience where I believe 5 people were arrested. Another group went to the FDR drive to block traffic for about a minute. I went with the group to Goldman Sachs. Unfortunately my camera angles weren’t very good here so there’s not much to post.
Next we went back to Liberty Square. By this point the atmosphere was vibrant in the park. Full of celebration, discussion, nostalgia, singing, dancing, drumming. It was just like the days of the Occupation when the movement had finally gotten mainstream attention to draw in the crowds, and we hadn’t put up tents yet. It was perfect and words can’t describe it, just watch…
(approx video length 30:00)
The next march we did was at about 3:30 and we wanted Wall Street. The restrictions on the area had dropped a bit from the morning’s attempts and we got so far as a block from the New York Stock Exchange. Upon reaching Nassau Street and Pine Street I had already made my way to the front of the march and I got a surprise. THE PEOPLE’S GONG! It was unfortunately cut short as the police realized what we were doing and viewed it as something which could be a potential “win” if we were allowed to recite the whole thing; so they pushed the entire crowd back. It was awesome though.
At this point I took down my feed and needed lunch. My lunch had left me relatively unfulfilled, I was dehydrated, and dealing with the shock of being EXTREMELY close to police brutality on the last march (I saw an officer ram an Occupier’s head into the scaffolding on Cortlandt St. I’d post this footage, but even though my phone never showed any kind of signal problem, the footage is no longer in my archive and I never deleted it).
The GA happened at 8 in Liberty Square and I just wanted to relax for a bit and talk to friends, and gather myself. I took my feed down for maybe an hour.
At around 10 was when we got the first sign of the police saying “okay kiddies, time to end the celebration.” The lights over the park turned off, and the police presence had grown to some degree around the park. This caused some concern amongst those present in the park which a few people (GA provocateurs from back when) took full advantage of and almost manipulated us into a march. A march would have led to a beat down as it was after hours, and past sundown, in New York. We were saved though. Occu-cake was served.
(video length approx 3:30)
The rest of the night consisted of the police intimidation tactics and not much else. They shined 6 floodlights into the park. Yes, 6 floodlights, because 7 would have been too many… They came in and escalated the environment for no reason and then left. We reacted with some cop hate getting spewed on one side of the park while people danced for Anarchy on the other side. Some of us dealt with the the police escalation with a massive Occupy Ohm Circle. It was a wonderful, trademark way to end the 1 year anniversary.
I remember, when the park was raided back on November 15 and the newspapers were saying “Occupy faces an uncertain future,” my response was “the raid saved the movement because it forced us to band together and stand our ground.” The raid also gained us a lot of support from the general public as, on raid night, the Occupy Wall Street trend eclipsed ALL other trends on twitter. Everyone who was involved in the movement just laughed at the media’s death sentencing of us. We got together and we organized, we did road trips, we made friends, we started building alliances with community organizations. We started Interoccupy. We resurfaced on May Day and inspired tons of other groups to join the May Day march (who’d never wanted to associate with it before). We went to the NATO summit in Chicago in spite of the fact that everyone was terrified of what might happen to us, and we ended up becoming very acquainted with Michigan Avenue. We held the National Gathering. We did a 99 mile march. We went to the RNC and the DNC.
Now however I do need to ask whether or not we face an uncertain future. Occupy succeeded in changing the conversation of the nation, which is no easy task. There has also been a lot of inspired activism from Con Ed workers, the Chicago Teacher’s strike, and smaller more under-unionized groups like Car Wash Workers. It’s wonderful how we’re starting to see a growth in activism in the country. I do need to ask, though. What does Occupy do now? We spent a year complaining, and there was a LOT to complain about. However, amidst the complaining, we’re going to have to start offering solutions. Maybe not concrete solutions, but we need to start offering ideas and having discussions. You can’t only talk about the negatives without exploring ways to fix them. This does not necessarily mean reforms. It just means we have to start giving people reasons why they should still believe in us.
The anniversary proved that Occupy never died (even though the Mainstream Media has said the 1500 protesters in Zuccotti Park/Liberty Square only numbered “a few hundred” protesters on S17). What do we have to show for it though? Great, we never left, what did we learn in over the past year about ourselves and about organization? Where did we mess up? Where did we succeed? Where did we wander with a lack of understanding what we were doing? How do we do outreach? How do we communicate better with one another? What does it mean to Occupy?
No matter what the answer is we can’t be stuck on particulars. In-fighting wont solve anything, and we’ve seen too much of that already. We have to work towards the world that we want, but we CANNOT be certain of what that world will be. The main reason for this is, we’re not prophets, and we if we try to be extremely rigid in our visions of the future, we’ll fail at accomplishing any vision for the future besides a dispersed, and divided one. One of the values of true Anarchy, as I understand it, is learning to respect one another and accept our differences, coexisting but making sure we hold each other accountable. Can we do this? We wont reach solve everything in a year from now, and we wont do it in two years either. However, what can we accomplish in a year? What would be significant, yet practical?
I’m in this for the long haul, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The march was a lot of fun. I caught up with it around 3rd avenue and 14th street and followed it to Union Square, where we saw a few speak outs and some music from the Guitarmy. Then we marched to Foley Square, where Occupy Town Square would take place with a permitted concert. Yes, that’s correct, Occupy Wall Street got a permit for something. Hell has frozen over…
On the way to Union Square there were two arrests of members of the group Code Pink. Both arrests were of women. These arrests were done to quell the momentum of the march, as the arrests were of two of the main speakers. As a result of both arrests the remaining Code Pink members lost their initiative to make their statement in front of Bank of America. This is unfortunate because Code Pink rocks.
Anyway upon getting to Foley Square I took my feed down to go and exchange the Galaxy S3 I bought on S15. The next Galaxy was just as bad and didn’t connect to my hotspot. So now I’m using the original phone which unfortunately means I can’t livetweet pictures. Also, the biggest issue I have is that my hotspot is not very good. I need one that is more reliable; unfortunately this costs a lot more and I don’t have the money for monthly fees.
The Occupy Town Square was fun and we had nice music. Most of the artists I wasn’t terribly impressed by but Tom Morello played and he always kicks ass. At the end of his set he also asked the Occupiers present to rush the stage!
Following this we had an action spokes council meeting… I don’t wanna say much about this until things are carried out tomorrow. I have opinions but I’d prefer to comment on the events after seeing them in action and not speculating about them from a theoretical perspective. The only thing I will say is the meeting was held in a humorous location… One Police Plaza!
Next we had Occupy Rosh Hashanah, which was really beautiful. I was surprised how many Occupiers could accurately mic-check in Hebrew. We broke Challah bread, drank grape juice (no alcohol in public) and blew Shofar. I thought some of the readers were REALLY over the top but whatever. It was a nice night.
Now the fun begins…
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on Occupywallstreet.net
Monday was a funny day. I went incognito as a worker in the financial district, and, slipping past a checkpoint, clicked my heels on the cobblestones plunked in front of the stock exchange.
One of my clients, who works in the tallest building above the stock exchange, was blocked from entry because he looked like a dirty hippie.
A cop impersonating an anarchist blew her cover.
And a News 1 reporter with an inch of make-up on his face was called out as a little bit of a fraud.
5 a.m.: Getting into disguise
I wake in the dark, put on a fitted black skirt, to the knee. I look at my dogwalking shoes – can I get away with wearing them? I can’t afford to get arrested – I have to go to work at noon, and may need to do some running to evade the police. I reach for some pearls, step into heels. Then I realize I probably need to shave off that 4 months of hair on my legs, too.
Downstairs I run, to unlock my massive bike chain and skim down the street, pedal by pedal in my precarious heels. Soon I am flying over the Brooklyn Bridge as dawn rises, the pink financial district nearing by the millisecond.
7:30 a.m.: Trading places
We converge at the Staten Island Ferry terminal, and then, holding aloft flourescent green and pink signs reading “Wall Street, the business of extinction”, and “System change, not climate change,” the Eco Block sings and skips our way down the streets. We near the center of power, lickety split.
Many of us are in our Wall Street best, dressed as the 1%. We know that from all directions, dozens of us, if not more, will go undetected.
There on Broad Street looms the Stock Exchange, its pillars swathed with the broad striped flag. Leaning against a delivery van, a guy with a semi-scruffy look is taking photos of a checkpoint blocking the way to Wall Street.
It dawns on me that I know this guy. “Zach?” I venture. He puts his camera down and his photographers’ look of concentration gives way. Yes, it’s Zach, one of my former “clients”, a nice guy who owns a nice chocolate lab named Umphrey. I was his dogwalker last year.
“I can’t get to work!”, he snickers.
“And where’s that?”, I ask.
“On the 30th floor, up there.” He points to the building just adjacent to the Stock Exchange.
“What do you do?”
“I work in finance.”
Probably because of his telltale beard, they cast him to the street like riffraff. Yet I actually sneak through a checkpoint nearby.
It’s absurd. I don’t have anything planned for this moment. I never thought they’d actually let me through. So I walk around the Police State that is the financial district this September morning, taking pictures of the long lines of Wall Street workers waiting to show their IDs at every juncture.
The police do our job for us – disrupting “business as usual.”
10:45 a.m.: Cover, blown
Several hundred people sit crosslegged in a circle, watching a puppet show like children enthralled. Faces old and young, striking and plain, are all lit with wonder and whimsy, sharing in the magic. The puppets tuck themselves away, a different kind of sharing set to begin: a Speak Out.
Then someone introduces Cheri Honkala and Jill Stein of the Green Party, and Honkala steps up to speak at Bowling Green. Neither celebrities nor politicians are to be privileged to rise above or attract more attention than anyone else. Stein is welcome to speak, but so is everyone else.
Yet the Speak Out is not happening as planned. Behind-the-scenes confusion breaks out (except right in front of everybody). Time is running out.
Jill Stein’s “handler” Kate, though young and lovely, looks pale, lined and distraught. She points at a woman standing behind Jill Stein, whose eyes are utterly obscured behind black bug-eyed hipster sunglasses. “This woman has been following us from engagement to engagement.”
Without thinking, I reach out. One hand instinctively lights on the “disrupter’s” tattoed shoulder. I ask what’s wrong.
“I want to speak! Politicians are speaking, and I’m an anarchist, and I can’t speak? Look at all these white women.” I agree with her that that’s not how things should go, that this is supposed to be a Speak Out, but things have gone screwy and time has stolen away. A nearby “friend” starts reasoning with her, but though she is being helpful, I don’t trust her. She seems a bit rehearsed.
“Why are you smiling at me like that, patronizing me in that white-woman-way. Take your hands off me.” I look away to face her companion, who is repeating that I am patronizing them with my smile. “I probably am,” I admit, thinking that a different kind of entitlement is at work here. I look back at Stein, who is wrapping up.
THEN IT HAPPENS. “If you don’t take your hands off of me right now…”, the bug-eyed eyeless hipster-punk growls, as two puppeteers holding a banner look on.
“Take your hands off of me or I’ll arrest… you.”
She falls silent. She’s said it as if she has said it many times before.
Her companion takes a deep breath.
“Ah, you’re doing a great job!” I smile snidely. “Or actually, come to think of it, you just fucked up, didn’t you, now?” And then, “I understand, you’re ‘just doing your job.'” Why do a lot of people become cops, I think, but because they felt powerless at some point in their lives. Threatened by my calm, or maybe genuinely triggered by my white, privileged, patronizing attitude, she’s reverted to cop mode to regain control.
“She’s not a cop,” says her friend, perturbed.
“No anarchist has it in them to say, ‘Get your hands off me or I’ll arrest you.'” I said. “Not even anarchists losing their minds.”
“She didn’t say that,” denies her friend, seemingly unconvinced by her own words. The bystanders, two puppeteers holding a banner, scoff.
“Yes,” affirms one of the puppeteers resolutely, but with the objective air of a witness on a stand. “Yes, she did say that.”
They drop it, don’t fight. “Let’s go,” the “friend” shrugs at the undercover cop. “This is bullshit.”
Never been so obvious and stupid as it was at that moment, my friends.
11:25 a.m. Unmasked
The people at Bowling Green have dispersed. People dressed as polar bears roll up dirty banners and head back to the storage unit, as everyone else convenes at Battery Park for the Action Spokes. The plaza in front of the Museum of the American Indian is close to empty.
A cameraman from NY1 sets up his shot, a shot looking out over a nondescript street with no significant backdrop save a lady with a pug-dog in a bicycle basket. The basket is a bed of fake flowers, and one of the synthetic, dusty, faded daisies crowns the pug’s ears.
I am highly attuned to their decision to shoot after the action is over. They have such a fantastic range of visuals to work with – the steps of the museum, the park that is Bowling Green, the Charging Bull sculpture, but instead, they focus on the distant blur of a gaggle of people across the street, and a bleak empty space.
With a sandwich in one hand, I hike up my skirt and swing my leg over my bikeframe, flashing someone for sure. Heel by heel I position my feet precariously on each pedal and, curious, wheel slowly behind the anchor, within the camera’s viewing range.
The anchor goes live: “People gathered here at 10 a.m. and nothing really happened, and then they left and went over there,” he says with a shake of the head. Rolling by one-handed while munching my sandwich, I declare, “That’s not true, there were 4,000 people here.” (There weren’t 4,000; forgive me, it is an impulsive moment.)
The cameraman’s face goes sour as he wraps up the live shot. The sound guy comes over calmly, and agrees, it’s true that sometimes some news-guys lie, but not this one. The anchor turns to me irate: “NOTHING happened here!”
“Sure, if you think that people taking a workday to assemble peacably and express their right to speak freely is ‘nothing’.”
“Ok but you’re messing with me as I am trying to do my job! I’m trying to work, here!”
“What does it mean to work as a journalist, if the result does not approximate the truth?” I ask him. I try to offer him an excuse: “Look, I get it, your producers aren’t interested unless there’s a violent conflict of some kind, there are arrests…”
He interrupts me: “I worked for FOX, but that’s not what’s going on here.”
“Alright, well our versions of the truth simply differ, then.”
The dude has makeup so thick, his pores scream to breathe. The closer I get, the more they enlarge, crying out for air, gasping, “must. escape. this mask!” His warm eyes can’t reconcile with that orange mask, as he insists he is one of the good guys, going after the truth. He does seem like a good guy. It’s true.
September 18th. Waking up
We all sleep a few extra hours. I am sure the reporter, the cop and the financial sector worker do too. It was a tiring Monday for us all.
In my morning daze, I realize none of us were as we seemed that day. We all were incognito.
The made-up NY1 reporter, the disguised financial sector worker, the undercover cop hidden behind sunglasses so big they obscured half her face. And me, the radical dogwalker, wearer of sensible shoes, in heels.
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…
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.
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.
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 –