New York, NY–I am currently writing this blog piece, inside England. Well not literally, but legally speaking. I am currently under the roof of the British Consulate, seeking (non political) refuge from the rainstorm here in New York City on 3rd avenue and 51st street. For Julian Assange, the thin line that divides him between the Ecuadorian embassy and Britain Proper literally is a matter of life and death. British Police have been ordered to arrest Assange the moment he steps off Ecuadorian territory. If he is arrested and sent to Sweden (with the advice of Karl Rove) he’ll likely be extradited to the US, where our government may indict him on conspiracy/espionage charges, which could result in execution by the state.
I am currently completing my second night here at my promptu call-out indefinite Occupation of British Consulate in NYC, in solidarity with Julian Assange. Within minutes of tweeting it out on @OccupyWallStNYC, Russia_Today mentioned it, and it started getting many “guests”. Later, Michael Moore and the Guardian mentioned it as well.
The Tweet heard around the World
It was really exciting seeing how one tweet, later turned into multiple other occupations, from Los Angeles, South California to Sydney and Ecuador. I inspired some, and many inspired me to make that tweet and promptu occupation in the first place.
Our single demand for this occupation is “We will not leave, until Assange can leave.” It is not the only demand I have, but the consequences of that one demand would restructure society in a domino effect.
I acknowledge there is nothing immediately practical about a 24/7 occupation. There are logistical and legal constraints, as well as limited Internet and electricity. Yet, there is something highly symbolic, and sentimental, about refusing to leave the “sight” of the oppressors, until they change. To quote Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand”
I also see it as an opportunity to continue the dialogue globally, pertaining not just Assange, but also Bradley Manning, war profiteering criminals, repression of the state etc.
I envision different organizations and communities volunteering everyday to give teach ins, skill-shares about activism, political mobilization, harnessing powers of social media and more. It can be funky too, using film projectors to broadcast on the walls of the consulate, films such as Wiki Rebels or Assange: Sex, Lies and Sweden or even Collateral Murder. Let us celebrate Ecuador’s brave motion to continue to house and protect Assange. Nothing like declaring America’s independence from England (for a second time).
Contrary to previous experiences with organizing political protests, the police here do not see this as a threat to their or the Mayor’s legitimacy, and thus have largely left us alone. That may change when they see we are not leaving for good, until our demand is met, but we shall see. The fight here is not directed at the Police state, but make no mistake, the Police state are a firm branch in the tree of the very fascism we fight. Our occupation is participatory, and if you or your organization are in line with our demand, then this occupation is yours. Join us. Change us. Expect us.
We are in front of British Consulate, 845 3rd Avenue New York, NY 10022.
Live Updates from our Occupiers: https://twitter.com/#!/search/realtime/%23assangenyc
Philadelphia, PA – After arriving by bus from New York late Sunday morning, I found the National Gathering in Franklin Square. The crowd was smaller than expected: a few hundred people sat in thematic clusters, hiding from the heat in the shade and wrapping up the morning discussions. In the afternoon I joined a march with All in the Red but the highlight, by far, of my first day was going to sleep.
Around 10pm a group of nine of us left the main group that had gathered at the Quaker house parking lot in search of an appropriate bank to sleep in front of. Along the way we picked up another occupier and the ten of us found a PNC bank at Walnut and 9th Street and set up camp. While we began to lay out our yoga mats and sleeping bags, one of the group, who had split off in search of nearby materials we could scavenge, announced he had found a dumpster full of cardboard boxes and even couches and chairs. A team went out to pick up whatever we could use. Once our cardboard beds were made we turned our energy into making signs about our protest; my favorite was a play on the bank’s initials and read ‘People Not Corporations’ on the side of the bank, hanging above our couch. While we were still setting up, a taxi stopped and offered us a ride.
“No we’re sleeping here,” we told him.
“Occupy?” he asked with a heavy accent.
“Yeah,” we told him.
He gave us a big smile and beeped his horn.
Over the next hour two of our group left to make their way back to the Quaker house but two more occupiers passing by joined us, keeping our group at 10 all night. Other occupiers and pedestrians stopped to chat, debate and lend their support. The police and a Homeland Security SUV came by but left us alone, and aside from one heckler who shouted at us, it was all positive.
Our sleepful protest captured some of what I loved so much about Liberty Plaza in the fall: the protest was not a temporary reprieve from our everyday life; our everyday life, both waking and sleeping, was protest.
The actual sleep was not very good, but when the sun rose I still felt refreshed and reenergized. When the bank opened we picked up our cardboard signs and formed a mini picket to greet the arriving employees and customers.
The first night I was there, we had one single NYPD officer standing guard on the corner of Wall Street and Broad Street. By Friday, the police contingent had grown somewhat, but nothing to indicate major concern from either side over the situation. In the early mornings protesters would usually get harassed with street cleaning teams washing the sidewalks, repeatedly (in general it seemed that the City of New York was developing a sudden urge to clean any place occupiers tried to call home, even if those places had not been cleaned for years beforehand) but otherwise they were pretty much left alone. By week’s end maybe 50-100 people were peacefully sleeping in small groups within steps of the world’s global financial center, when patience of the 1% and local residents must have run out, and cops started to randomly and rather brutally arrest occupiers on the morning of April 16th at 6 am for blocking the administration of government affairs and sitting on sidewalks. The rest of the protesters fled onto the steps of Federal Hall, a building which is under jurisdiction of the US Parks Department, and not the NYPD, and decided to settle there. By nightfall, a large crowd of 100+ protesters congregated on the steps, making music, talking, shouting and reliving the experience of the past few weeks.
All in all the atmosphere was festive, if a bit rambunctious, as the weather was suddenly unseasonably warm and pleasant. A few passersby were critical, but others just wanted to know what was going on. As the night drew on, we noticed an ever increasing contingent of white shirt cops looking at each other with deep concern. Tensions slowly rose throughout the night as a standoff between cops and protesters gradually built up, and at around 1am the arrest started. Not in a systematic, riot gear driven fashion as during the eviction, but more randomly, and it wasn’t always clear to us witnesses as to why the specific people who are arrested actually were collared. Some were just grabbed, others had taunted the cops first, but nothing worse than had been said many times before. By night’s end about 15 people were arrested, amongst them a poet for reading a poem out loud and a livestreamer who had sat down on the sidewalk. I saw him herded off by a member of the counterterrorism squad … It struck me that many of the cops were rookies that night. Not only first timers at an occupy protest, but still without an assigned precinct. They didn’t seem comfortable with what they were asked to do and only reluctantly got engaged in the arrests. So, the white shirt cops finally took initiative and started grabbing people. My photos from that night can be found here.
The next morning a well-designed (some think) and strictly enforced fenced-in area was erected covering half the steps outside the birthplace of the Bill of Rights, allowing 25 or less protesters to be present in what was, in federal plans handed out by NYPD when the barricades went up, referred to as the Free Speech Zone. Thomas Jefferson and his brothers in arms, under the watchful eyes of the bronze statue of George Washington, had given birth to a zoning regulation.
Soon lovingly nicknamed the “Freedom Cage,” occupiers made it their home and over the next few weeks. I spent several days and nights in groups of at least sometimes 25 or less along with a contingent of NYPD and US Park Rangers to keep us safe (and awake). At first, K-9 and SWAT units guarded the area, but as time went on and the cops got bored watching people talking to each other, they disappeared, until finally the Park Rangers stopped showing up completely, and two lowly beat cops sitting in their car around the corner was all that remained.
After the nightly wild-cat march in solidarity with student protests in Quebec on Saturday June 2nd, I joined a group of occupiers to march down from Washington Square to Zuccotti Park, and we soon found our way to the Freedom Cage, ready for another night of quiet but good conversation, face to face with an enormous American flag, placed there by the 1% to remind us who the true patriots were in this country.
But then the magic suddenly happened: By a slight of hand George, ye George of Washington, who had watched over his occupiers night after night, whisked away the front row of the barricades, opening, liberating even, the Freedom Cage and its denizens. As is usually the case in open spaces, people and ideas soon flowed freely amongst themselves and with those passersby who were sober enough to notice.
But, as is the norm, with firm regularity the beat cop must emerge from his four-wheeled dwelling, stretch his legs, and stroll to the nearest watering hole for a coffee-refill. On one such journey, our guard noticed, rather unhappily, that an essential part of the Freedom Cage had gone missing. After a gently presented friend request by some of our group, the hastily called-in supervisor did, after much deliberation, what intrepid leaders do: He called for back-up …
Back-up came in the form of Captain Brooks, a light-hearted variant of his species, who easily connected with us dwellers of the Freedom Cage. He even remembered to place his coffee order for his return a few hours later. And yes, he happily accepted the offer of having a donut included, glazed, thank you very much.
So rebuked, Captain Brooks’ troops soon withdrew, making for an entirely peaceful night in what now truly was a free Speech Zone.
And lest we forget our not-so-peaceful encounters with the shirts of white and blue, Eric appeared and told us what he had just been through. The night before he had suffered a seizure while walking down the street, and as he came to he noticed two cops beating him up and placing him under arrest for lying in the street. He tried to stand up and walk away but was thrown down again, tried to stand up again, and was yet again thrown to the ground. Bleeding, he was taken to the hospital where it was confirmed that he had indeed had a seizure, and after he was administered five staples into the back of his head (sans sedative or pain-killer, mind you), he was unceremoniously dismissed both from hospital and arrest. He is currently looking for legal representation …
Alas, the freedom of the cage was short-lived. After the near-by picketing protest outside Trinity Church the following morning, the barricades have been restored to their full force. But as with the Queen of the Night, that mystical flower that only blooms for one short night, the sweet smell of true freedom still lingers on.
– Julia Reinhart –]]>
I had found my comrades on the stairs of Federal Hall.
Generally, I enjoy taking some time after I first arrive to write, gather my thoughts or maybe even spin a hula hoop for a bit but I was greeted by a familiar face almost instantly. We shared our thoughts with each other until another familiar face began to mic check.
A group had been discussing their plan of action for the night and wanted to open that discussion to the rest of us. We openly discussed tactics ranging from breaking out into small groups and sleeping in packs around the financial district to surrounding Liberty Park and sleeping on its perimeter. It’s always so encouraging to be a part of these discussions. Our sense of community grows stronger as the days grow warmer; a true testament to the impending American Spring.
Inspiring speeches and playful ways to remember our rights echoed on the human mic following a brief “know your rights” teach-in where we all wrote the NLG [National Lawyers Guild] number on our arms, even though it has been etched in our minds for so long. 212-679-6018. All seemed quiet on the steps when out of the corner of my eye I watched a middle aged woman in a fancy coat and string of pearls drop off a small food donation before hurrying away. I smiled in hope that perhaps the metaphorical walls that separate us were beginning to come down.
That optimism quickly changed when around 9pm federal officers climbed the sides of the stairs and formed a line at their peak. It seemed we may have worn out our welcome. I along with many others stood our ground as journalists and livestreamers swarmed to document what seemed to be our imminent doom. Tensions were running high and things could boil over at any moment when in true occupy fashion we broke into inspirational song.
What began as the group joining together singing the same tune quickly changed to what I can only describe as a round, each of us singing/chanting something different but all in time with the original beat. The magic of our voices sent shivers up my spine until I heard hateful slurs in the distance attempting to overpower our peaceful message.
I looked away from our group to see another middle aged woman, again in fancy clothes. Only this time rather than helping her fellow man she was screaming profanities and flipping us off, looking more like a monster than the lady I’m sure she claims to be. As I scanned the rest of the opposite sidewalk I noticed other obviously disgruntled members of the affluent community. It was clear by the Blue Wall between the two groups, that had grown from about 20 officers to more than 50 seemingly instantaneously, that the powder keg was about to explode.
And explode it does as not 100 feet away from me I witness a resident of one of the neighboring buildings assault an occupier. Pushing, hitting, even grabbing and destroying his clearly threatening cardboard sign all while screaming profanities at this peaceful individual who does not fight back. This is the cue the boys in blue need to justify the horrors to come.
As the police simply pull the assailant away from his victim, they also use it as an opportunity to swarm in, grabbing people left and right for being on the sidewalk, singling out people doing NOTHING wrong, people trying to organize blankets and signs, slamming them onto the pavement, ripping their arms back and cuffing their wrists with the ever popular zip-ties. The residents continue to stand opposite us, seemingly protected by their Blue Army, chanting, screaming, clapping and laughing as the NYPD spits on the First Amendment in front of them, almost at their command. The visual is sickening and will stay with me for the rest of my life.
We continue to respond to their taunts with peace as we cry and hug, mourning those wrongfully arrested. We begin to sing, soft at first, choking back our tears until we overtake the hateful slurs and our love resounds—“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”
I turn in response to a tap on my shoulder, it’s my roommate. We embrace on the steps of Federal Hall, glad to see each other safe after the chaos. She is headed home but wanted to make sure I had memorized her number so she could be there for me if I were arrested. Moments like this reaffirm my faith. We are on a good path; we have love in our hearts, always.
Short bursts of calm litter the next few hours as we wait for midnight. Still on the stairs we regroup & whisper songs and thoughts of hope to one another but when anyone attempts to amplify their voice above speaking volume they are immediately a target for arrest and mobbed by “white shirts” for speaking their mind, for daring to have a voice. The police climb the stairs of Federal Hall, in the shadow of George Washington and remove occupiers by force.
But as it draws closer to midnight the tensions ease. The rowdy neighborhood residents are gone, apparently we are no longer affecting their slumber and they don’t care to taunt us further. It’s just us and the cops. Federal Officers remind us that sleeping is prohibited but our presence is not and the “blue shirts” assure us that “everything is cool.”
I spent the next few hours consoling a friend whose brother was arrested. The three of us had been chatting earlier and I had tried to calm him then, warning her to keep a watchful eye on him. Sometimes no matter what we do, these situations cannot be avoided. We embraced as she wept on my shoulder. Wishing I could offer her more, knowing this was all she needed. Someone to listen, lighten the load, share her pain. We were all in pain.
I said my farewells around 5am, recording another sleepless night in the books for a good cause, knowing I would be back shortly. Oddly, as I walked back to the subway some 12 hours later the air felt warmer that it had in almost seven months and not from the spring sun beginning to fill lower Manhattan but from the love and loss we all shared on those steps.
-Nicole Rose Pace-]]>
Last Sunday I spent the night livestreaming occupiers sleeping next to the banks by Union Square. The core homeless population of occupiers had been taking quite the beating from the NYPD since M17. At Union there were random arrests throughout the day, for sleeping, for holding banners, etc. At night the police tracked them and did everything in their power to prevent people from sleeping, leaving them tried and on-edge. People need to sleep! So on Sunday we tried a new tactic for the second time, sleeping in front of banks. Dear Officer Lambardo, a white shirt, tried everything he could think of: picking off people, calling in the community cops to ask if we wanted to go to shelters (a pre-arrest move which didn’t work because we made it known that we were sleeping on the streets for political reasons), Lambardo even detailed cops to each bank with orders to keep their lights on – quite annoying. I followed dear Lambardo (at a distance) live streaming him on his Blackberry for hours during the cold night, no arrests occurred. The next day people returned to Wall Street. Finally a place to sleep, at least for now. On Wednesday I slept on Wall Street, it was great. There was real community, not so many cops, right across from the stock exchange, a priceless view. In the morning, some great outreach. There’s plenty of room, suggest more come down, just be sure to get up before they wash the sidewalk and bring extra food, pizza is always good. -Anonymous-]]>