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 -