Posts Tagged ‘OWS’

No Tear Gas, No Rubber Bullets…

February 15, 2012

Women Maced in NYC

Peaceful activists in New York and across the country have been viciously and brutally attacked for assembling and  speaking out about the massive inequality in this country.  They have also been arrested and held on trumped up charges, as though they were at fault when they are only exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights.

The night before and into the morning after the first threatened eviction of OWS from Liberty Square in October,  I remember remarking vividly that the only people I saw with guns (and also clubs and night sticks) were the police.  The occupiers were completely unarmed.  They had only their moral courage to defend themselves.

George Packard, a retired Episcopal bishop who was detained by the NYPD while bringing water to the occupiers at Liberty Square, and later arrested in an Occupy Wall Street action, said the action February 28 “is the absolute preface to any other actions. It’s a question of process even before we take to the streets–how is it that there is this coordinated effort to stifle our free speech?! Mayors on conference calls simultaneously rousting encampments? Renegade cops taking aggressive initiatives because it makes superiors smile? Tear gas and rubber bullets fired into the ranks of Occupy Oakland? Enough!”

With Bishop George Packard, I say Enough!.  I will join the Bishop and thousands of others to make it clear that this suppression of OWS and the Occupy Movement is an assault on the the rights of the people of this country and is not to be accepted.  Click here to join Bishop Packard, 700 others,  and me in signing the Call for Mass Action Against the Suppression of the Occupy Movement.  Then join us in the streets on February 28th.

In NYC:

Tues Feb 28 Union Square
No Rubber Bullets – No Beatings  
No Tear Gas – No Mass Arrests
Drop All the Charges Against Occupiers  
Don’t Suppress OWS!  Stand with Occupy!
4:00 pm Gather 5:00 pm Rally 6:00 pm March

 Contribute to the expenses of the rally

Join the Mass Action on February 28

February 15, 2012

The Occupy Movement is exposing the inequality that exists in the US.  The power elites are not answering that exposure with rational discourse.  There is no acceptable reason for such a system.  They respond through their paid officials and police with brute force.  It is so telling.

Scott Olsen, injured with police projectile at Occupy Oakland.  Scott is one of the signers of the Call for Mass Action against the Suppression of the Occupy Movement.  See other signers and sign here.

As a member of the ad hoc committee planning a mass action to resist the violent suppress of the peaceful Occupy protests, I encourage everyone to join in the mass action wherever you are.

Bishop George Packard, first over the fence.  He is also a member of the ad hoc committee and a signer of the call

For those

In NYC:

Tues Feb 28 Union Square
No Rubber Bullets – No Beatings  
No Tear Gas – No Mass Arrests
Drop All the Charges Against Occupiers  
Don’t Suppress OWS!  Stand with Occupy!
4:00 pm Gather 5:00 pm Rally 6:00 pm March

Contribute to the expenses of the New York rally

For people in other places, organize something and let us all know about it.

Responding in NYC to Oakland Police Brutality Against Occupy Oakland

January 29, 2012

Before I even arrived at 6:30pm at the arch on Washington Square Park, I could hear the drum circle in action, but the next thing I noticed was a huge NYPD presence. In response to the violent suppression of peaceful occupiers in Oakland yesterday, the OWS and others called for a march starting at Washington Square Park this evening, Sunday, Jan 29th, at 7pm. Once again, the inordinate police presence reminded me that I must join with others to resist the repression of dissent and the specific suppression of the Occupy movement, the most eloquent expression of dissent in recent memory.

I distributed copies of the Call for Mass Action Against the Suppression of the Occupy Movement with the names of some of those who have signed it and are organizing the event on February 25th until the mic check preceded the announcement that the march would being in a few minutes.

With the drums mostly in the lead (though a few straggled out along the long line to support the whole group), we headed north under the arch and up Fifth Avenue.

From Oakland to NYC, Stop police brutality,” was our cry

I did not have a camera, so I don’t have photographs of us–young and old, a wide cross section of people in this city. Below are images of the suppression on Saturday of  Occupy Oakland from Huffington Post:

Occupiers, numerous and probably noisy, but clearly unarmed and peaceful

Police in riot gun firing “less lethal” weapons

Am I the only person who finds this a totally inappropriate response, indeed an illegal and illegitimate one? These police appear to be facing an armed invasion, not a march to a vacant building by peaceful protesters.

The brutal response of the police of Oakland again and by other forces throughout the country, aided by US government officials in an unconstitutional use of federal forces in state and local policing, is more easily explained by a statement quoted by Chris Hedges today:

“‘I want to tell you that I was arrested because I am seen as a threat,’ Canadian activist Leah Henderson wrote to fellow dissidents before being sent to Vanier prison in Milton, Ontario, to serve a 10-month sentence.

“’My skills and experience—as a facilitator, as a trainer, as a legal professional and as someone linking different communities and movements—were all targeted in this case, with the state trying to depict me as a “brainwasher” and as a mastermind of mayhem, violence and destruction,’ she went on. ‘During the week of the G8 & G20 summits, the police targeted legal observers, street medics and independent media. It is clear that the skills that make us strong, the alternatives that reduce our reliance on their systems and prefigure a new world, are the very things that they are most afraid of.'” [Emphasis mine.]

The Occupy movement is a very great threat because it not only says another world is possible, it is modeling that possibility right now.  Note Henderson’s list of 1) independent media, which the Occupy movement has as well, that allow them to disseminate information outside the corporate propaganda organs, 2)the medics which work outside heavily tax subsidized corporate medicine in the US, and 3)the legal observers who call the government’s illegal actions out are mentioned–areas where the Occupy movement also is already working outside the corporate controlled realm.  This is indeed frightening to the corporatocracy and its minions in government, not only in the US but in Canada and around the world.  A New World Is Possible, and it is taking shape right in front  of their eyes, openly, in public spaces.  They cannot let that happen, so they send in the army, let us call it by its right name.

I must resist this.  I showed up for the protest on Sunday and work for the event on Feb 25th.

I had spoken before we left Washington Square with a teachers’ union organizer who remarked on the need to let people know in the face of media misinformation that there is broad support for the occupy movement, and that in fact all but a tiny few people in this country are in the process of losing their future as well as their rights. This is not a movement of some fringe group, but one that represents the vast majority of people in the US and the world.

We continued to hand out leaflets all along the route as we chanted, encouraging others to join us. In spite of the last minute nature of this march, a presentable number of us turned out.

I will not forget a brief encounter with a man to whom I offered a flyer. He asked me if the intent were against OWS. I said that it was not, but in support of it and of the rights of all of us. He replied that he worked for a bank. Clearly, this was a man who works at a bank, not one of the small group who control them. I suggested that his job is not very secure, as he walked off irate. In fact, there is a continuing huge lay off of workers in banks, as the situation those institutions created continues to deteriorate, a fact not widely revealed in US media, but reported in that of the developed countries. I wonder what he will do if he loses his job? Where will he get support? To whom will he turn? If he were ever really to want to know the truth and to work for the good of all, he would be welcomed by the those in OWS.

The financial sector has shed massive number of jobs through early 2011, before the huge losses of the end of the year.  European researchers predict a loss of 10% to 20% of bank employees in the year 2012

And I didn’t speak, because I wasn’t a ….

December 24, 2011

At this moment I am on a train stopped in Rochester with a border patrol officer hassling an English speaking national of another country in the seat behind me.  It is 11:30 at night, the car lights are dim, people are resting, some were sleeping.  We have been violently jerked awake and alert; the tension is very high in what had been a peaceful car.  No one of us makes a sound.  The poor young man is hauled off to custody for not having proper identification.  The young woman who sat beside him did have the right things and remains with us.

I had just signed on and was going to quote German pastor Martin Niemöller for another reason.  It seems fortuitous that I had found this statement before the officer burst in.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me

I felt during the incident as though I should have risen to the defense of this young man.  I do not have the skills to do that, nor the community of the occupation that Bonnie speaks about below.  I feel terrible.  I don’t know what would have happened if I had risen to his defense; probably nothing but that I, too, would have been arrested.

I just had a conversation with the two men next to me, one of whom, a professional photographer, had gotten to Liberty Square at 6am on the morning of the threatened eviction when Bonnie and I had been there all night.  The other, a student in Albany, had been there for a short time to support the movement.  The older man does not share my rage about this treatment of human beings, including the rest of the people on this train; he says I don’t know anything about the young well spoken man who was just hauled off. I replied that I know he is a human being and so are all of us.   The younger one says he shares my feelings, including that of helplessness and impotence in the face of this act of repression.

In a country where extra-judicial imprisonment and torture of anyone, anywhere is “legal,” the arrest of someone in this circumstance could be very serious.  Indeed, none of us is safe from this and we delude ourselves if we think we are.

I want to quote now from Bonnie’s article as I had intended to.  It is  about a different world that is already emerging, one where people resist police repression together.  She reports first hand of an incident at OWS:
“After Bloomberg’s shameless and violent paramilitary crackdown in the dead of night on OWS in Zuccotti Park last month, I attended the general assembly meeting there the night after. I was awed by the resilient communal spirit of the occupiers facillitating and attending the meeting.

“Suddenly there was a disturbing distraction to the proceedings. Some occupiers were sitting on top of a wall ledge on the south edge of the park. A few overzealous police officers were ordering them to get down. To my mind it seemed gratuitous power-flexing by the police.

“After hundreds of NYC Occupiers were roughed up and/or arrested, their tents and personal items damaged or destroyed, and metal barricades erected around every last inch of the encampment’s borders, with that night only four police-monitored entrances available, in which each entrant was carefully inspected (for sleeping bags?) while going in and clandestinely, no doubt, had his or her photo taken. After hundreds of occupiers now had to find alternative sleeping accommodations this ‘get off the ledge’ power dictum to a tiny cluster of peaceful occupiers seemed insult to injury.

“A young man near me began to aim a stream of expletives at one aggressive officer hassling a young woman in particular. I inhaled worriedly, sure that his provocation would not bode well for the individuals in direct line of police engagement. Would one hot head cop and one hot head occupier derail the civilized Occupation community this evening tending to its vital and noble business?

“Suddenly an attractive dark-haired young woman stood up on the ledge, cupped her hands around her mouth and queried loudly, ‘Should I get down from the wall?’ I twisted my head to view the crowd of occupiers behind me re-chanting her message earnestly but without inflated hysteria. How empowering for her and all of us was that rhetorical ritual! She would not get down unless called to by her Occupy community.

“I looked back to the feisty young woman and had to blink. Every inch of the ledge was suddenly — it seemed automatically — filled with bodies defiantly sitting. Had there been a lot more sitters all along and I had not registered them, or, more likely, had countless occupiers hastened to the wall to join the woman and her comrades? The message of this passionately bonded proactive community was clear, if she were to be forcibly removed and arrested so would they all be. I’d call it a ‘checkmate’ moment for the police.

“I was awed by the display of loyalty as well as savvy.

“The most aggressive policeman was clearly enraged by the dazzling dynamic and seemed all the more motivated to force the issue, but four of his fellow officers were backing away, encouraging him to let it go.

“I exhaled, believing that was the end of it. But from the front of the meeting, a message was chanted back to us that the meeting may be momentarily terminated. Again, no strident messaging. The voice of calm, conveying ‘Please stand by, we will handle this as we have handled so much already. More maturely than we have been treated, certainly.’ The police apparently were deciding if the wall incident should be used by them for more broadscale power-flexing.

“The meeting was allowed to go on. A meeting that was taking care of business. The business of finding sleeping accommodations for 300 people, which they did, informing people where they could go to retrieve whatever remnants of their personal possessions had not been destroyed by the violent police, informing the community of the status of their fellow occupiers who had been arrested, and sharing and soliciting preliminary plans for further action.”

You can read Bonnie’s full article here.

Thank you, Bonnie, for putting your body on the line with the OWS movement and for reporting on it.  Thank you to all the courageous, smart, committed occupiers who are showing us that another world is possible.

I don’t know what would have happened in this train car if I had asked my fellow passengers if I should rise to defend the young man.  The time did not seem right to try to find out, so I didn’t.  I long for the day when anyone could ask and know that the mass of other people would respond wisely and courageously  in such a situation.

Stop and Frisk: Whose Side Are You On?

November 20, 2011

As we were gathering on the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 153rd Street next to a lovely park, the police were right on top of us, standing actually in 153rd Street.  Police vans were on the opposite side of Jamaica Avenue and officers stood on three  of the four corners of the intersection.  One of us, a member of OWS with a lot of recent experience in protest, remarked to me on the arrival of a particular “white shirt,” the notorious one caught on film punching one of the peaceful OWS protesters in the face.

I had brought my zills (finger cymbals) and a pair of claves.  I played the former and the guy from OWS the latter as we sang “Whose side are you on? Whose side are you on?”  I danced about as we did.  Two women about my age had brought tamborines and supported us.

Sometimes I looked directly into the eyes of the police officers close to us as I sang “Whose side are you on?”

We were all on the side of the Black and Latino youth who are are stopped and frisked, overwhelmingly for no reason at all, in the illegal, unconstitutional, and illegitimate NYPD policy of Stop and Frisk.  Young boys going home from school in certain neighborhoods like this one are famously targeted for violent groping and humiliation by the police.  Last year there were 600,000 incidents of this assault, more than one a minute every day of the year.  This year, the target is 700,000.  Here is a link to a site about the numbers.

Carl Dix

After we were assembled and those who had chosen to participate in the peaceful civil disobedience at the nearby police precinct had been advised by the legal team from the National Lawyers Guild, Carl Dix the founder with Professor Cornel West of the STOP Stop and Frisk movement, addressed us.

A veteran of racist police policies and a person who chose prison over fighting the Viet Nam war, Carl Dix is a giant in the movement and in the struggle to build a better world.  He reminded us of why we were there, not just to protest but to stop this policy.  He introduced other people who were leading this action: college students who are working to stop this and to overturn all the policies of criminalizing black and brown people that has led to the mass incarceration in the US which has the largest prison population in the world by magnitudes; a young man who had refused to be frisked, a leader of the Occupy the Hood from that neighborhood, and women from the community whose sons and grandsons have been victimized by stop and frisk.  The latter spoke movingly of what this egregious policy has done to them, their families, the youth, and the entire community.

Carl then told us how we would march to the precinct, making stops along the route to let people in the community know what we were doing.  He asked those of us who knew the chants that were now becoming traditional in this movement to lead us as we went.  He also asked that those who were going to do the peaceful civil disobedience lead the march.

Carl Dix, Students, Members of the Community who were committed to peaceful civil disobedience, joined arms and led the march.

To the cries of “Stop and Frisk is the new Jim Crow, Stop and Frisk has got to go” and “Stop and Frisk don’t stop the crime, Stop and Frisk IS the crime,” and “We won’t stop till we STOP stop and frisk,” we headed out to the 103rd Precinct, snaking through the community to let them know we were there in solidarity with them.  Carl stopped several times along the way to address the crowds of people running Saturday errands and some of us distributed flyers.  Carl always said we were there to STOP this policy.

This area was where Sean Bell was murdered and his two friends grievously injured in a hail of 50 police bullets in 2006 at this time of year on the day before his wedding.  Though community outrage did provoke indictments against the officers involved, they were not convicted in spite of a completely muddled story and no evidence that the three men or indeed anyone but the police had weapons, much less fired any, which, of course, had been the pretext for the massive and fatal firing by the police.  Another chant was “We are all Sean Bell, NYPD go to hell.”

The 103rd precinct when we finally got there, our ranks swelling slightly as people actually joined us in our march through the busy commercial area, was barricaded off.

The whole thing had felt tense to me with our police escort all the way and the siege-like atmosphere of the precinct heightened my sense of tension and menace.

This was the third of these actions, and one of a huge number of peaceful protests in New York in the past months where the protesters have not so much as turned over a trash can.  We actually picked up any litter we dropped along the route, schooled as we all are now by the OWS.  This over-reaction to people assembling and chanting is revealing of how defensive the authorities are, and, of course with reason.  This police policy is illegal and unconstitutional and is only in place because the rule of law and the Constitution no longer obtain in the New York City and in the US.

After more remarks by people affected by Stop and Fisk and some statements about the value of peaceful civil disobedience as a tool in bringing about change, those who had committed to doing so walked in groups, arms linked together, through the barriers and up the steps of the precinct where they continued to chant as they were arrested and taken off.

Arms linked, they head for the precinct door

Then began the arduous work of trying to find out where they were and to get the legal team there as well as friends, family, and protesters to support them.

It is now afternoon on Sunday and these valiant and selfless activists are still held in jail.  They have been assigned to Central Booking which means possible serious charges and maybe bail requirements.  Several of these protesters, beginning with Carl Dix, have been arrested at all of the protests and are now “repeat offenders.”

I consider myself very privileged to be on their side and on the side of the young men whose lives are impacted so horribly by being stopped and roughed up by the police for absolutely no reason.

We won’t stop till we STOP stop and frisk.

Whose side are you on?  Let your actions speak on that subject. Below is a link to a site about the STOP Stop and Frisk  where you can find out what you can do to help.

Stop Mass Incarceration is here.

Occupy, shut it down

November 18, 2011

On the Brooklyn Bridge, November 17, 2011

I loved the Rude Mechanicals song:

Occupy, shut it down;
New York is the people’s town.

Whose side are you on?
Whose side are you on?

Dancing for Joy on Foley Square

November 17, 2011

When I was coming up from the subway, before I could see the street, I heard them: the music leading them forward and the voices.  As soon as I got off onto Canal Street, I could see a mass of the people who were marching from Union Square to join with those already on Foley Square.  The head of the large march had already turned onto Lafayette Street before I could get there.  The police on motor scooters and on foot were beside themselves trying to get the marchers out of the street, but when there are that many, it is not possible.

I was on the sidewalk and turned down on Lafayette, the police just left me alone.  They diverted the march to one of the cross streets a few blocks below Canal and had them march toward the east side of Foley Square.  I just kept on down Lafayette.  A 65 year old white woman, even with a No Torture button, is not profiled as dangerous.  They just let me go on down to the Square.  Had I been Muslim or Black, I would have been herded and perhaps stopped.  Shameful.

When I got to the Square the contingent was already beginning to meld into the group on Foley Square, which was barricaded off. Why are we always penned up?  More about that later.

The Rude Mechanicals Orchestra

I headed for the music and enjoyed the Rude Mechanicals Orchestra. All the people around me were singing with them.  I especially loved turning around to the police for the chorus which included “Whose side are you on?”  People I knew filed by and the long, long line of the marchers I had seen on Canal Street continued to crowd in.

A beautiful young woman with tightly braided hair stood next to me and we talked.  She had had the misfortune of being evicted and told me that story–which included some cruelty on the part of the law enforcement personnel, as well as the banks.   She and I heard the drum circle somewhere after the Mechanicals had left our area, so we went in search of it.  Though she ultimately left, I stayed with them for the rest of my time time.  A number of us danced and danced and danced.  I texted George, who is out of town, that I was, as he had said when we were on Times Square, “dancing to the music of freedom.”

Finally, the bathroom situation that I encounter at OWS events became an issue.  Some commentator on the OWS had remarked this week that other countries provide public toilets everywhere.  I have personal knowledge of that from living in Europe and South America.  I remember a hilarious conversation with some of my International Ballroom Dance competitor friends from years ago about public toilets.  From countries of the former Soviet Union, they were appalled that there are no public toilets in the US.  The police who are on duty at Liberty Square are given free use of the toilets in the Brookfield property adjacent.  The protestors are not.  I was remembering my lower Manhattan search for a restroom in the middle of the night when I stayed at Liberty Square all night.  It is really an issue.

As I was leaving, I gave in to a desire I had had since singing “Whose side are you on ?” to the police.  A line of them were hanging crow like on the barriers as I was leaving.  I looked right at one near the end, a sweet looking man, and said to him, “You are on the wrong side of the barriers.”  He looked sheepish and did not deny what I said, kind of nodded his head.  He listened intently as I said that he would one day wish he had joined OWS; that I did not underestimate the difficulty, that he probably had a wife and children and a house payment and needed a job.  That it would take real courage to take his stand on the other side with us, but that it was the right thing to do.  I reminded him that a former police commander had done that today and been arrested, but was going to continue to side with OWS.   I told him that he really belonged on this side.  I also said that one police officer might not make much difference, but what about forty, or two hundred, or two thousand?  I asked why he didn’t try to get others to join him. I reminded him that people from the military services were joining and it made a difference.  He and his colleagues could really make a difference.

I decided that if I am going to be profiled “safe,” I might as well take advantage of that.  This policeman was not unwilling to listen to me, and his fellows did not interrupt us.

Eventually, I went on off in search of a restroom and then home.  There was to be a festival of lights on the Bridge, which I hope went well.  Though the OWS website reports some arrests, it also reports a library on top of the Brooklyn Bridge and a General Assembly on the Brooklyn side.

Headed from Foley Square to the Bridge

The whole day was filled with peaceful protesters ( though not always peaceful police, especially this morning on Wall Street), from Wall Street to a number of subway stations where people told their stories of being evicted and otherwise abused by the banks, to Union Square where the students gathered, to the giant festival on Foley Square where at least 30.000 of us converged. And other cities around the world were doing the same in solidarity with us.  It was a glorious day.

I loved being with these people and feel so grateful that this is happening.  The beautiful young woman, who doesn’t live very far from me, actually, who had been evicted from her home, had a great word. “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come.”