NEW YORK, NY—I have had strange confrontations with Bank of America lately. In the last 8 days I was arrested twice only on the verge of approaching the Bank, steps away from the unknown possibility. And what was the NYPD working so hard to protect Band of America from? First I was dressed as a clown with a team of merry pranksters who sought to enact a short, harmless skit of pulling down the pants of “unsuspecting executives” to expose ALEC, an organization that allows corporations to draft legislation—which, no surprise, Bank of America is a prominent member.
It was raining and biting cold but the +Brigade Shenanigan team, a newly formed OWS effort of creative resistance, was suiting up in Bryant Park on F29 with bright monochromatic colors and the “executives” scavenging in trash cans for Starbucks cups to look authentic. But our pantsing skit was deterred, because as soon as we tried to cross the street, a police barricade of bodies and scooters lined up alongside us. The Bank of America tower, like the Death Star, loomed in the distance surrounded by police, like clusters of black mussels clasping onto its mammoth shape.
We had the light. There was the flashing white man walk sign taunting us with the rite of passage. Struck by the absurdity of police barring 8 clowns from crossing the street, I was immediately on my hands and knees crawling between their legs. I was promptly lifted up and put in handcuffs. I didn’t want and wasn’t expecting to be arrested. I was in that precious liminal space of free play. I felt like I could do anything.
But corporations have a way of smashing any spark of the unique human spirit rising up. As the crowd looked at me for some words of inspiration, something, I could only muster a call to bravery for the clowns to carry on, and a bad joke: “Why did the clown cross the road? To get arrested!” As they marched me off into the paddy wagon, I began singing and dancing, “I’m Singing in the Rain! Just Singing in the rain! What a glorious feelin! I’m happy again!” But as I was placed into the wagon alone, watching my comrades carry on valiantly with their march, my ridiculous wet spandex costume began to chill me to the bone at the thought of being a drenched clown in the tombs tonight. That day I was lucky to be released within 5 hours at the precinct, where I was joined by a fellow bicyclist friend, Joe, whose bike was confiscated for “evidence”; a 16 year-old mega force, Mesiah; and another cyclist, Mandolin, who tried to carry a tent on the march. In my cell, Mesiah and I did yoga and talked about housing rights. In the other cell, Joe and Mandolin were starting a men’s group to discuss privilege.
My next encounter, I was not so lucky. This time it was a call from the courageous Code Pink on International Women’s Day. The plan was to gather at the Bank of America at Zuccotti Park as super-Sheroes with message-ready breasts for a BUST-ing up the Big Banks action, harking on a thousand year old tradition of women putting their bodies on the front lines. I dressed in a denim jumpsuit with a red scarf on my head, re-appropriating Rosie the Riveter. I met Savitri in the park, that empty park once so full of life. It was hot with gusts of wind shooting through the trees. She wrote on my arm, “We can do it!” and I painted “BofA, You can suck it!” across my chest. We began to walk casually into the bank. Savitri, Medea and Rae, all wearing suits, made it in. As soon as I stepped up to the doors, the cop locked the door in my face. Ah yes, the paint was peaking out from my jumpsuit.
Mark and I walked around to the other side to look for another entrance and saw customers slipping out. People could get out, but no one could get in. Well, at least we shut down Bank of America again. I called Savitri on the inside, who said there were only three of them and they were very vulnerable. She had a beautiful baby to get to after this. We waited at the side exit and suddenly Savitri bounded out the door like a leaping gazelle and raced off to safety. Soon after, Rae ran out with the policeman close on her heels. I called out to him, “Hey Officer! Over here!” but he was hot on the pursuit. He grabbed Rae roughly. Mark was quick to de-arrest. The burly policeman grabbed her by the neck and threw her head down into the concrete, all the while she was crying out that she had a neck injury.
As they were detained in the bank lobby, the choir gathered and decided to sing in solidarity, walking along the sidewalk in front of the bank. As we walked past once and I began to circle back, a cop told me I couldn’t sing and had to keep moving. I said that I was moving and was not obstructing traffic. Instantly, the same rough cop threw me over the scaffolding to arrest me, my things spilling out of my bag. I lifted my leg over the scaffolding so as to not have my stomach jammed into metal and try to kick my things from falling into the gutter and another cop snapped, “Stop resisting arrest!” And off the 4 of us were carted away, at the bank manager’s request. I watched the rough cop throw around several woman walking by for no apparent reason.
Maybe it was the full moon, or the solar flares in the sky, but there seemed to be a lot of crazy in the air that day. In the precinct, two men in Mark’s cell seemed dead set on winning the crazy war. A white man in an all black suit skirted over to our side when he was released to go to the bathroom and starting messing with the cops, “How crazy do I have to be? What do I have to do so you’ll take me to the hospital so I can get a meal? How CRAZY do I have to be?” The other, a young black man, was far more sympathetic in his rants. Screaming bloody murder about injustice and racism. Despite all the machismo, you could understand his anger. We began to sing to try to calm him. Love, Love Love, all you need is love. When we quieted, he surprised us by calling out, “Love is what I need. Keep singin’, ladies! I need you to sing.” We sang every song we knew.
First they told me I would be there for 15 mins to an hour because I didn’t enter the bank. Four hours later, we were all taken to Central booking, which was packed with men lined up against the wall in chains. Throughout the whole process, Medea was brought in again and again to try to capture her prints, and they made ageist remarks, like she was so old that her prints were rubbed off or that she was some kind of alien. We said goodbye to Mark, fearful of what he was being led into. Later we found out there was huge brawl in his cell and he got punched in the back of his head.
Rae and I were led into the women’s cell. Medea’s fingers were still being pushed and prodded. We had about 16 women in there, mostly in their early 20s, all of color, almost all of whom were new mothers too. It was freezing cold, the window open, a fan on. We weren’t allowed to keep our jackets because of the zippers. Rae’s neck had fingerprints on it still and she was sore. We told jokes, arrest and action stories, talked about what ideal brunch we would have. For awhile we tried to huddle on one mat but I couldn’t get warm and fall asleep until hours later, when a kind prostitute offered to cover me with her fur coat and to share her mat. We snuggled tightly and she asked me if I had lice. Said she’d been there 36 hours already, had been working the same streets for 28 years.
They woke up everyone at 5am and said we had to clean up and get ready to go to court. Only 3 women were taken. Later on, everyone felt up to chatting again and they all wanted to hear why we were arrested. They laughed and laughed, couldn’t believe we’d be arrested for protesting a bank, let alone for singing. The women there were smart, knew what was going on in the world, knew all about Bank of America and its foreclosures, its corruption. There was no surprise that corporations are criminals. They were arrested for fighting back against an abusive boyfriend, getting in a screaming match with her boyfriend, bringing in a cigarette to her son in jail, smoking pot, selling fake watches. But none of them were interested in protesting. They agree it has to be done but they can’t do it. They have to work, take care of their babies, survive. They said things have to get really bad so people will get up and do something. How much worse does it have to get?
We waited and waited. Didn’t want to drink the dirty water or the milk or the vacuum packed sandwiches. Finally, after 3pm, our names were called. We were all charged with criminal trespassing.
It wasn’t until I was sitting in the courthouse next to Rae, when I saw my friends out there, looking tired but smiling supportively, that a rush of anger flooded over me. The parody of this system. There we were in this dressed up, fancy court when a foot behind us lay filthy floors covered in cockroaches and a system that has no interest in improving society. Police protect the corporate personhood and never our freedom of speech. There’s no telling what we could be arrested for any more. I can’t gauge actions by the same standards any more. As Spring blossoms, the spirit of the people is heating up again, we’ll be out on the street in big numbers. We will fill those cells so packed, the walls might explode.
We often hear scenes from the Occupy movement at large cities, and it’s easy to forget what’s happening in the smaller towns that are no less affected by what goes on at Wall Street. A reader submitted this video from Occupy Halfway, Oregon, which features a scene not often portrayed as part of the movement. But as Cheryl, and occupier in Halfway (population: 337) says, “Even in rural populations, we have concerns about what goes on in our government.”
Dear Mayor Emanuel:
You didn’t see me today, but I was at City Hall for the Chicago City Council meeting. You couldn’t have seen me, because I was not allowed in – nor were any members of the general public. Maybe in your eyes this made the meeting run more smoothly. In my eyes, it was a travesty.
For as long as I can remember, I have heard those in your generation and older bemoaning how the young people in this country are uninformed and apathetic about politics, particularly at the local level. I am in the demographic that supposedly does not vote, does not know their elected representatives, does not read legislation, and certainly does not attend City Hall meetings.
Except that I do vote – in every election, big or small. I know my elected representatives by sight and by name. I read ordinances and other legislation that is up for a vote and contact my representatives with questions and concerns. And now, this week, I showed up at City Hall to sit in on some meetings. I never expected that when I wanted to engage in the political process this way – personally – I would be turned away.
You didn’t see me today, but you may have heard me. I was one of the people outside the City Council chambers chanting, “Let us in! Let us in! We vote no!”
Here’s the funny thing: I came to City Hall today to observe, not to protest. After contacting my alderman (Silverstein – 50th ward) and attending yesterday’s committee meeting, I learned details of the amendments made to your proposed ordinance changes. In the past 24 hours, I went from strongly objecting to your proposal to only having a few relatively minor concerns with the new ordinances. So while I do consider myself a member of Occupy Chicago and gladly joined up with them before the meeting, I wasn’t there to protest the ordinance changes. I assumed they would pass, and I was more or less okay with that.
Why did I show up? I was there to be involved in the process. To report on the meeting via social media for those who were concerned but could not attend in person.
For a mayor who champions “transparency,” it seems odd that the exact language of the proposed ordinances as they were to be voted on was not made easily accessible to the public. Your denial to let me and other members of the public witness the passing of these ordinances today also concerned and upset me. It changed me from a mere observer to an active protester, simply because I get a bad taste in my mouth when supposedly open meetings have no room for the people who will be affected by what is decided in them.
The people you kept out of that meeting were teachers and nurses, students and union workers, taxpayers and voters. They deserve better, and they will continue to demand it.
You probably weren’t aware, but we held a general assembly right outside the Council chambers after the ordinances passed. If you thought shutting us out of one meeting about a couple of ordinances would make us give up and go home, you were very, very wrong. We are committed more than ever to being seen and heard, and taking our rightful place in the democratic process.
Expect us. We are the people. We are united. The Occupation is not leaving.
- Rachel Allshiny -
It was a particularly warm night, and I decided to go down to Zuccotti Park after my shift was over. I arrived at about 11pm and as usual the place was still pretty alive. We just got our bicycle powered generator for our lights, and we had a volunteer riding the stationary bike. At about 1am things seemed to be winding down, there were a few of us in the tent…we heard the megaphones (obviously outsiders, we weren’t allowed to use them) and saw the blue flashing lights. A surly policeman came into the medical tent and handed us a piece of paper. It was an eviction notice, telling us that we had 30 minutes to pack up and get out. It was chaotic. People outside were yelling. I stayed in the tent, fiercely wanting to defend it. We had become a community health center.
People not involved with OWS were coming to us for services. We had doctors and nurses, herbalists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, chiropractors, reike practitioners, EMTS, paramedics and street medics. We had an entire social work department! We gave out flu shots! We made rounds in the park and went out on marches, we not only helped those who sought us out, we sought out those who needed our help. All of our services were free! The community stepped up and donated every supply we could think of. We never ran out of anything. We were the most amazing clinic I’ve ever worked in! It was inconceivable that the police would be throwing us out, but they were. At this point there were 3 of us in the tent - doctor, our volunteer bike rider and myself. None of us wanted to leave.
I called our lawyer to let him know what was going on. As I did this the police came in with their cameras and yelled at us to get out. I saw a knife slash into the tent and then make a long tear. I tried to cover the opening they made with a piece of cloth, but that was ripped down, then another knife slash, the were ripping the tent down with us in it. The doctor and I tried to reason with the police, but they wouldn’t hear it. They lied to us and told us that they would pack up all of our supplies and that we could pick them up at the department of sanitation the next day. Finally I grabbed what I could, a box of herbal supplies, some medical equipment, a grapefruit and a stuffed elephant. (I can’t tell you what exactly I was thinking at the time). An angry cop grabbed my arm and thrust me out of the tent and out of the park, I wasn’t even allowed to stand on the sidewalk.
We watched the police throw the remains of our medical tent into a garbage truck and then compact it. We were holding medications for young occupiers, he had expensive defibrillators, we kept records of our patient’s conditions, we had ace bandages, and gauze bandages, foot care products, and lots more. It all got destroyed. It was that night when I decided I was in, I was an occupier, this was a cause worth fighting for. Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD kicked a hornet’s nest!!!! We are not gone and we are stronger than ever….we will win, we have to, all we are asking for is a world worth living in for everyone. People maybe fighting against us, but they will wake up someday and realize we are on the same side.
- Nurse Janet -
Editor’s Note: This story first appeared on ilovechile.cl, and is republished here with consent from the author.
Police clashing with protesters, shattered bits of glass from broken street lamps and bus stops littering the sidewalks, disemboweled traffic lights idling on street corners; the charred remains of a bus, lit on fire in Macul. These are the pictures circulating through the public consciousness following the October two-day national strike in Chile, images of the violence and destruction – the fallout from almost six months of education protests that have yet to yield any sort of concrete result.
In the nascent days of the education movement, when spurts of violence were just starting to make their way onto the streets and into the headlines, I remember hearing the justifications for such acts. They went something like this: The clashes and public vandalism are necessary because they are the only certain way to grab and maintain public attention. They also show the seriousness of the protesters, who have to make it clear that they will refuse to be ignored or shunted aside by an intractable government bureaucracy.
How pallid and naïve those arguments seem now, after this six-month (and counting) war of attrition. The seemingly never-ending stream of street confrontations between the police and the hooded, rock-wielding, Molotov cocktail-hurling encapuchados or masked protesters have begun to alienate people, especially moderate Chileans fed up with the constant, sometimes dangerous disruption of their daily lives. Maybe at one point there was a justification for these acts. Violence was a useful little stimulant, able to rivet the country’s attention for short bursts. But like any harmful drug, habitual use has begun to lead to destructive side effects that are slowly wearing on the Chilean body and psyche.
Two important points need to be made here. First, the police and government response to the marches bears just as much, if not more blame for the current situation. And second, the perpetrators of these violent irruptions make up a minuscule portion of the people fighting for education reform.
To the first point: the aggressive tactics (tear gassing, water cannons, etc.) utilized by the police special forces unit since the early days of the protests have, far from restoring order, served only to escalate tension and engender more violent reaction. The police want to do their jobs: enforce the law, maintain order and keep the streets safe for ordinary citizens. Fair enough. But the events of the past half-year show that these tactics are having just the opposite effect. At first, the violence was unexpected. Now it seems inevitable. It’s almost as if the troublemakers are taking to the streets because they are expecting to clash with the police forces.
The street confrontations play out like an elaborate game of cat and mouse. Police trucks rumble up and down the streets, spraying water and tear gas at delighted protesters who duck for cover and then emerge again, a few moments later, chucking stones back at their pursuers. After getting riled up into a frenzy, the protesters retreat, and that’s when the real destruction begins.
During the Oct. 6 protests, generally agreed to be one of the most violent days of the education movement, police vehicles chased students down the streets. As they retreated, groups of people would swarm around streets signs and park benches, using their collective force to turn them out of their concrete foundations. Of course, there is no justification for this type of vandalism, but the police response certainly didn’t help. If anything, it created the hysterical, fear-laden atmosphere that made those acts possible.
To the second, and perhaps most essential point: the vandals, encapuchados and whoever else is taking advantage of the strange, uncertain environment brought on by the marches, represent a tiny portion of the protesters, the great majority of whom conduct themselves peacefully and with great dignity. On Oct. 19, the second day of the two-day national strike, nearly 200,000 people came out to march in Santiago. They marched peacefully and without incident for most of the afternoon, until a small percentage of troublemakers broke off from the group and started causing problems. But this is what people were talking about the next day.
And that is perhaps the greatest tragedy brought on by specter of continuous violence; it dominates the conversation and saps urgency from the student cause. When I went out to observe the Oct. 19 march, I was struck by the enthusiasm of the crowd and the air of passion and positivity that ran through this mass of people. Protesters came out in costume and groups of musicians and dancers performed in small pockets of space. People, young and old, marched together. They laughed and joked with each other, but there was also an underlying seriousness of purpose. It was a culture event, a parade of discontent but also an expression of joy, creativity and possibility.
The process of reform – lasting and systemic – can be messy and slow, full of setbacks and frustrations. But the art of change, something we are seeing not just in Chile but all over the world, from Wall Street to Tunisia, can be a beautiful, collaborative process that shows humanity at its best. Ultimately, violence is not a means to anything but more violence- a distraction that obscures the true potential of people searching for a better path.
Mike Huckabee was in Valdosta, Georgia to speak at a fundraiser. There were no protests against him, so I decided to try to organize one myself. I created a Facebook event and publicized it on the Occupy Valdosta page. Ten people said they would show up according to the event page, but when it came time for the protest I was the only one protesting. So, I held up my sign that said “Trust your neighbor, not the news” and stood in front of the building Huckabee was in while all of the well-dressed gala participants entered the event. A homeless man came up and talked to me about why I was there. His presence felt like a god-send. I was there for about 15 minutes when a police officer pulled his car onto the sidewalk in front of me and got out to question me. I talked with him calmly for as long as I could, hoping that another protester would show up. Then 4 other police officers walked up and told me if I didn’t leave I would be arrested for criminal trespassing. I chose to not be arrested.
I was walking home by myself a couple of hours later, it was dark, and a police officer saw me, as far as I know, he had no idea what had happened with me earlier. The officer did something really kind, he drove ahead of me and shined a light into a dark corridor before I got there to make sure there was no one lurking in the shadows. He was concerned for my well being, it was a small thoughtful act of service and protection, not mindless use of oppressive force.
It occurred to me then that the police are more afraid of the world than we are. They see danger where we find trust, and where they fear the unknown, we imagine the beautiful possibilities of the moment. The people in the police force are not the enemy and if we do our job right, eventually they will join us.
I don’t know what the future holds, our small group is now largely inactive outside of the online dialogues on Facebook. Revolution ain’t easy, and very few in our town see Occupy as something they want to be part of locally in its current form, so the challenge now is to transform. It means keeping the dream alive beyond the name, I will continue organizing but I will figure out a way to do so that will encompass as many people and ideas as possible, yet join with the vigor and urgency of the revolution already in progress.
-Julia Ward Howe-
Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of excerpts from Jim Gober’s forthcoming book titled “Deep in the Heart of Occupy Austin.” A new excerpt will be published at OccupiedStories.com every Wednesday, so come back next week to follow Jim though the evolution of Occupy Austin.
Before I made it to the occupied plaza today, I had to wait for the bus as usual, and was entertained by an older man with a horrible limp who hobbled up to a pay phone situated between the two bus benches. It was one of those newer types that sits on a pole about 4 feet high. After he used it, he managed to make it over to my bench and sit down beside me. I looked closer at the pay phone and the price was 50 cents per call. And apparently you could call Mexico too. Although I couldn’t understand the writing on the little sun-bleached sign above the receiver, I could make out a beach scene crowned with a palm tree and a benevolent smiling sun reminiscent of Mexico’s golden days. It was scribbled over with gang graffiti.
I asked the man who sat beside me if the phone worked. He said it had a dial tone, but the number 3 was out and it took his 50 cents anyway. I mentioned how you don’t see many pay phones anymore. He said that’s what always happens before they invade-they take out all the pay phones-and he’s seen it happen plenty of times such as in Panama, Cuba, and then he started mumbling and I couldn’t get the full list. So I asked him who was going to invade and he said, “The Obamabush aliens.” He then announced they want to take over and bust your head if you don’t give them what they want, and they want your house and your money.
Now the similarity between what this poor old man, wracked with schizophrenia, was saying and what I say, when I am talking about the fascists, was not lost on me. But is it because our political situation in this country was so crazy and out of control that even the most severe of schizophrenics could smell it, or was I just another kook with something/nothing to say? All this had to be called into question. Was I crazy for believing big money from corporations and wealthy individuals had corrupted our government to the point they would take our homes and money to serve an ambitious agenda? But then again, isn’t that what they’ve been doing for years? I settled on the fact the whole country is collectively mentally ill. It’s out of control, neurotic, schizoid, over-medicated and brainwashed. Wherever I fit in, that is where I sit-in this crazy fucked-up place called the United States, still advertised as the best country in the world to live, by the fascists, of course, every time you complain about it in front of them.
It was obvious this guy, with one tooth, nowhere to go and now no way to make a phone call needed help. But that help was done away with in the 1980’s under the Father of Modern American Fascism, Ronald Reagan, and it’s never coming back. But schizophrenics, like this gentleman, have the power to see the world in its purest sense, without the numerous filters “normal” people paste over the truth to avoid pain and anger. That’s why political or social arguments coming from people like this man have a frightening ring of truth, because, although the presentation is lacking, they offer some insight into the real state of affairs without being tainted by the fascist controlled corporate propaganda machine. For example, it can be said that every sensible argument for positive change in this country made in the last 25 years has been discredited by powerful people who, through the use of the corporate media, make you believe you are crazy for going along with any solution that doesn’t include transferring more power to the fascists. Think climate change, the Iraq war and bank bailouts.
So here is this “crazy” gentleman, all alone with his thoughts of an impending invasion of the Obamabush aliens as he watches the pay phones disappear. But is he crazy? I thought of an album by singer Jeffrey Lewis entitled, “It’s the Ones Who’ve Cracked That the Light Shines Through.” Oddly, now that my bus stop brethren had brought it up, the disappearance of communication lines that cannot be switched off instantly or easily monitored by the government, the proliferation of cell phones, which hold our entire life history within them, and the increased control of one political party on all levels of government, is unsettling when looked at it as a whole. As I got on the bus and paid my fare with the last dollar in my pocket, I looked back and there he sat, ripped off for his last 50 cents, after a simple device he expected to work stole his money. The parallel with what is happening in America cannot be denied. You put your life, time, money and energy into this country expecting it to work like it always has, and the fascists steal it all. Meanwhile, the opportunities once available to everyone if you work hard and sacrifice are disappearing before our eyes. Where did they go? They were stolen by the Obamabush aliens.
I made it to the plaza just before sunset, and there wasn’t much going on, so I sat down to write about the scene and it wasn’t long before a very nervous woman took to the microphone and asked for supporters in the planning commission meeting being held in the city hall. She was trying to save a beautiful pecan tree from a developer who wanted to do what developers love to do to trees. You know trees-those stubborn things that keep you from dying in the Austin summer heat if you are not bathing in the luxury of a high-dollar condominium. There was some chaos as a motion had to be called by the occupiers and volunteers chosen to go. I was chosen, but since it wasn’t going to start for a while, I did other things to keep busy. I passed out food, picked up trash, straightened out some stuff and held up a sign for the passing cars until my arms got tired. I noticed Ron Paul supporters were coming into the scene. Even though Occupy Austin is a non-political movement, we needed bodies today, so nobody said anything. My favorite sign today was “TV News is FUBAR” which means, “Fucked up beyond all recognition.”
An elderly couple pulled up to the curb and hastily dropped off two boxes of fruit. There were lots of bananas and some huge apples. I carried it to the food station, took the wrapper off everything and handed a banana to a man named Bert. I made a lewd comment about the banana, which caused him to emit a nervous laugh. Then I asked Bert to tell me his story. Bert is a 64 year old homeless man sleeping every night in the plaza. He is retired and on disability. He claims the system is broken and that is why he is there. Bert gets enough disability to have money in his pocket or a home-but not both. He said he’s been homeless for a long time. Bert went on to say, “When I was younger, I was in Vietnam, I was a Navy Medic. After the service, I owned my own landscaping business but can no longer do that kind of work. I thought I had enough saved to retire but couldn’t keep health insurance. Medical bills piled up and I had to sell my home. I am on Medicaid and get $687 a month. I’m on a housing list but that is a 5 year wait. I take my showers at Barton Springs during the free swim time at 6-9 in the morning. I don’t stay in shelters because they are dirty and people are on top of each other. But I don’t think I am different than anyone else. As long as we all stick together we can make a change for the better.” I liked Bert. He was neat and clean, used a cane to walk and complained that sleeping on the plaza cement was giving his hips plenty of problems. But he was cool and happy to be with us. I had a feeling it had been a long time since he was surrounded by this much love. I offered a hug and he eagerly accepted.
Another great sign today: Real Eyes Realize Real Lies.
“Join us! Join us! Join us! Join us! Join us!” They chanted over and over in the honk-if-yer-horny line. I stood there again with my sign and watched the faces of the passers-by in their comfortable cars. The furiousness and hatred plastered across some of their faces was unsettling. How were we hurting them? I wondered. Why would they hate us so? Some didn’t even notice we were there, but most honked, waived or pumped their fist in support of Occupy Austin.
I thought about how in any war, you have your warriors and those that stay home and pray for victory, and we have our share of both. But in this war, you don’t see cheesy “pray for our troops” spam on Facebook or preachers telling their congregations to pray for us or little yellow ribbons around an oak tree, even though we are fighting for America too. And ironically, it’s the ideal America where everyone has a house, a job, 2 kids and a dog we are fighting for-the one the fascist right is always dangling in your face so you will vote for their ilk. But they never deliver. Never. The America our soldiers are fighting for overseas is an America taken over by the industrial-military complex that sucks up every penny that should be used for housing, healthcare and job creation. Those soldiers are fighting for an America that feeds on human blood, arms and legs and the suffering of others. Who in their right mind would pray for that? Well, just go to church or get on any social network and take a look. It seems like everybody is-and you thought the guy back at the bus stop was crazy. We are just fighting so Americans can live in peace.
Eventually, it was time for the meeting about the tree, so I went into the civic center and signed up to speak, but got cold feet because it wasn’t really an emotional issue as much as a technical one, and I was going to look the fool trying to talk about the technicalities of this potential building permit and a tree I never saw. But I hung around for moral support. And guess what? The planning commission denied the request for the developer to cut down the tree.
As I left the plaza and meandered through the sign-waivers and horn-honkers and animated speakers, I was happy. I looked over Austin’s lush green hills and felt all the trees were happy too because one of them had been saved from the fascist jerks that don’t give a shit about anything beautiful or kind unless they own it. I thought how happy we would all be if we worked harder to save people we will never know from the pain of losing their home, from not having affordable healthcare and from the life and soul-destroying war machine. Then I thought how mankind-now at the absolute peak of its existence, has decided the few, who are just like us, somehow have the right to more than the many, whose only mistake is they trusted the few.
One week ago I awoke to my weekly chore of helping to do the house laundry. We hauled the bags of other’s along with our own down to the local laundromat and did the OWS wash. Since moving to the new West Park Presbyterian church just a few days before, it had seemed that a new paradigm was taking over. New people were contributing and a marked sense of enthusiasm on fresh spaces and wider horizons was emerging. Could this be the new encampment we had been hoping for? Could this old creaky building with it’s leaky pipes and leakier windows be the place of new beginnings? Work had been underway for weeks on installing a new boiler in the place but it still had no showers and the chances for even hot water were unsure at move-in time. Add to that the absolute shambles with which said housing working group principles had handled our exit from SPSA (St. Paul & St. Anthony’s) a week before, complete with a mock sexual predator trial including the accused and the announcement that no one would be able to take their bedding to the new space but must leave it for the housing group (stated as the owner) to pick it up and haul it away, things were unsure at best. Uncomfortable at most. But once moved, things seemed to settle in nicely. People found their sleeping spots and the reverend had no issues with people setting up warmer confines in the balcony. My spot even made a news story. And so I set about floating the idea of building a library area where we could take all the books the library people had been carrying around in bags. To those who heard, it seemed a good idea - in fact, a lovely idea.