One year ago, the NYPD and then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as part of a nationally coordinated crackdown, rounded up thousands of people from Zuccotti Park and beat, jailed, and harassed them out of Zuccotti Park. A few of us took a moment to share some firsthand reflections on what it was like to be present for the eviction of the first American encampment to take on that global symbol of American capitalism.
Camille Raneem: Mutant Legal Working Group
It's over. My day is over. Two years ago another eight hours from now I was ziptied on a police bus singing the worlds longest rendition of "This little light of mine" with a ton of sleepless, dirty revolutionaries.
(Because back then, we were revolutionary)
Linnea Palmer Paton: Press Working Group
This time two years ago, I was holed up in the #Occupy office space (RIP) with a handful of others culling and editing pieces for a spread in the Guardian that was due that morning when we started getting frantic calls and texts from our friends in the park that it was being raided by the NYPD. Journalists were blocked from getting to the site. The 3,000 people that we had mobilized to protect the park from the threat of eviction just days earlier were unreachable, sleeping thinking that the threat had passed. Those that tried to get to the park were blocked.
As we frantically mobilized into press outreach mode, calling, tweeting, doing everything we could to let the world know about the police's midnight raid, our friends were beaten, dragged off in handcuffs, and the park that we had called home, the park that had sparked a worldwide movement, the park that made the invisible visible was cleared off all its life. Our friends were sent to jail. Our tents, signs, food, and library were dumpstered. Our laptops were smashed.
When I went out that morning, the park was empty. I cried. I think we all did.
That morning, this is what we published: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/nov/15/occupy-wall-street-you-cant-evict. And on November 17th, we filled the streets in protest, 30,000 strong chanting "You cannot evict an idea whose time has come."
To this day the networks that were formed, the relationships that were built, and the connection that we share – the understanding of the root cause of our many struggles – lives on. From Occupy Sandy to Strike Debt, I never know what this creative network will come up with next. But what I do know is that You cannot stop an idea whose time has come. And more than ever, that time is now.
Thanks to Victoria for reminding me tonight.
Victoria Sobel: Global Rev, Media Working Group
On this day in 2011, OWS NYC was just 2 days short of hitting the 3 month mark, nationally many encampments had already been raided. On this day in 2011 I was cold and tired, charging cameras, laptops, wifi-hotspots in the Global Revolution LIVE media tent- my phone was dead. On this day in 2011, I had lived in a park in lower manhattan for 59 days until Mike Bloomberg and the NYPD, FDNY, and SDNY stormed and raided Liberty Square. On this day in 2011, I watched many of my comrades and loved ones brutally arrested and injured, while countless others marched trying desperately to reach the park. Hordes of media and reporters were prevented from entering the park and others were censored and had their equipment smashed and confiscated. Tents were slashed, blockades were broken, and ulocks were sawed off people's necks.
I was arrested, de-arrested, and pushed to the edge of the park. I streamed the eviction and filmed and screamed at the NYPD until I lost my voice. The sun rose and the sanitation department powerwashed the park, Wall St. businessmen eager to have their financial mecca back walked briskly to work. I walked to Duarte Sq, I walked to Cooper Union, I cried, I cut my hair off, I left Manhattan. I was pissed off when I joined OWS, I was pissed all throughout OWS, and I was pissed off when it was over-I don't think I'll ever stop being furious about all of the lived injustices and systemic oppressions peoples all over the world are challenging every day.
What is love is regret, and what isn't love is a test.
I'm sick, I'm tired, I'm furious, I'm positive things will change, I won't stop fighting.
Rebecca Manski: Outreach Working Group, Press Working Group
In the Zuccotti Park days, Occupy Wall Street got all sorts of crazy invites, on the daily. Called to weird 1% parties. Asked over to have lunch with bank execs. We said no. The press team sorted through tens of thousands of press inquiries in the first three months, and some big ones fell through the cracks. So most of the press team hardly registered that The Guardian had invited us to occupy their Opinion page.
But about a week before the eviction, Will Jesse and Karanja Gacuca and I managed to convene a big open meeting at 60 Wall Street, inviting any and everyone to talk about what message they most wanted to put forth about Wall Street, and Occupy – in one of the last good English-language newspapers with wide distribution, on the planet. Over the course of the week, we didn't get amazing articles; and hardly anyone wrote anything about Wall Street. Pretty much every single article was about the thrill of the experience of direct democracy, the General Assembly, the People's Mic, etc. The thing is, seeing beyond Zuccotti, after September 17th, had gotten tricky. We came together to be real, to challenge the society of the spectacle. We took split-second glances across the planet and felt closer than we could ever have imagined. Yet this in itself became a spectacle. We were dreaming, and even though REM was happening all day long, we woke exhausted. We couldn't rightly see what was right in front of us anymore. Will and I felt that while it made sense to publish a piece on the prefigurative experiment with direct democracy, we also needed pieces that could tackle capitalism itself, talk about race in relation to Occupy's wide 99% tent, link Occupy Wall Street to international struggles, address State repression, etc.
We culled articles deep into the night, and rose early in the morning to solicit new ones. I worked a full day, ran downtown, charged into a room in the "office" just down the street from Liberty Square. After another night of 3-4 hours' sleep, we all started work again, brows knitted, clutching coffee cups. When the eviction began, the office went haywire. Several members of the editing team went to Liberty Square to check things out; Linnea and Will and I focused on the task at hand. At 3:30 a.m., as Linnea edited a final piece tightly into shape and Will updated the editors at The Guardian, I wrestled together this play-by-play of what had gone on that night:
At exactly 12.54am – as the PR working group was culling final articles for this very editorial page, the Outreach team nearby was developing orientation materials for the new initiative "Occupy Your Block", and the Movement Building working group engaged in a conference call about national plans for the Day of Action on 17 November – an alert rippled room to room. At 1.20am, our phones started buzzing off the tables, overloaded with text messages. Three blocks away, and within seconds, we knew that hundreds of riot police were arriving, dump-trucks rolling in, subway stops shutting down, and the Brooklyn bridge had been closed. Via Twitter we knew our fellow Occupiers were chanting, "This is what a police state looks like." Half the people in the off-site office space ran to Liberty Square, leaving their laptops, their wallets, their phones even, behind.
PR working group member Jason Ahmadi texted the team from a police van full of 13 arrestees, and we soon discovered that NYC council member Ydanis Rodríguez had been arrested and was bleeding from the head. One after another text message alerted us to the effect that those not yet arrested at Liberty Square were being chased up Broadway, towards Chinatown. Some of our people headed to Foley Square by City Hall, some to Washington Square, and others to Judson Memorial Church, where so many of our meetings have been held these past weeks.
Occupiers undeterred by the unprovoked brutality rained on them by police instantly regrouped and launched a fresh General Assembly, which took place at Foley square. More General Assemblies are planned throughout the day. An interfaith gathering planned for 9.00am aimed to offer comfort and encouragement to the occupiers.
At 2.43am, the New York Observer reported that photographers with credentials were barred from Liberty Square. Seconds later the director of editorial operations at Gawker reported that a CBS news chopper were ordered out of the sky by the NYPD. New York Times journalist Jarid Malsin went to jail in zipties. And 20 minutes later, we heard the NYPD was cutting down trees in Liberty Square, and from our office space we could hear the deployment of a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), a sound cannon. To be certain, we could see and feel that this operation had been planned carefully to exclude all media coverage, sending out a loud message about how dissent will be treated in this democracy.
Maybe three weeks earlier, Press team member Jonathan Matthew Smucker had written a release in preparation for a possible eviction. It was a somewhat controversial move, and one member of the press team attacked him for his "cynicism." But we had that press release ready to go that night. At 5:00 a.m, we titled the piece with Smucker's line, "You Can't Evict An Idea Who Time Has Come:"
But we are not deterred. Our spirits our high, our resolve indomitable.
This burgeoning movement is more than a protest, more than an occupation, and more than any tactic. The "us" in this movement is far broader than those who are able to participate in physical occupations. The movement is everyone who sends supplies, everyone who talks to their friends and families about the underlying issues, everyone who takes some form of action to get involved in this civic process.
This moment is nothing short of America rediscovering the strength we hold when we come together as citizens to take action to address crises that impact us all.
Such a movement cannot be evicted. Some politicians may physically remove us from public spaces – our spaces – and, physically, they may succeed. But we are engaged in a battle over ideas. Our idea is that our political structures should serve us, the people – all of us, not just those who have amassed great wealth and power. We believe this idea resonates with so many of us because Congress, beholden to Wall Street, has ignored the powerful stories pouring out from the homes and hearts of our neighbors, stories of unrelenting economic suffering. Our dream for a democracy in which we matter is why so many people have come to identify with Occupy Wall Street and the 99% movement.
That morning, Will and I were the last to leave the press room, and some of the last people in the office. We swept bits of paper off the table into the trash, collected a dozen mugs and took them to the sink. I stood a moment at the faucet letting the warm water run over my palms, and closed my eyes. Snippets of articles edited through the night ran through the bloodrush of my buzzing eyelids: Clare Bayard's words, writing about the tear gas canister that knocked out her friend Scott Olsen, a Wisconsinite returned from war only to get wounded on home soil; David Graeber's reflection that until September 17th, the only side of the spectrum willing to propose radical solutions of any sort was “the right”; Manissa McCleave Maharawal's description of how painful it is to stand in front of a white man, explain privilege to him, and maybe get a little somewhere; And Meg Wade's observation that the conversations that began at Liberty Square are moving forward and taking on a life of their own, far beyond the space of the park itself.....
Will tapped me on the shoulder, I shook myself out of this daze. We kind of tumbled through the hall and down the elevator, floating out the door to bright Broadway. Streams of suits were rising from underground, the Wall Street 4,5 stop. From among the suits, there emerged a familiar face I hadn't seen in many months, a lobbyist for an environmental organization. He wore a full suit and gleaming briefcase, ready for a trip to Albany. Like many natural allies, he had hung back from Occupy Wall Street; I had never seen him at Liberty Square.
That night, I returned to a fully barricaded Liberty, packed as ever. The barricades and checkpoints, just didnt register: puzzled, I tried to skip down under the golden sprays of Zuccotti's trees like the day before, but a cop held me back. A tense and burly man stood before me, checking the contents of my bag. What was he doing there? The last time I felt this version of frustration, was in Palestine, at the checkpoint to Bethlehem. They had transformed this bit of land and air into a contested space. With the violence of the State behind them, they conveyed their claim: "yesterday this was yours, today it's not."
What I was looking for wasn't inside that pen. So I squeezed out, and found Occupy Wall Street's energy outside. Jason Ahmadi was pacing in front of the thickest row of cops on Broadway. Not allowed to stand chatting on the sidewalk, we walked back and forth in front of the police, arm in arm. I asked him why he wasn't in the park: “Same reason as you, being penned makes me ill.” I hadn't realized that's how I was feeling; suddenly I noticed my nausea, and this seething, ironic kind of rage underlying the state of shock I was in. Then Cara Hartley joined us, and our stroll became a romp; we invented boisterous impromptu songs, roaring defiantly as we charged back and forth – since we weren't allowed to stay in place.
From day one, I knew the occupation at Liberty Square was a transient thing; every day I was surprised to find we'd lasted another night. We knew that, with dispersion from our home at Liberty Square, the movement would change shape entirely. But whatever the direction and form the movement has taken, it is as clear as ever that "you can't evict an idea whose time has come."
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