Will have a description of event later in the day
Photos and Interview By Zack Helwa
Will have a description of event later in the day
Photos and Interview By Zack Helwa
We are speaking of the history of BK, of the areas through which we drive. I try to give the driver directions, but he’s like, “oh I know. I’ve lived here my whole life. Before Atlantic Avenue was even a thought in your mind, I was riding my bike down it.”
It used to be bad, he says. In the fifties, all middle class white people used to live in these areas. Then they built the projects, and all the white people moved out and all the black and Hispanic people moved in. When my cab driver was growing up in this neighborhood, it was poor. “It was bad, so violent. I used to get real mad.”
He thinks it’s better now. All the artists and students living in this part of BK bring in the attention of police and authority. The crime is kept in check, or at least it’s not in the streets anymore. He says a lot of his younger passengers have parents and aunts and uncles who used to live in these very neighborhoods; but these individuals moved out once they became economically/financially stable. Now the children live here again. Cycles..
We talk about education, cops, the environment; covering an extraordinary amount of ground for such a short cab drive. I do not mention the guilt I feel for taking a car home; this is his livelihood.
As we pull up to my apartment, below the rumbling LIRR, he brings up the subject of Occupy Wall Street. He sees the world changing. The driver has a daughter, and he has her enrolled in a charter school in Harlem. “I don’t want her in any damn public school.” I ask if he knows about the protests in Harlem the other day: 500 people howling in front of a public school being closed down. No, the driver had no idea. I ask him about the #1 Slave Theater; did he know about that? No. How about Occupy Bed-Stuy? Nope.
“I wanted to go down to Zuccotti, but never got the chance before they shut it down.”
Just wait until spring, my friend.
Words by Kathleen Purcell
Permits; fun; inclusive; “we” rather than “they”; convergences; speak-outs; how can we make people distinguish this action and feel this is theirs;
focus on communities and building coalition; thematically based groups from different neighborhoods meet; new assemblies formed;
everyone in the city knows that they’re invited;
stadium; build towards May Day; union involvement; changing culture and values; transforming society—physical and non-physical participation—different constituencies-labor, immigrant etc.; not just a General Assembly; art and music and expression; eat-in; potluck; share food; balance between quality and quantity;
Saturday or weekend; Jubilee; bargaining market; localized potlucks; training events (facilitation, non-violence, anti-racism); April 15 = tax day and the time when state & local budgets will become public; need for vision;
diversity in planning process; coherence, but not too focused in; mini-General Assemblies; combination of militant action and low-risk;
what message to bring to neighborhoods; need discussion of themes; Occupy World Fair; family oriented;
keep folks asking questions;
sector-oriented simultaneously in different places; want proclamation; each group have directions and goals; Battery Park (to see the Statue of Liberty);
diverse outreach; help of other working groups and communities; fair; concert; have information tables; social media; local and national; new organizations; Central Park;
plant seeds in community gardens as symbols;
end event with occupation;
mega General Assembly;
organize for May Day on celebration day; Earth Day; this meeting is a spokes for the day;
plant trees in crazy places;
political; rebirth; growth; general strike or move you money; April Fool’s Day; Chicago is doing something big on March 15th; it should be on the 17th of whatever month to continue the anniversary celebration;
discussions of what brought us together; time frame, is it just a day, or a whole weekend; direct action that is an educating act; once a week event to build up; March 17th is St. Patrick’s day; cops will be busy; poorest neighborhoods;
not self-referential themes; one day event is just a starting point; visionary; taking of a public space creatively;
occupy Central Park; open space for new people; empower people to be a part of this day; are we ready for a day? We’ve had some days;
public more than just observers; get that 10% of the population required to create social change; expand to what other people might be interested in; create safe space for the public to come;
immigrants afraid; ex-cons afraid to participate; have both celebration and a General Assembly; subway ride in; ongoing conversation; create system of communication;
teach-ins of “outer” General Assemblies giving training about how they do things;
arts; organizing; General Assembly process; leave space for discussion on the big day.
February 10 Planning Meeting
Task Forces: Outreach, Assembly Exploration/Structure, Facilitation, Arts & Culture, Logistics, Messaging/Media, Interface, Working People’s Caucus
After Zuccotti was evicted, there was an emergency General Assembly which meant new faces–this really prepared people for November 17th, the day of action;
mobile parade to take attention away from Manhattan, something that moves through Queens/Bronx; boroughs have marches into one convergence point, a convergence of ideas and people;
create a place with a sense of the energy and conversation that was Zuccotti;
a focus of energy;
Sunset Park had a speak-out celebration which started with drumming and ended with food and a march; food makes people stay longer; break out should have the same weight as a speak out;
OWS is out of the media; if people are going to take risks, how do you create a presence which assures people that there are numbers and support; OWS is still here;
April 14 is a coming out party;
April 15 is about tax reform; tax issues will bring out a lot of people; could do April 14 and April 15 back-to-back, to get both festive and direct action initiatives;
get a number of people to refuse to pay their taxes; bringing up tax issues is problematic when attempting consensus—it will be divisive; April 15 people will be at home doing their taxes; the divisive issue could be a way of uniting a lot of different people over a similar but various issue; “the only things inevitable are death and taxes”—how can we create conversation around that; getting large numbers out to protest tax issues is long-term effective?;
how do we disrupt and actually become a problem;
invite discussion of tax reform on the fun day; find a group that can or is already organized for tax protest on April 15 and ask them to organize with us; what empowers us together to create a real world; don’t dodge the tax day; talk about role of money and resources;
branding = spring (Arab Spring?); who can be an occupier? It can be you—even if you don’t want to live in a tent; liquidate fear of striking and marching; how do you prepare people to deal with risky situations; pre-community outreach to people comfortable to participate on May Day;
Food! A potluck, or find organizations willing to donate food; you can have barbecue in Flushing Gardens or Sunset Park, but not in Central Park; food means positive media attention;
day should be large turn out to reignite OWS; April 15 is effective because it focuses on the taxation issues surrounding the 1% versus the 99%;
stay downtown to stay true to OWS; Battery Park;
set aside time and space for those who want to join into the movement; recruit and develop organizers on that day; celebrate the people of OWS who have worked so hard—a relief from burnout; time consideration—we did so much in five months, let’s celebrate; OWS 2.0;
this should be a movement building day and not a direct action day; the day should feed our existing general assemblies and working groups;
it might progress like this—feed into the decided site with actions and outreach while traveling, have a short rally, break out by neighborhood/borough/issue, report backs in the spokes model that can become an ongoing model, a “next coming” event, a big party;
this day should be distinct from May Day; energize our existing general assemblies; go to your general assembly or community and identify the issues that they want to bring to the big day; movement building not direct actions;
city-wide picnic; we should be in Washington Square Park in case of bad weather;
have an assembly to introduce people to the general assembly structure; hand out programs and maps on the day to show visitors what is going on; there should also be spontaneous pop-ups; specific colors for specific boroughs; re-create Zuccotti; there should be both planning and autonomous action; spirit of Zuccotti;
if you’re in an OWS working group, you should plug it into the corresponding task forces for this day;
a fair; broad scale; what is OWS?; reach out to different general assemblies and groups to get involved with this fair thing; working people and family friendly; there should be arts and entertainment;
April 15 OWS is back; theme of spring;
April 15 might restrict faith-based groups because it is a Sunday; the day should be big sexy and awesome but create movement structures as well; people should go into neighborhoods;
concert? big names?;
first neighborhood assemblies, then food, next issue-based groups/assemblies; there should be a welcoming group and an information group that wear identifying t-shirts;
messages may be “another world is possible”, local election involvement/voting, resisting alienation and restriction, civil right issues, training;
activities may be a carnival, tables, arts, a concert, de-centralized discussion, themed groups, spontaneous and planned speak outs using the people’s mic;
some concerns are bathrooms, permits, the proximity of the day approaching;
we should lie about Radiohead coming to the day;
performance elements must be democratic and not status-based; there should be no stage with officially sanctioned performance; instead there can be roving prosceniums and performers can call out to it to come to them if they want to perform something; the performance guild has a library of hundreds of ten minute plays;
focus on concrete issues and ongoing struggles, like foreclosure and stop-and-frisk;
faith-based groups and unions should be more involved; big fun and family oriented; a “no jobs fair”; there should be a service aspect with tutoring and teach-ins;
various groups are voting for endorsement of OWS but have no outlet;
thinking big and long-term in order to inform the day; use the power of OWS to incite people and create long-lasting structure (an example would be encouraging people to create more of their own neighborhood assemblies);
start simple and big, then break out into smaller and neighborhood groups; there should be a section of time/space devoted to issues.
Words by over two hundred people from all five boroughs of NYC
Transcribed and formatted by Kathleen Purcell
Washington D.C. January 17, 2012
On the green of Capitol Hill, hundreds of protesters gathered to total roughly two thousand keen on Occupying Congress. I took the 30 minute walk through the mall to congregate with them at 10 am. There, friends and families were greeting each other in a way that was reminiscent of Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hurst shaking hands in Hercules— everyone was passionate and determined. It’s a pretty long walk uphill, so I had a lot of time to revel amongst the camaraderie and love being exhibited around me. I witnessed the embracing of old friends, interviews about people’s protest signs, their adventures, and sharing stories and information. Mostly, people were getting pumped for the day of action, J17.Continuing my eavesdropping, I walked uphill the muddy grass awed at the mud collecting underneath my boots.. I was thinking of when I first arrived at Occupy DC. Samuel, from Media, met up with me at the train station at four in the morning to walk me to the camp. The walk felt brief and was filled with talk about impressions, expectations, the functions of our occupations, and comparisons. Memories of the all-nighters I’d pull at the OWS Comfort Station flooded my mind. Soon enough, we neared McPherson Park. It was quiet and only the sound of rain on tarp was to be heard. I ended up crashing in a friend of a friend’s tent for a couple of hours. I woke up early, cold without a sleeping bag, to a mic check. Turns out I was sleeping next to the Kitchen tent. I sat up and noticed dress shirts were hanging from the ceiling and a makeshift bed-stand had a single overused candle. I guesstimated about five hours of use left. I had never officially lived in Zuccotti, but I got a taste of it that night in DC.
Once I reached the top of the hill, I awoke from my daze thanks to someone jumping on my shoulders. It was a friend I worked with in Comfort. I walked five more paces to a confrontational position up against a line of police officers. They made an L-shape in front and to the left, along the sidewalk downhill. At this point they were pushing people off of the sidewalk and had made two arrests: one that was half-assed and unsuccessful (of Officer Ray) and one actual arrest. I looked up to the Capitol building, past the police officers, tracing the weaving staircases, and my eyes rested on two men, tiny in size, high and far because of the distance, just starting back at all of us.
Between this time and 6 pm, when the sun set, there was the occasional arrest, attempted unrest, and some flat-out napping. This sort of downtime was balanced between a national general assembly, marches, and some discussion groups. The facilitators at the start of the GA wanted to encourage discussions where everyone would speak. Its rare occupiers would have the opportunity to have a sense of a nationwide–and in real-time–conversation amongst occupiers. Some visited the offices of their representatives and senators. In the lobby, I heard different people looking at the office directory asking aloud “Alright, where’s that son of a bitch at?”
On the lawn, there were tables of working groups and special interest groups unaffiliated with Occupy. A stage was set for musicians and speakers. When I noticed the stage, at the other side of the lawn I noticed a woman with an amp and microphone. She was talking about the dangers of corporate personhood and current progress of LA’s denouncing of Citizens United. I was leaning on a ledge where a family was playing with their dogs, awaiting the march at 6pm. To my right a Think Tank was discussing What does Democracy look like? There were other think tanks scattered around. Occupy Congress was the public forum spectacle that Zuccotti was–which I, and many others, were nostalgic for. The sun set and all the group activities were broken up with the arrival of those that were on the afternoon march.
Everyone on the lawn ran to those on the march to welcome them back. A congestion of hyper bodies gathered in the entrance to Capitol Hill. The crowed pushed back and forth chanting and cheering. Photographers were taking pictures of protesters, who were listening earnestly to individuals standing on park fixtures, rallying the crowd. There were flashes of cameras against the sky that was half of a warm red sun and half starry blue. The buzzing murmur preluded the much-anticipated 6pm march to the white house.
I left with an Occupy Wall Street crowd as it dissipated back into the main lawn to the food line. Around the stage a group gathered for musical performances. I watched it as I ate my vegetarian macaroni and salad. Someone came up to me asking me to write in his journal Why I Occupy. It was full of dozens of entries from J17. After inscribing a piece of my mind, I wandered over to the stage to see what all the commotion was about. There had to have been 500 people in that one cluster, and there were many clusters scattered about. They weren’t playing early Bob Dylan this time around; the guy that had the stage was reciting some of his writings. I was standing there nodding and smiling at those I caught eyes with until someone came up to me to engage in small talk. He was asking me first why I was there and secondly if I was going to vote for Ron Paul. I chuckled at his blunt outreach tactics and we talked for a hot minute until a great MIC CHECK interrupted.
At most, it took three seconds for everyone to turn towards the entrance/exit of the lawn and begin the much-anticipated trail to The White House. I glanced over at my new friend, Eric, and it was understood we were marching buddies. We walked, with big steps, over the concrete barricades, around light poles and random sidewalk obstructions, in between bodies, onto the middle of the street. We didn’t know where we were going, nor did it cross our minds at all; Eric and I were still in the process of challenging each other’s ideals.
We lost each other at one of the sharp turns. At some point I looked forward and saw from fifty yards back that people were climbing up a huge set of stairs; like an upwards avalanche of bodies. I bolted towards it, snaking through and ran up, two steps at a time, to what were the steps of The Supreme Court!
Reaching the top, I looked up to about ten people hanging off a fence-like structure fisting the air and dancing. All around me people were dancing to the noise we were creating. In the middle was the Statue of Liberty puppet. I started moving towards her, trying to take a photo. Her dancing hands looked like they were cradling The Capitol Building.
I don’t remember what people were saying or chanting, I only remember asking myself: How could this NOT work? How could our leaders turn their heads to this?!
As we descended, we yelled, “We’ll be back! We’ll be back!” It was picturesque, and it would’ve made a magnificent family portrait of +2,000 that ought to be captioned – J17: Class of 2012.
There were posters, four giant puppets (yes, courtesy of the infamous OWS Puppet Guild!), bicyclists, wheelchairs being pushed, people with cameras, laptops, in fantastical costumes (i.e. Captain America in a worn or rusty full body suit. a guy with a tent hanging on his body, and a Guy Fawkes weaving through proclaiming “AARG!”) Individuals, with their chin up, walked in solemn solidarity immersed in the electricity of the crowd. I saw a gang of four snapping their fingers in a forward moving circle, looking into each others wild eyes, chanting:
And everyone was singing…
MONEY FOR JOBS AND ED-U-CA-TION
NOT FOR WAR AND CORP-OR-A-TIONS
NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION
WHO’S STREET? OUR STREET!
HEY! THIS IS NO TIME TO HANG AT THE BAR!
(at spectators on the sidewalk entrance of bars we passed by)
There was so much singing and chanting and rushing past each other; and then halting, saying “Wait up!”, and recommencing of the march. It was like a leaderless school of fish down the stream of Constitution Ave. We stopped to read aloud altogether this, on a large plaque on the side of a building along our path:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, peacefully to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
And then cheers! I keep on saying we “walked”, but our high spirits were in fact skipping. We passed by Freedom Plaza demanding people to get out of their tents. There, I waited for the back of the line to pass. I saw only four police cars behind our trail. The march remained peaceful as we reach our destination in front of The White House. One guy climbed the fence to get center stage yelling, “We are Occupy DC! We are Occupy Wall Street! We are Occupy New York!” etcetera. We rallied there for about twenty minutes until individuals started to make speeches at The White House, at the media present, and at the symbols of our government. One such:
We will not make that mistake again!
If Obama won’t do it, we’ll do it ourselves!
And then cheers! I moved away from the rallying group, and sat next to my friend Jason. The day of action was complete and I was tired. Jason was amusing us, talking about the pizza that he thought was supposed to be served at the end of the march. It reminded me of Occupy Wall Street the first weeks at Liberty Plaza, when every night after each day of protesting, we’d have a pizza dinner waiting. It was a gift for the revolutionaries, ordered from supporters all around the world feeding the engine, patiently and lovingly, which would someday change the world.
Words by Christine Rucker
Images by Christine Rucker
A selection of experiences. Here are some things I wrote in my notebook on #J15 MLKj. I know I missed a lot, but everyone who spoke and sang was important.
On the steps of St. John the Divine; three hundred in the freezing cold. That is my estimate. Three hundred hopping and huffing against the wind. I swear it’s colder uptown than in the village. Night presses down on us. At the appointed time, three hundred begin west, towards Broadway. And in the shelter of 111th street–protected from the corridor of wind that howls up avenues–we begin to sing. “This little light of mine.. I’m gonna let it shine..” I like singing. The lyrics are converted: “Don’t let the mayor throw you out, I’m gonna let it shine,”
March up Broadway, north! It is such a novelty march in the street. I wonder if these guys have a permit. We have candles in little cups, and they keep blowing out. I have really good matches. I help.
Arriving at Riverside Church–stretching white and highlighted by lights, reaching into the darkness, standing stolid on the bank of the river–no one knows what the plan is and we hope they will let us in. They do. I fight a panicked feeling in the slow press of people.
Inside: milling around, shouting hello to friends–warmth. The cathedral is impressive. The architecture; up, up! Brick and stone,how do they keep all this space so warm? The altar is illuminated with stage lights, and there is a big projection screen hung from the heights, showing images of Martin Luther King Jr. The lights dim theatrically, and a hush falls over us. A corps of photographers click and flash stage left. Sound bytes of his speeches crackle and reverberate.
Lights up and surprise! Women in white cotton dresses enter from the back, drumming and dancing; people stand and clap. The drumming women dance to the front, trilling and shouting. And when they finish, a young lady steps up to the mic. “Peace, family”, she says. She sings an original. She sings with short stops. She leaves space between her words for listeners to hear themselves, their own questions, their own cries of joy and anguish.
Later, speakers rouse us. Three hundred respond so visibly, so audibly. We are not passive. We let you know if we like your words or not. One man is boo-ed. There is applause, but also twinkle fingers. Hands and arms shoot up and down like whack-a-mole. Like young plants growing and dying in fast forward. My eyes focus out and the altar is a white glare. My eyes focus out and my body focuses in–right up to the altar.
Patti Smith does not receive any introductory words, nor does anyone wait for her to speak before cheering and clapping. Her poem is very beautiful.
An African man, Salieu Suso, plays a stringed instrument with a giant gourd, as big as he is. It’s called a kora. I cannot see his finger movements, they are so fast and far away. There are journeys and journeys in the sound, playful and yearning. Echoes vibrate strangely in the aisles along the nave; it sounds like a woman murmuring and whimpering with the stringed instrument. Then comes the musician’s own voice, calling out to something across a great distance.
Occupy the Hood representatives make shout-outs. Malik Rhasaan reminds us all that outside these walls, only a few blocks away, there are people sleeping in that cold. There are people who don’t have enough to eat. A man, woman and child get on the stage/altar. Members of the music group Global Block and a toddler. They rap “I got love for my country with their fists in the air!” And immediately fists are in the air. The toddler wobbles and dances and asks for high-fives.
We break into chant “All day, all week, occupy Wall Street!” The speakers repeat the word: “economic” over and over. The speakers say over and over: “get money out of politics.” But one man makes the excellent point: politics is the economy concentrated.
Then three red robes against off-white stone. The Tibetan Buddhist monks present a prayer for world peace. It is throat singing. Deep and gritty and awkward. The strangeness is pretty to me. It makes many uncomfortable. Do not laugh during the prayer for world peace, please.
An eloquent Muslim woman is next. Daisy Khan articulates our world pain. Her love is intelligent and fierce. She lights a candle with a tall Japanese man, a Buddhist monk as well. They light a candle together for solidarity, for oneness and light.
The Reverend T.K. Nakagaki can not stop giggling and bowing as he speaks. I want to put him in my pocket and take him home. Only one moment of silence, it is all he asks of us. And he hits a bell. Pure tones resound and gold flashes in my eyes. Nakagaki says that we must rest; we must not think.
Yoko Ono sent us a holiday greeting card. It is read aloud, briefly.
Then chaos breaks out, occupy style. A man to my left screams “mic check!” We obey. We repeat his pontifications. The emcee is patient,also respecting this ritual, almost sacred act of utilizing the human mic. But when the anonymous man finishes, a woman up front near the altar begins. And then another. Given the forum, how can people resist? Members of the audience stand, forming triangles with their fingers (point of process) rolling their arms (we get the point) and, gasp! one young man even makes and X with his forearms (block). Scandalous. Some are getting upset.
Three young women are on the stage. The Mahina Movement. Excuse me, but it’s time for us to sing. One of them says into a microphone “mic check.” We respond “mic check!” She repeats “mic check.” We respond “mic check!” A mic into a mic and repeated back to her from our mouths. She has our attention.
Their voices are beautiful. They sing “Sugarland.” Spectators forget the barriers, the ceremony, and towards the end of the song many are dancing in front of the altar. It reminds me of the drum corps at Zuccotti.
It’s over, and I’m hungry. We are dismissed by the St. Christopher’s Gospel Choir. We mill and laugh and say hello to friends. And then out into the freezing cold again, and a nap on the train.
Words by Kathleen Purcell
Photographs by Zack Helwa
Video stolen from nikiparrox and CitizenRadio, on youtube.
so let me just ask you what has happened this past weekend and how is it different then a few weeks ago before the first round of elections?
there is a sense that things are worst this time around. Some incidents seemed under reported last month that now seem to be resurfacing. How bad is it really?
i don’t really know what you see or read out there out there
if by bad u mean how violent it is, then it’s not as bas as last month
in clashes with the police, 10s lost their eyes to rubber bullets and khartoosh
45 People died, and 800 injured!!
that’s like a death toll in some military operation!
now has the media there been reporting such incidents? I hear the military has been doing a pretty strong push in confiscating videos and arresting journalists. including what happened to Mona al Attawy last month.
well, i havent heard of incidents of harassing journalists
but u can very easily sense how the media tv channels are controlled
for me it’s very clear that the protesters did not set that building/library on fire
and that’s it’s a dirty game played well
to make the protesters seem as just violent people who burn down buildings to lose any sympathy they get from the masses at home
and turn against them
and sadly that s whats happening
there were books being burnt?
Amr had to leave the text interview we had and promised to be back to continue. I am currently still trying to get an interview with my journalist correspondent Deena Magdy hopefully also coordinating my trip to egypt in the end of January.. will keep you posted on this story.
Also the U.S has been sending 1.3 billion dollars a year to the egyptian military and using your tax money should have the ability to stop this. we also have a corporation in Pennsylvania by the name Complete Systems that’s the main provider of tear gas being used daily on peaceful protestors in egypt.