The Great Depression was a period in American history rife with a rich poverty culture; hobo sign, Hoosiervilles, flour sack dresses, “move along” laws. Novels and iconic photographs
documented for future generations the devastation wreaked by hard economic times on ordinary hard-working Americans, and the vivid stories from our grandparents keep this bit of history alive. We read, see and hear tales of families run out of town because the homeless were not allowed within city limits after nightfall, trains full of children of poor families being shuttled across the country as ‘orphans’ in need of adoption, the carefully accumulated life savings of seniors evaporated instantly as more than 10,000 banks failed and left the majority of America’s elderly completely and unexpected dependent on charity.
Fortunately, in this enlightened era, we have left such abominable behaviour in the past. After years of crafting a culture of tolerance and respect for all mankind, and not merely those who look, talk and shop exactly as we ourselves do, we can look upon the barbaric actions of our predecessors with a discerning eye and the knowledge that such things no longer happen in modern times.
Denver city councilman Albus Brooks has proposed a highly controversial bill outlawing “urban camping”. Though proponents of the bill point to needed tourism dollars from the downtown area and revenue from the popular 16th St Mall, the bill institutes a ban not merely on those specific areas but throughout the entire city limits.
Much of the controversy stems from the bill’s attempt to either change or ignore reality. In the
summer autumn winter spring of our recovery, homelessness is on the rise. The most recent study on Denver’s homeless population puts their ranks at more than eleven thousand people; 62% being families with children. The U.S. Conference of Mayors determined that homelessness increased by 12% in one year alone.
Compounding this problem is the lack of funding to effectively handle it. Denver, with its fatally cold winters, has struggled for years to carve funds away from stadiums and tourism to sufficiently staff adequate shelter beds for women and children. The situation will grow more dire almost immediately, as many shelters are closing or reducing the number of beds available by this summer.
Yet, the sole nod to the essential facts of the situation from Councilman Brooks are that Denver will try to find a safe place for Denver’s poor to sleep at night, and if that doesn’t materialize, well then, the DPD can always house the poor in jail.
If you are not moved, dear readers, by compassion and the knowledge that in this economy there but for the grace of God go you, then you should still be incensed by the sharp demand on the taxpayer wallet – fully expected when a city makes poverty a misdemeanor.
Occupy Denver met at Lincoln Park on Friday to discuss the proposed law, and brainstorm alternatives which might actually do something productive to address the stand-off between wealthy downtown businesses and poor Denver citizens who stubbornly refuse to cease existing. It was suggested that the first priority should be determining a safe place for people to sleep at night, away from those who just want to shop for expensive consumer goods in peace. The Denver jail was dismissed out of hand, as not only a violation of citizens’ constitutional rights but also an undue burden on Denver’s taxpayers. Constructive arguments were raised that, since all citizens fall under the definition of “the public”, then public parks would be the best place to allow people to sleep in a place which was safe and out from underfoot.
Also touched on was the strain this would put on the DPD, an agency not known for the sort of kind and gentle touch required when dealing with mentally fragile individuals or women
The sheer inadequacy of this bill to fix the problem of Denver homelessness is astounding, and yet Councilman Brooks already has nine votes; enough to pass it into law. If anyone is surprised that nine council members are willing to commit to a new law before hearings or public testimony, please submit pictures of your shocked face to firstname.lastname@example.org. These pictures will be artistically assembled into a decorative collage to be presented to Denver city council upon passage of the bill into law.
A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people. ~ John F. Kennedy
America stands at a crossroads, although the exact nature of that fork in the road is widely debated. Many feel that it is the choice between violent revolution or peaceful civil renaissance. Those on the left tend towards the opinion that this is the brink between a capitalist or socialist economic system. Those on the right lean more towards this being the epochal decision between Constitutional freedoms and a nanny state. All of these opinions are correct. Much like a patient who feels the fever without understanding the underlying disease, people are united in voicing their unease that our current conditions can or should continue as is, and fill their uncertainty as to root causes with whatever seems to make sense from their limited biases. This is a case of thinking too hard. The answer is actually quite simple. The choice facing America today is to continue in the direction our leaders have set for us, or to plot a change of course.
Change is the only thing that stays the same, and yet we resist it. Change takes us outside of our comfort zone, into the unknown, and perhaps out of the fat and into the fire. We may understand inherently that things never stay the same, and also that our current path is not one destined for a good resolution, and yet mankind has this tendency to sit back and take the path of least resistance. Wise words were once spoken on this very subject.
… All experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
You may recognize the quote. It was written at another time in human history when we faced the choice of taking our destiny and our citizenship into our own hands, or acquiescence to the usurpations of uncaring leaders. It’s part of the Declaration of Independence.
The time is ripe for an alteration from our current disastrous course. In the most recent poll, taken a mere three days ago, Obama had an approval rating of 24%. Congress is even worse, scoring just 9% three months ago. Voter turnout has been declining for decades as Americans become disenfranchised with an unresponsive political system and no palatable options. Americans are adamant that they are fed up. Change will happen; the only question is whether it will come at the hands of leaders America professes to hate and distrust, or via the citizens.
Citizens disgusted with the system – which, by all polls, are the vast majority of you – continue to take up their constitutionally-protected rights to agitate for a change of course. People in power also don’t like change, especially anything that involves losing some of that carefully hoarded power. These power elites have taken up an assault on constitutionally-protected rights in order to protect their non-existent ‘right’ to rule. Your first amendment rights, formally acknowledged in the Constitution to be an absolute right not ruled by government whim, has been corralled into “Free Speech Zones” the government selects for you, during hours of the day the government decides are appropriate to its purposes, and only with a permission slip you paid the government to receive.
And if you object to this too loudly? Government-subsidized men with court-approved low IQs and psychological exams designed to weed out men with sympathy will beat and shoot you.
Tell me again about these rights you have. They no longer exist. You let them be taken away.
Another quote from John F. Kennedy is, “Do not pray for easier lives. Pray to be stronger men.” We cannot stop this collision course between that classic conundrum of the unstoppable force – an arrogant leadership – and the immovable object – America’s distrust in their own system. It is not possible to beat American distrust until all is well again. Neither is it possible to ignore power-mad leaders until they become more interested in the common welfare. Action will be taken, the only question is which action.
Many would love Occupy Denver to go home. Change is uncomfortable, and they’re still hopeful that if they hide their heads in the sand and ignore the problem long enough, it will magically disappear on its own. In truth, the best case scenario is that Occupy Denver never goes home, never gives up.
The worst thing that could happen is that Occupy Denver goes home and goes away. Then, citizens of Denver would be left with politicians and their police who have learned well that their citizens do not truly care about their rights as Americans. That is a lesson they will use again, and it will not be only against people the corporate media tells you are unlikeable. No, this is one lesson repeated many times throughout the course of history and the outcome was always the same.
It will be used against you.
Tactics committee held a teach-in today at the camp, titled Urban Camping 101 Part Deaux: Travois, Tacos, Bug-Out Bags and the Art of Escapology. The class was very well-attended, with between fifteen and twenty people turning out to watch the building and demonstration of a travois plus an in-depth discourse on safety tactics and protecting the camp’s gear and supplies during a raid.
Yesterday evening, after hearing Occupy Boulder was under a raid warning, the same Tactics committee mobilized in solidarity for our brother encampment to the west. Vehicles were rounded up and a carpool arranged to leave from the Occupy Denver camp to convoy over to Boulder to offer any assistance desired. At final count, twenty-six Denver Occupiers joined up with the Boulder camp for support. A summit was convened, the Tactics committee held a class for handling a raid to great interest – Boulder will be facing their first – and Occupy Boulder graciously handled the refreshments. Eight members of the Row and Denver supporters stayed the night at the Boulder encampment, and a good time was had by all. Tomorrow night Occupy Boulder is staging a dance party for zero hour – 11PM – which many Occupiers and Denver supporters plan to attend.
Supper at the camp was spaghetti and meatballs, and weather was blissfully warm. Your Occupiers enjoyed the sunshine, wandering around in short sleeves and tidying up the camp to even higher standards of cleanliness. Cole has instituted a rolling garbage truck – a shopping cart reinforced with cardboard and bearing a sign saying, “NO Littering – Max Penalty – Bitchslapping… hard”. It’s a wonder how a brief respite from the cold completely changes the tenor of the camp.
Our political commentators are becoming fuddled by a phenomenon that, while not even close to being new, has been markedly increasing over the past decade. In the great game of party politics, American voters are refusing to play along.
For nearly sixteen decades, the Democrat and Republican parties have been playing to a captive audience, as it were. Naturally, when you only have one rival your platform consists largely of announcing in firm, stentorian tones how wonderfully different you are from this lone rival and, failing all else, pointing out that at least you are not as bad as the sole other option. As the differences between the two parties shrank down to the microscopic, American voters have been treated to proportionally greater emphasis on the latter, and entire elections have devolved into campaigns which can be summarized best as, “Sure, I’m no prize, but at least I’m not quite as bad as that other jackass.” The problem inherent in being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils is that your choice is still pro-evil. The only real surprise is that it has taken Americans 158 years to tire of this game.
Perhaps there existed an iconic age when Democrats and Republicans presented two distinct choices cognizant of and reachable to the American Everyman commonly known as Joe SixPack. I don’t know, I’m not really that old, despite what my knees tell me. For most of my adult life, at least, the political game has been about the illusion of choice. Quick, name the political party full of wealthy people and sexual scandals! Quick, name one presidential election that did not have rich old white men in power ties on both sides! Quick, name the politician who is the single biggest recipient of campaign donations from Wall Street banks!
But that’s different. Why, we’re not sure, but the TV says the parties are different and TV would never lie to us. The Democrats are anti-warmongering and for social safety nets, and the Republicans are for fiscal responsibility and old-fashioned interpretations of the Constitution. Then Clinton targets aid to needy families and bombs Sudan, and Bush 2.0 sends deficit spending into the stratosphere and calls the Constitution “just a goddamned piece of paper”. Amnesty for illegal immigrants? A progressive Democrat platform, last given to us by Reagan. Voters grew so disgusted with Bush Jr’s policies they voted a wide swath of Democrats into office, who in turn so disgusted voters that they were replaced with Republicans, who have so disgusted voters that Democrats seem poised to take back the House. Is anyone detecting a pattern here, or is that just me?
While the many heads of the political hydra continue to spout soundbites on social issues to distract us, the Beast itself has devoted more than thirty years to pro-bankster legislative policies which have effectively siphoned the wealth and capital of the American public to elite financiers. The wages and net worth of voters have gone down, and inflation has eroded the purchasing power (i.e., value) of those dollars you manage to hang onto, and yet at the same time mega-corporations have grown more profitable and monolithic. This is not a bug, it’s a feature. Only those with a severe lack of critical thinking skills will offer any excuse that such a long-term policy stance comes from one side or the other, as both “parties” have encouraged and facilitated this economy-destroying position as they trade control of our legislative and executive branches between them like a game of Hot Potato.
And yet, the Hydra wants us to believe that the left-right paradigm is so compelling that we have no choice but to buy into it. We are not supposed to be for student vouchers and also for gay marriage. One is a conservative stance and the other liberal, and agreeing with both is not allowed. If you’re for gay marriage, then you’re a Democrat and that means you have to accept every other position on their platform. Deciding that our liberal politicians are deficit-spending our children’s future away in order to gain the political benefit of programs today that they refuse to fund sounds too much like asking for a balanced budget, and a Republican once backed balancing the budget so you have to be against that. You’ll just have to change your mind and either hate gays or be in favor of Democrats financially raping your children.
Conservatives are not allowed to support Occupy Wall Street. A conservative Occupier? Sacre bleu, c’est impossible! That’s what the Tea Party is for, innit? Ah, and now we see how neatly we are manipulated. A false dichotomy has been put into place, and the stooges in the corporate media even assure us that we have no choice but to participate in the “proper” section for our protesting. Liberals over here, conservatives over there. Ne’er the twain shall meet. Benjamin Franklin, after signing the Declaration of Independence, was quoted as saying, “We must all hang together, or we will surely hang separately.” The entire notion of political opinion being an either/or proposition, a compelling dichotomy in which we must hang all of our faith, is nothing more than a lie. It is a means to manipulate the public. Divide us, segregate us into smaller sections, and once weakened we are more easily conquered. All those who doubt this, raise your hands if you’ve voted some utter jackass into office who signed legislation you hated, all because s/he was the lesser of two evils. Congratulations. You were defeated by the Hydra.
It is striking, how those centuries-old quotes from our Founding Fathers have so much relevance in these interesting times. Truly, we have come full circle. Recognize the false dichotomy for exactly what it is, and learn to think independently. Hell, learn to think at all. The alternative is going to the gallows separately, still complaining that balanced budgets are Republican and Occupy Wall Street is an Obama conspiracy as the bank-owned noose goes around your neck.
Contributed by on the ground correspondent, Jo Newton
People are funny.
There’s a sort of person one gets used to meeting when one is with Occupy; the armchair activist, the sideseat protestor, or, as I like to call them, people who Occupy Twitter. They come in many flavors. There’s the rabid progressive liberal who finds it personally offensive to discover conservatives at Occupy. There’s the conservative God, Guns and Gays issue-politics Republican who is convinced every “Occutard” loves Obama and joined the Occupation at the President’s behest. There’s those who voice support but also add that they wish we would protest <insert pet cause here>, and there are always those who second-guess every little thing we do; from allowing Denver’s homeless population to join our ranks freely and the burning of our own structures to the presence of cigarette smoke within fifty feet of a General Assembly – in a public park.
America has many opinions. The revolution should be about human rights. The revolution should be about the environment, with a side order of save the whales. The revolution should be run by Republicans, because God doesn’t like hippies and socialists have never successfully revolted. Everyone should take showers, because in the Battle of Valley Forge, George Washington may have been barefoot and sleeping in a ragged tarp in the snow, but he was clean-shaven. We need to be non-violent, like Gandhi. We need to arm ourselves and take to the streets, like the colonial Minutemen.
All of these people share something in common. It is that they have an internal vision of how the revolution should be run, and that they choose not to take their own advice. It is always “what you people should be doing”, and never “what I should be doing”.
I have a saying for the myriad almost-protestors who come down to Occupy and start off a conversation with a wonderful idea on which someone else should spend a lot of time and effort.
“I’ve got a full plate, pal. If you don’t want to do it, why should I?”
That not every element of the Occupy revolution is your cuppa tea is without question. What you should be asking instead, if you have any intelligence at all, is whether you consider today’s world situation to be tenable. Everything okay with you? With your family, your job? You fine with the political situation? More power to you, and how’s the weather on your planet?
Here on Earth, we’re facing a police state, economic collapse and a political court reminiscent of Mad King George (which ended well, I’m sure we recall). If you’re fine with all this, well and good. We wish you all the best. Go from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. May your chains rest lightly upon you, and may posterity forget you were ever our countrymen.
Ten years ago, Congress had an approval rating of 56%. According to CNN, these days Congress is running a solid 9%. If, like 91% of Americans here on planet Earth, you agree that these 535 utter twats are running our economy and country into the ground, then you have only one question to ask yourself.
Why aren’t you angry enough to do something about it?
Let’s be real here. Occupy is nothing more than a handful of ordinary Americans who have reached their limit, their “Eureka!” moment. When given the choice between the fiction of wealth or liberty, they chose liberty. You chose to stay in the comfort of your living room.
If ye prefer the tranquility of servitude to the animated contest of freedom, you have our blessings. If, however, you prefer the pretense of activism via Twitter and the internet to actually taking a stand, sit down before you hurt yourself. You are the most ineffective advocate on earth. Most people think you’re not only lazy, but a nutcase. And you are most certainly on the watch lists.
This is a DIY revolution. If not you, then who? If not now, then when?
Lead, follow, or get the fuck out of our way.
In a state of post-holiday semi-sotted bliss, borrowing quotes like they’ll be outlawed tomorrow,
Locke in Socks
In this post-holiday, post-raid, mid-massive harassment comparative doldrum*, or what passes for it at Occupy Denver, perhaps some light educational entertainment is in order. Ah, what fun is Youtube.
Hysterical. Really hysterical.
I wish this weren’t so buried in partisan speech, because the math is completely accurate. I checked.
Carlin remains made of awesome and winning. For best results, take a daily dose of Carlin.
This is a great song. Do you know how much fun it is to have a bunch of committee members Occupy a bar and sing this song in karaoke? Good times, man, good times.
Highly informative and interesting.
*Yes, I am bored by cops waking us up at 1AM to sweat testosterone, steal and try to provoke sleeping people into saying something arrest-worthy. Personally, I roll over and go back to bed. If they want me badly enough, they can come in and pull my underwear-clad self out.
The most important service rendered by the press and the magazines is that of educating people to approach printed matter with distrust. ~ Samuel Butler
The press is often referred to as the Fourth Estate. This is a reference attributed first to Edmund Burke, and it speaks to the three branches of government – judicial, legislative and executive – which are hemmed round and limited by the unofficial fourth branch – a free press. As the theory goes, the ultimate check and balance to government is an informed populace, and it is the press which keeps them so informed. The Founding Fathers felt the free flow of information was so vital to a wise government that they addressed it first in the Bill of Rights, and spoke often on the subject.
James Madison had this to say. “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.” Benjamin Franklin perhaps wins the dubious honor of being the world’s first blogger, with his Poor Richard’s Almanack. These men – farmers, diplomats, merchants – who had just come through a war for independence and the right to self-governance knew only too well how important it was for the citizenry to be able to know the truth, and to spread accurate information far and wide.
That’s the theory anyway. In practice, a free press is just as capable of disseminating lies and propaganda as it is accurate news. While the media is supposed to believe it does not make the news, it merely reports it, we are nevertheless bombarded with news which blatantly offers the slant of your choice; and news which, like a gold nugget under a ton of cow shit, is a fragment of truth coated by a thick patina of the reporter’s personal opinion. When reporters decide their opinions are news and go looking for ways to prove it, the quality of the media suffers. To put it bluntly, they lie to us.
Andrew Breibart, commentator for the Washington Times and popular news pundit, offered a $100,000 reward for any video of Tea Party activists using racial slurs against legislators, an incident the corporate media insisted happened. In this Age of the Cameraphone (let’s put it on Youtube!) not one person in a crowd of hundreds – not even media journalists filming the crowd – were able to locate proof of the media’s allegations. The reward goes unclaimed to this day, and yet there are many who remain convinced that the Tea Party is racist. After all, it was in the papers.
We in the media are answerable only to the truth, but it isn’t as if Truth will come to our house and give us a good spanking if we lie to the public. Instead, we must rely on the public’s critical thinking skills to keep the press in line. Aha, and therein lies the snag.
At the candlelight vigil for the homeless on Tuesday, a Denver Post reporter twittered that Occupy Denver was deliberately trying to disrespect the homeless. Presumably because the Occupation hate homeless people. Last week, the Denver Post was portraying Occupy Denver as just homeless people, and therefore not really important. These two statements are not mutually inclusive, and yet it rests upon the public to put that together. That same Post reporter, when later confronted that he’d reported falsely two nights running that Civic Center Park was unOccupied, twittered that the Occupation was just “six homeless people and one journalist.” The question of who is disrespectful to the homeless seems clear.
The public has taken notice. Newspaper circulation has been dropping steadily for more than a decade as readers cease to bother with corporate media. The Old Grey Mare, she ain’t what she used to be. On the other hand, alternative media has exploded in growth. It seems the public still wants to know what is going on, they merely don’t believe the corporate media will tell them. Not with any accuracy.
This is true locally as well. Like it, love it or loathe it, Occupy is news. The public wants to know what Occupy Denver is doing. Corporate media coverage has fallen over itself to assure the public that the news on Occupy is nothing much; only a few dirty homeless people who despise homeless people – probably socialists and hippies as well, definitely no one identifiable to normal Americans. And then they find the drunkest homeless person they can to interview on camera about what Occupy is really all about, just in case the public didn’t get the message properly that all of Occupy are filthy, unemployed and not someone you’d invite to dinner.
Correspondingly, alternative news blogs such as the Westword and John Howard of Jumbo Tales have followers who avidly soak up the news they post on Occupy, and Howard reports his site hits go through the roof whenever he posts a new piece on Occupy. Denver is starved for real news, and seeks it out where ever they can find it.
The news is out there. If the corporate media wants to still be a part of it, they should cease attempting to create the news and go back to merely reporting it.
Contributed by on the ground correspondent, Jo Newton
Corey Donahue brought down roasted turkey and a peppery gravy for supper. Also on the menu from anonymous Robin Hoods were a lasagna which I didn’t get to taste (but smelled fantastic), many boxes of pizza, and chili. We’ve had generous donations of snow shovels, water, vitamin c (there’s a nasty cold going around), sandwiches, gloves, scarves, tarps, handwarmers and blankets. Our supporters are incredible. Without you, there could be no us, and we appreciate it.
Occupy Denver were very, very good boys and girls this year. Christmas morning, our presents contained one hundred top-of-the-line sleeping bags rated for the coldest conditions, from a local church. What an incredible Christmas present! Many are staying toasty warm at night thanks to the wonderful Christians who made it possible.
The word for the day is “harassment”. Can you say “harassment”, boys and girls? If one defines a raid as several hundred Imperial stormtroopers kitted in full beating-civilians gear*, then we have not been raided. What we have had, is several employees of Robert White attempting to work out their personal insecurities in an unhealthy manner. We can recommend a few excellent therapists which we are sure their employer health package will cover. In the meantime, we plan to bear with stoicism nightly awakenings between one and three in the morning, demands that our gear be moved (and then moved again), announcements that sleeping on the sidewalk is illegal* and constant new definitions of the word “encumbrance” by people who couldn’t spell it if their federally-funded SWAT gear were on the line. We’ve withstood blizzards dumping a foot of snow on us and stormtroopers by the hundreds. A couple of meatheads who didn’t get hugged enough as children is nothing by comparison.
Our General Assembly has voted in a double-header for this Saturday’s rally! The War on Drugs has cost hundreds of billions, both in fiat currency and in wasted human lives. It is exploitative of our neighbors to the south, leaving entire cities under siege to drug cartels we fund and to whom we funnel guns. These costs are unconscionable, and will not be condoned by a civilized society. The rally begins at Civic Center Park at noon, and then we will march to the jail on Colfax and speak there on one of the biggest excuses for the corrosion of our American liberties since the days of Mad King George.
Afterward… round two! We march on to Skyline Park, arriving there at one o’clock for the cross-coalition rally against Suncorp and the oil pipeline spill in our own backyard: Commerce City. It’s time to remind Big Oil that the “small people” have very loud voices, and we will no longer be ignored. This land does not belong only to those who contribute the most money to re-election campaigns. We are incredibly excited to be finishing off 2011 on a high note like this! This is y’alls last chance to join in on being Time’s Person of the Year – the Protestor – and what a fantastic set of rallies to cut your teeth on!
From Occupy, with love,
Locke in Socks
*I hereby refuse to call it riot gear. We’ve never rioted, therefore it is not “gear for a riot”. As a writer, I believe in the power of words, and I will call things exactly what they are.
* We checked with District 6. It is not. That is still on Mayor Hancock’s To Do list in the coming year.
What happened Monday night was the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve spent the last three days trying to figure out how to get the words down on paper in a way which conveys the stunning savagery witnessed. A great plan failed to come to me, so I’m going to wing it.
There was an op-ed that needed doing, badly, tying together the themes of the homeless, human rights and the visceral response by the encampment to the eviction notices. Monday night I should have been securely tucked into my lovely warm hotpocket, because some of us are too old to be up past ten. Never let it be said procrastination is without benefits.
McDonald’s closes at 10:45PM, and I’d just posted the op-ed, tucked up the blog, heard its prayers and said good-night until it needed feeding again in the morning. I and several Occupy friends* headed back to the park, and though I slept on the Lincoln Park side of Broadway, it was my habit to check in on the Civic Center Park side and the Row before bed.
It couldn’t have been but a few minutes after we got back that I heard Daniel shouting. He came racing down 14th, and he was too out of breath to speak when he reached us.
“Cops,” he panted, pointing off south of the Capitol Building. “Riot cops. At firehouse.”
I’m still not sure who yelled it first. It might have been Daniel, it might have been Karyn – hell, I think it was me. Anyway, some noisy person threw back their head and shouted, “They’re coming!”
It would be nice to report that experienced protestors, savvy with the non-violence and veterans of many raids, reacted with cool calm. It would be nice, but it’d be a lie. We did what anyone would do upon hearing of an imminent attack by men with weapons who faced a stern paid vacation if they shot us dead where we stood. We fucking panicked. People scattered to wake up friends, to grab the bags they’d decided earlier were too valuable to lose to the police, to remind others of the non-violent tactics we’d brainstormed all day. There were shouts to remain calm. There were shouts that the police should do the anatomically impossible. One small young woman was crying as she snatched up the Christmas gifts she had bought for her children, to evacuate out as soon as supporters’ cars showed up. Getting those cars to us in time was my job.
I had the only smartphone on site, and I prayed to all the tech gods in existence as I twittered out the news. Y’all know the prayer. Say it with me now. “Signal, signal, go through, goddammit, where can I get signal?”
We got lucky. People were awake on Twitter and my phone began a running soundtrack of beeps – notifications that I was being re-tweeted. My job done, I ran across the street to grab my bug-out bag and, alas, the sack of clean laundry that had only hours before been dropped off. All my clean clothes, which are normally kept at a safe house, just happened to be at the encampment. I moved fast, but not fast enough. The first car evacuating gear left before I could get my sack of laundry to it. I handed my clothes off to a friend who was going back across the street, and I hied myself to the corner of Broadway and Colfax so I could keep sending out the call. We still had people to get in, gear and the Toys For Tots box to get out.
I looked down at my phone. Looked back up, and realized I was surrounded by riot police several deep. “Oh my good Lord.”
My elbow was grabbed, and a cop pulled me to the median. “Stay on the median in Colfax and enjoy the show,” he laughed.
Later, I found out my friends thought I’d been arrested then. The modus operandi is for the goon squad to round up anyone standing alone, and my fellow Occupiers saw me standing alone on the corner and riot cops surrounding me, and then I disappeared.
I wasn’t the only one caught outside the riot line. Kat and a couple others were wandering around the intersection with me. An ambulance pulled up and we panicked anew. They were shouting at the cops, I yelled a question on who was hurt. Flames and smoke were erupting from the camp, and screams and shouts tore the air. A portly blond police official in a felt overcoat was sporting a broad grin and chuckling at everyone as if to say, “Isn’t this great?”
I hiked up the hill and around Lincoln Park, trying to see where the ambulance had gone. Matt found me there.
“Fuckers.” He spat on the ground and picked up his skateboard. “You got any place to go tonight?”
“No. That’s my only home.” I waved a hand off in the direction of the camp burning in the darkness.
“Hey, assholes,” he yelled at the cops stationed outside Lincoln Park. “She’s been turned out of her only place to go. You feel awesome about that?”
One heavy-set cop shouted back that someone “over there” would find a place for anyone who needed it. On the other hand, when I approached the line I was threatened with arrest if they saw me again, and my name and birthday taken down. The next day Channel 7 News reported that police assisted any Occupy Denver protestors who were homeless. Personally, I’d like to know if that actually happened or if the corporate media just took everything the cops said on faith. I know I was offered only threats, and it would be the last time I – a middle-class woman from rural Texas, who had never been arrested or threatened with arrest in my life – voluntarily approached a cop.
Nick called me then, and we exchanged panicky “you okay?”s. He laughed with black humor about the ambulance. “That isn’t for citizens, it’s just in case one of the riot cops gets a hangnail beating peaceful protestors. They keep medical care away from us.” As the longest Occupier on the ground, veteran of five raids, he’s seen this too often not to be cynical about it. A laid-back beatnik whose conflict resolution skills and soothing voice of calm reason made him an asset to the Occupy Denver security team, it was jarring to hear him scream at cops through my phone. Six weeks I’d known him, and I’d rarely even seen him annoyed, let alone furious.
A car roared up, and the driver leaned over to open the passenger door. “Get in!”
I thought it was some random Denver resident trying to rescue Occupiers, but then I recognized Greg from the Non-Violence Committee. “They’re at the library. Meet me there!”
Greg roared off to park his car and I walked around to the library, where I found people who had been strangers to me once, and had become dear friends and family in just a few short weeks. We hugged everyone in sight, often in tears. We Tebow’ed the riot line. I got the news that Dana, a soft-spoken and reticent college girl, had been arrested for being in the park after park hours. Ben – Family of Love patriarch, de facto head of the 24/7 Committee and her boyfriend – was being physically restrained by Occupiers as he shouted himself hoarse at the animals responsible. Two reporters had been assaulted. And then there was more that I’d missed, such as everything that happened with Nicole. Fortunately, that’s what we have Youtube for.
Nicole is my height, which is nearly short enough to qualify for a diagnosis of dwarfism – five feet tall. She weighs less, perhaps ninety pounds soaking wet, whereas I’m a more well-fed 115. We’ve often thought her annoying, especially when she interrupts GA and demands cigarettes for Jesus, and we’ve made cracks about wanting to vote her off the island. She’s the “crazy Jesus lady”, and in the last few weeks she’s become our crazy Jesus lady. Family gets on your nerves a lot, it’s practically the point of having a family, and bigod, she’s family. She’s our lost little lamb at camp, and she repays us by being obnoxious and loving us all in turns.
Next time someone starts on how the police are heroes who are only there to help, remember that these Denver “heroes” assaulted a woman for annoying them. Not just a woman, but a small woman, who isn’t always right in the head, and is homeless. Fuck that noise. Not only are they not heroes, they’re not even men. Animals go after the small and weak; men are raised better than that. Note the cops laughing and smiling in the background of the video and viral photos? You have to wonder about their parents.
Our crazy Jesus lady was the hero of the night. She stood her ground, defended the camp and her friends. In protest at the behavior of the state-sanctioned goon squad, she threw her beloved Bible into the fire. With Nicole, the power of love can go no further.
We marched for hours, with Billy leading the way with his bongo. It was cold, and late. The sidewalks were clogged with slush and ice. And even though we were no longer anywhere near the park, the riot cops followed. They charged again and again, tried to kettle us. Always, the thing that struck me the most was the sound of their laughter. The cops were having the time of their life. They laughed, and they charged and then laughed some more, and they drove by grinning with excitement and yelling nasty things about Constitutional rights and how we needed the exercise anyway, and then they’d laugh and kettle us.
That is what bothered me the most. They stole my blankets and the tarps that keep the snow off me, but I can get new blankets and tarps. They stole food, but I can buy more food. No, what bothered me the most was that these thugs enjoyed it. They beat a woman, charged women, threw their weapons in the faces of the public… and they loved every minute of it. It was a horrifying thing to witness. I don’t even have the words for it.
The march was largely a blur of walking and exhaustion, punctuated by the laughter of rough men and brief excitement. After one attempted kettle, where I was shoved and which we avoided successfully, several Occupiers pushed dumpsters into the middle of the street to keep the cops from following us by goon truck. We spotted a dump truck full of our belongings on Colfax, and several people blocked the truck while others climbed into it to rescue our things. Technically, the police are supposed to make sure we can collect our personal belongings after the raid. They have never actually given anything back though, and considering they ran over our things with a bulldozer before using said bulldozer to toss our things into a dump truck, I doubt I’ll ever see any of my stuff again.
James, an eighteen year old boy who really took the Tebowing to heart, struck a pose again while we were near Colfax. The cops drew their batons and yelled, “Get him!” We screamed for him to run. I thought they were going to kill him – for mocking them. An eighteen year old kid. Nice kid, too.
He’s back safe at camp now, and the first thing I did after hugging him was Tebow him. He loved that, bless his pea-pickin’ heart.
I was evacuated by one of our supporters around the 16th St Mall, where we met up with a large portion of our group which had gotten separated from us. It must have been 3AM, and I was dead on my feet. The drive to her house was quiet, everyone in a state of shock. We kicked off our snowy wet gear just inside her door, and she brought out blankets and pillows and told us where to find fresh towels. I wanted to cry, but I was just too tired. So I made up a new bedroll on her living room carpet, and laughed when she fretted about the quality of her hospitality. I’m used to sleeping on frozen concrete. Carpet and central heating was the height of luxury.
Despite the most comfortable bed – a carpeted floor – I’d had in weeks, I didn’t sleep well. Too many nightmares of flames and laughing armed men. But I’ll tell you where I was bright and early the next morning. Back at my fucking Occupation.
From your Occupation,
Locke in Socks
* Apparently, it’s fascinating to watch me write. Invariably there’s three or four watching over my shoulder and making running commentary. It’s very distracting.
What a week.
We live! Through in excess of two hundred riot cops, we are still here. Through nearly a foot of snow, we are still here. Because that’s how we roll.
The camp is indeed alive and active. Many possessions and bedrolls were evacuated in chaos when the Imperial stormtroopers rolled in, and the aforementioned stormtroopers stole the rest, which was unfortunately the bigger portion of what we had for bedding to keep warm.* The better portion of our days has been spent tracking down what was evacuated and making sure the encampment is safe. Our numbers at the camp are few at the moment, and that is by choice. We are saving what little bedding and tarps we have on site for those who have no safe place indoors to escape the weather (or are just that stubborn), so that they can be as warm as possible. As donations come in and more gear is found at safe houses, we are returning people to the camp. Approximately two dozen slept through the snowstorm yesterday in the relative comfort of improvised hotpockets.
If you were one of those to evacuate gear to your house, please let us know.
General Assembly has been continuing without a moment’s pause. Today’s GA was roundly praised as one of our most productive. Among the issues discussed was this Saturday’s march. It has been cancelled in favor of a Christmas caroling event. We will be meeting at Civic Center Park at noon for rehearsals, and the procession will leave at 12:30PM. The event is planned to take roughly two hours, so wear warm clothing. Also, bring songbooks!
Supper this evening at the encampment was a donated meal of arroz con pollo, Mexican chicken and rice. The most pressing needs at the Occupation are snow shovels, handwarmers, tarps and blankets. Plastic bags of all sizes are incredibly useful to keep things dry as well.
* Stormtroopers steal the blankets of the homeless on Mayor Hancock’s orders, and some are upset that Occupy Denver – the people who gave them those blankets and who the press derides as “just a bunch of homeless people” – blocked Mayor Hancock from making political hay on the graves of deceased homeless people. This may make sense if I keep tilting my head to the left and concentrating, but really, you’re just insane. I recommend therapy.