November 21st, 2011


NYC; UC Davis

I happened to be awake and watching the live stream when Occupy Wall Street was evicted from Freedom Plaza, so I went up to New York for the Thursday actions. I was a late getting to Wall St. Thursday morning, so didn't actually participate in the shut-down. But I found an intersection with people telling their stories via people's mic -- how they came to be at Occupy Wall St. Some had foreclosed mortgages, some had massive student debt, some were unemployment and some under-employed. Some were none of those things but came anyway. Then we marched back to Freedom Plaza, where I ran into some other Richmond folks. They'd had no sleep the night before, starting up to New York at 2am. We hung out for a while, then went to Foley Square for a solidarity rally and march.

The square was jam-packed, an entire city block full of people elbow to elbow. My entirely unscientific reaction was that it looked like about 100,000 people. I heard later of estimates around 30,000 from police. At any rate, an enormous number of people. There were unions like the United Auto Workers, Service Employees International, PSC-CUNY (for workers at the City University of New York), and the musician's union. All seemed to be enthusiastically joining the Occupy/99% narrative and in the story-telling (this time with amplification). Eventually we started slowly toward the Brooklyn Bridge -- so slowly we suspected that the police had set up barricades. But while they were out in force, it seemed mostly that we were so many that we just couldn't go any faster. It seemed to me that almost everyone in the square decided to march with us. (We happened to be on the end nearest the march, though -- I don't know what people on the other end did).

On the way, we cheered as projectors flashed "99%", "We are unstoppable/Another world is possible" and other slogans on the buildings we passed. On the bridge, we saw a much higher-powered projector painting the Verizon tower with slogans -- here's an interview with one of the people behind that. On the bridge we found people from other occupations who had also come in solidarity, from Long Island to Tennessee. We heard about Occupy Denver, whose mayor insisted they appoint a leader to deal with officials. They elected a dog. We finally reached the end of the bridge. My friends (with no sleep since Wednesday morning, remember!) elected to march back over the bridge. I took a subway back to Daphne and Rose's apartment.

Since I returned I've been a bit obsessed with what happened at UC Davis, with one video in particular that shows both what we're up against and our power. From 0:08 to 0:24 Lieutenant John Pike pepper-sprays the seated students, calmly and methodically walking the line from right to left, then making a second pass from left to right. People are booing and screaming, settling at about 2:15 into a chant of "Shame on you! Shame on you!" Police continue kneeling on people and hauling them off for some minutes, but at about 3:20 we see them start to form a circle facing out toward the crowd. About a third of the officers are carrying what look like rifles, presumably loaded not with bullets but with less-lethal weaponry -- tear gas or pepper spray. At 6:13 nervous officers are raising and lowering their weapons. We hear "Mic check! MIC CHECK!", and then "We are willing WE ARE WILLING to give you a brief moment TO GIVE YOU A BRIEF MOMENT of peace OF PEACE that you may take your weapons THAT YOU MAY TAKE YOUR WEAPONS and your friends AND YOUR FRIENDS and go! AND GO! Please do not return! PLEASE DO NOT RETURN! We're giving you a moment of peace. WE'RE GIVING YOU A MOMENT OF PEACE. You can go! YOU CAN GO! We will not follow you. WE WILL NOT FOLLOW YOU." As the crowd speaks, Lieutenant Pike starts shaking his pepper spray canister, and grabs a second from another officer. Then he seems to change his mind, and give the order to leave. They are followed out by chants of "YOU CAN GO!"


A video of the students, the next day, sitting silently, arms locked, as the chancellor walks from her office to her car:
A picture of Lieutenant Pike in action:
Other videos of the pepper-spraying: and