A Message From Occupied Wall Street (Day Four)
This is the fourth communiqué from the 99 percent. We are occupying Wall Street.
On September 20th, 2011, we were awoken by police bullhorns around seven in the morning, they objected to us protecting ourselves from the rain. They told us that the tarps suspended above us had to be taken down. We held a General Assembly to determine how to respond. We decided that we would hold the tarps over ourselves and our possessions. The police ripped the plastic away from us. We then scrambled to protect our possessions, primarily the media equipment streaming our occupation to the world. The police were also mostly interested in our cameras, it seems like they don't want you watching us.
Before we say more about what happened to us it seems important to point this out: we do not think the police are our enemy. They have jobs, how could we fault them for that, when one sixth of America lives in poverty? when one sixth of America can't find work? The police are part of the 99 per cent.
The police informed us that the tarps over our equipment counted as a tent, and were therefore illegal. We objected to this interpretation of the law. One of us sat on top of the tarp to keep the police from extralegally removing our possessions. This is what happened next - it is graphic:
In the first video you can clearly see a senior police officer hurling a protester face first toward the ground. Luckily the protester's blow was cushioned, but that didn't keep him from cutting his mouth, jaw, and arms.
In the second video police drag a protester across the ground, cutting his hands. You can clearly hear a police officer say that the young man will receive medical attention – in spite of this, it was our medics who bandaged him when he was released. Later, you can see the police deny a young man an inhaler during an asthma attack which the crowd explains may kill him.
After these events the police continued pressuring protesters with extralegal tactics by stating that a protester on a bullhorn was breaking a law. The protester refused to cease exercising his first amendment rights and was also arrested. Then the police began to indiscriminately attempt to arrest protesters, many unsheathing their batons, in spite of the protest remaining peaceful. In the end the police arrested seven of our members, holding five without charge for more than twelve hours. Liberato's Pizza graciously offered to donate 20 pizzas for every hour a protester was held without charge.
In spite of these gross occurrences, we had work to do. After the abrupt end of our General Assembly we split ourselves into our normal working groups, and went about our tasks. Our outreach group organized a community march for Thursday at five in the afternoon. Our food group organized a group dinner. Our arts and culture group lifted our depressed and insulted mood. Our media outreach group was very busy.
Around three in the afternoon we reconvened our General Assembly. There was a brief discussion on how the Assembly worked due to the new members that were among us. We work as an ordered democratic body that passes proposals through a modified-consensus. Anyone can speak, but there is a list, we call it a stack. Our stack isn't first come first serve – socially marginalized voices are given priority. We use hand signals to express assent (wave your hand high), dissent (wave your hand low), points of process (make a triangle with your forefingers and thumbs), and blocks (make an X with your forearms). A point of process indicates a query or an objection, or, rarely, a valued interruption. A block is used to indicate that the Assembly is disobeying its principles. A block voices its principled objection and the Assembly votes again, a vote of 90%+1 can overturn a block.
The General Assembly heard many proposals, here are some that were approved: the trade union group will attend a meeting with the Teamsters; the arts and culture group are organizing a benefit concert to be held in two or three weeks; our outreach group is heading to marginalized communities; next Saturday is devoted to you, to us, the 99 percent. We also came to consensus on how to respond to the morning's police aggression.
At 4:30 we stood in solidarity with Troy Davis, an innocent man that the state of Georgia wants to murder today. We were joined by the International Action Center.
Afterward we heard a rousing speech from one of our released members, and then broke bread together. At seven we reconvened our General Assembly, which lasted until nine. Among other things, we designated talking spaces and quiet spaces, and we solidified our schedule. We're still here. We intend to stay until we see movements toward real change in our country and the world.
We speak as one. All of our decisions, from our choice to march on Wall Street to our decision to continue occupying Liberty Square in spite of police brutality, were decided through a consensus based process by the group, for the group.