#Occupied: Reports from the Front Lines


Written by Jennifer Sacks for The Occupied Wall Street Journal

Looks Like We Made It: A packed General Assembly in Liberty Square on March 17 marks six months since Wall Street was first #occupied. Screengrab: TimCast

This week in Occupy, we turned six months old – and law enforcement noticed, Occupy Seattle’s Chase 5 was found not guilty, spring training for the nation’s May 1 actions commenced, SXSW was #occupied and we couldn’t stop watching this.

#The six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street on March 17 was marked by reconnection and celebration, which clearly angered law enforcement: 73 people were arrested in and around the movement’s Liberty Square birthplace and five were arrested at Occupy L.A. on felony charges. The March 17 raid was followed up by a candlelight vigil in Union Square the next evening.

Occupy L.A. urges the Human Rights Campaign to "Dump Goldman Sachs" as its marriage equality spokesperson. Photo: Damon D'Amato

#At the Los Angeles action, joined by Occupy San Fernando Valley, demonstrators were keenly aware that they were being photographed and videotaped by officers wearing thick black eyeglasses that contained spy cameras in the lenses. “No more silence! No more lies! We will not be victimized!” protesters chanted. After being surveilled and told they couldn’t plant American flags at City Hall, police brutality ensued.

#Occupy Chicago activists marched through the city on the night of March 18 to protest the previous night’s arrest of their fellow demonstrators in St. Louis and New York. The group marched from the Federal Reserve to Millennium Park, chanting against police brutality.

#Occupy The Midwest demonstrators tried to set up camp at Compton Hill Reservoir Park in St. Louis on March 15. Fifteen were arrested, some of them bloodied, during the first regional convention of area occupiers. Lawyers for Occupy the Midwest are suing the city of St. Louis after a city police captain with a long history of misconduct violations authorized violence against protestors, a claim bolstered by the fact that he was heard on videotape congratulating his officers on a “job well done” after Thursday’s fracas.

#A jury returned a verdict of not guilty in the trespassing case against five Occupy Seattle protesters who chained themselves together inside a Chase bank in Capitol Hill on November 2, 2011. “The jury decided that our actions were justified, and whether this is because they thought it was somehow lawful or just the right thing to do, something is changing, and I think it’s beautiful,” Danielle Simmons, one of the defendants, said after the verdict was returned.

Do You Really Want to Mess With Her? A woman protests SB 469, an anti-protest bill, in Atlanta. Photo: Occupy Atlanta

#Lawyers for Scott Olsen, the Iraq War veteran whose skull was fractured during an Occupy Oakland protest last fall, are claiming that police intentionally hit Olsen with a beanbag round from less than 30 feet away, not with a tear gas canister, as was previously thought. “If it was a beanbag – those are meant to hit people, and it tells me that whoever did it, did it intentionally,” said Olsen’s attorney Mark Martell.

#Tom Morello #occupied SXSW, moving his set from the Swan Dive bar onto the street outside, where he was joined by Occupy Austin. Honoring what would’ve been Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday, he performed a cover of “This Land is Your Land” with MC5′s Wayne Kramer and delegates from the General Assembly, imploring the crowd to sing along as loudly as they could. “Now we’re all one!” Morello proclaimed. Naturally, police intervened, shutting down the PA system.

#George Clooney was arrested outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington D.C. while protesting president Omar al-Bashir’s blockade of humanitarian aid to the newly-created nation of South Sudan. Unlike many occupiers, he actually got his phone call. He used it to phone his mother.

#Demonstrators were at Wesleyan University to greet Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as he delivered a speech, “The Originalist Approach to the First Amendment,” on March 9. Before the justice could answer questions, demonstrators seated in the balconies and sporting orange jumpsuits and black hoods – à la Gitmo detainees – unfurled two banners, one of which said, “There can be no justice in the court of the conqueror.” They also tossed out condoms bearing stickers reading: “Stops more abortions than Scalia.” (Video here and here.) They were quickly evicted – for exercising their First Amendment rights. At a speech about the First Amendment.

He's the One...Percent: Members of Occupy Wall Street confront Mitt Romney - wearing Mitt Romney masks - at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan on March 14.

#100 Occupy Wall Street protesters staged a “Mr. 1% Rally” outside the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan on March 14, where leading Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was appearing at a $1,000-per-plate luncheon fundraiser. Demonstrators marched around the block, holding signs and shouting, “Romney is the 1%!” Some were dressed in the style of the über-wealthy, sporting sequins, high heels and slinky black dresses.

#Despite widespread reports of bullying and brutality at the highest ranks of the NYPD and the arbitrary arrest of journalists covering Occupy raids, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly swears he has a good relationship with the press.

#Fourteen Occupy Atlanta demonstrators were arrested after staging some creative direct action at five Chase Bank branches on March 12. Donate to help pay their legal expenses.

#Citigroup, Ally Financial (formerly GMAC), SunTrust and MetLife all failed the latest round of Federal Reserve stress tests, making it more likely that the government will have to to bail them out again in the event of another financial cataclysm.

#A whistleblower lawsuit in Colorado alleges that Bank of America intentionally steered customers away from federally-subsidized mortgage modification.

Shaping Up For Spring: Occupy Wall Street gathers on March 16 to warm up for the May 1 General Strike. Photo: Jed Brandt

#In protest of foreclosure actions, more and more churches are moving their money out of the big banks. So far 25 churches have withdrawn $16 million from big banks such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase.

#Occupy Santa Cruz staged a 200-strong foreclosure march on March 11, after which they dropped by their local Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo and delivered speeches and left foreclosure notices and For Sale signs. At their local credit unions, they left hearts.

#Brooklyn Congressman Ed Towns held a hearing on the foreclosure crisis in Brooklyn on March 19, and one of his guests was Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, who was promptly mic-checked. Before being evicted, demonstrators pointed out that with a net worth of $448.1 million, Issa is the richest member of Congress and closely allied with Wall Street.

#Students at Northwestern High School in Maryland organized a walkout on March 1 in support of increasing teacher pay and improving the quality of education, and they also wanted an apology issued to Filipino teachers who will lose their jobs due to expiring visas. But when students attempted to leave campus, the doors were locked and attack dogs were used to guard them. Some were also suspended for “thought crimes.”

#Anneliese Harlander, a Sacramento occupier, was arrested for scattering flower petals over a second-story balcony in the California Capitol building.

#Caltex Woolworths, an Australian petrol store, had its website #occupied.

Caltex Woolworths.com: #occupied.

#Former Vice President and war profiteer extraordinaire Dick Cheney canceled an appearance in Toronto, citing “security concerns.” He’s probably afraid of a repeat of his last Canadian sojourn in September, when had to hole up in a Vancouver hotel for hours as police in riot gear took on protesters.

#As a protest against Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s vehemently anti-gay policies, two men got the attention of the crowd at one of Santorum’s Illinois rallies and kissed each other. Here’s the awesome video.

#Another day, another act of suppression: SB 469, a proposed anti-protest bill, would turn nonviolent civil disobedience into a felony punishable by imprisonment for one year and a $1,000-$10,000 fine. It also has provisions intended to weaken unions. On March 17, hundreds, including members of Occupy Atlanta, gathered at the steps of the Georgia State Capitol to protest the bill.

#The political war on women – particularly low-income women – continues: the Georgia State Legislature debated a bill in the House that would make it necessary for some women to carry stillborn or dying fetuses until they “naturally” go into labor. In Texas, a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy is now subjected to a mandatory and medically unnecessary vaginal ultrasound, during which her doctor is forced to graphically describe the condition of her fetus’s organs, followed by a 24-hour waiting period. Women in need of medically necessary – and often heart-wrenching – terminations are getting caught in the crossfire. A similar “ultrasound law” went into affect in Virginia, albeit with the vaginal probe mandate removed at the last minute. Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Corbett wants a mandatory ultrasound law passed in his state, and doesn’t see what all the fuss is about. “You just have to close your eyes,” he said.

Dress Rehearsal: Occupy Wall Street staged a March 16 Spring Training protest in preparation for the May 1 General Strike. Photo: Jed Brandt

#Senate Republicans oppose renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, a law that has historically had near-unanimous bipartisan support. “Republicans say the measure, under the cloak of battered women, unnecessarily expands immigration avenues by creating new definitions for immigrant victims to claim battery,” the Times reports. “It also dilutes the focus on domestic violence by expanding protections to new groups, like same-sex couples.” This line of reasoning prompted Erin Gloria Ryan of Jezebel to crack, “Opposing a popular bit of anti-domestic violence legislation may further the public impression that GOP stands for Genuflect before Our Penises, or Girls Out, Please.”

#Alternet alerted us to five new tactics police are prepared to employ to crack down on protests this year, including expanding permit requirements and charging protesters for municipal costs.

#On March 13, police officers in SWAT-style gear descended on a Miami apartment building where dozens of Occupy Miami members moved after the group’s downtown Peace City encampment was evicted. The building was searched, its tenants put on lockdown and police pointed their guns at children, according to a first-hand account. Three occupiers were detained and questioned.

#Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado said that Americans would be stunned to know what the government thought the Patriot Act allowed it to do in the name of “national security.” In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the senators wrote, “We have grown increasingly skeptical about the actual value of the ‘intelligence collection operation.’ This has come as a surprise to us, as we were initially inclined to take the executive branch’s assertions about the importance of this ‘operation’ at face value.”

#We may see thousands of drones flying over U.S. skies in just a few years, thanks to a bill President Obama signed requiring the F.A.A. to make plans to integrate drones into American airspace.

Seriously Joyful: A screengrab from the latest Occupy Wall Street musical montage,"Still Free."

#In the Op-Ed heard ’round the world, Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith dramatically quit the firm in the pages of The New York Times, claiming that the company prizes profit over people. Sound familiar?

#Last month, the Human Rights Campaign named Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein its first national corporate spokesman for same sex marriage, but the Occupy Los Angeles Queer Affinity Group has rejected him as an appropriate spokesperson for the marriage equality movement because of his role in the subprime mortgage crisis. On March 17, the occupiers donned Hazmat suits and urged the Human Rights Campaign to “Dump Goldman Sachs.”

#A Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 69 percent of voters want Super PACs outlawed.

#The lengths to which the 1% will go to dodge taxes is stupefying, a New Yorker report revealed.

#Wall Street, once a magnet for America’s best and brightest, is facing a recruiting problem, the Times reported. The reason? “Everything from Occupy Wall Street to larger critical discourses of ‘fat cats’ has had some trickle-down effect” to young people, said Karen Ho, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota.

Occupy L.A. marches into the future. Photo: Damon D'Amato

#The Wall Street Journal has stopped advising Occupy Wall Street to get jobs and started recognizing us for our tech smarts.

#Alex Weinschenker, 22, who ran Occupy L.A.‘s Print Shop, a staple of the encampment, has died. Click here to contribute to his memorial fund.

#Every Friday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., Occupy Wall Street will be gathering in Liberty Square for Spring Training marches in preparation for the May 1 General Strike. The first meet-up on March 16 spawned a protest outside the New York Stock Exchange.

#In the six months and two days since the birth of the Occupy Movement, 6,811 have been arrested exercising their First Amendment rights. But we are still here and still free.

Want to report news about your occupation or meetup? Email us at occupymedia@gmail.com.