#Occupied: Reports from the Front Lines


Written by Jennifer Sacks for The Occupied Wall Street Journal

Peaceably Assembling: Make no mistake, Liberty Square is #occupied. Photo: Jed Brandt

This week in Occupy, the arrival of Spring brought everyone back into the streets, thousands rallied for Trayvon Martin, Union Square was #occupied and Occupy UC Davis permanently closed a bank branch.

#After Liberty Square was raided and barricaded on the Occupy Movement’s six-month anniversary – a move which proved illegal – demonstrators gathered in Union Square Park and stayed there, opening up another major New York occupation.

Freedom is Springing: Lower Manhattan, March 23. Photo: Jed Brandt

#On March 21, members of Occupy Oakland set up a “secret solidarity camp” in Mosswood Park – which they renamed Huey P. Newton Park after the co-founder of the Black Panthers – formed in solidarity with the police raid that followed Occupy Wall Street’s six-month anniversary celebrations.

#It took three weeks for details of Trayvon Martin’s killing to reach the mainstream media, and it was the resulting protests over his killer’s freedom that finally brought the murder to national attention: On March 19, college students demonstrated in front of the Seminole County State Attorney’s Office to demand that charges be brought against George Zimmerman, 28, who stalked and killed the 17-year-old Martin after deeming him “suspicious” because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. “Even though he was a little younger, he was one of us,” said Kendra Neal, 22, a student at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, where students also staged a rally.

#The Miami Heat, led by LeBron James, wore hoodies in tribute to Martin, and also to counter the perception that wearing a hoodie makes you a criminal. Similar hoodie tributes poured in from churches and pundits alike.

#A Million Hoodie March was staged on Wednesday in New York, on Friday in Chicago and Philadelphia and on Monday in Los Angeles.

#New York’s march drew thousands, despite the corporate-controlled media’s claim of “a few dozen,” and its aftermath got “Union Square” trending worldwide on Twitter.

#Police in New York used the occasion to further clamp down on Occupy Wall Street, dispatching 500 police officers to Occupied Union Square in a show of force not seen since the November 15 eviction from Liberty Square. Senior officers poured into the square, which is usually open 24 hours because of the presence of a major transit hub, and barricaded everything but a public sidewalk in front of the park. Cops shone lights into livestreamers’ cameras and tried to incite a riot by pretending to be hit by glass bottles from the crowd. They destroyed a portion of The People’s Library that had been set up in Union Square – insisting it was unattended though many occupiers stated in loud, clear voices that the property was claimed – and advanced on the crowd, trampling some of them. The New York Times addressed the presence of so many senior officers at a relatively minor protest, suggesting that orders to squelch Occupy Wall Street are being issued from on high.

Dropping Knowledge, USMC-style. Photo: Occupy Marines

#In response to the violent clashes between a resurgent Occupy movement and the NYPD, Mayor Michael Bloomberg showed little sympathy for the protesters, telling reporters, “You want to get arrested? We’ll accommodate you.” He added, “If you have something, really, to say, that would be a great contribution, nobody can hear you when everybody’s yelling and screaming and pushing and shoving.” Maybe no one told him that it’s his police department doing the pushing and shoving?

#One thing New York police couldn’t prevent: Charging Bull was finally #occupied.

#A tumblr called I Could Be Trayvon was started in response to the killing, serving as a compendium of police brutality anecdotes. Submit your Trayvon story here.

#Stand Your Ground laws – the “shoot first” self-defense statute shielding George Zimmerman from arrest – already exist in 24 states, and the National Rifle Association is pushing them in 27 more. Corporations are big supporters of them, Paul Krugman reports. Seven years ago, opponents of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” legislation predicted it could lead to racially motivated killings. The law is the template for an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) “model bill” that has been pushed in other states.

#At a March 24 demonstration demanding the resignation of New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly for his unrelenting campaign of police brutality against unarmed protesters, police dragged a 16-year-old activist off to her arrest and lifted her shirt up in the process, exposing the minor’s bra and echoing an indelible image from the Egyptian Revolution.

#Spring Training for the May 1 General Strike resumed in New York’s Financial District on March 23, and protesters were trailed by police every step of the way. They did, however, manage to outsmart them, ducking into an ancient cemetery at the last minute in a dodge that must be seen to be appreciated. (Go to 3:00)

#Bronx residents rallied on March 22 for Ramarley Graham, the unarmed 18-year-old shot and killed by an NYPD officer in February. Graham’s family said they will hold rallies and marches every Thursday for 18 weeks to demand justice.

#Outrage accompanied the news that Rekia Boyd, 22, an unarmed Chicago woman, was shot and killed by an off-duty detective.

#Five and a half years after four undercover officers shot and killed Sean Bell, an unarmed man of color who was celebrating his bachelor party, a department judge ruled that their actions were improper and they were forced to resign.

A blockade staged by hundreds of students at the Port of Montreal stopped truck traffic. Photo: Dave Sidaway

#Police misconduct is harder to prosecute in New York because a hiring freeze has prevented the NYPD from filling a key prosecutor post.

#Occupy UC Davis has permanently closed a campus branch of U.S. Bank after a two-month blockade.

#Occupy San Francisco is devoting blood, sweat and tears to the reoccupation of the Federal Reserve Bank sidewalk at 101 Market Street, the site from which they were evicted in the Fall.

#The largest student protest in a year of dissent began on March 22 with a blockade at the Port of Montreal, where an estimated 100,000 students stopped truck traffic. They’ve dubbed this chapter of the movement the “Maple Spring.”

#Some Occupy Wall Street protesters are still languishing in jail at Rikers Island. Also, OWS protesters who refuse to submit to optional iris scans are being illegally punished by judges.

#A white supremacist rally in Edmonton lasted only minutes when the demonstrators fled into a subway stairwell after they were greeted by over 100 anti-racist counter-protesters. Occupy Diversity.

#Occupy Chattanooga is calling for a federal investigation into its March 19 eviction by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, the 139 the day of the occupation of the Hamilton County Courthouse lawn.

After a tour of Ground Zero, these soldiers swung by Liberty Square. "War is bullshit," one of them said. "Everybody knows the thieves run the show." Photo: Jed Brandt

#San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos introduced a resolution calling for a moratorium on home foreclosures until state and federal measures protecting homeowners from unlawful practices are in place.

#The New York Daily News used the words “Liberty Square” and not Zuccotti Park in describing Occupy Wall Street‘s birthplace.

#To absolutely no one’s surprise, the Department of Homeland Security has been tracking the Occupy Movement since before the September 17 occupation of Liberty Square; Truthout has released all the DHS documents pertaining to the agency’s surveillance.

#Also not surprising: The NYPD hasn’t just been spying on Muslims, they’ve also been keeping a close eye on liberal groups under the aegis of counterterrorism. Occupiers have complained of police surveillance in the six months since the movement began.

#The California State Assembly approved a resolution urging Congress to amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling that has allowed unchecked special interests money to drown out the voices of voters.

Lower Manhattan, March 24. Photo: Erik McGregor

#Student loan debt has topped $1 trillion.

#The Justice Department has approved guidelines that allow the intelligence community to lengthen the period of time it retains information about U.S. residents, even if they have no known connection to terrorism.

#A former FBI agent admitted that infiltrating mosques and surveilling them is “all about entrapment.”

#Should Occupy change its name? Should it make more demands?

#The independent media that has sprung up around Occupy Movement shows no signs of slowing: Welcome, Occupy My Cat.

#Now that’s occupying: Niu Chuangen and Zhang Zhongyun from the Shandong Province of China refused money from a local property developer eager to rip down their house and turn their patch of land into condos. Four years later, they live on an island of dirt surrounded by high-rises, their electricity and water long ago cut off, but they have no plans to move.

#H.R. 347, the anti-protest bill, is worse than originally presumed – not that the Obama Administration will ever admit it.

#Over the past year 29 Tibetans, seven of them in the last three weeks, have burned themselves alive in protest against Chinese religious and cultural controls. Of those, 22 have died.

Liberty Square. Photo: Stacy Lanyon

#Occupy Your Workplace is working with employees of The Strand, a famous independent bookstore in the East Village, on their contract negotiations with management, which is rather disappointingly introducing a corporate-style environment.

#Occupy St. Louis is holding a candlelight vigil on April 3 “to stand in solidarity with occupiers who were brutally beaten on March 15, Trayvon Martin, and all victims of police violence and repression.”

#A national occupation of Washington, D.C. begins on March 30.

#The Department of Education in Washington D.C. will be #occupied starting March 30.

#According to Occupy Arrests, 6,837 people have been arrested since Occupy Wall Street began.

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