Steve Iskovitz, a friend and former Green-Rainbow Party candidate for Cambridge City Council, has started emailing his thoughts from the front lines of the Occupy movement. Since this blog has lain dormant for so long, I decided to lend it to him. I will post the backlog of messages about once a day and then start posting them as they come in. I am posting them uneditted. His words are his own. You can find all of his posts under the Occupy tag.
It's Saturday morning, things are actually quiet enough for me to sit and write. Here's what happened since my last, kind of frantic, message early Thursday afternoon.
I walked over to City Hall where I heard a rally was supposed to be held to demand Bloomberg's resignation. I just missed it, people had already left for Foley Square. On the way over I made another attempt to call someone here at the storage place, and by chance happened to catch him, and find out the space was open, so I turned around and came back here. Had I not reached him, I would have gone to Foley Square and then to the Brooklyn Bridge, and witnessed history, or gotten arrested, or beaten up.
You probably know better than me what happened there. I don't have video capabilities on this old computer. In any case, there were many, many people in Foley Square, and even more at the bridge, 5,000, I heard? Lots of pushing and shoving, hundreds of arrests throughout the day, I think. I was here helping restore the medical supplies shelf when one of the medics got a call that trouble was about to start, and we helped pack up bandages, etc. We were out of Maalox, which is used as an antidote to pepper spray. The shelf has thinned out considerably this week, since the police took the medical tent and all the supplies they had there.
Yes, for those who don't understand what this is about: the police confiscated and destroyed our medical supplies.
In an incident which got much more publicity than the medical supplies, the police also raided the library. It was quite a library. I found a number of really good books I don't usually see. (I'd taken out Matt Taibbi's Griftopia, the Battle of Seattle, and a Murray Bookchin book, all gone, since they were in my tent.) They had 4,000 books in the park. The police took them all the night of the raid. The library folks went to the Sanitation Department where all the confiscated items are stored, and recovered 1,000 of them, but many of them were in bad condition. All the periodicals, and tables to put stuff on, are gone. Their computers were smashed.
Interestingly, the day after the raid, they went back into the park and tried to set up a small version of the library. When it began to rain and they covered the books with plastic, the police said they weren't allowed to cover them, so they got wet and ruined. At another point they brought out some books and had them confiscated again.
I can vouch for the fact claim that the computers were destroyed. When I went to the Sanitation Dept to get my duffel bag back, I saw a few destroyed computers. They were actually bent in the middle, as if someone had tried to crush them. I found my bag and got some clothes back. The things in the pocket were pretty ruined, though. The lenses from my sunglasses had been popped out, and a container of powder had broken. I thought this could have been through carelessness, just the confusion of things being thrown into a pile. But someone else here got his backpack back, and a small computer tucked in the middle of it was smashed. He'd seled the pack with duct tape, which hadn't been open. The only explanation, then, was what we'd heard from others– that it had been run through a trash compactor. In retrospect, that must have happened to my bag too.
This information needs to be spread and understood. Anyone who believes the mayor had us kicked out of the park to protect the neighborhood or to protect our safety should understood that these stated reasons are simply lies. Bloomberg is trying to silence and destroy our movement. His troops attacked out headquarters, stole our supplies, and is doing what he can to see that we don't return. He has targeted high-profile organizers for arrest. It isn't just Bloomberg, of course. The crackdown on Occupy sites around the country has been co-ordinated on a federal level. This has been reported in the media.
I read an interesting editorial saying, essentially, that Bloomberg is helping our movement in the same way that George Wallace and others helped the civil rights movement, by attacking it in an ugly, clumsy, transparent manner and turning people who might otherwise not care into supporters.
This morning I actually took some time to read some newspapers. The NYT, as far as I could see, has absolutely nothing about us. The Daily News, which has been providing much more coverage, today has an incredible quote from Bloomberg. Says the Daily News:
The mayor, on his weekly radio show, defended his decision to evict the park protesters in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
"One of the surest signs we did the right thing is that nobody in the city, as far as I know, is calling for the return of the tarps, tents and encampment of Zuccotti Park, the mayor said.
"Now there are protesters that are probably calling for it. But I don't know of any elected officials who have stood up."
This statement is wrong in so many ways it's hard to know where to start. Nobody is calling for a return to the park? What? All kinds of people are, and what? Protesters aren't people? Only elected officials are? And even the last statement is wrong, since there was a city councilman arrested and beaten the other day. Presumably, he's calling for our return to the park. The statement demonstrates a total disconnect between Bloomberg and most of the city, an absurd level of arrogance, a cartoon character of the 1%.
I just overheard Zach from the library, with the big sideburns, who you might have seen photos of, across the room now, sorting through the mangled books. "You've got to love it when the books that are destroyed are really ironic." Like what, someone asks. "Peace in a World of Conflict… You can't get any better than destroying a book like 1984. It's almost like they did it on purpose because they thought it was funny."
Okay, as far as the movement in general, we were hit hard Monday night, and again on Thursday during the actions. This week has been spent on damage control. Most people, as far as I know, are still in jail. We're still scrambling to deal with housing for us. Four churches are putting people up. I've been staying in one on the upper west side. Kitchen has been sending meals to the churches, and we've been sending supplies.
The situation in the park is weird. There are metal police barricades around the whole thing, with one little area for entering and exiting. This morning I saw 20 or 30 people there, yesterday evening there were more. The police won't allow large things in, like pans of food, or shelves of books. Enforcement is arbitrary, keeps us off balance, and makes it, for the time being, impossible to build anything in the way of a movement there, which surely is the intention.
I can't imagine any possible legal ground for police policy in the park. What possible justification, how could the regulations be written? Lawyers are working on it now, but in the meantime, we can't do much. Aside from all the arguing and confusion over logistics, by people who haven't slept enough and have recently gotten out of jail or beaten up by police, people are generally positive about things. Everyone understands that Bloomberg and his police look awful now, in the eyes of most of the country. They made absolute fools of themselves, and despite media reports that "police clash with protesters," or of some reports of nearly equal numbers of injuries between police and protesters (???????), by media outlets which until recently refered to the mayor as "and advocate of free speech," most thinking people understand the truth. We stand for average people in the is country and against criminal banks and multi-billion dollar theft, and have been attacked for it, by a police force run by the 12th richest person in America.
We took some hits this week, but we'll be back. Just how, we haven't figrued out yet. In fact, last night we had the first meeting we've had since this happened. It took until then to even get the chance to get together and talk, and we'll need to talk a little more before we address some big questions: How much energy do we spend trying to take back the park and making it again our center? Do we look for another location? Or do we decentralize, with the idea that the park as a central location served the purpose of embedding the idea of our movement in the eyes of the country and the world, and is not needed any more. People have been talking about squats. Can we use squatted buildings as our new center, or centers? We've been thinking of Tahrir Square as a model, but every situation is different, this is not Egypt.
Riot police have been posted outside the storage space here. Building (teacher's union) security has been nervous, tightening up the rules some. I'd thought things would return to some sort of normal after the raid, but it looks like things have progressed to a new stage…It's funny, I always read these critiques of our movement, often by 60s left people and others often on our side, saying we need leaders to "emerge" from amongst us. They don't understand: Leaders are easier to target. Though we are officially leaderless, as in any collection of people, certain ones take on more responsibility and receive more attention than others. And this week, such people have been targeted for arrest. And doesn't anyone remember what happened to Martin Luther King, Fred Hampton, and others? Thanks for the advice, but we're going to do it this way.
I hear another argument brewing. It's been quiet for almost an hour! Til next time,