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.
The big news around here the last week is that our camp is being flooded with mentally ill, homeless, alcoholic and drug addicted people from around the city. I’ve heard several rumors: that the police take people from Riker’s Island and deliver them here, that when police find drunk people in other parks they take or send them here, and that word is simply getting around among the city’s homeless that we have free living space, free food and free clothes. I can’t speak to the method by which these people are arriving, only that they are. Perhaps if any of the city’s army of journalists, who now busy themselves examining our operation with a magnifying glass, plastering their front pages with headlines about inequities between Occupy Wall Street and other occupations around the country, or details about controversies in our kitchen, and spend a minute or two investigating these rumors about how and why all these troubled people in need of care are showing up at our doorstep, that might be nice!
I’m only on the receiving end. Just this morning, a woman in front of me dumped a cup of soy milk onto the ground in the serving line. I decided to keep an eye on her, and a minute later she pulled a tarp off someone’s tent while it was still raining. I managed to get the tarp back from her and alert someone that she needs to be watched constantly. This is the kind of work I did back in Boston, and it’s really not that hard. Just hang around with someone all day and keep your eye on them, talk with them, divert them when they’re about to mess things up. I didn’t mind doing it back then, when I had nothing else to do, and it was my recognized responsibility. But we’re all busy with other things, and this type of thing is becoming an ever-increasing burden on our operation. As you can imagine, many of us have stories similar to mine, some much more difficult, like dealing with irate crackhead guys, etc.
People who are almost certainly paid police provocateurs have also shown up. Last week we had a family day and night, when families with young kids actually camped here. A corner of the park was taped off and provided extra security. It happened to be near a huge artistic sort of sculpture structure at the corner at Broadway. A really crazy guy came around the structure in the middle of the night. I heard (rumor) that some protesters actually alerted the cops to his presence and the police did nothing. Then (and this part is pretty much established fact) the dude climbed up to the top of it and began yelling. Quickly the police evacuated the area around the structure, supposedly to guarantee the safety of the people below, who just happened to be the families with kids. By 5 a.m., I’m told, mostly all the families were gone. So much for family night. The crazy guy in question had never been seen before and has never been seen since. There are other stories of supposed provocateurs showing up. So far we’ve handled them all pretty well, with few incidents.
But how long can we sustain this? As our movement has begun making progress, it has been saddled with this tremendous burden. As a counter-move, the kitchen has decided to shut down for three days. The plan is to see to it that food gets to the working groups get food. I think this is a brilliant response. Each working group recognizes and appreciates its own members. This plan would “dry up” the supply of free things to non-productive people in the park. Maybe they’ll go elsewhere, word will get out that it’s no longer a free party here. No doubt there will be problems with this plan, some arguments about who gets how much, logistical problems, etc., but something absolutely needs to be done, or all our resources, including our own sanity, will be drained.
It’s interesting to step back and look at it philosophically: One thing (among many) we’re protesting is the fact that the society, including the city here, is not taking care of its needy. So in response, that very system sics its own needy, its own troubled people, examples of its own failure, upon us in order to defend itself against us! It’s not hard to see the similarity between this and the military, for instance. Instead of taking care of its own poor, we invade other countries. But how do we staff the army of invaders? With those very same poor people. We don’t educate people properly, and thus have an ample supply of uneducated people who don’t know what they’re getting into when they join up! In this way they system can use its own failures to perpetuate its own existence.
Well, we’ll see how this new plan works out.
Elsewhere, Oakland, which can barely afford its own police, pooled police from all around central California to perform a military-style invasion against Occupy Oakland. They don’t mess around in Oakland! I haven’t seen the videos yet, but here they are, and remember, as they say, “This is what democracy looks like.”
Occupy Atlanta was also busted, with many arrests, though it was all reported to have been very civil.
The mayor of Albany and Governor Cuomo ordered Albany police and New York state troopers to move in and shut down and arrest Occupy Albany, but guess what? The police and troopers REFUSED ! Occupy Albany is still there. This is the most hopeful news of all, and is a bit like what happened eventually in Tunisia, I think, and Egypt, though in that case it was the army who turned. Someone told me just today that when police drive by Occupy Buffalo, they either give them the thumbs up, honk their horns, run their sirens, or bring them coffee. Similar report from Cleveland.
Last night there was a march around town in support of Oakland. It was loud and spiritied and sounded like a lot of fun. I was too exhausted to join it (went to sleep early and slept good and long) but I heard it went off without incident…So, good and bad news coming in from all around, hard to summarize, even harder to predict what’s coming. Well, I’ll end with one last comment: I doubt they’ll try here what they did in Oakland, but if they do, they certainly won’t hear the end of it. We have a lot of support all around the city.
(Any or all of this report can be forwarded, attributed or not.)