“Direct Reaction at Gezi Gardens” June 14th, 2013

The tension, coupled with exhaustion, was visible as we walked up to Patricia’s Green in San Francisco. A call had been put out for the community convergence and by 6 o’clock the park was drawing a small crowd. People trickled in and milled about, sharing some grub and stories from the raid. Some couldn’t help glancing around at the surrounding streets. After the raid, some were left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Several were sore and clearly shaken.

Despite the bulldozing of carefully planted crops and the trash compacting of our kitchen (among other belongings), there was a sense of hope in salvaging this fight. Whether a hummingbird or a crow’s eggs will stop more construction permanently is yet to be seen. For now, we face the army guarding the torn up garden beds. Those that scanned the streets had reason to keep an eye out. Cop cars circled around every couple minutes, round and round, staring us down. This crowd is refugees of yet another eviction. But still we find the energy to gather again and discuss the next move.



Video streaming by Ustream

At first the plans were loose-a march, then a possible direct action. After a quick circle of thought and ideas the march springs to life, quickly rushing to the street. The smell of sage is thick in the air and I am reminded of a time where true native ancestors fought to the death to defend Mother Earth. Now, we live in a time where not even a city block of green land is worth protecting. (At least this seems to be the typical developer’s stance) The careless corporations and contracted companies are not the only ones turning a blind eye. It appears San Francisco has lost its’ roots in more ways than one.

The pockets of public, green space, along with California appear to be dwindling. There are groups all over trying to fight every cause on their own. Our numbers are not what they should be, considering the countless reasons for us all to be pissed. The truth is, people stopped paying attention. Some seem to just ignore the urgency. Whether or not by choice, these silent voices consent to what just a few decide. These hills have been over-developed right under our noses for cushy condos and the machine is far from finished. It’s this complacency, paired with the demanding daily grind (and sprinkled with media distractions) that have worked well to cast a spell over the city.

They hustle about in their cars, often losing patience with our march, which took intersections at random. A symphony of honking broke out with our stops. Some passers by were on their phones, completely oblivious to our presence. From the windows above, figures peered down at us. I always wonder what it must look like from up there, as a tidal wave of angry, emotionally determined young and old come sweeping by. What do they feel when the streets echo with the sound of hoarse voices hollering, “HEY HEY! HO HO! GET OFF OUR FARM AND LET IT GROW!”?

The march had a few stand-offs with the police, which numbered at least 100 to our 75. (Roughly) We met them at the line of black & yellow tape.There were riot cops, motorbike cops and “casual Friday” cops. (Oh my!) We both had somewhat of a motley crew I guess. We took to the streets and circled round to the back-end of the farm; one made it into Gezi Gardens and pranced around the corner of pavement. A team of cops rushed at us from within the farm, running up the hill like a pack of fire ants. When they got to the bottom they tackled him, igniting the already charged energy of the crowd. There was another arrest I didn’t see, but I also witnessed the cops try to grab a phone from one activist on the sidewalk, which drew many in the crowd like moths to a flame.

We ended the day back at Patricia’s Green and finally rested. Then the megaphone was passed around. One after another people shared a beautiful piece of themselves to us all and forgot, maybe even for just a moment, that the police state wasn’t looming just across the street. Here, in this moment, it was just us and the refugee trees, us and the birds and the sky above.

Solidarity Forever,
Lauren

PS: CaCaaawww S.F.P.D.! Cacaaawww!

“Another Tree Falls… Is America Listening?”

In another life, Gezi Gardens was just another on-ramp for a San Francisco highway. An earthquake caused it to collapse, leaving a road to nowhere. The trees at its’ base survived the devastating quake. They stood for years, like proud veterans, preserved among the perennials at the Hayes Valley Farms. Since June 1st,
Liberate the Land activists and the broader community have been successfully transforming and holding the space in an effort to save these trees and the surrounding fertile ground.

At 1:30am this morning, a raid of Gezi Gardens was executed. With only a 2 minute warning, 100+ riot cops entered from the back end of the farm and evicted everyone inside. Now, as I write hours later, reports have come in that some of these elder trees have fallen. The cutters and bulldozers came four days earlier than scheduled and began leveling the ground within a few hours of the raid, while an aggressive police line guarded the empty farm.

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Construction, though, has temporarily halted as new evidence of a protected bird emerges. The Allen hummingbird, a rare creature protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (16 U.S.C. 703), has been discovered nesting in Gezi Gardens.The report and photographs of its’ existence were provided by a consultant biologist, (who was hired by the development company) who was brought in to do an adhoc survey of the bird’s nesting sites. However, some independent experts are arguing that such a proper survey could not have been performed that quickly. This discovery, if confirmed, could lead to permanent preservation of the land as a wildlife habitat and a game-changer for the developers still hoping for condos. It is a glimmer of hope for Liberate The Land after the violent and sleepless night before.

THE RAID

According to witness testimonies, at 1:45am people were woken up by alarms , signaling that the space was being raided. Some were woken up by the riot cops themselves, batons drawn. The warning and subsequent threat of arrest for trespassing was announced via megaphone by the riot police.

Then they began their sweep, hurrying and threatening people as they packed and gathered their things. People were escorted out the gate, in a single-file order, with each person escorted by a cop and kept 10 feet apart from the next. The evicted were taken two blocks away and continued to be harassed there as they regrouped.

Realizing the tree-sitters, 3 in total, were still hanging on without any support, the group circled back to Gezi Gardens and witnessed and documented their evictions. When they got to the corner of Laguna and Fell street, two arrests occurred at ground level in the park. Over the course of a few hours, three more randomly selected arrests were made on the sidewalk. Cherry pickers also arrived to pluck the tree-sitters. Two were removed peacefully, but one of them was released from jail with a fresh black eye, reportedly from the knuckle guard gloves of an officer, the equivalent of brass knuckles. The third sitter, hanging from his safety rope, appeared to suddenly fall 40 feet out of the tree. We can’t be sure what happened until the sitter is released from the hospital and police custody to tell their story. The officer involved in the incident claims that the individual “jumped to escape arrest.” However, video footage taken by an on-site livestreamer tells a different story. (Video Link Below via @CarrieM)

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It’s being reported the sitter sustained only minor injuries after landing on foam padding that, luckily, had been laid down by the police.

Simultaneously across town in the Visitacion Valley area of San Francisco, a double-homicide was committed. The shooting received NO police response. Apparently all available officers had been deployed to the corner of Laguna and Fell and were too busy evicting peaceful protestors.

In total there were 8 arrests, 2 of which required hospitalizations from the raid. Throughout the day several additional arrests have been made in the Gezi Garden area, which was shut down for the construction.

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Via Brettzilla

Gezi Gardens inspired both creativity and solidarity, just as its’ name was inspired by the brave people of Turkey. Dozens of people contributed their time and resources to this space. Within a week 8 tree sits had been constructed. A fully functioning kitchen provided a daily buffet. Visitors were greeted by an info table and folks eager to chat. Bands had come to perform. Skilled individuals had come to teach. And the best part? A future organic food source had been planted everywhere. All we wanted was to protect a place meant for all of us, a public square where organic food could be free and abundant. We envisioned a place for music, art and gardening to harmoniously collide with the walks of life that entered. Gezi Gardens is the first of three permaculture spaces in the area to be partially destroyed this year….so far. Now the question remains-

Will the community fight for Gezi Gardens or will it let the last veteran tree fall?

“Git”

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Where ever President Obama goes, cries of dissent are sure to follow. The last five years of Obama’s two terms have given us plenty of reasons to hoot and holler. In the well kept, upscale area of Palo Alto, protests are probably not a common site. On the corner of Middlefield street a friendly crowd slowly forms along the sidewalk. It steadily grows and is fairly mixed. There are grey beards, walkers and strollers, and women of all ages. At one point a photographer comments,
“you are the most interesting people here” as he takes a picture of us. We do stand out a bit I guess, kind of like a radical sore thumb on the manicured hand of suburbia.

Yesterday’s demonstration was a collaborative effort between the trifecta of environmentalist NGO’s. ( 350.org, the Sierra Club, and Credo) Code Pink and the west coast faction of the Raging Grannies were also there. We marched to our destination; a quiet, tree-lined block congested with shades of police and security. A line of valets in tuxedos await Obama’s arrival, “they look like penguins, maybe CNN Turkey is here,” Jak comments. The house being guarded is the McCluere’s residence; the host for the fancy fundraiser on Obama’s behalf. Their house is out of view and unfortunately so is the President as he slips in through another side street. The standoff continued though, with the hope of catching him on his way out.

The crowd that has gathered behind (and in front) of the barricades is a sea of blue and red, pressed against a homemade pipeline, carried by volunteers in white hazmat suits. There is plenty of time to stand around (especially since the president was late to begin with) so the crowd entertains itself. The Raging Grannies sing, a marching band plays, and the enthusiastic chants I first heard in D.C erupt. “Hey Obama we don’t need no pipeline drama!” is a crowd favorite. Echoing over us as a few “friendly” cops pass out sticker badges to children. It feels more like a block party at times than a protest.

I am reminded of that climate rally where the same premature celebratory energy made me uneasy. We have serious issues, urgent issues affecting all of us. At this point I find it hard to cheer and chant, while waiting for a glimpse of a man who has already decided our environmental fate. When it comes to the Keystone XL, which is still waiting for final review of studies conducted on its’ environmental impact, Obama can decide whenever he wants. He will probably wait until late fall to make it public though. At least that is the update from a Sierra Club volunteer, a well educated older man who speaks of our fifteen-year end game scenario. By 2028 the global carbon footprint is expected to reach 450 ppm, a point of no return for the planet. This is the kind of statistic that makes it hard for me to celebrate.

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My favorite part of the day was the Turkish solidarity. We meet Earehen Kirimli, originally from Istanbul, who has lived with his family in the US for six years. He, along with at least a dozen others, bring the story of Turkey to the forefront and to life. The images, glossy, blown up photos of the violence, say it all. There is one of a young women, arms outstretched, while a water cannon blasts down on her. Another shows a bloodied-faced reporter, possibly the photographer of the now famous “Women In The Red Dress” photo. If the pictures don’t do it for you, Earehen and the others are more than eager to show, in detail all of the news they know. It is better than keeping up with the twitter feed, and now we have faces and voice to connect us to this story of brutality and resilience of a people just beginning to wake and rise up.

In Solidarity Forever,

Lauren

http://www.resistturkey.org
People of Turkey are fighting for their freedom of speech. Please give them a hand by visiting this URL and sharing it with your friends. International awareness is the only way to pressure the Turkish government to stop the police violence.

“Gezi Gardens” -San Francisco

Traffic is hurrying by on all sides of me. Within the fences, though, there is a very different hustle.

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It is now day 4 of the direct action that successfully liberated what is now known as “Gezi Gardens”. This precious permaculture farm is still (technically) slated for demolition June 17th to make way for “affordable” housing and “luxury” condos and by affordable they mean if you make less than $60,000 a year.

The space has been given a second chance, an alternative to its’ fate of concrete and glass. Now, just a few days in, the place resembles an ant hill. There is synchronistic, autonomous work happening everywhere. In the tree canopies there are already platforms and a banner that reads: “SF COMMUNE”.

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The platforms are our crows nests three already perched high above the ant hill. Back on the ground a yurt is going up beneath them. On the hill side is now an urban oasis of new growth. There is a kitchen and a free store. Dogs and children play in the dirt. And all the while I am reminded of Istanbul and the unrest that continues to burn. We all love and need the trees.

Here in this space, for now, we are free to explore, free to plant, free to cook, to nap, to build. But around the world, in turkey, people are being arrested for using facebook and twitter and being charged with terrorism for providing people with escape routes from clashes, locations of medical supplies and food. The country is performing a general strike to fight back, and over a quarter of a million workers have joined. Now the uprising is happening over 67 cities. People are fighting and losing their lives to have spaces like this. Beautiful parks, dams, streams, rivers, mountains, and trees are being destroyed because of peak industry greed.

Our farms and gardens are being sacrificed for the privileged, our resources gambled to feed the money machine and it is all being decided without the consent of the community it affects. Often it is the community that has contributed to this space. And they are just another target.

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Tonight neighbors and activists are meeting and discussing where we go from here. How do we successfully hold this space? What is our long term strategy for preserving and protecting these sacred spaces? There are options, like raising enough money to negotiate a buy back with the city from the developer. There is direct action, which has peacefully worked so far, to occupy and physically remain present in the soil and engaged with this quiet neighborhood.

Infrastructure is forming organically and neighbors have great ideas. There are all sorts of things to consider, from legalities to logistics. All options are useful, and with some sincere outreach this week we can have our second saturday as a brave introduction to what is truly possible and worth saving in this space. If the community rallies with us, we can affectively argue
the importance of preserving the commons. We may even be able to overcome the money machine in favor of fertile earth’s abundance. That, in the spirit of no commerce, would be priceless.

There is no state

Uprising is inevitable

All we need is each other

Reach out lean in

In solidarity with Turkey,

Lauren

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“The Gezi Spark”

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“We will make flowers with your bombs” via Occupy Gezi

I saw an image of a young man in Taksim Square, playing an accordion. In a Guy Fawkes mask. With a surreal mix of fire and smoke behind him. Among the tweeted images of blood and tear gas, this one appears and I am taken aback by the haunting artistry of it. There has begun, in Turkey, a paradigm shift. The parallels between Istanbul and cities across America are there, although not as escalated as the situation has reached in Turkey. What started as an attempt to save a small patch of green space from demolition in an already gray and practically treeless Istanbul has grown into a full-scale rebellion, a Turkish Spring.

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via Occupy Gezi

It began in Gezi Park , a lone survivor in a city overdeveloped and dense with people. It’s been decided by Prime Minister Recep Erdogan that this park, along with the Central Taksim area, will be re-developed into a shopping mall, featuring Ottoman-style architecture and a ‘tribute’ to history with a replica of an old military barracks. Gezi Park begs the question, “Why? Why is it more important to build another mall than it is to preserve a single free space for the public?”

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via Occupy Gezi

Within days of the initial encampment to save Gezi Park the police intervened, subjecting peaceful activists to a slew of typical tactics. The brutal evictions, under the cover of darkness right before dawn, included fire hoses, merciless batons, pepper spray and tear gas. Lots of tear gas. The police blocked exits, blocked out media and set fire to tents while people slept. At least 2 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds more injured. As of now there seems no end to the excessiveness of the police force. (Unless the cops run out of teargas perhaps, all made in the USA by the way)

As the heart-wrenching images began to pour out of Istanbul, a collective, reactive outrage began to erupt. Thousands of people stirred, heeding the call for solidarity. Beyond ages and classes people took to the streets to air their grievances with the government and their enforcers, the out-of-control cops. (The military has even helped aid the uprising by giving out protective wear, but otherwise people have resourcefully fashioned their own gas masks for protection )

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Gezi Park has become a stage for the socio-economic and environmental tension finally breaking loose. It’s a stand-off between the people and industry, the preservation of the commons and the excavators that have come to plow it. This redevelopment project appears to be the final straw for a country where the economy is stalling and, after a 10-year run, has a leader becoming more authoritarian by the day. It seems Erdogan is not as popular as he may have thought; so we watch him, from thousands of miles away, while he greatly underestimates the level of dissent among the people. (and the incredible potential for it to change things) This symbolic blow to his ego has had a rippling effect, spawning solidarity demonstrations far beyond Turkey’s borders. From New York to San Francisco, demonstrations painted red took to the streets to show support for a struggle we can relate to.

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From Turkey to the Bay; Solidarity Beyond Barricades

Jak and I joined a crowd here in San Francisco and marched through the streets with them on June first. A stunningly beautiful women carried the Turkish flag over her back. A megaphone carried by another woman led our voices. The breeze carried that white moon and star like a sail, gliding over the pavement with chants I could only feel. It was a quiet march otherwise. In fact, the entire day so far had been quiet. We had toured the Free Farm earlier, an amazing community garden space that has been providing free produce to the local community every Sunday. It’s one of three permaculture farms slated to be demolished and leveled for housing developments this year. So, in honor of this global struggle for the commons, we walked against the grain in solidarity with the fight for Gezi Park. “Liberate the Land From Turkey to the Bay” was our battle cry in a war to reclaim and restore sacred spaces. It was a mission to take back a space for this city, a distant cousin to Istanbul, where gardens are being sacrificed for more and more condos.

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Along the march we carried pitchforks, shovels, seedlings and baby trees. It didn’t take long to reach our destination-a city block of trees and piles of dirt where demolition had begun. As we came to the corner of Laguna and Fell we entered from a gate on one side. The borders are lined with barbed wire perched on fences, but within the walls is a precious plot of earth. This is the remains of Hayes Farms, an abundant educational landscape where the public could come to engage with permaculture farming techniques. Unfortunately it was sold to a real estate developer who has “big plans”for the space. As of June first it’s on track to become condominiums.

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But the local activist community has come together to change that fate. The march morphed into a direct action to #LiberateTheLand, a grassroots movement to transform the farm into an eco-village; a display of what is not only possible, but real all over the world. That is where the parallel lies, and together we weeded, planted, tilled and watered the neglected land. A lot of the greenery is still alive, and within a few hours the space is breathing new promise again. I have a renewed sense of hope in this space. There is a feeling of strength, determination and quiet rage. We mingle and explore the land, scaling a cliff of ivy and trees of eucalyptus, reaching a small summit; a dusty plateau overlooking the bustling city. Squash vines cascade off one side and I am instantly reminded of what is truly important…

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Liberation. Liberation of the earth, the commons, and the people. Music, art and dance deserve a free space to thrive. We are a starved people, trapped in a system designed to deprive us. . .but in these small spaces around the world, children of this earth are crying out to us. When you take a step back from the grind, turn off the TV and step into the streets, you just may hear that desperate call for truth and justice.

In Solidarity Forever,

Lauren

A Brief About Bradley Manning

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A group of women, clad in a bright orange, are setting up tables in a crowded patch of Hallidie Plaza. It’s our first day in San Francisco and the weather is unusually warm and sunny. The table display motif is simple-orange and black to reflect prisoner garb in Guantanamo Bay and literature to remind the public of what is really happening there. The backdrop is a dramatic silhouette of a figure, a faceless prisoner begging us not to let them die.

The current reality at this illegal facility remains the same-political prisoners, from various parts of the world, are being tortured. ( Maybe they are the ones that didn’t make President Obama’s kill list) It’s because the terrorism thing, for the most part, is a fabrication, and in search for a phantom enemy we have kidnapped hundreds of people. Despite being cleared for release some still remain imprisoned. Those that bravely and desperately hunger strike are force-fed through nasal tubes. And, although it seems a distant memory that President Obama promised to close the prison if elected, investments in additional construction to the facility tell a different story. But even if we pardoned this stinging reality for a moment, we are reminded of the thorn in the government’s side -Bradley Manning.

The frozen, grainy image of Manning in uniform has become an iconic image immortalized on T-shirts, banners, buttons and stickers world wide. By last year Manning had become a household name. (at least in the countless activist circles) But this year, as the months dragged on and we approached the 3 year mark of Manning’s imprisonment, it appears a few more people woke up. (or started paying attention)

There are “celebrities” for instance in the “I Am Bradley Manning” campaign. The home page features some familiar faces, somberly clasping signs to their chest. The site encourages the public to do the same, and hundreds of photos displaying similar words of solidarity have been submitted.

There’s Amy Goodman, among other noted journalists, who filed a lawsuit to the Criminal Court of Appeals, demanding that Judge Denise Lind (the judge for Manning’s trial) release pre-trial documents that have been kept from the public.

Today the issue is definitely escalating as we all await Manning’s trial at Fort Meade:
http://rt.com/usa/bradley-manning-protest-support-117/
RT will be covering the trial, which as of now is partially open to the public. Unless the subject matter is “classified” of course.

Now for the million-dollar question: can the prosecution prove Manning did in fact “aid the enemy?” If the enemy is us, then yes, the millions around the world who saw the truth for the first time about our nation’s last decade of illegal wars have been aided. Even though this may be a Kangaroo Court for Manning (even without the military jury), it’s worth watching. The verdict is a potential life sentence for journalists, whistleblowers, streamers and dreamers everywhere that attempt to disseminate information, through WikiLeaks or other means, separately from the alphabet soup of mass media sell-outs.

Because I know the precedent has already been set, Manning’s trial will most likely be a confirmation of what we already know to be true; we are simply not allowed to know the truth nor speak it. The question is to what end will the state go to keep us in the dark. Maybe this 3 year tortuous build to that overdue conclusion will aid the continuation of a wake-up call so desperately needed.

In Solidarity Forever,

Lauren

Monsanto: Poisoning our planet for over 100 years

“And the streams are so polluted/that the banks are blank and bare/and the baby’s all are born deformed/and the smoke is everywhere”-Desert Rat-Seattle Riots Teargas Song

Since its foundation in 1901 Monsanto has been poisoning the planet. A just a handful of highlights of their horrid history of destruction: during WWII Monsanto was involved with the development of the atomic bomb; producer of Agent Orange; in 1995, Monsanto ranked fifth among U.S. corporations in EPA’s Toxic Release having discharged 37 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air, land, water and underground, in the 1970’s they began producing the herbicide RoundUp marketd as “safe, general purpose herbicide for widespread commercial and consumer use, key ingredient-glyphosate, is known for human toxicity” and to go along with it, most crops today are “RoundUp ready” GMOs to further the sales of the chemical;they have ruined indigenous cultures and livelihoods throughout the global south …the list of injustices they have caused humanity goes on and on and on…

The food system of the entire world is controlled by a corporation that is completely intertwined with the government. They are one in the same, protecting each others interests, and allowing atrocities to occur over and over and over again. The empire has poisoned all that is necessary for survival-the air, the water, and the food. Not only have they poisoned it, they will not allow the return to what is pure and nourishes the body and the soul.

It is naïve to think that they are not poisoning each and every being on this planet to aid in their effort to brainwash us and slowly kill us off as they continue to pull the wool over our eyes and cover their hands in blood. There is no way to escape the fate coming down at the hands of the monsters,like Monsanto. They have patented the extermination of people, animals, the environment, culture, tradition, and way of life.

We have come to the point where there is no choice but to fight. We have targeted fights, like the fight against Monsanto but it is more than that. It is a fight for life- for the liberation of all dwellers of the earth and future of the planet.

I am indignant and wounded by the course we have taken, ensuing from a system that disregards all beings that inhabit the earth, disdaining anything that doesn’t enhance their power and wealth.

Our food is poison, our water is poison, and our air is poison. Our sisters and brothers throughout the world are tortured and murdered, every last resource exhausted. There is no way to escape it, it was formulated and no accident.

We must continue in the struggle to overturn the fraudulent and the corrupt, not only by smashing the existing state of affairs, ingrained history and way of life we despise, but by constructing liveable alternatives.

For now we live off the waste of this system, learning that every movement we make is an act of rebellion against war mongers and thieves.

“Radikal Road Trippin” -Northwest 2013

Brave pines cling to the side of her. She is exposed; indifferent, defiant, frozen in time. I was nine years old the first time I saw them from an airplane San Francisco bound. Since then it’s been been just a fond memory. Here, a mile up, Walter glides through the canyon, with every curve another surprise, another breath stolen. Its simple existence is beauty, majestic in its seemingly loose and random form. It’s surely not, for every grain, blade and needle of this forest has a name, a purpose and a story. (I suspect a consciousness as well) This road trip is only a few days in, but already I sense it is worth chronicling, so I will write along the road. Our first few days have already given birth to inside jokes, mostly from priceless moments so bizarre and unexpected the laughter that erupted lingered long after. Now, all it takes is that word, or that special phrase and that laughter can be called upon to lift us higher, keep us moving on down the line.

The road is just a road. Travel in good company, the road becomes your portal to freed experience. Get together and go!

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DAY 1: Pittsburgh, TX-Oklahoma City, OK May 19th, 2013

The drive out of Texas was easy and slightly more familiar since Jak’s drama with TransCanada. We managed to drive straight through tornado alley, which was about to reinforce its’ name. We slip through a break in the clouds, avoiding the terrible string of storms dumping rain around us. At the rest stops we caught bits and pieces of the news-“…flattened homes, buildings, …” “…more severe weather tomorrow…” Locals urged us not to stick around past the morning, warning that it was going to get a lot worse. We make it into Oklahoma City and settled in at the good ‘ol KOA (they are all over the country, affordable and simple, but I still prefer guerrilla camping for free) and I helped Walter set up his tent. (He’s still a little domesticated compared to what Jak and I are used to, but we’re workin’ on bringing out his primitive side)

DAY 2: Oklahoma City, OK-Boulder, CO May 20th, 2013

If we had left on our original schedule (a day later than we did) we would have smacked right into the nasty F 4 tornado that ripped through miles of land. With every rest stop we collected the story; whole communities had been flattened, children were missing and many more feared dead. We had no time to turn around if we wanted to make it to Seattle and our obligations there and beyond. I wanted to turn around, wanted to drop everything to go back. I was torn as I watched clips of the arial footage from another gas station TV. Jak and I hadn’t made many commitments thus far but this time we had. We were unprepared to jump off the Walter ship and chase storms. I was comforted at least knowing people would heed the call to come and help. (and they did-thank you to ALL who aided in the relief efforts!) A natural disaster wouldn’t have a media blackout so at the least the area would get lots of attention. And, sadly, this won’t be the last natural disaster the US faces this year.

We pass Denver and arrive in Boulder with daylight to spare. The ride wasn’t that bad-the plains of Kansas go on forever but are intermingled with pretty hilltops and dynamic cloud patterns. When we get into Boulder I notice the fashion. It’s anarcho-hippie chic; part hipster, part bohemian. WEED is LEGAL here, and throughout the town are dispensaries with the signature green cross. The local “village voice” style paper dedicates 3 full pages (in the back, but still!) to gorgeous ads for fancy strains, pipes, vaporizers, locations and discount “medical coverage.” Jak is in heaven. I’m relieved we made it-now we can chill a bit, have a stress-free smoke and *adjust to our new, much less oppressive surroundings.

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We are staying with an ally we know from the wonderful world of the internet. We pull up to a cluttered front yard in an area highly concentrated with college kids. People are lounging on the front porch when our host greets us at the front gate. They are laid-back and a little quiet at first. The other housemates are on the same “chill” level and friendly. We all mingle from the porch, through to the kitchen and back again. “Fight Club” ( 90’s relic on VHS) is on the TV. That provides the background noise through the last of the daylight. More roommates and friends arrive, crowding the crash pad with new names and conversations. Other than one crazy incident with an “”uninvited guest”, he night is relaxed with back-and-forth reflections on our crazy society. But I guess you’re wondering about the uninvited guest, so I’ll just tell you a little about that “”tornado” that ambushed us in the living room.

A tall red-head walked in at some point and quickly commanded the attention of the room. She was aggressive at times, then sweet. “I wanna meet all of your friends!” she declared. There’s a sudden awkwardness. No one in the room knows who shes talking to. Who is this girl? There are brief moments of clarity for her, (she introduced herself to me with a glossy pro photo of herself as a blonde. kinda weird.) but every time she started with a “I need more friends here” ,it ended with an out-of-place “fuck you!” One of the roommates tells me she’s manic and irrational sometimes. She’s also been drinking. That makes sense as I observe her, unsteady, targeting people one at a time, seeking some sort of validation. She’s an aspiring model, bitter about getting older and carrying a chip looking on her shoulder from LA. Now she’s looking for attention in all the wrong places. After a while everyone has fled the house (including Jak, who ran out as soon as this girl started hitting on him) except Walter and I, now left alone at the mercy of this unstoppable force. Walter has been sitting in a chair this whole time, clearly amused. The red head pounces and starts giving Walter a lap dance. That’s my cue to leave. I am speechless and embarrassed for her as I walk to join the refugees on the porch.

Long story short, and after some obnoxious protesting on her part, the poor gal was finally carried out of the house on someones shoulder and banished back to her car across the street where she eventually passed out.

I should thank her though, because that incident served as the comical ice-breaker for this house of strangers. We laughed and the room heaved and sighed with the energetic exchange. Our first encounter with the beautiful, intellectual souls of Colorado sells the place to me. It is the first on my list of potential places to “settle down” someday. Jak and I retire to our tent pitched in the backyard. I drift off to sleep, my mind re-playing the day’s drive in dream form. Tomorrow, dreamer, we begin again…

DAY 3: Boulder, CO – May 21st, 2013

We awoke and got moving. We packed up, said some good-byes and left for breakfast. We ate at “The Village,” a local pot that has a fun policy-if you’re a first-timer you are outed to the restaurant as a “village virgin,” followed by applause. We, although virgins here, avoid the attention and enjoy our meal in peace;classic diner-style eggs, hash browns and, to my surprise, gluten free toast for no extra charge.

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With full, happy bellies we head out to explore and cover some ground. We walked the baseline of the flat irons; distinct rock formations protruding from this first leg of the mountain range. We briefly walked through a popular shopping/dining hangout called “the hill,” then drove up the mountain to walk some more. At the top was flagstaff and a great view of the long distances we had travelled the day before. Denver was clearly visible and far of to the horizon were the wind-rippled edges of farms and fields back to Kansas.

We enjoyed a cliff-side toke at over 6,000 feet. Walter sorta participated. It had been a while since he had smoked, but he had plenty of stories to tell from when he did. Jak is in heaven again-the satisfaction of enjoying a stress-free spliff on the side of a mountain is, to him, just the way it should be. (That feeling doesn’t get old and I would suspect it gets a new lease again in Washington and California, the only other legalized states in the continental US) Oh america, why can’t we get the rest of you folks on board?

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Back down on the ground we meet up with Jeff, a friend of Jak’s from New York. He’s a New Yorker now, but he’s originally from Colorado and just happened to be visiting the same week we were. He’s also an occupier, so there’s already a strong common thread. He greets us warmly, giving off that laid-back vibe shared by so many here. We have been invited to stay the night at his parents’ cabin, a gem tucked deep in the mountains, hand-built years ago by Jeff’s grandfather.

Jeff leads us out of Boulder, along the range and into the countryside. Walker and I follow Jeff and Jak into a canyon and slowing ascend into magnificent forest with gloriously naked peaks that reach for the sky. I am thrilled to not e driving for this portion. My full attention is consumed by this glacier-carved canyon, covered in wooded abundance and soaring cliff sides. We finally pull in to the cabin, an adorable property right alongside a rushing stream.

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Before we get too settled Jeff invites us to some fun in the mountains. Still full of energy I climb into the back end of a bright yellow four-wheeler. Jak is in the driver’s seat, Walter’s by his side. I might as well be cargo as I hang on to the bars on the roof, balancing like a snowboarder down the highway and off-road into the trails. The trail was a mini-canyon of its own, an obstacle-course full of sharp boulders, gullies, lakes and clinging trees. Jak got used to it quick and got more gutsy, leaping over moguls, dodging trees and scaling cliffs. The wheeler bucked and kicked over ditches, forcing a shrill scream from my lungs with every lift-off from the earthen ramps. I was in flying in adrenaline heaven when I noticed something wrong. Jak had stuck to the trail the whole time, but now he veered dangerously close to trees and rocks on the left side. Jak can tell and stops. The steering is…broken. Damn. We lost a crucial nut to a screw somewhere back there. That’s the end of the fun with the four wheeler, leaving us with a good 5 minutes of memory and lingering heart beats to bask in.

While we wait for Jeff (now our rescuer with the pick-up truck) we hike up the side of the trail and take in the views again. I don’t think i could ever get sick of this skyline-I daydreamed of every skyscraper in the world as a mountain again, or a hill, a bubbling creek…we took a few pics and then Jeff was back. We leave with the wheeler pieced together enough to get us back home.

Back at the house we crack a few beers, make dinner and chat the night away. The smoke swirled around our breath as another bowl pack passed my hand. Walter takes a puff too, (for real this time) breaking decades of dormant pot use. He giggles and relaxes. Walter s a pleasure to be around. Plain and simple. But get him a little stoned and he will leave you gasping for air from all the laughter. He swaps all sorts of stories; funny war stories, road adventures/debacles, times in jail and his philosophies. The stories are told with a passionate energy that only a New Yorker like Walter has the stamina to deliver again and again. It’s a careful balance of wit and wisdom; sarcasm and honest compassion. I have loved this man from the start, but this trip has allowed me to see him day to day, beyond the Occupy marches and rallies. I smile and absorb his words. Walter warns that it still might take another day or two for our chatty group to relax. He knows Jak and I are all too well. If there was ever a trip to help us achieve peace, this would be it.

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That night we fell asleep to the white noise of the creek. The water was the only thing in a hurry for miles, its current cutting violently through the natural surrounding silence. We collapsed in a comfy bed to hear it, slowly soothing our tired bodies from another full day.

DAY 4 Boulder, CO- Big Timber, MT May 22nd, 2013

I cook a healthy breakfast early, slightly hungover from the night before. I’m especially glad for Walter this morning. I watch him whip up fresh-squeezed orange juice for us. 2 cups of it bring me back to life. After some careful re-packing of Walter’s cramped little car we are off again, snaking through those cliff sides with the creek loyally to our right. On the last mile of the canyon the land opens back up to us the mountains gracefully giving way to lower foothills and fields. The mountains left behind rise up behind, snowy tops peeking out above the blue. I gazed back through the window, breath taken again. I have noticed, since the start of our road trip with Walter, that I am smiling. A lot. The gray of industry fades (which REALLY makes me smile) and the road presses onward, leading us through pasture after pasture, then forest, river and rolling hill. The patterned features repeat for miles.

We’re now cruising at a steady 75 mph with the edge of the rockies to the left. “North bound!” Walter announces. The goal is to put at least 600 miles under our heels, half of which I commit to knock out to bring us in to Montana well before nightfall.

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My eyes light up as we enter Wyoming and spot a herd of buffalo lounging in the grass. The mountains are far away now and the vast landscape is sprinkled with wind farms-a welcomed site to all of us. We ooo and ahhh as they go past us. My hope is that, as more people witness the beautiful display of alternatives, more are built in support. There’s even a haunting beauty to them looming against the sky. Hundreds of these skeletal rotations are fixed and fused to hilltops, providing, storing. This part of the country has enough wind (aka energy potential) for centuries to come. May these monuments of clean energy continue on and on!

This is Somewhere in Wyoming (you go for miles without a single sign) we get stuck behind a truck. Not jut any truck. Behind a conga-line of other unfortunate drivers we get the butt-end of a bulky, sluggish 16-wheeler from Walmart. It did a steady 45 mph in a 65. Work is being done on the road, knocking us down to one lane for miles. I stewed over the fact that I was even seeing a Walmart truck out here, but the encroaching industry is never completely gone on the highway. Hell, the highway itself looks intrusive out here. When we were finally freed from that gas guzzler we zipped by climbing to 85 and then, just before we had passed, Jak and I gave 2 middle fingers to the “sky.”

The road is long, often ending at the horizon. The rockies are still on the left, drifting closer and closer as we climb up, curve and then down again. Even on the downward swing we are still going up. Just when you are about to tire from the view it changes. We pass pine-spotted plateaus, dried river beds and the rare, scattered trios of antelope and elk. These dwindling herds are all that’s left of the once abundant populations. It’s almost a cliche to say now; it’s just common knowledge that yes, we have practically wiped out these beautiful creatures and, oh yeah, committed mass genocide against the indigenous protectors of the land they shared. It’s a thought that stays with me as I push past these hills, wishing them wild again.

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The scenic slide-show is only interrupted for 2 things-pee breaks and fill-ups, both of which I would love to eliminate from road trips. Pee breaks can be fun if you choose the side of the road-otherwise it’s another awkward trip into a local shitting hole. Our group is getting a lot of stares through these states. It’s understandable. That’s why, whenever possible, I am opting for a squat in the grass with the birds and a sweet mountain breeze.

A storm has formed over the mountains and begins to stretch across the valley. We are now in the breathable state of Montana; nothing but wide open skies and endless acreage. The best part is seeing no sign of human interference (other than the road) for as far as I can see. Ahhhh. After living in a cramped, claustrophobic 6-floor walk-up in NYC, the satisfaction of mind and body stretching wide is truly priceless. The sheer mass of these great states-Kansas, Texas, Wyoming, Montana-is beyond comprehension. The remoteness might make it intimidating, even unforgiving for suburban or urban dwellers used to pavement that quickly leads them to some sort of shopping or privileged convenience. But, to me, there is also a privilege here in being able to survive here-maybe even thrive here.

Once in a while I spot one of those tough cookies on the outskirts of tiny towns. These are the kinds of places with only one streetlight. Mostly there are just those single houses, perched on hills or hidden among trees, with their next neighbor at least a 20 minute drive away. I guess if I needed to hide out off the grid in the middle of no where this could be a good option. I add it to my mental list and turn my focus on that storm, still far off but raging and stretching, swallowing up the light of the sky. These are the artful scenes of movie reels and the muse of mouth-made legends. And, it might continue to be a long time if we allow it, if we just leave it be.

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There are plenty of ghosts here. There are billboards that promote glorified stories of the bloodshed of old. “STOP NOW” and see this run-down place. “INDIAN SOUVENIRS” from some assembly line in China. Ugh. Occasionally there’s an emerald-green pasture that hosted violent battles now reserved for tourists. It’s not that I don’t care about our history here. I just don’t know why we continue to call the Indigenous “Indians.” We were looking for India. Didn’t find it. We still call the tribes we pushed to extinction Indians. It bothers me just a little bit.

It’s about 7pm when we pass Little Big Horn and decide to go check it out. (Those pesky signs, suckered again!) This is one I don’t mind seeing; a battle we lost. Walter gives us his one-line history of little Big Horn;
“Yeah, Little Big Horn, the Americans got their ASSES kicked!” I love Walter. We drive up to the supposed “viewing site” and it says “”closed” of course. Oh well, guess Walter’s version will have to do. We remember our race with the setting sun and head back to the highway.

We check in to the Lazy J Motel just as rain clouds roll in. This is a treat with good timing, courtesy of Walter. Out of the rain and cold! Yay! I plop down my things in the room and begin decompressing. From the start I knew this trip would be memorable-not just because of the window views. Walter is a treat in and of himself for me. Even though I love the excitement of meeting new people, sometimes it’s nice to ride with a familiar face. Walter is more than familiar for Jak and me. He’s family, one of many from New York. The journey has been filled with his unique laughter (what is the deal with Jesus?) and alternating with the paradigms that leave us all brooding. There’s time to remember (Walter reminisces sweetly about Zuccotti) and forget. (what day is it again? Okay. Wait, what’s the date?) Out here it barely matters anymore.

Walter is also an excellent tour guide in my opinion, mostly because he is honest. Always. His memory is pretty good but a lot has changed since he last came through this part of the country. That makes much of the experience a first for all of us. Walter’s memory serves as a reminder of what this land used to be. Land elsewhere faces the same fate and worse. For the moment at least, here in these wide open spaces, we are able to set aside the griping and simply take it in, breathing out together in silence. The beauty summons attention without asking; it just is. I drive on, the land incessantly calling, “be here now…”

My dear Montana, I am finally listening.

More to come..

In Solidarity Forever,

Lauren

Panopticon

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the power-mongers and capitalism, and to the destruction, and blood stained hands, one empire, under drones, with torture and slavery for all.

Drones. Unmanned Ariel Vehicles. Commonly associated as a tool to carry out targeted killings. The association with their use as a weapon of war will soon be transferred to civilian surveillance drones and it is a Pandora’s box of who will be watching who, from the sky. The technology of drones in and of themselves is not the issue. Who will have access to them and how they will be used is where the problems reside.

“By virtue of their design, their size, and how high they can fly, [drones] can operate undetected in urban and rural environments…Drones present a unique threat to privacy.

Citizens of the Empire are far from living in a “free society”. So fearful of losing the power, the fraudulent and corrupt with their blood covered hands will go to any length to ensure that it is not taken from them. They are spying on each and every one of us, keep tabs on whether or not we are following their prescribed way of living and thought, and devising plans about how to keep those who are straying and threatening the survival of the domination and social control in line and out of sight. They contrive stories about how dictatorships around the world are threatening and violating human rights and freedom, claiming that they are the threat to American Freedom and thus must be fought and destroyed in order to ensure peace and abundance in the world. What they are really saying is that they know that if they do not keep fighting then they will risk losing access to resources and world supremacy. The atrocities played out by the United States government and its best friends are the leaders of terror, and have been pulling their country men along in a game of make believe that we must uphold the nobility of the flag and continue to blindly follow along to ensure that our lives do not crumble.

Granted, the world is fucked. I am privileged, not having to worry about bombs dropping on my house any hour of the day and being so fearful that I will not go outside, not having to work as a slave to corporations to provide smart phones and diamond rings to westerners…I could go on, there is plenty that I, from my upbringing to the fact that I am an American do not have to worry about it. The US government has a huge hand in continuing the fucked up situations in the world, from keeping certain governments in place to ensuring that workers continue to be sheeple, and if America were to start falling from the inside it would be interesting to see what would play out world wide, for it is our fault in many ways that the world is the way it is today.

The social and political structure of the United States is an image of a brainwashed nation. Robots programmed to think and act in calculated ways that do not allow the liberation of people, that pit us against each other in constant competition rather then coming together to realize our shared conditions.

They derive part of their social control from surveillance of, rather spying on, citizens. From wire-tapping to internet censorship, security cameras and tracking devices, it is daunting to think about how much is actually being collected and databased about our lives. Some are brainwashed enough to truly believe it is for our own safety and is a necessary to keep this the land of the free. Others have fallen into the equation of distraction, of work consume watch TV and die, basically to be numb and asleep to the realities of life and the world as a whole. This allows the government to continue escalating their efforts and rely on us carrying on with daily life.

Living in a city provides a clear image of the level of surveillance we live under in the United States. Walking down the street, do you ever wonder who is really watching you, or what they are watching? How many video cameras snatch images of you while you walk down the street? There is no such thing as privacy any more.

What will drones add to the mixture?

Surveillance drones are equipped with sophisticated imaging technology that provides the ability to obtain detailed photographs of terrain, people, homes, and even small objects…On some drones, operators can track up to 65 different targets across a distance of 65 square miles. Drones may also carry infra-red cameras, heat sensors, GPS, sensors that detect movement…

The increased use of drones poses an ongoing threat to every person residing within the United States. Companies are developing “paparazzi drones” in order to follow and photograph celebrities. Private detectives are starting to use drones to track their targets.”

In the hands of the Masters these new technologies will only aid in their ongoing wars-on drugs, on terror, on the borders…on life.

In the near future these cameras may include facial recognition technology that would make it possible to remotely identify individuals in parks, schools, and at political gatherings…Drones are designed to undertake constant, persistent surveillance to a degree that former methods of video surveillance were unable to achieve…With special capabilities and enhanced equipment, drones are able to conduct far-more detailed surveillance, obtaining high-resolution picture and video, peering inside high-level windows, and through solid barriers, such as fences, trees, and even walls…The ability to link facial recognition capabilities on drone cameras to the FBI’s Next Generation Identification database or DHS’ IDENT database, two of the largest collections of biometric data in the world, increases the First Amendment risks for would-be political dissidents. “

They will claim that the use of surveillance drones is to aid in our protection and the fight against crime but we know that is far from the truth. They will use it to continue spying on freedom fighters and truth tellers, to patrol the border to stop what they consider illegal humans from crossing into the country, they will use it to follow suspects in the war on drugs.

The reality is that we are all prisoners, to some degree, to them. None of us are free whether we have been kidnapped by their minions and thrown behind bars, or if we have avoided that fate by carrying out the duties they dictate to us.

There is no way to protect ourselves from the use drones like we can, attempt to, from other forms of surveillance. Every second of our lives will be databased and used against us. If there was any doubt that we are living under a dictatorship this should be a clear example of how severe the situation in the United States actually is.

We cannot afford to stay asleep. We cannot afford to not fight. Each and every one of our lives depend on it.

All quotes from: http://epic.org/privacy/drones/