“Tears From Mayflower” part 2

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April 4th, 2013 DAY 5 OF SPILL
“Whose property?”

We rode into town towards Lake Conway. When Exxon’s Pegasus line broke, the twenty-two foot gash spilled tar-sands intended for refineries in the gulf where it would be exported overseas. Instead, it ran like a river through the subdivision, down the storm drains, through a creek under the interstate and settled into any body of water in its’ path. The tar-sands mixture moved quickly with the help of a hard rain that came and went before we arrived. We’d soon find evidence of just how far it had spread.

As we came down the interstate we crossed a land-bridge dividing the lake. This had been just a bridge before the spill, which Exxon filled in with gravel in a sorry attempt to save the larger part of Lake Conway. The cove was to our right. For the many residents with lake front views, the cove had been a beautiful site just a week ago. Now they saw death; lifeless lily pads stained brown with sickness and murky waters hiding the rest of the failing vegetation.

To the left was the rest of Lake Conway, which still had a blue hue. It was a sign that made it easy to assume the oil had not reached this portion. The media and Exxon stuck to the denial story the entire week, insisting that they had and I quote, “stopped the oil just in the nick of time”. Unfortunately, that was far from the truth.

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Jak was taking pictures of the cove when an American flag flying over a private dock caught his eye. We parked and headed there to ask permission to film from the backyard. Minutes after receiving permission the Mayflower police arrive. The officers were polite and left quickly after confirming our right to be there.

The residents had come out (probably because the cops showed up) so I went to make conversation with them. (A follow-up interview I did with these residents will appear under “testimonies”) Once again, within minutes, more cops show up. This time it was the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Department. The sheriff walks up to me and the residents. “Are you with them?” he asks, motioning at the group by the dock. “Yes sir” I said. He turns to the residents. “Do they have your permission to be here?”
“Yes, is there a problem? Y’all told us there was nothing out there.”
“Well,” he retorts, “They’re too close to the scene so I’m going to ask them to leave”. He turns to relay his order to the rest of our team. “Can I have your name sir?” I ask. He spins around, barks “Deputy Sweeney” at me and walks away.

He confronts Jak and the others, asking the question he already had an answer to. “Y’all have permission to be here?” “Yes we do” Jak replied. “Not from me you don’t. I own this property now and you’re gonna leave.” We leave the yard and the baffled residents to obey our “order”. Well, almost. Two of our group go across the street with a camera to film the cove but Sweeney stops them in their tracks. I watch from across the road as he grabs the arm of one, grabs the camera with his free hand and physically forces them off the street and back to us. We accept that we’ve worn out our welcome and drive back up the interstate.

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We are not the type to be deterred by cops. Everyone on our team has been arrested more than once, and we didn’t come here expecting anything less, so we pressed on and picked another target; the woods directly across the cove and one step closer to the spill site.

We parked in a random lot cornered by the on and off ramps to the highway. From there we ran into the woods like a team of spies having just deployed to ambush the enemy. We slowly made our way, snagging thorns as we stalked our prey; the mysterious yellow men who crept along the shoreline in their gurgling vessels.

Right away we caught footage of an oiled duck near the bank. It was a triggering moment for me. I instantly decided that I, with no net, would rescue this poor creature. I dropped all my belongings and tried. (I ended up forgetting my stuff there, having to go back through the woods and past the workers to find it.) I was to wrap it in my shawl when the oily bird had another jolt of energy and vanished from site. The rest of the time was mostly spent trying not to be spotted by the yellow men. The workers surrounded us as we ducked and weaved between the trees. We crawled around under their noses, taking pictures of oil slicks in the cove-fed creeks on the wrong side of the booms. It was a clear indication that booms were not working to contain anything out here.

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I couldn’t tell if the others felt discouraged by our attempt at “breaching enemy lines”, but we were all anxious to get out of there and go somewhere else. We’d accepted that we could get arrested, but I think all of us would’ve preferred it not be on day two. We scouted for a while, assessing how the hell we might get closer. We tried driving right through the police check point. We pass with no problems.

From there we could see a majority of the work force lit up like a football field with their machines roaring. Hoses sprayed so high into the trees you’d have thought there was a forest fire. Every time we drove by ( a total of three times that day) we slowed down and took pictures. It was not until the third time, which we had already decided would be our last, that we got pulled over.

I swear I felt it coming. I had a bad feeling for most of the day and with good reason. Once again a Faulkner County Sheriff came over to us. Our story would be we were lost, just trying to get back to the highway. I tried not to crack a smile when the officer said, “Y’all lost? We’ve seen y’all drivin’ around all day.” He takes our drivers’ id then tells them to step out of the car. After a bit he comes back for our id’s and runs them for warrants. We start broadcasting live while we wait. Our driver comes back after what felt like an eternity. It always feels like an eternity when you’re pulled over, doesn’t it? The driver tells us what that the sheriff had strict orders to arrest us on site and charge us with criminal trespassing and obstruction of a government operation. But, if our id’s
came back clean he would let us go. Then came the all to revealing quote.
Sheriff to driver: ” I am getting a lot of money to keep people like you out of these workers’ way.” It is a weird feeling when your suspicion is unapologetically confirmed to your face by the state. We drove away shook up but relieved. We cracked jokes and laughed about the experience on the road back to Little Rock. Sometimes, laughing is all you can do.

To Be Continued…

In Solidarity Forever,
Lauren

“Tears From Mayflower” part 1

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*Note to the reader: names have been changed or omitted to protect the identities of some individuals. Police officers real names appear here.

“Oil will spill, it’s just a matter of when.”
-Chief Jackie Thomas of the First Nations, British Columbia.

I quietly took a knee and set down my clipboard at the water’s edge, trying to eavesdrop on the interview filming only yards away. I’d later learn that the interviewee was Lynn Slater from the Hawk Center, the animal care facility that initially handled oiled animals-that is until Exxon took over and confiscated dozens of her patients. I’m straining to hear what she’s saying when I hear a voice. “Are y’all testin’ the water?” I turn to see a man in shades walking up to me. “I guess you could say we’re testing the waters” I say with a smile, for a moment recalling the past week. The man in shades introduces himself with a strong handshake. His name is *Tom, a local Mayflower resident with a list of concerns including Lake Conway. He’s a chatty guy-eager to share everything he knows about the town, the lay of the land, and his personal story. He would soon become one of our closest allies in Mayflower and a dear friend. That is how the week had been-synchronicity everywhere, each providing another, all somehow working as if conspiring for us, whereby guiding the telling of this quiet town’s story. This time I had my “official-looking” clipboard (a gift from another Arkansas ally) to thank for it.

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We first heard about the spill at base camp. “Pegasus pipeline ruptures in Northwoods Subdivision…” It came in through someone’s device, our window to the rest of the world, and so began the swirling conversation around me as to what to do. “We should go there” was all it took, uttered without hesitation from Jak. I quickly agreed as my mind joined the others in a logistical brainstorm, the creative chaotic energy lifting my spirits high. We were going to the front lines again…this time to confront Exxon Mobil-an all too familiar beast.

Jak and I had just arrived in Texas that weekend but already, like some adventures had been, we would be off as quickly as we landed. I was anxious as our carload left a couple days later. On the road my mind never stopped swirling. “Am I ready for this? Do I know enough to do this story justice?” Our goals as a team was to investigate/report the spill, document testimonies and aid this small town being dragged into the national spotlight by another tar-sands disaster. We were about to take on a lot. But, considering that the root of the Tar-sands Resistance is to save and protect communities like Mayflower from these events, this was an opportunity to experience one of our fears first hand: tar-sands oil flowing down residential streets, seeping into delicate marshlands and diluting down elusive waterways. It`s yet another live display of what so many across this continent are desperately trying to stop; the inevitable by-product of an unaccountable industry`s greed. The campaign was now counting on us-Mayflower, potentially, was counting on us. Realizing my selfishness, I cast out my self-doubt at the Texas border.

Our team was armed with one borrowed video camera, 4 cell phones, a few external batteries, a wireless hotspot, 2 tripods, a nook and another borrowed lap-top. Not too shabby for a band of broke radical activists that live in tents. We would need intuition, a little impulse, and mostly to let the universe do the rest. We knew the mainstream media was locked out. It was our job to break in.

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April 3rd, 2013 DAY 4 OF SPILL
“Our First Encounter”

We rode into Mayflower mid-day and were all eager to get a glimpse of the rupture site; perhaps too eager. We decided to split up-3 of us would take the car around to the exiled media corner near the Exxon command center. (This is where concerned residents and media were encouraged to go and be subsequently threatened with arrest) Jak and I went on foot. We were dropped off at a church on Snugg Circle, a road that curves directly behind the fence of the Northwoods subdivision and rupture location. Jak and I walked through the parking lot, livestream in hand, trying to stay invisible among the thickets. There were workers only twenty feet from us, huddling in groups and surveying certain areas. We would find out later that they were picking future dig sites, a “look and see” operation where they would dig without a land owner`s knowledge or consent. It was another half-assed attempt of Exxon`s to see how far back from the pipe the oil had spread, then quickly fill the holes back in if they seemed okay. I was tense as we moved-we knew better than to assume these workers were nothing more than an extension of the state. The payroll was full of extra eyes and ears to keep people like us away. Acting as a police dispatcher, the second a phone came out we knew we`d probably been spotted. We went as far as the tree line and crouched, taking in the scene among the evacuated homes.

The sounds of machines was deafening, sprinkled with the beeping of trucks parking. The smell was overwhelming, instantly stinging my nose and eyes. My heart beat fast as I watched hoses spraying, claws digging, some workers even idling like the engines. The chaos was evident. With all of their billions in profit, Exxon hadn’t gained much insight. Many lessons should have been learned from their previous blunders at Port Valdez and the Niger Delta. It might as well have been 1989 as I watched this frantic operation and methods being used that had proven ineffective in the past. I felt sick to my stomach as we headed back to meet back up with the others.

As we got back into the car we noticed a cop car coming up the road towards us. “Well, looks like we’ve been spotted” I thought to myself. We drove along Snugg Circle, the cop tailing close behind. He flashes his lights. We pull over and sit in silence. The Mayflower Police officer walks up and politely greets us and without hesitation gives us our first warning. “Now, we know who you are, we know why you’re here, if you try anything stupid or go anywhere you’re not supposed to go you won’t be given a warning. You’ll be taken straight to county jail. Understood?” We nod. He goes on to briefly say that he understands our cause and tells us to have a nice day, ending with a “Welcome to Arkansas.” A warm welcome indeed.

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This would be one of several encounters with the Mayflower P.D., the Faulkner County Sheriff’ls Dept. and the Game and Fish Commission, all we suspected to be on the Exxon payroll. These folks were clearly acting as Exxon’s first line of defense against us. A question that I never dared to ask them was, “Who did they THINK we were?” It made me feel good, in a strange way, that our team was a potential threat. It is a position I have become accustomed to being in.

You will always be a threat when you not only attempt to find the truth, but also share it with those who need it most.

We got a lead that a several people on Snugg Circle wanted to be interviewed. After coordinating sit-downs with any of them proved difficult, (because these residents, none evacuated, were literally too sick from the fumes to even talk with us) we shifted our focus to Dam Road, a residential street that snakes along Lake Conway. No one from these lake-front properties had been evacuated either (even though some had tarsands right in their backyards) so there were quite a few residents there willing and eager to talk with us. (My experience with these residents will appear under “testimonies” in a later section)

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All along the cove, which is the southern tip of Lake Conway, there were signs of activity; boom checkers, crews in airboats scanning the water for signs of life and scattered groups on foot inspecting the shore. We visited the shoreline several times. The first visit we saw some student volunteers helping an Exxon worker collect animals, both dead and alive. We got a glimpse of oil-covered nutria, dead. It’s just one of countless animals that didn’t make it. The Exxon worker quickly came and took it away.

To be honest, considering that roughly 500,000 gallons of tarsands oil had just leaked in the town, Dam Road was quiet. It was an eerie ‘Twilight Zone’ feeling as the only signs of disaster were these scattered men in yellow suits and an air monitoring truck, slowly circling from time to time.

To Be Continued…

In Solidarity Forever,
Lauren

“The United States of TransCanada” 2013-Oklahoma

I can not explain in great detail how exactly I ended up in this “predicament” other than the fact that I was filming on earth day and arrested, but none the less I will make you all party to my “not the fun kind” day trip through the “United States of TransCanada”. We arrive at the Atoka County court house, this being the second time I’ve been back there since earth day, and the second time I have now seen a tablet of the ten commandments in a grassy area outside this court house. Things like this confuse me. You know as a child they cram this whole “separation of church and state” idea into your head and then right when you start to maybe think about believing it… BAM! There’s the ten fracking commandments outside of a building that is a house of the state, not even god. Even though I knew it was there, when I saw it my reaction was the same,”what in the hell was this doing here?”. The more I think about it though, “house of the state” is a much more fitting term than lame old “court house” could ever be. After all, the state must have a private house closed off from prying eyes and peeping rights defenders to be naughty and do its’ “dirty deeds” in like the rest of us right? I mean that only seems fair. Mind you as I am fully aware at this moment that the minions of the state may try and serve me a “SLAPP suit” at the “house of the state” today, here I am letting myself get distracted by the ten commandments… thanks a lot Moses.

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After walking away from a major distraction, that if I did not know any better I’d say was put there for exactly that purpose, we proceed to head up the stairs and into the “house of the state”. When we walk in I get the same feeling I always do, ” how did I end up here?… Again?… And in a different state this time?” No matter how many miles I seem to put between myself and the “house of the state”, 100 centre street, in the Bloomberg occupied New York City, I am yet again in another “house of the state”, in a different state, in the same state of confusion.

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We walk quietly down the hallway as to not disturb the state’s minions that may be lurking around the corner, my eyes fluttering from end to end trying to find that familiar face, that safe place in any “house of the state”, the only seemingly safe place anyways, our lawyer. To no avail we are not able to locate him and take a seat.

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It is at that moment that I see a man in jeans and a t-shirt, wearing a “built” body, speaking to what seems to be a court clerk. Something strikes me as odd about this man. Throughout my many journeys of states, houses, and “houses of the state” , only few have struck me as odd and out of place, this man being one of those few. I start to get this feeling that this is the man the “United States Of TransCanada” has given the mission of “slapping” me to. I start to think, ” His hands look strong and if anyone is going to “SLAPP” me with anything I sure hope it’s not him”. It’s at that moment our own “lord and savior”, our lawyer, comes to our aid; and when I look back after a few moments had passed, the could be minion is gone.

Our lawyer begins to tell us of all the possibilities and maybes, but even so they make me feel better as something more definitive would have done. “You are going to go in there, he’ll tell y’all your next date is august 15th, and that will be it for now” says our lawyer. “Thank goodness” I thought, because this place, as these places usually do, was starting to give me the creeps.
One-Thirty reads my clock, time to get this over with. We head in with our lawyer, the head of the “house of the state” nowhere to be seen, when our lawyer looks at us and says, ” I’ll be right back”. I want to say something, anything to get him to stay, plea with him to stay at our side, but my lips won’t budge and it’s at this point I know some “house of the state” voodoo is in the works.

The next five seconds feel like an eternity, then I hear a door swing open and then shut. I was under the impression our savior was back, nope, wrong again Jak. I look up at the odd out of place man from the hallway and the only thoughts going through my mind are those that would be inappropriate to write here, but you all can imagine I’m sure. He reads out the names of my two companions, the whole time I’m thinking, ” don’t answer Jak, just shut your mouth Jak, just this one time Jak”, because for those of you who know me, my mouth has a mind of its’ own. It works though. My mouth shuts, but wait, what is my hand doing? He reads out my name and at the same time I guess my hand thought it would be a good idea to take the stack of paper he was handing me; but what did my hand have to lose it, wasn’t the one getting “slapped”, I was. One of my Companions asks, ” what’s this?”, and the minion quick to retort, ” you’ve been served” he says with a smile.

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Now lets stop for a second, because I just have to point out how much I absolutely despise that damn term, ” you’ve been served”. Mostly because of that absolutely horrendous trying to be dance movie that came out I don’t even know how long ago. I do know it was too long ago for this term to still be in use, but now once again, here I am, hearing the term I hate the most in the place I most hate being. The minion then had the nerve to ask, “If you don’t mind me asking, what did y’all do to get in this situation?” Before my mouth had a chance to blurt out a toxic remark, my companion’s mind came to the rescue, ” with all do respect sir, being that you are the one serving us, I just don’t feel it smart to tell you anything.” And with that, the minion was on his way as quick as he appeared.

We go through what our lawyer had said we would, and we are on our way. Then came the sifting through the stack of “house of the state” nonsense the minion had “slapped” me with.
The first thing, a foreign corporation, TransCanada, has a restraining order on an individual, me, in a country other than their own, that states that I am not allowed on certain “American” soil. Now I do not believe in countries or borders, but while they do “exist” lets just entertain that thought for a second. Then comes the charge, a very interesting charge of trespassing where the “owner” of said “property” does not have to have a “no trespassing” sign posted. This particular trespassing charge can also only be charged against those who trespassed on property that has the primary purpose of, ” farming, ranching, or forestry”. Now, correct me if I am wrong, but the last time I checked TransCanada did not run an organic farm with free range tarsands and majestic pipelines galloping upon it. So I gather when the “house of the state” made this blind decision it must’ve been when they were being naughty and not paying much attention.

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Now as far as this “SLAPP” I received goes, it did leave an interesting little Canada shaped red mark on my pocket constitution. In that red mark, it stated that “The United States Of TransCanada” was seeking a permanent injunction in which not only was I banned from certain “American” soil, but also that I was banned from advocating or speaking out against TransCanada and the Keystone XL pipeline. So lets go back to those little things we call the constitution, country borders, and rights violations. Now not only am I having my rights trampled upon by “my own country”, but you mean to tell me that on top of that a corporation from another country can come into “my country” and proceed to pull the same maniacal things in the same eery systematic way? I’ll tell ya , the things the American people will allow in their “land of the free home of the slave” simply blows my mind.

Until the Rev is over
Stay Strong,

❤ Jak

“ANY RESISTANCE TO THE STATE IS ALWAYS MET WITH VIOLENCE” may day 2013-seattle

“Spring is an insurrection. A hammer that cracks the walls of seed pods, a bud that breaks the sheets of ice.”-the Witch’s Child (http://knowingtheland.com/2012/04/09/in-celebration-of-may-day-the-witchs-child/)

May Day 2013 in Seattle was a celebration, a welcoming of Spring. The sun emerged after months of gray clouds, everything was alive.

The day started with an Immigration reform rally and march. Streets teeming with color and persistent sounds of drumming filled the air. Histories and cultures brought into the streets to clearly state that all humans are LEGAL, more importantly there is no thing as an illegal being on this planet and we deserve to be liberated and free. Overall an amazing turn out, people were having fun, and the police kept their distance.

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First thought that came to me was the question of how many of these people would actually actively step into the front lines to fight for this freedom. There is a thrill in being in large, paced, marches. It makes you feel good to be part of a protest, because that’s our RIGHT, isn’t it?

It is important that those types of protests happen and that the support for them is immense and diverse.

I split off and went to lie down under the sun. I was waiting for the rush.

Spirits were high as beautiful beings gathered at Seattle Central Community College Wednesday evening to celebrate May Day with an Anti-Capitalist/Anti-State march. A speak out of why we gathered and the intentions for the night hit, music and dance parties, the crowd was energized and invigorated as the streets were taken and traffic was stopped forcing citizens who wish to stay asleep to listen to the spirited chants of AH ANTI ANTICAPITALISTA! The march weaved through the Capitol Hill area of Seattle, I was confused by the response of the police, they made their presence known but surprisingly they seemed to be letting us be. It was quickly escalated. I remember hearing an older man in the crowd screaming repeatedly “Let the people walk. You pull the trigger and you instigate the riot.”

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We are frustrated and angry…rightfully so. Unafraid to express that. Celebration is our battle cry. We express our anger against the daily oppression and demonization, we express our anger to the daily violence against our sisters and brothers, we express our anger against the State, we express our anger against the inherently destructive system of capitalism, we express our anger through our music and dancing, through celebration of love and life and the joy of our souls, our resistance is our existence.

Silly string and clowns.

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Refusing to be pushed to the shadows and cracks in the wall. The world needs to stop and see us. We are here and our communities are becoming stronger as we challenge the standard narrative that rules every waking moment and remind the mainstream that there are alternatives.

There are different levels of lived oppression as well as varying levels of radical critique, and being together in the streets provides a sense of power to vocalize the effects of what represses and wounds us, individually and collectively.

At Westlake Mall, the cornerstone of the retail district of downtown, 2 kids were arrested. It is hard to know what leads up to an arrest on marches, but it is impossible to ignore the response of the police because we are all criminals, menaces to society, in their eyes and deserve to be locked up in their cages.

As soon as a gang of bike cops surrounded the kids pinned to the ground, friends and fellow freedom fighters chanted let them go! Someone sat behind the police van and cops, with military precision, devised the plan and screamed orders to the rank and file. “We’re going to move out the van-need more bikes” which equated to lifting their bikes and ramming them into protesters, ordering them to move back. That is when the chaos pursued.

I don’t know how long this part lasted, it felt like hours. As the sun set,  the police got into attack formation with bike cops surrounding rows of riot cops followed by police vans, squad cars, at least one tank.  The march was divided, and they began to succeed in their effort to create confusion and panic.

As they escalated their force, people got riled up.

I used to be shocked by the response of police at our protests but its clear-the only thing the police protect is money.  Soon it became a bit of a cat and mouse chase-cops would pepper spray anyone within reach, start randomly grabbing people to beat up and arrest, wielding their bully sticks, send out flash bang grenades. In response people would continue to hold intersections, and trying to continue gaining ground as newspaper bins and trash cans turned into our only line of defense from the advancing forces.

APTOPIX May Day Immigration Marches Washington

Some people had never been around this situation before started to run because it is a triggering and terrifying experience. But that’s how they succeed, when we can stay together and stay calm because we are not falling for their fear tactics that’s how we can continue our resistance. It is in these moments that the ideas of mutual aid and solidarity become extremely important concepts to carry over from the communities we are building as we create an alternative way of moving through life to when we are marching together in the streets.

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No matter how hard the try, one thing is for sure-we are stronger then they want to believe. We continued to celebrate the glorious day late into the night with friends, new and old, with music and dancing, laughter and love. They can try to break us but the empire will crumble and we know, though there will be many more battles, that one day they will not be able to beat our existence.

They say Anarchy is chaos, but in reality the State is chaos.

Love and Light,

Aislinn

“No NATO” 2012-chicago

Many stories and articles have cracked a window into that blur of time. For me, I remember fondly the times when the cameras weren’t on, the stream wasn’t live and it was just the tribe of occupiers from far away cities pounding the pavement of downtown together. There are other moments, like the police van heard round the world, that do deserve a place in type as honestly as any of us dare to remember it.

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The bus ride to Chicago barely contained our energy as we rode into this new arena. Unfamiliar streets provided an adrenaline-charged challenge to us out of towners, but it was a sentiment everyone felt, including the local occupiers, who had been dealt many blows by the historically, notoriously corrupt CPD. We found comfort in all the good company: allies from LA, Boston, Philly, Tampa…this was the first real national gathering. We were all answering the call to rally, but also to put occupy on record again. We peacefully ate and slept together under the stars, knowing quite a few of us would see the dark walls of a jail cell soon. This is what, I thought, the youth of resistance looks like; a semi-sweet paradigm, finding solidarity and love while barely afloat the wreckage.

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Among the scattered swarms of state police I could hear often as much laughter as the displays of rage. Joking and yelling took turns at the bicycle cops, riot cops, the cavalry and of course, the LRAD, but it was always carefully balanced with the very real and warranted fear. That was a feeling no black bandanna could hide. As wounded warriors we knew the army we faced, protecting the fascist corporate regime behind the castle walls. We all knew our fight wouldn’t get past the gate and beyond, to the men and women in suits who decided our world’s fate. These were the epic scenes freedom fighters craved, the action at the front line where the fed up slaves confronted their corporate masters. Although sometimes, we got more than we asked for.

The now notorious Chicago police van drove straight through the front of one of our night marches. Full of people. And accelerated in the process. Considering the potential, we were all very lucky. Especially Mandolin and Jak. I prefer not to mention too many names, but I feel it is important to acknowledge these two, for if not for sheer inches Jak and Mandolin may not have lived. The van barreled through the crowd by direct order of a superior, I’m guessing as a reckless means to break up the endless march. Jak jumped out to grab Mandolin from being hit as it came at us. I barely dodged the side-view mirror as it whipped past me. As I turned around, a huddled mass had already formed around Jak’s limp body. He had been hit.

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I felt my cheeks flush with anger as I pushed my way through to hold the cameras back. An ambulance came and I rode along. Within a mile down the road we were pulled over. A cop bullied his way onto the ambulance and proceeded to subject Jak to more stress with his presence. When we finally arrived we were immediately separated at the hospital and I was quickly banned from entering again, banished to the street side with a few others who came for support. Hours passed before he was finally released from “fort knox.”. In between I managed to do an interview with local news, make a ton of phone calls, and solidify my suspicion that our affinity group was being investigated and we had been labeled as “wolves”. In the hospital Jak encountered the alphabet gang. Hand-cuffed to the bed, refused food and water, interrogated and intimidated, it was typical FBI practice. In the end the only thing they got out of him was a vow to sue. That lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department is ongoing.

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The irony is how our protest also manifested into so many beautiful moments of unity, moments that gave way to tears, as if the systemic world had been lifted and we were left standing in simply what we wanted, a world free of greed, free of hate. Just free. “The people will rise, the people will rise, the people will rise…”

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After one of the long days of marching the weather changed. As we stood in the street, some singing, dancing, chanting, a spontaneous peace symbol, made from our bodies gathered in the rain, broke out in the middle of the road, with the backdrop of state police, in neat rows, lining the steps of the buildings. It was the display of yin and yang, a view of our paradigm I will never forget.

On arrival to the church safe-house I spied the piano. The piano had been my peace, my gift to the room of freedom fighters. Sharing a song created an intimacy that is the glue of movements. A simple melody brought out even the quiet voices, breaking insecurities and surrendering to the music. The real spiritual healing happened in that church basement. It is often those small boosts of morale that sustain our bonds the longest.

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As I woke up among my tribe under majestic willow trees, our camp overlooking the harbor, the melody greeted me: “Why are we in this, situation that just brings us down…” Those words stayed with me as we, only hundreds against thousands, faced down super-sized batons wielded by storm-trooper like forces. We played cat-and-mouse through those foreign streets. The movies had come to life, and at times all I could muster the strength to do was stand back a moment, soak in the crazy scene I had craved, turn to Jak through the black bloc and whisper, “Look where we are…”

In Solidarity Forever,
Lauren

“May Day” 2012-nyc

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I remember all of the planning. Months of planning meetings went into every detail from messaging to the puppets to be carried. Occupy was definitely theatrical in its delivery. Although it was hoped that there would be a massive general strike, the idea of every new yorker denying service has been a dream every anarchist has dreamed.

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More realistically, organizers pulled off a few pretty eventful moments: The Bryant Park town square, the unveiling of guitarmy, the flooding of union square (for once it lived up to its name), epic marches long into the night( some planned, a few definitely not expected), the sit-in at the Bull and the night wrapped up with a substantial number of standard beatings by the NYPD. It was a day full of scooters and barricades, trying to coral and contain the obvious, the potential of the truth bleeding from our lips to be seep out, uninhibited, to permeate those eager eyes passing by.

In Solidarity Forever,
Lauren

“A Letter From The Past”

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Within a year are stored a million moments delicately marked for me in time. I needed only to take a small, conscious step back now and again to remind us, saying, “look where we are…” This had become my life; a wandering gypsy-like existence, resulting from a sudden and traumatic awakening, with the newly discovered conviction that I could never, would never go back to life as I knew it in Babylon. I, along with many others, took a leap of faith, because although the life we were choosing was not easy, the alternative now meant living among the lost, apathetic, distracted masses with the truth, still knocking patiently at the door. (I believe a lot more people will continue to choose a more rebellious path as they grow more tired of the status quo)

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And so, like a band of misfit toys we attempted to take back our lives from a system that was designed to betray us. In knowing what our generation had actually inherited, in waking up from the American Dream, we carried on after the raid of liberty square as refugees, forgotten youth, looked down upon for refusing to just shut up and conform. The only path left was into the inhospitable landscape of our concrete habitat, littered with cops and no trespassing signs.
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This is my reflection, as I begin a new chapter in my life and as I continue to recall it, the past year that I believe I finally found my calling. The initial call to occupy brought us all together, and that is what I believe to be the most successful mission of the movement. The network that was born continues to grow and evolve, adopting new names and strength from remaining true to its roots. But regardless of how it will continue to take form, it is the beginning battles, the restless protests, the passionate messages of dissent on cardboard and the relentless will and courage to reclaim space that finally lit the fire to a dormant nation. Out of the chaotic beauty and pain of those early months rose millions of voices over the toxic haze of cities everywhere. It made it beyond towers of industry to farmland, from the cyber world to the prisons. I remember it drifting along the streets as we walked with it, not knowing its reach, and as one voice called back to me on the ashy battlefield of Wall Street, it was the voice I finally recognized as my own.

In Solidarity Forever,
Lauren