Author’s note: This article was published on several other movement blogs in April and May 2012.
By Jehovah Jones
April 24, 2012: The Free Mumia Abu-Jamal (‘and Bradley Manning!’, an addition which seemed hastily pasted on at the last minute) rally at the Justice Department drew many angry and some fairly incoherent people. But not quite the usual Occupy suspects; The New Black Panthers were present, of course, and making use of the Occupy-popularized ‘Mic Check’, a phrase originally borrowed from rap music.
And I got to march with Chuck D.
The Panthers’ newspaper, which their olive-drab-encrusted ‘soldiers’ relinquished with suspicion to the cheeky white boy in kente cloth — obviously a cop — after he made with the required cash ‘donation’, contained some articles that actually made sense, showed reasonable, logical development. Not all of them, no, but some, especially those explaining why they don’t view Obama as their president.
Warm day. Sunshine everywhere. Except along the sidewalk in front of Justice. Cold, forbidding, like an alleyway that runs through Red Riding Hood’s forest. The man on stage announces that he just got a text from Chuck, and that he’s “circling.”
While we wait for Chuck, and get word that Danny Glover had to bail, Ramona Africa of MOVE and a bevy of less-inspiring, less-talented and less-imaginative rappers and speakers fill the flatbed of the AAA Emergency truck that serves as a stage. A moronic call-and-response that serves no apparent purpose except to pump the egos of the callers: “When I say ‘Free ‘em’, you say ‘all’!”
The American Indian Movement rep tries his hand: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few!”
A phone call from Mumia, in prison, is garbled and mostly unintelligible, thanks to the brilliant plan of holding up an iPhone to a mic. I assume he’s confirmed that he is still in jail, on questionable charges brought by a criminal justice system that had no credibility whatsoever*, and that he’d like to get out sometime soon. We knew that, and that’s why we’re here.
Chuck’s speech, when it comes, doesn’t inspire me as much as his lyrics, but the way he walks down the street later, just being one of the crowd, does. No security; I was behind him for awhile as we marched from Justice to the White House before I realized it was him, alone except for one other man helping to carry the sign. Hey brother, he smiles when he sees me looking, slaps my hand.
When Kevin Zeese makes his impassioned plea for freeing Wikileaker Bradley Manning from military prison, a few people sign up for the rally the next day at Fort Meade. I am torn between that event and the rally at the Supreme Court, which will begin hearings on the noxious, racist Arizona immigration law.
In the end, the ‘civil disobedience’ promised by the organizers of this march didn’t come at Justice (“just ice,” per Chuck. Maybe speaking in the cold shadow of the building inspired him) but rather at the White House, where the march ended after circling the Justice Department building. And it was so long coming that many drifted off, exhausted by all the waiting. Why, in the name of all that is allegedly holy, do they take so long to arrest someone who’s been warned, and who so clearly wants the arrest as much as or more than the cops want to arrest them? Why the need to surround them with trucks, push everyone back behind police tape, then metal barricades, carted in by the truckload, then painstakingly unloaded and used to slowly push the crowd out of Pennsylvania Avenue,or whatever that pedestrian walkway is now called in front of the White House? The kids are sitting, waiting to be arrested so they can make their statements. Total time, for the posturing, the pomp, the gassing and everything: 7 hours. Clearly intentional; make the protestors work for the arrest.
Next Day: Supreme Court. Arizona SB1070 protest. Lots of angry people screaming, no one could reasonably hear what they were saying. More deeply moving and unintelligible call and response. Much marching and chanting. Many people being interviewed by their friends, presumably for blog/Youtube immortality.
A black man in a robe blows a flatulent blast on a shofar.
I yawn, then leave the court and stroll, looking for a cuppa.
Half a block away, a pedicab driver stops, says I’m walking like a man with back pain. Wants to give me a ride. He’s in the mood for a chat. First we discuss whether I look like the sort of man who needs and can afford another man to be his donkey. He smiles, asks if he’s guessed right. Yes, I am having back pain; a poor night’s sleep in a narrow bed at the Friends’ hostel, I suppose.
He says he’s having ‘home pain.’ I inquire, and he says he’s from Arizona, and that it was never like this when he lived there, that “a bad crowd of neocolonists” has since moved in and ruined the neighborhood.**
“My friends were citizens but their parents weren’t, and now they deport them, 20 years later, separating them and their kids. That’s fucked up. When people ask where I’m from, I usually say ‘DC’.”
Yes. The land where citizens are denied the right to a vote in Congress.
The man blows the ram’s horn again.
*The police who beat, shot, and arrested Mumia in 1981 were at the time being investigated by the Department of Justice. (Obviously this was at a time, long past, when Justice was occasionally a valid description of what this agency is practicing.) Then, for the first time in our history the federal government sued an entire police department for civil rights violations, and charged the Philadelphia Police Department with police brutality. The DOJ suit said that the Philly cops made a practice of shooting nonviolent suspects, abusing handcuffed prisoners, suppressing dissension within its ranks, and engaging in a pattern of brutal behavior that “shocks the conscience.” Within days after Mumia’s trial ended in his conviction for the shooting death of Officer Daniel Faulkner, 15 of the 35 police officers involved in collecting evidence in his case, including Alfonzo Giordano, the police inspector who controlled the Faulkner crime scene and led the Mumia investigation, would be convicted and jailed on federal charges of graft, corruption, and tampering with evidence. The federal investigation did not provide relief for defendants like Mumia who were convicted, presumably fraudulently, by these corrupt and convicted cops. Some justice, hmmm?
** In a 5-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court soon ruled on Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 , declaring several key provisions of the law to be unconstitutional, but allowing Arizona law enforcement officers to ask for documentation from people they believe might be in the country illegally. In other words, profiling is allowed.
by Jehovah Jones
Feb 29: Occupy DC’s Leap Day actions started at the butt-crack of dawn.
Ok, maybe 7am doesn’t precisely qualify as time’s anus, but it’s right next door. And Occupiers aren’t known for liking to get up early. Back in the good ol’ before-February-5 days when I used to crawl out of my tent at McPherson around 5am to go to work, the few hardy souls I bumped into seemed less than completely alert, partly due to the neocon agitators honking horns ’til the wee hours.
Everybody’s milling around drinking coffee, and because this is Occupy, there’s a woman with a Domino’s box.
Cinnamon bread sticks, maybe.
No… it’s pizza.
Note to self: Tell that woman why Domino’s should be the target of a boycott.
And stop salivating.
We’re about 50 strong now, maybe 60. It’s too early for accurate counting. Three U.S. Park Service cops, including an older guy who’s always here, seems mostly decent. Somebody says he’s the one who got Tank’s foot in the ‘nads back in December. Seems pretty calm and easy, chats with any and all of us, doesn’t seem angry or vindictive. The other two look like Beaver and Wally going to pepper-spray camp, hands on their ‘batons’ a lot; maybe they like caressing wood..?
7:30 a.m. Occutime, and we’re off. Down 14th and turn on L St NW, a couple of DC cops and a black SUV trailing us.
On this rainy morning, Occupy DC is acting in solidarity with Occupy Portland, which has declared today to be Shutdown the Corporations day; we’re visiting our neighbor ALEC, formally known as the American Legislative Exchange Council, on the 11th floor at 1101 Vermont Ave. N.W. (They seem fond of ones; maybe it’s the one-percent thing?)
Our homeboy ALEC, who provides right-wing legislation for state governments that’s ghost-written by corporations — one of the benefits of their being declared people, perhaps? — has been busy over the past year, pushing hundreds of anti-worker bills to stop public employees from unionizing and bargaining for a fair deal and a living wage. Alec’s been hanging out with some real douche-bag governors, including Jan Brewer and Scott Walker.
“No legislation for human subjugation!” the people chant to the beat of a drum and whistle. “ALEC, can’t you see? We’re a democracy!”
Then we’re off again, with Occupiers at the head of the pack determined to find another corporation to congratulate on his or her civic-minded citizenship.
“We are unstoppable. Another world is possible!” A cop on a motorcycle hears, believes, and shuts down K Street for us. Yeah! Let the lobbyists curse. “Get up, get down! There’s revolution in this town!” We cut through a park–Franklin Square? Who cares? Parks are so yesterday.
An OccuKid pulling a cart full of signboards announces that we’re about to see some anarchist street theater. Seems like that might best be done on the street, so we head out the other side, and…Jesus. Some students from AU want me to fill out a survey about Occupy’s relations with police. I tell them I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve never screwed a cop while Occupying.
On to 1300 I Street to visit Sigñor Monsanto, the scourge of farmers and eaters everywhere. This fine Corporate-American’s first product in 1901 was saccharine, a harbinger of all that was to come, including a flurry of poisons used to make it dirt cheap for corporations to produce food-like substances that will enrich them almost as fast as they kill you.
In a partnership with Dow, Monsanto made Agent Orange, a potion that Vietnamese civilians and American soldiers alike can attest has a bit more kick than Orange Crush.
Monsanto was the first to modify a plant cell’s genetics to create fake-but-photogenic food. “Food with a boob job,” a friend used to call it.
They manufacture Roundup, a name which describes what their security thugs are trying to do right now to their Occupying neighbors. “Can I get a wagon over here?” a scruffy woman in plain clothes yells into a walkie-talkie, and a screech of sirens answers from the box.
The Occupiers sit in front of the revolving door holding a large Occupation Nation sign. “Take the day off!” they advise Monsanto employees. “Sorry for the inconvenience, but we are shutting the building down. This is what democracy looks like.”
“This is a peaceful, nonviolent protest,” they calmly inform the cops who approach. Some cops aren’t interested in nonviolence, yanking at those sitting. “Who do you serve?” the Occupiers demand.
“If you do not move, a police officer will arrest you!” one very large cop bellows, his stomach heaving with indignation. “He’s talking to a donut,” one kid grins. “Why don’t you go an arrest Monsanto?” another yells. “They’re the ones killing us. We’re upholding the law.”
But they’re not moving. Well, one girl is. She’s being dragged across the pavement by a giant donut masticator. “Medic!” she whimpers, her arm firmly clutched in his large sweaty palm. “Show me what a police state looks like!” the crowd chants. “This is what a police state looks like!”
“Show me what a donut looks like,” a kid begins, and a cop grabs his hair… then sheepishly lets go and walks into the street, where the Occupiers are unfurling a huge banner. One rope catches on a cop’s parked motorcycle, and Occupiers yell, “Stop! Don’t turn the bike over!” A cop, whose name tag reads Farr, helps free the snagged rope, and smiles at the Occupiers as they get back to work. “Thanks, officer!” the Occupiers yell. But after a bit, seeing that the paddy wagon has been backed up to the curb, he informs them that they have to get off the street or be arrested.
An Occupier does a mic check. “Should we stay in the street and get arrested, or hold the doors?” he asks.
“Fuck the street, hold the doors!” the crowd yells. And under the leering grin of the cardboard ghost writer dripping simulated blood, 12 people are arrested for doing just that. “Fuck Monsanto!” they yell as the cuffs are attached.
“Fuck Monsanto,” a cop agrees.
As I walk away through the rain, headed for the job it seems I am lucky to have, some workmen prepare to go into the building. Music by Canadian rock band Rush blasts from their van’s speakers:
“It’s a far cry from the world we thought we’d inherit. It’s a far cry from the way we thought we’d share it.”
Originally published on CoolRevolution.net, March 1, 2012
This is the first in a series of posts on the history of the labor movement in this country, which bears directly on the current Occupy movement for economic justice.
“The calendar is lying when it reads the present time.” – Phil Ochs
Working people of 100 years ago put in unimaginable work days – 18, even 20 hours — under conditions that could – and did –kill. And yet they managed to find the time to think, to recognize that the only people who could probably understand their lives were the recently freed slaves. The tipping point came when poor black working folks, recognizing that working yourself to death for so little pay that you die still owing your corporate massa for food and shelter wasn’t that far from being literally owned, joined forces with labor, and the masses of working poor found the energy somehow to fight the powers that were—and to a large extent, still are.
And the right wing, which then and now glorifies hard work in the abstract, persecuted, demonized, shot and killed them when they sought to use the democratic process to rectify that injustice. It’s a grim picture that’s been utterly erased from the glorious pseudo-history that we Americans have been spoon-fed in our schools, but all you really have to do is look around, and you’ll see it, because it never really left. Like a vampire, that past was only briefly hiding in the shadows waiting for its chance to again feed on the blood of a society made vulnerable by political cravenness.
The names that you encounter these days mostly as benevolent sponsoring foundations on NPR originally belonged to brutal, rapacious men who treated humans like machines “to be used and tossed in the street after they are done with them.” J.P. Morgan got his start by royally screwing the taxpayers *and* endangering the Civil War soldiers with a defective-rifle swindle made possible by inept, corrupt oversight; instead of being tried for treason and properly punished, he made an obscene fortune courtesy of us all, and left it to his heirs. Andrew Carnegie. John D. Rockefeller. Andrew Mellon. All of them milked the U.S. government and ruthlessly overworked its citizens, getting filthy rich.
When the people whose labor created that wealth decided to band together and form unions to balance the scales, they were harassed and jailed on almost any pretext by a “police” force controlled by the monopolists. Groups of miners or railroad workers who tried to exercise their First Amendment rights and take their protest directly to their alleged Representatives were “arrested for stepping on the grass” and jailed. Sound vaguely familiar, Occupy?
While the toys our corporate masters sell us to distract us today are slicker and smarter, under the skin of society not much has changed. Or rather, it changed briefly for the better, but there’s been a steady rollback of that progress, and the present looks a lot like the 19th century. Look around, and you’ll see many of the companies the monopolists founded, some still bearing their surnames and some disguised, still raking it in, still raping the rank and file. Mellon Bank. Morgan Stanley. Chevron-Texaco. CBS Corporation. Siemens, Rockwell, U.S. Steel, Heinz, General Motors, and ExxonMobil; all sprang from the loins of these scourges of American workers. The money that allowed them to survive and thrive came from the interest paid on the obscene fortunes they extorted from your parents and grandparents.
The constant march of monopoly-friendly acts issuing from the right wing and the opportunistic “opposition” party eagerly cashing in whatever principles it has left has brought these and new monsters out of hiding and they’re ravenous for more, more, more. They’re getting it. More of your tax money in their private bank accounts, more cuts to the things your taxes should pay for, things you need to protect you from them. The sneaky repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act by Republicans and Bill Clinton. The Telecommunications Act of 1996. NAFTA. Citizens United. All crafted to make it possible for these corporations to roll over the powerless in their rush back to the end of the 19th century.
With all the powers aligned against us, and the longevity they’ve demonstrated, Occupy’s effort may seem like a fool’s errand. But isn’t it always that way? Ask the people who rose up against murderously corrupt leaders in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and all over South America.
Sometimes ‘solidarity forever’ means exactly what it says. Those starving farmers and miners, persecuted by lazy, irresponsible media so they could be killed by their own governments, finally created a movement of working people that made life briefly bearable for the people who built the country: the same unions the right is gleefully decimating today. It’s time to finish what those populists started.
For more, read http://www.ranknfile-ue.org/untold.html