Archive for November, 2011

Limerick of the Man

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

 

There is a group of people in DC
They want all the money and power that be
With their wealthy friends
And their fancy pens
They pull the puppet strings we don’t see

 

But the media can save the day

They tell us the truth they say

We’re told we have choices

Because in America we have voices

But in the end we get screwed anyway

 

We live in a crazy time

Where the norm is bureaucratic crime

So we have to pick up the pieces

Before our freedom ceases

And forge ahead to a new paradigm

 

Randall

People Want to Be Understood

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

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Peaceful Protest at UC Davis on November 18th is met with Pepper Spray

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

This chilling footage of students at UC Davis, who are protesting tuition hikes, is a reminder that when push comes to shove, the police will act violently against peaceful protest. The Occupy Movement has been consistently met with police brutality. But I admire the spirit of all the protesters who continue to sacrifice their bodies for their values and stay true to their policy of nonviolence.

Occupy Buffalo in Niagara Square

Monday, November 14th, 2011

As we drove up the rain poured down. My father broke our conversation as he paused to jerk the wheel and pull the car back onto the road as we started to hydroplane toward the ditch.


When I got out of the car I noticed that the rain had subsided to a trickle, but it was chilly. From where we had parked I could see the tents in Niagara Square. I imagined what it would be like to have been there for weeks and I thought about the bitter winter that they will have to endure; I could envision the snow accumulated in mounds weighing down the roofs of their tents. The thought of staying in that square through the winter seemed horrific to me. I felt admiration for these people who had such strong beliefs that they were inspired to make serious sacrifices. I felt weak at the moment, and glad that I had a warm place to go to read, write and sleep.
Niagara Square sits in the center of a traffic circle. The old buildings that surround it are strong structures that were built in the sturdy pragmatic style of the growth of the steel belt during the peak of the U.S. industrial era. But on this day the buildings, like everything else around me, seemed cold.
My father and I had to scurry through a constant flow of cars to get into the square. There was a rag-tag grouping of 30 tents or so that were held together with duct tape, nylon rope and other more crude debris—many of which were covered with tarps. Several of the tents had slogans scrawled on them ranging from “Peace” to “We are the 99%.” There were also various signs, stuck in the ground, with clever slogans; one of my personal favorites was an anti-hydrofracking sign that said, “No Fracking Way.”


We brought with us some goods that we thought would help the occupants (food, water, clothing, etc.) and we entered one of the two main tents to find a place to deposit them. We had unknowingly entered a “teach in” by some representatives from The Coalition For Economic Justice (CEJ). An attractive young woman with nut brown hair named Allison Duwe was speaking about how corporate subsidies, like the $400,000 given to three dollar stores in Buffalo, hurt the local economy. She explained that some of the proponents tout corporate tax breaks as necessary. However, the reality, she explained, was that the jobs created by the dollar stores (like many other corporations that receive tax breaks) were low paying, often part-time, and with little benefits. In some of the literature that we were handed it said that the effects of this practice are that “retail jobs like dollar stores subsidizes poverty-level jobs that leave the workers dependent on public assistance.” She continued to explain that the money given to chain stores often is taken out of the local community. She asserted that the emphasis should be on helping local businesses that keep revenue in the community and bolster the economy by keeping profits local. She concluded her speech by insisting that a priority of those working to “find an economy that works for the 99%” begins by creating the means to “rein in corporate subsidies.” After the “teach in” she encouraged everyone to join her at a rally that was taking place at Northtown Lexus to protest a $536,000 subsidy given to the car dealership, which, according to the CEJ literature, “increases the tax burden on all Erie County residents and does nothing for the local economy.”


After the meeting we were instructed to take our goods to the supply tent and then we walked outside to the curb to check out the demonstration. We were standing out in front with Karen, a sweet-faced mother of two, who was holding a sign with the same quote from Dr. King as Y-Von had on her sign at Occupy The Hood—Cleveland, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” She informed us that she is a working mother and politically active as a voting canvasser and a block leader. I was astonished at how many people honked in approval at the few of us standing there.


A dark skinned woman in a silver sedan pulled over in front of where we were talking to Karen. She stretched her arm out of the car window and in her hand was a twenty dollar bill. As Karen walked over to receive the money and began to thank her, the woman’s lips parted into a bright white smile and she said, “Thank you for what you are doing out here.”


A young man with an orange bandana on his head, wearing a black leather jacket with two pieces of red tape which formed a cross on the left arm of his jacket walked over to where the three of us were standing. He introduced himself as Paul and said that he was one of the medics of Occupy Buffalo. Then he encouraged us to go into the main tent and stand by the heater and consume some warm drinks. We declined and said that we were okay but he insisted that since we had been standing out in the elements for more than an hour that we should be careful and take extra precautions if we started to feel unwell. I found his genuine kindness touching but I hadn’t journeyed to Occupy Buffalo to spend my time huddled around a heater drinking hot cocoa.


I continued to converse with the twenty-three year old who said his full name was Paul Slater. He explained that he was in the process of winterizing all of the Occupy Buffalo tents by placing three layers of plastic tarps on each one and laying two layers of tarps on the floor of the tents that would then be covered with blankets and he assured me that when the snow comes to stay, each tent will be equipped with a heater. Then Paul disappeared into a row of tents.


A kind grandmotherly lady with short white hair and glasses in a green Subaru wagon pulled to the side near to where we were standing and said that she had a bag with three kinds of apples to donate to the occupation. She said that she was, “getting too old to be out in the elements for long” but she was “happy to contribute to the cause.” She continued to say how thankful she was that people were out doing what they can to fight for justice.
Next a young man, who I recognized from the “teach in,” walked over and introduced himself as Eddy. Later he told me that his full name was Edwin Rosario and he was a twenty-two year old Buffalo native.


Eddy looked like a younger, shorter and more handsome version of Delonte West. He spoke enthusiastically as he paused from his rapid-fire dialogue only to take drags from the perpetually lit cigarette in his hand. He pointed up the street and said that he worked in a pizza shop, the storefront of which I could barely make out from where we were standing. He said that he had a very comfortable life living at home with his parents and the rest of his family and working at the pizza shop. But ever since he got involved in the movement in mid-September he began to spend increasingly more time in the square until he finally decided to pitch a tent and stay. When I asked why he eschewed such a comfortable existence to live in the cold mess that Niagara Square had become, he replied that he believes deeply that the working man is taxed unfairly in comparison to the corporations and the wealthy elite who benefit from corporate success. He then said that he is committed to the movement and doesn’t want to see it fail and believes that his friends in the movement need as much support as he can give. Then Eddy asked us if we would help him rebuild his tent, which was badly damaged by the previous day’s windstorm. As we walked to his tent I noticed that the rain had turned the grassy parts of the square into mucky slop. I couldn’t help but constantly slip in the mud as we walked through the corridors between the tents nearly tripping several times on tent stakes that seemed to be always underfoot.


Eddy’s tent was a large dome with slender metal rods that formed the exoskeleton. He was proud to show us the sign he made for the doorway of the imploded tent that read, “Land Fortress.” It was one of several tents that were in shambles after the previous day’s windstorm. I was told that the storm blew away nine tents, two of which occupants had to run down the street to recover more than a block away from the square. As we worked to pound new stakes in the ground to fortify Eddy’s tent Tic-Tac-sized pieces of hail began to fall from the sky. We labored away at Eddy’s tent in the hailstorm, untangling ropes and pounding in stakes and every few minutes, Eddy would drop what he was doing to greet some member of the occupation, who had recently arrived from some mysterious hiatus, as if he was greeting a long lost relative. It began to hail harder and I saw Paul stand up from a nearby tent that he was working on and extended his arms, bent at the elbows, as if he was about to receive a load of firewood and scream, “Bring it on!”


After we finished working on Eddy’s tent, Eddy said that a friend of Occupy Buffalo had offered him a shower at his house and so he had to leave. He said that a woman who was staying with her son needed help with her tent too, so we bid farewell to Eddy and moved on to the next project. As we walked to the next tent an armored car drove by and turned on a whooping alarm and the driver gave a supportive thumbs-up.
By the time we had finished with her tent darkness had long since descended on Niagara Square. My father, who had been battling laryngitis, had completely lost his voice. It was time to go. On my way out I noticed a sign that read:


“Dear Buffalo,
We’re not going anywhere.
Sincerely,
Occupy B-LO”


As we drove back hail beat at the windshield, blurring our vision of the road.


Loren

Occupy The Hood—Cleveland

Sunday, November 6th, 2011


Randall, his girlfriend Lacey, and I drove to The Audacity of Hope Foundation’s building on 11300 Superior Ave. in Cleveland, Ohio on Sunday October 30th to check out the Occupy The Hood’s “Village Soup” event. We did not know what to expect. When we arrived at the location I approached a stout, muscular man who looked like he was in his mid-forties. He sat in front of the building on a metal folding chair wearing a Duke Blue Devils hat with a flat brim tilted to the right. As I walked over to where he was seated I noticed that the sidewalk below my feet was ripped-up and many of the tattered buildings harked back to an earlier era that knew more prosperity than the present day. I introduced myself and asked the man if I was in the right place for the Occupy The Hood event. He told me I was, and introduced himself as Mark. Mark then began asking me questions; why I had come? and where I was from? I answered nervously, since this was the first time I had been to this kind of event and I felt like a nosy outsider. I explained that I am from Western New York and I am very curious about the new occupation movements that are springing up around the country. To take the heat off myself, I quickly asked him about the Occupy The Hood and the Occupy Cleveland movements. He then began to tell me about the movements.


While Mark and I spoke, I noticed a woman with a pale wrinkled face and long salt and pepper hair that flowed in the wind as she sat strumming a guitar and singing while she stared intently at sheet music on a metal stand in front of her. To my right, two men beat Congo drums. One man was young with dark skin, a tightly cropped hair cut, a small woolen beard and a tribal tattoo that snaked around his left forearm, which alternately danced up and down with his right forearm as his hands beat the skin of the drum. The other man was more than twice this young man’s age; he sat hunched over his drum and beat with a measured rhythm. His straight white hair was pulled back into a pony tail and his weathered face made me wonder what John Lennon would look like if he were still alive.


Randall spent time talking to a man named Kevin, a tech wiz who has donated hours of his time to the Occupy Cleveland movement and runs a live stream, onto the Occupation website, from Public Square where Huntington Bank seems to ominously loom everywhere. Kevin said that he works second shift and for many years has had to catch the bus from Public Square where the members of Occupy Cleveland have selected as their home base. He said that he had been catching the city bus during the early hours of the morning for years and he always used to “see kids hanging around, causing trouble and selling drugs—now the occupation is forcing the police to do their job and that doesn’t go on now.”


When we walked inside the building people were gathered around a pot of soup in the bar area to the left and to the right the room opened to a small area that looked like it was used for speaking engagements. Kevin, Mark and a couple of other individuals, whom we had met outside, entered the building and began to set-up chairs on the right side for the speaking portion of the event. I scrambled to help the men get the chairs in place for the speeches. As we readied the room I noticed a striking woman with a sturdy build who wore a black head wrap that gave her an aura of an African queen. She was laying out two-foot tall pictures of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. in the speaking area.



This woman, who was the first to address the audience, introduced herself as Y-Von of the Audacity of Hope Foundation. She held up a handmade sign with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that read, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” She spoke briefly about The Audacity of Hope Foundation, which focuses on issues that affect the local community such as cuts in school funding and lack of employment opportunities. She continued to say that the “Village Soup” was an idea that she got from the book Stone Soup, which I fondly remember from grade school, about a village that comes together to make a giant soup that feeds everyone from each ingredient that they could spare individually. She said that the movement could work the same way with everyone contributing something to the greater struggle against the one percent.



She said that Occupy The Hood—Cleveland “stands in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.” She continued to state that Occupy The Hood—Cleveland is currently involved with fifteen other Occupy The Hood movements throughout the United States. Upon visiting Occupy The Hood’s Facebook page I learned that Occupy The Hood is now in more than seventy cities including Chicago, Philly, Detroit and Boston.

There were other speakers such as the impassioned Natalie Fitten who strongly asserted that, “Corporate greed started with slavery and continues to this day.” Ms. Fitten was followed by a number of speakers each of whom had a unique take on the role of Occupy The Hood in Cleveland and the greater role of the Occupy Wall Street movement in the reshaping of society as a whole.


One of the most colorful speakers was a man who introduced himself as Brother Bob. Brother Bob stood up and told us that he was a seventy-five year old pastor and a Republican. He then proceeded to tells us how he had spent time with both Dr. King and Malcolm X when they came to Cleveland. He spoke of how religious leaders encouraged other young men of the community and himself, during the Civil Rights movement, to take the bullets out of their guns and to stand up against the tanks that were rolling down the streets and fight with their minds and wills rather than with their weapons. I felt at that moment that I was having a unique opportunity to learn from an elder who was part of history and gain from the wisdom of his past struggles. It seems that is the beauty of this new movement is the commitment to non-violent civil disobedience as practiced by Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and many of the anti-Vietnam protesters.


Finally, the young man who was beating on the drums out front was introduced as Darrien, a spokesman for Occupy Cleveland. He said that he had been in downtown Cleveland since September 7th and was not going to leave until some serious changes were made and then proceeded to deliver a fiery speech about the struggles that the “occupiers” have faced as a group. I was fortunate enough to catch up with the twenty-five year old after his speech and he told me that he has sacrificed his wages and his social life to “work his fingers to the fucking bone,” for what he believes in. He has been working with the Occupy Cleveland movement for nearly two months and has no plans for stopping. Many of the people we talked to said that they had been out in the elements fighting for what they believe in for weeks and are committed to staying indefinitely.

The Beginning of an Organic Bottom Up Structure in Occupy Cleveland

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

I want to pass along some thoughts/observations that came out of this weekend while spending some time with the Occupy Cleveland group.


Loren and I made our way down to the strong hold of Occupy Cleveland, as seen in the picture, on Sunday afternoon.  There were only a couple of people at the tent while we were there.  This is the only tent because the occupiers cannot actually sleep at Public Square in downtown Cleveland, although they can remain there throughout the night.  We met two gentleman, John and Jonathan, who were holding down the fort.  They were both pleasant and very helpful willing to answer any question we had.  They informed us of other events that were happening that day regarding the Occupy movement, including Occupy the Hood and an Affintiy Group meeting, both of which we attended.


Those who say that the Occupy movement as a whole has no specific demands or organization, may be correct, but where they see a fault I see truth.  True belief or inspiration can only arise organically.  If this movement is to maintain its momentum, and continue on to become  a true force of change, those involved must be diligent in there belief that change can be brought about by what they are doing.   I think the people of this movement must be wary of anybody that seems too eager to have any type of power within the movement, for they too could turn into the Man.


I am an outsider to the Occupy Cleveland group and have visited them on 3 occasions, so I can only speak to what I have observed.  As an observer at Sunday’s Affinity Group meeting I saw what seemed to be the first attempt at an organizational structure meeting.  There was some arguing and obvious disagreements to how the meeting was being run.  One gentleman was the facilitator and for the most part controlled the meeting but was fair in trying to give all who wanted an equal voice.   The main point of this meeting, as best I could gather, was to be a first step at creating a structure that would not be controlled by a few individuals, but instead run as a entire democratic entity that would be divided into group with more focused goals.  The membership to these groups would be based on which group a person wanted to belong to.  There appeared to be a technical group that handled all computer and media related things and group that would focus on people who needed help because their homes were in foreclosure.  I would guess there are many more groups but those were the only specific ones I heard mentioned.  They would act independently of each other and meet together to democratically make decisions on things that pertained to the greater Occupy Cleveland movement.   This is organization from the bottom up where all the people involved have a say in the direction of the movement.  I didn’t stay for the individual group meetings, but I am anxious to get down to Public Square and speak to some occupiers and see how this is developing.


Randall