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Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupy Columbus

RedBird made an appearance at Occupy Columbus, we  went with the intention of reminding people that the struggle didn't start on Setp 17th in New York city. People have been committed to resisting this government and this system for longer than America has existed.

We encouraged people to write to political prisoners as a way to connect with some of the more recent examples of that resistance. We handed out fliers and had conversations about the CA prisoner hungerstrike to let people know how deep our invisible friends
behind bars' commitment to change goes.

We distro-ed tons of free lit, not only prison stuff, but also our favorite wacky French theory,  radical history, and critical analysis of the limitations the occupy movement has placed upon itself. Lots of people took this stuff and hopefully read it. Let's grow some teeth!

We also met some new friends, got into some debates and hatched some plans. There was this one guy who loves democracy so much that he had to keep shouting and talking over whoever was around him. Ben raised his voice a little in order to get across the point that many people in america have never actually seen democracy and prosperity, so talking about how it might suddenly now be threatened is pretty naive. Most people were a little curious to see signs that didn't mention "the 99%" or democracy, but seemed to intuitively or quickly understand how fighting the prison system relates to Occupy's ideals. One organizer pointed out that our "free all prisoners" banner was bigger than anyone else's, and even that "passing cars might see it". He seemed to think this was a problem, but Kate assured him that having a big visible banner was indeed, our intention. Then he went away.

A couple nights before we had performed In the Belly at the 2nd Saturday Salon, and the day after we recorded an interview about it on "Fighting Bob" Fitrakis' radio show. Radio is pretty frustrating, especially when you can't say "FUCK THAT!" about the plan to reform prisons by forcing inmates to grow their own organic produce.* I think we made it through all right. After the radio show we went to the GA and then had our own meeting and then went back to the GA.
*[note: originally this said "the green party's plan to reform prisons..." which was inaccurate, i think the radio broadcast is also inaccurate on this point and on CURE / COPA's support for the reform idea. The green prison reform idea does exist , and is pretty gross. The above mentioned groups seem cautiously interested, but certainly not endorsing or behind the idea, yet. For now, they're leaving it to liberal universities.]

On Sat Oct 15th, the Columbus Occupiers organized a rally and General Assembly. While New Yorkers took times square and got arrested in droves, Oaklanders marched on the local jail, Denver got forcibly evicted and Rome burned police vehicles, Columbus did our best. We, as a community have a lot further to go before more than a tiny fringe recognize that the law is not our friend.

A report of part of my experience:

"Last night me and about 100 friends walked away from an occupation of "The Columbus Commons" an ironically named parcel of private property that is owned by Capital South by means of a misappropriation of public housing funds and other dirty deals. We didn't leave because we respect that private company's ownership of that space. We didn't leave because the police told us to. We didn't really even leave because they had guns and said we would be arrested if we refused.
We left because all day long the cops in our heads and the organizers in our midst were telling us we had to, were exaggerating the power of the police, were acting as though handcuffs magically appear on your wrists as soon as you break the law. We convinced ourselves we'd sit in jail until Monday or Tuesday morning and that "the movement" would be doomed by our poor choices and lack of planning. We convinced ourselves we were powerless.
One person stayed behind. She hid in a bush, watched the rest of us march away chanting either "this is what democracy looks like" or, more accurately, but just as uselessly, "this is what a police state looks like". The officers saw her hiding, but drove away. She watched the security guard go home after our silly demonstration lengthened his dull shift. After a while, she walked back up and joined our legal demo at the state house where the polite helpful cops were treating us like we needed an escort to walk past a "hip hop bar".
Then we walked back, took this picture and sat in the middle of the commons talking about how silly everything is. After a while, we rejoined the gathering and heard the polite police officer say "we heard a rumor some of you were thinking of going back to the commons later. Don't do that. We've got a lot of important work to do tonight and can't spend our time playing with you all." He also cautioned everyone to avoid conversation with anyone from the "hip hop" bar, and call him as soon as any conflict arose.
The police are not all-powerful robots. They are fallible human beings who make the choice to follow orders or not. They are dangerous, but not invincible. When they stand in the way of our actions, when they enforce illegitimate authority, when they smile and thank us for being compliant, they are being violent towards us. Our relationship with them is defined by the guns on their belts and the badges that say they can put us in a cage. There is A LOT of violence in that relationship already. When we cooperate, we free them to their normal routine of exercising that violence against "hip hop" people. Non-violence is not an option, does not exist, cannot be practiced.
We need to silence the cop in our head that tells us we must be non-violent, we cannot be creative, we cannot defy the powerful. The cop in your head tells you that you cannot be powerful and cannot act on your desires. We need to kill the cops in our heads."

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