The Occupied Oakland Tribune just posted documents obtained as a result of a FOIA request about the People’s Library (properly known as the Biblioteca Popular Victor Martinez). This is only a partial response to the request, but already reveals quite a bit of interesting information.
If you missed the story, activists and community members in Oakland took over an abandoned library building, formerly a drug den, and cleaned it up. They filled the shelves with donated books and began planting a community garden outside. They held a potluck and a poetry reading. A Twitter account and Facebook page were set up to share the action with the world. It was the embodiment of what we aim to do – reclaim public space and put it back into use to serve our communities. It was beautiful.
For someone who’s never been arrested, I sure spend a lot of time at Cook County Jail lately.
As part of Occupy Chicago’s ongoing jail solidarity effort for the NATO 5, who are facing terrorism charges, I have been attending as many court dates as my schedule allows. Most of these court dates are just for updates, or to set new court dates, but being there is an important show of support. At the first few I attended we pushed our luck a bit by standing and raising fists in solidarity, so much so that the judge has taken to reading a decorum order before calling any of their cases. He claims it’s not really aimed at us, just meant as a point of information for “people who only know about court from TV,” but since it uses words like “conduct of solidarity” and “protest,” I tend to take it personally.
Here’s what a NATO 5 court decorum order looks like:
All persons in the courtroom must remain silent during all proceedings. There will be no talking, noise making, standing, kneeling, waving, hand raising or other conduct of solidarity, camaraderie, protest, approval or disapproval in the courtroom or in the hallway outside the courtroom.
It’s quieter than you might expect. I’m in the middle of a crowd of NATO protesters, and nothing is happening.
Not “nothing,” exactly. We are marching, though it may be more accurate to describe it as trudging. (To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a person who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on.)
The day after watching riot cops shoot rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd of peaceful sidewalk chalk artists in LA, I bought the biggest box of chalk I could find. I had a feeling I’d be putting it to good use soon, and I was right.
Saturday night, there was an unofficial call put out on Twitter for friends of Occupy Chicago to Chalkupy in solidarity with Occupy LA. We have incorporated sidewalk chalk into other actions, most recently at the NATO summit protests and Occupy Independence on July 4th. We’ve also had confrontations with CPD, most notably when a Bank of America security guard called them out because a small group of occupiers was eating a donated dinner and chalking messages of hope and peace on a street corner in Chicago’s financial district. (In that instance, Streets and Sanitation came and power-washed it all away.) Luckily, though, we’ve never had the kind of violent reaction seen in LA.
This video illustrates what we were up to at City Hall while you were passing ordinances without us.
Dear Mayor Emanuel:
You didn’t see me today, but I was at City Hall for the Chicago City Council meeting. You couldn’t have seen me, because I was not allowed in – nor were any members of the general public. Maybe in your eyes this made the meeting run more smoothly. In my eyes, it was a travesty.
For as long as I can remember, I have heard those in your generation and older bemoaning how the young people in this country are uninformed and apathetic about politics, particularly at the local level. I am in the demographic that supposedly does not vote, does not know their elected representatives, does not read legislation, and certainly does not attend City Hall meetings.
Except that I do vote – in every election, big or small. I know my elected representatives by sight and by name. I read ordinances and other legislation that is up for a vote and contact my representatives with questions and concerns. And now, this week, I showed up at City Hall to sit in on some meetings. I never expected that when I wanted to engage in the political process this way – personally – I would be turned away.
Why I occupy
I occupy because corporations are not people, and money is not the same thing as free speech.
I occupy because I believe in united citizens, not Citizens United.
I occupy because our military is spending billions of dollars to occupy foreign countries while jobs, infrastructure and the economy suffer at home.
I occupy because my generation should have opposed these wars in greater numbers and with greater outrage to start with.