Saturday, January 7, 2012

'It's All Political': Eviction and Arrests of Global Revolution Livestreamers Part of Pattern of Crackdowns on Alternative Living | | AlterNet

Released from jail after their arrest at a Brooklyn collective living space, livestreamers affiliated with Occupy Wall Street tell their stories.

A sign in Foley Square, November 17th 2011 Photo by Sarah Seltzer
Photo Credit: Sarah Seltzer
"It's all political," said Jai, one of the Global Revolution livestreamers arrested in the eviction Monday, January 2nd, of the 13 Thames collective art space that was housing the Occupy Wall Street-affiliated media crew.
After he was released from prison Wednesday night, Jai told AlterNet, "The fact is, I'm homeless now."
Global Revolution is the international network for the independent media from Occupy movements across the globe. While the eviction and arrests could have been another tactic to target and silence Occupy media, another possibility looms: Before Global Revolution, before Occupy, 13 Thames was a communal home in Bushwick, Brooklyn with a punk-anarchist edge, where tactical media projects were produced, and radical ideas were exchanged and practiced. Activists by lifestyle, inhabitants at 13 Thames created a space for communal living, rejection of norms, and demonstration planning.
Out of 13 Thames came not only Global Revolution, but musicians and artists of all sorts, as well as the Glass Bead Collective, a tactical media group that projected images of political prisoners onto the FBI building, and filmed Amy Goodman’s arrest at the 2008 Republican National Convention. If the order to vacate was not a tactic to disrupt Occupy livestreamers, it may still have been issued to strike down yet another radical space.
On Monday night, two representatives from the Department of Buildings and two NYPD officers showed up at 13 Thames, demanding they do an on-site inspection while they were in the building to inspect the neighbors at 15 Thames. The visit stemmed from an outstanding vacate order for the first floor of both 13 and 15 Thames. It was last addressed in May of 2010, but the inspectors appeared determined to take care of it immediately.
"I didn't let them in," Jai said. "They barged in on Monday, with the police, without our consent or a warrant to come into our home." Then, he said, the Department of Buildings called the fire department, who checked the sprinklers, and determined they were functioning. Unsatisfied, the inspectors decided they wanted an additional sprinkler in the hallway between the front and back rooms. "We've had inspections before, and they never said anything about sprinklers in the hallway," Jai said.
According to Jai, the need for an additional sprinkler was enough for the building inspector to declare the space "perilous to life," and they were ordered to leave right away. Vlad Teichberg, a 13 Thames resident and cofounder of the Glass Bead Collective and Global Revolution Livestream, explained to AlterNet the circumstances of the vacate order. On January 2nd, "The Buildings Department and Fire Department arrived at 8pm -- on a holiday -- which is very strange. These are not normal working hours," Teichberg said. Teichberg and Jai also said they heard an inspector say he had received a phone call that day, ordering him to take care of the old issue immediately.
Teichberg said inspectors immediately showed interest in the media equipment, and made comments like "What were you filming here?" before telling residents they could no longer "occupy" the space. "It was very strange," said Teichberg.
The next day, after having an argument with the landlord -- who residents say had entered the space without permission -- Teichberg was arrested on his way out of the space, after having gathered some legal documents to challenge the vacate order in court. He and his wife, Nikky Schiller, a livestreamer/revolutionary transplant from Spain who came to see America’s uprising, were en route to an appointment for their baby's first ultrasound. "It's a really important part of becoming a father, to see the baby for the first time," said Teichberg, "but the appointment had to be postponed."
A friend of 13 Thames and tactical media activist who goes by the name Spike was also arrested, but according to Jai, he was not even in the building -- instead videotaping from the sidewalk -- when the police were rounding them up. "He was charged with trespassing, but how can you be trespassing when you're on the curb?" said Jai. Another arrestee, who goes by the name Acadia, was also filming on the sidewalk.
Video of the arrests, shot by a colleague named Luke,* has already been responsible for getting “resisting arrest” charges against the residents dropped. "They adjusted their narrative to information that was publicly available," Teichberg told AlterNet, "The voice of the police has a lot more weight than the voice of citizens in court, but the truth is on our side."
The landlord charged Teichberg with assaulting him, but he disputes the claim and says he has footage for most of their argument. Regardless, he can't go back to 13 because there is a restraining order against him.
"Because of false accusations, I can't go back to the space," he said.
"My theory is that the city made the call, and the landlord decided to take the opportunity. The landlord saw an opportunity to get rid of us -- by vacating and arresting us, distracting us." He also says, "The police were acting on the landlord's orders. He was pointing out who to arrest."
"He is an acting one percenter," said Teichberg, referencing his ownership of multiple restaurants in the Bushwick neighborhood.
13 Thames has long been embattled in a legal case to determine the nature of their residency, and the vacate order could have been the result of a tumultuous relationship with their landlord and city agencies. By the end of September, the landlord had withdrawn an eviction order, but 13 and the landlord were still arguing over who is responsible for repairs. According to Fiona Campbell, a resident who was deeply involved with the space's legal issues, "There's been a lot of confusion between the tenants and the landlord, which is a trickle-down effect, because there is no dialogue between the buildings department and the loft board."
The buildings department and the loft board, she said, have different standards, confusing the landlord. Campbell said the building is full of code violations, but, "The landlord wants to be told by the city that he has to fix stuff, but the loft board doesn't tell him to. It's just a mess. If there was something set that made sense between the loft board and the buildings department, it would be a much simpler process."
Still, she says, communication must go both ways: 13 must be willing to pay rent, if the landlord is willing to make renovations. Otherwise, they must make renovations themselves, and pay whatever price of the building is left over to buy it out. But Campbell is not sure whether the raid is completely related to problems with the landlord, or whether residents' involvement with Occupy provoked the raid. "The two times they came in and raided everyone were before the Anarchist Book Fair, and now this," she said.
Regardless, "We were there legally, as residents of that building." said Vlad. Now, at least eight people are homeless.
"I can't say that the department of buildings and the fire department doesn't have a legal right to enter into space in the city of New York. They clearly do, but I believe that there's more at play here. I think that this is a politically motivated situation," Wylie Stecklow, an attorney for the livestreamers, told AlterNet. 13's inhabitants, Stecklow said, had been utilizing the space with impunity for years, all the while working regularly with the fire department to make sure it was not a dangerous space. "Nothing occurred in the days or weeks leading up to the vacate order that was now again put on here for the 5th or 6th time that made it all of a sudden dangerous or perilous to life," said Stecklow, who believes the order to vacate was issued from people in power, higher up than the inspectors or fire department who made the visit to 13 Thames.
Whether the vacate order was an attempt to shut down the Global Revolution livestream, the byproduct of a nasty fight with the landlord, or a combination of both, the story runs much deeper.
Inside 13 Thames
I embarked on a journey to 13 Thames before Global Revolution found its home there, and as integral as Global Revolution has become to the space, 13-1, as it is also called, was much more than Occupy's livestream station. And like 13 is more than Global Revolution’s home base, its eviction is part of a larger framework.

13 Thames was an experiment in living; it exemplified another option. Its inhabitants, dwellers, and weary travelers, many of whom used 13 to crash for a day or two (or much longer), had created a space similar to Zuccotti Park, long before it became Liberty Square. Radical ideas were rampant, leadership was shunned, and community and sharing were necessities, because money was tight. To provide one small example, Jai walked me to the subway at the end of every visit I paid to 13 Thames, to swipe me onto the subway with his unlimited metro card.
I first visited 13 Thames in May, when my desire to write about punk culture in New York led me to Nick James (who would only give his first and middle name), and Ryan Perry (stage name as former member of the punk band Total Chaos: Ryan Rebel) two homeless street punks who seemed much younger than their mid-twenties. They had both been homeless since around the age 12 or 13, and met in upstate New York when they were 16 and 17, while Ryan was living in a bus with his mom and her boyfriend, and Nick was sleeping in a yurt. Nick and Ryan were crashing at 13 Thames when I first met them, and they often had nowhere else to go. 13 Thames was like a shelter, but without the sense of charity. It was welcoming, and there, Nick and Ryan shared their music, and their stories, with people who cared.

13 Thames was designed to accommodate parties and residency, so that the artists and activists who lived there could pay the rent promoting their passions and enjoy a communal life. In each other, they found mutual inspiration and support, an effective achievement of self-sufficiency. For youths like Ryan and Nick, whose histories should have condemned them to reliance on our broken social system, this was especially important. Someone always had their backs.

The residents have shifted some since I wrote about 13 Thames in May (Schiller is one example) but the substance of what I wrote then holds:
They use this space to be free -- to make art and seek refuge from a society that does not serve them. In the midst of the devastated economy, they are able to hold their own. Kids like Nick, whom society failed, find a way to live free and be happy. At 13 Thames, one might meet at a Trinidian black metal kid who grew up in Bed-Stuy, a punk rock woman mechanic who worked for six years at a law firm, a dreadlocked community gardener, or an interestingly “off” German man. They come together to accept people that society fails and rejects, and they pride themselves on open-mindedness.
And then they party – often with a conscience. They throw film screenings, noise, metal, and punk shows, art galleries, showcasing whatever parcel of the underground they deem cool enough.
Residents were activists, artists, and musicians -- many of them people of color -- who shared a desire to reject the mainstream and experience alternative living. But they struggled within the confines of a society that demands one lifestyle, and overwhelmingly champions the pursuit of individual wealth and accomplishments. 13 paid the bills hosting rock shows, but when the Department of Buildings and police presence demanded they stop the music, they were forced to pool their resources to survive, and abandon part of their dream -- to have a free, creative space. The change added considerable pressure to 13 Thames, as money to secure rent and pay bills became tighter, and dwellers without economic means scrambled to find new ways to contribute. And still, they survived.

That is, until Monday, when the space was issued a vacate order for being “perilous to life.” But it wasn't life that the collective threatened. 13 Thames was perilous to the very leadership that ultimately dismantled it -- as was Occupy Wall Street -- by exemplifying the possibility of another life, away from the dog-eat-dog lifestyle of capitalistic gain.
At the very least, spreading the merits of anarcho-community threatens the egos and self-worth of those in power. The media‘s role in this process of presenting new possibilities is crucial, and the 13 Thames crew understood that, becoming media makers themselves.

Nigel Parry, an independent media pioneer and Global Revolution affiliate, said he is not one to believe that the NYPD is always out to shut down media, but added “They definitely targeted the media in Zuccotti Park. That's why they do this code violation bullshit. It seems completely unrelated and reasonable -- they're worried about health and safety.” Both inhabitants of 13 Thames and Liberty Square, as well as occupations around the country, were forced out of their spaces under the official, bogus pretext of health concerns (Look at Occupy Oakland -- are tear gas, flash bang grenades, and rubber bullets not more physically damaging than mass cohabitation?).
"There is a concerted effort to deprive people of the Occupy movement, and those in their media team, of their First Amendment rights," said attorney Stecklow. On November 17th, at least seven members of the Occupy media team were arrested while streaming, and Teichberg considers the police force an attempt to stop independent media. In the weeks leading up to the raid, most of the Global Revolution equipment was in the unit next door, 15 Thames, where "People were coming in from all the country, and all over the world, to spend a few days with us working and learning how to edit the channel. The space is shut down, but people are streaming all over the world," Teichberg said.
"Just like we saw in Russia, like we saw in these Arab countries, we're seeing it here in New York," said Stecklow, who noted that because Global Revolution connects the Occupy movement worldwide, "it is clearly the media team behind the Occupy movement."
Teichberg agreed. "Independent media is under attack worldwide - in Syria, Egypt, and now in the USA. People on our media team have been arrested five times,” he said, "It's an attempt at censorship."
Breaking Up Radical Spaces
But Liberty Square and 13 Thames are not the only communal spaces the Bloomberg administration has targeted. While maintaining a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) space has always been turbulent, breaking them up has become increasingly common. As the Village Voice recently reported, new rules enforced by new task forces have become somewhat of a tool “to force out New York's bohemian culture in hopes of creating a future perfect Gotham.” The Voice explains:
Not long after the new Quality of Life Task Force began to crack down on long-unenforced cabaret laws during the Giuliani administration, the Social Club Task Force—established after the 1990 Happy Land fire—evolved into the Multi-Agency Response to Community Hotspots (MARCH), overseen by the New York Police Department. "Unauthorized dancing" was now only one of many potential infractions.
According to the Voice, when Bloomberg took office in 2002, “MARCH activities rose immediately by 35 percent and kept growing.” The Voice continues:
"If you listen to stories about what led to this homicide or what led to this assault, you would be surprised how many stem from nightclubs," Robert F. Messner, a police commissioner who oversaw club shutdowns, told the Times. "We don't want those places in New York. We make it very clear." In 2003, the smoking ban went into effect, outlawing one of the city's longest-running cultural institutions: the smoky jazz club. Regulations have kept creeping into other bastions of the old, free New York. The Algonquin Hotel has had to confine its lobby cat to a space behind the check-in counter, and don't even think about trying to have a bar dog.
This is all despite the fact that DIY spaces have been a staple of New York’s creativity since the art scene flourished in the 1960s. As the Voice explained,
Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and the Almanac Singers had live music at their communal Almanac House on West 10th Street as early as 1939, but history records a December 1960 gathering on Chambers Street organized by Yoko Ono as the first proper loft show.
Alcohol infractions, too, have become reasons to shut down DIY spaces. In April of 2010, cops raided one of Bushwick's most renowned DIY spaces, the Market Hotel, and shut it down after "receiving a tip that alcohol was being served without a license," according to the Brooklyn Paper. The Market Hotel was the brain child of Todd Patrick, AKA Todd P, who has been credited with inspiring the DIY scene in New York. The Arch Collective, too, was legally reprimanded in April, for “operating an illegal bottle club” while serving wine and beer to party guests. That same month, the Trailer Park, a neighboring collective to 13 Thames, was shut down for fire code violations.
The Silent Barn, also in Bushwick, was raided in July. A DIY/living space like 13 Thames, its residents were temporarily homeless after a Department of Buildings inspection ended in a vacate order. When they returned the next day, the front door was wide open and $15,000 worth of equipment and personal possessions was stolen or destroyed, the Voice said, adding that "Despite security-camera footage of three men loading equipment into a van, police were less than helpful."

For 13 Thames, this latest brush with the law was not their first time. Police raided their space in April of last year, just days before they were scheduled to host an after-party for the Anarchist Book Fair. Residents said the police entered without a warrant, checked IDs, and arrested some with outstanding warrants.

One of them, Johnny Ludolph, 19, told the New York Times he was arrested for old, unpaid tickets issued for drinking beer on the sidewalk. But when he arrived at the police station, Ludolph told the Times the police seemed most interested in asking him about fliers for the NYC Anarchist Film Festival, with 13 Thames Street listed as an address.

Proof that the eviction of 13 Thames was entirely Global Revolution-related is limited. Nevertheless, what is clear is that across the country, people in positions of power are using minor violations and health code ‘concerns’ to evict ideas. That Bloomberg and others either do not understand the thriving livelihood of these spaces, or are so threatened by their ideology they try to suppress it, should not be a surprise. Occupy and 13 Thames derived wealth from creativity and art; they defined their value by contributions to community. Bloomberg’s wealth stemmed from self-promotion, and is measured by money.
Yet shutting down the space hasn't stopped the Global Revolution crew from working. Immediately following their release, Jai said, they were "back to the studio," preparing to find the stuff they stashed away and keep on working. Their release guarantees the resumption of their activities -- without a home -- but with more attention.
As Teichberg said after his arrest, “We can do all of this from laptops," not to mention smart phones.
"You can hit us, but you can't stop us, because we're everywhere," he said, "This will only make us stronger."
*Editor's note: An earlier version of this piece incorrectly identified the videographers..
Kristen Gwynne covers drugs for AlteNet. She graduated from New York University with a degree in journalism and psychology.

'It's All Political': Eviction and Arrests of Global Revolution Livestreamers Part of Pattern of Crackdowns on Alternative Living | | AlterNet

Friday, January 6, 2012

Occupy 2012 Roundup: NDAA, Victories Against Corporate Personhood, Descending on DC, General Strike! | NationofChange

Nathan Schneider

Waging Nonviolence / Video Feature
Published: Friday 6 January 2012

This is a tall order, but if people can remember that political power begins in themselves, perhaps it’s not as tall as it sounds.
The Oc­cupy move­ment is busy. Far from being dor­mant for the win­ter, oc­cu­piers are find­ing them­selves with all sorts of new ac­tions, chal­lenges and plans. Though most of the 24-hour en­camp­ments have ended, the move­ment is be­gin­ning to focus much more on ac­tions di­rected to­ward con­crete de­mands. Last night I at­tended Oc­cupy Wall Street’s Spokes Coun­cil—now fi­nally ac­tive after weeks of tur­moil—and caught the above video of doc­u­men­tar­ian Michael Moore’s un­planned speech. In it, he re­minded the 100 or so peo­ple pre­sent that the fight ahead is a long one, and that they’re only just get­ting started. Here’s a glimpse at how the fight will be un­fold­ing in the com­ing months:
  • The day after Oc­cupy Wall Street’s Gen­eral As­sem­bly passed a Res­o­lu­tion to End Cor­po­rate Per­son­hood by con­sen­sus, the New York City Coun­cil ap­proved its own res­o­lu­tion against cor­po­rate per­son­hood on Jan­u­ary 4. This comes after sim­i­lar res­o­lu­tions in sev­eral cities, in­clud­ing Los An­ge­les, as well as Mon­tana’s vow to up­hold a ban on cor­po­rate cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions, de­spite the Supreme Court’s Cit­i­zens United de­ci­sion. Cor­po­rate per­son­hood is the focus of Oc­cupy the Courts, a na­tion­wide day of ac­tion on Jan­u­ary 20, the eve of the sec­ond an­niver­sary of Cit­i­zens United, spear­headed by the pre­ex­ist­ing coali­tion Move to Amend.
  • A num­ber of events are planned around Mar­tin Luther King Day, in­clud­ing a world­wide “can­dle­light vigil for unity” on Jan­u­ary 15, protests at all 13 Fed­eral Re­serve sites around the coun­try on Jan­u­ary 16, and Oc­cupy 4 Jobsac­tions on Jan­u­ary 14 and 16—which pur­port to ful­fill King’s hope just be­fore his death to mount a mass ac­tion against un­em­ploy­ment. Posters about Oc­cupy 4 Jobs are among the first Oc­cupy posters I’ve seen in my pre­dom­i­nately African-Amer­i­can neigh­bor­hood, sug­gest­ing that the move­ment is en­larg­ing its de­mo­graphic reach.
  • Oc­cupy Wash­ing­ton DC, the oc­cu­pa­tion at Free­dom Plaza that began on Oc­to­ber 6, has just an­nounced plans for its own “Phase II,” which in­cludes sev­eral new or­ga­niz­ing spaces, an Oc­cupy Media pro­ject, a “co-op­er­a­tive sub-econ­omy” fundrais­ing pro­gram, and NOW DC, a re­newed na­tional oc­cu­pa­tion in Wash­ing­ton start­ing on April 1.
  • Chicago will see ac­tion in the spring, too, with protests being planned for the G8 and NATO sum­mits May 19–21 by an­ti­war groups like United for Peace & Jus­tice and UNAC. Oc­cupy Chicago has called for a sub­se­quent Oc­cupy Spring mo­bi­liza­tion on April 7.
  • On May 1, there’s a call for Oc­cupy May Day—a world­wide gen­eral strike.Thou­sands have al­ready signed up on Face­book.
The defin­ing chal­lenge that the move­ment in the US will face in 2012 will al­most cer­tainly be the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. With bil­lions of dol­lars being poured into di­rect­ing the whole coun­try’s at­ten­tion at the can­di­dates non­stop, the Oc­cupy move­ment has to find a way to make the is­sues that mat­ter to it take prece­dence over the per­son­al­i­ties and ad­ver­tise­ments of pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls. Oc­cu­piers in Iowa, who called on peo­ple to vote “un­com­mit­ted” in the cau­cuses, ap­pear to have had lit­tle im­pact at the polls. (Oc­cupy the New Hamp­shire Pri­mary is now gear­ing up with some­what dif­fer­ent tac­tics.) It is al­ready taken as a given in the move­ment that there will be mas­sive protests at both Re­pub­li­can and De­mo­c­ra­tic con­ven­tions. But if these are to be con­struc­tive, rather than sim­ply chaotic, the move­ment will need to be able to offer peo­ple some­thing more hope­ful, more com­pelling and more tan­gi­ble than any pres­i­den­tial can­di­date can promise to de­liver.
This is a tall order, but if peo­ple can re­mem­ber that po­lit­i­cal power be­gins in them­selves, per­haps it’s not as tall as it sounds.

Occupy 2012 Roundup: NDAA, Victories Against Corporate Personhood, Descending on DC, General Strike! | NationofChange

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, the First Amendment, and the Politics of Free Speech | NationofChange

Published: Thursday 29 December 2011

“This teach-in is the first of three teach-ins that we hope to hold in the coming months here in law school about various aspects legal and policy issue raised by the Occupy Wall Street Movement.”

Kendall Thomas, Nash Pro­fes­sor of Law and Di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for the Study of Law and Cul­ture, Co­lum­bia Uni­ver­sity mod­er­ates the first of three teach-ins. Ali­cia White, an oc­cu­pier says: “I ended up going to Oc­cupy Wall Street be­cause of a video. Like a lot of peo­ple, I saw a video that was posted on­line of some peo­ple who were march­ing in the street and look­ing very in­spired.”

Occupy Wall Street, the First Amendment, and the Politics of Free Speech | NationofChange

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

OccupyMarines Renews Vow To Protect Protesters

December 24, 2011

Image from
It seems many of us have forgotten the Occupy Movement. While we gear up for Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, hundreds of thousands of Americans are still in the streets, protesting Wall Street and fighting for social justice.
To that end, OccupyMarines have renewed their vow to defend the protesters from the brutality of police forces across the country.
Here is their message, via Facebook;
“OccupyMarines will continue to protect the Occupiers. We are here to insure a peaceful protest. Let us know of any marches happening and we can send a call to veterans in your area so we can be of service.”
OccupyMarines also made a general call to stand together this holiday season in the face of corporate tyranny and government inaction.
“We have weapons of mass destruction- Our voices, Our Solidarity. Let’s stick together, these times are crucial, we’ve defended our nation from foreign threat, it’s time to defend it from domestic threat. Let us stand together with our brothers and sisters this holiday and achieve the true freedom we all deserve. Semper Occupare, Semper Fidelis.”
The Occupy Movement continues to stand strong this holiday season despite cold weather and efforts by police to break up camps. This is our opportunity to fight for our own freedom alongside Marines that risked their lives in foreign lands to keep Americans free. The Constitution specifically guarantees that every American has the right to assemble, protest, and speak freely. Let’s not forget that we must continue to defend those rights, even during the holidays. Because those who would take those rights away from us, are not taking the holidays off. We must continue to march, protest, and keep the Occupy Movement as the forefront of every mind in America. The Marines are in it to win it. Are you?
Special Thanks: To those men and women in uniform who have fought abroad or still fight abroad, and continue to fight for our rights and justice at home, thank you for your heroic service and unflinching dedication to the people of this nation. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season

OccupyMarines Renews Vow To Protect Protesters | Addicting Info

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Four Occupations of Planet Earth

By Tom Engelhardt

On the streets of Moscow in the tens of thousands, the protesters chanted: “We exist!” Taking into account the comments of statesmen, scientists, politicians, military officials, bankers, artists, all the important and attended to figures on this planet, nothing caught the year more strikingly than those two words shouted by massed Russian demonstrators.

“We exist!” Think of it as a simple statement of fact, an implicit demand to be taken seriously (or else), and undoubtedly an expression of wonder, verging on a question: “We exist?”

And who could blame them for shouting it? Or for the wonder? How miraculous it was. Yet another country
long immersed in a kind of popular silence suddenly finds voice, and the demonstrators promptly declare themselves not about to leave the stage when the day -- and the demonstration -- ends. Who guessed beforehand that perhaps 50,000 Muscovites would turn out to protest a rigged electoral process in a suddenly restive country, along with crowds in St. Petersburg, Tomsk, and elsewhere from the south to Siberia?

In Tahrir Square in Cairo, they swore: “This time we’re here to stay!” Everywhere this year, it seemed that they -- “we” -- were here to stay. In New York City, when forced out of Zuccotti Park by the police, protesters returned carrying signs that said, “You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.”

And so it seems, globally speaking. Tunis, Cairo, Madrid, Madison, New York, Santiago, Homs. So many cities, towns, places. London, Sana’a, Athens, Oakland, Berlin, Rabat, Boston, Vancouver... it could take your breath away. And as for the places that aren’t yet bubbling -- Japan, China, and elsewhere -- watch out in 2012 because, let’s face it, “we exist.”

Everywhere, the “we” couldn’t be broader, often remarkably, even strategically, ill defined: 99% of humanity containing so many potentially conflicting strains of thought and being: liberals and fundamentalists, left-wing radicals and right-wing nationalists, the middle class and the dismally poor, pensioners and high-school students. But the “we” couldn’t be more real.

This “we” is something that hasn’t been seen on this planet for a long time, and perhaps never quite so globally. And here’s what should take your breath away, and that of the other 1%, too: “we” were never supposed to exist. Everyone, even we, counted us out.

Until last December, when a young Tunisian vegetable vendor set himself alight to protest his own humiliation, that “we” seemed to consist of the non-actors of the twenty-first century and much of the previous one as well. We’re talking about all those shunted aside, whose lives only weeks, months or, at most, a year ago, simply didn’t matter; all those the powerful absolutely knew they could ride roughshod over as they solidified their control of the planet’s wealth, resources, property, as, in fact, they drove this planet down.
For them, “we” was just a mass of subprime humanity that hardly existed. So of all the statements of 2011, the simplest of them -- “We exist!” -- has been by far the most powerful.

Name of the Year: Occupy Wall Street

Every year since 1927, when it chose Charles Lindbergh for his famed flight across the Atlantic, Time magazine has picked a “man” (even when, on rare occasions, it was a woman like Queen Elizabeth II) or, after 1999, a “person” of the year (though sometimes it’s been an inanimate object like “the computer” or a group or an idea). If you want a gauge of how “we” have changed the global conversation in just months, those in the running this year included “Arab Youth Protestors,” “Anonymous,” “the 99%,” and “the 1%.” Admittedly, so were Kim Kardashian, Casey Anthony, Michele Bachman, Kate Middleton, and Rupert Murdoch. In the end, the magazine’s winner of 2011 was “the protester.”

How could it have been otherwise? We exist -- and even Time knows it. From Tunis in January to Moscow in December this has been, day by day, week by week, month by month, the year of the protester. Those looking back may see clues to what was to come in isolated eruptions like the suppressed Green Movement in Iran or under-the-radar civic activism emerging in Russia. Nonetheless, protest, when it arrived, seemed to come out of the blue. Unpredicted and unprepared for, the young (followed by the middle aged and the old) took to the streets of cities around the globe and simply refused to go home, even when the police arrived, even when the thugs arrived, even when the army arrived, even when the pepper spraying, the arrests, the wounds, the deaths began and didn’t stop.
And by the way, if “we exist” is the signature statement of 2011, the name of the year would have to be “Occupy Wall Street.” Forget the fact that the place occupied, Zuccotti Park, wasn’t on Wall Street but two blocks away, and that, compared to Tahrir Square or Moscow’s thoroughfares, it was one of the smallest plots of protest land on the planet. It didn’t matter.

The phrase was blowback of the first order. It was payback, too. Those three words instantly turned the history of the last two decades upside down and helped establish the protesters of 2011 as the third of the four great planetary occupations of our era.

Previously, “occupations” had been relatively local affairs. You occupied a country (“the occupation of Japan”), usually a defeated or conquered one. But in our own time, if it were left to me, I’d tell the history of humanity, American-style, as the story of four occupations, each global in nature:

The First Occupation: In the 1990s, the financial types of our world set out to “occupy the wealth,” planetarily speaking. These were, of course, the globalists, now better known as the neoliberals, and they were determined to “open” markets everywhere. They were out, as Thomas Friedman put it (though he hardly meant it quite this way), to flatten the Earth, which turned out to be a violent proposition.
The neoliberals were let loose to do their damnedest in the good times of the post-Cold-War Clinton years. They wanted to apply a kind of American economic clout that they thought would never end to the organization of the planet. They believed the U.S. to be the economic superpower of the ages and they had their own dreamy version of what an economic Pax Americana would be like. Privatization was the name of the game and their version of shock-and-awe tactics involved calling in institutions like the International Monetary Fund to “discipline” developing countries into a profitable kind of poverty and misery.
In the end, gleefully slicing and dicing subprime mortgages, they financialized the world and so drove a hole through it. They were our economic jihadis and, in the great meltdown of 2008, they deep-sixed the world economy they had helped “unify.” In the process, by increasing the gap between the super-rich and everyone else, they helped create the 1% and the 99% in the U.S. and globally, preparing the ground for the protests to follow.

The Second Occupation: If the first occupation drove an economic stake through the heart of the planet, the second did a similar thing militarily. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the “unilateralists” of the Bush administration staked their own claim to a global occupation at the point of a cruise missile. Romantics all when it came to the U.S. military and what it could do, they invaded Iraq, determined to garrison the oil heartlands of the planet. It was going to be “shock and awe” and “mission accomplished” all the way. What they had in mind was a militarized version of an “occupy the wealth” scheme. Their urge to privatize even extended to the military itself and, when they invaded, in their baggage train came crony corporations ready to feast.

Once upon a time, Americans knew that only the monstrous enemy -- most recently that "evil empire,” the Soviet Union -- could dream of world conquest and occupation. That was, by nature, what evil monsters did. Until 2001, when it turned out to be quite okay for the good guys of planet Earth to think along exactly the same lines.

The invasion of Iraq, that “cakewalk,” was meant to establish a multi-generational foothold in the Greater Middle East, including permanent bases garrisoned with 30,000 to 40,000 American troops, and that was to be just the beginning of a chain reaction. Soon enough Syria and Iran would bow down before U.S. power or, if they refused, would go down anyway thanks to American techno-might. In the end, the lands of the Greater Middle East would fall into line (with the help of Washington’s proxy in the region, Israel).

And since there was no other nation or bloc of nations with anything like such military power, nor would any be allowed to arise, the result -- and they weren’t shy about this -- would be a global Pax Americana and a domestic Pax Republicana more or less till the end of time. As the “sole superpower” or even “hyperpower,” Washington would, in other words, occupy the planet.

Of course, Iraq and Afghanistan were also more traditional occupations. In Baghdad, for instance, American consul L. Paul Bremer III issued “Order 17,” which essentially granted to every foreigner connected with the occupation enterprise the full freedom of the land, not to be interfered with in any way by Iraqis or any Iraqi political or legal institutions. This included "freedom of movement without delay throughout Iraq," and neither their vessels, vehicles, nor aircraft were to be "subject to registration, licensing, or inspection by the [Iraqi] Government." Nor in traveling would any foreign diplomat, soldier, consultant, or security guard, or any of their vehicles, vessels, or planes be subject to "dues, tolls, or charges, including landing and parking fees." And that was only the beginning.

Order 17, which read like an edict plucked directly from a nineteenth century colonial setting, caught the local hubris of those privatizing occupiers.

All of this proved to be fantasy bordering on delusion, and it didn’t take long for that to become apparent. In fact, the utter failure of the unilateralists came home to roost in the form of a SOFA agreement with Iraqi authorities that promised to end the U.S. garrisoning of the country not in 2030 or 2050, but in 2011. And the Bush administration felt forced to agree to it in 2008, the same year that the economic unilateralists were facing the endgame of their dreams of global domination.

In that year, the neoliberal effort to privatize the planet went down in flames, along with Lehman Brothers, all those subprime mortgages and derivatives, and a whole host of banks and financial outfits rescued from the trash bin of history by the U.S. Treasury. Talk about giving the phrase “creative destruction” the darkest meaning possible: the two waves of American unilateralists nearly took down the planet.

They let loose demons of every sort, even as they ensured that the world’s first experience of a “sole superpower” would prove short indeed. Heap onto the rubble they left behind the global disaster of rising prices for the basics -- food and fuel -- and you have a situation so combustible that no one should have been surprised when a single Tunisian match set it aflame.

The first two failed occupations plunged the planet into chaos and misery, even as they paved the way, in a thoroughly unintended fashion, for an Arab Spring ready to take on the Middle East’s 1%.

Note as well that, as their policies went to hell in a hand basket, the first and second set of occupiers walked off with their treasure and their selves intact. Neither the bankers nor the militarists went to jail, not a one of them. They had made out like bandits and continue to do so. They took home their multi-million dollar bonuses. They kept their yachts, mansions, and (untaxed) private jets. They took with them the ability to sign million-dollar contracts for bestselling memoirs and to go on the lecture circuit at $100,000-$150,000 a pop. They had, in the case of the second occupation, quite literally, gotten away with murder (and torture, and kidnapping, etc.). In the process, the misery of the 99% had been immeasurably increased.

The Third Occupation: The most significant and surprising thing the first two globalizing occupations did, however, was to globalize protest. Together they created the basis, in pure iniquity and inequity, in dead bodies and bruised lives, for Tahrir Square and Occupy Wall Street. Their failures set the stage for something new in the world.

The result was a Chalmers Johnson-style case of blowback, the spirit of which was caught in the protesters’ appropriation of the very word “occupy.” There was a sense out there that they had occupied us long and disastrously enough. It was time for us to occupy them, and so our own parks, squares, streets, towns, cities, and countries.

The urge to right things is, in fact, a powerful one. Gene Turitz, a friend of mine who took part in the demonstrations that briefly shut down the port of Oakland, California, recently wrote me the following about the experience. It catches something of the mood of this moment:

“The mayor of Oakland, a former progressive, blasted the economic violence that was being perpetrated by the Occupy movement shutting down the port. No word about the economic violence of banks stealing people's homes through foreclosures, or the economic violence of [sports] team owners demanding the city build new stadiums for their teams or they will move to another city, or of corporations threatening to move if this or that is not done for them. That’s just the way things are done. You do not want the ‘violence’ of thousands of people peacefully showing that things must change to make their lives better.”

Or in two words: we exist! And possibly in the nick of time.

The Fourth Occupation: This is both the newest and oldest of occupations. I’m speaking about humanity’s occupation of Earth. In recent centuries, can there be any question that we’ve been hard on this planet, exploiting it for everything it’s worth? Our excuse was that we genuinely didn’t know better, at least when it came to climate change, that we just didn't understand what kind of long-term harm the burning of fossil fuels could do. Now, of course, we know. Those who don’t are either in denial or simply couldn’t care less.
And here’s just a taste of what we do know about how the fourth occupation is affecting the planet: thirteen of the warmest years since recordkeeping began have occurred in the last 15 years. In 2010, historically staggering amounts of carbon dioxide were sent into the atmosphere (“the biggest jump ever seen in global warming gases”); extreme weather was, well, remarkably extreme in 2011 -- torrid droughts, massive fires, vast floods -- and, in the Arctic, ice is now melting at unprecedented rates, which will mean future sea-level rises that will threaten low-lying areas of the planet. And as for that temperature, well, it’s going to keep going up, uncomfortably so.

Potentially, this is the monster blowback story of all time.

And here’s just a taste of what we know about business as usual on this planet: if we rely on the previous occupiers and their ilk to save us, then it’s going to be a long, dismal wait. Don’t count on energy giants like Exxon or BP or their lobbyists and the politicians they influence to stop climate change. After all, none of them are going to be alive to see a far less habitable planet, so what do they care? Torrid zones are so then, profit sheets and bonuses are so now, which means: don’t count on the 1% to give a damn.
If it were up to them -- a few outliers among them excepted -- we could probably simply write the Earth off as a future friendly place for us. And the planet wouldn’t care. Give it 100,000, 10 million, 100 million years and it’ll get itself back in shape with plenty of life forms to go around.

We’re such ephemeral creatures with such brief life spans. It’s hard for us to think even in the sort of modestly long-range way that climate change demands. So thank your lucky stars that the first and second wave occupiers created a third payback occupation they never imagined possible. And thank your lucky stars that movements to occupy our planet in a new way and turn back the global warmers are slowly rising as well.
Like the attempted occupations of the global economy and the Greater Middle East, each spurred by a sense of greed that went beyond all bounds, the occupation of our planet is guaranteed to create its own oppositional forces, and not just in the natural world either. They are perhaps already emerging along with the Arab spring, the European summer, and the American fall, not to speak of the Russian winter. And when they’re here -- as the fifth occupation of planet Earth -- when they stand their ground and chant “We exist!” in anger, strength, and wonder, maybe then we can really tackle climate change and hope it isn’t too late.
Maybe the fifth occupation is the one we’re waiting for -- and don't for a second doubt that it will come. It’s already on its way.

The following comment on this article left by HAVENMAVEN was worthy of including with this post:

Could a Fifth Occupation be that of Human Connection? What would happen if humans adopted compassion and empathy as guiding principles - pausing to understand one's own true human needs, while also considering and honoring the true human needs of those around him/her?

What if we took it upon ourselves to
1) actively listen to those needs (of ours, of other people),
2) help one another reframe those needs in order to
3) detail and make concrete requests of ourselves and others to attempt to meet those needs...

Would we be that much closer to developing strategies that meet the needs of all humans?
Those needs being:

Physical Well-being (shelter/air/food/water/emotional + physical safety)
Connection (care, love, compassion, communication, cooperation, trust)
Meaning (Hope, contribution, clarity, understanding, reciprocity, respect)
Autonomy (choice, freedom, space, time, independence)
Honesty (authenticity, integrity, transparency)
Harmony (peace, order, communion, ease, predictability, stability)

Take a look at that list again. Which needs can you live without and still feel complete? Can you trust that other humans need those things too? Or are you too scared of what could happen if they get those needs met and you don't?

How long can this cycle of haves and have-nots go on? How long do we want it to go on?

For more information on how to build the skills that will help you and others get their needs met, please consider looking into NonViolent Communication, Restorative Practices/Justice/Circles, and Mindfulness Techniques. They help thousands re-engage with their own lives every day.

Youtube: Marshall Rosenburg (NVC)
Dominic Barter (Restorative Justice)
Mark Walsh (Integration Training)

For more immediate help:

The link above is a free service (you WILL pay what your carrier will charge you for the phone call, however, so opt for your free minutes on this one when you can!).

The service is set to go global, to support anyone involved in or impacted by the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States or Internationally.Several highly skilled empathic action enthusiasts are standing by on those lines, waiting to hear about your needs. Callers have been delighted with the opportunity to get heard.
This article was published at NationofChange at: All rights are reserved.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Take Back the Commons - D17 | Occupy Wall Street Video -

Uploaded by on Dec 18, 2011
December 17, 2011: Occupy Wall Street teams up with artists, musicians and faith leaders to demand a space for public expression and to seek sanctuary in an unused lot owned by Trinity Church, an institution that has shown support for the movement despite its strong ties to Wall Street. Episcopal Bishop George Packard is the first to scale the fence, and is arrested along with fellow occupiers. Reverend Lawson, a leader of the Civil Rights movement, urges the protesters to keep "treading water" because the country needs them. Music from Dean and Britta, live from WBAI studios.

Take Back the Commons - D17 | Occupy Wall Street Video - YouTube

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why I Protest: Wael Nawara of Egypt -Person of the Year 2011- Printout - TIME

Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011
The writer and activist Wael Nawara, 50, is the co-founder of the Ghed (Tomorrow) party, established in 2003. He spoke to TIME's Abigail Hauslohner in Cairo about becoming involved in the protests and his interest in increasing Egypt's exposure to the global economy. Here are excerpts:
TIME: What event made you an activist? What made this a personal thing for you?
Wael Nawara:
I was living abroad for some time. And then I was stationed here in the Red Sea for about a year, and this is when I decided to come back to Egypt to try to improve things in some way. I started by focusing on the economic side of things. I went to the U.K. and got an MA in international marketing. By the year 2000, I started feeling that it was useless to work on improving the economy if you didn't have significant legislative political reform, because economic development opens the door to corruption and it becomes impossible to work within the margins of the law because the law is not legitimate. I started writing about this idea of the parallel state — with the failing of the formal state [in health care and the social safety net] where the failings of the formal state gave rise to the parallel state... I think in the end, it was the parallel state that won. For example, in the media, it was the bloggers and Facebook because people lost faith in the state media. We even ended up having a parallel parliament. What made things worse is the [then ruling National Democratic Party] hijacked the EJB — the Egyptian Junior Business Association. I started a political party with a number of my friends from that association, but we met Ayman Nour who was starting another — al-Ghed — and then we sort of joined forces and worked together ever since...
What was the most memorable moment of the revolution for you?
The whole thing to me is like a series — like a movie. But I think on Feb. 11, in the evening, after Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak was stepping down, and I saw like 80 million people in the street. And that was comforting. That was a kind of referendum on the revolution after the fact. And people were celebrating — I don't think I've seen Egyptians so happy in my life. People were chanting, 'Raise your head up high, you're an Egyptian.' To me it was a relief, because I've always felt partially responsible — because if things went bad then we would have started something that went bad.
What was the most important lesson you learned?
Something I discovered: this collective conscience. We'd never had this huge gathering of hundreds of thousands of people. To have that many and be able to say still that we want this only, and we won't move unless it's fulfilled. And people would go and negotiate with Omar Suleiman and reach a concession and then come back thinking they were big shots and then were forced to recognize the fact that they were not the leaders of the square; and they apologized... People had to realize for the first time that [there were no leaders]. There was a much bigger collective mind in the square, that stretched to Suez and elsewhere... The thing is people in the square were not watching al-Jazeera until much later.
What was the worst thing you saw during your participation?
The worst thing was on Jan. 28. I was on the Nile. We were caged in [the Boulaq district] for about five hours, and we were gassed continuously. And many people fell, and new people had come from Imbaba [another district]. And these people did not participate in Jan 25 [the first day of huge protests], so we didn't know what to expect. But they were quite civilized. But after being gassed for so long, they started being violent. And then I was really upset and this is when I thought that things would get out of hand. They were gassed continuously and then got really angry and started setting things on fire and I was really sad that this was happening. I think also police brutality was very upsetting. They always take people off the sides [of the crowd], kidnapping them and beating them. Five or six people would be beating one person really brutally. Seeing so many people who fell dead or injured because of attacks was also very disturbing. And I caution everybody in the days to come — when they make a decision — that there are people who die as the result of the protests, that you have to be really sure [of the protests]. I think there was a turn also in the revolution, that some people started just using the revolution for personal glory in a way. But I think also the biggest problem was that [the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which currently rules Egypt] lost the confidence and trust of the people quite early on.
How did friends and family regard your participation in the protests?
There were many instances when I lost my job or important business because of being in the opposition [before the revolution], got arrested, things like that. I got defamed in the newspapers and things like that. So I was asked by many people to stop: "You're not going to do anything; you're just wasting your life. You're a parent and you should be with your kids." My wife was quite supportive and that's very strange because I thought she was quite the opposite of this... But my wife joined protests on Jan. 28 in Nasser City and on subsequent days in Tahrir.
Did you think the revolution and the protests were going to be successful?
Since the elections of 2010 it became very apparent that the recklessness of the regime in running the election in that way and getting 95%+ while the NDP was really hated... I thought that was the beginning of the end. And I remember even writing in my blog that the regime was a train heading into the terminal. We hadn't arrived... Of course it was only [after] Tunisia, when they started the revolution, we sent out support messages in December and so on. And as it gathered momentum, it became clear that this was like a user's manual in how to topple a regime peacefully. Since around the 16th of January, there was an opinion poll in [the newspaper] Masry al-Youm, and the public opinion was for revolution. The internet at that time was huge. Twitter was small, but purely for hardcore activists. While Facebook was for larger mobilization. I was not sure what would happen. But I kind of changed my business plans, cancelled some meetings. I have a son who studies in Canada, so I transferred some money to Canada because I didn't know if I would be alive. I took it very seriously and made preparations as in what happens if I die.
What was the most frightening moment for you?
All the time. In the minutes of an attack, you feel you'll get crushed in a stampede. At one point, maybe around 5 or 4:30 on the first day, they started throwing tear gas really bad. And I and a small group started advancing in one line against the flow of the stampede. But then people came behind us. And so that was a bit scary. We tried to make a first line to get people back to the square. On the 28th, there was a genuine fear of chaos. I thought, "Oh my god, we've started something that could lead to chaos." Because we had already witnessed in Tunisia that the regime had released thugs and that neighborhood watches had [to be set up]. [But] we had a parallel state anyway, so it didn't matter if the formal state was toppled or failed because Egyptians were ready. Within the square, within 24 hours, there were hospitals. From the very first hours of Jan 25. So that kind of self-organization was amazing. And it was a moment of discovery that I think many people doubted . . . Many people say today, "you don't look so desperate after parliamentary results." But there is nothing worse than Jan. 28 in the evening, and I think I had the same fear around the 9th of February when many labor groups and separate governorates began to have separate uprisings. And I thought the country is slipping into chaos. And that was one of the reasons that from the very first moment, Egyptians were calling for the army to step in...
How did your participation in the revolution change you as a person?
Maybe things will go bad for a while, even three or five years. But I discovered things about people that I didn't know about. I think in a way it's comforting, that... whatever happens, in the end, things will turn out all right. Because the relationship between people and authority in Egypt has changed forever. And that in itself is the guarantee, the guarantee that people themselves have discovered that they can change and stop authority from going too far. I think that self-discovery changes everything. So I can't say that I've been transformed as a person after the revolution. But I think I learned new things, became more confident in the future of Egypt.

Why I Protest: Wael Nawara of Egypt -Person of the Year 2011- Printout - TIME

Why I Protest: Natalia Klossa and Antonis of Greece -Person of the Year 2011- Printout - TIME

Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011
Natalia Klossa, 41, met Antonis, 33, on the second day of the takeover of Athens' Syntagma Square, the central plaza of the Greek capital which borders on the country's parliament. They later became a couple. But their involvement in protests hasn't been without cost. Antonis, who used to work for a printing company, did not want his last name published for fear of fascist gangs he says have already attacked him. He covered his face during his photo session with Natalia. He has several moving stories, however, including the morning a man in his 60s came by Syntagma Square to see the occupiers. "He burst into tears," Antonis recalls. "He left two euros on our bench, raised a fist and said: 'For a couple of bottles of water.' It was so surprising, so unexpected. Four or five grown men stopped what we were doing and cried like babies." Here is Natalia's account of her experience at the protests — and her relationship with Antonis. Both spoke to TIME's Joanna Kakissis:
I was living a double life with work. I mean, I work at a bank! My job really runs counter to everything I was working for at Syntagma. Banks are in many ways the biggest enemies in the economic crisis. I work in communications in the bank, and I told them I was involved in the Syntagma protests. They knew that when I was leaving work that I was going to the square. I took vacation days to go to the sit-in and they knew it. They were very reasonable and gave me the freedom to do what I wanted in my spare time, and so I have no complaints. They were also open to listening to me. I think I may have even changed a few minds! Some bank employees and even a few department heads even came to the demonstrations! I realized that sometimes it's good to be "in the system," so to speak, because then you can influence people in it. They trust you and they're open to talking to you. I'm trying to make the best of this job and also give the best of me to my co-workers, so I can maybe change their minds.
I met Antonis on May 26. We knew each other a long time before we fell in love. I'm rational about feelings, and I didn't want to get involved with someone at Syntagma because our movement was important and I didn't want anything to ruin that. But I loved talking to him. He was so open and excited about everything, and so committed to the cause. We talked about everything and saw that our views really meshed. We'd leave Syntagma together very late and then continue our conversations over a drink. Once, when he got tear-gassed very badly and was feeling terrible, I told him to come over and he slept on my couch. I just wanted to keep an eye on him, since he lived by himself. We were very good friends and then, yes, we fell in love.
I was one of the people who wanted to do something about the state of our country long before the Syntagma Square protests. Despite appearances at protests, most Greeks don't get out and demonstrate or complain, at least in a public, organized way. When the Syntagma sit-in was first organized, and I saw so many people, I thought, wow, there's hope for Greece. I thought that after so many years, here was a big gathering of Greeks that had nothing to do with political parties or the Polytechnio [the anti-junta uprising on Nov. 17, 1973]. I had tears in my eyes when I saw so many people with the aganaktismenoi [Greek for indignants]. I was so moved. I got onto Twitter and started getting organized with them. We started talking and I loved participating in it.
As altruistic as we say we are, I don't think people get involved in protests movements only for altruistic reasons. That is simply human nature. If it doesn't mean something for us personally, if we're not trying to change something for ourselves personally, then it is hard to invest so much time in it. Also, if it doesn't mean something to you personally — if don't believe in your heart that you are doing it to change something — then you're not going to do anything.
The two most important days for me in the protests were on June 28 and June 29. We had a big concert on June 28, and I remember the police started pelting us with tear gas even though the square was full of people who would have never been in Syntagma if it hadn't been for the concert. They were totally unprepared to deal with tear gas. There were elderly people there, and people with children. I thought it was inhuman, what the police did. The next day, on June 29, the police just blanketed us with tear gas. They even threw tear gas at first aid workers who were trying to help people who were having breathing problems because of the tear gas. It was just disgusting and infuriating. I was ashamed and saddened to see something like this in my country.
On June 28, right before the concert, the police had already thrown tear gas. So we formed a human chain and many of us tried to clean up the square to get rid of the remains of the tear gas. We all worked together. We didn't know each other, yet we all worked together. I've never felt so warm and connected to other people in my whole life in Athens. There was this strong group of thousands of people who wanted to work to make our gathering peaceful and meaningful. And even though we were already full of tear gas ourselves, we worked together to clean up that square so the concert could go on. And it did.
I made so many good friends at Syntagma. Friends I will have my own life. We believe in the same things and have the same morals and ideas about the world. Many of us cleaned up our lives — we had to let go of people who were keeping us back or had become close-minded or who couldn't open up to change. I had to leave superficial relationships behind because they no longer made sense to me.
When we believe in something and we really want to make something happen, we can make it happen, even if we don't know exactly how to do it. I learned to trust patience, that patience and discipline can really make things happen. And above all, after living so many years in a culture where people don't trust each other, I realized that, yes, you can trust people. They will have your back, as you will have theirs.
I was never scared for myself. I am a risk-taker, and I'm not afraid of anything. I've been in front of fights with police and protesters and taking photos and not worried that maybe the police would arrest me or beat me up. Even on June 29, when the tear gas was so bad, I didn't leave out of fear but out of exhaustion and an inability to leave. Antonis was trying to drag me out of there but I wanted to stay.
But then, on Oct. 28, some of us showed up at a march that memorializes the day Greece refused to let Mussolini's troops into the country. It's called Okhi Day [okhi means "no" in Greek] but we wanted to remind the powers that be that we wanted to say "no" to austerity. We were adamant but definitely not violent. Then a few fascist punks showed up and started beating up immigrants who were selling flags. It was disgusting. Antonis defended one of the Bangladeshi men and, as a result, the thugs attacked him. He was beaten badly enough to require stitches. I may have never been scared for myself, but when he got hurt, I was scared because I love him.

Why I Protest: Natalia Klossa and Antonis of Greece -Person of the Year 2011- Printout - TIME

Why I Protest: Dr. Arthur Chen of Oakland, California - Person of the Year 2011 - TIME

Arthur Chen
Peter Hapak for TIME

A family physician, Dr. Arthur Chen, 60, was an unusual addition to the counter-culture of the Occupy Oakland movement. But the Connecticut-born Oakland resident who works in the city's Chinatown had a cause — health care reform — and the protests gave him a forum. He spoke to TIME's Jason Motlagh:

TIME: What was the event that precipitated your activism? And what made it personal?
Arthur Chen:
I'm part of that 99%, proud to say, so it's very relevant. And then in addition to that... I've been seeing patients that are low-income impacted, many of them unemployed, and then struggling for survival. They're immigrants, and so I've seen the negative impacts in their lives from day to day. And I've seen uninsured patients who have to struggle with the recommendations that I make because of whether or not they can afford it. So it's been real to me on a personal level, and looking at the population as a whole, looking at the patients that I see, and just knowing intellectually that there's flaws in our current system. We're taking capitalism and its negative sides head on, which I think is essential to a democracy. And hopefully preserve the positive side of capitalism, because I'm not totally against capitalism; I just think at this point it's probably out of control.

How did you go about participating in the protests?
It was really hearing it in the news and hearing it through radio announcements, they're just totally on top of that. Democracy Now, if you're familiar with Amy Goodman. And so they were openly publicizing it and explaining it. So it was really helpful, and that prompted me to feel, okay, this is the moment and you really have to participate and you have to take time off and be there in solidarity with this and you know, help have representation. And then as a person of color, certainly here in Oakland, we have such a diverse population, but it's really important for people to see that the whole spectrum of our demographics are there, and feeling the need to really participate and be counted.

How did protests in other parts of the world affect, influence, or inspire you?
The Arab Spring, very inspiring. Just to have seen what had happened in Tahrir Square, and Tunisia and the start of things. And that it was really young people who played a significant role in that. All of that activity, the demonstrations in London around students outraged about increase in tuitions, and all of this activity and in Wisconsin, where people really spoke out against the governor, who really wanted to strip labor of its rights at that time, of collective bargaining. It's a combination of all of those things, and all of them, I think, again, representative about the growing resentment of the direction that our government is going, tax and policies that favor the rich, and don't really allow for an even spread of the resources to address our more needy populations.

What was the funniest thing you saw during the protests?
Well it really wasn't the funniest thing, but it made me think about a new generation. On the day of the general strike, when they started having speakers line up at the podium, right there at 14th and Broadway, one of the announcers said, we're going to start speaking and you're going to hear a lot of different views today. And you're going to hear some things that you may totally disagree with. And I chuckled a little bit, and then I thought, this generation is about inclusiveness and transparency. It was very moving, because I thought of previous demonstrations and big rallies where I know how controlled the speakers list is. And then in this particular case, they were just going the opposite direction and saying everyone's going to get a chance to speak. We aren't screening your point of view. That goes in line with the general assemblies, because I sat through a couple of those, and the way in which they're conducted, the inclusiveness, the way in which they ask us to sit down in groups with a few people around you. It's a different approach: it's horizontal. And so, it wasn't funny, but it made me smile.

What's an image of the protest you remember well?
The string people. They were expressing clearly the anguish and the pain of having to go through this economic downturn, but they were doing it with about four or five people caught up and tangled in string and rope.

What was the most memorable day of the protests in personal terms for you?
The most memorable day was when the camp was dismantled [which took place by around 5 a.m. on Nov. 14, 2011]. That day around 8:30 a.m. or so, I decided to swing by City Hall [outside of which the protesters were camped]. I wasn't seeing patients that morning; I was going to do some administrative work. So I swung by and I walked out. I had to get past a police barrier. And I just told an officer, look I have a meeting over in this other building in the rotunda, where I knew people, and he let me through. And so I walked by, and it was like walking by a graveyard. It was so disheartening to see just nobody there. And I had been there before and it was vibrant and alive and there were people who were energized and feeling really positive about making a statement. And so it was disheartening; the mood was really somber. There was nobody there. Then I heard helicopters flying overhead. And then I slipped into a coffee shop, just so I could stay out of the range of the officer that had let me by — and went in to just buy a roll, and they were totally empty. During that time I saw a battalion of police marching by, there was about 20 or 25 of them. And it just sent a chill down my spine, of where things had amounted to. A peaceful, nonviolent protest around the economic conditions and what are the causes of that, and here we had folks just cleared out and arrested, and now we had an oppressive looking police tactical squad coming in. That was probably my worst day.

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Why I Protest: Chelsea Elliott of New York City -Person of the Year 2011- Printout - TIME

Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Chelsea Elliott, 25, was part of the Occupy Wall Street movement and became part of one of its early, infamous incidents: the Sept. 24 pepper spraying of protesters in Manhattan by the New York City Police Department. The Brooklyn resident spoke to TIME'S Nate Rawlings:
TIME: What brought you down to Zuccotti Park in the first place?
Chelsea Elliott:
Well, I graduated college in 2008, and was not prepared for what happened, but I guess it's just like, this building of constant stress, and watching friends and family suffering for so long. And my roommate's friend told me about it — she heard about it on Twitter — and so I just decided to go down on the second day and see what it was all about. And it really spoke to me.
What was it like on day two?
Well I went there the evening of day two, and it was the second general assembly, and there was probably like 30 people there, and everyone was just saying their crazy, outlandish ideas, and people were freaking out because the cops were taking down our signs — you know, very different, it was just kind of small, and still kind of silly and fun.
What was it like to watch it grow those first couple of weeks?
It was pretty amazing — it was really unbelievable, actually. The first week I was there I got to spend a lot of time there, because I had some time off from work, and so I really got to grow and be part of this community. As it's increased, it's definitely gotten more chaotic, but it's just really amazing and unbelievable to see something like that.
So the first big march, when you guys got penned in, I know it wasn't a fun time. Can you describe that, what it was like, what did it feel like?
Basically it was — we were leading the march, we were really hungry, and we were going to get some slices of Occu-pie — make a lot of jokes — but we were walking down the sidewalk, and all of a sudden this line of cops came and told us to stop walking, and we were penned in. I just remember — it was completely chaotic, there were fights. I couldn't really see; I was towards the edge of the pen; I was like right next to the cops; I was trying to talk to them...
But it was just really chaotic, and the moment that was really horrifying for me was, there was this girl near me that was slammed down on the ground and dragged underneath the net right before I was maced, and that was kind of what me and the other girls were responding to, this girl out of nowhere who just gets slammed down, and then a cop just walks over and sprays us. It was just really confusing — it took a second for it to register, what it was. The cop in front of me said something like, "Thanks for the warning buddy," in response to the officer that walked over real quick, and that's kind of when I realized it, and you just feel like, this sting in your eyes, you can't open them, you can't breathe. It's kind of like time just stopped, and we fell down.
From the video, it looks like it just kind of leveled you guys.
Yeah. I was luckier than some of the other girls, but it was completely out of nowhere and I just remember asking everyone around me, "How long am I going to feel this way? Make it stop!" And just pouring vinegar all over our faces. I don't know. It was terrifying, and I think what happened afterwards, after it happened, I got kind of paranoid. It was on the Internet, and I got kind of overwhelmed by the attention. It was really just a terrifying and shocking experience.
It was a really galvanizing moment. A million and a half people watched it on Youtube. People told me, "I saw these women getting assaulted on Youtube and it brought me down to the park." How does that feel?
It's really amazing; it's extremely humbling, because I really didn't do anything special, but I'm so happy to have the opportunity to be part of this movement, and I'm happy that something like that. I'm happy to get maced if it helps the movement. I'd do it again. [Laughs] And I'm happy to be a voice, and it's really humbling to hear people say that.
What is it about this movement that's different from other protests, that you would be willing to get pepper sprayed for this particular cause?
I think it's really important that the movement is leaderless and that all these people are encouraged to be autonomous. It's really a movement for everyone. What we're trying to change, the system itself, this is things that will affect my children if I ever have any, and this affects my grandparents. It's about everyone. And as the economy gets worse and worse, I feel like I've been quiet and distracted, or trying to distract myself from things for so long that it's almost like a breath of fresh air to get to go outside and scream about it, and talk about it, politely.
What do you see as the next step? Do you think it should become involved in politics, or stay clear of politics altogether?
I feel like the economic situation and politics go hand in hand. One of the huge problems is money and corporate involvement with government. So obviously politics are something that definitely need to be changed. As far as the movement specifically, I feel like at this point in time, our biggest goal is to spread and to wake up America to want to contact their politicians, and to get people to care and to realize that they have a voice and empower them. I feel like that's kind of the step right now. It's gotten so big so fast, and there's so many different levels of ways people are becoming involved with it, that it's kind of hard to see what the specific next steps should be. But for right now, it is that it grows, which is important if we're ever going to affect politicians.
What about your future plans?
I'm working on starting a working group that will help people stay safe and warm this winter. And other than that, I've been trying to learn as much about finance and our government and the economy as possible, and just talking to as many different sources to understand what happened.
Is there anything else you want people to know about the movement, your experience, what you'd like to see for this country?
Everyone I talk to, when I tell them about the movement, they're so — they're interested, but they're all so hopeless. And everyone's just already given up. And I feel very differently. I feel this is an amazing time to be alive in America — at this point we actually have the opportunity for change, in this moment of destruction. So I feel like there's a great chance to rebuild and I hope people get involved and realize that our economy is not the way that it is because of a change in wind, it's because of wrongdoing on our government and very powerful businessmen's part.
In a new book from TIME, What Is Occupy? Inside the Global Movement, our journalists explore the roots and meaning of the uprising over economic justice. To buy a copy as an e-book or a paperback, go to

Why I Protest: Chelsea Elliott of New York City -Person of the Year 2011- Printout - TIME