Raleigh’s Occupation began 10-15-2011
Well it was an incredible day. The first four hours were the sort of rally one would expect. We had speeches, occasional chants, and some musicians play a song here and there. All the speeches were excellent. My speech was very well received and I had a blast giving it.
We had over 1000 people show up throughout the first four hours and probably had between 800-1000 at one time at its max. I even ran into an old friend from highschool I had not seen in years who brought his two young daughters because he wanted them to experience the movement.
Twice during the first four hours about 200 or so folks left to march on a couple banks. The first was Wells Fargo and the second time was Bank of America. I was really enjoying circulating and meeting people, plus I was one of the red shirt medic folks (which I did mainly so they would have an interpreter) so I skipped on the marches and just stayed at the capitol building park area where the rally was.
As the rally ended predictably quite a few folks left, but we still ended up with a crowd of between 200-300 people that were there to occupy or just keep hanging out. We started a General Assembly and starting teaching folks the process and introducing all the different working groups/committees they could join depending on what they were interested in doing. This is a very participation oriented movement, so we are always trying to get folks to jump in and get involved in whatever method they feel comfortable and capable.
The cops before the rally had passed out a little flier basically warning us that if people overstayed the permit by too long they would arrest them. They used a typical excuse that cleaning crews were going to come in to clean the park and thats why folks had to clear out. I really doubt cleaning crews normally come on Saturday and since we had trashcans and trashbags we had brought, it was especially unnecessary. The ultimate proof that it was just a fake excuse is that to my knowledge, no cleaning crew ever showed up.
So, the permit expired at 3pm. At around 5pm or so the cops told us through our police liason that they would move in around sundown to arrest anyone who refused to leave. We continued organizing in the different committees and just occupying and chatting until around 7:30pm when the police brought out the bullhorn and announced that they were going to arrest anyone who didn’t leave.
21 of us, including myself, chose not to leave and sat in a circle linking arms except for Bo who stood calmly awaiting arrest. The rest who had remained moved to the sidewalk which the police had said folks could do to continue protesting if they wished, and got out their cellphone cameras and began a variety of chants, focusing mainly at the start with “The whole world is watching.” Meanwhile legal observers in their bright green ballcaps came closer so they could take notes of what was happening. The police know very well about legal observers and gave them no issues. Also all the local media had cameras set up ready to capture what followed.
The police then walked to our group and gave the first person they were going to arrest one last chance to leave. 2 actually ended up choosing to leave at the point they were individually asked. I told them I preferred to continue exercising my 1st Amendment Rights to Free Speech and Assembly.
One by one we were asked to put our hands behind our backs and had the little zip-ties placed. Only the first person resisted at the very beginning but once they had his arms behind his back he stopped any sort of resistance. The rest of us complied with the cops without issue. Our goal was never to cause the cops trouble.
As I was being led a away by a Sergeant I commented to him, “I bet this isnt why you chose to become a cop.” As we got close to the paddy wagon the a new channel 11 ABC reporter (local) was there and asked if I had any comment on being arrested. I replied, “Someone has to fight for the pensions of these cops.”
Slowly but surely we were all placed into a couple paddywagons and taken to the downtown jail nearby. During the ride peoples spirits where high and no one was upset. Because we had to stop for some procession for a march for leukemia (at least thats what someone told me later is what it was) the ride actually took much longer that it normally would as the area of the capitol we were at is right down the street from the jail behind the courthouse. So it gave folks time to break into random songs here and there. I know at least one Dylan song was sung as well as “Joy to the World – Jeremiah was a Bullfrog” Can’t remember the others. Once we arrived at the jail we were taken out and they started processing us.
Since there were 19 of us the process was not terribly fast. The cops where great hosts. They treated us with respect and kindness and showed no signs of being annoyed with us or disgusted or anything like that. They allowed us to joke and talk freely and often smiled and commented in playful response to random topics that came up. At one point I approached the counter to tell one of the cops we had been dealing with often that our goal had never been to cause them more work and that I was sorry for that consequence. I added that among many things we were fighting for, one was to protect pensions of people like them. The cop responded, “Thank you, I appreciate you saying that.” A little later he commented that he actually had been at Duck on the outer banks this weekend on vacation and had been called back just to deal with the Occupy Raleigh protests. This is just a feeling, but it felt as though he didn’t blame us at all. He was so cool, congenial, and interactive with us. I am not surprised he was professional, but this was beyond that. It was remarkable.
After the initial processing we were moved into another room where they took down some extra information and then did the digital finger print scans. This was a different set of employees (not sure if they were actually cops or not). As the guy was fingerprinting me on the machine I again commented that our goal was never to cause them more work and that I was sorry for that outcome. He immediately responded, “Oh don’t worry, I know that.” And then started asking me questions about what I thought we accomplished tonight and the like. I felt complete solidarity in the questions. It was a very short conversation in hushed voices but it just further reinforced what an amazingly positive experience I had while in custody.
After that 5 males of us who had been processed at the same time in that room where asked to sit on a bench there while they finished up with a couple more. At one point of our group commented to the cop that had been called back from Duck and another, “Man, wouldn’t this be the most pathetic bar fight roundup?” which brought loud laughter from the cops and the rest of us. We joked about that for a bit, “We would have to charge you with attempted bar fight” “The only thing injured were a couple egos.” etc.
After we were done there we were taken before the magistrate who gave all 19 of us arrested the same court date (December 22nd) and then released us on our own recognizance with a promise to appear in court. We were also given an order that we cannot return to the capitol grounds until the order is lifted by a District Court judge. So we didn’t even have to deal with the hassle of bail. The legal observer coordinator, who is an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, met us at the waiting room which was the last room we passed on our way out. There we paused to talk and re-place our shoe-laces. The attorney, Nick, explained again about the order and said we would talk soon further about getting it lifted. He did suggest that we as a movement consider taking advantage of the order to make some PR out of it before getting it lifted, and I definitely plan to do that. I will not violate it, but at the next few General Assemblies we are going to discuss how we want to make the most of that aspect of the arrests. Afterward we get some mileage, we will get it lifted.
When we walked out of the jail we were greeted to cheers from the 100 or so occupiers who had come down to wait for our release (others had remained to occupy as close at they could on the sidewalk). There were lots of hugs and kudos given out. The same ABC news reporter that had asked me for comment as I was getting walked to the paddy wagon was there and his camera was being set up. We approached to see if he wanted to take a comment from one of us, but he said that it was just a very short piece and he wouldn’t be doing any interviews. When he saw me the following conversation happened”
“Oh hey you were the one who made the joke about the pensions. I am using that in my piece.” I instantly grew serious and responded.
“That wasn’t a joke.” I pointed towards the jail, “The cops in there didn’t think is was very funny”
The reporter stammered, “Oh, uh, ok.”
This reporter in general has been pretty antagonistic toward Occupy Raleigh in his coverage. I find it so telling that someone who I bet would claim vigorously how much they support and respect the Raleigh PD would immediately assume that my comment was some sort of slight. Just shows you how much of a difference there is between those empty platitudes people feel they have to say to be politically correct while really they look down on them, and those of us like myself who actually feel that way.
I can’t say enough good things about how the cops treated us. No one was hurt or upset. They were incredibly nice and respectful. I thanked them for being such great hosts because they were. The police are part of the 99% and it can only help us to have as good a relation as possible.
After being released we all walked back up towards the capitol and some folks chose to remain on the sidewalk and planned to do so for the whole night until relieved by others in the morning. We still plan to occupy as well as we can. I was exhausted. I would have spent the night there if we had occupied in a way that it was possible to lay down and sleep, but it was not, so I returned home.
I gotta say, if I could have chosen how to be arrested for the first time in my life that was it. It was an incredibly positive experience, not only because it’s a cause I am 100% behind, but just because of how amazing the inter-action was in custody with my fellow occupiers and the cops. I have a strong feeling that the trespass charge won’t even hold up in court so I doubt it will even cost me more money. The powers that be didn’t order the cops to arrest us because they felt they had legal standing to. They ordered them to arrest us because they wanted to break up and disrupt the protest. This is very common and it’s equally common that the charges are then dropped in court. Even so, while this charge of 2nd Degree Trespass is pending I will not be putting myself in the situation to get arrested again. If in general you are behaving as a law abiding peaceful citizen the Raleigh PD are giving clear indications and opportunities to comply with their orders and I think after the experience was so positive for both us and the Raleigh PD, I expect that to continue.
All of us at occupy Raleigh understand this is just the beginning of our fight. But if we want the world to get better, for the corporate/wallstreet forces to be reigned in, for the increasingly fascist tendencies in the US to be pushed back, and for the environment to be saved before it crosses a tipping point where it spirals downward to the point it cannot support large scale human life, it’s a fight that needs to be waged now.
“All day all week occupy Rah-leigh”
[Editor's Note - we took the liberty to add media to this fine diary. Please be sure to read Part 2 of this compelling activism here.]