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Occupy Raleigh, NC (Part 10) Mirror Mirror on the Wall

10:12 pm in Uncategorized by gnomedigest

Mirror, Mirror - Many Reflections (Photo: Michael D. Dunn, flickr)

Mirror, Mirror - Many Reflections (Photo: Michael D. Dunn, flickr)

So it appears extremely unlikely we will be approved to set up a camp at Avery Upchurch Park. Two home owners associations for two buildings nearby already sent letters to the city council requesting we not be allowed. My personal belief is the city council was already not inclined to approve the request so I imagine this seals the deal. I realize most other occupations just go in and set up their camp where they wish and if they suffer arrests and eviction return again for more. We have very few people willing to risk arrest and at best a handful that would risk repeated arrest. They arrested 19 of us for remaining on the Capitol grounds at 7:30pm on the first day we were there, just for overstaying our permit by three and a half hours. I don’t think forcing our way onto parks will get us far, and unlike at some other occupations, our numbers do not double when some of us are arrested.

One positive note is the city does seem it is seriously considering offering us an unused parking lot near the now empty old police station. This site is also downtown and only a couple blocks away from the sidewalk we occupy now. It has elements that are both highly visible and also more hidden from view, both of which I think can be useful to us. We would be able to set up tents, have a porta-pottie, and likely have access to electricity. It also pushes up against a parking deck that has a large open entrance onto the parking lot that would make it easy to use as temporary shelter when environmental elements come into play.

I know there are members of the occupation that would prefer to not work within the system at all and just take what we want and adapt as the city tries to deal with us. If the city doesn’t end up offering this, we will be left with little choice but to try it that way. I don’t see much harm in testing if the city is willing to work with us at all or if they are just stringing us along. As I have mentioned before, our occupation is filled mostly with people who have jobs, families, and other responsibilities. Its not surprising there is a tendency to want to at least try to work within the system. Its easier to be obstinate when you have little that can be taken from you. One of the most radical in beliefs among us has a young child and that alone stops them from doing as much as they likely would otherwise. The state could take their child. That’s an overwhelming risk to take. Read the rest of this entry →

Occupy Raleigh, NC (Part 9) Kismet

5:15 pm in Uncategorized by gnomedigest

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker (Photo: prionpozo, flickr)

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker (Photo: prionpozo, flickr)

I have been short on time with my state exam coming up tomorrow but I wanted to mention of a few things that happened lately.

The day after the last arrests the city police told us we could use chairs. If you recall that was the reason they arrested Mother Margret, a disabled women who cannot stand for extended periods of time. The next day they went back to prohibiting chairs. One has to wonder how they expect anyone to follow the rules when they are so arbitrary and literally change by the day. On a positive note the arrests seemed to have gotten the Mayors attention. Mayor Charles Meeker wrote to the city council on the Friday after the arrests (quoting from Raleigh N&O):

“The City Council needs to provide guidance” to city brass on how to balance the rights to assembly and free speech with the need for orderly conduct, Meeker wrote in a memo to his colleagues Friday. “I am concerned that the constitutional rights are not being given adequate weight.”

It seems Mayor Meeker was under the impression that the City Police would not be involved in the arrests even though they clearly were. They formed a wall separating the protesters from Mother Margret and the others arrested and it was the City Police that transported those arrested to the jail. The Mayor certainly did not have to make a statement that would be public. That he chose to is promising. Read the rest of this entry →

Occupy Raleigh, NC (Part 8) Police State

4:20 pm in Uncategorized by gnomedigest

The Arrest of Mother Margaret At Occupy Raleigh 10/27/2011

My plan on Thursday, October 27th was to take the day off from the occupation. I am currently preparing for a state exam for a job I was offered just before the Raleigh Occupation began. Having been unemployed for around a year and half, preparation for this job has to take precedent over everything else. I had been studying all morning when around 2:00 in the afternoon I got a call from the occupation. The police had given an order that at 3:00pm they were going to remove the metal barricades they had placed between the sidewalk and the Capitol grounds and that the protesters had to remove all their belongings. We could still protest there but we could no longer store any supplies on the sidewalk. The Capitol police had finally declared the sidewalk was their responsibility and they were escalating their efforts to end the occupation in its current form.

I immediately went downtown and joined the 40 or so people there. Through out the next few hours more and more arrived, probably peaking close to 100 people when the arrests occurred. There was a lot of discussion about what to do with the supplies. We were told by the police that we could reclaim anything they removed. However one person familiar with these sorts of situations pointed out that sometimes police forces required people to prove somehow that each particular item belonged to a specific person. Being that most of the things were donated and were considered belonging to the occupation as a whole, if the police chose to do that, practically speaking it could mean that many things we would not be able to get back.

Between a van and a pickup truck the majority of the occupation supplies were moved away from the sidewalk before the 3:00pm deadline. During this time the police numbers around us increased. First it was just a couple capitol police, 3 city police, and a couple of city police on horseback. By the time arrests occurred it was closer to 6 capitol police and 15 city police. Read the rest of this entry →

Occupy Raleigh, NC (Part 6) Reinforcements

3:07 pm in Uncategorized by gnomedigest

Occupy Raleigh! (Photo: kakissel, flickr)

Occupy Raleigh! (Photo: kakissel, flickr)

The ongoing greatest challenge for the Raleigh Occupation is our numbers. I read the Barbara Ehrenreich article that was linked in the comments of my last Diary post and wanted to comment on this section:

But the occupiers are not from all walks of life, just from those walks that slope downwards — from debt, joblessness, and foreclosure — leading eventually to pauperism and the streets. Some of the present occupiers were homeless to start with, attracted to the occupation encampments by the prospect of free food and at least temporary shelter from police harassment. Many others are drawn from the borderline-homeless “nouveau poor,” and normally encamp on friends’ couches or parents’ folding beds.

For Occupy Raleigh that is only half right at the moment. More than half of folks who occupy do it only part time. They have jobs, homes, and cars. Many of us have health insurance. Some have turned their lives upside down in an attempt to get the occupation off the ground. There is a hope that if we can grow our numbers large enough, that even if folks cannot occupy 24/7, that there will be enough people that we can do things in shifts to maintain a substantial presence. People have gone home and taken naps only to return at 3 or 4 am to help occupy during the times when we have the lowest numbers. They still end up leaving and going to work once daylight arrives. I remember one individual commenting that they had tried to spend as much time as the could over the last few days because work was taking them out of town to workshops for several days and they felt as though they were abandoning the occupation. Read the rest of this entry →

Occupy Raleigh, NC (Part 5) Occupation is Complicated

2:21 am in Uncategorized by gnomedigest

Occupying Raleigh's Sidewalks (Photo: kakissel, flickr)

Occupying Raleigh's Sidewalks (Photo: kakissel, flickr)

Occupation is a complicated endeavor. Its a week in and we are just starting to confront a variety of concerns.

We got a report back from legal today. The permit request to allow us onto just a section of the Capitol grounds for one week was denied. They claimed our request went against their policies. Of course we know other groups have been allowed to do exactly what we requested so it has nothing to do with their policies. Its just an attempt to not allow the occupation to grow. The last thing the government wants is a force that opposes them to grow bigger. Can’t say I am surprised. That they would violate their oaths to serve the public and instead serve their own self interest is disappointing but par for the course. If the government was responsive to the needs and rights of the 99%, we would not be out there.

The lawyer from the National Lawyers Guild, Peter, mentioned something about the sidewalk we are currently occupying that helps illustrate the sort of bureaucracy we are dealing with.  The state says they do not control the sidewalk. The city says the state does control the sidewalk. Maps suggest the city controls the sidewalk but even that may depend on which map you look at. Lastly Peter added that the reality at this point is that the occupation controls the sidewalk.

At the moment it doesn’t appear we are going to challenge the denial of the permit in court. We could continue to apply for permits but there does comes a point where an occupation just has to assert its rights as citizens as afforded to them under the Constitution. There is nowhere in the Constitution where it says you need a permit to exercise ones rights to Free Speech and Assembly on public land. It reminds me of the Orwellian concept of “Free Speech Zones” that the governments sets up during the political party’s national conventions. Our government will continue to erode our freedoms and rights if we let them. Its one of the many reasons push back from the 99% is so desperately needed. “All evil needs to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” If the government takes away one of your rights and one does nothing, soon they will look to take another. Read the rest of this entry →

Occupy Raleigh, NC (Part 4) – First Cold

12:43 pm in Uncategorized by gnomedigest

Occupy Raleigh - Solidarity!

Occupy Raleigh - Solidarity!

I arrived 10/19 at 6:30pm just as the GA was starting. We had an update from the legal folks trying to get us back on the Capitol grounds. It sounded that the process had slowed but with the return to Raleigh of another attorney from the National Lawyers Guild allied with the movement, it seemed new angles of pressure had also presented themselves. As the GA continued to other business I stepped aside with both lawyers from the National Lawyers guild along with Jess, one of the people I had been arrested with.

We discussed varying issues surrounding our case. Turns out not all 19 had been placed under the order not to trespass onto the Capitol grounds. Four had been processed before the the police mistakenly believed the occupiers where attempting to return onto the grounds. So the following 15 had been issued the order, and both Jess and myself had been among those 15. We were also informed that getting the order lifted might be more complicated and take longer than originally thought. One of the lawyers apologized in case we felt we had been misled by him upon being released in regards to lifting the order. I told him not to worry about it. I at least did not feel misled. Things were going about as I expected.

As the GA ended I could feel the chill as the temperature had been steadily dropping. There had been some light rain during the GA but thankfully that was the extent of the rain. The wind picking up did give the growing chill a cutting edge.

After the GA some of us met in the newly formed Action Committee, but the wind made it hard to hear, so we moved to a bar nearby to discuss possible actions. We were mainly focused on things that could both bring positive attention to the occupation and also be a positive force in the community. Some interesting ideas emerged and I will relate them as they actually unfold as actions. There is a general belief that we can make it harder and harder for the state agencies to deny us back onto the Capitol grounds if we can show that we are a force of community service and education. Read the rest of this entry →

Occupy Raleigh, NC (Part 3), First Rain

5:52 pm in Uncategorized by gnomedigest

Occupy Raleigh

Occupy Raleigh

Before I continue my story I wanted to get one thing out of the way. My real name is Antonio Rahman. When addressing me, I respond to Antonio, GnomeDigest, Gnome, or GD.

So as I had planned I slept in late on Tuesday. When I got up I spent some time surfing different news about Occupy Raleigh and our different organizational sites. I then began sending out mass emails to friends and family with the story of the first two posts of this Diary. It was after that I decided it would just be easier and more effective to start a Diary on Firedoglake and just direct everyone to here. This way all my friends and family who were interested could keep up with it, I would be spared the trouble of having to constantly send it out to folks, and the story would reach a wider audience.

I think its also worth mentioning now that back when Firedoglake was running its campaign to support Halter I believe it was, to challenge Landrieu in Louisiana in a primary, I was very critical of Firedoglake’s decisions to do that. While I openly acknowledged their wonderful journalism I was worried that their political activism was just a deceptive way to funnel people disillusioned with the Democratic party back into the two party system as they were fund raising for the challenger, a Democrat. I had a brief and contentious back and forth with Jane in a thread and for the most part stopped commenting on the site’s discussions though I still often read the wonderful journalism. I have since been proven wrong. I now believe it was just one tactic that was attempted to challenge and force the establishment to listen to true progressives and take us seriously rather than to undermine those progressive forces. You rock Jane. I am truly ecstatic to have been proven wrong and am honored to be able to post my Diary on Firedoglake.

I arrived at the occupation shortly after 5pm as that is when its much more likely to find free parking in downtown Raleigh. I brought a mid-sized plastic container that was basically water proof as we were shifting into getting our gear ready for the rain. Read the rest of this entry →

Occupy Raleigh, North Carolina (Part 2)

1:46 pm in Uncategorized by gnomedigest

Occupy Raleigh - Solidarity!

Occupy Raleigh - Solidarity!

So to continue the story, after I went home to sleep after being released from custody, folks continued to occupy the sidewalk next to the capitol grounds we had been evicted from. We have had 24/7 at least a few people on that sidewalk. Sunday I returned to the occupation around 5 in the afternoon to find around 40 or so.

I learned the cops had dictated rules that no one could sit down or lay down on the sidewalk. I found many provisions had been set up, and we were stocked well with food, water, and medical supplies. I remained there until 6am the next morning. At 5 am ABC local news had set up there camera to do a piece on the on going occupation for their morning show. They asked us if we wanted to be interviewed at 5am and then a second time at 6am. I agreed to to the first one and considering how tired I was it went pretty well.

One funny moment to me was that the reporter started the piece before he turned to me with commenting that there were less than 24 protesters there now. He clearly was trying to make it sound like that was bad. I found that pretty funny because I thought having 20 or so of us standing all night and still there at 5am was damn good. Its amazing how helpful everyone is and how much we all pool our resources. I doubt I would have made it had one occupier had not given me some meds for my back which was really starting to hurt by around 1-2am. After the 6 am interview someone else did I decided I needed to go home and get some sleep. Read the rest of this entry →

Occupy Raleigh, North Carolina (Part 1)

1:37 pm in Uncategorized by gnomedigest

Occupy Raleigh

Occupy Raleigh

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. Read the rest of this entry →