On July 17, 2012, President Barack Obama visited Austin, Texas for a pair of fundraising events — one, a $250 event at the Austin Music Hall and later a $25,000 per plate fundraiser at a condominium over the prestigious Four Seasons Hotel owned by a Dell Computers executive. Occupy Austin was there to Unwelcome him — to demand he keep his promises and that he stop escalating warfare of all kinds; along the way, we hoped to educate a few of his supporters about the consequences of his policies.

The Do Not Kill List sketch was conceived during a meeting of the OccuQueers as a way to engage about the so-called ‘Kill List’ — Obama’s claim that he can kill anyone for any reason anywhere without due process – as well as the  rapidly growing domestic use of drones. Lisa Glick led the team with help from Brian Svaboda while I filmed; Comrade of the Peaceful Streets Project filmed at a distance to ensure we weren’t harassed by police. Brian created an official looking ‘Executive Voluntary Do Not Kill List’ form which contained talking points and a loyalty oath based on the one the government used on United States citizens of Japanese origins during World War II, as reported by Michelle Chen on myFDL in “Tule Lake: The Quiet Legacy of No.”

The Do Not Kill List action was just part of a full day in the hot Texas sun, protesting at multiple points along Obama’s route through downtown.

Banners, Mic Checks and Marching in Austin

Banners over a City Bus: Tarsands, Workers of the World Occupy, We the People.

Occupy Austin Unwelcomes Barack Obama (Photo: Kit O'Connell, All Rights Reserved)

While I filmed the Do Not Kill List team, others rallied at Austin City Hall, making signs and preparing banners. In addition to occupiers, activists from the Tar Sands Blockade marched and performed a banner drop in view of the President’s motorcade and the massively delayed Austin traffic. We prepared a handout on key issues which we gave to his supporters: the NDAA, the Tarsands Keystone XL Pipeline, Executive Order Non-Discrimination, Drone warfare and the TransPacific Partnership. Signs and banners we carried covered all these issues and we also marched with our Workers Of the World: Occupy banner. Simultaneous to our actions, our allies GetEqual TX took to the water with a floating banner about executive order nondiscrimination.

After assembling, the group which peaked at about 40, marched on Austin Music Hall. We were blocked by police from one street which was part of the President’s route, and redirected our march through closed streets to an intersection where both supporters and a variety of protesters assembled. Police were everywhere, and had blocked off many intersections with repurposed city buses. Snipers were spotted on the roof of a nearby building, and the Austin Police Department had their SWAT tank parked nearby. Supporting Obama were a contingent from MoveOn, while opponents included Tea Partiers, Infowars-enthusiasts, and Antonio Buehler, whose Libertarian politics led to several verbally aggressive engagements with Obama’s supporters.

We rallied around a key intersection on the route, holding our banners over the buses. I crossed past one to grab the photo above, then slipped back as other occupiers distracted the police who quickly honed in on my position. We mic checked the supporters throughout the afternoon, drawing their attention to everything from the escalation of the drug war to HR 347, which furthers the NDAA’s damage to first amendment rights. Others circulated the crowd with fliers engaging in one-on-one discussions about why we protested, or with chalk marking antiwar messages. Reporters from as far away as Africa interviewed us. At one point, an oppressively huge team of police motorcycles rode past, making us think for just a moment that we were in serious trouble.

The Destructive Government Voices Arrogance

As our numbers dwindled from the heat, we marched back to City Hall in time to see the motorcade pass again. From there, about ten of us continued to the Four Seasons. Although dozens were gathered in the parking lot of the hotel and the neighboring condominiums, police prevented us from approaching the hotel. We were roughly pushed across the street as police grew physical with us and threatened us with arrest while giving conflicting instructions. An officer wearing a vest that covered his badge shoved me back into a wheelchair-riding occupier, then warned me to be careful; badge numbers were given only after repeated, shouted demands. Four police cars pulled up, hemming us off on two sides before three motorcycle officers in riot helmets arrived.

The police could not have done us a bigger favor. Everyone gathered by the hotel suddenly ignored Obama and focused all their eyes (and smartphone cameras) on us. We spread out across the street between the police cars. A drunken Obama supporter harassed us until officers warned him when he bumped into an occupier’s child. As our final act, we held a series of signs which we mic checked, a translation from a manifesto by Emiliano Zapata (as quoted in a song by Manu Chao). Below is a photo panorama (click to enlarge) and the complete text.

A Panorama of Signs Held in an Austin Street

Click to View Larger Panorama (Photo: Kit O'Connell, All Rights Reserved).

Our struggle is to make ourselves heard

and the destructive government

voices ARROGANCE and covers their ears

with the sound of CANNONS.

Our struggle is for FAIR and DECENT WORK

and the destructive government

buys and sells bodies and shame.

Our struggle is for LIFE

and the destructive government

offers us death for our future.

Our struggle is for JUSTICE

and the destructive government

is full of CRIMINALS and MURDERERS.

Our struggle is for PEACE

and the destructive government

declares war and mayhem.

The final line of the manifesto quoted in the song is:

Housing, land, work, food, health, education, independence, democracy and freedom. These have been our demands in this long night of 500 years. -Emiliano Zapata

Visit Approximately 8,000 Words for more photos from this event.