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Last week, Indiana governor Mitch Daniels introduced a comprehensive list of new ‘security rules’ for the Indiana Statehouse for the 2012 state legislative session, including a measure which requires that no more than 3,000 people be inside the statehouse at any one time. The new rule, which was to be enforced by the Fire Marshall and the Indiana State Police, includes in the total number allowed the 1,700 statehouse employees and lobbyists typically present in the statehouse on any given day. The cap appeared to be in direct violation of Article 1, Section 31 of the Indiana State Constitution: “No law shall restrain any of the inhabitants of the State from assembling together in a peaceable manner, to consult for their common good; nor from instructing their representatives; nor from applying to the General Assembly for redress of grievances.”

Other regulations include: no protest signs larger than 2’ X 2’, no signs on sticks, no obscenity, no engaging in lewd acts contrary to state law, no Coke cans. Also no gambling. Or, ironically, pandering. A local agitator/educator found a way to circumvent two of the listed regulations (pictured).

I arrived at 8:30 AM today, the first day of the 2012 legislative session. As the morning wore on, several hundred protesters (including some already inside the statehouse) grew into the thousands, as union members and activists from local Occupy groups (Indianapolis, Bloomington and others) arrived in buses and on foot. At around 10:45 it was announced that Daniels had rescinded the cap of 3,000 inside the statehouse, though all of the other ‘rules’ remained in effect. The protesters moved into the statehouse and entered the Senate chamber, and were threatened with eviction on at least one occasion for disrupting the proceedings. Democrats remained in conference and managed to stall passage of the bill for at least an afternoon. But in spite of these tactics it looks more and more likely that Daniels will get his wish of enjoying the Super Bowl down the street at Lucas Oil Stadium in a month or so, in peace, with the right-to-work bill behind him. Hey citizens of Indiana! Shut up and watch some sports.

Occupy Bloomington Update

On Saturday, December 17th, Occupy Bloomington sponsored a fundraiser at Max’s Place in downtown Bloomington for the striking workers of the Indiana Limestone Company in Oolitic, Indiana. The event raised $1775 for the workers and their families as they endure the holiday season without a new contract. Earlier in the day Occupy Bloomington members attended a rally for justice for the workers at the Lawrence County Courthouse in Bedford, Indiana. The rally was in the response to the attack on the picket line several days earlier by strikebreakers hired by Indiana Limestone Company owners Resilience Capital of Cleveland, Ohio. Also present in solidarity were members of locals from United Steelworkers, CWA and AFSCME. In the afternoon Occupy Bloomington also marched peacefully from Peoples Park to Courthouse Square in celebration of all that had been achieved in the autumn and early winter of 2011, and included a candlelight vigil for Bradley Manning, whose trial began later that week.

Occupy Bloomington approaches 2012 reaching out and building alliances with the workers of South Central Indiana. Daily shuttles bring occupiers to stand in solidarity at the picket line in Oolitic, located a few miles south on Highway 37. The picket line is visible from the highway, and two weeks ago occupiers pitched tents in the wee hours of the morning so that as dawn broke motorists on the highway could see that the line had officially been occupied. Plans were being made to provide a similar model of support to locked-out workers at Bloomington’s Vectren Corporation, but the contract dispute was resolved just before Christmas.

Direct action remains a top priority for the new year. It will be a challenge to top the occupation of The Kelley School of Business at an on-campus JP Morgan recruiting event on November 29th. Though not officially sanctioned by Occupy Bloomington or Occupy IU—it was an autonomous action containing members from both Occupys—the action resulted in the arrests of 5 protesters (charges were dropped the next day) and was noted by both The Chicago Tribune and The Wall Street Journal. A similar direct action was undertaken by members of Occupy Princeton ten days later. A Goldman Sachs recruiting event at IU two weeks later which was initially to be held at the Kelley School of Business was moved off-campus, and interested students were bussed privately to the remote location.