You have surely heard about the standoff yesterday (pics below), but just in case you have been trapped under something heavy or in a 48 hour bong hit haze…
Saturday night, DC occupiers built a structure to keep them out of the elements for general assemblies and teach-ins. I can only imagine the shit that the night duty cops got on Sunday morning when someone arrived and noticed that Occupy DC built a house while they were snoozing in their patrol cars. Oh, how I wish I could have been there for that conversation.
I was planning on heading out on Sunday for the 12:00 p.m. talk by Mark Lance, but when I checked my tweets I saw the livestream of an emergency mini-GA to discuss an ultimatum they received from the police. They had one hour to start taking the structure down or the cops were going to do it for them. By the time I got there, at least some of the occupiers had decided to hold the building and a few had already climbed on top of it.
And thus began a standoff that lasted well into the night.
Park police, horses, city police, SWAT. Everybody joined the party. They cordoned off the area around the house and told everyone inside the police tape that they were going to get arrested. There were some scuffles and quite a few take-downs as the police moved the perimeter out.
I saw at least one person almost get knocked over by a park police horse. One guy was pummeled as he tried to pass under the very edge of a taped corner in order to get by. And Officer Dickhead Dyson (badge number 3148) shoved one of the occupiers down on the sidewalk and then arm checked me as I was walking in the direction they were telling us to go.
One by one, they removed people from inside the building. The ones who climbed on the roof were a little more difficult. They set up a huge air mattress on one side of the house. A couple roof sitters jumped on that. Then the coppers busted out a cherry picker to get the last ones. One or two went voluntarily. The last ones tried to hang on, most especially David who really made them work for it. Once the last occupier was removed, they came with chainsaws and ripped the structure down.
You can read more from Allison Kilkenny here.
There were a lot of things about yesterday that I liked. I’ll start with them. I liked that they were confrontational by building something instead of breaking something. I liked that the structure gave people an opportunity to talk about lack of housing and lack of public spaces. And I really liked when people managed to be funny and confrontational at the same time. As they rode the horses into the structure, someone mic checked them and said,
I don’t think it is neighborly to bring your horses into somebody else’s barn.
Another mic check was something along the lines of,
I would just like to congratulate us for being such good job creators. We are currently employing several police to guard our house.
Even some of the cops laughed at that one.
But the day was not without its problems (aside from a massive overreaction by “authorities”). Many people I spoke with said that they did not have agreement from the general assembly to put the structure up. One woman vaguely remembered signing onto something that she never thought would happen. And even if it was approved by the GA, as many said, it was clear that widely agreed upon plans about what to do in case of a confrontation were not made.
The police did not just block off the area around the house. They also blocked off a huge section of tents. Locks were broken. It looks like some tents were searched. And there was a threat that they were going to remove that whole section of the encampment. One occupier, who had been out of the area and unaware of the planned barn raising, came back to find his stuff trapped behind police tape. That included the bike that he needed the next morning for his messenger job.
It did not go unnoticed that the majority of the hold-outs were not from DC. I’ve talked about this before in the context of other protests. If you go to another community, then it is probably not a good idea to be the person elevating the conflict levels. I know that DC is a little different than most places, because what happens here effects everyone.
But the community here is always fucked over for national issues and interests. We are a little sensitive about it. The community needs to be centered. That particularly includes the most marginalized parts of the community, like many of the longtime homeless who are living in McPherson now and who were some of the most upset. That’s just not cool.
As it turned out, they did not take down that area of tents. Last I heard, legal was contemplating filing an injunction to stop them. I saw a tweet earlier that said they are now required to give 24 hours notice before acting on any violations in the park. So I am guessing that an injunction was filed and we got a good result. (Yay legal.)
As I am writing this, I am seeing tweets from tonight’s general assembly and it looks like some of these issues are coming up. If all goes well, and I have every reason to believe it will, they will tweak their processes a little bit to make sure that anything seen as potentially risking the space will go through a process that everyone will be happy with – or at least o.k. with.
P.S. How awesome is that lego recreation of the standoff?
P.P.S. If you see any pics that you want and can’t figure out how to download them, just email me at mel (at) broadsnark.com and I’ll shoot them over. (If you click on the slideshow, it will open it in a new window and you will be able to see the image number.)