NYPD vs OWS: flowers vs. batons
APRIL 28, 2012 (ALIAS, inserto de IL MANIFESTO)
Repression being perpetrated by the NYPD (New York Police Department) towards the Occupy Wall Street movement is nonstop and increasing.
Careless of the tens of reporters and live-streamers all around, the police keeps arresting daily an increasing number of peaceful protesters, often without even having a valid reason to do it. A quick research on Youtube is all it takes to find hundreds of such episodes.
And tension is rising, as we get closer to May the 1st, the day in which the Occupiers, along with the unions, are planning the second USA general strike since 1946: a historic event. Arrests seem to be used not only to scare protesters and supporters, but to also impoverish the already poor movement’s funds, so that they won’t have enough money to organize the event.
I’ve come back to Italy for a few days now, after 3 months side by side with the occupiers, about whom I’m shooting a documentary; I’ve lived March 17th’s repression when, during the celebrations we were having for the first six months since the beginning of the occupation, we were kicked out of Zuccotti Plaza, tens of people have been assaulted, hit and arrested; a woman whose only guilt was to be inside the park, sitting still and peaceful, has left on an ambulance after she’s waited for oxygen lying on the sidewalk; people who got arrested have been piled up in the middle of the street, face to the floor and cuffs behind their backs, and were taken away on a public service bus; journalists have been arrested just for being there doing their job, and if I got out of there unharmed, I owe it only to my guardian angel, Eric: an occupier whose only worry during the whole day (and for the following days) was to stay right behind me to carry me away in case of emergency. Where emergency (danger) means not only getting arrested with absolutely no reason, but also being charged at by 8-10 policemen, hit bare-handed and with batons or charged at with the iron barricades very often used by NYPD to delimitate their areas of intervention, in order to keep at distance any other protesters, reporters, cameras, mobile phones, information and human rights.
Intimidations and injustices were perpetrated also during the days before: people arrested because they were singing, or sitting down in a park where it’s legit to be sitting down, or offering a flower to a policeman, or for indicating a policeman – with a green pedestrian crossing light – the road the march was about to enter, or…
I was stalked for a week, just for being a filmmaker interested in a court hearing in which an occupier was involved. I’ve been followed, recorded and taken pictures at night and day, on the street, on the subway, in bar and restaurants. They’ve tried to intimidate me, and they managed to, at first: I was about to run back to Italy. I was worried especially for the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act: a law for the authorization and financing of National Defense) which allows in the USA, from this year on, military detention indefinitely and without regular trial, applying war-laws to the American territory. Signed by Nobel peace prize winner Barack Obama, I suppose trying to go unnoticed, on December 31st, 2011.
This law states that if you’re even suspected of somehow being linked to terroristic activities (and “terrorism” here is extremely indefinite and no-one really knows what it includes. Nelson Mandela, for example, was removed from this terrorist list only in 2008) or if you happen to be suspected of belligerence against the government (again, without actually defining this term) you can get arrested, detained and deported, without anyone knowing where you are, with no right to a lawyer nor a court (that means no expressed or proven suspects). You simply disappear until the conflict is over, and if the conflict is against terrorism, I doubt there’ll ever be a ceasing date for the “war”. And all of this stands both for American and foreign citizens.
This law, along with the construction of new detention fields in the United States and renewing of others, added to the aggressive attitude of the NYPD, added to the government policy, which keeps making laws to actually forbid protests, added to being stalked day in and day out, has literally paralyzed me for three days, during which I even stopped taping and showing up in Zuccotti Plaza.
And, if I overcame fear, if I hadn’t run back to Italy, if I otherwise have extended my stay for 40 days more, is only thanks to the occupiers and their contagious strength and energy.
In fact, two have been the things that most shocked me during these 90 days of occupation: the repression by the police and the occupiers’ reaction. And this last one was the real miracle.
I’ve never seen the movement getting weaker, or passively accepting, but instead I’ve seen it growing more and more both for determination and numerically. And it has given me a great pragmatic example of how to peacefully react to repression. How? Unmasking its stupidity, making it public, ridiculing its actions, singing the “evil” song from Star Wars when hundreds of policemen arrange in line every night to close Union Square park with barricades, talking to the policemen in line, asking them if this is the world they want to build, the world they wish to give to their children: a world where you get arrested for singing, a world where the human being is less important than money, a world where peaceful protesters get hit and arrested, a society that is destroying our Planet, contaminating food, starting wars for economical reasons, a world that doesn’t assist you when you’re sick, that lives over the people’s skins. For days, months, nonstop I’ve seen peaceful protesters being assaulted and arrested on a daily basis, still not giving up. They kept looking for a dialogue, some sort of communication between human beings.
And I’ve seen confused policemen, with their eyes wide open, looking around them, listening, asking themselves questions. Among others gazing into space and chewing gum, there are some starting to have some doubts.
I’ve seen a retired NYPD Captain (Captain Ray Lewis) who’s been arrested for civil disobedience, who’s going to the protests and on the streets wearing a pin with “Occupy” written on it. I’ve seen him in every march against police repression, speaking from the stage, being interviewed, thanking who thanked him to be there (“I’m the one thanking you! Without you, none of this could be possible”).
Occupiers don’t give up. Because they believe in what they’re doing, because they’re not bribable, because they’re deeply convinced there’s no alternative other than changing this system we’re living into.
Depending from the day and the event, there can be 30 or 2000 people, of different age, culture, ethnicity, religion. Every action and peaceful expression is welcome. I’ve seen a police charge being averted by meditation, flowers against batons, songs against barricades. And to this moment, there’s always been one winner. The occupiers.
And even such a blind repression, increasing day-by-day, does nothing but showing the terror of power towards this colorful group of pacifists. The terror of contagion, that this strength and energy surrounding them wherever they are may one day spread around.
From here, looking at last days’ repressions on the Internet, my very first instinct was to pay them back with their own coin. A thought that had never come to my mind while I was in New York. Because when you’re with the Wall Street’s occupiers, their contagious energy minimizes the situation, gives vent to rage and frustration with dances, hugs, songs (One! We are the people! – Two! We are united! – Three! The occupation IS NOT LEAVING!) and the voices increase the more the taunts increase, and solidarity increases the more the repression increases, and their strength is empowered by the fear the system is showing towards their existence.
I’ve come back to Italy because my visa had expired. But I wish to go back to edit my documentary there. The American visa-system keeps me from going back immediately, and I’m trying to apply for a press-visa, this time. Will I manage? Or will my entrance in the USA be forbidden, as an unwanted guest, simply for having exercising my right to inform?
It doesn’t mind. This time again the occupiers have won: come what may, my heart has now been “occupied”. (Chiara Cavallazzi)
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