Tuesday, September 18, 2012

We Need Not be Cynical, Reflections on S17

If you ever have an undue concentration of wealth in one sector of the population the whole system of US democracy will fall warned legendary organizer Saul Alinski before his death in 1972.  In the years since his death, his warning has come to sound increasingly prophetic.   From 1972 forward, a system of neoliberal economic policies has translated into an expanding gap between the rich and poor.  In the age of Citizen’s United when elections are dominated by Super Pacs, it is not hard to think Alinski might have had a point.   



On September 17, 2011, a group of activists declared these systems would not control them.  If anything, they were illegitimate.  So they put out a call to transform the New York Stock Exchange into the “New York Fun Exchange.”  That day the group hosted a makeshift festival which evolved into a two-month occupation of a privately owned public space in Lower Manhattan.  In the weeks afterward, the fun exchange would expand throughout the city and country.  Over the next six months, their topsy-turvy carnival did everything it could to replace mechanisms of capitalism with an ethos of generativity and conviviality.  The occupation marked an opening salvo of a campaign to challenge the inequality generating mechanisms of global capitalism of Wall Street.


Along the way, these activists took on the despair which Vidal describes, challenging the feelings of futility which many experience when they consider the influence of campaign finance and inequality on our democracy.  Instead of bemoaning the problem, activists from around the world started meeting, occupying, talking, sharing stories, playing drums, painting signs, reclaiming public space , and participating in democratic life. Every day this campaign came to speak for economic justice, battling the banks which foreclose on homes, the pipelines which pollute communities, and the police which protect and preserve the needs of the 1%.  Unlike the global justice movement, OWS went local collaborating with local movements.  Organizing for the Occupation successfully battled foreclosure evictions and communities saw there was a different model to living.  Were there demands – every day, hundreds of them in campaigns for fair wages, union representation, and taxation by groups involved with occupy.  OWS did not put these out themselves, they supported those of the groups taking part.  From progressive taxation to the earned income tax credit to the Robin Hood and Millionaire’s taxes, members of OWS pushed for a fair approach to challenge income inequality.  Some campaigns we have won, such as around the Millionaire’s tax, which our governor planned to let expire before Occupiers started calling him ‘Governor 1%’ and he decided to extend it.  Union campaigns from Sotheby’s to Hot and Crusty would probably have been lost without Occupy.  Other issues have not been as successful.  Yet, OWS was continued to push them because they make sense.  The Robin Hood Tax is a very small tax Less than ½ of 1% of all Wall Street transactions is very easy to implement and it won’t affect regular people’s transactions at the ATM or regular banking transactions. This small tax (if implemented) will generate billions of dollars of revenues” which could end the AIDS crisis in the US argue members of ACT UP, VOCAL, Queerocracy, and Healthgap, all of whom have taken part in OWS from the very beginning.  Through Occupy, the conversation about economic justice moved and the environment for organizing was radically transformed.


[D]on't get bogged down in the tangible achievements, except as a foundation. The less tangible spirit of Occupy and the new associations it sparked are what matters for whatever comes next, for that 10-year-plan. Occupy was first of all a great meeting ground. People who live too much in the virtual world with its talent for segregation and isolation suddenly met each other face-to-face in public space. There, they found common ground in a passion for economic justice and real democracy and a recognition of the widespread suffering capitalism has created.

Occupy reminded us, we need not be cynical.
Over and over again police and pundits have drafted obituaries for this movement.  Facing evictions and suppression, the movement has absorbed warrantless arrests, harassment and a persistent narrative suggesting the movement was over.
When people talk about OWS being a shadow of itself, there's a real obligation to talk about police brutality, and the militarization of police in the US more generally,” notes Joshua Stephens.   “In NYC, you can be a city council member, and to the NYPD you're still just another black body on which to rain down violence.”   
My friends have been arrested for trespassing in POPS zoned for 24 hour access or for impersonating police.  Others have been arrested for walking on the sidewalks, only to have their charges later dropped.  After all, the police argue you can’t beat the crime, but not the time.
A report by a group of legal scholars suggests that activists involved in the movement have been subjected to a persistent pattern of abuse.  They called on the city of New York as well as the Justice Department to protect protesters’ human rights.   

 “Recently, officers repeatedly yanked the broken collarbone of a protester as he begged them to stop hurting him. And just two weeks ago, a phalanx of officers removed a grandmother from a park for the ‘crime’ of knitting in a folding chair, arrested a man trying to help her leave, and then arrested another man filming the incident,” said Professor Sarah Knuckey, one of the report’s principal authors, who also witnessed these incidents. “These are just two of hundreds of examples we document in our report, demonstrating a pattern of abusive and unaccountable protest policing by the NYPD.”

Despite a barrage of suppression, the movement has kept moving.  Through their actions, activists reminded the world that autopsies remain premature.  The story of the battle against inequality is alive and well as the thousands on the streets yesterday and over the last summer demonstrate. 

Prepping for September 17th


Throughout the summer, activists took part in summer civil disobedience school, meetings, and outreach events to those in the streets of the city.  My group, Times Up! linked with OWS as members of the Eco Block planned for September 17th.  At a planning meeting we discussed the themes for the action. 


“Wall Street is Drowning Us” would be our main theme. 

            “Climate crisis = economic crisis.”  

            “Frack Wall Street, not the watershed”

            “We want system change, not climate change”


Dressed as polar bears, we would roam downtown September 17th, taking part on the days plans:
Times Up polar bears on bikes earlier this year.
Brennan Cavanaugh






JOIN Rev. Billy, Jill Stein, Polly Higgins, the 99%, The TimesUp! Polar Bears on Bikes, the Solar Panel and Rising Sea Level Swimmer Brigade as we take Wall Street by STORM!!!


2 MEET UP POINTS! 7am and 10am

September 17th
7:00am- Start the day with Eco block at South Ferry (in the park on State St. by Whitehall)

We will take our message to the People's Wall and 99 Revolutions actions-with a team of solar panels to direct some illuminating light up to the office windows and swimwear to prepare for the rising tide brought to you by Wall Street's role in climate change!

Bring your snorkel or aluminum foil!


Join Timesup Polar Bears! Wear white and if you're lucky, there might be some bear costumes left! The Polar Bears are coming to tell the world, "Wall Street is in the business of extinction! Watch out!"

10:00 a.m - Storm Wall street
Meet Outside the doors of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, right across from Bowling Green

We will form a hurricane around Bowling Green, with speak outs at sites of injustice along the way in our swirling rally. Music, a radical preacher, polar bears, a surprise! Don't miss it!


We hear it every day. In every magazine, in every commercial, Wall Street tells us that if we “shop greener,” we can save the planet and protect people’s health. Yet while they tout green commerce, Wall Street bankers are blowing up our mountaintops for coal, fracking our bedrock for gas, drilling in our oceans for oil, and building pipelines to carry it all across our precious lands. All roads lead to Wall Street when it comes to the environmental crisis.

Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry are banking on burning about 27 trillion dollars of fuels buried safely underground right now. If we let Wall Street get away with dredging them up, the temperature will rise beyond what we can bear --not so long from now it will be so hot that if you go outside, you’ll die of heatstroke.

Meanwhile, vulnerable communities --those with the least financial and political resources --are bearing the brunt of Wall Street pollution and resource exploitation right now.
We are not going to shop our way out of the environmental crisis. Those who can afford to, might change a few lightbulbs and eat a greener diet, but if we act alone, the environmental crisis will escalate beyond our control.

They're betting on our fear and obedience. They're betting wrong. On September 17th, we are withdrawing our complicity from a financial system that relentlessly borrows against our future.

So bring your friends, your banners, your costumes, your instruments. Take them to the street! Wall Street!

At 7 a.m. on September 17th, thousands of people will converge at the scene of the crime, the New York Financial District, to take a stand with Occupy Wall Street in our resistance against the failed capitalist system. We are calling for a Polar Bear Brigade, Solar Panel Team, and Rising Sea Level Swimmers to stand in solidarity to connect environmental and economic injustice.

First, we will form a “People’s Wall” around the NYSE. Later that morning, people will spread out and gather at intersections throughout the financial district in 99 Revolutions, taking on Wall Street's debts, one bank at a time. Bank by bank, we will call out Wall Street's indebtedness to the people and to the land.

At 10 a.m, the eco message will hit hard. The 99% will rally from scattered intersections towards Bowling Green. There at Bowling Green, we will surround the 1% in a whirling "hurricane" of bodies and call for an end to burning fossil fuels, for an end to the corporate occupation of the planet, and for the beginning of a just and renewable future.

We'll have some great speakers to rise out of our swirling march. As we circle Bowling Green, New York's first public park, the 99% will remind the 1% that the Commons belong to us all.

This planet and our future are too beautiful to be destroyed for Wall Street profits.

Polar bear block with BS, Ron and Josh. Photo by Stacy Lanyon

Our plan was to be a joyous presence in the street, circumscribing the space with sit-inns, songs, and images of roving polar bears looking for ice wherever we could find it.   From the earliest days of the global justice movement twelve years ago I have worked best in affinity groups of five to fifteen people romping together during these days of action.  Here, we maintain our own autonomy and freedom, which helps make participation feel worthwhile and engaging.  As we learned with the IMF and World Bank protests in DC in 2000, it always useful to bring a little levity to these days, a silly façade to the often serious spectacle of protest.  After all, the best activism is theater.  So downtown; the corridors of the financial district makes for an ideal stage set.  September 17th, we’d join landlubbers with solar panels around them necks, people in swimwear readying for rising sea levels, and other OWS characters.  While we were to take part in the Eco Zone on the edge of the city, others from the 99%, Education, and Debt zones would be making their way through the “revolutions of the day.”  The 99% Zone would converge to form a “People’s Wall” at the New York Stock Exchange while the Eco Zone would form “Storm Wall Street.”  We would meet for morning actions at 7 AM and another round of street actions at 10 AM, bringing a roving groundswell downtown.  “Wall street brings the heat, so we take to the street!” would be our polar bear chant.  Wall Street brought a hot storm to the world.  We would bring it back to Wall Street.  They brought the push for fracking, extraction of resources, the crazy push for pipelines, and economic policies which favor quarterly models of growth instead of sustainable models of development.  “All pipelines lead to Wall Street,” we declared.  “Financial meltdown = climate meltdown!”

Many in the Occupy Faith crowd were on hand at Judson memorial on Sunday.  There Michael Ellick and the congregation said goodbye to their long time Pastor Emeritus Howard Moody.  With a show must go on attitude, Ellick recalled Moody’s prophetic activism, turning to the sermon he had already prepared to celebrate Occupy’s birthday.  From the very beginning of the movement, Occupy Faith has reminded the movement of the immoral character of the rush to accumulate wealth. “"You cannot serve god and wealth," they quoted Matthew 6:24 on an OWS poster declaring: “Jesus is with the 99%.”  For Howard Moody the message was always Judson is with the sex workers, drug users, those in need of reproductive autonomy.  Ellick reminded the Biblical literalists that the message of debt relief has deep theological grounds.  At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts," he quoted Deuteronomy 15:1.  “ You don't hear the literalists talking much about this one,” Ellick chimed in.  The point of Occupy is that economic justice is social justice, Ellick preached.  He was on fire. 

The night before the action, I received an email declaring:


On September 17th 2011,

A group of people sat down in a park in Lower Manhattan and opened up a space to imagine a new world. We began to share food, clothing, shelter, and knowledge. We sought refuge in the shell of a concrete jungle, and found community. Our actions inspired people around the globe to rise up in solidarity, and for the first time in history, we realized that we are all connected. Though the original occupations have crushed by the weight of systemic repression, co-optation of our message, and violent force — Occupy cannot be stopped — not by any of this. It is a collective unleashing of anger and frustration at a dying capitalist system that points toward a new world we are creating this world together.


The Revolution Keeps On Turning

Tomorrow, we mark the beginning of our second year by looking back on our successes, the challenges that brought us together, and the great berth of work lies ahead of us.

At 7AM, we converge on Wall Street to shut down the source of all our grievances with The People's Wall.

From there, we release our rage, desire and dreams and fill the streets of the Financial District with 99 Revolutions in a free-flowing decentralized spiral radiating outward from our desire to enact our visions for a better world we can create and manifest together.




At 11AM we convene in an assembly to strategically assess our options on how to move forward, and use the direct democratic process to decide how we can come together to fill this day with vibrant, empowering actions centered around the issues that connect the us all.




September 17th. Bring your friends. Bring your dreams. Leave behind the remnants of dying system that has never worked for us, because it was never designed to. Bring a fire burning in your heart with love and rage and an uncompromising drive to reject the notion that we must acquiesce to the never-ending dirge of debt, deception, austerity, and corruption of our democracy. These are our streets, we will fill them with our hearts, boots, and bodies. This is our future, we will take them back. This is our city, and we will occupy it.


Out of the parks, into the streets.

Make Liberty Square everywhere.



Year Two Starts Now.


September 17th

Few of us slept very well the night before the action.  I woke up at two, three, four and five before dragging my tired body out of bed by 5:30 to drink some coffee and ride over to join the OWS Bike Coalition for a morning breakfast at Seward Park in Chinatown.  The sun was only just rising as I crossed the Manhattan Bridge as I have for so many of the other OWS convergence days, from May 12 to November 17th and May Day.  These have been some of the most amazing days of my life.  When OWS stays focused on Wall Street, the movement takes on a dynamic task, shared with movements dating back generations. 

Morning meet up for Bike Breakfast.
Photos by Cara Hartley

Arriving at Seward Park, a group of some twenty cyclists were already there.  So were lots and lots of police.

Greeting my fellow polar bears in wheels, we tricked out, followed by four police on motorcycles and another three undercover on bikes (later seen taking part in arrests).

Polic were there to accompany us throughout the day.
Photos by Cara Hartley

“Good Morning,” I greeted the police. “ Believe me, we’re the most fun group you are going to track all day.  We’re lovers not fighters.” 

They said nothing.

“So much for collegiality,” we joked. 

So we enjoyed our morning ride and made sure not to run any lights.

After meeting with the other members of the Eco Block, we moved into downtown.  Looking at the congested streets, most of the Polar Bears decided not to ride. 

“Frack Wall Street, not our water!!!”  some called.

“Save the humans from themselves,” others chanted in a call and response. “Shut down wall street!”

Police trailed the group moving into the financial district.  In between the push and pull of police, we made our way to the “People’s Wall!!!”  We would hold a corner here, stop traffic, clog things up, the police were on hand to push us out of the street.  They were more than content to clog the streets themselves, causing more of a mess than most any of the OWS people.  Other police simply pushed people out of the sidewalks and down the streets out the financial district.  Many who would take part in the movement, simply do not because of fear of this kind of behavior.  While more often than not, OWS activists win in court, they still lose their rights to access public space to meet, talk or protest.   Suppression works. 

The police did not seem to like the food stand.
By Jessica Jehrman

“Can we get off – of fossil fuels?” we sang to the tune of ‘When the Saints Come Marching In.”

“Can we get off of fossil fuels?  How I want to be in that number, when we get off of fossil fuels.”

The songs felt more engaging that the sometimes shrill entreaties of members of the group to the police to “Fxxx themselves.”  Non-violence takes multiple forms.  I hope those in the movement remember language is part of this process. 

“Wall Street bankers melting down, melting down, melting down,” we sang to the tune of London Bridge.

“That’s bullshit, get off it, the enemy is profit” other screamed.

Like direct action to stop the war in 2003, the actions taking place on September 17th were decentralized, with various groups taking different street corners throughout the financial district.

Yet, we ran into other groups all day long.  Completing an interview at Water Street, we were phsycally attacked by the dept blob, while explaining the message that there was too much greed on Wall Street.

Debt by Diane Green Lent

It was hard to see all of what was going on, except through accounts from friends and text messages.

“I just saw four women arrested in wheelchairs,” noted one fellow Polar Bear, riding up to join the group.

In probably the most dramatic scene of the day, a group of people with disabilities block traffic, joined by a polar bear in a dress on a bike on Wall Street! Photo by Stacy Lanyon

After a break for a coffee, we moved up Broadway where we heard a group was converging at the bull.  The scene had been wiped out by the police by the time we arrived.  So a smaller group stormed the Bank of America.  Others sat outside starting a melt in laying on the ground, like the old ACT UP die ins, later sitting up to meditate with legs crossed and eyes closed as the police surrounded the group. 

Monica H. helped coordinate the Eco Block! Photo by Stacy Lanyon.

I had heard Zuccotti had barricades all over it, so a few of us went to check it out.  Walking up, Wall Street appeared separated by barriers.  “Only those with work Id’s can get down there,” my friend Ron explained.  Zuccotti was surrounded by fencing just as it had earlier in the winter before activists threatened to sue Brookfield for filtering those they wanted to have access to the space. 

“Why do you have a fence around the space?” I asked Security.  “This building is zoned for 24/7 access by the zoning laws.”  

“You can get in, just go around,” the security guard insisted, pointing to an opening down the side, with guards.  “You can go in there.” 

“But why the fence up when the sign says the space is open to the public?”

“It is open,” he insisted. “Plus this is a private space.”  In this, the guard suggested the owners have discretion to decide who can and cannot end.  Of course, this is a patently false statement.   Over and over, Occupy has forced us to grabble with questions about the meaning of public space.

As I was leaving to pick up my kids, the space was filling with more and more people from ACT UP and Healthgap, ready to make a call for their Robin Hood Tax.  Drummers trickled in.  By the time I returned later that night, drumming echoed through the streets.  The point of OWS for many  is to give people a space to meet, talk, share, play drums, break isolation, and live democratically.  This is the point.  Drumming is part of this.  So are the conversations.

As the movement enters its second year, I do hope OWS can return to Zuccotti on a more regular basis.  This can be our commons.  I run into countless friends and comrades from all walks of my New York life in Zuccotti.  This is a space for daydreams, a space to imagine new ways of living.   As Alexandre Cavalho explained to Stacy Lanyon on May Day.

I think what brought me to occupy was clearly a desire to live life in literature. All that intensity that I saw in literature and all the stories, I just wanted to live like that too because life out there is super restrictive and already set for you. I wanted to break from those chains. I didn’t know that back then. I learned that along the way. At the end of July 2011, a friend of mine sent me the Adbusters flyer for Occupy Wall Street. I remember that she wrote, “Oh, this might be interesting. I’m a little cynical, but let’s see what happens.” She never showed up for any of the pre-September 17th assemblies. I went to all of them, and it happened.


It’s amazing those concerns about our movement being over. It's clearly misguided. The movement is alive, well and thriving. What it takes is you getting out of yourself and looking to other places around the world. During the United Nations Rio+20 conferences in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June, we had an autonomous encampment that lasted over two weeks that had an independent voice that didn't depend on the state whatsoever. We were voicing the message of our movement. It was kind of a national gathering for Brazil. We had Occupy São Paulo , Occupy Rio de Janeiro, Occupy Belo Horizonte, Occupy Salvador Bahia, even Occupy Argentina. We had a dude from Argentina. Seeing all of that was just incredible and reassuring. It’s kind of fun to look how decentralized and localized our movement is. Even the signs were different from what we use at our assemblies. Point of process for them was point of focus. Point of clarification was passing your hand in front of your face instead of the little 'C' that we do. Direct response was your thumb pointed. For stack, they raise their fingers – one, two, three. It was pretty cool. We did amazing things there as occupiers. We disrupted the last press conference of Rio+20, with over three hundred reporters from all over the world, and we said that they don’t represent us and that we want a real democracy. It was beautiful.


We are at the dawn of a new time. Around 1911, Virginia Woolf realized that something was going on. She mentioned that something really, really big was about to happen, a whole transformation of society. Then, modernism came along. We just saw a huge shift in the twentieth century. With technology, with the end of the Soviet Union and the totalitarianization of capitalism, what we see clearly now is us passing to an age of information, an age of interdependence, where we cannot deny that we are connected, clearly. We are the voice of this new time. This old order is dying. It’s clear that the social contract has been irreparably broken. The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau developed a theory of the social contract, which says that a government only exists legitimately to serve the people, and when that is not happening anymore, there is no legitimate reason for having the central authority of the government. What do we see now? Do we feel protected? Do we feel that we are in a place where we can all flourish? No! It’s time for it to change. It’s time for revolution.

I hope it brings a world where imagination, poetry and interdependence are the rule, not “What family were you born? What country were you born?” I want to see a world where we are really interdependent, interconnected, where the Global South is actually in community with the Global North. This is actually something important that we all need to realize. We’re building it. I saw it in Zuccotti. I see it when we’re all together. It’s clear.

Alexandre Cavalho refers to a model of interconnection among people who opens new ways for people to feel and be, to live and feel part of each other.

Walking back down to Bowling Green, my friend Ron and I recalled the days when Reclaim the Streets tried to take Wall Street, meeting in Bowling Green.  “This is the culmination of a generation of activism,” I noted.  “It is the culmination of dreams of a lifetime.”

Talking over a few pints at the Blarney Stone, people talked about the joy of OWS, the difficulties and possible next steps for year two.  My friend Keegan confessed:

"Last year at this time, OWS was a whirlwind of ideas, We didn't know where we were going to sleep that night, let alone what our shared ideals were, what our process was going to become; we didn't know what degree of opposition we would face, let alone how we would overcome it, how we would spread the meaning of what we were doing to the world. There were maybe five cyclists, mostly acting as individuals, filming, scouting, blocking intersections...All environmental messages were marginalized. Yesterday, an organized group of cyclists delivered food to various meet-ups of affinity groups who made decisions in highly sophisticated spokes councils, then deployed swarms of people to legally block intersections in the spirit of direct action - to make people stop, think, witness and talk to other people, to consider what they really want the world to look like: a mass of flowing traffic or human beings, beautiful bodies, celebrating in the streets. Eco-block took center-stage with dancing and biking bears, solar panels, and wit...I'm happy to have grown so much over the last year with all of you. We have come a long way. No doubt we still have a long way to go, but I'm glad to be in this righteous long-haul with each and every one of you."

We shared stories of the day, of one friend arrested and unarrested.  We danced, and talked about the media coverage of the action and what comes next.  I, for one, hope the movement can be clear about branding so a few of its ambitions are communicated to the 99% who saw reports insisting that the movement was over, despite the near two hundred arrests and thousands in the streets.  I hope the movement can make clear that it is involved in a process and that that process has goals and desires and aims.

Photo by Mickey Z - Vegan

But for now, happy birthday Occupy.  And thank you for reminding us that inequality is not going anywhere.  But we need not be afraid to fight it.  Its up to all of us to break that isolation.  After all, we need not be cynical.

Happy birthday OWS. By Stacy Lanyon

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"New York Ain't No Frackin' Town: Spectra Pipeline, Shut It Down."

For the last few weeks, news, rumors, and actions around the Spectra Pipeline have only gained steam. 

"Governor Cuomo, Save Our Water - Don't Frack New York."
"Once You Frack, You can't Go Back!" 

Hunken has taken a huge leadership role around the issue!  Photo by Jim Fourratt. 

Early this week, I saw this call on Facebook. 

NYC – URGENT CALL TO ACTION: stand up against fracking

Thursday: 8:30am and 6pm
Sunday: 3pm
It's showdown time. For real. Spectra Energy launched into full construction on the Hudson River site early Tuesday morning. Within 12 hours they had set up a barge south of the pier holding a massive crane, jacked up the road and cut into the pedestrian walk-way. Within 3 wee
ks they will begin shutting down the West Side Highway lane by lane and complete this phase of construction. If we don't rise up now, the pipe will be laid and the radon-laced gas will start to flow.
We won't let them frack our city.
This Thursday we show up and shut them down.

Morning and Night- We won't stop til they stop.
WHEN: Thursday ( tomorrow!) 8:30am And 6pm

WHERE: Gansevoort and Hudson River
Get there early when the jackhammers and bulldozers start cracking. Let our voices drown them out!
Show up in the evening before they plan to shut down traffic.

Sunday Sep. 9th @ 3pm
Pier 51: children's water playground
Teach in, shout out, Non-violent direct action training, Family friendly fun, music, Timesup bike party and more!

This is NY's moment to directly confront the dirty, corrupt fracking industry here at our door step. Cuomo and Bloomberg are willing to sacrifice our land, water and health. We deserve better. We demand clean energy and we are taking action now. Let's run these cowboys out of town!
Be there or be fracked!

Scene this morning.  'No Pipeline'  - Jason Brock

Thursday, morning I rode up to the action, over the Manhattan Bridge, across the city to the Westside Highway Bike path  up to Gansevoort Street.  There people were dressed in bio hazzard suits with more "No Fracking Way" Signs.  There was Jim Fourrat, Monica, Henry and the rest of the no fracking crew from Occupy the Spectra Pipeline, a sixteen mile, pipeline planned for Statan Island, Bayone, NJ, and the Hudson River, right into the West Village.  

"Has the drilling started?" I asked.

Monica pointed at the workers starting to drill into the ground, to create the beginnings of a pipeline for natural gas, risking explosions, radon gas, putting the playground where my kids play off the water at risk.

"You have to tell your friends to do something," one women screamed at me.  I walked away.  Everyone was heated.

Lopi was passing out flyers with a picture of Smokie the Bear wearing a "No Fracking" hat warning everyone:
"Only you can prevent faucet fires!  Join the growing coalition resisting hydro fracking  in NY. Stop Spectra Energy's Radioactive pipeline, being built now in the West Village."

Eventually the workers started putting boards on the fencing separating the people from the site so people could not see what they were doing. 

Monica walked up to me, gave me a hug, and stepped over the concrete barricade along with Lopi and Sandra. 
As the bulldozer moved up, Monica, Lopi, and Sandra sat down.  

Monica, Lopi, and Sandra blocking the bulldozer.  Photo by Jason Block. 
Occupy the Pipeline under the bulldozer. 

"New York Ain't No Frackin' Town: Spectra Pipeline, Shut It Down."

You cannot under emphasize how brave it is for activists to put their bodies, lives, and careers on the line to block the machinery of this system.  Rachel Corrie died taking a similar action a decade ago.  These forms of disobedience are some of the only reasons we have had change in this country. 

I started to call Chris Quinn's office. This is her district.  But no one answered.  So far she has been MIA on this issue. "There is no gay seat in the Village, its supposed to be a progressive seat," reminds Jim Fourratt.

Hunken and company Mic Checked, reminding everyone there have been hearing periods but too few have listened.  Direct action is the only thing that can really stop such an action.  And stop it they did for three hours with their direct action.  Ed and Peter from Occupy also joined the blockade.

Eventually, the police came.  By this point, most in the group had decided to leave the blockade, to fight another day.  But two activists jumped back into front of the bulldozed and were arrested.  

A veteran Occupier from the earliest days, Ed later told me how powerful that moment felt for him. 

The fear in the air was palpable.  Watching one man had a stroke and had to be taken away.  I asked some of the workers why they were doing this?  Wasn't there another way to make a living?  Lopi made the point that we stand in solidarity with workers fighting, hoping they can find work which will not put the environment and their lives at risk.  

Standing along the fence with our "Don't Frack with Public Health, Occupy the Pipeline Banner," we kept talking to passers by.  a man from the parks department came to tell us to put the sign down.  

"You cannot hold that sign here," he explained.

"Why" we asked.

"Parks Rules," he explained.

"People carry signs all over Union Square all the time" the man holding the sign explained, implying this was selective enforcement of the rules.  

"Its Hudson River Park rules - passed by Pataki" he explained.  

"Can you show me those rules," I asked him.  "Cause the First Amendment of the Constitution is pretty clear about our rights to petition the government for redress of grievances."

Standing with the signs, he eventually brought us regs 751.7 of the Hudson River Park Rules and Regs, section C
"Unlawful posting of notices or signs."

" It is illegal for any person to post, display, affix, stand, construct or carry any placard, flag, 
banner, sign or model or display any such item by means of aircraft, kite, balloon or other aerial 
device, in, on, or above the surface of the park for any purpose whatsoever without a permit issued by 
the trust. Each separate item placed in violation of this section constitutes a separate violation."  

Photo of sign by  Felix Bunke .
Photo by 
 Rebecca Kemble'

Those running and regulating the Hudson River Park want to make sure the park space is a First Amendment Censorship zone.  It is us to all of us to fight this and fight the system of short sighted thinking supporting the Spectra Pipeline.  

See you in the streets, tonight for Round Two, and Sunday for Round Three.