I’m really tired of people calling for “peace” in the midst of the uprising occurring in Anaheim. Peace, for them, is a return to “normalcy”. Well, normal isn’t really working out. “Peace” is an ineffective and arcane drug policy that disproportionately imprisons poor people of color and subjects the public to the murderous whims of both street gangs and police. “Peace” forsakes resistance, while leaving structural violence intact. Peace is killing us.
During the insurrection, there was a stand-off between police and citizens who wanted to get into a City Council meeting; people hit and kicked police cars as the cars passed by them in the street; trash cans and dumpsters were set on fire; finally, a Starbucks window was broken (a ritual at this point). People are outraged because a Starbucks window was broken during the uprising in Anaheim. Well, I will be sad for a broken Starbucks window after they speak-out against the racially-biased police misconduct happening in their own backyard.
When I last spoke about the riots in response to the Anaheim Police killing Manuel Diaz, I told you a love story. It was a beautiful scene of a community that was motivated by love for their families, friends and neighbors as they stood against police violence in their neighborhood. Children and parents were unified, taking the streets as if the shackles of police repression no longer bound them. This Anaheim neighborhood was living, if only for a moment, as if the police no longer had the right to kill and victimize them. It was a story about love’s boundless energy. That was then.
The following is a video of Manuel Diaz, 24, laying in a grassy lawn while dying from a police officer’s bullet to the head. His family and community looked on in agony; their pain is palpable.
Do we need to start a riot? Ordinarily we focus on the police after they kill someone, but I’m not going to do that. Fuck them. The central figures in this story are the friends, neighbors, and community members that came together and stood up against the latest act of murderous police aggression. This story is about community, specifically a neighborhood filled with people of color (Shout out to the Latino homies). They watched the police kill a man, a member of the community, and their anger swelled as he lay motionless in a grass-covered yard.
Today I went to the sentencing hearing and press conference for CeCe McDonald. Despite the rather somber occasion, I was uplifted by the large number of community supporters who had shown up in solidarity. By now, many people know the story. CeCe McDonald is a young, black, transwoman who while walking with her friends, was attacked by a group of racist and transphobic White people. According to the Support CeCe Website:
Around 12:30 am, CeCe was walking to the grocery store with some friends, all of them young, African American, and either queer or allied. As they passed a local bar, the Schooner Tavern, a group of older, white people who were standing outside the bar’s side door began hurling racist and transphobic slurs at them, without provocation. They called CeCe and her friends ‘faggots,’ ‘niggers,’ and ‘chicks with dicks,’ and suggested that CeCe was ‘dressed as a woman’ in order to ‘rape’ Dean Schmitz, one of the attackers. When CeCe approached the group and told them that her crew would not tolerate hate speech, one of the women said, “I’ll take you bitches on,” and then smashed her glass into CeCe’s face. She punctured CeCe’s cheek all the way through, lacerating her salivary gland. A fight ensued, during which one of the attackers, Dean Schmitz, was fatally stabbed.
It is time again for the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. Many people in the United States are looking forward to filling out their brackets and watching the marathon of hoops action in the coming weeks. According to consulting firm Challenger Gray & Christmas, in 2010 the private sector lost $1.8 billion dollars during the March Madness tournament. Most of the losses occurred within the first two days of the tournament. Online viewership increased by 36% in 2011, and is expected to spike again this year. So far, an estimated 26.4 million dollars has been spent to repress the Occupy movement and “repair” the parks. $26.4 million over the first five months of the entire movement. If these figures are accurate, it would mean that March Madness does about 68.1 times more damage to capital in about two days (most of the lost hours take place over the first Thursday and Friday of games) than the first five months of the entire Occupy movement. While the cost of the Occupy movement largely rests with municipal governments, March Madness strikes at the very core of capital: the private-sector workplace.
I’m tired of fighting with people, especially liberals, over impossibilities. Impossibility is merely defined by the limits of human perception. When people stopped believing the Sun revolved around the Earth, it wasn’t because the planets and stars were suddenly different, it was our ability to perceive them that shifted. In fact, life itself is a series of impossibilities. The probability of existing as you are is about 1 in 10^2,685,000.
So if reality is a string of impossibilities, then the old social movement saying “Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible” is an incredible truth. Engaging the impossible is not about restructuring external forces and structures, it is about altering our understandings and relationships. Impossibility is transformed to reality through human imagination. The question is no longer how to adapt institutions, how to get power, or how to vote; rather, the only question that matters is HOW DO WE WANT TO LIVE TOGETHER! Although, answering this question and fundamentally altering the nature of human relationships is not an easy task.
#OccupyDC & the “People’s Pentagon”: How OccupyDC’s Building Showed Our System Only Knows How to Destroy
December 4, 2011 OccupyDC engaged in a non-violent direct action to build a semi-permanent structure at the McPherson Square park. The small wooden pentagon-shaped structure used passive solar heating, was built “to code”, and was not attached to the ground. In addition to being practical, the action was highly symbolic and sent a very clear message. In the OccupyDC official press release I said the following:
“In a culture and city with chronic homelessness and foreclosures, this structure is a symbol of what people working together under principles of mutual aid can accomplish with limited time and resources. The police response demonstrates that our system is not committed to building up–they’re only concerned with tearing down.”
When people find out that I have participated in the Occupy Wall Street movement, they often ask me to explain what we want. I am quick to remind them that I cannot speak for the movement, only myself (one of the occupation movement’s core principles). The popular critique seems to be that we are unfocused and we lack clear and measurable policy demands. I would like to take the time to respond to that critique.
The occupation movement is not political; it is a personal and social awakening. For so many of us, this is our first time participating in a group that validates and supports the mission to create a more just community. For the first time, many of us are finding our voices. Nonparticipants often wonder what the movement’s demands are, but the occupations cannot be understood through a political lens. The movement doesn’t speak the language of politics, which is why it doesn’t need demands. Demands are points from which to make concessions, and ultimately, to reach compromise with a competing group. The most important thing to understand about the occupations is that people are creating a culture of personal and collective empowerment, not a political coalition.
I read with keen interest the response of Meredith Jessup to the direct action protest which took place in New York City involving my son’s arrest. I feel the writer of the article, Video: Liberal law student chokes on silver spoon in (false) protest has missed the point of the protest by her limited perspective about American freedom, with her statement, “Only in America could a kid have been blessed with so much… and only in America could he still claim to be a victim.” She has chosen to focus on a personal attack of Robert, including his having the ability to attend good academic institutions. These institutions have taught him to think and develop a consciousness about global suffering. Meredith Jessup says “Robert Stephens graduated from Carleton College (average cost: $42,942/year) in 2010 and now studies law at The George Washington University Law School (average cost: $70,449/year).” It would also seem Ms. Jessup believes that a private education should buy your silence about these kinds of issues; that they should be fodder for the classroom but not crossover into real life. I can think of more than a few professors in private schools that would take issue with that viewpoint. I can also think of privileged persons that led movements that introduced a whole new way of thinking; that changed things; and are revered in America. Ms. Jessup in so reporting seems to be persuaded that the status quo is worth maintaining even though she admits to being underemployed in a system that she works to uphold. Ms. Jessup, Robert’s participation in the protest, covers you too.
In the two days since I got back from New York, I realized that I needed to take a step back and really explain my experience and state of mind at the time of my civil disobedience during Occupy Wall Street.
Banks bought & sold each individual mortgage in the United States an average of 7 times before the sub-prime mortgage crisis. These financial institutions made so many bets on the mortgages that they did not have enough assets to cover their potential losses. They would not be able to pay the people that they owed money, which destabilized the entire economy and led to many people losing their jobs and their homes.
These mortgage bets became known as “toxic assets”. Instead of allowing the collapse of these institutions that bought and sold mortgages like Pokémon cards in 1998, the government relieved these corporations of their toxic assets and prevented them from losing their money.