October 11, 2011

Taking Freedom Plaza - Day 8

A lot happened today.

Keith Olbermann used footage that I shot of the pepper spraying incident at the Smithsonian museum on Countdown:



Just to be clear though, the footage shows my boss, Dennis Trainor Jr, not David Swanson-- though they do look similar enough to be cousins, or maybe brothers.

The provocateur that Olbermann and David Swanson discuss in the above video has been at Freedom Plaza since day one. On the first day, he was very divisive, trying to stir up animosity in our first general assembly. Whatever, we just assumed he was overzealous.

Then there was the incident at the Smithsonian, in which my boss, Dennis Trainor was standing nearby, and saw this same guy, (in the black shirt) shove a guard and pin him to a wall-- which is when the pepper spray came out. He got a faceful of pepperspray for his efforts.

We confronted him after that incident, and tried to make it clear that this movement was committed to the principals of nonviolence. He said that he was nonviolent, and that the guard at the Smithsonian shoved him first.

What Dennis Trainor saw, was that he rushed the guards like a linebacker. So either Dennis is lying, or this guy is lying.

Sunday, before the permit ran out, we deliberated over how to deal with the possibility that we would be cleared out by police. We decided that some of us would risk arrest to hold the plaza, and the rest would form a support circle surrounding the plaza, singing, chanting, and most importantly, tweeting, facebooking, photographing, livestreaming, and taking video. We also had a nonviolence training, discussing what the laws were in regards to what assault on a police officer entailed, and what resisting arrest entailed. It was made very clear that so long as we did not make any motion towards police whatsoever, that they would have no excuse to make a demand to disperse, as it's public property and we all have a right to be there. It was also made clear that the best way to deal with a mass arrest would be to make things difficult for the police by going limp.

Most of all, we made it clear that we would, above all, remain nonviolent.

Later that night, we found out that this same Provocateur was trying to organize people at the back of the plaza to fight the police if they tried to clear the plaza.

We confronted him, and asked him about it. He said, "Hey man, whatever happens."
We said, "no, not whatever happens, you're going to fuck everything up if you go through with this plan to fight the police."

He and his friend Chris looked at one another and said, "okay, so Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King right?" and smirked and laughed. I should mention that at this point he was wearing a white t-shirt and a red bandana. That becomes important in a little bit.

Ward, a Vietnam veteran and peace activist talked to him about the incident at the Smithsonian (Ward received a face full of pepper spray as a result of his actions)tried to level with him about what the movement was about, and how if he was not willing to abide by our principals of nonviolence, he was not welcome here. We asked him his name, he said it was Hamsey, but would not give his last name.

Everybody who was willing to risk arrest to hold the plaza went to the legal support tent to give the National Lawyers Guild folks their contact information. According to a person who was at the tent, it took Hamsey 30 minutes to remember his name, his phone number, his address, and a person to contact. Despite the fact that he has an iphone. He claimed to be homeless and unemployed from New York. I don't know of any unemployed homeless people with iphones, at least not aside from this guy.



Hamsey disappeared for a bit, and during the dance party, reappeared wearing a long sleeve, black, button down shirt, and sunglasses. At night. It was 11pm. Weird.

Today, during our general assembly, we let him know that he was no longer welcome here. Later, when he was still here, we confronted him directly and let him know that we were asking him to leave, as he was clearly not adhering to our principals of nonviolence and cooperation. He didn't even put up a fight. Kevin, the other cameraman who is working on this documentary, followed him to the end of the plaza, where he disappeared, either into a car, or into one of the extremely expensive hotels adjacent to the plaza. He was no longer anywhere to be seen on the sidewalk.

Very strange. Very strange indeed. I think he was an agent provocateur, and I think he knew he was outed. Who did he work for? I have no clue.

Later today, the Federal Parks Police came to talk with organizers of the Stop The Machine / October 2011 protest at Freedom Plaza.



They wanted to speak with them in private. We demanded that they speak with all of us publicly. They left. We then held a General Assembly, and deliberated on what to do. We decided to send a delegation from the plaza to meet with the Parks Police, with the conditions that a) they would request to record the meeting and b) that the delegation was not there to make a decision, but would simply collect information which the folks on the plaza would deliberate in a general assembly.

The report back from the meeting with police was mindblowing: the Federal Parks police have decided to let us stay on the plaza! For FOUR MORE MONTHS. Not only that, but the Federal Parks Police Dept actually called other organizations that had requested permits for the plaza during that time- such as a fundraiser for Leukemia research, the MLK Jr monument dedication, and a Yoga Conference- to ask if they were okay with us remaining there. Our good behavior, our message, and willingness to cooperate with the police has really paid off.

After that, Taste of DC was done with their event, and we learned that many restaurant owners who had been listening to our speakers and general assemblies the past three days, decided that they would donate food to us in solidarity!

We were completely overwhelmed with food! The Food Not Bombs tent was just completely overstocked with bread, fried rice, pad thai, empenadas, ice cream, soup, stew, pasta, and ice! We actually had so much food that we sent the rest over to the kids at Occupy DC in McPherson Park.

As soon as I find out what the names of these businesses are, I will be sure to thank them!

We are winning!