Four takes on the movement


[editor's note: I received these somewhat timely reports on different Occupy camps in the past 30 days.  I am printing them together and in the order they arrived.]






Pat Cabell




The sites of Occupy Santa Cruz—finally dislodged from San Lorenzo Park this past week—are charged with political and colonial history. The Water Street Bridge was a lynch post for two Mexican men in 1877, an act condoned by the Santa Cruz Sentinel. The Santa Cruz Mission was originally built in 1791 at the site of the present day clock tower—it was destroyed by flood.  The following year it was rebuilt above on the hill, itself the end of the long strait on which UCSC sits. The porous rock of this strait is home to all types of biological and geological strata. The banks, court, and jail encircle this confluence, near where those who are most indigenous wait for day labor. The Christian spires are phallic monuments to the conquest.  May Day 2009, there was a riot at the clock tower, against its imposition of linear time. The murals on side speak of the earth's undoing our false objects built out of its blood and mortar; the murals also depict the river dance done by those who reject private property on a moving planet.


With many of the camps evicted, it is not too soon to begin thinking of Occupy’s historical meaning. Occupy Santa Cruz has been a mix of already mingled groupings: homeless, liberals, anarchists, and students. Occupy has been an opportunity for the amplification of the day to day local struggles against neoliberal austerity even as the Democrats attempt to recuperate and subdue the movement’s radical content.


The psychogeography of Santa Cruz forms part of an invisible book, authored by the wild ones whose streets are full of glances. It is a paranoid town, a capitol of the underground, an almost un-mappable space.  Dérive its only map, it absorbs historical energy through the feet of the peripatetic—remaking environments according Capital’s dissolution. It traces a seismography composed of ever changing foothills, caverns, and rivulets, which pour water down from the mountain into the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. This lived experience of mapping has often meant riding the freight train, living in caves, climbing redwoods, and skinny-dipping the Pacific; and the emotional history of this place runs high, notorious for a peculiar manifestation of the personal as political. Psychogeography in Santa Cruz is nothing if not a constellation of monuments to strong hearts fighting and dying upon the crust of this land. A confluence exists at the Water Street Bridge: ‘the whole place’ can come into view. Looking up the river towards the mysterious foothills of Bonny Doon and Ben Lomond, where the mist and the rivers roll down like apparitions, I shoot jumpers in the age-old practice of seeing the past and the future. Like the Charles Bridge in Prague, or that sickly one crossing the Arno, bridge crossings offer glimpses of what lies between Midgård and Asgård. What horrible specters were seen by Francisco Arias and José Chamales in their last glance on this world, and do they compare to those riding towards all of us now in the closing days of late capitalism? 


From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who throw fire


10 days ago, Occupy Santa Cruz crossed this bridge and took over an abandoned bank as a new step in the movement. At a time when many of the camps have come under incredible attack, this type of tactical innovation was seen as essential to increase momentum. The 75 River St. occupation realized an old vision for countering the shortage of public space in Santa Cruz.


I walked the steps up to the mission and around the sandstone mound, looking for new perspectives on this ever-changing landscape. A flaneur in a busy field, like Balakrishnan traversing Valences of the Dialectic, I saw the street’s brief surfaces of car and grass glow with portent. The murals in this area depict the river dance being done by those who live with the ebb and tide of its shores. They tell synchronic tales about the ownership of public space and who gets the last laugh when the earth’s belly shakes. The bank occupation drew a line in the sand that has been too obscured until now, between the defenders of private property and those who understand the violence of its bedrocks. This unused bank was shamelessly stumped for by city officials and downtown business owners; Mayor "Head-full-of-Money" Coonerty is both at once. One of Occupy's purposes is making clear the fault lines connecting capital’s direct infrastructure and the power-brokering of Democrats. An occupied space should not merely become an anomaly of social property amidst the spiked fences and reflective windows of private cathedrals. Can the tent-camps turn into functioning councils for a society organized beyond exploitation? Some of the occupants understood perfectly the use-value of occupying and communicating across distance to others. The quiet one in the corner is a seed of leadership for a day when the building becomes a command center.


Situating the occupations historically: we need this intellectual preoccupation especially as the movement begins to ebb. The global-local, “worlding” context connects the Occupy movement to moments of past struggles.  Santa Cruz has been the site of student occupations in recent years (2005, 2007, 2009). These experiences catalyzed the learning curve of several radical educations. The passionate exchanges with comrades hint at a relevancy that few other moments in our lives have. These are moments that both Benjamin and Debord theorized as ‘portals’ opening up to a time and place we’ve never been to nor seen. Before La Jolie Mai of ‘68, Debord imagined that various zones of a city would be subsumed by such visions, and that their multiplication would be the pre-history for revolution. For many, occupying UCSC meant becoming true students for the first time, entertaining questions about the counter-organization of space, realizing that autonomy is capital’s fiction—that the step across the portal’s threshold is best done while linking arms with comrades. Standing outside of regular, repetitive time, the multiplied portals, like those of the Arab Spring, have a temporality of their own.


These portals were both prophesy and return in Benjamin’s messianic vision. They were called ‘Skookum Nanitch’ in the language of Chinook Jargon spoken here a century ago by IWW loggers, Chinese railroaders, and native traders. A ‘powerful vision’ cannot be taken away by recuperative time, and works against what Zerzan described as the arms of the clock striking blows of repression. What is Occupy, therefore, but a brief portal, a pre-figuring of the day when people hold a Tahrir, a Suez, and an Alexandria to administer their own demands with the swiftness of the breeze blowing through Cleopatra’s seized gates. The occupations had a logic of their own, growing out of the struggles specific to each site, but communicating a consciousness of the global unity of the battle. A feedback loop ensued where local contradictions were broadcast onto the direction of the whole movement, and inversely what was ‘good for the movement’ was arbitrated within powerful contestations inside the particular camps. This is the pre-figurative power of Occupy, for it presages the overwhelming scale on which the overthrow of Capital must take place. In a language of signs and intimations, localities demonstrated some by-rules for this game of Revolutionary Go: a solidarity action here, an escalation of tactics there; wherein the people of the stones speak.









Report from #OccupyPortland


Bryan Coffelt




Note: This report is full of inadequate terms like “protest” and “non-violence.” In 2011, the word “protest” is a pejorative term to many people, and comes from a place of weakness, repression, and desperation. And to call recent events “non-violent” does not do them justice: the systemic violence of capital and the brutish police acts are on full display. Bear with me; I believe sufficient replacements for these words will surface in time.



The loudspeaker van that looks like the torpedo-firing ice cream van from Twisted Metal crying, “You may be subject—”


#N17 has come and gone. #OccupyPortland has been in flux for almost a week since the eviction and tense stand off with police the following evening. At work, I receive emails forwarded from the building’s management to prepare commuters for detours around protests. According to one email on November 16th, protesters were to march over or occupy Portland’s Steel Bridge, a main transportation artery for the city. If people had occupied the bridge, it would have shut down five avenues of transportation: light rail, heavy trains/Amtrak, large boats (the Steel Bridge is one of several draw bridges on the Willamette River), commuter traffic, and pedestrian/bicycle traffic on the bridge’s lower tier. However, the Portland Police eliminated the possibility of a bridge shut down by protesters — by shutting the bridge down.


These kinds of presumably “proactive” police measures are, in some ways, highlighting the effectiveness and steadfast nature of the entire #OWS movement. The police do not know what to anticipate from one day to the next. They are tired. It is likely that many of them will still be kettling protesters throughout the winter.



“We have to break away for the Jets–Patriots game.”


On Sunday, November 13, I watched a tense standoff between protesters and police. It was the evening after #OccupyPortland’s eviction. I watched from my home about 1.5 miles from the site of the now defunct camps. I debated riding my bike down to confront police, but after watching a few minutes of the local news coverage, I decided to stay where I was. Not for fear of arrest or tear gas, but because I had not, until that point, viewed the events from a perspective that I usually ignore. I rarely watch the news, but the local NBC affiliate’s coverage of the standoff provided some interesting sound bites that add to the #Occupy narrative. The anchors’ rhetoric positioned the unfolding protest as some kind of stupidly happy event where the police and protesters were not on a collision course for violence. The newscasters said things like “the protest’s festive air” and discussed the foods the protesters were eating. This focus on the superficial aspects of the protest by the media rendered it harmless and palatable for the average evening news watcher.


The reporters on site also referred to the Portland Police’s “less lethal weapons” and “less-than-lethal weapons.” A less lethal weapon kills slower, I guess, or less efficiently. A less-than-lethal weapon just leaves you without your capacity for speech (in the case of Scott Olsen) or a face full of chemicals (in the case of an 84-year old woman involved in the #OccupySeattle demonstrations).



“An enemy is someone whose story you have not heard.”


In America we have always regarded our neighbors with fear and suspicion, and opponents’ responses to this movement have reflected this. A quick Twitter search shows a common thread of fears that the occupied parks were being turned into bomb factories or that other secret, transgressive acts were afoot—even though complete transparency, consensus have been primary tenets of the #Occupy movement since its inception.


This week, protesters begin occupying foreclosed, B of A-owned homes, and the response of “neighbors” and police has been what you may expect:

On Friday afternoon, police broke down the door of the vacant northeast Portland house and threw out the people inside. Two people were arrested, the rest were allowed to grab their belongings and leave. Police say the house is owned by Bank of America.

Demonstrators said they were occupying a bank-owned house. They said they could house 40 people in there, and encouraged others to do the same.

Occupier Genevier Sullivan says neighbors were OK with the occupiers, but said "rich people" in nearby condominiums called the police.


Similar scenarios will be repeated over and over. We will challenge the law to examine who and what it actually protects, and the response will constantly confirm what we already know and fear: the laws and law enforcement agencies in America exist to serve and protect the interests of capital, not the people whose blood lubricates our economy’s moving parts.


"Not a pretty place to be in those parks right now.”


Dehumanizing language has played a huge role in the opposition to the #Occupy Movement. Opponents disparage the camps (and by extension, the entirety of #OWS) as “disgusting.”


Let the diseased #OWS freaks kill themselves off,” they say.


Lice, fleas, body odor, tuberculosis, rape, murder. Yes, #OccupyWallStreet is a fine collection of degenerates,” they say.


And #OccupyOakland? Cockroaches. This dehumanizing rhetoric is not surprising, but needs to be closely monitored. I am hesitant to draw this easy parallel, but we need to be mindful of this discourse because of the atrocities it has promoted in the past.


The opposition fears that our cities’ shared public places will no longer be visually appealing and unattended by groundskeepers to maintain their existence as something outside of nature as they are accustomed to—something they may no longer “occupy” on their lunch break. They cannot abide the occupiers’ use of the grounds to camp — to eat, sleep, fuck, shit; this is appalling to people who have carefully convinced themselves that they exist outside such a reality. That their bodies somehow float above it all.


As Sgt. Pete Simpson of the Portland Police said in a phone interview with the Portland NBC affiliate during the tense standoff after the eviction, it’s “not a pretty place to be in those parks right now.” No, it is not. But for the police and the mayor, it is enough to fret over the conditions shoppers will experience in downtown Portland during this “holiday season.”


We have experienced two months of #OccupyPortland, with demonstrations, meetings, sit-ins, and other civil disobedience occurring daily. Depending on who you talk to, these events are exciting, disgusting, tiring, ineffective, or absolutely necessary. It is now clear that the police are not on our side. The shows of force at peaceful protests throughout the country confirm that the 2011 holiday season will be different. This year, the smells and sounds of holidays will be replaced with the smell of chemical weapons and the sound of loudspeakers demanding that you disperse immediately.


Despite opposition to #OccupyPortland and the larger #OWS movement, one thing is certain: this is just the beginning of something much bigger. The huge march in NYC and Bat Signal-like poem projected on the side of the Verizon building confirm this. We have special effects now.










Benjamin Bourlier

10/22/11 – updated 11/14/11

"What is hazily imagined can be imagined in its vagueness." - Adorno

“The sign out there says it best.”  That "Shit is fucked up and bullshit.” I met two men immediately, was asked how much for my car, was told, "This is about people loving each other." We shook hands. “We need more people.” On October 22nd I attended the end of the student meeting, the general assembly, both around the Thomas Edison memorial fountain at Grand Circus Park, the site of Occupy Detroit's encampment, and an education committee open forum at the Christ United Methodist Church across the street. 

The day before, cops on horses and Segue scooters contained the October 21st march on Bank of America.  The marchers chanted for a moratorium on foreclosures. The police restriction of the Occupy movement generally (nationally) has been appalling but sometimes simply strange. There was general disorder this day. 300 or so protesters attempted to enter the bank, but were kept out.  There were no arrests. There have been only two arrests so far, in fact, both at the  November 2nd protest of the taping of Wayne State University's “Leaders on Leadership” series, which was hosting NYSE CEO Duncan Niederauer.  The two protesters mildly challenged the CEO at the Q & A and were pounced on immediately by police, dragged out, arrested.  They may face charges.

Police involvement has been otherwise minimal. Even at the significant October 27th blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, where protesters courageously stopped international traffic and trade, standing their ground in front of semis, largely in protest of the bridge's billionaire owner, head of CenTra Inc. “Matty” Moroun – who among other things has threatened to sue the US and Canadian governments for proposing to build another connecting bridge over the Detroit river, which would compete with the Ambassador and cost him profits from duty-free gas sales.  (He has proposed turning the historic Grand Central Station, which he owns, into another casino.)  The October 25th march to the Spirit of Detroit statue protested cuts to Detroit public transportation (over 50% of its funding since 2005).  The November 1st march on DTE demanded a moratorium on power shut-offs for the poor (at least 18 accounted for shut-off related deaths last winter alone).  The November 2nd march to the Labor Legacy monument at Hart Plaza denounced police brutality and in solidarity with Occupy Oakland's General Strike, with chants of “We are all Scott Olsen.”

It's predicted this limited involvement will change when the police inevitably attempt to “clean” the camp, possibly in coming weeks in prep for the Thanksgiving Day parade.


The Opera House and Christ United are the architectural frame of the camp, to my eye, the area a meet of the theater and financial districts. Bank of America and Chase are listed big among financers of the apartment complex nearby, a Vitamin Water ad reads “Stop Idling.” A sign fitted in a shrub beneath: “If corporations were people, they'd be sociopaths.” I think about people in the apartments, the tower, the verticality of financer names, the building as body of the person of its funding, for the persons within, above us horizontal persons, making such flat, de-metaphorical arguments re: corporate personhood, “idling.”

When you “keep stack” at the camp forums, it's not just a list, but a form. Also, the camp writes on the sidewalk in chalk, horizontally. I realize yet again how the ground remains the last horizon free of advertisement, which seems in some crucial paradigmatic sense horizontal vs. vertical social consciousness... 

My family situation (forced out of three homes in five years) says something about the capitalist crises on the whole; my experience is not my own, but symptomatic, emblematic. You begin anywhere, as the crises will encroach on all of waking life. Last week, helping my mother with another eviction (a lawyer is overseeing it), my asthma inhaler ran dry; I left to beg, insurance-less, for free samples at a clinic. At the education forum a man talks about watching furniture and children's clothes being thrown into dumpsters by police. Confronted by a policeman a month ago for sleeping out of my car, I'm told, "We are looking out for your well-being.”

A woman at the forum says she is here because she wants “to be on the right side of history”. “Amen,” several say...


There are a good number of union workers, professors, students, veterans, schools of activism, people involved in the foundation of the civil rights, LGBT rights, women's liberation movements.  I remember feeling at fifteen one ought to go to college to occupy it. There are teenagers here whose real intelligence I have such hope for: lots of mention, though, of elusive health insurance and insurmountable student loans.

My sister's boyfriend defines “folkmoot” for me by the fountain and we talk about Olson and polis and Kirkpatrick Sale and seccession and listen to talk of facilitation training for “working groups,” a complaint about an un-assembly-approved plumbing job hire (“I finished the job, I need three hundred dollars”) which is addressed with calm deliberation.   There are plans in the works: the proposed Metro-Detroit AFL/CIO community services account for camp funds (“You need to be a corporation to open a private account. What about the mask of a corporation?”); a protest of Wayne State's proposed cutting of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (“They've already cut Labor Studies...”); a protest against more transportation cuts.


Detroit is, as I'm sure you know, the birthplace of the UAW. The UAW has expressed support for Occupy Detroit, but at least one person here expressed concern as to whether that “means anything.” There are a good number of proclaimed communists and Marxists but I could use more Marxian severity than “we want our money back.”  I personally do not want my home or my money back. I want a communism of loss and of spirit.

I was apparently the only composer at this particular forum, which wasn't a problem but it would be cool if there were more. A retired former union leader explained she had worked for many years to help the UAW become a democractic organization, unsuccessfully, and I think she said something re: her pride in the present occupation's democratic process but if she doesn't many others speak to that and it's anyway self-evident. Proposals at the forums were respectfully acknowledged, well-articulated, and basically all of a felt relevance.

The majority of things I ended up reading were hand-written. To occupy was also to return to the broadcast of manuscript, I think. At the education forum: two dads with teen daughters; one was fifteen and spoke confidently about class-consciousness, her dad listening supportively. I was so proud and angry. The education forum was a “reflective space” for sharing ideological positions, for establishing difference as well as solidarity. 

I wrote in my notes, outside, “that important (more than we know) smell of urine.” I hoped that everyone knows body fluids are the future.

I haven't read Dorothy Ballan so I picked up her pamphlet “Feminism & Marxism” from a man outside who's on the phone but cooperative – no one's “preoccupied.” Simply by showing up you were occupying, contributing, and could have an instant sense of involvement. The democracy here was on a small scale but very real and the people were very different. In a Subway for lunch, a girl hummed with the radio – I recalled Silliman's line “The president of Muzak himself says that humming along constitutes time theft." Every expression seemed resistant. The merest exercise of intellect has subversive character in our world.

No one I met identifies via the two-party system. It. Is. Anathema.

A nice man talked about his (I don't know what else to call it) esoteric belief that the "schwa," the linguistic concept, will revolutionize language by indeterminate vowel reformation. He leaned very close and had me write "fundəgəthə." He didn't mention finance. It was like a dream encounter where vowels are the exclusive concern of the revolution.

Empathy is a radical experience. Not mere social awareness or embracing one's responsibility to others etc. but insight into this continuous reformative churning extension of the material consciousness one enjoys, something one might very well access alone. To sit essentially alone writing here as I would anywhere, as uncomfortable, as convinced still of weak messianism, for its invention – the “weak” the subversive purposelessness of the thought produced. New thoughts are the buried experience of past struggle in language.

Isn't this what the movement is about?


I thought of a “healing center” in Detroit where I went to play jazz for sometimes three or so homeless or otherwise suffering people. One woman had a large, pregnant-seeming gut she insisted was in fact a tumor she contracted after her husband died. “I know what they say, he's only been gone a year, she's already pregnant...” This is not just about an obligation to help the poor, because that posits a stability no one has now. Everyone stands to benefit from overthrow of capitalist hegemony. You will be poor. 

Artistic production is labor production, we agreed. The artwork is bound to a “false consciousness” all its own, never devoid of fetish character and in fact more radically fetishized. I wanted to talk about art here, I wanted to know that it's integral, that it will bust up. Its spontaneity, inherent in its production, is a “determinate opposition to reality,” opposed to ordinary exchange and capitalist refinement of the means of production. It tends to non-participation, self-alienation, and reflection.

At the forum I mentioned having been homeless.  On the walk from the church I met three homeless men (there are an estimated 21,000 homeless people in Detroit), one fresh from a psychological evaluation showing off a horrible scar on his wrist where he explains he nearly lost his hand in Vietnam. “I have been called nigger, I have been called coon,” he says, pointing at the scar but never saying “scar.” A teacher who got a citation at a Detroit charter school for wearing a skirt that was too revealing – “advertising,” she was told, “for a husband” – tried to explain that she ran and it ran up is all. Now she doesn't have health insurance.

Disillusionment as process, as poetics, and artwork as after reification.  I talked to some people about this. A guitarist mentioned Ives, Ligeti. Adorno notes the earliest cave paintings show attempts to give the illusion of movement – Herzog calls these overlappings “proto-cinematic,” as they describe the same image at different stages of motion. Adorno goes on, speculating this is perhaps the earliest attempt to resist the innate reification of the object of experience. After the fact, and subversive from within.          













Casey McAlduff



415.285.1011. For ten days I’ve avoided scrubbing Liberate Oakland’s legal assistance line off of my forearm in case I decide to throw in my flame with the movement’s black flags. To reclaim a space that has been abandoned is a public service. It’s a crime anybody sleeps on the streets with empty shelter close by.  It’s time to consider every abandoned, unused and foreclosed property as our forgotten ground.  Maybe then the 1% would begin to feel the pangs of empathy, and would take their eyes off the fake heart monitors of our nation to recognize the America they’ve created: one in which most victims go vigil-less.

Meanwhile, at Occupy camps around the Globe, candles are lit for the lives and livelihoods of those who have either died at the bottom or those who have suffered there too long.  And, after the deadly shooting next to Occupy Oakland’s encampment on Thursday, November 10th, there are now three vigils set up on the concrete steps in front of City Hall: one for the murder victim “Alex”; one for Iraq War Vet Scott Olsen whose return from the hospital after suffering from brain damage caused by a police projectile was celebrated last night; and one for the Plaza’s Occupy-given namesake, Oscar Grant, a young black man murdered by an Oakland PD officer on New Year’s Day in 2009. 

By Friday the local media and the Mayor’s Office had painted the tragic murder at Occupy Oakland as a consequence of the Occupy encampment, and have since called for the people to leave the camp. As the Oakland Police Department reminded campers in their letter of eviction: Oakland has the highest homicide rate of any city west of the Mississippi, and it is the police’s job to protect the community and shrink the startling statistics.  How, one might ask, will the forced evacuation and arrest of the city’s activists and organizers help alleviate this violence?

The Occupy Movement is after property, not people. But because property, as one Occupy activist reminds us, is now “somehow strangely equated with harming human beings,” the City has spent over $1,000,000 attempting to stop those protesting against violence rather than to defend the safety of its people, its occupants, as it were.  On the night of Wednesday, November 2nd, a group of Occupy Oakland protesters were met with brutality by police while trying to reclaim the now vacant property of the Traveler’s Aid Society, a non-profit organization that once provided for the homeless but due to cuts in government funding has since lost its lease.  Layer this onto the fact that the attempted reclamation of the Traveler’s Aid Society was also a response to the Oakland Chamber of Commerce’s pleas that the people leave Oscar Grant Plaza to make way for the cheery onslaught of Holiday Shoppers, and the present wraps itself in a cold, ironic ribbon.

Today, Saturday November 12th marks Occupy Oakland’s official solidarity with the Revolutionaries in Cairo, a solidarity that is linked by the effort to provide “food, education, shelter, and education in a way that Capitalism never can, and never will.”  Though the Occupy Movement asks for the money back, and propositions both the banks and the government to bail out our schools rather than continue to preach the sad propaganda of neoliberalism, the people know now that the price is wrong. 

At the General Strike on November 2nd, the crowd repeated mic checks in Spanish throughout the day.  Dogs wore signs. Ten days later, the passion is still palpable, but the Plaza is darker since the city cut the lights. And as Oakland becomes a national scapegoat for the so-called disturbances caused by the Movement, I’m reminded of how little has changed since the late 1960s.



P.S.  In the early morning hours on Monday, November 14th, 32 Occupiers were arrested and the Occupy Oakland encampment at OGP was disbanded for the second time in three weeks.  But the movement’s enthusiasm is still very much alive, still optimistic in the face of attempted public disgrace by local newspapers, and in the face of the City’s fist. Yesterday, a march from the Oakland Public Library back to the Plaza for an “emergency general assembly” included nearly 1000 people, with another march to UC Berkeley planned for Tuesday afternoon in support of the Occupy Cal protests.

Though it may prove difficult to re-occupy OGP, the movement’s slogan of “Occupy Everywhere, Liberate Oakland” allows for a diversity of tactics that cannot easily be stopped. The people’s next steps may include Lake Merritt’s Snow Park as well as “any vacant city building.”  And, if the Occupiers have proved anything, it’s that their actions meet their words. No matter where one falls on the spectrum of support for the Occupy movement, it’s become clear that our country is dividing slowly into two general spheres—those who support the movement and those who wish it would disappear, or homogenize itself into a unified message rather than represent the diverse masses who give it form and shape.


Joomla SEF URLs by Artio

Buy Lana Turner #9

Issue 9 is HERE!

Order Now

@ltjournal on Twitter