November 17th holds as a special day internationally. It’s not just a day against austerity or just a day organized by the new #occupy movement. November 17th is also the date (in 1973) when the dictatorship in Greece was overthrown. And still in Greece, it’s pretty much a holiday. It remains unclear as to how this day of action was chosen by the #occupy movement, but it would be a sin to forget such a moment in history!
It should be clear that before the Occupy movement, there has always been a struggle against the rich, against the 1%, against capitalism, against whatever you want to call it. #Occupy does not occupy new terrain when it comes to struggle. It takes much of its steam from the past and we should recognize, but also, critically learn from it. There have always been those who have suffered from the onslaught of a society based on class struggle. And there have always been those who have resisted and they have a story that we can draw from.
The March becomes unruly… Snitch Peace Marshals and Abandoned Buildings
Last night there was an unpermitted march through the streets to an abandoned municipal court building. This was after a scheduled union march earlier in the day, which had left many people frustrated by how tame it was. Especially frustrated with the presence of Peace marshals in green neon vests (who were a mix of SEIU, Occupy folks and rumor has it that Communist Party folks were also in the ranks), who at the drop of a hat would snitch to the real cops on folks who wouldn’t comply with the set perimeters of the march. When confronted on this, they would often use the tactic of non-violent communication as a way of quelling any rage. Others would just blow up in your face. It was tense.
It soon became harder and harder to determine who was a real cop or a fake cop as people were becoming more and more confrontational with the marshals by the end of the union march. It was humiliating to have to listen to someone with absolutely no authority and accountability tells us what to do. It’s one thing when the police, who actually have the authority to lock someone up or tell us what to do, but it’s another thing when we have start listening to those who have nothing but vests and only have the real police to back them up. It’s clear that things will never change when we have those who are willing to be the worst kind of police (peace police, a contradiction in itself) and stifle the spontaneity and wild energy of those who want a world without police and capitalism.
After the union march, fortunately the peace marshals had not killed everyone’s energy. They left and a march was called to city hall, a building next door to the abandoned Municipal Court building, standing empty since 2002. The march was not an official #Occupy movement march because it was not called by any General Assembly, but anyone was invited to come on the march. As we approached the building, music was blaring and folks were dancing. We circled the block, cops trailing us the whole time. A Blues game (hockey) was just about to start, so there were lots of people out on the street, many of them giving fist pumps and dancing with the marching crowd.
Turning the corner, and coming the front of the building, we saw that two banners had been unfurled, one saying, “Occupy” and the other saying “Everything.” Confetti and fliers were thrown from the roof. It soon became clear that the front door of this huge building was wide open. In that moment, dozens of people ran up the steps with pure joy. Inside were christmas lights and wheat pasted proclamations. A banner was taped over the “Municipal Court” sign on the front above the doors saying “Everything for everyone and nothing for ourselves.” The Police who had been trailing us for most of the march immediately left to regroup, leaving us time to get acquainted with the building. A dance party ensued and a statement was read outside at the top of the steps. People jokingly called the building “our new home.” Others explored this three-story building. The atmosphere was festive for most. Most people were shocked, excited and had no reason to think such a thing was going to happen. Others were critical and called the action unconsensual.
The cops finally came after an hour and kicked us out. People left and stood on the sidewalk. Some screaming hateful things directed at the police (fun police, party pooper, fuck the police, cops-pigs-murderers) and others more tame things. As we were leaving the building a fire truck was gearing up to extend its ladder towards the banners to cut them down. This seemed ridiculous that the only way they figured to take the banners off was to use the most ridiculous means. Instead of finding a possible roof access, they could only imagine using a fire ladder.
Dancing continued and eventually we left and marched in the streets to the jail and danced and chanted for a while longer. Soon the cops showed up at the jail in force, 3 or 4 paddy wagons and lots of rapid response SUVs and regular cruisers. Seeing as a good time to leave, we continued our march back the Occupied Plaza where we started.
Some thoughts on the march and space….
What was awesome about this march was that it took something without asking and redefined the idea of space and legality in most people’s minds. It also was in the streets the whole time. There were no demands; there were no appeals to higher powers. There was only us acting together. What happened was illegal, and sometimes it’s scary to break the law. But for most at the march, the law no longer mattered when we were all together. It was irrelevant for a time. Everyone was invited inside of the building and if anyone felt uncomfortable, they had the ability to safely leave. The building, formally being a place where the ruling class judged and locked poor people up was mocked (if only for an hour) by the presence of those who want nothing other than the demise of judges and jails.
So many buildings stand empty in this city and they only sit there because capitalism has no use for them as of yet. They are not profitable to be used by capitalists right now. Capitalism cares nothing for our well being. So many of us outside stare at these buildings and wonder why they sit there; why we are evicted when there is so much space unoccupied; why we are thrown in jail for being poor when there is so much. Capitalism creates false scarcity of space when there is plenty. Capitalism takes space, as well as our time, and makes it into a commodity that we have to struggle and work for. These things are only scarce because they are locked up by money that so many of us don’t have and if we take them without paying, forces of repression will try to stop us (the police, the judges, the prisons, etc).
We stand outside dreaming of ways to use these buildings, to use them as places of joy and a place to call home.
To address some of the criticism….
There are some (in particular some in the St. Louis branch of #occupy movement) who will condemn the march and the action as work of cops, provocateurs, crimethinc, adventurists and damaging to the movement; but it’s unclear if they are right or if they are only speaking from what they personally feel, which can be valid. It seems like there are some who are trying to dictate what gets associated with the occupy movement because they feel like they have ownership of a leaderless movement.
It is also extremely dangerous to claim people are cops just because you might not agree with them or their actions. Especially when you have no evidence to back it up. This is very divisive. It also displays a sort of tunnel vision that seeks to keep every thing in controlled and rigid for the sole benefit of those who want to lead a leaderless movement. And it forgets that there are many different ways to act. We should embrace this.
For others, who are very active in the Occupy here, it was a wonderful moment of collective joy. So it’s unclear if there is any consensus about any feeling. But even that is beside the point because a particular march does not necessarily have to be an occupy movement march per se. It can be as simple as a group of autonomous individuals calling it and inviting others to come. There does not need to be a meeting to allow for a march to happen. One can, if one wants, call for a march and see if the occupy St Louis GA will consent upon endorsing it and if it does not get endorsed, it doesn’t mean others can’t take it upon themselves to march!
– an anarchist
Strike! Strike! Occupy!
Like Vox Populi, the Blocs Multiply!
Occupy St. Louis – Occupy EVERYTHING – N17 – Municipal Courts Building takeover
Text from flier that was thrown from the roof:
As winter approaches, we need a space to stay dry and healthy. We need a place to have a stable kitchen to feed our collective self. We need a space where we can better share our ideas and experiences – rooms for discussions, a library, space for workshops and casual conversations – all of which have become harder and harder to have in the plaza.
The occupation of this building is an act against the structural violence entrenched in our political, economic and social systems. As we move into the space, our intention is to collectively re-appropriate its use. We’re trying to discover ways of interacting with each other as equals. How to talk so everyone is heard; how to make decisions so everyone’s considered and included; how to feed and maintain a shared space; how to make sure work, responsibility, pleasure and ownership don’t fall on some more than others. It’s a hard process in itself, but it’s made even harder by the fact that it flies in the face of how almost everything in this city (the whole world practically) is run.
We know our ideas and actions, while currently small, have already proven to be contagious. They have the power to expose the explicit violence that we see in the police department and the jails. That violence also exists in work-related deaths and injuries, in deportation camps, and in communities that have been promised so much only to be left to rot in poverty and addiction. Our very homes and bodies are pushed to the limit by laws and workloads. Wilderness, which has the chance to exist outside of this madness, is, like the County Parks, slowly being sold off to those who want to drown it in this misery.
What would our world look like if we decided how our communities and neighborhoods functioned? What would this self-directed process be like, without a handful of people in charge of it all? What would our workplaces look like if those who actually did the work got to control them, too? What if schools were run by those who learned and taught in them, not by the dictates of careers or the economy? What if your own household, whether shared with friends or family, ran the same way?
So much of our lives are decided without our say. It’s made all the more degrading and humiliating by the fact that those who make the decisions claim to do so for our benefit or in our name. We no longer want to continue the farce. If the word of the handful of people who run this city and our lives is to be taken at face value, this is hardly an unreasonable request. They’ve left this building to rot. It isn’t the site of spectacular sporting events or corporate Christmas tree lightings. The city officials have long-since abandoned the building – much in the way they have abandoned us.
We have no intentions of reforming capitalism or improving democracy. We know there is no golden era to harken back to and restore – this country (like so many others) was founded on genocide, slavery and exploitation, and it continues this tradition today. We have only each other to have hope in.
We occupy in solidarity with those who struggle, but will not look towards the empty promises of politicians. We need to think beyond the Downtown Partnership and the Mayor’s ideas about creating condominiums for the elite, and start thinking about using these buildings for collective purposes. As long as we continue to look to politicians to solve our problems and the ruling class to have a conscience, things will only get worse. Power concentrated in the hands of a few will only bring more oppression and exploitation. We want to make decisions horizontally, and to share the little we have. Who knows, we might even surprise ourselves by what we’re capable of.
Come join us if you’re interested in getting to know each other, treating each other with genuine respect and plotting ways out of this mess. We carry a new world in our hearts, one much more fantastic, more empowering, and more just than the current.