"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Occupy Oakland’

Arrested For Meditating? Why It’s Radical To Stay Nonviolent In The Face Of State-Sponsored Brutality

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Oldspeak:”Sometimes the most radical thing to do in a polluted violence-based system, is to be still. The mud settles to the bottom and we then have a clearer vision about our next steps. It is time for the spiritual people to get active and the activist people to get spiritual so that we can have total revolution of the human spirit.  We need to combine this inner revolution with the outer revolution to have the total revolution of the spirit. Then you can build the alternatives to a collapsing system built on structural violence –Pancho Ramos-Stierle

By Sarah van Gelder @ YES! Magazine:

Occupy Oakland has been at the forefront of some of Occupy’s most visible actions—a massive general strike on November 2, a shutdown of the Port of Oakland, and attempts to occupy vacant buildings. And it’s become known for the brutality of police actions, especially the case of Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, who was hit by a tear-gas canister fired by police and suffered a severe head injury.

It has also been the center of much controversy over tactics—especially the tactics of the Black Bloc. These tactics are turning the San Francisco Bay area public against the Occupy movement, according to a report in the East Bay Express. Anonymous recently accused Black Bloc members of being misguided, harmful, and perhaps agent provocateurs, and threatened those involved in vandalism in a video posted on YouTube: “Consider this an act of diplomacy before we start doxing your asses all over the Internet and paying special attention to personally ruining your lives.”

We turned to Pancho Ramos Stierle for some insights into the question of Occupy tactics. Pancho was arrested Nov. 14 2011, during the police raid on Occupy Oakland, while meditating. Pancho came to the United States from Mexico to study astrophysics in the Ph.D. program at the University of California, Berkeley, but left the program out of opposition to the university’s research related to nuclear weapons development.

We talked to him about police violence in Oakland, his own arrest, deportations, and, especially, his insights into the controversies over tactics in the Occupy movement.

Sarah van Gelder: Could you tell the story of what happened the night that the Oakland site was raided by the police and you were arrested?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: Since the Occupy movement started, we’ve been seeing the Oakland police escalating their violence.

The first raid happened early in the morning, and the city of Oakland spent $2 million on rubber bullets, tear gas, and helicopters to repress people who were peacefully gathering. In the same two days not one or two but five elementary schools were closed. Today, you can see an elementary school that has been converted into a police station here in Oakland.

I’m telling you this to set the tone for what happened the day we were arrested.

We knew the city of Oakland was bringing police from all around and they were staying in the Coliseum, which is one mile from here.

So we said, okay, if they want to escalate their violence, how do we escalate our nonviolence? On the night before the raid, we heard the helicopters and the hundreds of police that were descending on the Oakland downtown. So at 3:30 a.m., we bicycled to the Ogawa-Grant Plaza. We wanted to set a tone of positive energy and also to claim the space.

We’d been meditating and doing yoga in public parks for the last eight months because we want to let people know that these spaces are our spaces. We want to bring calmness and a different energy.

So if you have the riot police coming with tear gas and pepper spray and all their weapons, we have a more powerful weapon, courage and stillness—it’s kindness, it’s compassion, it’s generosity, it’s the small things, but when you add them up that makes a pretty strong army.

So we sat in receptive silence from 3:30 a.m. to the time when we were arrested around 6 a.m.

Sarah van Gelder: So what happened during the actual arrest?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: On Mondays we practice silence, and the police officer who arrested us thought that we were deaf because we were not speaking. So he got a notebook and a pen. It was very considerate of him, and I could feel his energy shift a little, and so when he gave me the notebook I wrote, “On Mondays, I practice silence, but I would like you to hear that I love you.”

When he read that, he had this big smile and looked me in the eye and he said, “Thank you. But, well, if you don’t move, you’re going to be arrested. Are you moving or not?”

So I wrote back, “I am meditating.” He said, “OK, arrest them one by one.”

That was one of my favorite moments from the whole ordeal.

Sarah van Gelder: Who else was sitting with you?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: My housemate Adelaja. We are also now on a mission to bring together people with different skin colors. He’s a six foot five beautiful brother with black skin, and I have brown skin, and we have another brother here with white skin, so we’re trying to be together.

Sarah van Gelder: Tell me about your experience in prison. Were you able to keep your nonviolent witness going while you were behind bars?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: Before being in jail, it was hard for me to understand what Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi meant when they said that prisons are the temples of freedom. It’s clear that they can do many things to your body and try to oppress you and use psychological violence. But there’s something so strong inside each of us, the human spirit, that they can not reach. They can put you in shackles and cold cement cells, and feed you horrible food, and put you in solitary confinement, but there’s no way that they can reach the human spirit.

That was powerful—to find once again that that part is sacred. I think that was the only thing that kept me sane and healthy in that very dehumanizing environment.

That’s what I would like to share with people—that it is time for the spiritual people to get active and the activist people to get spiritual so that we can have total revolution of the human spirit. Because we have the idea that the self-indulgent people are just meditating—they are going to caves and meditation centers while all this madness is happening, or you have people at these meditation center that are asking how can you bring peace and calm and harmony to the world if you do not have that in your heart?

I think that we need both now, and that we need to combine this inner revolution with the outer revolution to have the total revolution of the spirit.

Then you can build the alternatives to a collapsing system built on structural violence.

I believe that nine out of ten actions must be creating the community that we want to live in—we’re talking about permaculture, independent media, restorative justice, gift economies, free currencies, and preventive medicine. By doing all that, we make ourselves stronger.

If you are creating true alternatives to the collapsing, rotten system then you will naturally come into conflict with the power structure. Then the political action becomes necessary. So I think one out of ten actions should be obstructive—that is boycotts and protests and marches and nonviolent civil disobedience.

But when we cultivate inner awareness, it’s easy to see that what we need to do is spend most of our time creating the communities that we want to live in.

Sarah van Gelder: Can you give me an example of how that plays out in movements for change?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: Gandhi showed us that the spinning wheel—part of the constructive program—was the center of the movement for the independence of the part of the planet we call India.

At the time, the part of the planet we call India was selling cotton to the part of the planet we call England and buying back clothes. Gandhi figured out that if they started making their own clothes, then they could become self reliant, autonomous, and every single person could get plugged into this—women, men, elderly people, young people—social status really doesn’t matter. So that created the foundation of a national movement.

And once they had the alternative, they had bonfires with British clothing, and he said every person needs to spend at least one hour a day in the chain of creating your own clothing.

Well now, a hundred years later, many of us believe that Gandhi’s spinning wheel of the 21st century is healthy and local food. Many of us believe healthy and local food is the foundation of social justice, and anyone can get plugged in, from compost to planting, watering the crops to going to the farmers market to cooking healthy food or just eating it or washing dishes anyone can spend an hour a day— men, women, doesn’t matter social strata can get plugged into this chain.

Once we have that constructive program, when we’re solid in that, we can confront the pollution- and violence-based system more effectively. But we also need an inner “spinning wheel,” so we must spend a couple of hours each day in receptive silence—any silent spiritual practice that brings awareness and equanimity to our hearts and minds—and put the inner revolution and the outer revolution together. Then we will be more than ready to make a bonfire out of passports, visas, and the devastating genetically modified Monsanto seeds.

Sarah van Gelder: What do you say to Occupiers trying to negotiate differences in views about nonviolence?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: Stop negotiating and start embodying the principles you believe in.

Sometimes the most radical thing to do in a polluted violence-based system, is to be still. The mud settles to the bottom and we then have a clearer vision about our next steps—for example, facilitating the growth of the communities we want to live in or realizing that the most efficient tools against a system based on greed, fear, hurry, and violence, are generosity, courage, slowing-down, and loving-kindness.

When the puzzle gets complicated, I always remember: our means are our ends in the making.

To all occupiers and fellow satyagrahis I say: Liberate ourselves from the shackles of wage slavery. Liberate our minds and hearts from the oppression of colonialism. Let’s occupy our beings with courage and loving-kindness.

Sarah van Gelder: What should people know about Occupy Oakland, which has been confronted with some of the most police violence in the U.S., but has also had groups engage in property damage?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: “Occupy Oakland” has been happening for many decades.

Most of the people with black and brown skin have been surviving the historical pain of racism and oppression for generations. When you have “food deserts”—perhaps a better description is “food apartheids”—and “liquor store forests” in Oakland, what can we expect? When police kill young fathers with impunity—like Oscar Grant—and harass hard-working, honest people—like migrants; when gangsters terrorize the community with shootings; when the corporate media broadcasts fear as much as they can; when the city of Oakland converts an elementary school into a police station, is there a clearer picture that this system is flawed?

Violence is only a manifestation of a deep conflict. Violence is an expression of pain. It is a monologue offered by gangs, including the police—the most organized gang defending the interests of a few.

The Native American peoples have been saying for centuries, “Beware what’s happening to us because it could happen to you.” Well, now people of black, brown, and white skin are experiencing it. It is the 99 percent.

The tear gas canister that fractured the skull of brother Scott Olsen—an Iraq veteran with white skin—wasn’t a random shot by a police officer targeting the body of the 24-year-old defiant veteran. It was a choice made by the state to impose, with violence, submission on movements that resist their decisions. A choice to threaten all of those who want to resist arrangements that suppress issues like meaningful livelihood, public health, security, housing, and public learning.

In these so called “democracies” of today, state sovereignty takes the police form. There are police operations against all kind of “enemies.” In these operations, not only the social movements are criminalized, but also whole categories of citizens, entire communities, and even ethnic groups.

The ultimate healing will come when we all stop cooperating with the rotten system and when we start understanding that we are the 99 percent facilitating the healing of the 100 percent, one heart at a time.

If we disobey with compassion and love in our hearts and minds, if we spend 90 percent of our energy creating the alternatives of a just, free, and liberated world, we will discover the joy to rebel against an imposed fear. We will be free from modern poverty and its two kinds of slaves: the intoxicated—the prisoners to the addiction of consumption, and those who aspire to get intoxicated—the prisoners of envy. It will be clear that our misery isn’t caused by the siblings in corporations or most of the police officers or the army, but by our obedience to a flawed rule.

We ourselves must be strengthened and changed, for we have to experience an inner independence even before the corporations, police states, and governments grant the outward one.

Sarah van Gelder: What comes next for you? You’ve been arrested and the fact that you are in the United States without documents has become very public. What will you do now?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. We as citizens of the world don’t need silly papers and visas and passports—these are things that are totally new in the human consciousness. We paint imaginary lines in the dirt, and we need to erase those soon. So it really doesn’t matter if I am here or if I am in the part of the planet we call Mexico. We really need to step up as citizens of the world.

For example, right here in California the University of California is still involved in the development of nuclear weapons. So as citizens of the world we need to do everything within our reach to stop that madness.

You can not deport the Milky Way from the sky; you cannot deport the Sun. If they send me to another part of this planet, great! I’ll keep working. What’s going to happen if I’m in Oaxaca or Chiapas or somewhere else in the part of the planet we call Mexico, I have no idea, sister, but I know that I’m going to keep trying to bring this message that the Earth is but one country and all living beings its citizens.

When I was in the detention center, there were 42 people in a very tiny space — like two people per square meter. And I met this man, this dad who has been working for 15 years in construction in Oakland, and he has a nine year-old and a five year-old, and he was going to be deported because he didn’t have documents. So when you look into the eyes of that brother or talk to his children, there’s no way that you cannot do something.

Sarah van Gelder: I was at your arraignment hearing in Oakland and I saw so many people there who loved you so much.

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: I’m happy you were able to witness—and you know what this is, sister Sarah? We are the early adopters of a revolution of values, and we are the evidence that the totalitarianism of corporate capitalism—the machine that has devastated the planet and human beings—we are the demonstration that system doesn’t work and that we need a new system.

Our movement is trying to give birth and move from scarcity to abundance, from transaction to trust, from consumption to contribution, from isolation to community, from perfection to wholeness, from terror to fearlessness, from violence to courage and respect and love, and this is the key.

The emergence of the new paradigm and our victory is not putting people in power but power in people.

Sarah van Gelder is Executive Editor of YES! Magazine where you can read her blog.

© 2012 YES! Magazine All rights reserved.

Police, Occupy Protestors Clash In Oakland: 400 Arrests, Tear Gas, Flash-Bang Grenades Used

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Oldspeak:” In a police state, heavily armored & militarized storm troopers systematically and repeatedly violate their own crowd control guidelines & respond to dissent and protest with disproportionate, excessive and unauthorized levels of violence to ‘pacify’ largely peaceful and unarmed protestors.

Related Video:

Occupy Oakland video: Police use flashbangs & tear-gas against protesters

By Joshua Holland @ Alter Net:

Downtown Oakland turned ugly once again on Saturday, as Occupy activists attempting to squat in a long-abandoned city building were met by lines of heavily armored riot police. Police officials said that 400 arrests followed – a number that may represent as much as 30 percent of everyone who participated in the day’s actions, according to police estimates of the crowd’s size.

Occupy Oakland organizers said some protesters were hospitalized, but the exact number of injuries is unknown as if this writing. According to organizers, four journalists were swept up by police, including AlterNet contributor Susie Cagle and Mother Jones correspondent Gavin Aronsen. Cagle was reportedly cited and released; organizers say Aronsen was jailed overnight (update: Aronsen tells us that he was released last night).

It was, once again, a tale of two protests. Accounts in the corporate media relied primarily on police statements to paint protesters as wild animals running amok in the city, while those following the day’s events via a small group of “citizen-journalists” broadcasting raw, unedited footage from their cell-phones and flip-cams got a wildly divergent view of exactly how things escalated.

A livestream offered by Occupy Oakland’s Mark Mason and Chris Krakauer showed protesters approaching the Henry Kaiser Convention Center in the early afternoon, where they were greeted by skirmish lines of police clad in riot gear. At one point, Mason, narrating as he moved through the crowd, could be heard saying, “uh-oh, some people are throwing things at the cops,” before moving away from the front-lines. Later, an Occupier visiting from Los Angeles told Mason of confronting one of the protesters who had thrown an object at police. “That’s just stupid, you know,” said the young woman. “And she threw it from the middle of the crowd, which just puts people in the front in danger.”

Police declared the protest an unlawful assembly, and soon afterward, a series of explosions could be heard on the livestream as police deployed either teargas canisters or “flash-bang” grenades to disperse the crowd. This appears to be a violation of the Oakland Police Department’s (OPD) own crowd-control guidelines, which were drawn up as part of a settlement of a 2003 suit filed by the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU of Northern California after a case in which OPD used an abundance of violence against peaceful protesters demonstrating against the invasion of Iraq.

The guidelines state that less-lethal munitions “may never be used indiscriminately against a crowd or group of persons, even if some members of the crowd or group are violent or disruptive.”

“Bean-bag” shotgun rounds and/or rubber-coated steel bullets were also used by police, according to official reports. But OPD may only use less-lethal projectiles against an individual who poses an imminent threat and, even then, the guidelines prohibit their use except when such an “individual can be targeted without endangering other crowd members or bystanders.”

The Associated Press quoted City Administrator Deanna Santana saying that police “responded” to object being thrown “by deploying smoke, tear gas and bean bag rounds.” “These demonstrators stated their intention was to provoke officers and engage in illegal activity and that’s exactly what has occurred today.”

But OPD’s large-scale use of force against the mostly peaceful crowd visibly escalated the tension. “There are fucking kids here!” one activist could be heard shouting on Mark Mason’s livestream. “What’s wrong with you fucking people?” It was soon after the explosions that protesters began chanting “fuck the pigs!”

Soon after this initial confrontation, the Occupiers retreated back to Frank Ogawa Plaza, which served as the location for their encampment – a tent city that Oakland officials cleared twice last fall. One organizer complimented the majority of activists for remaining peaceful throughout the clash. “Today was the most disciplined I’ve ever seen Occupy Oakland,” he said.

The Occupiers, after regrouping, then set off for a second march. Their intended destination was unclear, as police immediately began “herding” protesters – in Mason’s words – towards a small plaza at the intersection of 19th and Rashida Muhammad Street, where they attempted to “kettle” several hundred protesters. It’s unclear why the attempt failed, but protesters evaded the trap and continued on until they reached Broadway and 23rd street, where OPD succeeded in boxing them in. Several protesters ran through the Downtown YMCA building seeking to escape arrest, according to live-streamer Spencer Mills. It was here that the majority of arrests took place.

Mills said that no dispersal order was given at the location; police told him that several had been issued along the route. But the OPD manual states that, “If after a crowd disperses pursuant to a declaration of unlawful assembly and subsequently participants assemble at a different geographic location where the participants are engaged in non-violent and lawful First Amendment activity, such an assembly cannot be dispersed unless it has been determined that it is an unlawful assembly and the required official declaration has been adequately given.”

Protesters, including peaceful protesters, weren’t given an opportunity to disperse. OPD’s crowd control manual states that an order to disperse, “shall also specify adequate egress or escape routes. Whenever possible, a minimum of two escape/egress routes shall be identified and announced.”

While the main body of protesters were being “herded” by OPD and eventually kettled at 23rd street, a smaller group broke into City Hall, where “they burned flags, broke an electrical box and damaged several art structures,” according to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan speaking at a press conference. Quan, blaming a small “very radical, violent” splinter group for the mayhem, called on the Occupy movement to “stop using Oakland as its playground.”

“People in the community and people in the Occupy movement have to stop making excuses for this behavior,” she said.

But Michael Davis, a visitor from Occupy Cincinnati, told the Associated Press that a day of action which began peacefully escalated when police began using “flash bangs, tear gas, smoke grenades and bean bags,” in apparent violation of OPD policy.

The chronology is important to get right. By definition, protesters feel angry and aggrieved, and when force is applied indiscriminately on a crowd – and not directed at a handful of people seeking confrontation – it ratchets up the tension to a point where more confrontations become almost inevitable.

We’ve seen that sequence of events unfold repeatedly in Oakland. In November, AlterNet spoke with Linda Lye, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, about a suit the group had filed attempting to compel OPD to follow its own crowd control policies. “Crowds of protesters are heterogenous,” she said. “They simply cannot deploy these weapons against a whole group of people because a few of them throw some objects.”

“The crowd control policy represents OPD’s view of best practices,” Lye continued. “Generally, the issue with excessive force cases is whether the force applied was reasonable under the circumstances, and law enforcement will often argue, ‘well, we needed to apply the force in a given circumstance because it was necessary to achieve our legitimate law enforcement goals.’ Here, when OPD is systematically violating specific provisions in its own crowd control policy, there can be no argument that they need to do this, because the guidelines already represent what OPD thinks is reasonable in these circumstances.”

The lawsuit filed by ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild is pending. In the meantime, relations between the community, police and city officials, and the Occupiers continue to be strained by the police violence and protester vandalism that have plagued so many actions over the past six months in Oakland.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy: And Everything else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America. Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.

 

 

5 a.m. Police Raid Tears Down Occupy Oakland Encampment, Protestors Arrested

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2011 at 11:50 am

Oakland Police surround the occupy encampment in the early morning preparing to go in and disband the tent community at Frank Ogden Plazan on Tuesday Oct. 25th 2011. A couple of tear gas bombs were exploded right before the police entered.

Oldspeak:”On the heels of news of a chemical bomb attack on Occupy Maine, the backlash is growing. “Police in riot gear, armed with billy clubs and some with shotguns, overturned tents, and the campers’ wooden stalls quickly, leaving what looked like a hurricane-struck refugee camp in their wake. They ripped up dozens of cardboard signs, overturned a couch and when it was over there were scraps of carpet, personal belongings and trash all over the plaza.”

By Kristen J. Bender @ San Hose Mercury News:

Before dawn Tuesday, at least 200 police, many in riot gear, tore down the Occupy Oakland encampment in front of City Hall and arrested dozens of people. A smaller camp near Lake Merritt was also dismantled.

Early reports from police say the raids went smoothly, with all protesters cleared out of the downtown Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in less than 30 minutes.

After police surrounded the plaza about 4:45 a.m., they began moving in and taking down tents and barricades erected by the group, which had been camped there since Oct. 10 in support of the Occupy Wall Street effort.

Many protesters were handcuffed and led away by police from the camp at 14th Street and Broadway. Many others left on their own.

Police in riot gear, armed with billy clubs and some with shotguns, overturned tents, and the campers’ wooden stalls quickly, leaving what looked like a hurricane-struck refugee camp in their wake. They ripped up dozens of cardboard signs, overturned a couch and when it was over there were scraps of carpet, personal belongings and trash all over the plaza.

One police officer said several objects were thrown at police, including bottles, skillets, other kitchen utensils and rocks. They also “threw plates at us like Frisbees,” the officer said.

Protesters also chanted “Police go home, cops go home” and banged sticks on anything they could find. Some chanted “Police were the biggest gang in America.”

At the Snow Park camp, Mindy Stone said as she was led away by police that she was just there to protest and exercise her rights. “We are not camping, we are just demonstrating.”

No injuries were immediately reported. Police did not have an exact count of how many people were arrested.

The Occupy Oakland encampment, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, sprung up on Oct. 10 and over the last two weeks had grown into a “tent city” with an estimated 300 campers, hay bales and stalls for medical aid, food, art, and community meetings. Along with the makeshift city came a host of problems. City officials reported rats in the camp, fights, drug use and violence against the media.

Shortly before 3 a.m. Tuesday, Occupy Oakland organizers sent out a text message alert, saying a police raid was imminent, but police didn’t surround camp until almost two hours later. Police used a bullhorn to repeat instructions to leave the plaza immediately or risk arrest. Police threatened to use “chemical agents” to oust the protesters.

Protesters attempted to keep police out by putting at least two metal Dumpsters at the side of the camp near 14th Street and Broadway, but police pushed them aside during the raid.

One man walked around carrying a giant shield he fashioned out of duct tape. After the plaza was cleared of protesters, about 20 to 30 people gathered on a small side street off Broadway between 14th and 15th streets beating drums and chanting “rise up, rise up, rise up, come on people rise up” as police mulled around the plaza and in small groups on the streets. Three helicopters circled above the scene as the night began to turn to day. The city has advised employers to keep employees away from downtown while cleanup crews move in to remove the massive amount of debris.

When the loose-knit group first occupied the plaza, it was to protest widespread unemployment and corporate greed, but the encampment grew to encompass many other causes: support for state prison inmates who are on hunger strikes, housing rights, fair wages and against social oppression.

City officials began stepping up pressure on the protesters last week and on Friday upped the stakes by issuing a letter stating that the encampment on the plaza was “a violation of the law” and threatening violators with immediate arrest.

The “notice of violations and demand to cease violations” came a day after a preliminary letter that urged the residents to vacate the camp because of what the city said were a host of problems, including fighting, vandalism, public urination and other sanitation and public health issues. Officials said an existing rat problem in the area was being made worse by the encampment, which had about 100 tents at one point.

A spokeswoman for the mayor, Karen Boyd, said Friday that the protesters had shown themselves incapable of self-governance. “As a collective, they cannot maintain the plaza in a safe condition,” she said.

Reporters Scott Johnson and Sean Mahercontributed to this story.