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Occupy Memphis: Congressman Steve Cohen to the Rescue

OWS Memphis

Over the last week, I began to visit Occupy Wall Street encampments. And I did that without use of trains, or boats, or planes. Instead, picking a destination and hitching my rides with LiveStream instantly transported me to Occupy NYC, Occupy Sacramento, Occupy San Francisco and most other occupations without leaving the comfort of my living room chair. I was given tours of encampments and able to dialogue with their members, attend their GA sessions and chat with other travelers from all over the globe.

I’m old enough to remember the Mayor Daley-ordered police riots in Chicago in 1968, and to muse about how different things may have been back then had the anti-war protesters had today’s technology.

Wednesday afternoon, October 19th, I was following the live stream of Occupy NYC, until my eyes were pulled into a chat room alert that police were on their way to break up the Occupy Memphis camp at Civic Center Plaza, so I went there along with what eventually climbed to over a couple thousand world-wide visitors.

Our first host was Alex (short for Alexandria), who told us she was a journalist. From her, we learned Occupy Memphis had started off five days before with 120 people, but was occupied by only 15 that cold afternoon. The police had been by earlier to order they remove their extension cord from their only source of electricity for their space heaters: a streetlamp. It puzzled Alex that, as taxpayers themselves, why she and her fellow occupiers should be denied the use of what they pay for, especially since it was noted all the city offices were well-lit 24/7 whether there were employees in them or not.

Somebody had been eavesdropping on the police with a scanner and learned the cops had been ordered to clear Civic Center Plaza should the number of occupiers climb to 25. The occupiers lacked a permit, but had decided to stand on principle that they should not need to seek a permit with the very governmental authorities they had grievances with. Besides, the city insisted only a group’s designated leader could petition for a permit. It is a matter of pride that, planet-wide, Occupation Wall Street has no leaders.

Actually, according to Alex, the Memphis police, having had their pay and benefits slashed, were very supportive of the Civic Center Plaza occupiers. It was the higher-ups who directed the harassment.

At 4:28PM EST, of the 15, 4 were willing to stay and risk arrest, but one was “on probation”, so couldn’t.

It did seem the mood of all was as gloomy as the day, though Alexandria did her best to remain upbeat as she took us invisible guests on a tour of their encampment. Emotions picked up when she announced Global Revolution had picked up the Occupy Memphis live stream, swelling the audience at 4:54PM to over 1500. In the media tent, somebody dropped by and put a $20 donation in Alexandria’s hand.

And so even more heroes stepped in. Mike announced in the chat room that he was on the phone with Congressman Steve Cohen (tele: 901-544-4131) and that the congressman’s assistant, Randy Wade, was, even then, communicating with Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton’s office about the clear right of the occupiers to assemble.

The number of occupiers in Civic Center Plaza climbed from 15 up to 17 by 4:45PM. At 4:57, Congressman Cohen was still waiting for Mayor Wharton to return his call. Only later would the congressman and the rest of us learn that the mayor’s secretary never delivered Cohen’s message to her boss.

At 5:00PM, 1547 guests were observing worldwide, and the number of occupiers had climbed to 21—4 away from police intervention.

FROM the CHAT:

5:06 PM 24leaves: AUSTIN Texas checking in. How y’all doing. We heard bad things.
5:06 PM ruby2zday: cool
5:06 PM Voyager_one: wave..:)
5:06 PM jaksngreen: we need a live stream of d.c.
5:06 PM cosmicmom: ALEX…PEEPS ARE TRYING TO HELP YOU
5:06 PM freezu: donate laptops, pads, netbooks
5:06 PM remnant4341: LOVE DENNIS KUCINICH
5:07 PM occupytips: http://www.nlg.org/occupy/
5:07 PM Policia: Most officers arent gonna be opposed to you, but sadly most arent gonna have the backbone to take a stand either.
5:07 PM BeyondBeliefs: KOCH brothers and Carl Rove is NOT ”transparent”
5:07 PM freezu: or bring them down
5:07 PM cnobodie: Alex there is an echo on audio for global. communicate with occupy dwane! to fix
5:07 PM dontgiveup: California has alot of satilties camera ones in our skies its terrible
5:07 PM Policia: No different than the general public I might add.
5:07 PM socrateez_net: hang in there alex…money on the way

5:14PM, 23 occupiers. 5:16, bicycle cops in the plaza talking to individuals, but an officer tells Alex nothing’s going on, though she knows the pedal police will report their observations to those ready to make something go on. 5:22PM, somebody handed Alex $10. 5:23PM, the count had reached over the law enforcement worthy 25 occupiers.

Some were willing to be arrested, some not. The scanner monitors reported the police had switched to another frequency, so no further intelligence could be gained through eavesdropping. Three squad cars had moved into position close by.

Patrick took over as host around 5:47 PM. In the background, we could hear enthusiastic chants of, “This is what democracy looks like!” A man strummed a guitar behind Patrick. Alexandria popped back at 5:56 to announce meter parking is free after 6:00PM. At 6:10PM, over 2000 people were watching the live stream. At 6:28, we learned Congressman Cohen had bypassed the secretary by calling the mayor’s home and gotten assurances from Mayor Wharton that police would not be bothering those in the plaza if the occupiers remained peaceful.

At 7:40PM, 30 occupied Civic Center Plaza, and it was 30 degrees in Memphis.
Like with all Occupy Wall Street live streams, Memphis lost and regained its signal throughout the day and night.

At 8:45, Patrick announced a local grocery store had donated chicken. Thumper 321 had donated Halloween pumpkin cookies. The Calvary Episcopalian Church had agreed to store occupation food, and the occupiers volunteered to feed the homeless at the church on Sunday.

From the chat:

8:51 PM GrahamElwood: The Mayor’s office called Jacob Flowers earlier and instructed us not to put up the extension cords. Please read that aloud, along with my next post.
8:52 PM knot2bright: The Man sayeth such:
8:52 PM librity: about occupy the border do you no / use soler
8:52 PM alchemical44: jacob = director of the peace and justice center
8:52 PM onlyonus: How aout radoooooaohm
8:52 PM alchemical44: peace & juctice is working hard on the gandhi-king conference which is this weekend
8:52 PM GrahamElwood: Also, they do not mind us sleeping overnight, but if we are asleep in the Plaza during the day,
8:52 PM GrahamElwood: We will be woken up (same applies to the homeless)
8:53 PM onlyonus: Leon wants to know about the radios with a crank on the side

11:06PM, Memphis/London joint stream connected with London host Greg. Something historically amazing happened with that accomplishment, but this reporter only instinctively knows this and can’t find the words to express what.

12:35 AM: Patrick’s shift ended. He had a classroom to be in by morning. He teaches film, public speaking, a seminar on the US Civil Rights Movement. Alex & Tristan/ Becky&Meredith would host through the rest of the night.

From the chat:

2:27 AM TheRobert: By tomorrow evening, OWS Memphis will be articled at Firedogllake
2:27 AM Kaons: You remember that also moose
2:27 AM mooseman11350: i will be looking for the article
2:27 AM Kaons: Yeah… I think they got bad publicity and Walmart stopped doing it
2:28 AM mooseman11350: thats right
2:28 AM Kaons: Robert that’s great. I am familiar with Firedoglake and I recommend it to people here
2:28 AM mooseman11350: i read the site all the time daily usually

2:32 AM: Final hosts before live stream was cut for the night were Tristan & Elizabeth.

UPDATE: Only on their 6th day of existence, Occupation Memphis has food, but is not permitted to cook on site. They have tents and marine batteries. Much more is needed:
Bicycle generators (preferred because quiet & occupiers get exercise)
More tents/ blankets/tarps/umbrellas/canned non perishable of meat protein filled & hot food[/hats&gloves/jackets/hand warmers/baby wipes/high demand]ground insulation/data card or an account #&cash/triple&double A batteries/battery powered lanterns/bungie cords/dry shampoo&duct tape=high demand/Rubbermaid containers high/rubber bands to put on table legs because ants hate scent and won’t climb to scarf their food/socks & sleeping bags= high demand/step ladder/tables/tents[6 came today]toothpaste= high demand/walkie talkies/produce, tarps/send sharpies/need another laptop.

Important Addresses for Donations to Occupy Memphis:
send donations to: 3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard Memphis, TN 38116

Occupy Memphis Website: http://occupymemphis.org/

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