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Occupy Raleigh, NC (Part 18) Walkupy Defiance & Arrests

Saturday became the unofficial shift back toward resistance. We still have a myriad of issues to work out at the occupation site but those are no longer going to distract us from other activities. There were three activities planned for the day I was excited about so it promised to be a long, productive day.

The first was marching on the banks for some good old fashioned protesting and picketing. I had put an announcement up on the forums that any interested would meet at the occupation by 10am and we would then march up to Wells Fargo and then a little later to Bank of America as they are both open on Saturday mornings. I got a PM from one person concerned with if we had followed city procedures of notifying certain police officials of the march. If you have more than ten people that is required. I responded letting them know we had not informed them. While I realize some limits or rules surrounding the expression of free speech may have some merit, I don’t see that particular rule as being one of them. As we often say at the occupation, “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.”

Unsurprisingly (we are not a very early morning occupation) we got off to a little of a late start but by 10:30 or so we were in front of Wells Fargo with signs and a couple of guitars. There were 10 of us so we didn’t even violate the city ordinances. I was really glad the guitars where there. I’ll be honest I get a little tired of the chanting sometimes and the guitars allowed for a different style of picket. We engaged people interested as they walked by as well as called out for people to move their money to credit unions. I generally settled on:

Move your money to credit unions. They did not have to rob you through bailouts to stay in business. Credit unions invest in your own community. This bank just invests in its CEO.

After a short while we moved down to Bank of America and continued there. While we were there a policemen came and I believe counted us. The officer then hung out for a while in a eatery across the street watching us. At the second location there was much more pedestrian traffic and we were able to speak with more people. A couple men from Tennessee had their picture taken with us. Shortly after the banks closed at noon we headed back to the occupation.

A little while after returning I attended my first TRAC meeting, a new affinity group The Raleigh Action Collective, looking to help come up with and plan more actions. The basic goals of the meeting where to brainstorm ideas and pick one to do in the next couple of weeks. After looking through the list we generated we settled on one we would do before Christmas and another to plan for shortly afterward. Some of the faces we had seen less lately because they were more interested in the protest actions than the set up of the occupation came to the TRAC meeting which was a good sign.

An hour or so after the TRAC meeting ended those of us wishing to greet the Walkupy protesters headed to Mordecai Park where we were set to meet up. Walkupy are a group of people who are walking from NYC all the way to Atlanta, GA. They are visiting occupations along the way and hoping to bring more attention to the Occupation Movement. Raleigh is roughly their halfway point. As they pass through different areas people living in those areas help them with vehicle support to carry some of their supplies for them. They have taken to calling that impromptu support network their “road angels”.

Somewhere between 60-80 people gathered at the park awaiting their arrival. Again this was a chance to see some faces I had not see as much lately. It was nice to reconnect. The media was also there to capture the moment and interview the Walkupy’ers. When we saw them people started to cheer. As they reached us we could hear they were singing “This Land is Your Land.” We made way for them to walk down the sidewalk between us while many hugs were given as they passed through. A couple of them went and gave interviews to the media and before long most of who had come to meet them were all walking together. The plan was too walk to the State Capitol and walk across the grounds on our way to the occupation.

As the large group started walking I believe it was the Walkupy’ers who marched us out into the street. We consistently left one lane free for cars to pass us but otherwise we took over the other 1-2 lanes depending on where we were along the route. The lanes of traffic going the other direction where not effected at all. At first some of the people less inclined to break the rules walked along the sidewalk next us. Before long though everyone was in the street. We chanted the entire way to the Capitol Grounds, and while we used a variety of chants, the chant, “Whose streets? Our streets!” never felt more appropriate.

When we arrived at the Capitol Kid, one of the Walkupy’ers, asked us all to join in for a nice, loud yell, which we did. I was surprised how loud we were. People we feeling inspired and bold. We continued onto Hillsborough street which would lead us directly to the occupation. That area of Hillsborough has three lanes going each direction and we took the two far right lanes. After about a block was the first time we saw the police. One car drove next to us in the third lane and began using his speaker to order people onto the sidewalk. I could barely hear the officer over the chanting. I think a few complied but most continued their march down the street.

I guess the cop got frustrated at his lack of effect because he zoomed up ahead of us and turned 90 degrees in front of us turning his car into a small wall across the street. From what I could tell, no one missed a step. We just went around the car easily, as it could not block all three lanes, and kept walking and chanting. That was my favorite moment of the entire day. There is a difference between the symbol of authority and their ability to actually enforce that authority. It seemed like the natural reaction of the marchers was to completely ignore the symbol of authority. Its that sort of shift in mentality the 1% fears so much. We as a society are indoctrinated to “Obey”. But the reality is that our numbers are so large that if enough people break through that mentality it won’t matter how many guns they have, the 1% will lose control.

As we moved down the next two blocks it was easy to spot all the new cop cars that had shown up. When we got two blocks from the occupation three police cars formed a wall across the three lanes and others moved in along the third lane we had never blocked. Cops got out and started ordering everyone onto the sidewalk. At this point most people complied rather quickly. One of the Walkupy’ers, a tall women carrying an American flag, at first stepped onto the sidewalk but then quickly changed her mind and walked boldly back out into the street. The cops confronted her and ordered her to return to the sidewalk but she refused.

People start chanting, “The whole world is watching” as multiple cameras began focusing on the scene with the Walkupy’er in the street. The police ripped the flag from the pole as they violently jerked her arms behind her back and cuffed her. As the cuffs went on her she went limp and they literally dragged her toward one of the cop cars. The chant had shifted to “Shame!” followed by “Let her go!”. The police did not. As she was put in the car other Walkupy’ers started defiantly going into the street. They have walked hundreds of miles together. They have become like family. They were not going to let one of their own be arrested alone. I watched two go back into the street, refusing orders to leave until they were arrested. I watched two more lay down across a cross walk and link arms until they were arrested. There was a sixth arrested who I never saw.

These arrests where the most violent I have seen the Raleigh police be with occupy protesters. There was bruising from the cuffs as well as blood drawn from various actions either from dragging them or trying to separate them. The irony is the police disrupted traffic much longer by choosing to stop us so late into the march. We were literally two blocks away from the occupation when they finally got in position to stop us. If they had just let us continue within 2 minutes the march would have been over. By blocking the streets and taking the time to make arrests the streets were blocked for over 10 minutes at least.

Its important to always remember that these sort of police actions are not about keeping the peace. Its the same sort of absurdity that is revealed when they claim large groups of peaceful protesters are there to incite violence but its only when the police intervene that things become violent, because the police are violent. They confronted our march as an expression of power. When citizens march through the streets in an expression of their 1st Amendment Rights without asking permission it empowers them. If the police had managed to intervene sooner then perhaps citing issues of disrupting traffic or creating an unsafe situation might have had some merit. They were too late for that but it didn’t stop them because that was not why they intervened. They were willing to intervene two blocks from our destination to remind us what happens when you choose not to “Obey”. Another sign that this was soley a show of authority was how you can see in the video that we then finished our march down the street and the police allowed it to finish without further incident. I guess they felt they had made their point clearly enough.

In all six from Walkupy were arrested. Welcome to Raleigh. As part of your tour, enjoy these lovely jail facilities. I asked one of the Walkupy’ers afterward if they had done similar marches in other cities when they met up with local occupations. He explained that they had, and while the cops had tried to in a sense force the marches in certain directions, it wasn’t until Raleigh that they had been threatened with arrest. Police forces have choices in how to react. The Raleigh PD made a conscious decision to behave badly.

As has become custom most of us went outside the jail to await their release in solidarity. They were all charged with “Failure to Disperse” and given $500 bonds. We were told the police had actually considered giving them the more serious charge of “Attempting to incite a riot” but had settled on the lesser charge instead. Even so, on the paperwork for their charge it suggested that their behavior could incite a riot even though it was only the police intervention that escalated things. Also as has become custom the police had about 10 officers outside the jail guarding the entrance. They would only let us in two at a time if we wished to enter to speak with the magistrate or use the restrooms. At one point a couple of us approached the cops and I asked them what exactly they thought we might do that required a phalanx of police outside the jail. I was told they were they for our own protection. Orwell would be proud.

Within a few hours everyone was bailed out and we returned to the occupation site. Different people had offered access to showers at their homes for the Walkupy folks and in general their accommodations where sorted out. They must have been exhausted. In fact I know at least the women holding the flag was from reading her account. If you are interested in learning more about Walkup check out their site.

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