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Occupy Raleigh, NC: 99+1 Weekend

?This weekend we celebrated our 100th day of Occupation. Occupy Raleigh’s events were on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday there was a nationwide event to Occupy the Courts in recognition of the 2 year anniversary of Citizens United. Occupy Chapel-Hill spearheaded the organization of that in our area with the support of other local occupations.

Saturday was Occupy Raleigh’s “Drum out Citizens United” in front of the NC Supreme Court. Around 50 people gathered in the cold rain with a range of drums to improvised percussion to draw attention to the need to overturn Citizens United. People toughed it out in the nasty elements to bring attention to an issue they felt strongly about. Afterwards they held a eulogy for our rights which included a mock coffin and a short speech. I was sick over this weekend so I chose not to tough it out in the rain but this video gives a good representation of the action.

We gathered Sunday on the Capitol grounds for which we had a permit. It was again cold but at least this time we didn’t have to deal with rain. As we gave time for people to show up a variety of people took turns soap boxing. Some talked about why they Occupy. Some told the story of their life that led up to occupation. Some talked more generally about values associated with occupation. Eventually we headed out on our scheduled march with many signs describing why people occupied.

The march started on the sidewalk as we crossed the street that bordered the Capitol grounds with the chant “One Hundred Days. We’re not going away!”. Immediately after that though a small contingent moved into the street chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!”. Some, including myself, followed them into the street. Others remained on the sidewalk. Then the chant of those in the streets changed to, “Safety on the Sidewalk, Power in the streets!”. I joined in that chant realizing it was an attempt to convince people still on the sidewalk to join us in the street. In retrospect, I wish I had gotten people to stop the chant. It was basically calling people in our own occupation for their decision to remain on the sidewalk. Not much solidarity in an action like that and its basically like having a squabble in public. I have always argued each person must make their own, personal decision about the risks they are willing to take and I don’t see the point in calling allies out for making a different decision than you.

So we continued down the road, some in the street and some on the sidewalk, sometimes chanting the same chant, sometimes not. As the Raleigh PD had already been stationed near the Capitol grounds to watch over our event, very quickly there was a squad car in the lane next to us ordering people to leave the street and return to the sidewalk. I think most ignored the one officer. Within a couple of blocks though the rest of the Raleigh PD arrived and a confrontation ensued. Everyone got on the sidewalk but where none the less confronting the police verbally. Some were angry. Some where telling the cops that we were doing this for them too and that their pensions were not safe. [cont’d.]

I watched an officer tell an occupier named John that if he saw him go out into the street again he would arrest him. Eventually that officer got distracted by other occupiers and John marched ahead. John looked back and seeing the officer distracted started again marching in the street. I assume that officer saw him because shortly there after 3 or so cops were arresting him. A second person, Nick, told me he was ordered to remove a scarf he was wearing across his face. He told me he told the cops no, he was cold, and since when was wearing a bandanna illegal. They subsequently arrested Nick for wearing a mask as there are laws in NC that prohibit that. I have been told those laws come from trying to crackdown on the KKK but I don’t know that first hand.

After some more verbal confrontations with the Raleigh PD we continued our march. As we marched back toward the Capitol grounds some again took to the streets. This time we were walking the wrong way down a one-way street which I think made it more difficult for the cops to pull up next to us. We only saw one more cop car on our way at the final intersection we passed as we reached the Capitol grounds but this time they did not intervene.

Upon returning to the Capitol the scheduled teach-ins started. There was one about income inequality from a NCSU professor. There was another by a psychiatrist in regards to our healthcare system and how they see that associated with the changes the Occupy Movement is trying to make. At one point a person took the stage to report back that a local paper, The Independent, have given a special mention to the Occupation Movement when it was giving its Citizens of the Year awards a few days ago. They gave us a small tree to plant wherever the local occupations would like in remembrance.

After all the teach-ins finished it was close to 4pm where we were scheduled to go to a local bar called the Volcano Lounge to celebrate our 100th day. Many chose to go and people played music on acoustic guitars and socialized. Overall it was a fairly upbeat atmosphere. I didn’t end up participating much in that because once arriving there I realized that only a couple people were doing the legwork of helping sort out the arrests and possible bail issues. So I ended up helping them and before long we left to go to a bondsman office to sort things out. One of the occupiers arrested was released on their own recognizance which means no bail was necessary. The other, due to separate issues, was given a $1,500 bail which we eventually did raise. Here is a video showing the march.

Overall the weekend went fairly well. I think some had hoped for larger numbers on Sunday but the weather did not help us much. Some were upset by how some chose to take to the streets and risk arrest. Some didn’t care about the street taking as much as the chant I mentioned before which seemed so divisive. Some were upset that there were not more people at the jail to greet those arrested upon release as we have had in the past.

Internally Occupy Raleigh has plenty of conflict. I have been torn about how much of it to write about in this blog. Some feel airing our dirty laundry just hurts the movement. They could be right. I tend to think showing some of the conflicts and unflattering details is a sort of truth-telling that gives the movement credibility.

One of the reasons I haven’t written in quite some time is because I have not been sure what I want to write about or how I want to write about it. Combine that with the ebb and flow of feelings where one day you feel like things are going good and the next it feels like things are flying off the rails and I am often left with muddled opinions and thoughts that seem difficult to express in a coherent post.

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