This has been a trying week for the Occupy Movement. More specifically OccupyLA and Occupy Colleges have faced new challenges that the rest of the movement have been dealing with for months. Raids, arrests, dismantling of our camps, all in an effort to dismantle the movement. But, as has been said before "You can't arrest an idea."
On November 29, Occupy Los Angeles was raided by 1,300 police officers in riot gear, hoisting rubber bullet guns, and blowing off a lot of pent-up aggression.
Of the 300 protesters over 20 were students including one of our Occupy Colleges facilitators. Most of these students went down to Occupy LA to serve as nonviolent monitors to keep the peace between protesters and police. I interviewed four Occidental College students who experienced first-hand the night of the Occupy Los Angeles raid.
“We had been cut off from the protesters in the center of the park by the police and sat in a circle on the lawn with three other brave protesters. We were among the first groups of people to be arrested. We submitted to arrest willingly and were quickly cuffed and seated on a curb to be processed. We were told that the more we moved, the tighter the cuffs would get.” Jacob Surpin
“Soon it became clear that arrests would be imminent, our peacekeeping team decided to risk incarceration. We believed that we had a right to peaceful assembly and we thought the police declaring this occupation to be “unlawful” was both undemocratic and unconstitutional.” Guido Girgenti
They didn't expect what came next.
"As riot police encircled us, we sat calmly in a circle and waited. In front of us, a photographer attempted to move towards the police line to take a photo. Two riot police grabbed each of his arms and attempted to stop him from taking photos. He pulled back and declared that he was leaving the encampment, but police stated he was under arrest. He held his arms out, attempting to avoid the plastic cuffs while explaining he was simply taking photos while making his way out. The police threw his arms violently behind his back and we heard a cruel snapping noise – the man yelled in pain. Three more officers engaged the man and together five riot police threw the photographer to the ground – one policeman pushed his head down and slammed his temple into the concrete walkway. While the man was held down, plastic cuffs were placed on his wrists and he taken away. His head was bleeding and his arm was held behind him awkwardly. Soon he was out of view.” Guido Girgenti
“They took us to a bus full of occupiers, these guys were the people I would be put in a holding cell with me. The whole arresting process of 290 people was very disorganized, officers didn't know where certain people were, and did a whole lot of paper work. Between 1:00 and 4:00am we were all siting in a big room waiting for everyone to be processed. Here I saw all the people who were arrested, there was a wide variety of people, there were a couple of people who had records, there were 30 year old professionals, there were students, and there were band members." Mohammed Imran Chandoo
"By around 4:00am, I was under the impression that my processing was over, as I was taken to a group holding cell in which I was able to make a few phone calls. However, the next several hours were defined by the frequent shuffling of myself and other Occupy arrestees between different temporary group holding cells and fingerprinting stations. The constant shuffling of us early women arrestees is a testament to the lack of capacity the jail possessed to hold women as well as an overall sense of inefficiency and unpreparedness." Maddie Resch
Now here is the kicker - Most of the 300 arrested were cited for a misdemeanor offense which typically garners a fine and immediate release. Not this time. The student occupiers that Occupy Colleges helped bail out of jail were all held on $5,000 bail.
"During this process of waiting while cuffed, nothing was ever explained to us. My Miranda rights were not read to me. I was never told where I was going, why I was going there, or for how long I would be there. I was simply escorted different places with no knowledge of what I did or not have a right to in any given place. The only thing that I was told was that my bail was $5,000. I could not comprehend why it was so high. By being a peacekeeper, I was being overtly nonviolent and obviously was not a threat. A $5,000 bail seemed like cruel and unusual punishment for a student who was practicing nonviolence in a movement for greater justice and deeper democracy.” Guido Girgenti
Initially, on November 30 when we went to the jail during stated visiting hours, the jail was closed. The officers claimed that they were under-staffed. The LAPD sure didn't seem under-staffed on the night of the raid when they had 1,300 officers abailable for overtime.
"I left jail with a deep sense that the entire process I had gone through was opaque and confusing to the point of being a severe violation of our democracy. Yet, despite being given a cruelly high bail, being held in cuffs for seven hours, and going 11 hours in custody without food or water, I will not let the issue of police treatment distract me from the larger issues this movement will tackle: the deeply unjust inequities of wealth and power in our country, and the fight to save our democracy from the stranglehold of corporate money. I do not blame the individual officers who dealt with me for my mistreatment; it was clear many of the officers are sympathetic to the cause for economic justice, but it is was also clear that their solidarity as individuals was gravely undercut by the repressive institution they worked within. My time in jail has only strengthened my resolve to organize and to win.” Guido Girgenti
How is it that we live a world where not a single person on Wall Street has served even an hour of prison time yet some of our fellow protesters still sit in jail? We are resolved to continue the most important fight of our lives - that of economic injustices. We are mobilized and nothing, not even egregious treatment in jail with high bails will stop us. Whether or not you agree with Occupy, you should be dismayed by the chipping away of our rights, the ability of the police and government to change the rules as they see fit, to use violence against nonviolent protesters and to only defend one side of the debate. Whichever side you are on, remember, next time it could be you.