Monthly Archives: November 2011

Found journals from the raid on 11/15/2011

After the raid, we were given all of the books found by the sanitation department. This included many people’s personal journals. It is our duty to help return them to their rightful owners, so here we are. If anybody lost a journal that is featured in either photo, please get in contact with me, hristo@doctor.com or 646-220-5655. It is my personal contact to ensure that it doesn’t get lost in the mass mailing list that we have for the library. To ensure it is yours, I would need some sort of verification, any kind that shows you are the rightful owner of the journal through knowledge of what is inside. Please spread this around to anybody that may have lost a journal on the night of the raid.

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A People’s Digital Library and Prefigurative Politics

This is part one of a two part series.

As a People’s Library librarian one question I get asked over and over again is why we don’t offer a digital library for our readers.  It’s a good question and one I think is worth exploring in some detail.

To start, we have to address the question of what a digital library is— is it an institutional repository or archive?  Is it a search engine for curated links?  Or is it a virtual library?  It’s an open question and one that I think different people can reasonably answer in radically different, but still valid, ways.  A digital library can be and is all of those things.

And if by digital library you mean archive, there is one, and probably there are plenty more I don’t know about.   OWS also has its own Archives group working to preserve the ephemera and other documents of the movement.  So, in that sense, there is a digital library for Occupy Wall Street.  But that doesn’t answer the question about bringing content to our readers.

The next question then is what the People’s Library takes as its mission.  As a leaderless library, the question of mission is tough to answer; the mission is fluid depending on who is asking and who is answering.  The simplest answer is that the People’s Library and the other occupation libraries exist to support both the full-time activists who live at the various occupations and the Occupy movement as a whole.  We also exist to serve the local communities surrounding the occupations, whether in lower Manhattan, LA, or Washington, DC.  Given that, a digital library seems a perfectly legitimate undertaking, especially after the raid and seizure of the books.

So, why don’t we have one?

The first barrier is time.  We could offer a list of useful links to our Occupiers and our online community.  With an all volunteer staff through, finding time to gather relevant links and then present them with annotations and so on is tough.  This kind of digital library also requires quite a bit of maintenance, links need to be added and removed regularly and annotations need updating as content evolves.   Searchable or categorized lists of links are also the most basic kind of digital library.  They certainly have their place, but what they don’t do is offer content that would otherwise not be available.  Instead, they make free content easier to find.  A worthy task, but one that takes many many hours of work.

Most libraries these days, both public and academic, offer access to databases that contain articles and books not legally available on the open web.  This is the virtual library that has evolved as more and more content is born digital and made available not through the codex or traditional journal, but rather through  databases like JSTOR, Gale’s InfoTrac, Ebsco’s Academic Search Premier and so on.

(Hey, wait a minute, those links don’t work for me!  It says I need a password!  Yep.  I know . . . read on.  If they did work, it’s because of your local librarians.  You should thank them.)

Those databases and others like them serve two main functions.  First, they provide an important infrastructure so that each library doesn’t need to gather and maintain servers, indexers, and so on.  This is valuable work, work that few libraries have either the expertise or funds to carry out themselves.  It is also work that has a pretty clear counterpart in the print world—remember that dusty old Readers Guide to Periodical Literature or the New York Times Index  In many ways, databases are the same thing, just with bits and bytes instead of pages and volumes.  The second function is that of gatekeeper.  This is a new function for the digital world.  Almost everything behind those pay walls you just ran into is copyrighted.  That means that the rights to the content are owned by someone and the database companies ensure that those rights are protected.

This second function, protecting the rights of the copyright holders, makes providing a virtual library for Occupy pretty much impossible.  What database company would (or even could given their contracts with rightsholders) want to offer access to the 99%?  These databases aren’t cheap.  Like the banks, the publishing industry–the companies who control the databases, has seen consolidation into the hands of a relatively few players.  More important than that even, the publishing industry has transformed into one dominated by multinational conglomerates.  Projects like JSTOR and Project MUSE are bright exceptions to this rule, ones that deserve our support, but they are exceptions.  So, let’s look for a moment at who owns our scholarly heritage and who the People’s Library would need to do business with to provide a virtual library for the 99%.

The market for large databases includes relatively few players offering a small number of comparable, but not identical, products.  The products fall into two main categories, single publisher databases and aggregated databases.  A good public library is able to offer access to both types.   ScienceDirect is an example of a single publisher database—you want access to an article published by Elsevier?  ScienceDirect is your go-to database.  Wiley more your speed?  Wiley Online Library is your one stop shopping spot.  Interested in a wider range of materials from multiple publishers?  Proquest Central, Ebsco’s Academic Search Premier, and Gale’s InfoTrac have got your back.   Or would, if you had the cash.  Which, unless you’re a 1%er, you don’t.   That’s one of the beautiful things about your library card, your local library may allow you access to some of these databases.  Or it might not.

And who are these companies anyway?  If the People’s Library had the funds, is sending them to these folks a good idea?  No.  Let’s start with the low hanging fruit—Gale.

Gale has an honorable history as library vendor.  But, like many fine companies, it has changed hands repeatedly throughout the years.  Started in 1956 with a single title, the venerable Encyclopedia of Associations, Gale was bought by Thompson in 1985.  You can learn more about the younger Thompson, the 2nd Baron Thompson of Fleet here.  His Lordship was the richest person in Canada in 2006.  It was in 2006 that Thompson spun off its Learning Division, and with it Gale, for  7.75 billion dollars.  The new owners, private equity groups Apax and OMERS (the Onterio Municipal Employees Retirement System) are a mixed bag.  OMERS is an institutional  investor working on behalf of the upstanding municipal workers of Canada.  It controls about $53 billion, but is struggling right now and cutting benefits to workers.  Apax is a private equity group.  This means that they invest in companies with the goal of bringing them to short or medium term profitability and then selling them off.  As the newly named Cengage, aka Thompson Learning, says in its annual report,” Investment funds associated with or designated by Apax control us.  Apax is able to appoint a majority of our board of directors and determine our corporate strategy, management and policies.  In addition, Apax has control over our decisions to enter into any corporate transaction and has the ability to prevent any transaction that requires the approval of shareholders regardless of whether we believe that any such transactions are in our best interests.”

Apax owns a lot of different companies.  They also claim a commitment to sustainability and good labor relations.  They’ve had a few issues in Israel, are working hard to bring the glories of for profit medical care to India, and they even owned my favorite anthropomorphic train.  Pity they haven’t lived up to their commitments—but then who could?  With 57 different “investments” across five sectors, Apax isn’t a business or even a corporation, it’s an empire.  And like any empire, it has an emperor, one whose salary at 502 times the median wage in Britain certainly befits his position.  And like any 1%er these days, Apax owns its share of politicians.

Other database companies suffer from the same problem: an extreme concentration of wealth and power into the hands of the few.  ProQuest is a bit old fashioned in that its parent company is family owned—a very rich family indeed the Synders are (you can tell by the board memberships, those don’t come cheap).  Ebsco, which recently merged with the beloved H. W. Wilson company, is a conglomerate of truly stupendous proportions.  Committed to Growth through Acquisitions, Ebsco seems to be run by good people.  But they are people who are caught up in a system that has run its course, a  system that has generated tremendous wealth for the few through the wonton destruction of the natural environment and human society.

Stay tuned for part 2 . . .

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From The Nation: The People’s Library of Occupy Wall Street Lives On

People’s Librarian William Scott has an essay in The Nation on the raid and his experiences working in the library.

Bill writes, “For the past six weeks I have been living and working as a librarian in the People’s Library, camping out on the ground next to it. I’m an English professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and I’ve chosen to spend my sabbatical at Occupy Wall Street to participate in the movement and to build and maintain the collection of books at the People’s Library. I love books—reading them, writing in them, arranging them, holding them, even smelling them. I also love having access to books for free. I love libraries and everything they represent. To see an entire collection of donated books, including many titles I would have liked to read, thoughtlessly ransacked and destroyed by the forces of law and order was one of the most disturbing experiences of my life.”

Head on over to The Nation for the full essay.

 

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Week 7 of the OWS Poetry Anthology Added… Finally!

THE POETRY MARATHON CONTINUES:

The OWS Poetry Anthology has again been updated… It’s massive! It’s a marathon of poetry! 100 pages added!

THE WORLD HAS A POETIC SPIRIT! IT’S BEING RADICALLY UNLEASHED! THERE IS A COMMUNITY OF THE SPIRIT! AND IT WANTS YOU TO JOIN IT! AND FEEL THE DELIGHT OF WALKING IN THE NOISY STREET! AND BEING THE NOISE! DRINK ALL YOUR PASSION AND BE A DISGRACE! FOR THE WORLD HAS A POETIC SPIRIT! NOW JOIN IT!

THIS WEEK’S WRITING PROMPT: Watch OWS video’s on youtube that show police brutality. Spend a half hour in silent reflection. As you reflect, calmly send radiant energy to people the world over that have been victims of police brutality. Then write a poem to a police officer! Dedicate poems to Robert Hass or anyone you know that has been a victim of police brutality.

BERKELEY: Tension mount at Occupy Berkeley UC encampment.

Here is a poem in this spirit from WEEK 7:

when you beat me
By, Richard Vargas
11/18/11

does your arm tire
as you swing your
baton into the thud
of my flesh and bone
and you hear me
scream out in pain
when you crack
my ribs and jab
my soft belly
do you feel like a
job well done when
you pin me on the
ground and harness
my wrists like a
rodeo cowboy
hogties cattle

no matter that
we are both looked
down upon by those
on their balconies
of glass and steel
who laugh and joke
as they spread caviar
on fancy crackers
that will never pass
our lips

while you choke me
knock me down
look at how they
raise their flutes
of exquisite champagne
sparkling in the sun

blinding you with
their cold brilliance
and empty nods
of approval

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Thanksgiving At Occupy Tampa by Bill Livsey

The night before Thanksgiving at Occupy Tampa a generous amount of food was donated by a local church group. This included bags of sandwiches, several trays of pasta and drinks. When the Tampa Police Department came to play their nightly cat and mouse game where they threaten to confiscate anything that is touching the ground–they took all the food–boxes of literature that was used on the info table–and crates filled with books that were part of the Occupy Tampa Library. The crates were forcefully snatched and thrown in the back of a truck for sanitatuion disposal. When one Occupy Tampa member attemted to retrieve a crate of books–he was thrown to the ground—arrested –and taken to jail.

Just prior to all of this–another Occupy Tampa member was jailed for trespassing in Curtis Hixon park. He was clearly targeted as an occupier because 50 people were in the amphitheatre in the park participating in a musical open mic—and he was the ONLY one arrested.

The nighttime harrassment by the police is non stop and an effort to cause sleep deprivation. They mock us—laugh at us–and shine bright lights in our faces. Their behaviour is much like a schoolyard bully!

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Weekly Working Group Meeting for 11/27

Our library working group meeting will take place this Sunday, November 27th at 7:30PM at The Moonstruck Diner, 244 Madison Ave on the corner of Madison and 38th St. All are welcome to attend to discuss the future of the People’s Library and the future of our occupation movement. We hope to see lots of you there!

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Macy’s at Midnight

Last night, Charlie and I, were the only librarians left at night near Liberty Plaza. Word had been going around of “Occupy Macy’s,” in which the occupiers would go and chant, until we are allowed in the store with the rest of the crowd, at which point we would enter, shop, and just leave our filled shopping carts in the middle of the store. There were few of us, and we knew that we would not be let in. But that did not stop us from giving out books to the crowd as they waited. We soon caught up with Reverend Billy from the church of stop shopping. At first he just passed us by, but we ran into him when the Security Guard that caught him preaching was kicking him out. “Don’t buy it, Occupy it!” So in honor of our first Buy Nothing Day as a library, happy Buy Nothing Day! Here’s Reverend Billy standing on our mobile books crate, from the knee down, spreading the love.

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PEOPLE’S LIBRARY IN ACTION: FREE BOOKS!

PEOPLE’S LIBRARY 3.0 MOBILE AND IN THE STREETS!

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Read-In on Black Friday 11/25

Hide your books! Bloomberg is coming!

The Occupy Wall Street Education and Empowerment group hosts a Read-In at Liberty Square, 12pm-1pm, Friday, November 25th.

“Come be part of a mass read-in at Liberty Square in solidarity with the continuation of The People’s Library & OWS’ education work. Bring a book or two to read or share. The goal is to have as many people as possible reading silently in the park for an hour – quiet conversations & arriving later to read are also encouraged!

Readers and non-readers of all ages & abilities welcome – let’s make Black Friday a day of learning and sharing ideas rather than one of mass consumerism. Bloomberg can destroy books, but he can’t destroy ideas…”

Liberty Square/Zuccotti Park is in lower Manhattan  on Broadway between Liberty & Cedar.

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Today is a National Day of Mourning

Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the US thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. Thanksgiving day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience. Learn more from the United American Indians of New England.

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Press Conference on Library Destruction: Full Video



Video streaming by Ustream

Full video of the press conference as recorded by The Other 99 Ustream. The conference starts at about 15 minutes in.

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Packed Press Conference Documents Ruins of Over 3,000 Books

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                          CONTACT: press@occupywallst.org

For this event: Michael Oman-Reagan owspeopleslibrary@gmail.com

Occupy Wall St. Librarians Demand Accountability from Bloomberg for Destruction of Thousands of Books and NYers’ Rights to Free Expression

Packed Press Conference Documents Ruins of over 3,000 Books by Raid

The People’s Library was not only forcibly removed from Liberty Square in the early hours of November 15th and destroyed but – since the raid – has been harassed and prevented from operating in the park by the Bloomberg Administration. Only about 1,300 books – a third of the stock – were returned to them, they said, and around a third of those were damaged beyond repair. Only about 800 are still usable. About 3,000 books are still unaccounted for. Photos of the books are available here http://bit.ly/u4QeTP

Civil Rights lawyer, Norman Siegel, opened today’s press conference, at a table of damaged books, with his statement articulating the demands of the OWS Librarians: “The Bloomberg Administration needs to replace every book missing or damaged. Together about 3,161 books. We have the titles and authors. The Bloomberg Administration needs to acknowledge that a wrong was committed and that this can never happen again. We need a space to recreate the people’s library.”

Hawa Allan, a Fellow of Columbia Law School, added, “the People’s Library represents the town hall spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement.” Referring to the piles of destroyed books on the table, she also noted “This display is a chilling image of the attempt to destroy free expression.”

13 Librarians from the People’s Library were in attendance, and several spoke, talking about the important role the library played in the movement, as well as their own experiences of the raid and the aftermath. In response to questions from the press, the librarians stressed that their request is not about money, but rather about accountability and that they are asking the Bloomberg Administration to replace the books they destroyed, not write a check.

People’s Librarian, Betsy Fagin, stated, “What’s important isn’t just the cost of the books that were destroyed . . . The People’s Library was built entirely of generosity, of community spirit, of love.” Michele Hardesty described her visit to retrieve some of the seized books, “It was clear from what we saw at the sanitation garage that our books—the community’s books, these donated books—were treated as trash.”

People’s Librarian Danny Norton called the destruction of the library by the Bloomberg Administration a “crusade to destroy a conversation” and People’s Librarian Frances Mercanti-Anthony stated, “You can take our books. You can take our park. But you can’t take our spirit. And we’re not going anywhere.” In closing, Norman Siegel was asked about any planned legal action against the Bloomberg Administration, and he responded that he wasn’t going to answer any hypothetical questions, but said “in the words of Clint Eastwood, make my day.”

Coverage in the Guardian (UK) http://bit.ly/vMOCAD, New York Times http://nyti.ms/ugzNAi, Washington Post http://wapo.st/tF7Ptg, and Associated Press http://on.wsj.com/tnVm1m

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People’s Library Demands Accountability from the Bloomberg Administration

The People’s Library: CALL TO ACTION

Contact Mayor Bloomberg and ask him to respond to our three demands: 1. Replace every missing/damaged book, 2. Acknowledge that a wrong was committed and that this can never happen again, 3. A space to recreate the library. You can call 311 or 212-639-9675 from outside NYC, or email him here: www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html

Today’s Press Conference

The People’s Library called on the Bloomberg Administration to accept responsibility for the destruction of the library today in a press conference with civil rights attorney Norman Seigel, Gideon Oliver of the National Lawyers Guild, and Hawa Allan a Fellow at Columbia Law School. The Library is calling on the Bloomberg Administration to replace the both the library and the 80% of the books that were destroyed.

Seated alongside the librarians at a table covered in books damaged during the raid, Seigel said:

“The Bloomberg Administration needs to replace every book missing or damaged — not usable. Together about 3,161 books. We have the titles and authors.
The Bloomberg Administration needs to acknowledge that a wrong was committed and that this can never happen again.
We need a space to recreate the people’s library.”

Official Press Release will follow.

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Library Press Conference

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                        CONTACT: press@occupywallst.org

For this event: William Scott, 412-390-6510

Occupy Wall Street Librarians Address Bloomberg for Destroying Books
Over 4k Books, Documents, Were Trashed by NYPD & Dept. of Sanitation in Raid

OWS Library Staff Recovers Books and Supplies, Less Than One-Fifth is Usable

What: Press conference to address the destruction of the OWS People’s Library by Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the 11/15 raid.
*Photo Opportunity* All of the recovered, destroyed books will be at the press conference.
Where: 260 Madison Ave, 20th Floor, between 38th and 39th St
When: Wednesday, November 23, at 12:00 noon
Who: Norman Siegel will host and moderate. Speakers: Gideon Oliver of the National Lawyers Guild, Hawa Allan a Fellow at Columbia Law School, and Occupy Wall Street Librarians from the People’s Library. Law professors from Columbia, members of the American Library Association, various writers and others have been invited.

So far, the People’s Library has received 1,099 books back from the Dept. of Sanitation after last week’s raid (some of which were not library books to begin with), and out of these, about 800 are still usable. About 2,900 books are still unaccounted for, and less than one-fifth of the original collection is still usable. These numbers may change slightly when the People’s Library gets an exact count of the recent (and final) retrievals from Sanitation, but not considerably.

“The People’s Library was destroyed by NYPD acting on the authority of Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the night of the raid. In addition to all our supplies, laptops, and tent, they threw roughly 4,000 books into garbage trucks and dumpsters that were adjacent to the park, as well as assorted rare documents that were associated with OWS,” says William Scott, an Occupy Wall Street Librarian.

Watch video of the NYPD and Dept. of Sanitation destroying the OWS People’s Library tent and throwing away all the books. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTkUjQwHf4I

Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to more than 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. For more visit www.occupywallst.org

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Violence Against Students & Faculty at CUNY

CUNY Public Safety Officers taking up arms against students and faculty.

Media are picking up the story of the violent attack on students and faculty inside a CUNY campus last night and a petition is up calling for the Chancellor of CUNY to resign. boingboing covers it here. Chronical of Higher Education covers the story here. The NYT cityroom blog covers the events here and reports that when officers began attacking, students on higher floors dropped books on the police from above. In light of recent events, I can’t think of a more appropriate response considering:

  • CUNY Public Safety took up arms against students and faculty.
  • CUNY students and faculty were denied entry into a meeting about tuition raises.
  • CUNY students and faculty were arrested on CUNY grounds for peacefully protesting.

This event makes me question why CUNY has a police force and who do they work for? I work at CUNY, inside the Mina Rees Library, (though not for the library) and I interact with CUNY Public Safety officers every day. I’ve watched them save the life of one of my colleagues. I’ve taken First Aid classes from them. In my workplace, they have been part of the CUNY family. But now, CUNY has ordered them to take up batons against students and the officers at Baruch have complied.

A faculty statement against this violent response to nonviolent protesters went up last night. But this egregious attack on freedom of expression and student’s rights demands more. This demands an immediate response from all students, faculty and staff of CUNY and all educational institutions in solidarity with the students and faculty who were arrested last night and in solidarity with the students who were pepper-sprayed at UC Davis. They have seized our books, they have told us we can’t make music or read poetry, or assemble in the public plaza and have conversations, and now they are attacking us inside the universities across the country.

CUNY Public Safety Officers taking up arms against students and faculty.

The CUNY Public Safety officers cannot and must not be used as a tool to prevent free speech. To take action, you can call the office of the CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein at 212-794-5311 or email him at chancellor@cuny.edu. The President of Baruch College is Mitchel B. Wallerstein and he can be reached at 646-312-3310 or email president@baruch.cuny.edu. The following points come from the Faculty statement, and can be used as a suggestion when you call and email:

  • Deplore any use of violence against nonviolent student protesters, anywhere.
  • Call upon the CUNY administration to support and engage respectfully with those students, educators, and community members who are working to open up spaces for protest, dissent, and discussion.
  • Declare that the use of any violence whatsoever against nonviolent student protesters will never be tolerated at CUNY.
  • Insist that administrators at both the CUNY-wide level and at individual campuses not call upon any outside police forces, including the New York City Police Department, or any other city, state, or federal law enforcement agencies, in order to disperse students who are engaged in nonviolent protests.

CUNY Public Safety Officers taking up arms against students and faculty.

CUNY is the nation’s largest urban public university system  and consists of 23 educational institutions here in New York City. In the past, CUNY was literally the People’s University, offering open and tuition-free education to the poor and working class. However since 1975, CUNY has charged tuition and has increasingly made admission and attendance more and more difficult. The CUNY Board of Trustees has repeatedly voted to increase tuition, making access to this public institution more difficult. Campuses that used to be open to all have installed security barriers and turnstiles, and partnerships with corporations are privatizing this public educational space. At the very first CUNY General Assembly, held at Hunter College – CUNY Public Safety officers were ordered to deny entry to CUNY and Hunter students, faculty and staff who sought to enter the building and have a peaceful meeting, even though they all had proper ID. This denial of entry was based entirely on the political character of their speech. This disturbing trend at CUNY must be stopped before the people lose their university completely.

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(via boingboing)

 

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#OccupyBloomberg and the “frozen zone”

Update 3:30: Frances has just sent a photo of the Upper East Side branch of the People’s Library and says:

“It’s a festive fall day up here. The drum circle is active. We’re hungry and asked the upper east side to donate grilled cheese sandwiches so we’ll see how that turns out. The people seem very unhappy that the protestors have moved into their neighborhood for the day. We were yelled at by an elderly couple a block away from the park and I responded, “The occupiers have metrocards ma’am, and we’re not afraid to use them.”

In response to the drum circle, the NYPD has closed E 79th St. near the Mayor’s home and they are now describing it a “frozen zone.” A little research online shows that a “frozen zone” is usually an area where the NYPD use their authority to suspend the law in order to maintain the law. The declaration of a “frozen zone” amounts to declaring martial law or creating a state of exception and has previously been used by the NYPD during terrorist threats. Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones has reported on the “frozen zone” being used to deny reporters access to Liberty Plaza. So what is “frozen” in these zones?

Stephen with mobile People's Library and OWS Poetry Anthology. (photo: Michael Tracey, @mtracey)

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Destroyed Books on Display, Intergenerational Day & Occupying Bloomberg

Today, the People’s Library is displaying books that were destroyed by NYPD and DSNY on 11/15/11 during Bloomberg’s attack on #OccupyWallStreet. The books are currently in front of the iconic New York Public Library branch on 5th Ave and 42nd St.

People's Library Displaying Destroyed Books on NYPL Steps

It is Intergenerational Day at Liberty Plaza. Representatives from the Elder Council will lead a worship service in Liberty Square at 3:30pm. Following the worship service, elders will host a conversation with Occupy Wall Street demonstrators and other interested individuals at 5:30pm at Judson Memorial Church (55 Washington Square South).

And at 2pm today, occupiers begin a 24 hour drum circle at Bloomberg’s home: 17 E 79th St. The mobile People’s Library will be on site! Everyone is welcome – bring something to make noise with. Join the Facebook event here. Updates on all of today’s events here. Next up, occupying Bloomberg’s house in Bermuda for the winter?

Mayor Bloomberg's Vacation Castle in Bermuda

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The Power Of Nonviolent Action

In response to violent attacks on peaceful protesters at UC Davis, students sit silently while Chancellor Linda Katehi walks to her car.

UC Davis students are pepper-sprayed for sitting peacefully.

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Going on Strike from Your Own Culture

UC Davis students are pepper-sprayed for sitting peacefully.

Matt Taibbi’s take on OWS captured a part of why I went down to Liberty Plaza and got involved:

“We’re all born wanting the freedom to imagine a better and more beautiful future. But modern America has become a place so drearily confining and predictable that it chokes the life out of that built-in desire. Everything from our pop culture to our economy to our politics feels oppressive and unresponsive. We see 10 million commercials a day, and every day is the same life-killing chase for money, money and more money; the only thing that changes from minute to minute is that every tick of the clock brings with it another space-age vendor dreaming up some new way to try to sell you something or reach into your pocket. The relentless sameness of the two-party political system is beginning to feel like a Jacob’s Ladder nightmare with no end; we’re entering another turn on the four-year merry-go-round, and the thought of having to try to get excited about yet another minor quadrennial shift in the direction of one or the other pole of alienating corporate full-of-shitness is enough to make anyone want to smash his own hand flat with a hammer.

If you think of it this way, Occupy Wall Street takes on another meaning. There’s no better symbol of the gloom and psychological repression of modern America than the banking system, a huge heartless machine that attaches itself to you at an early age, and from which there is no escape. You fail to receive a few past-due notices about a $19 payment you missed on that TV you bought at Circuit City, and next thing you know a collector has filed a judgment against you for $3,000 in fees and interest. Or maybe you wake up one morning and your car is gone, legally repossessed by Vulture Inc., the debt-buying firm that bought your loan on the Internet from Chase for two cents on the dollar. This is why people hate Wall Street. They hate it because the banks have made life for ordinary people a vicious tightrope act; you slip anywhere along the way, it’s 10,000 feet down into a vat of razor blades that you can never climb out of.

That, to me, is what Occupy Wall Street is addressing. People don’t know exactly what they want, but as one friend of mine put it, they know one thing: FUCK THIS SHIT! We want something different: a different life, with different values, or at least a chance at different values.

There was a lot of snickering in media circles, even by me, when I heard the protesters talking about how Liberty Square was offering a model for a new society, with free food and health care and so on. Obviously, a bunch of kids taking donations and giving away free food is not a long-term model for a new economic system.

But now, I get it. People want to go someplace for at least five minutes where no one is trying to bleed you or sell you something. It may not be a real model for anything, but it’s at least a place where people are free to dream of some other way for human beings to get along, beyond auctioned “democracy,” tyrannical commerce and the bottom line.”

Read more . . .

A lot of people are just now starting to pay attention to the Occupy movement – the folks who don’t pay much attention to the news can’t avoid it any longer and I have a feeling that a lot of you feel this way too.

Meditation circle at Liberty Plaza

I can’t speak for the library, just myself – but this is exactly how I’ve always felt –  that our priorities are wrong. Just plain wrong. Here’s part of my list:

Credit scores, mortgages, 8 hour days in cubicles under flickering lights, the lesser of two evil politicians for office, shopping seasons instead of nature seasons, individuals commuting in cars alone on 6 lane roads, blowing off the tops of mountains to power Times Square billboards, undemocratic workplaces, endless consumption of the next-big-thing-gadget, American exceptionalism, us vs. them, them vs. us, good guys and bad guys, limits on freedom for ‘our own safety’, security and surveillance, target marketing, viral advertising, blaming the poor, factory farms, rent increases, buildings sitting empty while people go homeless, foreclosures so banks can get rich, CEOs living like kings on the backs of workers, 2.3 million U.S. Americans in prison, U.S. black people imprisoned at 6 times the rate of whites, conflating the ‘freedom’ to buy something 24-hours-a-day with Freedom,  1 in 100 U.S. black women in prison, government run executions, skyrocketing obesity in the U.S. while children in the Horn of Africa die of starvation, U.S. funding of foreign military police that are used to crush dissent, and that insidious idea that unless you’re buying-in or making a wage, or working for a company that you simply do not exist . . .

I couldn’t take it anymore. And maybe some of you felt the same. And “they” are terrified of that moment when we cross that line, when we decide to go from being sick of it to saying “no.” So when you sit down and refuse to participate any longer, they yell “You can’t opt-out, it stops the gears from turning!” and they pepper-spray you and arrest you.  What’s the most threatening thing to the system as it stands? When, as Taibbi puts it, you go on strike from your own culture.

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