Please take and share this short survey on poetry, protest, Occupy & Gezi Park! You will be helping a Comparative Literature student at İstanbul Bilgi University, Turkey. Click the image below, or go to this link:
Author Archives: Michael
Do you remember the OWS Library books? What they looked like. How we labelled them. How they were organized? Perhaps you picked one up and saw that we had written “OWSL” across each side with a permanent marker. Perhaps you saw one with our stamp on it, or even a bookplate. Or maybe you were writing with that marker, or cataloguing them, or sorting them.
So, where are these books now? On November 15, 2011 under orders from then Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the City of New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) dismantled and destroyed the People’s Library of Occupy Wall Street under the pretence of “cleaning” the park. Along with the kitchen, medical tent, residences of occupiers and more in Zucotti Park, all of the library’s books, zines, newspapers, media, computers, and other materials were thrown into trucks by sanitation workers and brought to a DSNY garage on 57th Street. Of the approximately 3,600 books seized that night, only 1,003 were recovered. Of that number, 201 were so damaged while in the possession of the City of New York that they were made unreadable. Thus, at least approximately 2,798 books were never returned or were damaged beyond repair.
But. Some books remain. Some were checked out and taken home, and passed around. Do you have one? I do. I have the first book ever entered into our catalogue. It was the book I chose to keep as a memory of our library. Here it is in our LibraryThing catalog, at the bottom of page 190. Hakim Bey’s “T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone (Autonomedia New Autonomy Series)”:
When TAZ was donated, I held onto it, keeping it close. For me it was a perfect book for our occupation, for our library – at least, for what I imagined both to be. We all had that one book, or books. Those certain books we loved, that we were surprised to see when they were donated – that we smiled at between the piles of romance novels, Bloomberg biographies, and other less-wanteds – those books that you just knew someone gave because it made so much sense for it to be in this library.
I’m writing about our books now, about what one of our librarians called the “dregs of the library” – what was left after the attack, what was salvageable, and unsalvageable. Do you have an OWS library book? Don’t worry, there is still no due date, we don’t want them back. We want them to keep living out there. But I would love to hear the story of your book, whether you were an occupier, a visitor, a volunteer, a working group member, a patron, anyone – tell me your People’s Library book stories. And share a photo if you can of your book(s).
Post in the comments, and email me your story, your photos, anything you’d like to share. I’ll post your stories here if you want that, so others can hear about where the books ended up, or not, it’s up to you.
The Dayton Project is an oral history project on Occupy created by Kyle Pitzer, a student in the public history program at Wright State University, in Dayton, Ohio. you can follow his efforts to interview and transcribe and hopefully, he writes, turn some of that material into a radio story on his project blog here.
I wanted to share the project here because we often privilege the textual when thinking about libraries and information – but oral forms are important methods of building, sharing, and passing on knowledge, stories, history, and experience.
You can contact Kyle about the project here.
If CISPA becomes law, the government can spy on you without a warrant: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/02/cispa-government-access-loophole #StopCISPA
If CISPA becomes law, when the gov’t downloads your private information, you’ll never even know:http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2012/04/13/cispa-is-terrible-for-transparency/ #StopCISPA
If CISPA becomes law, it makes it so companies can’t be sued when they do illegal things with your data: https://www.eff.org/cybersecurity-bill-faq#company #StopCISPA
Annalisa Quinn at our beloved local NPR station WNYC mentions the city’s “almost apology…” read more…
Will Bunch on Philly.com sums it up perfectly in his headline “Books 1, Police State 0” and breaks it down nicely for the haters “Even if you totally disagreed with the Occupy Wall Street movement (as I’ve noticed from past comments that one or two of you might), you must agree that authorities destroying so many books was creepy and smacked of what happens in totalitarian states. This is a small measure of justice, and in 2013 America we’ll take any justice we can get.” read more…
Shawna Gillen blogging at Policymic.com grudgingly predicts a precedent has been set here: “While the NYPD and Brookfield had a strong case to justify taking control of the park, they certainly took a cop out strategy to avoid even more fees. If this case sets any sort of precedence, protestors will have more opportunities to win settlements from New York City.” read more…
Business Insider‘s Michael Kelley reports quite accurately on the raid and destruction of the library “Around 1 a.m. on Nov. 15, 2011, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered the NYPD to evict protestors — some of whom had camped there for almost two months — from Zuccotti Park in New York City’s Financial District. The police threw away 5,554 books from the Occupy library and destroyed media equipment in addition to removing tents, tarps, and belongings.”…and even better, Business Insider refers to the movement, quite correctly, in the present tense “Occupy Wall Street is a movement, beginning on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square, that protests the role of Wall Street in the 2007 financial crisis and aims to resist the influence of major banks and multinational corporations.” read more…
Huffington Post featured a photo of the later days of the library, when a good part of the collection was protected by Fort Smith (maybe someone will correct Wikipedia on this now..) and uses the AP story to declare “New York City has agreed to pay Occupy Wall Street protesters more than $100,000 for property damaged or lost when police cleared out their encampment in a downtown Manhattan park in 2011, according to court documents signed on Tuesday.” read more…
The Daily News chose to show off Steve’s smiling face and sounds surprised that a collection of graduate students, writers, artists, seasoned activists and librarians was able to work with a skilled civil rights attorney to win this case… as they report “Remember the anti-authority message of Occupy Wall Street? Remember the backlash over its vague goals and nebulous methods? Surprise! Occupy Wall Street (OWS) just struck a sizeable victory, and it came by working within the system.” read more…
The Voice of Russia (American Edition) covers the story and connects it, unlike most of the other press, to bank bailouts! Follow the link to listen to the story: “The settlement has returned attention to the issue of bailouts, a central theme of Occupy Wall Street and a central theme of similar protests in Russia, where $25 billion was spent to bail out the financial sector and another $10 billion was spent to bail out the small business industry, said Dmitry Babich, a Voice of Russia political commentator.” read more…and listen here…
UPI chose a photo for their story that doesn’t fit their description of the occupation as a “sit-in” nonetheless, they report “New York City and a property owner have agreed to pay the Occupy Wall Street movement for books and property destroyed during a sit-in by the group in 2011.” read more…
Galleycat uses a photo of Stephen’s awesome sign that he made while trying to protect the library from being seized by the city. read more…
This opinion piece on Gather gets at least, and perhaps only, one thing right when they refer to the Occupy movement as “radical” and “anti-capitalist.” The rest of it distorts the facts or just makes things up such as “The police even stored the books for pick-up.” Well…. actually the books that weren’t destroyed were sent to a sanitation garage, not held by the police, and the tweet from the mayor’s office was nothing more than a PR stunt because they were losing the image game in the press. This article also ignores the fact that Bloomberg’s office did not preserve any books or make them available (although they lied on twitter and said they had), because most of them had been thrown away or destroyed – as the city clearly admits in the settlement. read more….(although it’s really not worth reading)
The Inquisitr, whatever that is, reports quite correctly that it was the NYPD (under Bloomberg’s command) who cost the city $366,000 in this case, writing “The NYPD’s raid on Occupy Wall Street in 2011 will cost the city $366,700. The raid was launched on November 15, 2011 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the police to evict protesters at Zuccotti Park.” read more…
msn.com mentions the police brutality charges brought by journalists who were stopped from covering the violent eviction writing “Occupy Wall Street hasn’t scaled the same heights of publicity it had in 2011, but at least one NYC organization is still feeling heat from the group. That would be the NYPD, whose (some would say heavy-handed) November 2011 raid on the group’s Zuccotti Park encampment is going to cost them $366,700 in settlement money, according to a recent court ruling. That figure covers the destruction of books, computer equipment and bicycle-powered generators the group was using. What of the brutality charges levied against the NYPD by journalists arrested while trying to cover the raid? That’s covered in a separate lawsuit. So, $366K for one raid — was it worth it?” read more….
And finally, Maclean’s uses the prototypical chanting protester image, but quotes Jaime’s blog post! “Our court case against New York City’s various officials and agencies is over!,” the People’s Library wrote on its website Tuesday. “The city has settled with us.” read more…
Although the People’s Library plans to hold a press conference tomorrow (Wednesday, April 10, at 11 AM, at 260 Madison Avenue) there is a great deal of attention on your library in the press tonight. So I wanted to round it up here and share how the story is shaping up in the media so far:
The New York Times opens with “As myriad court battles pitting the Occupy Wall Street movement against New York City agencies proceed, protesters claimed a victory on Tuesday, based not on how they were treated, but on how their books were mistreated.” read more…
The Atlantic reports “Fans of justice will be glad to hear that New York City will pay for all those books and all that media equipment that the police trashed when it famously raided the Occupy Wall Street camp on November 15, 2011.” read more…
Reuters reports “New York City has agreed to pay Occupy Wall Street protesters more than $100,000 for property damaged or lost when police cleared out their encampment in a downtown Manhattan park in 2011, according to court documents signed on Tuesday.” read more…
The Wall Street Journal uses the AP story and writes “There’s been a settlement in the lawsuit filed over the seizure of the Occupy Wall Street library at Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park.”read more…
The Village Voice says “In an agreement announced today, the City of New York will pay more than $365,000 to settle a lawsuit bought by people whose property was destroyed when the New York Police Department raided Zuccotti Park and evicted Occupy Wall Street on November 15, 2001.”read more…
Gawker writes that “Occupy Wall Street won a major legal battle earlier today when it agreed to a settlement from the city of New York that will pay the activist group over $230,000 in damages and legal fees. ” read more…
New York Magazine reports “New York City and Zuccotti Park owner Brookfield Properties have agreed to pay $366,700 to settle a lawsuit over the chaotic November 2011 police raid on the Occupy Wall Street encampment at the plaza. “read more…
Strike Debt is launching the Rolling Jubilee as a way of getting rid of people’s debts through mutual aid. Rolling Jubilee seeks to buy defaulted charged-off debt at steeply discounted prices and then abolish the debt, keeping it out of the hands of debt collectors. The amazing thing about this campaign is that it is buying charged-off debt, so that means that if they raise $50,000, they can buy $1,000,000 worth of debt, and abolish it, freeing people from debt. Donate here or purchase tickets to The People’s Bailout, a variety show and telethon to benefit the 99%
Join Strike Debt for an updated version of an old classic, the telethon, to launch The Rolling Jubilee, a campaign that buys debt for pennies on the dollar and does away with it. Instead of collecting the debt, we will abolish it and help free the debtors!
People shouldn’t have to go into debt for an education, because they need medical care, or to put food on the table during hard times. We shouldn’t have to pay endless interest to the 1% for basic necessities. Big banks and corporations walk away from their debts and leave taxpayers to pick up the tab. It’s time for a bailout of the people, by the people.
It will be a wild night of music, comedy, magic, education, and the unexpected. This fast-moving variety show will mix well-known performers, intellectuals and activists from Strike Debt and Occupy Wall Street.
Special guests include Janeane Garofalo, Lizz Winstead, Frances Fox Piven, Max Silvestri, Hari Kondabolu, David Rees, The Yes Men, actor/director John Cameron Mitchell, Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth, Guy Picciotto of Fugazi, Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio, Climbing Poetree, the Invisible Army of Defaulters, members of Healthcare for the 99%, Occupy Faith, and many more.
*Tickets will go on-sale Friday, November 2nd at 10AM*
$25 (abolishes an estimated $500 worth of debt)
$50 (abolishes an estimated $1000 worth of debt)
$100 (abolishes an estimated $2000 worth of debt)
$250 (abolishes an estimated $5000 worth of debt)
This is a general admission, standing event.
The event will also be livestreamed at www.rollingjubilee.org
For those looking to help in the recovery after Hurricane Sandy, here are a list of resources. I’ve worked with the Red Cross disaster relief operations here as well as doing social media work to promote Occupy Sandy so feel free to post questions about the aid situation on the ground. The most important thing to know is that the best way to direct your time, donations or resources are where they are needed. You might be tempted to put some canned food together or some clothing and bring it to an affected area, but that often causes more challenges for relief work. Instead, look carefully at what is needed and contribute based on need. If you want to donate goods, keep in mind that organizations like Red Cross do not accept such donations, the Occupy Sandy web site has many lists of donation drop offs. Please post comments with links to other organizations. If you would like to donate large quantities of goods, go to VOAD: http://www.nvoad.org/
New York Area:
Occupy Sandy: http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy
NYC Service: http://www.nycservice.org
Community Food Bank of NJ: https://community.njfoodbank.org/
Red Cross: If you are medically credentialed, email HealthServices@nyredcross.org to volunteer
Adopt NY: http://www.adoptny.org
Habitat for Humanity: http://www.habitat.org/
American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org
An occupation outside of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s house is in progress in New York City at 61st and Broadway. So, head on down and show your solidarity!
Join and support online as well here: Occupy Goldman Sachs.
From the Facebook page:
Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. is a multinational investment bank founded in 1869 and headquartered at 200 West Street in Lower Manhattan. Leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, Goldman Sachs engaged in some of the worse financial fraud the world has ever seen, including packaging and selling billions of dollars in subprime housing derivatives and other worthless securities to small and mid-level investors while hiding the fact that they were simultaneously betting against these same securities. Through such fraud Goldman Sachs decimated the 401(k)s, pensions and mutual funds of thousands of Americans.
Despite blatantly vilating the Securities Act of 1933, which “prohibits deceit, misrepresentation, and other fraud in the sale of securities,” and despite a 650-page Senate subcommittee investigation report accusing them of defrauding clients, not a single official of Goldman Sachs has been prosecuted. Rather, the corporation was rewarded, receiving more government bailout funds than any other investment bank. Goldman Sachs then used this taxpayer money to give its senior executives a staggering $44 billion in mega-bonuses between 2008 and 2011.
While Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein makes an estimated $250,000 a day, regular Americans are losing their jobs and homes at the highest rate since the 1930s. The real unemployment rate (in 2012) is almost twenty percent, far higher than the official number of nine percent, which intentionally factors out workers who have exhausted their unemployment benefits and those working temporary or part time jobs. The so-called “jobless recovery” means that speculators like Lloyd Blankfein can get richer even during a recession. As one private trader, Alessio Rastani, candidly told the BBC in Fall of 2011, “Most traders don’t really care about fixing the economy. If you know what to do, if you have the right plan set up, you can make a lot of money from this [recession].” He continued with another dose of frank cynicism, “This is not a time right now for wishful thinking that governments are going to sort things out. Governments don’t rule the world. Goldman Sachs rules the world.”
I’ve wanted to mark the recent sudden and tragic death of radical geographer Neil Smith, but wasn’t sure quite how. Just now, as I was re-reading his book “The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City” I realized that I could do this in two ways. First by sharing some passages from the first chapter, which contains an account of the eviction of the Tompkins Square Park occupation in 1988 (and again in 1991) echoing the eviction from Liberty Plaza of the Occupy Wall Street encampment, and second by sharing a link to the entire book in PDF form, which is available free online from the National Technical University (NTUA) in Athens.
Neil Smith’s account of the occupation and eviction, as well as his analysis of urban class struggle are vital texts for occupiers to understand the history of resistance in the city. For those who haven’t read them, or aren’t familiar with the occupation of Tompkins Square, they will be eye-opening:
On the evening of August 6, 1988, a riot erupted along the edges of Tompkins Square Park, a small green in New York City’s Lower East Side. It raged through the night with police on one side and a diverse mix of anti-gentrification protesters, punks, housing activists, park inhabitants, artists, Saturday night revelers and Lower East Side residents on the other. The battle followed the city’s attempt to enforce a 1:00 A.M. curfew in the Park on the pretext of clearing out the growing numbers of homeless people living or sleeping there, kids playing boom boxes late into the night, buyers and sellers of drugs using it for business. But many local residents and park users saw the action differently. The City was seeking to tame and domesticate the park to facilitate the already rampant gentrification on the Lower East Side . . .”Whose fucking park? It’s our fucking park,” became the recurrent slogan . . .
. . . In fact it was a police riot that ignited the park on August 6, 1988. Clad in space-alien riot gear and concealing their badge numbers, the police forcibly evicted everyone from the park before midnight, then mounted repeated baton charges and “Cossacklike” rampages against demonstrators and locals along the park’s edge:
‘The cops seemed bizarrely out of control, levitating with some hatred I didn’t understand. They’d taken a relatively small protest and fanned it out over the neighborhood, inflaming hundreds of people who’d never gone near the park to begin with. They’d called in a chopper. And they would eventually call 450 officers… The policemen were radiating hysteria . . .’ (Carr 1988:10)
. . .In the days following the riot, the protesters quickly adopted a much more ambitious political geography of revolt. Their slogan became “Tompkins Square everywhere” as they taunted the police and celebrated their liberation of the park. Mayor Edward Koch, meanwhile, took to describing Tompkins Square Park as a “cesspool” and blamed the riot on “anarchists.” Defending his police clients, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association enthusiastically elaborated: “social parasites, druggies, skinheads and communists” –an “insipid conglomeration of human misfits” –were the cause of the riot, he said. . .
Smith, N. 1996. The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City. Routledge.
A round-up of today’s lawsuit in the news:
As Reuters and the AP have picked up the story, it’s now appearing in dozens of papers and web sites nation-wide. From the Reuters coverage: “Occupy Wall Street filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against New York City, claiming authorities destroyed $47,000 worth of books, computers and other equipment confiscated from the protesters’ encampment in lower Manhattan last fall.” and includes the case information “The case is Occupy Wall Street et al. v. Michael Bloomberg et al., U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-4129.”
The Republic uses the Reuters coverage and writes of the November raid and today’s lawsuit: “Police conducted a surprise overnight raid at Zuccotti Park . . . clearing scores of protesters who had set up tents at the plaza near Wall Street and dealing a significant blow to the movement’s potency. As part of the sweep, Occupy claims, police officers seized more than 3,000 books from the “People’s Library.” While some of the books were eventually returned, many were in unusable condition, while the rest were apparently destroyed, according to Occupy’s lawyer, Norman Siegel. The lawsuit also questions whether the raid itself was constitutional, Siegel said.”
The Wall Street Journal is using the AP report which says that the “federal lawsuit accuses New York City of violating the Constitution by raiding an Occupy Wall Street site last year and destroying books.”
The Gothamist coverage quotes Norman Siegel, “one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit says ‘It not only addresses the seizure and destruction of the books, but it also seeks to show why, how, and who planned the raid on Zuccotti Park.’ Siegel adds that the city should have been subject to a court hearing before seizing and destroying the thousands of books that made up the library—including Bloomberg’s own book. ‘Every other city did it before they raided encampments, but not here. The city violated the civil rights of the librarians. The Bloomberg administration had the power to do what they did, but not the right.'”
The NY Daily News reports “The bookworms of Occupy Wall Street have slapped the city with some hefty library fines.”
Democracy Now! reports on the lawsuit, noting that “With thousands of books, the library was a proud fixture of the occupation of Zuccotti Park” – video at 11:44.
The Paramas Post covers the lawsuit here.
The following is an update on the #OccupyThought project. They are seeking Occupiers and others for feedback on this first round of papers.
“We have released our first dozen papers, and are seeking comments, critiques, and responses from theorists and activists. Please join the conversation here: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/tne/cluster/occupythought
Additional submissions are also welcomed, both from concerned scholars and from theoretically-minded activists. The extended deadline is March 20th. Address inquiries to d.e.wittkower at gmail dot com, or stay informed about the project here: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/occupy-thought”
#OccupyThought: First papers
After inviting the People’s Library to set up in their nightclub and using our name and graphics in their advertising, WiP’s creative director, Stuart Braunstein decided that the 99% weren’t up to his standards. The Village Voice reports:
More than 50 library supporters were kept outside in the pouring rain and ultimately turned away as bouncers determined they didn’t fit the look the club was going for.
“Some of your people my door is telling me haven’t taken a shower and smell and look homeless we can’t let them in cause this is a business,” WiP’s creative director, Stuart Braunstein, told Boyer in an email when Boyer asked that why library supporters were being turned away from what was promoted as a library event.
Relations deteriorated from there. A club manager brusquely told the librarians to get their table of books out of the club’s main space, where they had been set up for several hours. “I need this all out of here, now,” he said.
“Wow — that whole exchange felt exactly like a lot of our interactions with the cops,” said librarian Darah McJimsey afterwards, as behind her a heavily feathered burlesque dancer began to strip down for the club’s growing crowd.
After Miller intervened on behalf of the library, they were allowed to keep their table, albeit in a hallway outside the event space. But at that point, the librarians weren’t clear why they were even there.
“I want to give a shout out to the People’s Library!” Miller said as he took the DJ’s podium a few minutes later. “Who brought books to donate tonight?” The audience barely looked up from their cocktails, and Miller launched into his set. Out in the hall, the last occupiers pushed past the bouncers and out into the rain.
“The club failed us,” Boyer said as he left. “We had an understanding. Our name and our imagery are all over the flyers for this event, we promoted it, and now they’re not letting us in. We feel used.”
Good riddance, said Braunstein afterward. “I found them fucking ungrateful. I did them a favor, and it wasn’t the favor they wanted, so they threw a little fit. A bunch of them tried to get in, and they probably hadn’t showered in days. All of a sudden I’m supposed to change my rules for them? It’s a night club!
“I’m not about dividing people into the 99 and the 1 percent,” Braunstein said. “But honestly, the Wall Streeters inside are a lot nicer than those guys, and at least they pay some of my bills.”
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.
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.