Denver Autonomous Zone | November 4, 2011

I have been to 4 different Occupy sites, Occupy San Fransisco, Santa Barbara, Oakland and Denver. The strongest force I have seen so far that has lead to a successful occupation has been the utilization of autonomous zones.

Politics. Oh, those divisive amoebas of  grandiosity. Those little nuggets of “truth” that we collect in a basket in our brain like apples of security. Because I’m right. Right? I speak there for I am sure I am correct. I read the right article first. I reason and believe I hold the one universal beacon of honesty. I mean at least this very second. I shall not be held to the truths of previous statements because that was just naivety and I, unlike others, shan’t be judged for prior mis-thoughts. I, we, ought stick to our party lines! It is the strength of the forever correctness!

Silly politics. Facetiousness is fun and politics are silly.

Wrong is where we grow, but where is the space to be wrong?

From the first time I read about people occupying spaces I was drawn in by the idea of a group coming together to make space for that, because we are all wrong. A lot.

As I sit here I have to stop every few seconds to rub my left hand that has lost a majority of its sensation. This past Saturday I engaged in a peaceful demonstration along side several autonomous individuals and organizations, all of us loosely identifying with “the occupy movement”. There was a call for an Anti-capitalist contingent to which I gladly showed to support. The march trailed all through Denver and back to the capital steps where many of us continued our dance party showing that politics doesn’t always have to be so stuffy and serious (and boy did we). While standing at the steps the police who had been circling the march amped up their presence. Apparently there was some fear on their part that the citizens of this city would harm the property since obviously few if any politicians or government employees work in the building on a Saturday. The force showed in formations of riot cops, police on bike, in cars, and really in nearly every variation you could think of and they set their perimeters. They let the people know what they were willing to allow on this day… for the time being at least, unless we slipped up. The crowd became unamused by their overbearing presence and refocused on the tasks at hand. The march was over and there was a lot of energy circling. Many decided it was time to build. Cities across the country have collectively permitted structures and tents in occupy spaces. Not because it’s legal. Nothing is legal or illegal. We know this because we see it every time a police officer is in their civilian vehicle speeding and gets pulled over and only has to flash their badge to continue on their way. We know this because we see it every time the police officer’s or the politician’s child gets a DUI or rape charges and they are cleared without notice. We know this because every day cops harm and murder people without punishment. We know this because the president of the united states can manipulate laws at any moment to give himself the right to declare war. We know this because banks get bailed out while citizens, as they say, get sold out.

As many walked down the steps and through the parks they saw piles of mangled tents with pathetic sticks shoved through the holes where the tent poles that police stole weeks before used to be. They saw some meek signs declaring outrage held by people with worn out faces. They saw remnants of card board boxes that once were shaped into a wall and almost caused a riot because police said, “no.” The police said, “stay in line” with excessive force, per usual.

I believe, perhaps, as some walked down the steps they thought (as this article from Oakland articulates: http://anarchistnews.org/node/16619)“This occupation is inevitable, but we have to make it,” because in a time of mass debt, of mass foreclosures, of ruthless austerity, of sprawling slums, there will be no alternative to the material necessity of taking what we need and using it amongst ourselves.”

With this country’s budget parading behind us in riot gear a group decided it was time for tents.

I saw people assembling tents on my way home from the march. I was inspired by their resilience in the face of DPD’s history of brutality and I asked if they needed help, after all we are talking about torn rags vaguely resembling the tents and viable shelters they were before Denver police destroyed and wasted them. Someone said there were tents but no way to make them stand so someone decided to tie them to trees. People offered up all shoelaces available and began assembling. I held some of the shoelaces and strings and began tying them together. With one end attached to the tent I looked up to see a mob of riot police advancing. People began screaming “boooooo” as the cops violently tore down the frail already ripped and mangled tent. As they tore I looked down to realize the string I was holding had become wrapped around my wrist in the commotion. I tried to remove it only to realize I was tightening it and suddenly the fear of police I have harbored in my body since childhood flooded back. I became panicked and a fellow beside me seemed to notice i was caught and pulled the tent with me. The officers became furious and tackled me to the ground. Knees jabbed into my body and my hair was pulled in several directions as protesters began to realize that police training and the inevitable hyper-vigilence police perpetuate turned this situation dangerous fast. Protesters attempted to regulate police in all ways available. Video cameras were turned on, chants were yelled and as the batons began hitting me, people stepped in to stop the abuse. My face was repeatedly covered with the tent and one officers bent down to my ear and said, “We’ve got you now you cunt mouthed slut.” The abuse became worse including pain compliance holds and slamming my face into the ground, despite the fact that I was vastly outnumbered and outsized. I was quickly arrested with zip-tied so tight my hands instantly ran cold… all of this over mangled tents.

And I was only the beginning.

Police continued to pepper spray and fire pepper balls and rubber bullets long after the tent was down. There are thousands of articles accounting for the mayhem that followed. Military tactics were employed for hours and it became astonishingly clear that war does not only exist on foreign soil (if there was any doubt remaining.) While my van was being escorted to the detention center with several other arrestees the cop that was driving the van said to his fellow officer, “we even had snipers on the construction building there.” pointing to the federal building being erected.

I showed that morning to exercise my rights and my dance moves. I did both. I will continue to do both.

I write this with bruises on my body and a lump in my throat comprised of fear. I walked to the capital building today with many of the symptoms of the soldiers I treated returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. I winced at nothing. My heart raced to just be in the space. I repeatedly checked all around me. I feared that even the plain-clothed people were police out to punish me. Sitting here, I fear not being able to see my son when he gets home from Japan because I tied shoe laces together. I fear that all the work I have done to heal from the sexual assault I endured during my service and the interpersonal collapse I have experienced in this community will not be seen and felt by my son because I have chosen to write this account and make it public. I fear the relationships and affinity that I’ve been rebuilding in this community will be cut short by laws and consequences that only apply to those who can not afford to pay or posture their way out of them. I fear my thoughts and passions will be held against me.

Many gather in several sites across this whole world bubbling up. Our views and where we stand in our own personal processing vary. We gaggle and gab about what we think and how sick we are of so many things and we usually get stuck there.

Well, not always. Like the article I have mentioned before from Oakland, “We knew it would happen.” We knew the tents would not stand.

We did not know that cops would be able to brutalize citizens in broad daylight for “non-compliance”.

In these spaces, we bicker and see everything that is raw within us. Irritating people show up because we all take turns being that person. We get frustrated and confused, but like so many have said before, “the history of struggle is the history of capitalism” just like every political and social structure that preceded it. And we get traumatized and unsure how to nurture each other. We reach out to each other in desperation asking how we can get through this.

But like Cairo said: “An entire generation across the globe has grown up realizing, rationally and emotionally, that we have no future in the current order of things….So we stand with you not just in your attempts to bring down the old but to experiment with the new.”

In Denver, for the sake of this country and this world, I hope we stop pleading and negotiating with thugs who are “only doing their jobs” because that is revoltingly all that they are doing: listening to orders over the welfare of the human. Policy and capital trumps our personal safeties. They do not choose to fight for a more just world beside us. They are content to idly perpetuate this destructive cycle. We need to stop negotiating and start bravely experimenting with the new. We don’t need reform if we can continue creating our own solutions. This is not new. To do this though, we need room for differing opinions and differing tactics. To do this we need to support each other and educate each other as unbiasedly as we can.

At one point I would love to see this public space transform from a boxed off, regulated and militarily dangerous space for those who comprise “Occupy Denver” the organization and instead shift to a public space that holds and facilitates development amongst those who actively occupy Denver. I would love to see it be this with everyone realizing that the space will always look messy and that we don’t need a homogenized calculated public appearance because we are the only ones looking at each other, eye to eye, as peers. We don’t need to amass and convince large groups because large groups are unmanageable and unsustainable. Large groups are also able to be compromised because they are either divisible or comprised of the ideas of the few over the many. Large groups and the policies that come with them harm our land bases with their disconnected and disingenuous coldness. Large groups exploit our resources and chain us to production. We don’t need large groups; we need to be able to look each other in the eyes again.

The only time we want large groups is to unite and fight back against the brutality of the state. That is what occupying is.

I will not let fear overwhelm me.

“The moment in which activists begin to give a shit about the image they are portraying or having portrayed for them is the moment effectiveness is pushed to the wayside in favor of ideological strangleholds that repress and alienate many of the folks looking to up the ante so that those in power understand that their force will be met with a people’s force that is equal to or greater than our oppressors. When that happens, we begin to lose…. again, or should I say, continue to lose. If we can’t embrace a diversity of tactics, including ones we disagree with, we are all doomed. I personally think non-violence is suicide, but you won’t be seeing me trying to provoke others into participating in violence or property destruction, instead you’ll likely see non-violent protesters trying to force me and my comrades into their mold of ideological non-violence, and they will likely use violent force against us to do so. If you don’t clash with the system you lose, if you clash with your fellow protesters you become weak. Are you that dense and ignorant when it comes to history? Seriously, put your opinions aside and take some time to learn something about the history of resistance and struggle amongst oppressed peoples.”

-Uncivil Disobedience.


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