#Occupied: Reports From the Front Lines

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Fight For Your Right...to Sleep: An OWS member sleeps on a Union Square-adjacent sidewalk - beneath a giant Citibank ad for home loans - seizing a legal loophole that allows for permanent overnight #occupation. Photo: Allison Burtch

This week in Occupy, Santa Monica College backs down on tuition hikes after pepper-spraying its students, thousands pour into the streets of Chicago in numbers not seen since the Fall, urban occupations take on public transit and Wall Street – yes, the actual street – will be #occupied indefinitely. 

#Introducing a new, brilliant twist to Eviction Theater: After being told they couldn’t occupy Liberty Square or Union Square with tents or anything that signifies permanence, crafty Occupy Wall Streeters found a loophole: a 2000 New York court decision that allows for sleeping on the sidewalk as a form of political protest: “The First Amendment of the United States Constitution does not allow the City to prevent an orderly political protest from using public sleeping as a means of symbolic expression,” District Judge Kimba Wood wrote. Last week, occupiers slept near Union Square with minimal disturbance, and last night, 40 occupiers slept on Wall Street across from the New York Stock Exchange. Police approached the slumbering demonstration just before 8 a.m. with zip-tie handcuffs and warned occupiers that they’d have to move before the start of business, but no arrests were made. After they woke, occupiers engaged with stock traders, tourists and workers, something they will have many chances to do if they are not illegally removed by the NYPD. All day, all week.

Occupy Minneapolis retakes the park. Photo: Alan Wilfahrt

#After campus police pepper-sprayed as many as 30 Santa Monica College students as they disrupted a meeting of the Board of Trustees, which was debating a controversial plan to offer a second tier of classes not subsidized by the state, the college backed off the tuition hike. Superintendent Chui L. Tsang had called the students’ interruption “regrettable” but said nothing about the use of pepper spray on unarmed students.

#Two days after Occupy Minneapolis attempted to reoccupy Peavey Plaza and Loring Park, resulting in the arrest of 12 and the assault of a videographer by police, 50 protestors converged on Mayor R.T. Rybak’s city hall office and demanded he discuss the arrests. Here is a play-by-play of the reoccupation.

#About 20 members of Occupy Berkeley #occupied the school’s administrative building April 6 to demand an end to Berkeley’s discriminatory admission policies. While minorities account for 50% of California’s high school graduates, they comprise only 18% of Berkeley’s freshmen.

#Roughly 400 students at U.C. Davis rallied April 6 to protest the upcoming court date of the so-called “Banker’s Dozen,” the twelve Occupy Davis students charged with conspiracy and blocking access during demonstrations that led to the permanent shuttering of a U.S. Bank branch on campus. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail; each of the 20 blocking access charges carry a maximum six-month jail term.

Start Spreading the News: Occupy Philly is back. Photo: Harry Fleckenstein

#Occupy Philly celebrated its six month anniversary on April 6 with a rally in Rittenhouse Square followed by a Spring Training march to Independence Hall. Though the group’s City Hall encampment was disbanded over the winter, occupiers never stopped meeting and protesting.

#In the biggest demonstration in Chicago since last fall, several hundred people joined Occupy Chicago for an April 7 march to Grant Park, during which Loren Taylor of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign asked NATO protesters to spend some time working with the people of Chicago while in town next month: “For every day you come here protesting the NATO summit, spend one day with us engaging in the community.”

#On April 4, Occupy Wall Street announced that it would stand in solidarity with unions and immigrants on May Day.

#On April 4, the Occupy Public Transit Day of Action, Occupy Wall Street protestors Jeffrey Brewer and Aaron Black led a demonstration in the New York City subway that included placing decals on subway seats that read “Priority Seating for the 1%” (stickers on certain seats usually read “Priority Seating for the Handicapped”). Police caught the activists’ interview on NY1 and arrested them.

#Other Occupy groups had better luck protesting cuts to public transit: Occupy Pittsburgh joined the local Amalgamated Transit Union to demand that the state provide more funding to the Port Authority, which is facing a $64 million deficit and 35% in planned service cuts. Occupy Denver teamed up with bus drivers and riders to protest service cuts that would remove many of the routes used by the needy and disabled. And occupiers in Boston flooded the state capitol and set up an encampment in front of the Massachusetts State House in protest of fare hikes and service cuts to mass transit. Occupy Boston plans to occupy Camp Charlie for 10 days, or until the state government agrees to revise the budget for transit.

#Occupy Vanderbilt has sprung up at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and first on the agenda: The University’s divestiture from the British hedge funds that have been buying and leasing vast swaths of African farmland. While universities profit from such land grabs, the people who live and work off the land are forced to find other means of livelihood.

#Mike Roy, an architect of Occupy London, is calling on Western University to overturn a one-year ban imposed on him for filming a campus demonstration denouncing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Not Giving Up: Students organize a sit-in blocking the doors to the Sanford Police Department demanding justice for Trayvon Martin on April 9. Photo: Dream Defenders

#Occupy Oakland activists have accused Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley of abusing her power through trumped-up prosecutions aimed at quashing the encampment’s presence.

#Shortly after occupying a vacant church building last week, Occupy SF was evicted and 80 were arrested.

#After it could no longer maintain an occupation there, Occupy Puerto Rico dispersed its camp this week. But officials have threatened legal action unless the occupiers clean up the park within 48 hours; Occupy Puerto Rico countered that the park has been plagued by sanitation and other problems for years, and went on to list each one.

#Participants in Edmonton’s annual Good Friday prayer walk through the inner city called on elected officials to help the vulnerable and marginalized members of society.

#A 77-year-old retired Greek pharmacy owner committed suicide near the Parliament building in Athens after his pension was cut to almost nothing. His suicide note read: “The Tsolakoglou government has annihilated all traces for my survival. And since I cannot find justice, I cannot find another means to react besides putting a decent end [to my life] before I start searching the garbage for food and become a burden for my child.”

Amnesty USA Youth Activists organize a mass DREAM-in in Denver to show their solidarity with DREAM Act students. Photo: Kalaya'an Mendoza

#Chile’s youth is in revolt over accessible education for all, and student activist Camila Vallejo is leading the charge, burning pepper spray be damned.

#Journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed that the Bush administration secretly trained an Iranian opposition group on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorists – the same group now assassinating Iranian scientists.

#A soldier raised a Gay Pride flag at his Afghanistan base camp and his proud wife, Nicole Jodice, posted it on Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook. An investigation has been rumored, though it is now legal to be openly gay in the U.S. military.

#After New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was announced as the commencement speaker at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, students, upset by his role in the brutality of Occupy protesters, announced it was holding an alternative commencement ceremony complete with its own keynote speakers.

#Gizmodo offered seven rules for filming police, including: Know the law, don’t show police your footage and state your First Amendment right clearly and concisely because – scary but true – police officers often aren’t aware of the law.

#Retired Naval Commander Leah Bolger will appear in court April 12 on charges stemming from her arrest on October 26, when the peace activist and president of Veterans For Peace interrupted a public hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

#In a scathing opinion, Elizabeth Magner, a federal bankruptcy judge in the Eastern District of Louisiana, characterized as “highly reprehensible” Wells Fargo’s behavior over more than five years of litigation with a single homeowner and ordered the bank to pay the New Orleans man a whopping $3.1 million in punitive damages, one of the biggest fines ever for mortgage servicing misconduct.

Rob and Violet Logsdon-Wallace at an Occupy Women's Rights rally in Minneapolis on March 24. Photo: Brad Sigal

#Soon after Color of Change launched a public shaming campaign, Coca-Cola (soon followed by Pepsi, Kraft and Inuit) announced it was withdrawing from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is charged with working to disenfranchise African Americans, Latinos, students, the elderly, the disabled and the poor through its sponsorship of ultra-conservative legislation – including so-called Stand Your Ground laws.

#Cenk Uygur reminded Current TV viewers how Paul Weyrich, a deceased ALEC founder, admitted he didn’t want everyone to vote: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down,” “our” meaning white conservatives. Now the group is pushing voter ID laws across the country.

#Brooke Harris, a teacher at the Pontiac Academy for Excellence Middle School in Pontiac, Michigan, was fired for teaching her eighth-grade students about the Trayvon Martin murder. A petition at Change.org calling for her reinstatement has garnered 134,000 signatures.

#Donna Zao Vieira, a California community activist and foreclosure fighter, began a 16-day hunger strike and long-term sit-in action at the California Attorney General’s San Francisco office in an attempt to renegotiate her foreclosure and eviction by Wells Fargo. While Occupy demonstrators won her a meeting with the Oakland Attorney General, she was told she couldn’t be helped, so Occupy Petaluma and Occupy Sacramento have agreed to continue Vieira’s hunger strike.

#A woman who attended an Occupy Oakland picnic in Mosswood Park arrived home to find that her ex had filed an emergency protection order and left with their children. The only reason listed on the order was her participation in the Occupy Movement. She needs an experienced family court lawyer to navigate the Alameda County legal morass. Donate here to help.

#On his first night as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Miro Weinberger was greeted by Occupy Burlington, who presented the new mayor with a “welcome basket” filled with Passover and Easter items – and a copy of The Occupied Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Mayor, Occupy Is Here: Occupy MPLS demands answers. Photo: MPR/Tim Post

#After months of quiet negotiations, the city of Cincinnati and Occupy Cincinnati have reached a settlement that gives occupiers a free speech area in Piatt Park, dismisses all charges against participating defendants and calls for the Park Board to designate a liaison who will hold public meetings to encourage public participation in Park issues.

#A majority of marketing and communications executives at financial services firms said that Occupy Wall Street has impacted their business, according to a study conducted by Echo Research.

#The April 3 launch party for Occupy.com, the newest Occupied media platform, evolved into a Liberty Square reunion, drawing Occupy Wall Streeters who hadn’t #occupied the same space since the raid and eviction of Zuccotti Park on November 15. “This is surreal,” one attendee told New York Magazine. “It’s like my old life mixed with my new life.”

#The Supreme Court’s recent decision allowing for inmates to be strip searched no matter the offense – along with the passage of the NDAA and H.R. 347, the “trespass bill” that earns you a 10-year sentence for protesting anywhere near someone with secret service protection – is indicative of the U.S. surveillance state, which has shown considerable determination to intrude on citizens sexually, Naomi Wolf writes in The Guardian.

#On April 14, Occupy DC will host “Money Out of Politics: How Cross-Partisan Citizen Movements Can Reform Our Democracy in 2012 & Beyond,” which will feature a keynote address by Professor Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School.

Stickers affixed to New York subway seats by an Occupy Wall Street affinity group present some uncomfortable truths for New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority.

#Scott Walker signed four ridiculously oppressive measures into law without even announcing them: Senate Bill 202 repeals Wisconsin’s equal pay law, making it more difficult and expensive to women who are being discriminated against by their employers to file suit against them; Senate Bill 237 repeals the state’s comprehensive sex education law, replacing it with a curriculum that stresses abstinence over medically accurate information about sex; Senate Bill 306 further restricts abortion and adds criminal penalties to doctors in the state; and Senate Bill 92 bans private insurance coverage of abortion. His recall vote is June 5.

#In terms of foreclosures, 2012 may be worse than 2010. And it’s only April.

Photo: Alan Wilfahrt

#A judge has temporarily halted the release of the UC Davis pepper spray report, even though police officers’ names had already been redacted.

#The Department of Homeland Security won’t explain its order of 450 million hollow point bullets. Perhaps the agency is too busy detaining and harassing journalists as they try to enter the U.S.

#The U.S. is the world’s number one purveyor of Internet censorship software.

#Surprise, surprise: Banks fail to maintain foreclosed homes in minority neighborhoods.

#Here’s a People’s Library update.

#Occupy Arrests reports 6,858 arrests of activists affiliated with the Occupy Movement since September 17, 2011.

This week’s roundup was once again brought to you in conjunction with Occupy ALL the Updates, curated by citizen journalist and Occupy News Expert SIUKittyPie.

Want to report news about your occupation or meetup? Email us at occupymedia@gmail.com.

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