I’ve been trying to write this blog for a few days now but it’s just been too difficult. Too many tears have been cried, too many times I’ve had to stop because it just got too much. The entry I wrote Saturday night was so easy to write because I was still full of anger and adrenaline from the things I saw and experienced in Oakland that night (#j28). Since Monday, it’s just been grief, sadness, trauma, fear … you name it. Much like after the OccupySF eviction from Justin Herman Plaza on December 7, I resorted to my old nemesis compulsive overeating to try to fill that void in my heartspace. Typically, I ignore that little whisper of the addiction talking, but I just gave in this time. The pain was too great and I just wanted to feel good and have some goodness take over. I can’t get caught in the same self destructive cycle again and again and again. That’s what ‘they’ want. We’re supposed to be cowed and broken and intimidated by the violence. That’s why it’s used against us, and used so freely and indiscriminately with little accountability by those that order and act out the violence.
I can’t pinpoint what exactly is causing me to feel this way. Is it the mass arrest outside of the YMCA and knowing that 400 people who are trying to fight for a better world were going to be in jail for an unknown period of time? Is it that between 40 and 50 of them are people I know either directly, part of my Occupy Tribe, or indirectly via Twitter and occasional face to face meetings at events? Was it the police brutality I saw: the beatings, the knees on faces and necks, the pushing of people to the ground by cops two, three even four times their size? Or was it that the police tried to arrest me 3 times, one of which I believe resulted in the possible injury and arrest of two other protesters? Is it worth it to probe? Does it matter? Should I just concentrate on the psychological and spiritual components of the damage and stop trying to dig out the causes?
These are questions I have that need answers. This is why I’m seeking professional help. I get triggered easily and I have panic attacks, or I’ll just burst into tears. Sometimes sounds make me remember things from that night or even all the way back to the OccupySF eviction. I was helping a friend move on Wednesday morning and a situation happened and I felt helpless and it brought me right back to that moment when I caught up with the march only to see the police closing around them. That utter helplessness knowing all those people need help and I was powerless to do anything. Seeing that kid get hit by a police baton after he had been knocked to the ground, but realizing the officer was too far away to get a badge # and being thankful that it wasn’t me or anyone I knew and that I couldn’t hear him scream.
A lot of new feelings and experiences like survivor’s guilt. Or this weird shame and victim blaming where it’s like “i shouldn’t be upset by police brutality or mass arrest. We’re breaking the law.” Right now, i’m like “fuck that shit, fuck the law and fuck the police. It’s wrong.” But I wasn’t always feeling that these last few days, and sometimes i go back and forth, or sometimes i think we deserved to go through this retroactively because of the city hall break in. There’s a grief aspect to it too. Doubt. Vulnerability. There’s a bit of shame and feeling that i’m a coward because i didn’t charge through those cops to try to rescue the kid, or charge through the cops to try to break people out of the police cordon, despite the rational part of me knowing that would have been futile, felonious and possibly injurious. The mass arrest really is bothering me too. The uncertainty of it all. The knowledge that a lot of people probably would be mistreated and people would just brush it off to a few “bad apple cops” when in reality that whole ship is rotten. There’s so much more. The more I look, the deeper the rabbit hole seems to go into new unplumbed levels of sadness and rage and impotence. I feel so small inside and so weak and when i start crying (which happens a lot) i feel even worse, despite knowing damn well that I shouldn’t. I feel awful that people in communities of color have been dealing with this for decades and we white people just left them to rot and deal with it for so long and brushed off their complaints and the reports, or if we did hear it we didn’t listen and just attributed it again to those “bad apples”. I’ve worked against police brutality in the past, I’ve read about it but none of that prepared me for actually seeing it and almost being subject to it and I cannot emphasize that enough. I cannot emphasize enough about how jarring it is to see that childhood myth shattered with every baton swing. They aren’t even supposed to swing their fucking batons! The blatant disregard for their own departmental guidelines, let alone state and federal guidelines.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling these things. The state uses violence to keep us in line. It keeps people at home, it keeps them from marching, from striking, from daring to think or dream that this world could be different. Violence, humiliation, despair, austerity cuts, banker bonuses, all violence. Apathy is violence. Poverty is violence. Social and economic injustice is violence. Smashing a window or throwing rocks and bottles at the cops, while not violent, is useless. It’s masturbation and a few peacock feathers to show off during mating season and all it serves is the ever present, thunderous media narratives on the violent ravaging ‘other’. Real weapons are empowerment, education, outreach, alliance building, liberated hearts and minds. You can really ‘fuck the police’ by presenting them with a well motivated, educated and excited show of numbers that just doesn’t give a fuck about them. Aquapy! Chalkupy! Bubble Bloc! Dance parties! Book Clubs! We’ve got a world to change, but if we continue to get caught up in a cat and mouse game of back and forth skirmishes, they will win because they have a better PR machine, better logistics, and they have fear and violence and uncertainty to keep people in front of their televisions cursing you for intruding into their little bubble.
Part of me wants to go into a tangent on race and class and talk about poverty, police brutality and empowerment versus the illusion of empowerment, but I think I’ll save that for when I’m in a better head and heartspace, and I’ll just continue to sort of air out my thoughts and my heart and soul here. I’m doing this because it is important. I am extremely privileged to have people from all walks of life, from all areas of the political spectrum, and from all of the classes in American society in my life. I have a unique ability to get this out there, to show people the realities that people of color have been living with for decades in cities like Oakland, and really, all over the country. This is not just ‘a few bad apples’. It’s a few bad apples if there’s one or two incidents of abuse across the whole country and they are vigorously pursued and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This a systemic problem and it’s an epidemic. Where previously it was largely meted out ot people of color, and a problem that was not readily understandible or visible to middle and lower class whites in the United States (yay propaganda!), it is now an epidemic of state violence being used against a population that is waking up. We are waking up to the disgusting and intolerable blasphemies of our socioeconomic system. We don’t need and aren’t accepting of racism in our lives anymore. We aren’t scared of some dark skinner ‘other’; some bogeyman who is going to tip toe into our house and steal our television and our blonde haired and blue eyed daughters; the immigrant come to steal our jobs; the infidel come to fly a plane into our buildings. Those lies don’t work anymore. The insidious and subtle efforts of the state to ensure racial divides are failing, especially as the Decolonization movement and the various anti-oppression working groups rise out of the occupations and flood onto the internet. Suffering the same injustices, feeling the same bite of poverty and need and the callousness and unwillingness of our government to help any of us out are really helping dissolve those lines. It’s not perfect and there are speed bumps to this process, but we’re finding out that we all bleed the same when being beaten by police, we all cheer when YMCA opens its doors and lets us through. For the first time in a long time, maybe even ever, white people are learning about privilege and people of color are willing to listen and to teach. There’s old hurts that need to be healed, but it’s happening, and in the face of police brutality we’re learning what comrade, community, tribe, solidarity, cooperation and safety mean.
I got involved with Occupy Wall Street because I have been waiting for this my entire life! I came for the Revolution. I didn’t go down to OccupySF to protest for 45 minutes and then go home. This is a long struggle. It’s the right struggle because this world isn’t working anymore and we deserve better. It is 2012 and children are starving to death or eating cookies made of clay because their food is sent elsewhere so fat Americans and Euros who are dying from overeating can have bananas for a dollar. It’s 2012 and we’re still fighting over the color of someone’s skin or what invisible sky grandpa they may or may not worship. Christ, we’re fighting over where someone sticks his dick or her tongue and whether that’s right or they deserve equality. This movement is the first and best and maybe last chance to get things right for all of us. I joined it because it was the right thing for me and gives me the best chance at having a world I could be confident bringing children into and I could fight for those who couldn’t fight for themselves.
The media would have you believe that Occupy is doing you a disservice that the movement has evolved into a battle with the police over the first amendment, but is that not important? Don’t you see the trick there? Either we fight for social and economic justice, or we fight for free speech. We cannot have both? We must rob Peter to pay Paul and the media is exceptionally skilled at making you think we only have one thing to choose from. I’m not going to be cowed by this violence. I will continue peacefully assembling, marching, agitating, organizing and inspiring. I will continue in my duties as a medic and I will continue networking and empowering. We’re responding to the violence and the disproporational use of force this past Saturday the 28th with a General Strike on May 1st, with increased resolve, increased organization, and increased communication between the various Occupations. You cannot keep us down. You cannot evict an idea once it is rooted in the hearts and minds of a people. You cannot win. I, and others like me, will not succumb to this terror in the way you wish. These attacks make us more radical, these attacks make our bonds stronger and these attacks make us fight harder and longer for a better world.
Winter is here, but Spring is coming.
NOTE: if you want to read my ‘notes from an occupation’ series, just click on the tag to the left. it will let you read all 15 of them plus the little extras that i grouped in. <3 Part 1 of this blog can be found here: http://scottrossi.tumblr.com/post/16693276441/notes-from-an-occupation-14-shock-and-awe-or-how-i <3