Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Left Forum

A post by manyfesto, reality check: American radicalism, offers a critique of what passes for the professional Left typified by the annual Left Forum in NYC. In doing so, she celebrates the lives of abolitionist John Brown and Fred Hampton cut short by the state in their refusal to take a less confrontational stance against injustice. There's much I'd agree with, some I'm not so crazy about, but Connor Kilpatrick, editor at Jacobin Magazine, tweeted this curious response:

"When ultraLeftists [ed. Jacobin: All the bullying rhetoric of Lenin with none of the political relevance!] cite 'John Brown' to disparage 'wimpy' socialists:
So I just read some silly ultra-Left critique about how folks going to Left Forum aren't *real* radicals because none of us are planning a raid on Harper's Ferry.
The dumb thing about evoking John Brown as a *real* radical and regular old American socialists/Marxists as wussies is that it ignores the decades of abolitionist and anti-slavery politics that came before it, including the development of three political parties, one of which actually had--you know--sitting congressmen, the third one being just a year away from winning the presidency..."

Leaving aside the snarky distortion of manyfesto's point (because surely advocating greater sacrifice and fewer insular $65 conferences - $20 poor people discount! - can only mean following precisely the example of taking over an armory), Kilpatrick's history is muddled at best, God awful at worst. Reading his account of the abolitionist movement, one would come away thinking it's only because of the steadfast work in the realm of electoral politics and slow build reformism that abolitionism succeeded in contrast to ultraLeftist idols like John Brown who benefited from a pro-abolitionist culture they created, which is a very comforting thought for publishers that trade on endlessly promoting party politics and shaming anyone who'd devote their efforts to anything outside this narrow strategy.

Most infuriating is Kilpatrick's reflexive attempt to put Harpers Ferry outside the context, as opposed to a culmination, of other abolitionist agitation, and does so without rationalization. Brown's personal organizing began as early as 1846, including both of the speeches and pamphlet distributing variety (and no one is saying there's anything wrong with this) and the direct action variety including assisting those coming through the Underground Railroad in helping set up their lives and protecting them by force if necessary (an important role distinguishing him from the many pacifists in the abolition movement).

More important than Brown's personal legacy is the broader abolition movement. Some 250 slave rebellions preceded the raid on Harpers Ferry and several decades of organized, nonpolitical agitation preceded any party platforms or legislation. Reasonable debates can happen around causality in writing about history (the effectiveness of Brown's raid in directly forcing a national confrontation on slavery, for example) but not chronology, and suggesting that political organizing preceded direct confrontation is entirely backwards, and the dynamics operate in the exact opposite direction Kilpatrick suggests. To put it another way, politics is the negotiations of reacting (or not reacting as the case may be) to populist confrontations and anyone interested in a political agenda ought to see the primacy of outside agitation. He should try reading Jacobin sometime:

"Slaves were not and could not be “given” their freedom because they had always had it: it had required a great deal of violent force and political work to keep them enslaved, and when that force was removed—as the South collapsed politically and militarily—they began to act like the human beings they always already were, organizing, moving, and seizing their destinies in their own hands. At this point, the game was up; just as the institution of slavery had always depended on substantial governmental enforcement and support, it would have taken a substantial amount of violent force to re-impose it, a concerted project to re-establish slavery that no one in the north had any particular stomach for. At the end of the Civil War, to put it simply, the North had a simple choice: re-imposing slavery by force or accept the new reality. They chose the latter."

As is often the case, celebrating the successes of electoral and party strategy is largely predicated on defining success as victories for electoral and party politics and not the actual implementation of policy goals. ("Huzzah! The state made a Proclamation to stop propping up the institution of slavery. Chalk up another win for the state!") The hard work of realizing abolition, as Aaron Bady put so well, existed predominantly outside of Washington and in the hands of people prepared to attack such institutions directly. If Kilpatrick wants to apply the lessons of the old abolitionist movement to a modern socialist movement then what he ought to be calling for is several decades of outside agitators building up the viability of confrontation until a craven political party can come along and finally acknowledge what by that time had become a foregone conclusion.

As something of a post script, Kilpatrick later tweeted a couple of silly passive aggressive remarks about William Lloyd Garrison, the famous abolitionist known for "anti-politics" approach:

Again, his history is just shit on abolitionists. Garrison and Phillips split on continuing the American Anti-Slavery Society (Garrison saw that their work on the single issue was done and Phillips wanting it to transition it into the broader civil rights movement), but it's flat out false to say Garrison retired from his work as a social reformer. He stayed extremely active in civil rights and the women's suffrage movement.

The run up to Left Forum-type events predictably lends itself to discourse between those on the speaking/book deal circuit and those agitating outside the building (to be fair these aren't always two distinct factions). What I didn't expect was digging up a couple 19th Century abolitionist corpses to wag a finger at their ideological purity. Best of luck to the Jacobin editors in their quest of radical party politics (sincerely, I'm all for multi-faceted strategy), but call me crazy, I don't think redebating the slavery issue is the path toward building a vibrant and relevant Left.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

On Private Property, Structure, and Reappropriation

We call this an Occupation, but occupation is a vague and valueless term. The US occupies Iraq (and continues to, in spite of recent headlines, with private mercenaries), Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Palestine through its unwavering support of the Israeli government. When we want to inflate our jobs to belonging to a "professional" class, we call them occupations, but fail to recognize how it is the job that occupies our time and often leave unexamined the question of whether our time is well spent. Recently, in reference to a number of actions including Occupy Our Homes, activists have increasingly spoke of this being a movement of liberating space. This comes closer to an expression of values, and values I can get behind. However, there is a better, more accurate word for what we do in physically holding open, visible space - reappropriation.

Recognizing this as reappropriation is crucial, because it places two critical demands on the occupiers:

1. To utilize this space in a way that is more beneficial to society than it was being used prior.
2. To challenge the underlying moral or ethical legitimacy of prior ownership.

In the case of OWS, the first criteria is an easy one to meet. At it's height, Liberty Square held a kitchen that provided free meals to 2,000 people every day (including vegetarian, vegan, and occasionally gluten-free options); a medical tent staffed with trained doctors and nurses who provided free treatment to anyone and everyone who came; a free library with thousands of books tracked by a reference desk; a comfort station that provided blankets, coats, sleeping bags, etc.; a composting area and water filtration system; daily teach-ins on topics like alternative economics and student debt slavery; free internet and power supplied by solar panels and bike generators; and, most importantly, a community striving to do away with the patterns of force, coercion, and exploitation. Occupy Boston has made a wonderful attempt at quantifying it's value here. Looking at their breakdown, it's clearly a conservative estimate that doesn't include clothing and medical, but even still, the $574,900 estimate dwarfs the donations that have come into their occupation.

The second criteria requires a more radical stance, one that rejects private property. Private property and land ownership are the bedrock of capitalism and statism, respectively. (Side note: This is really why it's so strange to see people *cough* Michael Moore *cough* say OWS isn't anti-capitalism. It is in method, practice, and tactics. Sorry, we're all just going to have to deal with that.) The irony is that OWS can't take "public" parks in NYC, because they don't really belong to the commons, they belong to the state that strictly enforces closing hours and bars camping or structure.

Modest as it may seem, a few tents and structure represent a real challenge to the traditional power structure, and the way the state has cracked down on these occupations is proof enough of that. Further proof is the lazy, defensive conflation in the media of a couple broken widows by the black bloc in Occupy Oakland with "violence." (For the record, I don't support these actions and without getting into it, I'll simply wholly endorse this piece by Boots Riley.)

In Occupy DC, which has much looser laws with respect to structure than New York, we see what happens when they attempt to evolve beyond a tent city. Legally they were allowed to have "prefabricated, modular and mobile structure" and attempted to erect this:
It's a big, beautiful stand that met all the legal requirements, and the cops took it down in a manner of hours. Structure represents something powerful. It says we're not going anywhere. It says we don't ascribe to the belief that ownership comes from on high. We hold this space because we're making best use of it right now. @OccupyKSt put it perfectly (and in perfect contrast to the black bloc tactics), "This structure is our way of escalating without being destructive; you can 'smash' the status quo without smashing anything."

Tomorrow, we're going to try and retake Duarte Square, privately owned by Trinity Church, the third largest owner of property in NYC and the largest in lower Manhattan. The NYSE is on their property, property acquired through the Church of England in 1697. It is a vacant lot with no plans of development for years. It sits very visibly in front of the Holland Tunnel. Let's reappropriate.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Panta Rhei

Enough people ask me what I think will ultimately come of the Occupy movement that you'd think by now I'd have a nice, clean soundbite answer at the ready. But the truth is I don't and I probably won't until it's already come. The best I can offer is to point to other populist movements in history (while acknowledging that this particular movement is unique from anything we've experienced before), and note that our only role is to push as hard as possibly and allow the outside world to react. They can either read the writing on the wall, and try to diffuse this agitation with a big piece of compromise legislation (as FDR did with the New Deal to squelch the labor movement), or risk a full-blown uprising.

I do, however, know what I hope will come of Occupy: I hope we will grow and spread. I hope we will occupy every facet of society - in our workplace, our government, and our homes. I hope we will fundamentally transform the way we organize as a society and ultimately the way we relate to each other as human beings.

I will kindly wait for you to unroll your eyes.

Of course, the predictable reaction is to dismiss me outright as an arrogant naïf. But in reality, it is the resignation to the status quo, to the permanent, immovable, everlasting present-day system, that is the height of naivety. To think what we have here is the logical conclusion of societal organization is the height of arrogance. Rest assured, you'd be in plentiful company throughout history, undoubtedly the monarchs, feudal lords, and many of their servants felt the same way about their conditions. But change and evolution is all we have ever known and all we will ever know. And revolution is the only societal constant.

Revolt is fluid. And acts of revolution can exist in infinite graduations. On the most modest end we find simply declaring to oneself that they find the current state intolerable and everything spills out naturally from there. There are also infinite graduation in terms of meaning in acts of revolts. On the more modest end of this spectrum we might find something like jaywalking, undeniably an act of revolt, but not a particularly meaningful one.

The difficulty comes in trying to reconcile which acts of revolt spill into the most meaningful influence. Historians, anthropologists, sociologists have all tried to determine the conditions for revolution, but it always struck me as such a fruitless endeavor. There's simply too many variables and it's often logistically impossible to draw a causal chain of reactions.

So here is where the Occupy movement really inspires me, and truly makes me hopeful. It seems apparent to me that we're on the cusp of a new international age of revolt against the failures of representative democracy (or at least these familiar parliamentary forms of representative democracy). At least this is how I'm interpreting the general sentiment of people I've talked with who insist their grievance is more systemic than policy. Even if they can't articulate it exactly, they know they want something more reflective of the masses, the rhetorical 99%. This is wholly unfamiliar territory as to how we to combat such a system and consciously move toward a more directly democratic, more decentralized form approaching self-governance. What Occupy offers, though, is a seemingly unlimited resource for acts of revolt. Every day offers a new tactic (people are starting to occupy foreclosed homes), a new direct action (shutting down the Port of Oakland had a larger tangible immediate impact than the Boston Tea Party), a new economic push back (student debt pledge of refusal), and a constantly evolving horizontal process.

So apologies, but I don't really give a damn about people whose criticism amounts to sniping from the sidelines at us being "unfocused" or "utopian" or "too radical" or "not radical enough." Because at long last someone's actually trying something, anything, in this country. And the more acts of revolt we do and longer we last, the better chance one of these acts of revolt will ripple into something even more meaningful. This is all I hope for, and indeed all I can hope for.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rule By Law

“If large numbers of people believe in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech even if the law forbids it. But if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.” -George Orwell

"We are a nation of laws. They [insert China, Libya, Syria, or whatever tyrannical flavor of the week you prefer] do no respect the rule of law." -Some politician or pundit on television at any given moment

There is, to put it bluntly, no such thing as rule of law. It is merely another farce in a long line of state propaganda designed to keep the masses soothed and docile. If you don't believe me chances are you've never tested the fringes of these laws or - even more to the point - never lived on the fringes of our "nation of laws." Tell a young black man in Washington Heights about his constitutional right to not submit to unlawful search and seizure and see if he doesn't stifle a laugh before telling you about stop and frisk procedures.

Following the OWS raid last Tuesday, we were informed at Duarte Square that we had actually won a court injunction and were legally permitted to reenter Zuccotti Park with our tents, structures, and other belongings. But, as our legal representative at the National Lawyers Guild was quick to remind us, "There is the legal world and then there is the real world." I suppose I've always known this, but before seeing the NYPD and Brookfield's private contract security, King Securities, illegally holding that park and preventing us from reentry in direct and knowing contempt of court, I never thought it so transparent. That court order was worth exactly no more than the paper it was printed on. The rule of law is only as meaningful as the muscle that enforces it. Regardless of whether the NYPD had a legal right to remove tents and structures earlier that morning (to say nothing of the way in which they went about tearing down those structures), they had absolutely zero legal ground on which to evict people from a space open to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The law is clear that Brookfield has to get permission from the city's planning commission to temporarily close the park in which case ample time should have been given to the occupiers to clear the space.

The state will conveniently come down on whatever powerless individuals or factions they find disruptive with the "full force of the law," but when these same laws are flagrantly violated by the powerful, the state will just as conveniently ignore them. Glenn Greenwald has written wonderfully and exhaustively on this topic in his new book (With Liberty and Justice For Some), but I would disagree with his ultimate assessment, at least semantically. It's not really that there's a two-tiered justice system, because that suggests there is an element of  proper process somewhere in the system or that an ultimately noble structure has been subverted by powerful people. It's really just the opposite, that this whole legal system is a facade - window dressing for the usual exertion of authority that's existed for thousands of years. On occasion this facade will crack a bit and genuine social justice prevails in the courts. It is then that we are reminded how irrelevant this whole process is as any decree is enforced or not enforced by whomever exerts the most power. Someone will ultimately have to physically put handcuffs on someone else and a legal document does not make that happen. Enforcement (or alternatively non-enforcement) can be literal power, as in the case with the NYPD. It can also be financial or bureaucratic power, as we see in the utter lack of conviction on any criminal behavior on Wall Street.

Though it may not be apparent, I find all of this tremendously positive and liberating. Laws are only as good as the underlying moral or pragmatic impulse they reflect. Many devastating things have been and continue to be perfectly lawful, while just as many perfectly fine (or at least innocuous) things have been and continue to be illegal. Which brings me back to the Orwell quote - the only resource the powerless have against the powerful are our numbers. Where our leaders like to smugly interpret our relative progression as a "nation of laws," it is really only the natural consequence of a population that will openly defy a more regressive, inwardly violent state.

The flip side of what happened in the raid on November 15 was roughly a month earlier, at the botched eviction attempt. Brookfield announced a "cleaning" of the park that was rightfully interpreted as a pretense for eviction, giving us time to consolidate our resources. What must have been 2,000-3,000 of us packed the park that morning, and though we didn't realize it at the time, our critical mass was unarrestable and the "cleaning" was indefinitely postponed.

None of this is to say our society is without guidelines and structure, and certainly not to say that we shouldn't have such things. At OWS we have "Principles of Solidarity" as well as a "Good Neighbor Policy," documents unanimously consented upon, with a list of encouraged and prohibited behavior. But these is no formalized "enforcement," there's a Mediation Working Group and a "Security" Team that ultimately consists of people walking around and making sure everyone's "mellow" (Security's words, not mine). More significant is the communal pressure for individuals to not endanger others or the movement at large, and outside of the occasional drunk or mentally ill, it works extremely well - as these societal pressures tend to work well at large whether we're aware of it or not. Laws that we find silly and inconveniently are likely to be disobeyed when no one's looking (e.g., not coming to a full and complete stop at a stop sign at 3 am), but the concerns of your community tend to be better motivators even when there's little to no risk of being caught (e.g., recycling).

The Occupy movement remains an inconvenient minority. Over 3,000 have been persecuted even under the laws that ostensibly protect them. And maybe this is why so many of us resist "demands," because even if they were met they could only be enforced through our numbers. All we can do is grow to a number so large that no laws can contain us.

Update: As it coincidentally turns out, the brilliant Arthur Silber wrote on this same subject outside the context of OWS. For a denser, more eloquent version of what I've written, check it out here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On November 15th

I keep thinking about what happened those 24 hours and it's been a constant cycle of emotions: intense anger at the state and the NYPD over the cowardice brutality in the dark of night; then sadness over all that was lost; and pride in knowing we built all of that in 60 days, and we can easily do it again. But invariable I come back to anger. So I'm just gonna recap my experience here and hopefully get it out of my system:

The text messages and twitter feed started blowing up around 1:30 am Monday morning. Occupy Wall Street was being violently, brutally evicted. I bolted immediately for Liberty Square, not really sure what value I could offer, but I had to be there if only to take one last look at my community. Trains ran slow and nowhere near that area of the financial district. Absolutely every aspect of this shut down was being done to minimize the public outcry. NYPD moved in like it was a war zone, literally bulldozing our infrastructure. There was liberal use of pepper spray/tear gas/batons. Little warning was given and no time offered for people to clear their personal belongings. In Oakland a few weeks ago, a couple of black bloc protesters broke off and smashed a window or two. Media declared vandalism by protesters. What happened on Nov. 15 by police was the deliberate destruction and discarding of people's private property by the entire NYPD - the literal definition of vandalism. How many media outlets describe it as such? Zero. They reveal their statist bias. For some of these people, they lost literally everything they own in this world. Vandalism is, if anything, too kind a word.

Arriving a little before 3:00 am, sprinting from Canal St. only to find the park barricaded and inaccessible from blocks away, even to media. NYPD pushed us north as a fellow protester showed me a youtube video already posted of the cops indiscriminately teargassing our beloved and completely peaceful kitchen crew. Worming my way around to the south side of the park I saw a couple familiar faces - two people righteously and defiantly walking back and forth on the little block of street they were barricaded in on and chanting - a mini-march on Wall Street. An impotent gesture? Maybe. But if we were going down, we were going down kicking and screaming.

Eventually word got around that people were congregating in Foley Square, so we organized a march with people at Wall St. to get up there. I helped pull a bin on wheels while people threw in whatever personal property they managed to salvage. At Foley, we consented to solidarity in our action and marched to a planned rally at Duarte Square to meet up with organized labor and interfaith spiritual leaders. I say this as a largely irreligious man, but when those priests, rabbis, imams marched into that square like the damn cavalry and everyone erupted in cheers, it gave me chills.

Then began the plan to occupy the adjacent lot. Owned by Trinity Church (who have been supportive of OWS) we took the reasonable chance that they wouldn't evict. At the moment they were holding a delegation to decide on granting us permission. Some hopped the wall until others cut through the chain link and about 50 of us piled into the unused lot. Then, the NYPD showed up in force. We were told this was trespassing and could mean up to a year in prison so I bailed. I was arrestable, but I wasn't that arrestable. At least 15 brave individuals stood their ground, while Amin, an organizer at OWS, acted as liason between the police, the protesters, and the radical priests come to get us released through Trinity Church (who despite their best efforts, could not get the property owners on the phone). Amin didn't enter the lot except to briefly relay what other parties had said verbatim to the protesters.

Just outside the lot one officer started pushing a couple of us with hate in his eyes - just a nasty, aggressive, power-crazed dude with too much testosterone coursing through his body. Pushing me into a wheelchair-bound woman behind me, I shouted "There's a woman in a wheelchair here, show some compassion!" At which point the officer standing next to him had to step in and calm his partner down. Even he seemed uncomfortable with what he and his fellow officers were doing at this point.

What followed was truly one of those awful images that stays with you. Amin, again standing outside the privately-owned lot was grabbed violently by three officers and hurled to the ground like a rag doll. No justification for why he was being arrested whatsoever at the time. The actual reason, I would imagine, is that the police have a very difficult time comprehending horizontalism. When all they know is the chain of command, they can't really comprehend power in any other form. So whoever is doing the most talking at any given moment is surely the clandestine secret leader of OWS and taking him/her down will surely leave the rest of us wandering around aimlessly. 

The rest of the cops moved in and started coming down hard on the 15 or so still in the lot. A lot of elbows and knees thrown. It's still unclear to me exactly what authorized the police action at Duarte Square. The private owners of the park gave neither permission nor request to leave. I'm not sure if the absence of either legally justifies police to call it trespassing, because presumably only the private owners of the private property can say if someone isn't permitted to be there. A high-ranking officer on site said he got the go ahead he needed, but it certainly wasn't Trinity that gave it. In any case, I can't imagine Trinity pressing charges so hopefully the legal ramifications are nonexistent.

By this point it was about 1 pm and we decided to march back to Zuccotti. Frustrations had boiled over and we marched directly in the street. The prevailing attitude seemed to be that we were tired of being the only lawful party in this conflict. This will be a major consequence of the mayor's actions: violently cracking down on law-abiding protesters only removes incentives to behave lawfully; might as well take this opportunity to be openly defiant.

We had a temporary restraining order on the city/NYPD/FDNY upheld by a lower-circuit court since 6 am. Legally, we had every right to retake the park, even as the city appealed to the New York State Supreme Court. But NYPD and Kings Security (a private firm hired by park owners Brookfield Properties) were barricaded inside, refusing to let us return in direct violation of the law. No reasons were given.

And so these illegal Occupiers held the park for nearly 12 hours. It wasn't clear who the leaders were and they did not have a clearly articulated list of demands. And some protest - they were only hanging out in the park. Don't these people have work to do? "Please disperse in a calm an orderly fashion!" I yelled in to no avail.

I talked to one of the private security guards who seemed nice enough and was sympathetic to our cause, but mostly his attitude about the eviction was "What's the big deal?"

Security: "When the ruling comes in you'll be back in the park."
Me: "You understand this is an appeal right? And legally you have to uphold the latest ruling, which says let us in. Right now you're in contempt of court."
Security: "You'll be let back in soon enough and look, you'll have a nice clean park."
Me: "Yeah a little too clean. We're missing a few things."

Bloomberg and the NYPD's strategy seemed to be ignore the legality until the legality is in their favor. They didn't want to have to let us back in immediately because it would mean we could have our tents and structures. Around 5 pm the ruling came in and we lost and they announced we'd be let back in with many caveats. There was now only one entrance and one exit among the barricades for the thousands to use - kudos Bloomberg on fixing the "fire hazard" that was Occupy Wall Street. Prohibiting tents and structure was to be expected, there's legal president for that, but now they would not be allowing sleeping bags, tarps, blankets, large bags (size not specified and cops seemed to be totally using their own discretion on the matter), etc. Basically, Brookfield went to the park, wrote a list of things any protester had on them, and made them against the rules. They also searched all bags upon entry. I went to one of the National Lawyers Guild team members (who are total bad asses by the way, not only fighting for us in court but putting themselves in the most dangerous areas of police crackdowns to observe arrests) and asked if he knew they were searching bags and how did this not constitute illegal search and seizure. "Certainly raises a lot of 4th amendment issues in my mind," he answered. It's also unclear to me how Brookfield can use tax-funded police to enforce private rules. They should legally have to use their own private security team.

But we had the park back. Within 10 minutes, the People's Library was back up, recollecting from scratch, but already had more books than when I first came to OWS 7 weeks ago. (I've just heard NYPD again confiscated their books, along with breakfast bars water, none of which are even prohibited in the new "rules.") By 7 pm we held our General Assembly on schedule, one of the largest GA's we've ever had. And November 17 looks to be a day of major response and nonviolent direct action.

All day, all week. Occupy Wall Street.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hundreds Rally at NYPD Headquarters to Stand with Occupy Oakland and Scott Olsen

Hundreds peacefully marched on One Police Plaza November 2, in solidarity with Occupy Oakland's General Strike and in response to the brutality that hospitalized Scott Olson, the 24-year-old Iraq War Veteran who had his skull fractured by a police projectile.

Leaving from Liberty Square at 5 pm, the march represented a powerful overlap of War Veterans and the People of Color Caucus, who have been protesting NYPD Stop and Frisk policies, as well as police shootings and brutality against people of color.

Upon arriving at the NYPD headquarters, a member of the People of Color Caucus addressed the crowd. “This building here looks like administrations. To The 99 percent who are people of color, this building is a tombstone. This tombstone has been the burial place of hundreds of people of color since the beginning of New York.”

Follow this, he asked that the crowd raise their hands and swear, “To protest under your first amendment rights whenever there's an act of brutality or other threats to the rights of communities of color.”

Also present was Marine Sgt. Shamar Thomas, who gained viral fame when he shouted down a number of police officers from intimidating protesters at the rally in Times Square on October 15. He briefly addressed the crowd saying, “You have a right to be here and the Vets are here to protect you!”

A few could be seen marching with orange mesh bands tired around their arms – cut and displayed as a trophy from the NYPD's kettle net confiscated by protesters during the October 26 march in response to the initial Occupy Oakland shutdown. Along with the standard chorus of chants that OWS protesters have become familiar with, the crowd could be heard shouting, “From Oakland to NYC, stop police brutality!”

There were several veterans and occupiers from Oakland and the Bay Area, including Allie, a medic from Occupy Oakland who was with Olsen after he was injured.

“I just want to thank Occupy Wall Street for the solidarity,” she said addressing the crowd, visibly emotional. “It means more to me than I can articulate to be here with everyone. Thank you and I love you.”

Army Specialist Jerry Bordeleau, member of Iraq Veterans Against The War, has been coming to Occupy Wall Street for a while, but felt it particularly crucial to stand with his fellow Veterans on this march.

“Scott Olson did not serve two tours in Iraq only to suffer a massive injury as a result of a police crackdown in a peaceful demonstration,” he said. “I believe that is especially important on our part as Veterans to get together and demonstrate our support for Scott Olson and the movement. We did not fight abroad only to come home and not exercise our rights that we bravely defended.”