Welcome Back: Anarchist occupy vacant CVS building in downtown Carrboro

February 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm (Building Occupations, Peoples' Assemblies, Squatting) ()

From Carrboro Commune

Carrboro/Chapel Hill anarchists occupy vacant building in the heart of downtown Carrboro. Here’s a text released by occupiers:

The end of 2011 saw a blossoming of self-organization and struggle across the US,as the Occupy movement illuminated people’s anger, imagination, and desire. Issues that had been simmering below the surface of political discourse exploded onto the public stage. From Oakland to New York, from Seattle to Chapel Hill, we started to find each other, to find that we are powerful. None of the tensions that catalyzed the movement have dissipated. Bosses, bankers, politicians, and police still hold our communities hostage—no armed evictions, government cover-ups, or election-year sloganeering can hide this. We have occupied this building in the spirit of this growing movement. This is not a temporary protest, but a permanent occupation intended to establish a social center in the heart of Carrboro, instead of the CVS that would have been here.

www.livestream.com/carrborocommune

The proposed CVS has faced near-unanimous local opposition. The building would be out of proportion for the location and a logistical nightmare for nearby neighbors. Local residents have repeatedly expressed that the site should serve some kind of community interest rather than corporate profits.Yet outside the zoning process, where at best we can delay the inevitable, the channels at Town Hall offer no meaningful way for affected community members to determine what should be here. We aim to provide such a venue by occupying this site and holding open assemblies.

This will allow local residents to come together, roll up our sleeves, and share a sense of real ownership over the site. This would be impossible were a corporate drug store to be located here.

This isn’t just about CVS. It’s about an economic system that prioritizes profit over people, a legal system that violently defends it, and a political system that rubber-stamps it. North Carolina is in the midst of a deep recession and budget crisis: education, libraries, healthcare, unemployment benefits, food and housing support, and other services face drastic cuts. Rather than wait for politicians to fix the problems they’ve created, we should be occupying the holdings of corporate profiteers so that people hurt by this crisis can directly decide how to use such resources for community benefit. Corporate and banking interests created this crisis; this occupation is one way of responding while creating something positive at the same time. The space, resources, and activities of our town should benefit everyone. We should have direct decision-making power over the resources of our neighborhoods and workplaces, rather than live at the mercy of speculating absentee landlords, out-of-state drug corporations, or town bureaucrats and politicians.

“Occupy” Squat, Seattle 2011
75 River, Santa Cruz 2011
Rachel Corrie Center, Olympia 2011

The violent eviction of last year’s peaceful Yates Building occupation demonstrates that the governments of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are willing to use potentially lethal armed force to protect the “right” of the wealthy to profit on empty buildings. We are here to show that we are not intimidated by armed police or their bureaucratic defenders. We will not live our lives in fear merely to relieve the political anxieties of a mayor who sips tea and quotes Gandhi while evicting demonstrators at gunpoint.

To that end, we once again encourage residents—in particular service workers, the unemployed and underemployed, the homeless, and those displaced by racist gentrification and outrageous housing prices—to imagine what this “really really free building” could be, free from the stranglehold of rent and the profit motive. A free health clinic? A mutual aid center to help people find work when the economy has failed them?
A community library or media center? A place for free childcare or a free school? Through open assemblies, we can decide together, rather than being forced to accept the decisions of an out-ofstate corporation guided only by profit.

Please join us, not just in supporting this occupation, but in making it your own. We have a world to win, and this is just the beginning. Imagine what this “really really free building” could be, free from the stranglehold of rent and the profit motive:
• A free health clinic?
• A mutual aid center to help people find work when the economy has failed them?
• A community library or media center?
• A place for free childcare or a free school?

Through open assemblies, we can decide together, rather than being forced to accept the decisions of an outof-state corporation guided by profit.

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On Move-In Day

January 29, 2012 at 3:33 am (Building Occupations, Squatting) (, )

From Applied Nonexistence:

There is something to be said about the response of state apparatuses against an escalation in what is being billed as a popular, broad-based movement’s progression of objectives.  This afternoon was a rather sobering experience for the activist-left in the East Bay – and it’s probably for the better in terms of the evolution of tactical praxis which will ideally follow today’s events.  This afternoon’s action can be read in multiple ways yet we believe that the two most pertinent points are as follows:

ONE:

The sheer impossibility of Occupy taking and the immediate defense by OPD of the Kaiser convention center, proves that the timbre of Occupy Oakland’s demands moving into the realm of the acquisition of private property (indoor space in particular) is much more confrontational, and by extension more desirable, than the tamer stages of Occupy’s initial forays into the repurposing of the public commons.  If the implicit threat of taking an abandoned building was enough to warrant such a response which, tactically at least, completely nullified any potentiality which may or may not have existed in seeing this objective to its fruition, then it is telling that it is precisely along these lines which such energy needs to be propelled and proliferated.  In national states which have a much more visible squatter’s culture (The Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Greece for example) the actual laws around the legitimacy of squatter’s rights and the legality of acquiring previously dormant physical spaces are actually much more lax than what we have here in the US.  Seen within this context, in the United States the occupation of private property with the aims of creating spaces for a distinct sociopolitical body is at once almost guaranteed to be impossible – but nonetheless desirable precisely because of this impossibility.

TWO:

Aside from the obvious critiques in terms of errors in the “on-the-ground” tactical maneuvering (i.e. bottlenecks at Laney/bridge-crossings, self-imposed kettling on E. 14th, linear confrontational exchanges in front of the Oakland Museum) we’d still like to make the case (the same redundant shit we here at AN always say) for “exploring” sites on the periphery.  While the carnivalesque atmosphere can often fulfill latent psychological manifestations for some individuals it often is not the most tactically sound site for engagement.  If anything it creates a veritable vacuum around the locus of contestation itself – and this is not something which has yet been explored in conjunction with high-profile events like today’s (this would look like “X” happens here, while “Y” happens here – where X is the much more high-profile and accessible action which commands ALL the resources of the authorities, and “Y” are a disparate number of smaller yet higher-stakes actions happening far away from the main spectacle).  While the locus always has an undeniable magnetism, laden with the desire to participate in narratives of resistance, the periphery is always more vulnerable and higher-stakes during such carnivalesque moments.  Explore the periphery.

Solidarity to the friends arrested and hurt. Solidarity to the FUCK THE POLICE 5 march about to pop of right now.

From Oakland with Love,

TEOAN

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Seattle: Water House Evicted

December 25, 2011 at 8:02 am (Building Occupations, Housing Occupations, Squatting) (, , , )

Police arrest three squatters in Central District

From The Seattle Times:

Three men were arrested late Friday night for unlawfully entering a house in the 1900 block of East Spruce Street and apparently damaging the interior with graffiti. They left garbage and open containers of food, and were cooking in the house with a portable gas stove, according to Seattle police.

Officers responded to a 911 caller who said multiple men and women were occupying the residence, which police said is under renovation. It is near a house at 23rd Avenue and East Alder Street that has been taken over by members of the Occupy Seattle movement since November.

Occupy Seattle protesters said those arrested in the Spruce Street house were also members of their group. About 30 of them gathered outside the house to voice support for those inside as police, including SWAT team officers, surrounded the house.

The protesters, who said their occupation of several houses around Seattle is a demonstration against foreclosures, repeatedly heckled the officers and chanted things like “this is what a police state looks like.”

Someone commented on the Central District News blog that people have been occupying that house since Dec. 12.

The suspects will be booked into King County Jail for charges including criminal trespassing, property damage and weapons violations.

Police raid home at 19th and Spruce, 3 alleged squatters arrested:

From Central District News:

Three men were arrested in a nighttime raid of a house at 19th and Spruce December 23 after neighbors told police people were squatting in the under-renovation house.

Occupy Seattle got word of the eviction out, and several people showed up to protest.

The three people arrested were booked into King County jail on charges of criminal trespassing, property damage and weapons violations, police say.

@ThatGirlKatt was there and tweeted photos from the scene:

SPD says they first got reports of the occupants December 23, but a CDN community post from December 21 suggests several people (and a dog) have been living there since December 12.

According to King County records, Mountaincrest Credit Union purchased the house out of foreclosure August 28.

Here’s SPD’s take on the raid:

In the afternoon hours of December 23rd witnesses called 911 to report multiple male and female subjects who had unlawfully entered and occupied a residence under renovation in the 1900 block of East Spruce Street.  Nobody was currently living in the house and the witnesses knew that the subjects occupying the residence did not to live there.

Officers arrived on scene and broadcast over their public address system for the subjects inside the house to come out.  After the third public broadcast by officers was ignored, officers made entry into the residence and discovered two adult male suspects inside who had no legal right to be there.  Another male suspect was attempting to enter the house when contacted by officers.

Preliminary investigation indicates that the suspects entered the house and subsequently damaged the interior of the house with graffiti.  They also left garbage, open containers of food, and were cooking inside the house on a portable, gas-operated stove.

Officers took all three adult male suspects into custody for charges including Criminal Trespassing, Property Damage and weapons violations.  Other criminal charges may be forthcoming.

All three suspects will be booked into the King County Jail.

This remains an active and on-going investigation.

The Occupy Seattle Twitter account questioned the police action shortly after the raid ended:

Squatting has become more and more common (or more conspicuous) as part of the Occupy movement. An unfinished duplex at 23rd and Alder has been occupied by a collective of people since mid November. That group of unnamed defendants have been summoned to court for eviction. The court date has been set for December 28.

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Occupy Atlanta Helps Save Iraq War Veteran’s Home From Foreclosure

December 19, 2011 at 10:54 pm (Building Occupations, Housing Occupations, Squatting) (, )

A scene from Occupy Atlanta's first housing takeover in Gwinnett, Ga.

By , The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — In a tangible victory by the Occupy movement, Occupy Atlanta has successfully helped save an Iraq War veteran from foreclosure.

Activists began occupying Brigitte Walker’s home on Dec. 6. By the end of that first week, JPMorgan Chase, which owns her mortgage, began discussing with the activists and Walker the possibility of a loan modification. Chase’s modification offer became official Monday morning. The offer will result, Walker tells The Huffington Post, in hundreds per month in savings.

Before Occupy Atlanta set up its tents on her lawn, Chase had set an eviction date for Jan. 3. Now, Walker, who lives with her girlfriend and her two children, will get to stay in her Riverdale, Ga. home.

“I strongly believe Occupy Atlanta accelerated the process and helped save my home,” Walker says. “If it had not been for them standing up, I probably wouldn’t be having this happy ending.”

Chase did not return a request seeking comment.

Tim Franzen, an organizer with Occupy Atlanta, credits Walker and her story with bringing Chase to the bargaining table.

“Her story is compelling,” he tells HuffPost. “I think that’s one of the things that drew us to her home — just very clear injustice on a woman who had literally been injured in one of our wars and suffered legitimate hardship. When Chase suffered their hardship, they were just given all this money.”

Walker, 44, joined the Army in 1985 and had been among the first U.S. personnel to enter Iraq in February 2003. She witnessed fellow soldiers die and get maimed. She saw a civilian embedded with them get killed. “It was very nerve-wracking,” she says. “It makes you wonder if you’re going to survive.”

Walker’s tour in Iraq ended in May 2004 when the shock from mortar rounds crushed her spine.

Doctors had to put in titanium plates to reinforce her spine, which had nerve damage. Today her range of motion is limited, and she still experiences a lot of pain. She struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. Loud noises and big crowds are difficult for her to face. Even the Fourth of July is a challenge.

She settled in Riverdale, a town outside of Atlanta, after purchasing a house in 2004 for $139,000. She has a brother who lives in the area and enjoyed it when she would visit him. “It seemed peaceful and quiet,” she says. “That’s what I needed.” Her active duty salary covered the mortgage.

The house, she says, means a lot to her. It was her last big purchase while she was still on active duty.

In 2007, the Army medically retired Walker against her wishes. “I thought I was going to rehab and come back,” she said. “But they told me I couldn’t stay in.” Walker now has to rely on a disability check.

After retiring from the Army, Walker used up her savings. She got rid of a car to help pay her monthly mortgage payment. “I didn’t have problems until they put me out of the military,” she said. “It was just overwhelming.”

By April of last year, she was starting to fall behind on her mortgage. Chase began foreclosure proceedings.

Occupy Atlanta did not crowd Walker’s lawn when they moved in. On the same day that Occupy Atlanta moved into Walker’s property, the activists had also begun occupying another family’s home in downtown Atlanta. Occupiers had deemed the Atlanta property in more imminent jeopardy and devoted more resources there. Walker had only a skeletal crew defending her turf. They never had more than eight people sleeping at the Walker home; on some nights, they had as few as three sleeping on site. At the peak, they had 15 working in Riverdale.

The handful of activists proved more than enough. Within the past two weeks, activists repeatedly canvased the neighborhood’s more than 240 homes, helped identify 15 abandoned properties, conducted graffiti removal, and helped spur a neighborhood watch program. In one instance, the activists said they recovered stolen goods stored in one abandoned home. “We knew where to look,” Franzen says. “It was one of the homes we had cleaned up already.” They started an Occupy Riverdale and began holding general assembly meetings in Walker’s garage.

A recent meeting in Walker’s backyard this past Saturday brought out about a dozen neighbors who addressed local issues like juvenile crime and those abandoned properties. Occupy Atlanta is hoping to convert one of the properties into a community center.

The vacancies have become Topic A. “Neighborhoods have all these empty shells,” Franzen says. “It holds the neighborhood hostage. Many had windows boarded up. Many have been havens for crime. Many have been empty for five years. They are empty because the banks make a little bit more on the insurance.”

The canvasing and birth of a suburban Occupy group replicated Occupy Atlanta’s efforts in Gwinnett County. In early November, Franzen and Co. had taken up residence with the Rorey family in an attempt to save their home from foreclosure. The effort proved unsuccessful but helped them identify other families in need.

The lessons learned from Gwinnett paid off in Riverdale, Franzen says. “This brings our protest out of the symbolic and into an actual, practical, tangible win,” he explains. “Wins like these are going to be so important. We don’t just want people to root for the symbolism of what we stand for. We want people to be empowered to save their own homes.”

Franzen says Occupy Atlanta would be looking to takeover another home at the beginning of the new year.

Walker, who hadn’t decorated the house for Christmas because of the foreclosure proceedings, now is looking for a tree. She has one in mind: “A live tree — one of them nice big fluffy ones that smell like pine. I don’t want no fake trees. I want it to be real.”

Watch the video: A Day in the Life of Occupy Atlanta

 

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Occupying housing from the Pope Squat to Occupy Toronto

December 19, 2011 at 10:48 pm (Building Occupations, Housing Occupations, Squatting) (, )

The Pope Squat building of 2002. Photo: The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

By Mick Sweetman, Rabble.ca

It was a sweltering afternoon in late July 2002 when the armoured vehicles of the Toronto Police Emergency Task Force pulled up in front of our building. Quickly we started barricading the door with an old desk, if they were coming to kick us out we weren’t going to make it easy for them. We waited tensely as the cops approached the door with submachine guns drawn. Our crime? We dared to take over an abandoned building in the middle of a housing crisis. We all survived that early raid and were eventually allowed back into the building where we lived for the next three months — dubbing it the “Pope Squat” as we occupied it during the pontiff’s visit to Toronto.

Almost 10 years later, squatting is on the agenda again as Occupy activists who have been kicked out of public parks have started taking over empty buildings. At the end of November, the “Occupy Toronto squat team” occupied the basement of a city-owned building at 238 Queen Street West and asked for the building to be leased to them for 99 cents a year. They were evicted by police a mere eight hours after going public. The same problems that we faced a decade ago are still here and a new generation of activists are taking up the fight.

Under orders from Mayor Rob Ford to cut costs, the City of Toronto recently sold 706 homes owned by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation. Meanwhile, waiting lists for social housing in the greater Toronto area have hit 87,715 people according to a 2010 data request by the Ontario Non Profit Housing Association. A report from the Wellesley Institute notes that spending on social housing at the federal level was cut from 43 per cent to 29 per cent between 1989 and 2009 and one in eight Toronto households involuntarily pay 30 per cent or more of their income on housing.

Threats of in-your-face public squats returning as a regular protest tactic echoed off a large boarded-up Victorian house at 240 Sherbourne Street during a rally for housing on Nov. 26 organized by Stop the Cuts and Occupy Toronto. As activists unfurled a banner reading “Housing now! Occupy! Resist!” from the front railing, Liisa Schofield from Stop the Cuts held up a megaphone and said, “Today we’re talking about the idea of occupying housing. We want to build towards the potential of actually taking them over, holding them, and defending them.”

When the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) took over the Pope Squat it wasn’t the building itself that was the most important aspect but rather the work that went into winning people over in the neighbourhood. We produced 10,000 copies of a newspaper featuring articles on the housing crisis and how squatting should be legal and distributed it door-to-door. It was actually through talking with the staff of a Parkdale agency that we first found out about the old rooming house at 1510 King St. West that was abandoned by its owners after failing to pay taxes owed to the city. Ultimately, it was through building public support, not a make-shift barricade, that we were able to keep the squat as long as we did.

“The Pope Squat really rooted us as an entity in that neighbourhood. After the Pope Squat you saw a lot of the OCAP membership not only organizing in Parkdale but living in Parkdale.” said Mike DeRouches a long-time organizer with OCAP, “People made friends in the neighbourhood and began to see themselves as residents there. People who lived there their whole lives were drawn into organization and the work that OCAP was doing. The Pope Squat in Parkdale really deepened the work that we did in that neighbourhood.”

Activists in Quebec City also took over an abandoned city-owned building in 2002 demanding it be turned into social housing. Nicolas Lefebvre Legault, a coordinator with the Comité populaire Saint-Jean-Baptiste recalls, “One of things we learned the hard way was if you don’t know how to negotiate yourself someone else will, and you will end up betrayed and used by other people or groups. If you’re going to start a struggle then you need to go to the end, which means that if you’re occupying a public building then the landlord will eventually be the city. We just used the media, we never asked for a meeting, we just said ‘Here’s our demands, read them, that’s all.’ And very soon the housing co-op negotiated behind our backs.”

A few years after the squat was evicted, one of the buildings was torn down by the city but the planned housing project that was negotiated by the neighbouring co-operative never happened. So Legault helped organize a committee of people who formed a new housing co-operative and started a long-term campaign to build social housing on the land. It took six years but today Legault’s family of four live in an apartment in the 80-unit complex on the site of the squat, as do two former squatters. Tenants in 40 of the units pay 25 per cent of their income in rent and the rest of the units rent below the average market rates.

“If you really want to win something at some point you need to get in contact and negotiate with the competent authorities.” said Legault, “You can do that transparently and publicly, you don’t need to do it behind closed doors, you can do it democratically and up-front and that’s what we did. The campaign was less flashy than the squat but it actually won.”

The need to win actual housing is acutely felt by Brandon Gray who is busy scouting empty buildings for Occupy Toronto protesters to squat. Sitting in a gritty diner on Roncesvalles Avenue with classic rock playing over the tinny speakers, one thing that worries Gray is the fact that there’s no legal protection for squatters in Canada.

“That’s one reason some folks who have found some potential squats are keeping it quiet and are really worried that if they go public they’ll get them snatched away from them by the police.” said Gray as he warily stirs his coffee when asked where the buildings are located.

“It’s tough when you have potential squats that you don’t want to make public because they’ll be taken away and on the other hand you have people screaming at the general assembly that they’re freezing every night and they need housing right now.”

One idea floated by Gray was a dual strategy of secret and public squats. Some squats would be kept quiet for the roughly 30 people from Occupy Toronto who are homeless. Meanwhile, a public squat which has a much higher risk of being evicted would be used for general assemblies and to protest the sell-off of social housing.

Whether the housing occupations will increase as the temperature drops or start fresh in the spring isn’t clear right now. Regardless, as Occupy transforms itself from a movement of people sleeping in parks into one that ensures that everyone has a roof over their head, it’s vital that we take the lessons of past occupations and apply them to the ones to come.

Mick Sweetman is rabble.ca’s news intern. He is based in Toronto.

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Anticapitalist activists convert empty bank and vacant lot into community spaces; police threaten reprisal

December 16, 2011 at 12:37 am (Building Occupations, Land Occupations, Squatting) (, )

Santa Cruz activists convert a vacant lot into a community garden. Credit: Creative Commons/Margaret Killjoy

By leila peachtree, The Precarious

SANTA CRUZ, CA- Santa Cruz raised the bar of what it means to “Occupy Everything” in two separate actions last week. Community members organized to convert two unused spaces into gathering places.

“I think it is important to directly reinsert ourselves as communities who need space to connect and share, to connect with one another outside of commercial space and monetary exchange,” said one protester, who like all who attended this action chose not to their names due to legal concerns.

Santa Cruz maintains strict laws: It is illegal to sit within 14 feet of any building, public bench, public telephone, public trash can, drinking fountain, bus stop, open air dining area, street or intersection or piece of public artwork; to sit on benches for longer than an hour; to blow bubbles; to hacky-sack.

Rejecting these laws and the broader capitalist system, hundreds occupied a vacant bank and turned an empty lot into a community garden.

Nearly 75 hours at 75 River Street

Covering the city, posters called for a Nov. 30 march that would lead to an empty property. “While many people are denied basic needs like shelter and social space, capitalism forces numerous spaces to remain empty and unused,” the poster read.

Around 2 p.m., Nov. 30, people assembled near the Occupy Santa Cruz encampment. Less than an hour later, approximately 75 people marched to the sounds of Lady Gaga and Dead Prez.

At a nearby Chase bank, protestors held a brief picket line before moving toward an empty bank at 75 River Street.

“I think some people thought we were going to picket Wells Fargo, but then we went to this one. A smaller crowd took to the building with a lot of excitement but a lot of them seemed hesitant. Within the hour a lot more people took it seriously,” said one protester.

As soon as the crowd moved into the bank, protestors unfurled two banners from the roof: “Occupy Everything” and “Reclaim Space, Reclaim Our Lives.”

Everyone was “running around like chickens with their heads cut off,” commented one protester, as they painted signs, erected barricades, claimed rooms and passed out candy that still stocked the vending machine.

By the time dozens of police arrived in full riot gear, the crowd had swelled to around 200. As the police tried unsuccessfully to enter the barricades, about 150 people linked arms to block the officers. After 20 minutes the police left with no arrests.

“Once we did that, we felt like we had it. It was this tiny victory that felt enormous,” said one occupant.

Over the next days, occupiers strategized with what to do next. Many wanted to turn the empty bank into a community space, but others found that action incompatible with the way the building was designed.

Dec. 3 occupiers decided to vacate the building. “It was this labyrinth, a cavernous space that wasn’t conducive to creating a community space,” said one participant.

The official reason for leaving was because it appeared that police were targeting individuals not involved in the occupation.

In a press release, Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel stated that the actions were, “senseless and childish and diverted our limited resources.” He also stated that the department intends to work with members of the District Attorney’s Office to identify those responsible for the trespass.

Despite the threat of police reprisal, the occupants of 75 River Street left inspired.

“I think that collective confrontation is a liberating thing, the sense of community that comes from reclaiming space is different from anything else,” said one participant.

The former Coast Commercial Bank was purchased three years ago by Wells Fargo and since has been left empty.

A Garden is Built

The same day the bank at 75 River Street was vacated, a new space was being created on an abandoned lot on Pacific Street in downtown.

Gardeners wearing orange vests and carrying sledgehammers arrived Saturday morning to find an empty lot full of cigarette butts, broken glass and concrete slabs.

Others decked in Santa hats and dressed as candy canes gathered on the same corner for the Annual Downtown Santa Cruz Holiday Parade. They asked the gardeners what they were doing. The reply: working on a city beautification project. Passerby vocalized support and even stopped to dig and break apart concrete.

Before the gardeners arrived, “it was horribly ugly looking. It was shocking how ugly it was; they put in a lot of effort and made it really beautiful really quickly. It really speaks to the vibe of Santa Cruz,” said one observer.

Supporters dropped off mulch and horse manure. The growing, evolving crowd cleaned up trash and broke the cement slabs into smaller pieces from which they built raised garden beds and benches.

By the end of Saturday, they had transformed the lot into a community garden replete with four raised beds planted with apricot tree seedlings, succulents and other drought tolerant plants.

“It helped to make that part of town nicer, which is what we need. It was a place for someone to stop in and read a book and relax,” said Arden, who owns a jewelry and art store across the street.

The space was only half finished. Sunday plans to create four more beds were put aside until everyone had a chance to recover.

“There wasn’t really the energy to finish it on Sunday,” one gardener said, “We were exhausted by the past few days. Some people were hanging out but nothing else was done.”

At 2 p.m. Monday, Datum Construction based out of Boise, Idaho, was scheduled to demolish the garden. Word spread and by 1 p.m. nearly 60 people had gathered to protect their new community center.

Protestors’ presence stalled the bulldozers for the day. Early the next morning, fences and police surrounded the garden.

“They planted a garden on private property and we took it out because that property is under construction to be improved anyway,” said Jason Reisinger, the construction manager with Datum Construction. He would not comment on what the planned improvement was.

Santa Cruz has a long history of radical actions. The most recent was a series of student occupations at University of California, Santa Cruz in 2009 to protest tuition hikes.

At that time in 2009 the words “Occupy Everything” were far from the public consciousness. Since the start of the Occupy Wall Street Movement Sept. 17 the words have gained widespread recognition.

“These continuous actions have sparked a certain use of language that began as kind of illegible by the broader population, but now they are part of the common discussion. It shows a movement building upon itself,” said one gardener. “I think that actions like this will serve as a form of experimentation, in terms of continuing to take spaces and hold them for longer, and we can learn to create something more cohesive and long lasting, here and everywhere.”

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Occupy Our Homes: Take Back the Land Has Lessons For Home ‘Liberators’

December 14, 2011 at 1:20 am (Building Occupations, Housing Occupations, Land Occupations, Squatting) (, , , , , , , )

Max Rameau is led away by a City of Miami police officer when he was arrested during a protest against the evictions being carried out at an apartment complex on June 15, 2010 in Miami, Florida. Rameau, who is the cofounder of the activist movement Take Back the Land, tried to prevent the eviction of tenants from the complex but was unsuccessful. According to the activists, the bank, which now owns the apartment complex, is forcing the current residents out and they have no other homes to move to. (Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

By , Huffington Post

MIAMI — Two years ago the Ramos family moved into a small house in the Little Haiti neighborhood here. They did so without a title, a lease, or permission from the property’s owner.

After the father’s construction company shut down, a victim of the housing crash, they couldn’t pay their rent. Their possessions were literally thrown on the street.

“For a time we were basically living in our car or at our friends’ houses — pretty much without a home,” Mr. Ramos said.

Now the Ramos family, naturalized citizens who spoke through an interpreter and asked HuffPost not to use their first names for fear of being kicked out, have succeeded in making the house a home. They cleared out the trash that drug users had piled in mounds. With a leafy lawn and a couple of dogs barking happily, the place looks pretty comfortable.

“For myself as a mother in the United States, this is the place that I’ve been the happiest in,” Mrs. Ramos said. “And in my consciousness this feels right. Instinctively it feels right.”

Many would simply call it squatting. But Take Back the Land, the Miami-based group whose members helped the family move in, calls it a home “liberation.”

According to the Census Bureau, in 2010 there were 1.6 million homes sitting vacant in Florida. A 2010 report estimated that 57,643 people go homeless on any given night. In between that unused capacity and unfilled need stands the law, which protects banks’ and other owners’ property rights.

On Tuesday, Occupy Wall Street will take the group’s unorthodox anti-foreclosure tactics national. Activists will move to “Occupy Our Homes” in a nationwide series of civil disobedience actions, challenging the big banks over the thousands of vacant homes across the country that lie empty even in the midst of a homelessness and foreclosure crisis.

“Here we have a chance to occupy and liberate: it’s a one-two punch and that’s what works,” said Max Rameau, the Haitian-born activist who has braved and sometimes endured arrest while defending families from eviction as part of Take Back the Land, a group that he helped found. The group is now listed on the Occupy Our Homes website as an “ally.”

Rameau’s “liberations” mostly helped people of color. “The Occupy side,” Rameau said, “has mainly happened with young whites.”

Now he hopes that with the help of the Occupy movement, community groups like his can mainstream their fight against the banks. But as Occupiers move into neighborhoods hit hard by the foreclosure crisis, they will be greeted by a confounding knot of problems that Take Back the Land has been wrestling with for years: race, responsibility and property.

Take Back the Land’s struggles in Miami started in a vacant lot in Liberty City. Fed up with gentrification, the group moved on October 2006 to set up a makeshift village of shanties made from shipping pallets and cardboard. They quickly rebranded the plot Umoja Village; the first word is Swahili for “unity.”

They were responding to the human impact of the housing bubble, what Rameau calls a mentality of “gentrification: buy low, fix up, sell high.”

In April 2007 the village burnt to the ground in a furiously quick fire. No one was seriously harmed. Just as it was forced out of its Liberty City lot, however, Take Back the Land was expanding its scope. The group’s playing field had become the whole state of Florida, hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

In February 2007, even as foreclosure filings dropped nationally over the previous month by 4 percent, Florida’s shot up by 63.5 percent, according to RealtyTrac. It was a harbinger of things to come.

After Mary Trody’s mother stopped making payments on the family’s house northwest of Miami, her family was evicted in February 2009 — but Take Back the Land and another local group that Trody is a member of, the Miami Workers Center, very publicly moved them back in, with TV stations, a crew sent by filmmaker Michael Moore, and the Miami Herald looking on.

The eviction was halted.

“If it’s worth fighting for, yes, I would say the same thing: take arrests,” Trody said. “That’s the only thing that’s going to make a difference. If we organize. If we stand together and try to show the world.”

The struggles Take Back the Land has encountered since late 2007 in legalizing their “liberations” may serve as lessons for the people taking part in Occupy Our Homes. Trody’s family house, for example, has seen a parade of four owners since the eviction defense, none of whom have been willing to settle on terms to let them stay.

Today, Take Back the Land has stopped moving in families to newly “liberated” properties. Rameau and other core members have left or are leaving Miami for other opportunities.

“We haven’t won homes. We haven’t changed people’s lives,” Rameau said. Without more public pressure on banks, he said, Take Back the Land’s successes could only be incremental.

“We were only doing defense,” Rameau said.

On Tuesday, with the help of Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Our Homes will begin. Activists in dozens of cities — some members of the Take Back the Land affiliates that have sprouted in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Portland, Washington, DC, and more — will be following the group’s example. They hope to shame banks into cutting mortgage payments or creating a “right to rent” foreclosed properties.

As actions begin, however, Take Back the Land members say the Occupiers should know what they’re getting into.

“Leak in the roof, water, electricity’s out, whatever minor issue — I think it’s something we did not necessarily foresee as becoming our responsibility, in terms of providing social services, which is what it ended up being in addition to it being a political organization. And that’s very stressful,” said Mamyrah Prosper, another activist with Take Back the Land.

The toll on families who move into “liberated” houses, too, can sometimes be taxing. Since Trody’s family defended their house, they have been living in it without any sort of agreement from its owners, under constant threat of eviction or arrest. The Ramoses have had their house broken into twice.

If occupiers are white, meanwhile, they may also end up moving into the black or Latino communities that have been hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis.

Rebecca Wood, a white, 30-year-old self-described anarchist who is a supporter of Take Back the Land, said the group “was very intentionally black-led and focused on working within black communities and working towards self-determination for those communities.”

“I think that that’s a pretty different goal than continuing the occupation through the winter,” she said.

Rameau drew a contrast between the mostly white “occupiers” and the more diverse “liberators.” The occupiers, he thinks, should take actions like sitting down in banks in “direct confrontation with core parts of the system.”

“How does that manifest itself for the liberate side?” he asked. “That manifests itself in home liberations.”

If and when the Occupiers move families into houses that they have not previously inhabited, they will be running up against some very strongly held beliefs about ownership.

The goal of Take Back the Land, Prosper said, was to change the framework: to make people think about “moving away from what’s legal versus illegal into just versus unjust.”

“Some of us just challenged the whole notion of private property, period,” said Prosper. “If you go that route so radically, you’re going to ostracize yourself.”

Still, there is precedent in the United States for squatters taking possession of homes. On New York’s Lower East side, residents were able to eventually gain control of buildings on East Seventh Street.

The Ramos family would welcome any help it can get. At the mention of the Occupy movement, Mrs. Ramos beams. She doesn’t ever want to leave her house, she said, “because as human beings we have the right to live dignified in a home.”

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Washington, DC, Other Cities Liberate Unoccupied Buildings for the 99%

November 23, 2011 at 2:04 am (Building Occupations, Housing Occupations, Squatting) (, , )

Occupied Franklin School

From Occupy Wall Street:

Today, Occupy K St./DC liberated the empty, city-owned Franklin School. The school was closed several years ago and initially reopened as a homeless shelter. Despite widespread public opposition, the city government later closed the shelter. Next — in blatant disregard of social safety net programs that are necessary for the very survival of the people who are most directly impacted by economic injustice — announced plans to turn the building either into luxury condos or a hotel for the 1% lobbyists on K St.

In a move similar to other recent building occupations in Oakland, Chapel Hill, New York, and London, dozens of occupiers entered the building with sleeping bags and food and declared their intent to stay indefinitely. Occupy DC announced plans for an open forum to be held at a church next Monday to discuss uses of the building with the public. Inside, they began cleaning the building to make it usable for the community. From the roof, occupiers chanted “We are the 99%!” as others dropped a banner reading “Public Property under Community Control” over the school. Meanwhile, hundreds rallied in support outside.

Police — including the Metropolitan Police and federal Protective Services — responded with full force. A massive police presence blocked all of 13th St and declared the area a “crime scene.” Police then moved into the building and arrested all inside, carrying out people cuffed at the arms and legs. Some protesters banged on the police vans from inside and outside, while others tried to block the vehicles altogether. Police declared they would charge all those inside with unlawful entry, and threatened others with felony charges if they interfered.

Occupations across the world have recently adopted the tactic of taking over unoccupied buildings. In New York, students and allies occupied New School buildings and dropped leaflets and banners from inside during the N17 Day of Action. They continue to occupy buildings on campus.

In North Carolina and Oakland, protesters occupied vacant downtown buildings. As described by Occupy Chapel Hill:

In the midst of the first general strike to hit the US since 1946, a group of comrades occupied a vacant building in downtown Oakland, CA. Before being brutally evicted and attacked by cops, they taped up in the window a large banner declaring, “Occupy Everything…”

On Nov. 12 at about 8pm, a group of about 50 – 75 people occupied the 10,000 square foot Chrysler Building on the main street of downtown Chapel Hill. Notorious for having an owner who hates the city and has bad relations with the City Council, the giant building has sat empty for ten years. It is empty no longer.

Chrysler Building occupied in Chapel Hill

In all four cities, building occupations were met with brutal police action. However, in the U.K., members of Occupy London have occupied a vacant office building owned by a subsidiary of the Swiss Bank, UBS. The protesters have announced their intention to stay in the building under British squatter’s rights laws.

occupied building in London

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Building Occupied in Seattle!

November 23, 2011 at 12:35 am (Building Occupations, Squatting) (, , , , )

From Tides of Flame

On Saturday, November 19th, a group of about 60 people marched from the occupation at Seattle Central Community College in solidarity with Occupy Oakland and against the police repression and evictions of occupations across the country. At the beginning of the march, it was announced that a building would be taken over at the end of the march.

The group moved through Capitol Hill chanting “Banks and landlords, we don’t need ‘em/ All we want is total freedom!” before plunging down 12th Avenue to the King County Juvenile Detention Center. The group stopped outside the main cell areas and made noise for the children and teenagers imprisoned inside. Marchers chanted “Our passion for freedom is stronger than their prisons,” and screamed that those on the inside would not be forgotten.

After the noise demo, the group marched into the Central District, one of the most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods in the country. The term ‘skid row’ was coined here at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Central District was 80% black in 1970. Now it is 15% black, with many new condo developments and apartments having sprung up within the last decade. As the march came closer to the soon-to-be-occupied building, the majority of the drivers passing by yelled and honked their horns in approval.

The group surrounded an abandoned building on 23rd and Alder. A banner reading “OCCUPY EVERYTHING – NO BANKS – NO LANDLORDS (A)” had been draped across the front façade. Someone opened the front door and everyone streamed inside, celebrating the occupation of this new space. People started redecorating with paint and other items while a group outside held an assembly to figure out what to do. At the time of this writing, people are still occupying the building. The current plan is to hold it until Sunday where a public re-furbishing of the building can take place.

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N17 Municipal Courts Building & Rooftop Occupation in St. Louis

November 23, 2011 at 12:18 am (Building Occupations) (, , )

From AntiState STL:

November 17th holds as a special day internationally. It’s not just a day against austerity or just a day organized by the new #occupy movement. November 17th is also the date (in 1973) when the dictatorship in Greece was overthrown. And still in Greece, it’s pretty much a holiday. It remains unclear as to how this day of action was chosen by the #occupy movement, but it would be a sin to forget such a moment in history!

It should be clear that before the Occupy movement, there has always been a struggle against the rich, against the 1%, against capitalism, against whatever you want to call it. #Occupy does not occupy new terrain when it comes to struggle. It takes much of its steam from the past and we should recognize, but also, critically learn from it. There have always been those who have suffered from the onslaught of a society based on class struggle. And there have always been those who have resisted and they have a story that we can draw from.

The March becomes unruly… Snitch Peace Marshals and Abandoned Buildings

Last night there was an unpermitted march through the streets to an abandoned municipal court building. This was after a scheduled union march earlier in the day, which had left many people frustrated by how tame it was. Especially frustrated with the presence of Peace marshals in green neon vests (who were a mix of SEIU, Occupy folks and rumor has it that Communist Party folks were also in the ranks), who at the drop of a hat would snitch to the real cops on folks who wouldn’t comply with the set perimeters of the march. When confronted on this, they would often use the tactic of non-violent communication as a way of quelling any rage. Others would just blow up in your face. It was tense.

It soon became harder and harder to determine who was a real cop or a fake cop as people were becoming more and more confrontational with the marshals by the end of the union march. It was humiliating to have to listen to someone with absolutely no authority and accountability tells us what to do. It’s one thing when the police, who actually have the authority to lock someone up or tell us what to do, but it’s another thing when we have start listening to those who have nothing but vests and only have the real police to back them up. It’s clear that things will never change when we have those who are willing to be the worst kind of police (peace police, a contradiction in itself) and stifle the spontaneity and wild energy of those who want a world without police and capitalism.

After the union march, fortunately the peace marshals had not killed everyone’s energy. They left and a march was called to city hall, a building next door to the abandoned Municipal Court building, standing empty since 2002. The march was not an official #Occupy movement march because it was not called by any General Assembly, but anyone was invited to come on the march. As we approached the building, music was blaring and folks were dancing. We circled the block, cops trailing us the whole time. A Blues game (hockey) was just about to start, so there were lots of people out on the street, many of them giving fist pumps and dancing with the marching crowd.

Turning the corner, and coming the front of the building, we saw that two banners had been unfurled, one saying, “Occupy” and the other saying “Everything.” Confetti and fliers were thrown from the roof. It soon became clear that the front door of this huge building was wide open. In that moment, dozens of people ran up the steps with pure joy. Inside were christmas lights and wheat pasted proclamations. A banner was taped over the “Municipal Court” sign on the front above the doors saying “Everything for everyone and nothing for ourselves.” The Police who had been trailing us for most of the march immediately left to regroup, leaving us time to get acquainted with the building. A dance party ensued and a statement was read outside at the top of the steps. People jokingly called the building “our new home.” Others explored this three-story building. The atmosphere was festive for most. Most people were shocked, excited and had no reason to think such a thing was going to happen. Others were critical and called the action unconsensual.

The cops finally came after an hour and kicked us out. People left and stood on the sidewalk.  Some screaming hateful things directed at the police (fun police, party pooper, fuck the police, cops-pigs-murderers) and others more tame things. As we were leaving the building a fire truck was gearing up to extend its ladder towards the banners to cut them down. This seemed ridiculous that the only way they figured to take the banners off was to use the most ridiculous means. Instead of finding a possible roof access, they could only imagine using a fire ladder.

Dancing continued and eventually we left and marched in the streets to the jail and danced and chanted for a while longer. Soon the cops showed up at the jail in force, 3 or 4 paddy wagons and lots of rapid response SUVs and regular cruisers.  Seeing as a good time to leave, we continued our march back the Occupied Plaza where we started.

Some thoughts on the march and space….

What was awesome about this march was that it took something without asking and redefined the idea of space and legality in most people’s minds. It also was in the streets the whole time. There were no demands; there were no appeals to higher powers. There was only us acting together. What happened was illegal, and sometimes it’s scary to break the law. But for most at the march, the law no longer mattered when we were all together. It was irrelevant for a time. Everyone was invited inside of the building and if anyone felt uncomfortable, they had the ability to safely leave.  The building, formally being a place where the ruling class judged and locked poor people up was mocked (if only for an hour) by the presence of those who want nothing other than the demise of judges and jails.

So many buildings stand empty in this city and they only sit there because capitalism has no use for them as of yet. They are not profitable to be used by capitalists right now. Capitalism cares nothing for our well being. So many of us outside stare at these buildings and wonder why they sit there; why we are evicted when there is so much space unoccupied; why we are thrown in jail for being poor when there is so much. Capitalism creates false scarcity of space when there is plenty. Capitalism takes space, as well as our time, and makes it into a commodity that we have to struggle and work for. These things are only scarce because they are locked up by money that so many of us don’t have and if we take them without paying, forces of repression will try to stop us (the police, the judges, the prisons, etc).

We stand outside dreaming of ways to use these buildings, to use them as places of joy and a place to call home

 To address some of the criticism….

There are some (in particular some in the St. Louis branch of #occupy movement) who will condemn the march and the action as work of cops, provocateurs, crimethinc, adventurists and damaging to the movement; but it’s unclear if they are right or if they are only speaking from what they personally feel, which can be valid. It seems like there are some who are trying to dictate what gets associated with the occupy movement because they feel like they have ownership of a leaderless movement.

It is also extremely dangerous to claim people are cops just because you might not agree with them or their actions. Especially when you have no evidence to back it up. This is very divisive.  It also displays a sort of tunnel vision that seeks to keep every thing in controlled and rigid for the sole benefit of those who want to lead a leaderless movement. And it forgets that there are many different ways to act. We should embrace this. 

For others, who are very active in the Occupy here, it was a wonderful moment of collective joy. So it’s unclear if there is any consensus about any feeling. But even that is beside the point because a particular march does not necessarily have to be an occupy movement march per se. It can be as simple as a group of autonomous individuals calling it and inviting others to come. There does not need to be a meeting to allow for a march to happen. One can, if one wants, call for a march and see if the occupy St Louis GA will consent upon endorsing it and if it does not get endorsed, it doesn’t mean others can’t take it upon themselves to march!

- an anarchist

Strike! Strike! Occupy!

Like Vox Populi, the Blocs Multiply!

Occupy St. Louis – Occupy EVERYTHING – N17 – Municipal Courts Building takeover

Text from flier that was thrown from the roof:

As winter approaches, we need a space to stay dry and healthy. We need a place to have a stable kitchen to feed our collective self. We need a space where we can better share our ideas and experiences – rooms for discussions, a library, space for workshops and casual conversations – all of which have become harder and harder to have in the plaza.

The occupation of this building is an act against the structural violence entrenched in our political, economic and social systems. As we move into the space, our intention is to collectively re-appropriate its use. We’re trying to discover ways of interacting with each other as equals. How to talk so everyone is heard; how to make decisions so everyone’s considered and included; how to feed and maintain a shared space; how to make sure work, responsibility, pleasure and ownership don’t fall on some more than others. It’s a hard process in itself, but it’s made even harder by the fact that it flies in the face of how almost everything in this city (the whole world practically) is run.

We know our ideas and actions, while currently small, have already proven to be contagious. They have the power to expose the explicit violence that we see in the police department and the jails. That violence also exists in work-related deaths and injuries, in deportation camps, and in communities that have been promised so much only to be left to rot in poverty and addiction. Our very homes and bodies are pushed to the limit by laws and workloads. Wilderness, which has the chance to exist outside of this madness, is, like the County Parks, slowly being sold off to those who want to drown it in this misery.

What would our world look like if we decided how our communities and neighborhoods functioned? What would this self-directed process be like, without a handful of people in charge of it all? What would our workplaces look like if those who actually did the work got to control them, too? What if schools were run by those who learned and taught in them, not by the dictates of careers or the economy? What if your own household, whether shared with friends or family, ran the same way?

So much of our lives are decided without our say. It’s made all the more degrading and humiliating by the fact that those who make the decisions claim to do so for our benefit or in our name. We no longer want to continue the farce. If the word of the handful of people who run this city and our lives is to be taken at face value, this is hardly an unreasonable request. They’ve left this building to rot. It isn’t the site of spectacular sporting events or corporate Christmas tree lightings. The city officials have long-since abandoned the building – much in the way they have abandoned us.

We have no intentions of reforming capitalism or improving democracy. We know there is no golden era to harken back to and restore – this country (like so many others) was founded on genocide, slavery and exploitation, and it continues this tradition today. We have only each other to have hope in.

We occupy in solidarity with those who struggle, but will not look towards the empty promises of politicians. We need to think beyond the Downtown Partnership and the Mayor’s ideas about creating condominiums for the elite, and start thinking about using these buildings for collective purposes. As long as we continue to look to politicians to solve our problems and the ruling class to have a conscience, things will only get worse. Power concentrated in the hands of a few will only bring more oppression and exploitation. We want to make decisions horizontally, and to share the little we have. Who knows, we might even surprise ourselves by what we’re capable of.

Come join us if you’re interested in getting to know each other, treating each other with genuine respect and plotting ways out of this mess. We carry a new world in our hearts, one much more fantastic, more empowering, and more just than the current.

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