This is the story of the occupation of a derelict building in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on November 12-13, 2011, told in the voices of a wide range of participants. While anarchists and corporate media have circulated news of this action far and wide, the experiences shared inside the building have remained a sort of black box. This report opens up that box, just as the occupiers opened up the building, to reveal a world of possibility.
Some of the narratives below are excerpted from longer accounts, which can be read in their entirety here.
Slideshow courtesy of Underground Reverie
In contrast to the occupation movement in some parts of the US, anarchists were involved in Occupy Chapel Hill from the very beginning, sending out the initial call and facilitating the first meetings. The points of unity consensed upon at the first gathering were based on the Pittsburgh Principles, and the group never adopted a nonviolence agreement.
At the second assembly, we debated whether to set up an encampment. Some argued against it, claiming that the police would evict us and insisting we should apply for a permit first. In nearby Raleigh, occupiers had applied for a permit but were only granted one lasting a few hours; everyone who remained after it expired was arrested. A few of us thought it better to go forward without permission than to embolden the authorities to believe we would comply with whatever was convenient for them.
A different facilitator would have let the debate remain abstract indefinitely, effectively quashing the possibility of an occupation, but ours cut right to the chase: “Raise your hand if you want to camp out here tonight.” A few hands went hesitantly up. “Looks like five… six, seven… OK, let’s split into two groups: those who want to occupy, and everyone else. We’ll reconvene in ten minutes.”
At first there were only a half dozen of us, but once we took that first step, others started drifting over. Ten minutes later there were twenty-four occupiers—more than we believed the local police were prepared to arrest—and that night fully three dozen people camped out in Peace and Justice Plaza. I stayed awake all night waiting for a raid, but it never came. We’d won the first round, expanding the zone of the possible.