2011 was full of social upheavals against nepotistic dictators, mass demonstrations and occupations against the 1 percent, and the brutalization of thousands of innocent protesters around the world. In the United States, Occupy protests, with no established targets or tactics, have shifted the national discourse to issues rooted in a culture of domination and systematic elite white supremacy over the poor, working classes.
2012 began with noise demonstrations in front of jails as gestures of solidarity with the incarcerated and to object to one of the most repressive means of control in Western society – the prison-industrial complex. Protesters in about 25 cities around the world, including Bloomington, participated in the international call for New Year’s Eve jail solidarity.
In Bloomington, one of the nation's longest-standing Occupy encampments ended in the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 6, after Mayor Mark Kruzan reversed positions and city Parks and Recreation and Bloomington Police cleared People’s Park. Two protesters – Walker Rhea and Charis Heisey – refused orders to leave and were arrested.
Rhea and Heisey were released on their own recognizance.
"In Bloomington, one of the nation's longest-standing Occupy encampments ended in the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 6, after Mayor Mark Kruzan reversed positions and city Parks and Recreation and Bloomington Police cleared People’s Park."
"I am here because people should be able to utilize this space to exercise our first amendment rights to free speech and assembly,” Heisey said in a news release. “People’s Park, while Occupied, has fulfilled the important role of meeting basic human needs, like shelter, for people whose needs are not otherwise met in this community. It is wrong and hypocritical for Mayor Kruzan to attempt to stop people from using public space freely.”
Resistance and arrests continued in Oakland and New York.
Occupy Oakland rang in the new year with two marches protesting police repression and ended the demonstration with a rally against police violence. About 300 people attended the nighttime demonstration originating at the Frank Ogawa Plaza, according to a Jan. 2 San Francisco Bay Guardian article. Protesters held signs that read, “Occupy 2012” and chanted, “Inside or outside, we’re all on the same side,” and shared stories of police brutality they’ve been exposed to.
Occupy Oakland also held an anti-police brutality march on Jan. 1 followed by a rally and speak-out with about 500 in attendance. Twelve were arrested in West Oakland on Dec. 29 at a foreclosed home they had occupied, according to a Guardian article.
About 500 Occupy Wall Street organizers gathered in New York City’s Zuccotti Park on New Year's Eve, and almost 70 were arrested on charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment, according to the New York Police Department. The protesters tore down the barricades surrounding their dismantled former encampment while police pushed and pepper-sprayed them, protester Jason Amadi said in a Jan 3 USA Today article.
“"Many of us there felt that it was a symbol of the new year, of what was to come," he said. "People protesting peacefully, but without fear."
About a hundred Occupy Wall Street protesters rallied in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, calling attention to the recently signed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA,) according to a Jan. 3 Associated Press article. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on New Year's Eve, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, granting the military the ability to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely without trial, and abolish habeas corpus. The protesters held a noisy rally in the main concourse of the station until authorities arrived and arrested three.
Demonstrations and efforts also continued at Occupy the Caucuses protests in Des Moines. A couple dozen members delivered a letter to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz on Jan. 2, requesting a meeting to discuss the overpowering presence of corporate greed in the system and how the Democratic Party intends to prioritize ordinary American citizens, according to a Jan 2 New York Times article.
"About 500 Occupy Wall Street organizers gathered in New York City’s Zuccotti Park on New Year's Eve, and almost 70 were arrested on charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment."
After Schultz declined the invitation, a group of occupiers marched to the hotel where the Democratic National Committee was set up and expressed their discontent about the chairwoman blowing off their request. The protesters returned to the hotel the following day and occupied it as prostrated, motionless bodies on the ground for about a half hour until the police arrived and arrested them.
“It’s not ordinary people that matter anymore in American politics,” Stephen Toothman, a member of Occupy Des Moines, told the Times. “These are the people that she should be meeting with and not the corporations.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made it abundantly clear that he’s on the side of the 1 percent by proposing stricter rules and fines for protests. All changes appear to be permanent despite early implications that the provisions would only last for the upcoming G8 and NATO summits, according to a Jan. 2 Chicago Tribune story.
The proposed changes will put a bureaucratic stranglehold on future protests by imposing large fines and possible jail time for those participating, according to a Jan. 6 Chicago Independent Media Center article. These changes would affect anyone who has conflict with city hall or private employers, even if the issues concerns civil liberties.
"It's clear the more stringent the provisions, the more numerous, the greater the difficulty in complying with those provisions," Harvey Grossman, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said in the Chicago Tribune. "It's an unnecessary show of authority and something that will have very little meaning in terms of altering conduct."
Diana Petrova can be reached at .