Friday, March 30, 2012

NLG Lawyer


I talked to an NLG lawyer who has been doing "mass defense" for years.

It was very educational. I'm still mulling it all over. This may only be relevant for NY/NYC, but here's what I remember/from my notes...

If we (Protest Kid and I) march in the street, the police do not have to warn us that they are going to arrest us before they do.

If we march on the sidewalk during an unpermitted march (ie, all Occupy-instigated actions), it still isn't (legally) safe even if we stop at traffic lights.

I forget if it was only if the police got crazy and we got hurt, or even if someone just decided to be Bureaucratically Evil (tm) at us, but I could be charged with "neglect and abuse" for allowing Protest Kid to march with me. And if they were being Bureaucratically Evil on Steroids they could charge Protest Kid (he's only 7!) as a juvenile delinquent.


This was the lawyer's expert counsel, and his specialty is neglect and abuse cases, so this is the most extreme case and how to avoid it.

But he also pointed out (and I am shamefully paraphrasing and there were many significant pauses that I filled in with my own assumptions so don't sue anybody kthanxbai) that the police have gotten more... shall we say... unpredictable. So I can't rely on Protest Kid being obviously a kid and obviously adorable to protect him or the occupiers around him from police violence.


I have not yet decided what this knowledge means for me and my family going forward (and whatever pronouncement I make today could be vouchsafed by events tomorrow).

...but I thought this might be useful info for others. And hey, now *you* get to go through the whole cycle in private without a lawyer listening to your worldview crumble.

Yeah, I got to domy kneejerk terror "omgwtfbbq they want to take away my babeeeez?" and then my rage-y "How dare ANYONE suggest I'm a Bad Mother for exercising my first amendment rights and teaching my kid the same!" and then the whiney "But they're my riiiiights" with a highly educated audience.

"I'm sorry," I said to the lawyer near the end, "I'm having trouble assimilating this. I'm a white middle class girl, I'm not used to thinking of the police like this."

"Yeah," said the lawyer, "That's the sound of delusion popping."

But speaking of tomorrow/ the future, the NLG lawyer also suggested we put a list of "kids and protest" questions together and mail them to the NLG and they could find a lawyer who would be willing to speak to a group of us about these issues.

Are you excited? I'm excited! (gulp)

So right now I'm collecting questions. If you have a question, please tell me so I can write it down and submit it to the frightening but competent people at NLG.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Safer Protest Kids

I spent Sunday afternoon brainstorming with a lawyer-friend ways to protest more safely (in a legal sense) with Protest Kid.

I've left a message with the NLG and I'll update this post when I hear back from them.

In the meantime, and in case others find this helpful:

When I put the NLG number on my arm, I'll be putting Protest Kid's emergency contact number (!Protest Daddy's) on his. (I've also written his, mine, and my out of state sister's name and phone number on a piece of paper that will live in Protest Kid's pocket.) ...I may put other numbers on his legs, when it gets warm enough for shorts... (Yeah, it starts to look like a magic totem thing, words and numbers scrawled on bodies to keep them safe. I'm a nervous Mom, deal.)

We had already tended to visit the medics when we went to a protest site/action. Now, I'll be making it a priority to greet them first and let them know that not only have I brought a kid, but I've told him that if we get separated and he doesn't feel safe he should mic check for a medic.

Here's the scarier-for-me part:

Should we get separated by police, I've told him not to fight. I've told him to do what the police tell him to do.

I hate that. He is a fighter and an independent thinker already.

But not only is he no physical match for any police officer, I like to think that Protest Kid is known and loved enough in the Occupy community that other adults might come to his physical defense-- and then people could get really (really) hurt.

So. I've told him firmly to go with the officers and do what they tell you (and my heart broke a little when tears welled in his eyes)-- BUT I also told him to mic check that he wants a lawyer and he wants a medic with him. I'm hoping that even if the police refuse, it will be on film so nothing he says (because boy is that kid a talker) can be used against him or others.

Hopefully that won't ever happen. Hopefully there will be no surprise kettles, no unannounced police riots. But the police are amping up both the violence and the randomness of their responses, so I'm pretending to be even more paranoid than I actually am and preparing for that.

Ultimately, I think Protest Kid will be safest if those around him know him and love him: so if you see a kid at a march with a yellow balloon, come say Hi.

Solidarity, because I need your help keeping my baby safe.

Thank you.


EDITED TO ADD (from my lawyer friend, though please don't sue her or me, do your own research too, etc):

...Some additional thoughts:
Consider rehearsing scripts with Protest Kid so he can assert his rights if
the system gets their hands on him.
To NYPD officers:  I want to talk to my mother.  I want to call my
father.  I want to go home.  I don't want to talk about the
Asserting his rights with words will be safer and more effective than
resisting physically.
His emergency contact info sheet should probably have a street address
where you would want for him to be taken by whoever might be helping
him.  It should have your home address so he doesn't have to remember
it if he's upset and stressed out.
I found some info that might be helpful about your rights as a parent
if you're taken into custody:
The material is for parents going into jail to serve terms, but the
principle is that you have the right to make phone calls to arrange
for the care of your child.

Again, as I get more info I'll add it, but hope this is helpful as-is.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Occupying for Others

I put this on my Facebook, but I wanted to share this idea outside my social circle, maybe get it picked up by others:

One of the reasons I Occupy is that I *can*... I have the resources and the safety (Protest Husband is not about to fire me for my political beliefs and actions) that a lot of sympathetic people don't.

My grandma once marched on Washington for a nuclear protest holding a homemade sign that had polaroids of all her grandchildren on it. (In mine, I was reading the Bible non-ironically. But then again, I was 8.)

When M and I rallied for Women's Health in Foley Square last summer, I carried a print out that had a list of the 20 names of people in 18 point font who would have been there with me if they could have.

I want to do the same for my personal occupations-- only in a sturdier form factor. I'm thinking of wearing a sash, like boy scouts wear, because I need my hands free. And on it I want to sew/affix/bolt onto it the names (or tokens, if you can't even risk your name) of people who are with me/us in spirit.

So far I have three people/families who are excited to participate, and I'm pleased that even if I march without Protest Kid, I won't be marching alone.

Please, if you like this idea, share it with your friends.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Why I (still) Occupy

...So I wasn't at Liberty on the first day. But I showed up on the 5th day because *they were still there*... it was the first time I could remember where any group that seemed to have anything to do with my politics actually followed through on what they said they would do.

And it had rained the day before and it was miserable weather and I figured they'd have forgotten a change of dry clothes because they were young and stupid and I used to watch over first years and they are young and stupid like puppies. But that's ok, that's normal and if you can just keep them alive they can be glorious.

So I brought dry socks and DayQuil and cereal bars, things that were in my pantry that would keep.

A young man escorted me past the police (there were so many police watching, I felt frightened-- what did the police expect? what did I expect the police to do? was my face going on a list of dangerous terrorists because I was trying to bring dayquil to teenagers?) and people and bedding were scattered everywhere. The place was a lumpy mess.

There was a center of organized activity at the kitchen. It was the kitchen because they said it was, there was no structure or prep space. Some pizza boxes on one stone bench, some refuse in the back of the square that the man in the middle seemed to have claimed.

Before I could hand over anything, he started a mic check. It was my first experience of that. He was pissed off because there was a coat lying in the middle of the invisible kitchen. He mic checked trying to find the owner and pointing out we were supposed to keep an eye on our own stuff. He mic checked we were supposed to keep the kitchen clear.

I despaired. I've participated in enough self-selected communities that I recognized this type. The person who is feeling hard done by and who is about to break... the single ant in an army of grasshoppers. (And often, also unable to share responsibility or ask for help, so they create a crisis they can give up on...) Oh, my peoples, did I despair.

...and then he mic checked one last time, "Sorry for being so pissy." and this laughing, joyous chorus responded, "Sorry for being so pissy!"


The coat's owner was found, he apologized, but... that wasn't the happy ending or the magic moment. I fell in love with Occupy in that moment of mic checked apology. They are only human, and young humans at that. I shudder at how many stupid things I did and said when I was young and righteous (as opposed to old and cranky and righteous now)...

But if, watched by dozens of police and stepped on by suits and laughed at by tourists and damp from weather because the police took away their umbrellas... if they could find the grace to apologize and find laughter in a lost coat... Then I could love them and support them through whatever stupid weather.

They aren't perfect. Neither am I.

I am greatly heartened that we do not need to be perfect to do what we say we will do.

Solidarity, as much as an imperfect human can do.

Million Hoodie March occupies my heart

ProtestKid and I went in our hoodies and we listened and we held hands and marched. People around us were loud and present and we took the streets and we were all loud together. It felt so good.

Waking up yesterday morning to an angry internet, outraged that Occupy co-opted the march shocked me. There were Occupiers there-- they had been in Union Square since the 17th-- and there were POC and Marxists and POC Marxists there holding signs that said "Capitalism requires racism"....(and probably some not holding any signs at all. How do you tell a Marxist when they're not handing out fliers?... I don't know the punchline to that joke, but there should be one.)

On the subway ride to Union Square, Protest Kid asked hard questions about racism. I said that having white skin is kind of like having a super power-- we didn't do anything to earn it, a meteorite just happened to land next to us and give us this (cultural super) power. And it's up to us whether we use our white skin just to make our own lives easier, or if we use it to help others.

(I'm well aware of the White Savior problem. But he's seven and into Marvel Comic superheroes. You use the language the student understands.)

It sounds like the internet rage is (not un)justified, however much I might (really!) wish otherwise--and yet, I marched as an occupier. I did not chant Occupy-centric rhetoric, my son didn't shout "Show me what democracy looks like!"... I wore a small OWS pin on my hat because I try to always wear it, these strange days. That was the extent of my external association with OWS.


I marched as an occupier because Occupy Wall Street is what gave me the courage to take up public space.

I marched as an occupier because Occupy The Hood is what gave me the courage to ask if a white girl in a hoodie could be helpful marching, or if it was better for me to witness and increase the bandwidth from the sidelines.

I marched as an occupier because a mother I met from Parents for Occupy Wall Street said it was important that we march, too.

I marched as an occupier because I marched in solidarity. I shouted "I am Trayvon Martin" but I know that I will never be considered suspicious for wearing a hoodie-- and neither will my pale-skinned sons. But if I can use my skin to help create a public space for more voices to be heard, and if I can use my voice to spread those voices further...

Then I will be an occupier. Whether I carry a yellow banner or not. Whether I mic check or not.

I will stand in solidarity with anyone who also dreams of justice and love because you have co-opted my heart... because of Occupy Wall Street.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Quick Recap of the Day: Dropped off cereal bars, fruit candy and water to Union Square. (Not enough time to bake and I was coughing hard this morning; didn't want to share any more germs than I had to) Hopped back onto subway to Foley Square where anti police brutality march was gathered.

Handed out 1 and a half bags of Ricola. Marched silently (with a white rose) past everyone having lunch, listened to speakers-- husband murdered by police; communities living in fear; lives spent behind bars; OWSer in holding cell who was threatened by a cop to stop singing or they'd send her to Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital. She also witnessed a OWSer who was arrested Saturday night be used like "a battering ram", the cops smashed his head against each step of the bus, then banged his head off the seats of the bus as they carried him through it.

Left rose behind, many pictures taken of the pile of roses.

Then we marched out *loudly* shouting and chanting. Then we started to sing:

You ain't nothin' but a bad cop, lyin' all the time (repeat) You haven't helped the people and you ain't no friend of mine...

Then we sang, "We all live in a fascist police state" to the tune of Yellow Submarine...

Then we got back to Foley and someone pointed out that Jail Support was nearby. I've been wanting to visit but had no idea where it was, so J escorted me. There were four people waiting for 3-4 occupiers still in jail. We went to Starbucks and brought them coffee and chatted a bit... I think the biggest change between now and the fall is that people are sharing their (first) names much more. But I don't know if that's because I've finally been around enough that people recognize me or if there is less fear of losing that bit of privacy/anonymity.

Then I ran home and picked up ProtestKid and did more normal Mom things. tired...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

M17 Chalkupation and March

We did a lot of positive outreach early on. ProtestKid and I arrived a little before 11 and checked in with the medics because we love them in general and because I wanted them to know there were now kids in the park.

(The medics are universally lovely. One of them turned out to be a contact juggler and we had a little swoon about Michael Moschen. Labyrinth was a gateway drug for him, too.)

I drew a hopscotch board with "$" symbols on a couple of squares because one of the 4 people who got arrested for chalk- drawing last week had been making a hopscotch board. (It turned out one of the other 4 got arrested for watching them draw and not stopping them. Er?)

ProtestKid got down to business. In school, they've been writing persuasive letters, so he decided to write a persuasive letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. The text of the letter, in case it's hard to read, was, "Dear Ray Kelly, You shouldn't be taking orders so seriously."

Later, he made his first political cartoon. (That's a 1%er saying, "I love money and nothing else.")

Once other kids arrived, and the grownups started drawing, things got beautiful.

But pardon if I am partial to my own kid's work.

I held the Parents for Occupy Wall Street banner for at least half an hour, and got interviewed by a couple of young people. A parent of teenagers who lives two blocks away from the park talked with us about how much his building supports OWS-- only one resident was anti-Occupation. "I'm frightened of her," he added.

ProtestKid got interviewed 3-4 times; some documentarians (with Common Dreams? a website something like that...) thought he was fantastic and interviewed him twice. He also helped S sell her girl scout cookies. One grandfather told me that he asked ProtestKid if he could use his chalk, who said, "Sure! But the cookies are $4." S sold a box to a white shirt police officer. I wonder what he paid? (Regular price is $4, but they were asking for an extra $1 to go to OWS.)

We juggled, we drew, we talked a lot. I had forgotten how tiring it is to be the center of so much attention, if that makes sense? Between the cops and private security videoing everything and the citizen journalists anxious to get a cute kid pic, we were a little overwhelmed.

Occupiers remained generous-- bringing us cookies, extra chalk, and some poster board and thick markers to make signs. ProtestKid wrote, "The protesters are including you, police. They are inclusive." ...He spelled that himself. I am a little in awe of my kid, sometimes. I don't think I knew what inclusive meant when I was 7...

Later, at McDonalds, a group of touring teenagers asked me about ProtestKid's sign (I was holding it while he was in the bathroom). One of them asked me what it was like out there and I said, "Cold"... and she said something polite and I said "Thank you" and her eyes got big and she said more quietly, "No, thank you"...And a young man looked over his shoulder, smiled shyly, and gave me a thumb's up.

During the march, passersby were either positive or indifferent. (We shouted "The whole bus is watching!" when the tourist bus drove past.) At one point when we were crossing the road, a herd of scooter-cops tried to run us over. That was frightening. ProtestKid was on the other side of them and oblivious, happily playing with his yellow balloon and trying to pet protest dogs. I grabbed the elbow of an older gentleman a little ahead of me (I think he was a veteran for peace, actually) and soft blocked our way across.

ProtestKid had his yellow balloon, he was obviously a kid, but the scooter-cop just smiled and jerked forward right in front of us.

Soon after that, ProtestKid announced that he was tired of marching, and I promised him we would duck into the next subway stop we saw-- it happened to be just outside Liberty, so I was very familiar with it, anyway.

Judging from twitter, we left just in time. 5-10 minutes later the cops started to arrest people for dancing on the sidewalk. :(

Dance for Democracy. Draw for Democracy. Debate for Democracy.

Please don't fuck us over for fascism.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kony 2012, Syria, and Socrates

I did not get sucked into the Kony 2012 flutter, but only because I'm already neck-deep in Occupy and there are only so many things a person can be passionate about. Plus I was kind of overwhelmed by the glitzy website, knew watching the movie would make me cry, and just didn't feel like being emotionally manipulated that night.

By the next morning, cracks began to appear in the Invisible Children PR machine...

...But I've totally gotten suckered in before. Take Syria, where real people are really dying and being mutilated for what very well may be a manufactured war. Initially all I had were the frightened and passionate tweets from within Homs, but when I asked the Syrian mom who waits after school for her kids with me, she said that everyone in Syria loved Assad and Homs was the only city who didn't like him. Hrm.

Al Jazeera and Russia Today have both covered Occupy and related issues more accurately than, say, The New York Times, so I have considered them possibly trustworthy sources of information.

Russia Today (sympathetic to Assad) just (? I only just heard about it, anyway) announced that key figures within Al Jazeera were resigning over the way Al Jazeera (sympathetic to Homs) had been framing the news-- not allowing them to show footage of armed Homs people attacking the government's armies, for instance. (I guess in favor of just showing the footage of women and children wounded...)

You know what? I have no idea. Everyone is playing me like a pawn or a guitar. Make the white woman cry and you get all the gun money you want.

And apparently, it's my job to single-handedly cut through the agendas, the conspiracies, the ugliness and the hope and suss out what the Truth is? What the Right and Good course of action is?

When all I have access to are post-modern lies upon lies upon stories?

I was feeling grumpy about this last night. I really was.

I tend to go all zen and chop carrots, carry soup when things get mentally tense like this, but I also worry that I'm copping out.

If I *don't* do something, say something, is my silence consent?

Do I become the abuser by not stepping up for the abused?

It's very troubling.

For a different project (March 25th! March 25th! Ask me about March 25th!), I started looking up quotes by Greek philosophers. Socrates caught my attention: "As for me, all I know is that I know nothing."

That was rather comforting: If one of the greatest ancient philosophers was ok with not knowing, maybe I can be, too.

So... you can ask me about Kony 2012, you can ask me about Syria. I don't know. I think bread not bombs in general, but I don't know enough about the particulars. (Ask me about March 25th, instead.)

...In the meantime, I'm going to try and be ok with living in the cloud of unknowing, and still get up, do the dishes, feed my family, and protest my own government... 
I think that is a full day, don't you?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Occupy LOLs

I had a spoon fail this afternoon and was unable to march in support of International Women's Day down Broadway. But I couldn't go a week without *some* sort of OWS-related outreach activity... So I give you:

Occupy Kitteh!

I put both the blank and the pre-captioned image up on the cheezburger site.

In other news... That kitten? It's going to come home with us in about a month, give or take a day. So then I will have ProtestKid *and* ProtestCat. Are you excited? I'm excited.

Love and kittens,

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Occupy Parades

Protest Kid and I got to march in a parade where the police weren't trying to arrest us! Yea!

It was a little odd, as I've gotten so used to ignoring what the police want, that when they tried to get us to move out of oncoming traffic I was a little slow. Didn't get run over, anyway, but it was interesting watching that cognitive dissonance thing happen. (The guy scooting around on roller blades directing traffic, however, I *totally* listened to. It was the green hat, it screamed authority. ;)

...anyway, Occupy Astoria LIC attended the St Pat's For All parade marching through Sunnyside today, and it was wonderful. ProtestKid got to hang out with his favorite Occupier(s), I got to reconnect and represent and share the gospel of the Yellow Balloon for Activist Safety with another family.

We were preaching to the choir in one sense-- the people watching were in a good mood, and except for the few people holding up "Stop Blaspheming" signs, they were interested in an inclusive event. But you never know how The Message will hold up outside your happy little activist community. (Who else got a flashback to Bob Ross there?)

There were a few blank faces-- but everyone loves a giant puppet and *so many* people grinned and gave us thumbs up. And at least two people shouted out "Occupy!" when they saw us. They were *happy* to see us.

Rumors of Occupy's death are greatly exaggerated. Woot!

So that all was awesome, but You Know Me... Besides my enthusiasm, I didn't have a lot to share. Parades are not a situation where tiny tents are effective, and we needed hands for holding signs, not scarfing pumpkin bread. What's a poor stifled Occupied Kitchen Annex to do?

Well, I hadn't brought tents or bread, but I *did* bring two bottles of water. In the end we didn't need either of them because we required a Starbucks toilet which entailed a Starbucks purchase... So yeah, two bottles of water, untouched. (Not that I'm complaining.)

But then after the march ProtestKid and I had our own personal after-party (the grownups were talking about going to a bar... *sigh*... not for another ten years) at McDonalds. The woman next to us at the counter ordered a bottled water but they didn't sell it.

She had a cute little kid.


I offered her my water and I wouldn't let her pay me for it.

 "I brought it to share," I said.

That's the nice thing about bringing the occupation out of Liberty Square. I can feed EVERYBODY! EVERYWHERE!

(er. one at a time. restrictions may apply. void where space and time prohibit it.)

All day, all week, occupy our street. With delicious revolution.