Occupy Lives On

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Activism, Rochester

It was just the kind of dark and stormy night we remembered, gathered in the October rains at Washington Square, helping set up tents with a crowd gathered around a cooking fire and huddled in the kitchen tent while stump speeches emanated from the statue, free to all with the passion. It’s been two years since I’ve even protested, three since I was here last, but the same scene we knew so well was about to play out – and this time we’d seen the show before, and had some idea what was headed our way.

This time the conflict was a purely local one, coming to us from below the grass roots, taking up the fight for Rochester’s beleaguered homeless. After a few thwarted attempts, Maggie Brooks’ county government forced the last few dozen ‘residents’ of the Civic Center Garage onto the streets at the end of last month. With political means not getting them very far, direct action at the garage stymied twice (the county went as far as to detain and threaten to arrest not only the homeless but also the activists assisting), and Election Day just two weeks away, it was time to take a stand. And so Sanctuary Village appeared, a tent city in Washington Square, designed to provide temporary shelter while shoving the issue of Rochester’s homeless front and center for visitors and workers downtown.

Still knowing to tread lightly after their first experience trying to clear out Washington Square of that potent mixture of transients and activists, the county response started off slowly, with no police raids, but also no concessions made, on the first night of the camp. However, this afternoon, the City government, led by Mayor ‘Lovely’ Warren, stepped in and put a deadline on the camp to clear out by the time the park closed tonight. An ultimatum which many of us remembered all too well.

And as soon as I heard about it, I was on my way to the square too to join in and record what was going on, just like on those Occupy nights.

10:20 — The spirit of Occupy lives on! Action and police involvement expected NOW / within the hour at Washington Square, come support the cause of Rochester’s displaced homeless population!

10.25: Sister Grace advises that arrests are likely to occur and if anyone needs a place to stay tbey are welcome to move tents somewhere else. No one appears to be moving. SOLIDARITY!

10.48: All tents and people who are not getting arrested: the camp will move to the Subway entrance when the action begins

10.53 We have about 20 protestors willing to face arrest, but we’re always open to more. The action has yet to begin, join us at Washington Square!

10.56 Channel 8 is here and will be going live at 11.

11.00 My own personal prediction based on the events of 2011 is that the action will start in 35 minutes when the news ends. There’s still plenty of time to come support, even if you aren’t getting arrested there’s still solidarity.

11.10 the TV has come and gone, but the chanting is just starting. Who shuts shit down? WE SHUT SHIT DOWN!

11.35 We think this is about to begin. No cops yet though

11.36 “Rochester is full of empty buildings, empty blocks, empty houses. We need to confront the city, make a proposal, USE THEM! ”

11.43 A whole lot of nothing so far. I have to wonder if they’re playing the waiting game, hoping we’ll leave before shit gets real.

11.52 More speeches and chanting. All riled up with nowhere to go.

11.58 no sign of them yet. It’s only a matter of time now. Come to Washington Square and support the Occupation!

12.00 midnight Ryan called the police chief, asked for another night in the park and negotiation with the City. Expecting an answer in 10 minutes.

12.04 an RPD black car, presumably the chief, has arrived.

12.09 THEY’RE STAYING THE NIGHT! No police involvement tonight, and there will be a meeting with the city tomorrow! Thanks Sister Grace, Ryan and whoever else made this happen!

Housing Is A Human Right

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Activism, Rochester

Almost a year after Occupy Rochester fell apart, we’re at it again! Marching to City Hall to address the problems with housing in this city, and let them know how defective of an institution it is. Did you know that Rochester has more abandoned, foreclosed or simply unoccupied houses, than it has ever had homeless people? What about that Rochester has slum lords, and the city does nothing about it, even though they hold onto abandoned and underutilized properties as investment, evict rent-paying tenants, and try to sell the houses for a profit? Or that it is illegal in parts of the city, and most of the county suburbs, to grow anything other than grass as a front lawn? Taking back our city will take far more than a protest, or an election, but we can at least begin to move in the right direction!

No Justice, No Peace

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Activism, Rochester

Finally getting to my pictures from the march last week… for anyone who hasn’t been keeping up with current events, the Saturday before last was a terrible one for justice in Rochester, and oppression from the RPD. A peaceful anti-capitalist march was trapped on the East Ave/Inner loop crossing, and 18 protesters arrested, some violently. At the closing of the Puerto Rican festival, RPDs in riot gear began breaking up a crowd with no provocation, setting off a police riot that led to 32 more arrests. Finally, barely 12 hours after the march, a punk show in an East End basement was invaded without warrant, with excessive use of mace and Tasers, and 14 arrests for alleged disorderly conduct. Now was the time to act — 64 arrests in one weekend, of law-abiding citizens, set off by police force. Our demands would be simple: the departure of Chief Shepard, a civilian layer of accountability for the RPD, and charges dropped on the 64 arrests of the weekend. While the actual effect of our march seems to have been minimal, if nothing else, at least it served as an affirmation of free speech, and an assertion of our right to protest and assemble… as much as we were expecting and even hoping for a riot and the outright disgrace of the RPD, the fact that this went as smoothly as it did is also a very encouraging sign for future demonstrations


In Dubious Battle

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Activism, Rochester

After the beautiful solidarity of the march, and fractious GA, we arrived at a controversial decision, and in my mind a heinous mistake: to try, for the third time in five days, to take the park and create a base for Occupy Rochester. By now we were as well apprised of the situation as one could be; there was little drama, and even less political gain, to be had from either outcome, arrests or a continued stalemate, other than a piece of grass and concrete downtown which we weren’t technically allowed to be in anyway. Either way, the scattering crowd when the decision came should have been an alert to the remaining steadfast park camping supporters, that we were alienating our own base, and setting up for implosion. The sentiment of Scott Olsen Day should motivate us, but not guide us – after all, he is (unfortunately just barely) living proof of what can happen in a camp gone wrong, in an action largely wasted on the mainstream media and public zeitgeist. For all that Occupy has given me and taught me, I could no longer subscribe to the actions of the plurality, if not majority, of the group which supports occupying Washington Square.

Chief Shepard arrives and makes things interesting.

The revolution will not be televised. A bunch of people waiting for something to happen, however, will be every time.

Djembe drums. A great way to warm up on a chilly night.

Especially now that it’s a routine, we almost tailgate the arrests. Supporters from the online community and members of the original 32 who didn’t want to risk a second arrest brought a massive table of food before the orderly chaos. As 11.35 approached, everyone began to gather on the steps of the statue.

Uh oh.

Yes, this means you. You can’t do that.

And that led us to the sight no one wants to see, even when we planned and set up for it…

This is the offense that led to 14 arrests tonight: sitting quietly on the steps of a statue. Don’t they just look like Rochester’s most hardened, disorderly criminals? No? I didn’t think so. But of course the RPD sends about 50 of Rochester’s “finest” to deal with the scene. While I admire the bravery of the 46 Occupiers who were arrested this week, I have to sincerely wonder why we sent a second group. Especially since we weren’t even trying to have a camp tonight, only setting up arrests for the sake of arrests. This is where I lost faith in the movement’s main direct actions…

They were paraded solemnly away, one at a time…no surprises here, everyone who signed up to get arrested, in fact, was, and no one looking to stay out of jail had their nights ruined. I guess that’s /something/ to be said in RPD’s favor?

The whole process took only about half an hour this time.

Once all 14 of our comrades were gone, they cleared the park out, conferred for a while what to do next, and ultimately left us to keep a vigil on the sidewalk.

I’m not exactly sure what the point of this was. It was well after midnight already, no one was watching the park, and it’s been clear for a while they don’t give a shit on the sidewalks.

Finally, when everyone else was thinking about leaving, we had two go to sleep in the sidewalk. It shouldn’t have been much of a surprise that they, too, were ticketed this morning, for obstructing traffic, bringing the final count up to 48 arrests thus far.

I doubt I will be reporting much more about Occupy in the coming weeks… there isn’t much left to say, as long as the park sleepers have their way. A few camps are certainly a necessity, for activist minds and wandering youth to come together. I may still take my own pilgrimage to Zuccotti Park, and try to learn how to do this better, but it’s becoming more and more clear that what we’ve done with the park here hasn’t worked. If, as expected, we can hold onto the park legally, and the fight for it is over, maybe it can be a gathering point for a more effective movement, but so far this is nothing but a war of futility, concentrating our efforts in copying other Occupy sites and not continuing the momentum of change we started with our marches and our open dialogues of just what is wrong with Rochester. Not being able to sleep in a park without getting arrested, is a very low priority to make this city a better place, especially when we are more than capable of making an actual difference.

Words Can Save Us

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Activism, Rochester

November 2 at Occupy Rochester started off a beautiful day. After the arrests on Friday night, our leaders united with organized labor, political groups and even religious groups to put together an impressively diverse march, and finally show ourselves as representing more of the 99% than ever. The march went off perfectly, with no police interference to speak of; even the obnoxious nanny-cam staring down at the park from South Clinton finally left, towed away by a city public works truck a few minutes before the GA started.

Calling the march to order!


There were close to 500 of us leaving Washington Square, and we only gained people as we marched through downtown

Even businessmen joined in…

Act now, why wait?

Taking the steps of City Hall, to give our demands to Mayor Richards to keep the park
City Hall

He gave a rousing speech on how badly we need national health care, and just how achievable it really is!

Paul Mabells’ speech on ending the Federal Reserve and banks’ control over fiscal policy

Jake Allen on the importance of labor and workers’ rights to the 99%

Well fired up by all these speeches, we marched back to Washington Square for our second GA, and working on the future direction of Occupy


I had some very strong opinions about where I thought Occupy Rochester should go, made even stronger by the success of this march, starting with an end to playing chicken with the RPD over a patch of grass that is insignificant in the end, and going from there out into the community to make ourselves heard directly, and make a difference in people’s lives. They wouldn’t even let me finish my speech though — the park was our singular goal, at least for now. I deferred to them, hoping to see just about anything but what happened next…

Banksters’ Paradise

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Activism, Rochester

Occupy Rochester’s lighter side! I’d like to see more of this artivism and street theater, even though I suspect most of the Occupy pictures for the foreseeable future will be of the not-so-thin blue line keeping us away from our first amendment rights and agendas.