Report from #FloodWallStreet and #PeoplesClimateMarch

On September 23rd, at 5:30am, I picked up my personal belongings and exited New York City jail, along with a handful of others. We were arrested during #FloodWallSt, one day after the #PeoplesClimateMarch. It was an exhilarating and beautiful few days of action that reminded me how much we can still accomplish in the streets, and made clear to me what issues are going to help unify the climate justice movement in the coming years.

Truthfully, I hadn’t planned on attending the #PeoplesClimateMarch until two weeks prior. I’d heard the march was organized by to coincide with the UN Climate Summit. The idea was to call for the largest climate justice rally in history to raise public awareness and apply pressure to those inside the summit. If you aren’t hip to how UN “Climate Summits” work, they are complete theater and produce little or no actual change: a bunch of “world leaders” make bold promises and passionate speeches for the cameras, but no significant legitimate climate policy ever comes of it, and the notion of identifying capitalism / corporate globalism as the root cause of the destruction of our planet is unthinkable.

I had little interest in attending another symbolic march. There were going to be plenty of people there already and I didn’t feel like my presence was needed. However, after watching the daily coverage at in the lead-up to the event, I began to understand that the #PeoplesClimateMarch was planned with a more radical strategy. I followed the link from DN! to and saw there was an avalanche of legit community action groups, student groups, and non-profits from around the country listed as partners.

Radical grassroots partners and speakers, including Naomi Klein and her new book: “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” were featured so prominently in the program, I knew this action was going to be something different. I read further and saw that the events for the weekend actually started on Friday with teach-ins, workshops, and direct action trainings Friday and Saturday leading up to the climate justice march on Sunday, and continuing with major civil disobedience on Monday.

I followed the #FloodWallSt hashtag to and read the basic plans for the civil disobedience. The idea was that if enough outreach was done, many people would stay in New York overnight on Sunday and participate in a planned action to disrupt Wall Street during business hours. Why disrupt Wall Street? Because all the major weapons manufacturers, energy companies, and other industrial corporations destroying our planet are traded and thrive through Wall St. Capitalism cannot be reformed, there are no adjustments or legislative fixes that will change the way it functions: which is to voraciously maneuver to expand profit at any cost, regardless of lives lost or ecosystems anihilated. Participants were asked to wear blue, to symbolize the rising water that will overtake Manhattan some day if the global temperature continues to increase, as well as the flood of climate change activists that would fill the streets.



The next day I got an email from a longtime comrade with a link to purchase bus tickets with activists heading from Providence to the action: Better Future Project / 350 and student groups from Brown, URI, and more, had organized NINE buses full of people from RI. Not many of my Providence comrades or close friends were able to make it to the march or stay for Monday’s civil disobedience, but I was able to meet up with bunch of Occupy Providence family along the way.

We gathered outside the State House at 5:30am. It was as early as hell, but there was a lot of excitement and positive energy on our bus.The Occupy Prov crew and I got separated from the RI contingent when we got to New York. There were thousands and thousands of people in the streets. More than I had seen at any action since the high point of the Iraq War protests in the early 2000’s. We walked around with comrades from an anarchist group for awhile but decided to stay when we saw the #FloodWallSt contingent.


Our crew joined hundreds of other people carrying the largest banner I’ve ever seen in my life: it was 300 feet long and eight feet wide, reading: “Capitalism = Climate Chaos.” The message would be clearly visible from the sky and to anyone looking down from the buildings we’d be passing. It was exactly what needed to be said and we carried that banner proudly for the entire three-mile march.











Looking around it became clear that the majority of the messaging was blatantly anti-capitalist. Signs read: “Capitalism Is Destroying Our Planet,” “Corporate Globalism doesn’t work: System change now!” “Climate Change is Class War.” I thought it was just our area but as thousands of people streamed by on either side heading for different parts of the march, I saw that the signs were almost all of similar messaging. From watching #DemocracyNow I knew that there was a large contingent of First Nation activists leading the march with a clearly anti-capitalist message as well.


Some of the chants and songs that stuck out to me most from the day were:

People gonna rise like the water,
gotta calm this crisis down.
I hear the voice of my great grand-daughter,
saying shut down Wall Street now.


1-2-3-4 — Climate Change is Class War!
5-6-7-8 — Frack the war and smash the State!!

After protesting for the last fifteen years, I’ve only seen small or medium sized socialist, anarchist, or anti-capitalist contingents within a march or protest. The #PeoplesClimateMarch was totally different. This was a 400,000 person event where the vast majority of participants were connecting capitalism, corporate globalism, and militarism directly to climate disaster. I had to pinch myself. Many elders in the movement have said for years, that the overall climate movement would be the umbrella that brings the working class together to enact system change and smash the 1%. Last Sunday’s enormously successful march was a glimpse of that for me.



Folks from #FloodWallSt and organizers from #PeoplesClimateMarch were passing out flyers for the civil disobedience training that night at 7p and the #FloodWallSt action the next day. I got a stack and began handing them out as well. The march was long and slow (like it should be), filling the streets of NYC for most of the afternoon. When marchers finally got to the end, there were radical anti-capitalist Hip Hop and theater performances, countless community action tables with info on different climate justice campaigns, and a long beautiful row of much needed port-o-potties.

I said goodbye to the Occupy PVD crew as they headed back for the buses, got dinner, then found my way to the civil disobedience training. Folks from #OccupyWallSt / #FloodWallSt were facilitating the meeting, covering details of arrest protocol and possible scenarios for the action. The next morning we gathered a few blocks from Wall Street in Battery Park. The organizers were expecting a couple hundred people, but to everyone’s surprise, by 10am there were a few thousand people there. Naomi Klein spoke, so did Christopher Hedges, Elisa Estronioli, Mamadou Goita, Miriam Miranda, and more. Folks got a crash course in how to use the People’s mic and another training on the planned civil disobedience sit-in for the day: we would march to the steps of the Stock Exchange or as close we could get, and shut the street down. The march was organized into three tiers: arrestable participants up front, followed by those willing to support and potentially risk arrest in the process, and finally those who believed in the action and wanted to partake but were not in position to risk arrest.

We marched out of the park 3,000 strong just after 11am. The cops tried to funnel us onto the sidewalk but we took the street instead. Earlier that morning, scouts from the #FloodWallSt organizing committee had taken note of the hundreds of police officers already stationed at all intersections leading into Wall Street. The heaviest police presence was at the intersection of Broadway and Wall St, directly in the line of our march—obviously they had done their scouting too.

What they didn’t know was that we were ready to adapt: all three thousand marchers clogged the street and headed up Broadway, but the front of the march bent onto Whitehall St and formed around the stupid “Wall St. Bull” sculpture. This allowed us to surround the symbol of Wall St while shutting down all of Broadway from the Bull to the intersection of Wall St. By doing this, we avoided getting kettled and immediately arrested by the huge contingent of officers guarding the intersection, but still shut down the road and made sure that Wall St would also be closed by the police blockade. Pretty smart for a bunch of “jobless hippies!”



Three thousand people sat down in unison. Like something right out of the Sixties. The huge “Capitalism = Climate Chaos” banner was rolled out and a gigantic foil beach ball representing the true cost to the environment if energy corporations burn all known fossil fuel left in the ground or “carbon bubble” (see:, was rolled along the top of it. There were many cops inside the barricades protectively surrounding the Bull and eyeing the carbon bubble hatefully. The bubble eventually landed in front of the sculpture and a white-shirted (higher ranking) officer ordered the other cops to pop it. They looked like bullies at the beach smashing a kid’s sand-castle. The crowd went wild though, as metaphorically speaking, it seemed that the State had finally come to its senses and helped the people crush the carbon bubble! Looking at their faces, the metaphor was clearly lost on them.

Look close! I’m helping to hold the banner!

Shortly after, one of the activists stood up and declared that it was time to reign in Wall St corruption: he produced a rope and tried to lasso the charging Bull! The crowd cheered as he got closer with each attempt, but the cops swarmed to defend their masters’ pet and confiscated the damned rope. You can always count on the fuzz to protect and serve the 1%—but when it comes to Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, people of color, poor folks in general, or mother earth? Not so much.

Nevertheless, morale was high, and folks continued to sit in. Most of us realized that something was off: no riot police were called in and the hundreds of regular cops behind the barricades were staying put. During the trainings, the #FloodWallSt organizers made it clear that holding the space for even an hour would be a huge victory. It was long past an hour now, we’d held the street, and the cops weren’t making any move to break us up. Mayor de Blasio must’ve cc’d in the entire police department on the same email that morning: “Embarrass me while the national media is in town for the UN climate summit, and I will fucking END YOU.”

As fears of an immediate mass-arrest wore off, folks broke into small circles to discuss what to do next. Another hour past. Food and water were brought in, and people moved freely in and out of the barricades. Street performers showed up. Broadway transformed into a mini occupy festival. After much discussion in small groups and via the People’s Mic, the majority of the people decided we’d won a victory by holding the street for hours and now it was time to attempt breaking the police blockade at Wall St.

Everyone rose and marched to the intersection of Broadway and Wall St. The enormous formation of officers was waiting with two rows barricades and mounted police behind them. #FloodWallSt activists tried to remove the first row of barricades and get closer. De Blasio’s orders must have been severe because the cops didn’t get violent at first! They just reinforced the barricades. A pushing war between cops and protesters ensued. The metaphor from People vs. Cops, to Climate vs. Wall St, was staggering.

If you’ve ever been involved in a clash with police in the U.S., you know how absurd what I’m writing is. Police in this country do not tolerate resistance to “command presence.” If you are pushing barricades into police officers, you’re lucky if you only wind up getting arrested, and not clubbed, pepper sprayed, tased, or shot. But I’m being real here, all they did was push back against the barricades, that is… until the people actually started winning.

Then the cops initiated punching, screaming, and shoving while the white-shirts pepper sprayed the crowd.

Only in the process, they hit many journalists and cops as well. You could see them coughing, covering their faces, and calling for water. #Blowback

The pepper spray backed off the crowd but instead of retreating, #FloodWallStreet activists resumed the sit-in. Hundreds of people sitting right in the middle of the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street, a block and a half away from the Stock Exchange.

A couple of the people up front pushing against the barricades got arrested. The National Lawyers Guild (our heroes!) were on hand, got the their names, and began tracking them through the system. The rest of the crowd chanted and sang anti Wall Street messages. Large numbers of cops moved up Broadway from behind us and in front of us. Once again, that sense of being about to get arrested was imminent and the air was charged with anticipation, but no additional arrests were made, the police just readjusted their flanks to the new location of our sit-in.

The People’s Mic started up and a stack of speakers was taken. Students, workers, and veteran #OccupyWallSt members from NYC and all over the country told their stories. Some declared victory, and suggested we could go home to plan the next action without getting arrested. Some implored the crowd to stay as long as it took. Others pleaded with those present to stay committed and escalate tactics in the climate justice movement at all costs whether they stayed or left the sit-in.

We’d lost a decent amount of folks over the last six hours and now more began to drift off, but even with reduced numbers, we still had hundreds of people. A soccer game started up between the barricades. People left and returned with food. This went on for another hour and a half or more. The sun was going down and the temperature was dropping. Most of the remaining folks were from the “willing to risk arrest” tier from the beginning of the day and hadn’t brought any warm clothes or gear. Having thought they’d get arrested in the first twenty minutes, most had only brought their ID and a couple bucks. Many felt that the police were trying to wait us out, but wouldn’t resort to mass arrest until midnight, others thought maybe not till the start of the work day in the morning.

What became clear, was that those who had stayed were planning on seeing it through—all night if that’s what it took. An affinity group from MA was discussing trying to hold the street for the length of the entire climate summit, maybe start Occupy Wall Street V 2.0 right here in the middle of the damned road. A call went out for warm clothes and supplies to last the night. It looked like we might be in it for the long haul, but when two tent-like structures made of reclaimed barricades and banner materials went up, whoever was in charge of the cops had seen enough: nothing terrifies NYPD brass like the sight of an unpermitted tent going up blocks from Zuccotti Park.

The cops started closing their ranks and formed into a circle around us. Folks who were unable or unwilling to get arrested raced for the sidewalk while those who could stay for the civil disobedience locked arms in the middle of the intersection. I almost lost my shit and started crying when a climate change activist in a wheelchair, who had difficulty even controlling it under those circumstances, had their comrade wheel them to join us. Lines of police rushed into the street and formed up inside the barricades blocking anyone else from from joining.

And just like that, the happy festival atmosphere was gone and the adrenaline-battle vibe was back on. Looking around, I saw there were about a hundred of us holding street which was surreal because there were hundreds of police and hundreds of people cheering for us from the sidewalk. It definitely felt reassuring to have so many folks shouting support, but I couldn’t help but wonder how things would’ve been harder for the police if we had that many people actually sitting-in with us, or if at that moment, they strategically decided to march on Wall St and set up another sit-in on the steps of the Stock Exchange while the cops were busy with us. Sometimes I look around at actions and it feels like there are more radical “street medics,” photographers, and videographers, than there are radical activists.

Further, what if all three thousand people who had marched out of Battery Park were with us were here now? We would’ve had enough people to send fifteen-hundred of us to the steps of the Stock Exchange, while still having another fifteen-hundred in place to hold the intersection. Maybe we could’ve kept the sit-in strong for the length of the climate summit. This wasn’t really a consideration earlier in the day because nobody guessed there’d be that many people in attendance or that the cops wouldn’t be in mass-arrest mode right from the start.

Being a self employed, cisgender, hetero, white-male citizen who isn’t on any kind of probation, I realize that I have a ton of privileges. I completely understand that not everyone can risk arrest, but there were a whole lot of white, middle class, “environmental activists” screaming about how “there’s not much time left to save the planet” earlier in the day and the day before: where were they now? We work, go to class, party, and watch Netflix nearly 365 days a year, we can’t take two full days to combat climate justice, even now, at the tipping point of disaster? If not now, when?

The crowd started chanting to the cops: “Go Arrest Wall St — Don’t Arrest Them! Go Arrest Wall St — Don’t Arrest Them!” The message made some of the police visibly uncomfortable. One of the people sitting-in got up and started screaming at the cops, calling them cowards and tyrants for arresting us. He beat on his chest and went on about how he wasn’t afraid and how we all had to stand up for our rights. I got pissed because he was making all these aggressive motions and really whooping it up. These cops had been docile as kittens for most of the day and I didn’t wanna get beat the fuck up or pepper-sprayed in the final moments because this dude felt like having a Braveheart moment.

If you’ve ever been to an IMF, World Bank, DNC, RNC, etc., type protest, where it’s a bunch of radicals against the cops over the course of a few days, you know that these cops don’t play. You can get as loud as you want, but the second they feel threatened, bored, or disrespected; the moment you touch them, or attempt to take the march or action anywhere they deem unacceptable, they crack down with riot gear, batons, and zip ties. It’s generally over very quickly and they’re total dicks while arresting you: putting zip ties on tight, making you walk backwards to the bus, denying access to bathrooms, screaming at you to not look them in the eye, and generally working to make the process as unpleasant and terrifying as possible.

I didn’t know if it was this guy’s first action or what, but today had been a cake-walk. Our civil disobedience was working and there was no tactical advantage whatsoever in my opinion to risk agitating a violent reaction at that point. Thankfully he wrapped up his monologue and sat the fuck down.

Everyone passed a around a paper and pen, making sure that the National Lawyer’s Guild had our info and could track us through the system. The cops gave an official order to disperse but the sit-in only started chanting louder: “You’ve got the wrong people — We think you want THEM!” and pointed at Wall St. There was a second order to disperse and then a third, explaining that the police would be coming to arrest us one by one, that if we didn’t resist arrest we’d only be charged with disorderly conduct. What planet am I on right now?! I thought. Since when do cops breaking up a protest give three dispersal orders, explain your rights and charges, and then gently tap you on the shoulder saying it’s time to go?

I’m in the photo above, at the bottom left: so proud of this comrade for seeing the action through and taking the arrest with a smile!

But that’s exactly what happened. Groups of three or four cops, without riot gear, walked up to the sit-in and pointed to a person, nicely turned you around, then put on the “flex-cuffs,” way more comfy than the old zip ties!

As a person was being escorted to the bus, folks from the sit-in would ask what your name was, you’d tell them, and the whole place would cheer for you. When it was my turn, a girl in the middle shouted, “Hey, What’s your name?” “My name is Jared Paul from Providence, Rhode Island and I PUT ON FOR MY CITY!” I screamed.

As I was escorted to the police bus I could see the line of supporters going down the block. Some friends of my mine in the crowd saw me and started cheering. I yelled as loud as I could: “Capitalism is chaos! Power to the People!!” It was a little indulgent, but I couldn’t resist. I wanted the cameras to have audio documentation of us connecting climate justice to capitalism and for the crowd to know that those of us getting arrested were feeling strong.

This amazing girl on my bus knew tons of protest songs. She taught us the basic lines and we sang the whole way to the station. The cops didn’t try to quiet us down at all. It wasn’t a long ride to the station, but the singing made the time fly even faster. To the best of my knowledge there were 98 of us arrested at the sit-in. Getting processed went pretty quickly. The guys were detained in one big holding tank, and the girls were placed in smaller three person cells.
The guys holding tank looked like an Occupy direct action meeting: most folks gathered in the main area talking excitedly and strategizing. Folks exchanged info and stories, debriefed on the days events.

We were arrested around 8p, went through intake and placed in holding around around 11p, and the last of us was released by 5:30a or so. Nobody was charged with anything other than disorderly conduct, so, there was no overnight, no being transferred to central booking at 6am to be arraigned at 8am, etc. Just a summons to come back to court later this month. In all honesty, it was the gentlest and fastest protest arrest I’ve ever been through.

The National Lawyers Guild and #FloodWallSt jail support crew was waiting with hot coffee, tea, food, and blankets when we got out. They stayed until everyone was accounted for, they even lined up a church rectory floor for folks who didn’t have a place. If you don’t know about the National Lawyers Guild, you should definitely look them up:, they are truly my heros: lawyers that believe in activism and the people’s right to protest and to civil disobedience. Same goes for our courageous Jail Support organizers and volunteers. They have protesters backs at all the big actions and are 100% thorough and committed. We’d be fucked without them, and I’d be remiss not to mention it.

I exchanged contact info with folks I’d been arrested with, gave hugs, and then took a cab back to Brooklyn with a long-time #OWS comrade of mine and slept for the next ten hours.
We could’ve done more with our numbers, but shutting down one of the busiest streets in NYC’s financial sector and causing the police to blockade the most heavily trafficked intersection leading to Wall Street for almost twelve hours? A hundred people arrested for civil disobedience? That’s not nothing either.

Between the totally anti-capitalist messaging of Sunday’s march and the size of it (400,000), the call for civil disobedience at Wall St to match it, and the 3,000 people who actually turned out in an effort to escalate the intensity of the Climate Justice movement on Monday? The #PeoplesClimateMarch and #FloodWallSt were a complete success in my opinion.

We can have all the rallies, marches, protests, and email petitions we want, but our corporate owned Republicrats and Democrans will never take real action to prevent climate disaster. The energy companies are not going to give up the $30 trillion worth of oil, coal, and fracking revenue they can still extract from the earth—not even if it means another 1,000 Deep Water Horizon spills. Let’s be 100% clear: they DO NOT CARE what happens us.

The only way to stop them is to get in the streets, to get into the path of the Tar-Sands and Amazon bulldozers, to get into our State Houses, and city halls, and shut shit down. That’s gonna take a lot of sacrifice from a lot of privileged people. I know that I will be taking the next couple weeks to seriously reconsider where I’m at and what I can give. I’ll leave you with a moving letter submitted by some of the comrades I was arrested with at #FloodWallSt, who are strategizing for how we can escalate the climate justice movement in the future:

You can also watch #DemocracyNow livestream coverage of the #PeoplesClimateMarch at:

For more amazing photos of the action please check Jenna Pope’s brilliant photo blog at:

<Get In The Streets pic>
Photo of me getting arrested by Heather Cramer Robinson

All other photos by Jessica Lehrman at, OWS, or are marked by the photographer.

My RNC Civil Suit Comes To a Close

This article originally appeared at RIFuture.Org, and has been re-published on SocialistWorker.Org

Four years ago I was arrested while walking through a park at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Along with many other alarmed citizens, I was charged with Felony Riot and taken to Ramsey County Jail. With the support of Minneapolis Hip Hop group Atmosphere and the Rhode Island music label Strange Famous Records, I was bonded out of jail and then hired a private attorney.

We beat the case handily and all charges were dropped. Police arrested over 800 people in four days at the RNC 2008. Many of us believed this was not only unlawful but an intentional effort to suppress citizen voices of dissent at the convention. So we filed a civil suit and took the City to Federal Court for violating our First and Fourth Amendment Rights. After four years of fighting the case is now over.

In 2010, with trial set for a month away, our first judge granted the City a summary judgement and threw the case out. Along with our attorney, my fellow arrestees and I found this unacceptable. We felt it was our civic and patriotic duty to pursue justice and continue doing anything in our legal power to make sure that these violations didn’t go unchecked. Together, we then appealed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals but ran up against a very conservative judge who said that the police should be “praised for their work at the RNC, not sued.”

Having come this far, and being unwilling to give up till all possibilities were exhausted, we took the case to the highest court in the land. In November of 2012, after examining our case and the previous decisions, the Supreme Court chose not to hear the appeal.

There are no legal options left and my comrades and I are satisfied that we defended ourselves and the constitution to the best of our ability. After an arbitrary, mass arrest, we were given trumped up charges and threatened with harsh penalties in hopes that we would accept a plea deal for actions we weren’t guilty of, but we didn’t take any plea. From my vantage point, this is not a defeat, it’s a clear victory.

We beat the city fair and square, and then we went on the offensive. We refused to allow the City to break the law without impunity. We took them to court. And then appealed to a higher court each time we were brushed off. If all working class defendants had the proper counsel, time, resources, and support to fight all the way through the Trial and Appeals process it’d be significantly harder for police and prosecutors to wrongfully arrest and jail people.

I for one am more than happy to have been a thorn in their side for the past four years and to be part of the recent rising trend of working class people learning their rights, getting help, and fighting back.

My attorney drafted a letter to multiple Minneapolis publications in December and January. It was never published. I’ve now been given permission to make the letter public. His insightful and eloquent words are posted below.


The City of St. Paul hosted the Republican National Convention four years ago,
and most Minnesotans are likely relieved that it is behind us. But there is a legacy from
the RNC that most Minnesotans are not aware of. Last fall, the United States Supreme
Court signed off on a decision from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in a mass arrest
case arising out of the RNC. That decision in Bernini v. St. Paul diminishes the Fourth
Amendment rights of all citizens attending public events.

The Bernini case carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendment to allow
officers during demonstrations to arrest every single person in an area for the purpose
of identifying alleged lawbreakers. This exception undermines the bedrock principal
enunciated by the Supreme Court over thirty years ago in Ybarra v. Illinois that probable
cause for an arrest cannot be based merely on “where [a] person may happen to be.”

The facts of the late afternoon mass arrest on September 1, 2008 are as follows:
the incident location was Shepard Road, the boulevard that borders the Mississippi next
to downtown St. Paul. A group of 10 to 15 protesters attempted to cross Shepard toward
Jackson St., an entry point into downtown. Stationed at the entry to Jackson was a law
enforcement unit in riot garb.

What happened next was captured on video and has been posted publicly on
the internet. The small group shuffled slowly behind two signs. When the small group
reached the median of Shepard, the officers launched stinger blast balls at them, followed by smoke and gas. The officers claimed that the group had attacked them with a barrage of rocks, urine, and feces. The video showed no such attack.

Over one hundred officers massed on Shepard and pushed all civilians in the
area west, away from downtown. Law enforcement commanders had set up a “blocking
line” further to the west on Shepard to corral all civilians being pushed towards them.
In carrying out this corral, officers swept up people who had nothing to do with the
protesters and those who had been nowhere near Jackson.

Upon completing the corral next to the Mississippi, officers had surrounded
approximately 400 confused, peaceful civilians. Officers then announced by
loudspeaker, “Ladies and Gentlemen, you are now under arrest.” There was one, huge
problem: officers only claimed to have probable cause to believe that a small percentage
of the 400 arrested had committed a crime.

The Senior Commander that day was well aware of this probable cause
shortcoming and so admitted when testifying in Bernini:

Q. [D]id you know that some of the people who were going to be arrested, you
did not have probable cause on?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. [Y]ou knew that you had approximately 200 people in the area within
the encirclement who you did not have probable cause on?

A. Correct.

So how is it that the courts gave their imprimatur to the arrests of at least 200
innocent civilians? First, the District Court Judge took offense that throngs of people
sought to disturb the RNC. He could not contain his displeasure and declared in open
court, “the police force of the City of St. Paul should be commended and not sued… I’m
distressed by, frankly, the existence of this case.” So much for the Fourth Amendment.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, the court that reviewed the District
Court decision, assumed that everyone who was released after being put under arrest
wasn’t really “arrested” and thus had no Fourth Amendment protection. The judges
then engaged in the fuzziest of math, to arrive at the proposition that officers can use
rough numbers when arresting civilians. Otherwise put, civilians in any given area are
interchangeable widgets for arrest purposes. As long as officers arrive at a reasonable
ballpark estimate for the number of people to arrest, their actions are constitutional.

Over forty years ago, the Supreme Court cautioned, “we cannot forgive the
requirements of the Fourth Amendment in the name of law enforcement.” Bernini tells us
the courts can – and have.

John Joyce:
R.I.P. to one of Rhode Island’s most committed social justice activists

John Joyce
One of Rhode Island’s finest passed away last night. John Joyce was a friend, hero, and mentor of mine. He was truly one of the most committed and effective organizers I’ve ever known. John was a driving force behind the Rhode Island Housing Advocacy Project, Occupy Providence, and countless aggressive direct actions against unjust economic policies and laws.

He was tough as nails. Like a badass construction worker version of Michael Landon in Highway To Heaven with a Carhardt jacket and a thick Rhode Island accent. There’s no way to explain it unless you knew him. He was literally a guardian angel on the Providence streets. An advocate who didn’t spend his days bogged down with conference calls, pining for audience with politicians, writing grants, or networking from behind a computer, John hit the street nearly every day, rain, sleet, or snow, and literally sought out those who were in the most danger and were in the most need of help. Whether in an abandoned building, down by the river, highway overpass, park, bus station, or alley way, John was there. Letting folks know what resources were available to them, but more importantly, being a friend. Sharing a cup of coffee, honestly connecting, honestly caring, and never patronizing. John was sometimes the only person folks who’d fallen on severely hard times would listen to, and there are many who would not be alive today, and many who stayed alive much longer than they would have, had it not been for his efforts.

John was candid as hell. He spoke and conducted himself the same whether talking to a judge in court, to folks on the street, to senators at a State House hearing, whether he was de-escalating a potentially violent situation or whether addressing someone he just met in a coffee shop. Honest and sincere as the day is long. He was nobody’s fool.

He definitely wouldn’t want us moping around over his passing- he’d want us to be good to one another, to consider what life is like for those left out in the cold by a system that rewards exploitation and thrives on economic, social, and racial injustice (regardless of whether or not we ever find ourselves in that situation but knowing that it could happen to anyone). Above all, I believe he would’ve wanted us to stay involved, to keep fighting, and to have fun and enjoy the ride while doing it. John said to me on more than one occasion, “Jared, you’re a hard worker, but you can’t control everything, no one can. You could spend all month or or all week planning out every last detail of a direct action, but once the bell rings, whatever’s gonna happen is gonna happen, so have fun! Organize as best you can, but you gotta have a good time too.”

I’m so proud of him. For living such a full, amazing, and compassionate life. For his commitment to the movement, and for enduring his battle with cancer as long as he did. I celebrate his journey, and am grateful to have had him in my life as a friend and a role model. He accomplished too many things to list but I will close by pointing out the passing of RI’s “Homeless Bill of Rights”- legislation, the first of its kind anywhere in the U.S., that mandates an equal right to jobs, housing, and public space for all inhabitants, whether they have a home or not. It also prevents landlords, employers, health clinics, and police from legally denying services to any one simply because they don’t have a permanent residence. The bill guarantees confidentiality of personal records, the right to receive voting materials, and the right to privacy of personal property, as well.

Personally, I don’t think capitalism can ultimately be reformed through legislative change within the system but for those in the most need, those dealing with immediate cold, hunger, and serious health issues in the street, survival is not an abstract dilemma. This bill made an immediate difference in people’s lives in real time. It’s success was made possible by the aggressive direct action and organizing efforts of many members in the Rhode Island Housing Advocacy Project, the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, unaffiliated houseless Rhode Islanders, students, and other local activists, but John was a core organizer for the campaign and it almost certainly wouldn’t have happened, or happened when it did, if not for his efforts. I’ve posted links to relevant and related articles at the bottom of the page.

John, and people like him, are heroes to me. His life deserves to be celebrated and remembered, more than any millionaire exploiter tycoon turned “philanthropist” with the money to put his own quotes up in big letters all over the city, more than millionaire athletes and actors, more than war mongering, union bashing presidents, and more than well known musicians and poets who romanticize, sing, and write about the struggle John put his flesh and blood into.

Be safe, brother. We see you, and will continue the struggle. This world is truly a better place because you were in it.

Love and Solidarity,


*Info on RI Homeless Bill of Rights:


Rhode Island’s Homeless Bill of Rights | Mother Jones

Rhode Island Homeless Bill Of Rights Praised As U.S. Model – Huffington Post

38 Studios is More Sleaze by the 1%

originally featured in
Providence Journal
June 4, 2012

Once again, the people of Rhode Island have suffered from an insider
deal marketed as “economic development.” The Rhode Island Economic
Development Corporation awarded $75 million in loan guarantees to a
video-game company that has now apparently collapsed.
It’s not enough to dump the blame on 38 Studios and Curt Schilling, the
company’s well-connected but inexperienced founder. Most Rhode Islanders
are aware that the problem goes wider than that.
To finance the Curt Schilling deal, the EDC helped secure $75 million
in loans from Wall Street. It was not listed as a taxpayer bond, but state
leaders have now promised that the taxpayers will pay if the financial
firms can’t get their money any other way. We at Occupy Providence believe
that job-creation projects shouldn’t end with a bailout.
This deal never made economic sense. Curt Schilling’s company promised
to create 450 jobs in Rhode Island. It never had more than 300. But even if
Schilling’s company had kept its promise, the cost would still have been
over $100,000 per job created. That’s more than double what most Rhode
Islanders make in a year.
A deal that pays that much per job isn’t about job creation. Instead,
it’s at the level that’s normally considered corporate welfare.
For that much money, you could have given jobs to more people than
Schilling promised to employ, and they could have been jobs that left a
lasting benefit for the whole state in fixing roads or helping the schools.
Even if this deal had worked out and didn’t leave taxpayers on the hook
for repaying Wall Street with interest, spending $100,000-plus per job
still amounts to a bogus form of economic development.
Occupy Providence sees this latest scandal as only one example of a
much wider problem: the power of insiders in Rhode Island. When Curt
Schilling got his great deal, he was an insider. He was a prominent
supporter of then-Gov. Donald Carcieri’s Republican Party, and Carcieri
chaired the EDC, which arranged the $75 million loan guarantee.
It’s not just the Republicans, of course. Both parties have given
plenty of examples of how they’re ready to abuse whatever amount of power
they have. And the power of insiders goes beyond political parties. Dan
Doyle’s Institute for International Sport at the University of Rhode Island
seems to have used his insider position to evade financial controls at URI.
Wall Street firms are able to use their insider status to increase
their wealth and make us cover their losses with money from the real
economy. In the Schilling deal, Wall Street firms didn’t only lend the
money; some of them took a share of the proceeds to facilitate the deal.
Occupy Providence promotes the voice of the 99 percent of the
population because Rhode Islanders continue to suffer from insider deals.
If the 99 percent had been consulted about the Schilling deal, it wouldn’t
have happened. Only 28 percent of Rhode Islanders favored it at the time.
The vast majority of the population would have done many other things
differently, too.
It was insiders who made a deal with Achievement First to run schools
in Rhode Island, even though Achievement First’s questionable record led
many residents to oppose it. The EDC, a board of business, labor government
and nonprofit-group leaders appointed by the governor, is great at
promoting their deals.
One year it’s Curt Schilling, other years it’s been a biotech firm like
Alpha Beta (another flop) or the troubled Wyatt jail that was supposed to
help save Central Falls. Meanwhile, the EDC engages in what economists call
a “race to the bottom” — competing with other states to give tax breaks to
big business, and borrowing money from Wall Street to fund whatever deals
the insiders like. They call it economic development, because it’s true
that economic development requires spending money.
But when we leave it up to the 1 percent to spend that money, we don’t
get any more real prosperity than a mediocre video game. We in Occupy
Providence believe that economic progress comes from cutting out the
insiders. We keep hearing that there’s no more money for the concerns of
the 99 percent, such as education and transit, but these are the things
that bring real economic development. Once we work together to put the 99
percent’s concerns into practice, Rhode Island will have a brighter future.

Jared Paul and Randall Rose represent Occupy Providence.

2008 RNC Arrest Story, Part III:
Another Long Day

Originally Published in
The Agenda (2008)
Providence Based Quarterly Newspaper (2009)
Label home to Prayers For Atheists
Off The Wookie (2009)
The official magazine of SXSW Festival (2009)

I opened my eyes the next morning not quite sure of where I was. A quick glance around confirmed that yesterday had not been a dream. Claustrophobia washed over me as I surveyed the walls of the tiny cell and the day got off to a sullen start but spirits improved dramatically by mid-morning when I was allowed to speak with an attorney.

The ACLU had taken all my info when I called them from the park. With diligence and a little luck they were able to locate me. The attorney explained details about my case and took down whatever family members’ phone numbers I could remember, as well as Slug from Atmosphere’s email. Slug lived in Minneapolis and was a longtime friend. I definitely didn’t want to bother him but things were serious and I knew he’d want to know what was going on. I was nearly shaking with happiness just to be outside of the cell and found myself trying to stretch out our meeting like a school kid stalling in the Nurse’s office, knowing full well that next class period was waiting as soon as the bell rang.

We were allowed to make phone calls at this point but only collect calls and even those seemed to hang up randomly in mid conversation. Sometimes it would hang up right in the middle of a call and then block you from calling the number you had just dialed saying “The person you just called has not yet set up a customer account with Ramsey County phone services. You must wait 30 minutes before calling again.” Being on 23hr a day lock down and only let out of our cells for half an hour at a time made it impossible to call anyone back in 30 minutes, and it was very difficult to contact people or get anything done.

Being an ACLU rep, my attorney wasn’t able to pay the bond for my bail but he was able to give me the numbers of a trustworthy Bail Bondsman’s office nearby. However, I couldn’t be bailed or bonded out because I hadn’t been arraigned yet. By law, Ramsey County could hold me for up to 48 hours without bringing me before a Judge, which meant I might be in here till Thursday morning or later. Our session ended with the attorney giving me his card and a handshake. He was very supportive and I felt a thousand times less alone knowing that he’d contact my family and start working things out. I’d also been able to take a few sheets of paper and a stubby prison pencil to make notes with.

Later that day, during my final 30 minute break from the cell, the attorney spoke with me on the phone telling me he’d gotten in touch with my sister as well as Slug. They were both working to find out everything they could and making plans to get me out as soon as possible. I spoke with them both for 45 seconds each before the phone cut out. My sister’s voice was the strongest thing I’d heard in years, it filled me with hope, like she was right there on the side of me. She explained to me that Sean had spoken with the lawyer first and then called her to ensure her that I wasn’t in any trouble and that things were on their way to being worked out. I thanked Sean for that before our phone connection was cut off and walked away feeling recharged.

The ball was rolling on the outside but inside Ramsey jail it was a decidedly mixed bag. Some folks were handling the situation really well and others were not. There was a guy who had the flu, which got worse over the course of the night. His cell was drafty and they wouldn’t give him more than the standard thread bare County sheets or medical attention. Another guy was in a cell all by himself and starting to get shaky about it. Under other circumstances it may have been better to have the space all to one’s self given the size of the rooms but we were on 23 hour a day lock down and his cell had ended up being nearly the equivalent of solitary confinement.

The correctional officers lovingly referred to our hall as “the pod” and the 1st floor corner of our pod was a room stuffed with people. Apparently they’d filled the other twenty or so rooms with two inmates each (except for the one guy in semi-solitary) and all the extra people had been put in that one corner room. During one of the breaks I was able to peek in. It looked like a Yoga class in Hell with prisoners lying on mats in columns and rows taking up nearly every inch of the floor. I suddenly felt unusually gratefull for my cell with stiff bunk and lidless toilet. As I passed, I made eye contact with the guys inside, held my fist high in support, and tried to look tough. I went back to my cell and worked on an outline of everything that happened thus far, making notes, trying to keep details fresh for my story and for my case.

The hours passed slowly. Sometimes we called to each other from the cracks beneath our cell doors checking to see what time it was or if anyone had heard any news. I had found a shitty Dean Koontz novel in a rack of old books they let us choose from. At a certain point in my life it would’ve been a real score, but now? Not so much. Cliche plot, simple characters, and a lot of rehashed pop culture concepts but it was enough to take my mind off things.

During breaks from the book I thought about the Convention and how people out there were being treated. Today was Tuesday and my good friend B. Dolan was playing the big show on the Capitol lawn with Dead Prez and many other acts. Different stories were circulating amongst the arrestees, it was rumored that Rage Against the Machine might be playing a surprise set and also that many more people had been arrested over the course of the previous evening.

The RNC arrestees on the pod went out of their way to be support eachother, making jokes whenever we could, sharing stories, asking around to be sure everyone had spoken with a lawyer, and doing anything we could to keep spirits up. From speaking with our attorneys and family outside we learned that legally they were only supposed to be able to hold us for 48 hours without bringing us before a judge, but it was impossible to know when that 48 hours began according to the Sheriff of Ramsey County. Would they let us out whenever that 48 hours was up? Did they plann to keep us in longer? Would I be out in time to cover the next day’s events or the final day of the Convention?

We got an unexpected answer as to how the concert at the Capitol went later that day. A large crowd of resolute attendees and RNC protesters left the state house lawn after the show was shut down by police and began marching through the city picking up supporters as they went. The march passed Ramsey County Jail and hundreds of people stopped to cheer ferociously for those of us inside. We could hear them from our cells as sound bounced off the buildings on the street and everyone ran to their doors to get a better listen. The guards looked alert, as though maybe a siege of ghosts belonging to all the innocent people who’d ever spent a night in that foreboding place had suddenly risen and was now crashing down around them. The prisoners in our Pod cheered back, it felt like a rescue scene in a movie. Needless to say, this wasn’t Hollywood and no matter how much the people in that crowd wanted their friends, family, and fellow activists freed, no one would be let out that day. Nevertheless, it felt good to know that we weren’t forgotten and that so many had marched to support us. Was B. out there cheering with them? I forgot the cage around me for a moment and smiled to myself, thinking of all the events he and I have attended together through the years and hoping that the storm troopers outside hadn’t got their slimy mitts on him.

Day faded into night. My roommate was a photographer and one of the most friendly people I’ve ever met. We talked for a long time about the election in November and the dangerous ways in which things were changing for America. It was quite obvious to both of us that authorities are using more and more Riot Police in unnecessary situations all the time. That riot police seldom de-escalate any situation, but rather, are much more likely to create tension and often intentionally provoke a negative response from the crowd. All the gear, body armor, high tech weapons: the rubber bullet guns, helmets, visors, knee pads, shin guards, utility belts, batons, mase hoses, bean bag guns, tasers, hydration backpacks? The sound cannons, flash-bang grenades, riot vans, helicopters, video, photo, radio, and surveillance equipment, the intelligence, infrastructure, and administration of it all? All the over time pay? It costs MILLIONS.

Weapon making corporations employ an army of lobbyists in Washington. These advocates push for legislative changes that require the use of riot police in more and more situations. The more situations that occur where authorities successfully demand that the use of riot cops is necessary, then the more laws will continue to change in favor of mandating the use of paramilitary crowd control in nearly any instance they wish. At which point, more and more riot gear and equipment will be needed, the profit margin will continue to grown, and the circle repeats. Match this phenomenon with any number of Defense Department programs desperate to solve / create problems in order to justify their budgets and an Administration bending its will to convince America that there are terrorists around every corner, and you can bet we’ll all be seeing many more lines of heavily armored officers on our streets for a long time to come.

They’re already using riot police at anti-war protests and immigrant’s rights rallies. Riot police called in to “keep Boston safe” during the American League Championship Series in 2004 killed a 21 year old student at Emerson College named Victoria Snelgrove when she was shot in the face with a supposedly “non-lethal” projectile rifle. Should we expect para-military riot police at peaceful Labor rallies and Marriage Right’s press events next? Will we then see them called in for holiday parades or any public concert? College sporting events and Little League games too? We are on a very slippery slope and it isn’t difficult to imagine how things could go from bad to worse in a relatively short time.

My room mate and I eventually fell asleep but were woken up promptly at 3:30 a.m. which is when they serve breakfast in County Jail; all part of the program to keep prisoners disoriented, dispirited, and obedient. To the best of my knowledge, the logic is that if you startle people out of a deep sleep to eat at 3:30am then they’ll do it quickly and go back to bed. Then they wake up hungry and looking forward to lunch around 11pm, have dinner at 5pm, and are docile and ready for bed around 9pm. Eating breakfast 2 hours before dawn is early, even by a farmer’s standards, but there wasn’t much of a choice so we ate.

A new guy who had been picked up by RNC security forces days before us was moved unto our pod during the night. He seemed scared and said that he had been arrested by RNC security forces on Saturday afternoon, which meant he had already been in custody for over 4 days and still hadn’t been arraigned. The rest of us had spent two nights in jail already and had all been counting on being released soon. After listening to him everyone we now understood that we might actually be staying for longer than anyone had originally feared. The news spread from cell to cell like a dirty secret and before lunch all the arrestees on our pod agreed to collectively refuse food until we were allowed to see a judge or be let go. Lawyers and family members were alerted on phone breaks that we would be hunger striking. This was done in order to make our intentions clear and also to indicate that additional medical attention might be needed.

As morning crawled along and the late summer sun touched down on the outer pane of my glazed window I tried to put the prospect of skipping dinner out of mind. It was low quality lunchroom food (under cooked rice, white bread, canned apple sauce, and maybe a packet of high fructose peanut butter) but I had foolishly missed breakfast on the day of the arrest. That, matched with 2 days of these prison meals, had me feeling thin and weak. Suddenly there was a clamoring in the cells and my roomy and I flew to the door quickly pressing our noses against the small window. There were now guards walking in with paper work and voices coming from arrestees out of door slots. They seemed to be taking us out one cell at a time. Finally, almost exactly 48 hours after we’d been taken from the park, we would be brought before an actual judge.

We all cheered and the guards bellowed for us to shut up. But after two days on 23 hour-a-day cell lockdown the excitement was not containable. Visions of stretching my legs, breathing fresh air, getting a real meal, and holding Rheanna’s hand were all I could think of; Rheanna is one of the people I was listening the concert with when we all got arrested. I hadn’t seen her since Monday and had know way of knowing if she was alright. Excitement was high at first, but it eventually leveled and crashed. We realized getting off the pod didn’t really mean much for the immediate present and that this process would also take a long slow time. We were moved from room to room, again, and then finally wound up in a big holding cell next to meeting rooms where a bunch of ACLU affiliated attorneys and Public Defenders were waiting.

Slowly but surely they packed the holding cell with nearly 50 people and one by one we were allowed to speak with a lawyer. The attorney I’d been working with called me out and explained that this was basically just a bail hearing and it would be very fast. He said that my friends were waiting to bond me out but that I might not actually be released till later on that night. It all depended on how quickly they processed me and whether or not the cops had specific plans to stall our release. I was so ready to go home I could almost taste it. Three days of eating peanut butter and jelly on the lowest quality white bread known to man, suspect looking fruit, and that thick, dry rice… my mind went wild thinking of all the things I’d eat when I got out.

After I was done speaking with him they brought me back to the holding cell to wait again. Shortly after a guard led me toward the courtroom. He opened a door, push-steered me through it, and then very quickly closed it behind me. I soon realized that I was in a small prisoner’s alcove sectioned off by a high wooden wall and thick clear plastic above.The whole courtroom turned and stared at me in my orange Ramsey County prisoner’s jumpsuit. The prosecutor wanted bail set at $4,000. My lawyer got it down to $2,000 and the judge ordered me back to court on September 30th. The whole thing might’ve taken 90 seconds and I didn’t even get to speak. After all that time in the cell and all that emotion, I felt like I was owed some sort of expression, but it was just a bail hearing and they weren’t even accepting pleas. I felt disenfranchised, humiliated, and enraged all at the same time.

Back in the holding cell everyone was talking and sharing details, trying to figure out what was going on. A few local people had gotten really low bail but most of ours had been set up around $2,000. There were a bunch of younger guys in there with us. One of them was really shaken and on the verge of tears. He was white trashy like me, reminded me a lot of my neighborhood growing up, and it seemed he had misunderstood what the public defender had said to him. He was anxious and shivering, said that he wouldn’t have the money for bail and would have to stay in County Jail after all of us had already gotten out. Said that his parents didn’t have the money and none of his friends did either. He swore he hadn’t done anything illegal but started talking crazy about taking a guilty plea to anything they offered. My roomy and I sat him down and explained how the bonding process worked and that it wouldn’t be hard for him to get someone to throw down 10% of the bail. He just had to keep his head and hold on for a little longer. We borrowed a pencil from a guard and wrote down the number for the bondsperson my lawyer had given me. The boy squared his shoulders and shook my hand. Much of the frantic look had left his face, but he still seemed so young and vulnerable. We did our best to make him feel supported and kept an eye on him for the rest of the time we were in the same cell.

Shortly after, they began moving us from room to room again. It was irritating but the idea that we were actually being processed out began to set in and my spirits rose. Also, for a short while, we were placed in a room across the hall from a bunch of the girls also taken at the park, and others from “the parking lot” (which we had found out was the location of another mass arbitrary RNC arrest site.) We could hear them singing and it felt good; good to know they were safe, good to know they were weathering this whole mess seemingly much better than we were, and good just to hear the sound of their voices. They peeked in the door windows and smiled at us. It was unquestionably the high point of the preceding 40 or 50 hours.

However, much to my shock and dismay, when I was finally called out of the cell I discovered that I wasn’t being released. Rather, I was brought back down the same dark hallway full of shower stalls without faucets from two nights before. Instead of giving me my clothes back, I was actually subjected to a second strip search only to then be brought back out to a different pod and placed in general population.

I could feel the heat rise into my face, standing completely naked, once again surrounded by that dirty meat smell, with my hands on the wall. Déjà vu. The internal struggle to rebel all over again. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was made to turn around, bend over, and display my genitals from all angles before another huge guard and his gun.

Duty Calls: Withdrawing from 2011 Individual World Poetry Slam in order to OCCUPY!

Originally posted via Facebook

The following is a copy of the email I sent to the Executive Director of Poetry Slam, Inc explaining why I’ve chosen (as much as it hurts me to do so) to withdraw from the 2011 IWPS:

This is crazy, but I have to back out of IWPS. I have a great deal of respect for the history of the tournament and the work that goes into the whole process, as well as for the competitors in this year’s competition, and I have been training harder than ever to be ready for Cleveland, but shortly after those girls got maced at the Occupation of Wall Street, an Occupy Providence movement started in response.

Since then, I’ve gone to every Occupy Providence Assembly; seven 3-5 hour long meetings in the last eight days and I’m now one of the most involved planners for the Direct Action working group (tasked with helping the Assembly to plan march routes, non-violence tactics, logistics of the occupation, etc.) Our occupation starts on Saturday, October 15 and we’ll be working everyday till then.

The timing couldn’t be worse. I believe in the work I was planning to bring to IWPS with every fiber of my being, but we’ve been getting 100 people a day out to our meetings, and I cannot in good conscience walk out on the community that has come together here in Providence at this most crucial moment. Further, the bulk of my work is based around pushing and preparing for the kind of movement that is happening right now. I’ve searched my heart, and, based on what I believe about mass action, the body of work I’ve built, and the messages I’ve pushed, I couldn’t live with myself if I was on stage yelling about the movement I’ve waited my whole life for, while 650 miles away, at that very moment, the city I’ve been organizing in for the last 12 years (my home) was attempting its most serious, grass roots challenge to plutocracy/oligarchy/imperialism in decades, if not ever.

I’ve prayed on it, sought the insight of close friends and family, and beat myself up, even cried over it, but I’ve come to a final decision. I wish I could’ve let IWPS and whoever may take my place know sooner, so that the appropriate planning could have begun, but I myself did not know until now. I sat down to write this email the moment I was 100% sure. I understand how much work goes into planning and putting on a Tournament of this magnitude. I understand how much it means to those competing; it was among the greatest honors of my career to train for and represent Providence at IWPS in 2004, 2006, & 2007. I’ve been training and planning for IWPS 2011 since early August and I built my whole October schedule around it, but there’s no way that I could have known that the Occupy movement would come to my city like it has. There was no way I could’ve known how completely engrossed in it I would become, or that the occupation would begin on 10/15, and so, it is with a heavy, but resolute heart, and the greatest of respect for the slam family, for the competitors and organizers of IWPS 2011, the integrity and craft of performance poetry, of serious writing, and of being what you speak, that I officially withdraw from the Tournament.

With deep regret, but unwavering hope for tomorrow,


Thankfully, she was very kind and understanding. I appreciate it very much. I love my Slam Fam and I’ve got so much respect for the work yall are bringing! I’m positive you’ll go out there, break stages in half, kill mics, and leave Cleveland talking for years. Do your thang, and maybe pour a little organic almond milk out for your lil’ vegan comrade! I’ve made an ugly choice here and its fucking me up a little, but, in the end, it’s the only choice I could make and still be me.

Jared Opens For Our Lady Peace In NYC, Drama Ensues

Originally posted via Facebook

I had the amazing honor of performing two poems and a song with @OurLadyPeace Tuesday night in New York city; two poems before their set, and a song during their second encore. After I performed my first piece there was loud, supportive applause from the approximately 900 person crowd. I smiled at the audience, and said, “I think we’ve got time for one more, you ok with that?” At which point there was another loud, supportive burst of applause.

So, I continued: “I’d like to dedicate this last piece to my Canadian comrades from Our Lady Peace.” To which there was thunderous cheering. I then said, “And also, to the folks here tonight from Occupy Wall Street, and the whole Occupy movement around the country and the world.”

As soon as I said “Occupy Wall Street” about ten to twenty guys toward the back left of the crowd began BOOing. Loudly. With a curious smile, I said, “Is Occupy really that controversial in New York?” And the BOO’s continued.

I went into the first line of the poem ABC’s For Roger (2012), which is posted below, and as I spoke the first line, “My mother was not an American when she crossed the border for the first time,” the BOO’S got even louder and spread out to multiple pockets in the crowd.

At this point, I looked down at the first 20 or so rows of people and saw that they were all locked in to the performance and were annoyed at the BOOing. I’d be goddamned if I was going to let to some anti-Occupy haters bully me off stage. I was also goddamned if I wasn’t enough of a professional to follow through on Our Lady Peace’s choice to allow 8 minutes of radical spoken word at their show; by my assessment there were 30-60 people booing, another 100 or so who were indifferent, but the bulk of the crowd was trying to listen.

When the Boo’ers saw that I had no intention of stopping the piece they Boo’ed even louder. At which point I smiled, stepped closer to the mic, and proportionately increased my volume. About three quarters of the way through the piece, my hecklers seemed a bit demoralized at how unphazed I was, either that, or they had started listening and were maybe giving it a chance. Then I got to the part of the poem where I address some issues I see with Police, and the Boo’ers were rejeuvenated! They started a fresh volley of jeers.

I powered through to the end, relishing the challenge, and finished strong. When I was done, there was a loud, strong applause from the hundreds of folks who were listening. I stepped back a little from the mic, and said, “For those of you Boo’ing, maybe you’ve figured it out by now, but its not my job to send you home happy.” I then asked the crowd to give it up for OLP who were up next. The crowd went crazy with excitement, and I walked off stage feeling like I just had a fist fight.

Backstage, Our Lady Peace were concerned as to whether or not I was OK. I said that I was great but that I hoped I hadn’t embarassed them. They said they were in my corner 100% and we put our hands in on a group huddle, and “Whoaaaaa Team’d!” baseball style in hopes of good luck for the rest of the night. OLP played an amazing, emotional, and intense set; if you’ve never seen them live before, I completely recommend it to music fans of any genre. They blend multiple styles of music, have great range, and the songs are nearly flawless renditions of their recorded albums, but with a rawness and realness that sort of transforms the room. Which is why they’ve been a band for 20 years and are still selling out 900+ person venues around the world. The crowd was through the roof (OLP’s got some of the most devoted and energetic supporters anywhere.) At the end of the night, the band brought me back out for the second encore and I rapped a song over an extended version of the instrumental they use at live shows to intro their hit song Starseed. There was loud applause when I walked back out, applause at multiple parts during the song, and louder applause at the end.

When the show was over, I went down to the lobby to make myself available to anyone who wanted to take a swing at me or talk politics. Instead of getting the shit I expected, I wound up receiving crazy high fives, pats on the back, and “great jobs.” Instead of getting swung on, I was asked to sign 20 or so OLP albums and tickets, and asked to take pictures with over a dozen supporters. Eventually, one republican dude from the crowd came up to me and said, “Hey, man, I disagree with you but I respect that you stuck it out like that. I want to apologize for the people who were boo’ing. I have some questions, can we talk?” We went outside and talked for like 45 minutes with a whole crowd of people. Not a single person other than him said anything negative or challenging to me. All in all, it was a great goddamned night.

Since then, a few OLP fans online have tweeted that having me on as part of the show was “inexecusable” and “cowardly,” and that OLP had “lost them as a fan” after having been subjected to my “un-American” poems. A significantly larger number of folks have tweeted and fb’ed them with support for their decision to include me.

It’s important to note that the loud BOO’ing started 20 seconds before the poem even began. It started as soon as I made the @OccupyWallSt dedication, and was in full swing during the first word of the first line of the piece, but, for anyone who’s interested, I’ve pasted the text of my “cowardly,” “inexcusable,” and “un-American” poem below:

Getting Boo’ed so viciously and attacked online (on some “9/11! How dare you talk about cops in NYC!” over something so not really that radical like this poem, as I’m re-reading Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States”, is really driving it home for me how ridiculously privileged I am. Not just as a hetero, white American male, but as an organizer / radical in a post 2000 era. The FBI, CIA, Homeland security, and police forces are still entrapping, kidnapping, detaining, imprisoning, beating, torturing, and killing activists, organizers, un-armed black, asian, and latino teens, men, and women, around the world and in this country as well, but back in the day under the Smith Act and the Espionage Act and COINTELPRO, they did all those things to thousands in broad day light for simply picketing, or taking part in a strike, or even talking about it; for simply being a union member, anti-capitalist, socialist, or anarchist. The viciousness in the tone of those Boo’ers last Tuesday and the guy villifying me on Twitter? Shiiiiiiit. If this was in the heat of the 1930’s labor movement I might be in jail for 7-10, after being mauled by a mob outside the show to boot!

Info on their new album “Curve” is here:

And here’s the video of a song they wrote and donated to the OWS “Occupy Music” working group:

2008 RNC Arrest Story, Part II:
Ramsey County Jail

Originally Published in
The Agenda (2008)
Providence Based Quarterly Newspaper (2009)
Label home to Prayers For Atheists
Off The Wookie (2009)
The official magazine of SXSW Festival (2009)

Processing took a long, long time. Officers barked orders and made us stand with our noses to the wall while waiting in between different steps. Wrist ties were cut and they proceeded to move us around from room to room for hours. Pockets of twenty or so people were stuffed into small, filthy holding cells with no bathrooms. While sitting around talking with folks, I discovered that most of the people taken from the park were also being charged with Felony Riot. Everyone I spoke with was anxious over the implications of having a Felony on their record and the prospect of being kept in County Jail for an indefinite amount of time.

After being finger-printed for the first time, I was made to sign a property waiver, at which point I discovered there was no record of my wallet, ID, cell phone, or bank card in my ‘property’ at all. The officers had been refusing to answer any of our questions and gruffly snapping orders since the park but now I refused to be easily brushed off. “Officer, I’m here writing an article for a paper in R.I., over a thousand miles away. If you lost my wallet, my ID, my phone, and all my money, then what am I supposed to do? I won’t even be allowed to buy an airline ticket, let alone get on a plane. I need to know where my stuff is…” The officer looked like he had a split second’s worth of remorse but it disappeared just as fast as it came. He said there was no way to know where my stuff was or if they even had it. The best I could do was track down the Police Station of my arresting officer when I got out.

About twenty of us were now crammed back into a small room with two large windows facing the hallway. Peering out we saw the cops escort an enormous scowling man with black boots into the hall. He had to be at least 250 pounds with tattoos and a shaved head. They took off his zip ties and deposited him in the room right next to ours. He immediately stuck his nose up to the pane glass and began mouthing threats at us: “You’re dead meat” and “I’m going to kill you.” This terrified some of the people in our cell at first but a closer inspection showed that the room holding the man was in fact not a holding cell at all. It was a questioning room with a desk and a cabinet. Shortly after, another cop brought in some papers and we saw that the door wasn’t even locked and our supposed psycho was as actually an off duty cop brought in to frighten us (many of whom had little or no previous jail experience.) Later the same guy was spotted laughing and hanging out with the other on-duty officers behind one of the processing desks.

I was in the cell long enough to make friends with some of the other arrestees who’d been on the bus with me from the park. We began singing and telling stories to pass the time and boost morale. The oldest guy with us, a photographer from an unnamed paper, sang a beautiful Irish labor song. I performed a poem of mine called ‘Dig’ with an intro from the anti-war traditional ‘Down By The Riverside.’ People applauded and stomped on the floor. Shortly after a cop came in and screamed at us for singing. He cursed at us and said that our “racket” was preventing them from doing their jobs and if they couldn’t process us then we’d be stuck in this cell for a long time. People were respectful to him but he seemed shocked that nobody was scared or apologizing. He left in a huff and slammed the door behind him.

I honestly cannot say how many more rooms they moved us to after that. Maybe as many as ten or eleven. It seemed very similar to a defense department tactic used on enemy combatants known as “Frequent Flyer.” The idea is that you constantly move prisoners around in order to keep them confused and hopeless. You keep pushing them from one place to another, allow them to think they’ve gotten to where they’re going for the night and get comfortable with the people they are currently being held with, then just as they start to relax you move them to a another room with different prisoners. It’s quite effective in rendering prisoners disillusioned, dispirited, mentally exhausted, and easily pliable. We had been in custody for all day and whether the Ramsey County “frequent flyer” treatment was part of the plan or not, I noticed it taking a toll on those around me.

After what seemed like hours, an angry officer with a clipboard stepped into our holding cell and began calling names. But we had questions…

“Officer, do you know what time it is? Do you know where we’re going?”

“I don’t care what time it is, and you’re not gonna like where you’re goin’.”

“Do you know when we can use the phone? What time court is tomorrow?”

“You ain’t going to see no judge tomorrow, you boys are gonna be in here for a long time…”

“Come on, man. Can’t you just tell us?” ”

“I can tell you that if you don’t shut your mouth I’ll do my best to make sure you wind up on the third floor with the rapists and murderers far away from all your little protest friends.”

I tried hard not to show it but my stomach sank. I think everyone’s did. It seemed fairly obvious that up to this point the police had been intentionally keeping all the protesters together and I didn’t really believe that we’d be assigned to a floor specifically for violent offenders but I also knew they could do anything they wanted with us. What got to me the most was the way he spoke so surely about us being in for “a long time.” How long would it be, two days? Till the end of the Convention? Longer?

When my name was called I was led down a short hall lined with shower stalls that didn’t have any actual shower faucet heads. There were grimy yellow walls and a moldy, rancid meat smell that filled both nostrils. An armed guard led me to one of the stalls and said, “Strip. Then put your clothes in that crate.” Excuse me? “TAKE OFF YOUR CLOTHES AND PUT THEM IN THE CRATE.” Everything in me wanted to refuse. I hadn’t done anything and they had no right to keep me there. Blood rushed into my face as I looked the huge man up and down; I saw that he was tired and very irritated. Not abusive like the other officer, just worn out and seemingly nearing the end of his rope.

I was more angry than scared but I knew it would be dangerous to tap into that kind of venom. This is how the Law ensnares peaceful people into more trouble than they were swindled into in the first place. I switched my focus. “Remember everything and then write it all down,” I thought. “When you get out, win this case, and publish every last detail.” I took a deep breath and removed my clothes.

“Turn around, face the wall. Lift up the bottoms of your feet, one at a time. Good. Bend over and touch your toes. Spread your ass cheeks; left, right. Good. Stand up, turn around. Lift up your sack, move it to the left, the right. Separate the shaft from your sack; left, right. Good. Now wait here and don’t move.”

He shut the shower curtain and left with my clothes. Naked as a newborn, I waited in the meat-smelling oubliette until he returned with another crate. “Now put on the uniform and wait till I come back.” The uniform was a bright orange jumpsuit, just like the images we’ve all seen from Guantanamo. I thought of all the people that have been held in that place for years without a lawyer, without rights, and I felt ashamed for how little I’ve done to advocate for their rights; to be accountable for what my tax dollars pay for. I thought of all the innocent people and those doing unjust sentences in American jails as well. I began to consider the implications of putting that suit on myself. It seemed that the simple act of stepping into it was a giving over in and of itself; a rendering, an acceptance of defeat, an admission that something wrong had been done. I mean, how many hours walking around in G-Bay orange before you actually start to think of yourself as guilty on one level or another?

It was late and I was incredibly tired. Once again I reminded myself that the Victory would be in making my way through this snake pit without them getting the best of me and following it up with legal action once I was released. My life suddenly felt distant and detached, like this was all happening in a movie or TV show somebody else was watching. My arms and legs slowly began to move (as if acting on their own accord), methodically putting on the suit. Mismatched orange socks in scummy, thousand-time worn County flip flops click clacked along the dull floors as we were finally placed in cells where we could sleep. Two guys to a cell about the size of a walk in closet, stainless steel lidless toilet, two mattress-less bunks, and one tiny sliver of a window with frosted glass you couldn’t see out of.

Before shutting us in for the rest of the night, the guards informed us that we were on 23 Hour Lock Down. This means that until we were released we’d only be allowed to come out of our cells and onto the main floor area for two 30 minute breaks a day. We would have to remain in our cells for every second of the other 23 hours. In addition to that, nobody would be allowed to use the phone until “later.” I thought this was just another intimidation technique, like, they have to give us our phone call, right? Once again I had terribly underestimated Ramsey County Jail’s ability and willingness to do absolutely whatever it wanted with it’s charges. The Bill of Rights is just a piece of paper, and in here, the Sheriff had absolute authority.

We were given a tooth brush, paste, soap and two paper-thin sheets for bedding. My roommate and I brushed our teeth and then collapsed unto our respective bunks. We wouldn’t have been taken to an actual prison cell like this if we were seeing a judge in the morning and we both knew it. It felt like a semi-permanent placement but we were too tired to care. I laid my head down and fell fast asleep.

2008 RNC Arrest Story, Part I:
Conspiracy To Riot

Originally Published in
The Agenda (2008)
Providence Based Quarterly Newspaper (2009)
Label home to Prayers For Atheists
Off The Wookie (2009)
The official magazine of SXSW Festival (2009)

On Monday, September 22nd, I attended the Labor Day anti-war protest in St. Paul with a couple friends. It was Day 1 of the 2008 Republican National Convention and I was in town working on a story for a quarterly publication in Providence called The Agenda and also as a concerned citizen interested in learning about the Convention from a first hand perspective. Both the rally and the march from the Capitol to the Excel Center earlier in the day were a resounding success with over a hundred different coalitions and nearly 20,000 people participating. There were hundreds of riot police and military barricades downtown but I witnessed no aggression at all from the people in the march. We were a peaceful and highly energetic group of citizens assembling to protest the Iraq War and the Republican Party’ role in the orchestration, execution, and prolonged continuation of it. After the march my friends and I headed off in an inspired, joyous mood.

The next big event of the day was the Service Employees International Union (S.E.I.U.) Take Back Labor Day concert at the Harriet Island Pavilion. Billy Bragg, Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, Atmosphere, and Mos Def were all playing. It was a couple miles from where we were but definitely walk-able. Riot police were blocking off certain streets and bridges downtown on the most direct route to the show, so we tried our best to find an alternate route. Twenty minutes we later found ourselves in a nice little park right across the river from Harriet Island. The Mississippi stood between us and the high wall of the Pavilion which blocked any view of the concert but we could hear it all very clearly. Tom Morello was on-stage wrapping up the Night Watchman set, followed by representatives from Iraq Veterans Against the War and then Atmosphere began. I heard Slug’s voice over the sound system and a huge smile washed over my face. We head north and east along the path of the river park, eager to find our way to the concert and catch as much of the set as possible.

None of us knew the area but there was a large bridge in the distance and we could see people walking across. On the way toward it we came across pockets of disgruntled fans saying that the bridge was being blocked by cops and no one could get across. We kept walking in hopes of getting a concrete answer or finding another way around, but the pattern continued and more rejected would be show-goers were coming toward us. Suddenly, my eyes fixed on what they were all walking away from: an enormous line of storm trooper looking riot police and what looked like National Gaurdsmen in full army gear, blocking the entire width of the road and advancing steadily toward us. There were hundreds of them, some with gas masks, some on bikes, and many holding hi-tech looking rifles. A small pocket of people holding protest signs retreated before them. One brave kid among the group had a video camera and was hippy dancing about 20 feet before the police line. He reminded me of a little bird I had once seen in a storybook eating popcorn off a crocodile’s nose.

Helicopter blades could now be heard slicing through the air high above and I got a very tingly, end of the world feeling. Like life had suddenly become a scene from 28 Days Later or Dawn of the Dead. The militarized lines of officers came fanned out, preventing anyone from leaving via the north or western boundaries of the park. Heading quickly in the opposite direction my friends and I began to hear frightened voices shouting in front of us: “They’re not letting anybody out!” We sprinted back through the forming crowds of confused people hoping to exit at the southern entrance but there was already a line of dozens of bicycle police using their bikes as a blockade. Their line ran up to the road, meeting the other contingent of riot police from the north and completing the blockade. Ten minutes later even more riot police arrived and coast guard boats with guardsmen holding rifles moved into position on the Mississippi behind us. The perimeter was secure and approximately two hundred people or more were now being detained against their will without any official charge or order to disperse. No acknowledgment from the police at all. They wouldn’t explain, they wouldn’t answer questions, they simply would not acknowledge us.

People were visibly shaken, crying, and making frantic phone calls. I’d seen a similar scenario at the RNC in 2004 when the NYPD surrounded whole crowds of people with orange construction site webbing, put everyone in zip ties, and then bused them to pre-arranged warehouse facilities; protesters, shoppers, journalists, senior citizens, legal observers, and anyone in the path of their directive. I didn’t think St. Paul would be employing those same abuses on the first day of this Convention and certainly not so far away from any march or actual event but it seemed as though all bets were off.

Glancing around we saw that there were all types of people in the park; some who had been there listening to the concert like us, stunned college students, people who’d been eating their lunches in the park, a group of middle aged women out for a walk along the river, protesters, and more. Some people were still wandering around asking different officers to let them out, many just sat down on the ground. There was a teenage girl next to us shaking and sniffling with tears running down her face. I leaned over and said, “Hi, name’s Jared. I want you to know that you’re doing just fine. This is total bullshit and we didn’t do anything wrong so let’s not give them the satisfaction.” Her bottom lip quivered and she mustered one of the bravest smiles I’ve ever seen.

People were now passing around black magic markers and writing down the phone number for the Coldsnap Legal Collective, a volunteer group of attorney’s associated with the National Lawyers Guild that made its services available to anybody attending the RNC. Numbers were being scrawled wildly across the inside of forearms, stomachs, shins, and thighs. The sky took on an odd rusty grey tinge that made me think of Ray Bradbury’s lightening rod salesman: “Something wicked this way comes…” Trying to keep a clear head and needing to stay busy, I got out my cell phone and called the number for the legal collective now tagged on my inner thigh and the Minnesota ACLU. I gave them all my information and as many details about the situation as I could.

As if most of the people in the crowd weren’t terrified enough, a menacing voice came over a megaphone instructing everyone to sit down and place their hands on their heads. No explanation as to what was going on, no details at all in fact, just sterile military directives. The riot cops then sent in squads running through the different pockets of people and singling out particular individuals. Every fifth officer or so was carrying a large black rifle. It didn’t look like it took regular bullets but it fired something. I didn’t like the way the men carrying them clutched the grips so tightly. They looked like they were auditioning for a scene in a war movie. The were going from group to group singling out particular individuals. The officer holding the rifle would aim it at the persons chest or face from just a few feet away and then scream for everyone around that person to move back. Then they’d roughly push their chest the ground, zip tie their wrists high up behind their back, and haul them off.

One boy refused to acknowledge his captors when he was chosen out of a cluster of kids 20 ft in front of us. The aggressive cop leading this squad screamed for the kid to put his hands on his head. When he still didn’t move the cop pulled out his bottle of pepper spray. Whether he was really going to go through with it or just threaten him, we never got to see. The officer’s hands were shaking so badly that he dropped the bottle on the ground. Other cops rushed in. Through the jumble of enclosing bodies it was difficult to see what was going on but people on the ground closer than I started screaming “Put down the gun!!” “Let him go!!”

Could the officer really have pulled out his firearm? As if the unarmed boy, who was already on the ground and surrounded (not only by a group of heavily armed grown men but also by hundreds of other cops surrounding the park) was somehow going to harm them? From what I could tell the boy never even looked up. I don’t know if he saw what was pointed at him but the officer’s face was now white as a sheet. He had re-holstered whatever he was holding, retrieved the pepper spray from the ground, and now kept it trained on the boy’s face as the other officers bent both arms back, zip tied his wrists and then carried him off. The crowd cheered in support.

Atmosphere’s set was almost done and, fittingly, they were playing the
acoustic, more somber version of Not Another Day: “Whoaaa-ohhhh… Not another day… Not another day of the same old song, C’mon…” The haunting melody drifted across the Mississippi, perfectly encapsulating the moment.

After the special selections were all successfully profiled and extracted, they came for the rest of us. Officers three or four at a time would run up to a group of people and drag somebody off; wrists bound behind them, and forced to walk backwards. It was odd because they were made to walk that way. You got to see the person’s face as they were taken, trying to decide whether or not they’d get in trouble for looking back at their friends and concentrating on their footing so they wouldn’t fall. My group of friends tried keeping the spirits high. They seemed to be doing better than I was. Getting arrested for something you believe in at a peaceful event you care deeply about is one thing. Mass arbitrary arrest while sitting in a park listening to music, unexpectedly, unprepared, and with the whole week long convention still to report on is another.

Finally it was our turn and the urban military officers with thousands of dollars in riot gear and weapons each, rode down on us. It was like having your number called after an hour of watching a long line of people get kicked out of an airplane before you. Now here we were, stepping to the edge of the exit hatch staring down an angry jump Sergeant, ready or not; hopefully our chutes would open and everyone in the park would land safely on the ground. Amen.

My arresting officer was a large, angry man with dark sunglasses and a grating voice: “You gonna give me any TROUBLE? Let me tell you something, I don’t like assholes who make PROBLEMS, and if you give me any shit you’re going to have a bad day, you understand me? I can make this very hard for you…”

“Officer, I have no intention of giving you any trouble. I believe this is an unlawful arrest, and I’ll be contacting a lawyer as soon as I’m allowed to use a phone but I respect you, and I won’t be a problem.”

Atmosphere was done and Mos Def was now on stage. The soundtrack for our mass arrest continued as they rifled through everyone’s pockets and wallets, threw personal effects on the ground, and split our property up in different bags to be shipped off to god knows where. After waiting in cue for nearly twenty minutes, I was taken behind a truck for a photo. A field station had been set up and shots were being taken of all the people dragged out of the park while an officer held documents up to sides of our faces. It was here that I learned that I and many others were being charged with Felony-Riot. Which I’ll admit, sounded pretty badass in an Angela Davis, Abbey Hoffman, Cool Hand Luke kind of way but Felony is an extremely serious charge, like, go to prison serious and I hadn’t done anything but listen to music by the river. It felt markedly less romantic than it looks here in text.

Trying to make the best of the situation, I smiled for the photo. Big and wide, and when I did, one of the cops standing around made a condescending comment about me acting like everything was a joke. I almost didn’t repsond, but then said: “I know I’m not supposed to be talking right now but what do you want from me? If I scowl into the camera with handcuffs on then I actually look like a criminal. If I appear as terrified as anybody has the right to be in a situation like this you’ll probably say I’m just some punk protester making a big deal out of nothing. Either way, if this photo ever makes it out onto the news or anywhere else it’ll be easier on my Mom if I’m smiling in the picture and don’t look hurt.”

He cocked his head slightly to the side and gave me the funniest look before walking away. I had no idea what he thought, I was too busy imagining him in wrist ties surrounded by armed guards while I snapped photos inches from his face asking him to smile.

By this point, there were on ton of press and many legal observers on the scene. I saw them on the other side of the police line as the 2008 RNC Magical Mystery Tour continued. Like a conveyor belt to the next station, we were led onto a large city bus with only a few open seats remaining, so I had to sit up close to the driver and the cops- Awesome! Things brightened a little when I saw that my friend Zach, who I was previously separated from, was on the bus too! It felt good to see him, instantly we began shouting back and forth, each checking to see how the other was holding up.

It became that the other arrestees on the bus had been waiting a long time. They were anxious to know when we’d be leaving and where we were being taken. The cops onboard looked tired and aggravated. They made no attempt to quiet the rising swell of conversation now passing back and forth between arrestees. A short time later, something remarkable happened: that’s when the singing began. It was slow at first, but then everybody started in, loud and fearless. We made it part or all the way through Johnny Cash- Folsam Prison Blues, Bob Dylan- Like A Rolling Stone, The Beatles- Hey Jude, Bob Marley- Everything’s Gonna Be Alright, and many others. It was quite impressive actually but the best was absolutely yet to come.

In a very Simple Twist of Fate type of way, the ageless, mirrored lathe of the cosmos seemed to turn in on itself and all the ironic forces of sheer ridiculousness that dictate the ebb and flow of the Universe and every atom comprising its vast and incalculable quilt of Coincidences and Contradictions somehow saw fit that our bus (filled with the first fifty out of two hundred or so unlawfully arrested U.S. citizens) rolled out for Ramsey County Jail just as a boisterous and exalted rendition of The National Anthem caught fire: “Ohhhh SAY, CAN YOU SEE…?” And in that moment, it felt as though an entire life time of witnessing, dealing with, and attempting to adjust to all the endless injustice and hypocrisy of America rose in one collective swell and poured like thunder from the dark mountains in our hearts, reaching out for every jail cell, detention center, and prison camp on Earth.

Ours was the first bus to leave. As we passed flash bulbs sparked and reporters rushed to get photos of the commandeered public transport filled with singing prisoners. Officers detaining the last of the poor souls extracted from the park, talking to other cops, or just plain standing around paused for our Anthem. Some shook their heads in disgust. Others stood slack jawed and stunned, seemingly unable to process what was going on: “Jesus Christ, Stevens! Check it out… is that really a bus full of asshole protestors singing the National Anthem? Good god, it sounds like they really mean it…”

And mean it, we did. Not in any ugly, pride bloated, nationalistic sense. And not just to give voice to the sheer irony of innocent people singing an anthem of freedom while in the process of being illegally detained. But simply to say that having a badge, waving a flag, or misinterpreting your astronomically fortunate luck at simply having been born inside the legal borders of the most privileged nation on earth and misconstruing that as some sort of divine endowment or indicator of personal value, does not make you even a single drop more American than us.

The crowd building outside of the police perimeter gave a resounding ovation as we passed and we rode out like patriots; unapologetic, unbowed, and unbroken. Singing for strength, and taking heart in the sound of each others voices, like the kidnapped, shackled, and wrongfully imprisoned have always done since the beginning of time.

ABC’s For Roger

My mother was not an American when she crossed the border for the first time, headed south from Quebec as part of a migration of thousands of farmers and workers seeking manufacturing jobs in the industrial Northeast but her skin was white and her father had citizenship so they didn’t have to deal with racist Minute Men vigilantes at the border, private for profit detention centers for undocumented Americans, or violent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids at home, work, or school. They were allowed to pass in relative safety and peace, many years later she gave birth to two children and taught me my ABC’s in this language watching Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street, and although I am choosing not to have children of my own, the ones that I adopt will learn the same through symbols like these…

A is for Adoption, for every boy and girl in need
even when it seems that legal guardian angels only come to free
those that are healthy, white, and younger than age three.

A is Also for AGRICULTURE, which is Better than Cattle, Corn, Soy, or Deforestation;
It takes 12 million metric tons of grain
to feed and raise 3 million metric tons of edible beef,
take that same fuel and give it to human bellies?
you could feed 4 times the people,
prevent the slashing and burning of nearly 80% the forest,
and conserve almost 40% the drinkable water.

E is for Economics, Energy, and Evolution;
Fail to see how these things relate and our Globe
will choke on the Gaggles of Genomes
we are Greedy enough to make.

Huge Industrial Juggernauts Kill!
there are over 900 billionaires in existence;
(double the number there was when I first wrote this poem)
total their wealth, and you’ve got more money
than the combined assetof every working class person on Earth.
Billionaires- what socialists and anarchists have been referring to
for over a hundred years as the Ruling Class.
All colors, cultures, and skin tones
from the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia,
Nigeria, China, and New American Rome.
Blue blooded, white collared, with apathy colored eyes
now go back and hold onto “I,”
It’s Important,
like Conservation, Contraceptives, Recycling and Research.

L is not for Love of poetry or Hip Hop, but for Logic:
If the population of this world doubles in size
50 times over the next 200 years,
there will be no room to build, farm, or breathe;
that may not be enough to scare some into changing their daily routine
but as for me? I am terrified.

P is for Police Officers;
over worked, underpaid, and under-trained.
If the only people applying at the police academy are
football players who weren’t good enough to make it in college
and ex-military men with a propensity for violence,
then the only people holding guns in the name of the law will be…
football players who weren’t good enough to make in college
and ex-military men with a propensity for violence.

“P” is also for Petroleum OIL Plastics
in Practically every Product and Package within consumer reach or access.
It’s the same substance over which wars are fought only in a different chemical form.
Corporations and governments to send soldiers off to kill and die for more than just gas;
P is for Petrol but also for Polymers and Privileged control over Power sources.
When international bankers and the Industrial Military Complex Partner
Perpetual War quickly becomes the most Profitable endeavor Possible.

So let’s Question our goods
who makes them, where they come from, and how they are distributed;
we have a relationship with all of these things!
If some one or some piece of earth
is being destroyed in the process by which our goods get to us
then WE are Responsible for any harm done.
That’s why…
Responsible consumers
paper, plastic and glass.
V is for Vegan, and that’s where it’s at.
Actually, V is Vegetarian, Vegan, and omni-Vore
as long as we are doing everything that we can
to keep our money out of an earth destroying, worker exploiting,
animal torturing, factory farm corporation’s hands.

Which one of the following
is a figment of America’s fucking imagination?
is it:
a.) super man has X-ray vision.
where servants are subjected to several layers of X-ray radiation
every single day just to make certain that no one is stealing;
a decade after the story already broke in mainstream U.S. media.
Without very many slam poets or emcees writing very many letters
to their legislators or editors and Hip Hop and R&B
have become some of the most consistent investors in a venture destined
to keep conflict diamond mines alive and bleeding.
You and I can make a difference by NOT purchasing slave diamonds
to symbolize our love and the ring of its meaning.

Now they say that at poetry slams, protests, and highly acclaimed liberal arts colleges,
that we are preaching to the choir,
that our real goal should be to get the ideas presented Here
to the outside world, but we are not the choir.
I don’t believe that we’re working as hard as possible,
I don’t see us doing everything that we can,
and Evolution has to move faster than this.

Z is not for Zion or Zachariah but for Zenith,
if you and I sacrifice our surplus
till everyone has food, health care, and a bed
then we can reach it.

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