St. Louis: What Happened Thursday Night
<table><tr><td>Sometimes, when faced with the naked, brutal face of the state, we have the tendency to fixate on the moment of trauma that has fully exposed it. This piece hopes to paint a broader picture of the time in the park leading up to the arrests and beatings.
Police came to kick us out of the park, we chased them out, they were embarassed and when we decided to keep moving and not engage them they panic.Then they arrested and beat people.
TAKING THE PARK
Standing around awkwardly, excitedly, anxiously. Many new faces, a total mishmash of the region's wingnuts and radicals. It's raining and a little cold. Some have gone to the other side of the park to start setting up tents, others are waiting around to see what will happen at 10. The mayor has said that he'll share st. louis with us this weekend, and through the grapevine the police chief has said he'll enforce the park's 10pm curfew no matter what. </td><td><img title="Asymmetrical warfare is asymmetrical" src="http://anarchistnews.org/files/pictures/2012/catvsworld.jpg"></td></tr><...
For a while there's no police – they're apparently at the wrong place, trying to enforce the curfew at an empty park. Shortly before 10 a few cops approach those huddled under the bathroom and an impromptu pavillion. They tell us directly this time that they'll clear the park at curfew.
After a brief meeting, it's decided we'll try and stand our ground; at first by saying we won't leave and asserting that as long as we're in the park its ours. We assume this is likely to fail, and also decide that in the face of overwhelming police force we'll leave and march down Grand in order to try and take another park. There's 100-150 of us, many from out of town with nowhere to go. There is this practical need to find somewhere to camp, but also a collective desire to experience this together, instead of wandering St. Louis alone for the night.
Shortly after 10, with a wall of a dozen cops, Eddie Roth, the city's blah blah blah, comes to kick us out. As soon as they move in shouts of “COPS OUT! OUR PARK!” fill the night. There's a moment's pause as Roth tries to talk, but after only a couple words is cut off again by chants and outright screaming and threats. Someone yells, “these motherfuckers murder people, i don't give a shit about what they have to say!” More shouting.
In frustration, Roth turns to leave.
PUSHING THE COPS OUT
I take a step forward, and my field of vision morphs: dozens of others are stepping forward at the same moment, creating the illusion that I might not have moved. The police look nervous. I take another step forward, unintentionally at the same time everyone else in my line of sight does too. The police take a step back. An eletric pulse passes through us, and all of a sudden we understand we're making them retreat. “COPS OUT! OUR PARK” is the chorus with verses of “fuck off!” “get the fuck out!” and “this is our park!” sprinkled in between. I feel wonderful. We're pulsing towards them, both my fingers in the air. I've never felt like this in St. Louis before. The police are retreating faster, and we're gaining speed. As police reach the edge of the park, smiles and laughter and cheers abound.
Not knowing what to do with our unexpected victory, and knowing it's likely to be shortlived, we're all pacing about. Rage, Gossip, Dead Prez and Gang of Four keep us amped. Not everyone's pleased with how we've handled the police, and some are getting upset, but most people are still smiling and yelling taunts. Like all things Occupy it would be totally untrue to claim tactical, emotional, etc. unity.
LEAVING THE PARK
After ten or fifteen minutes more and more cops are showing up. Dozens of police are amassing and shouts of “Let's march!” and “Stay mobile!” get us moving again. A massive “POLICE STATE” banner is unfurled and used as a buffer as tents surreally start bobbing out of the park.
Earlier we had pushed police to the southside of the park, where they're now forming. We now head west, choosing to avoid further conflict with such an outmatched force as much as possible, as well as heading towards another park. The police are still huddled up being told what to do, and our maneuver takes them by surprise.
I wish we could say we gave it to them as good as we got, that the assault charges were true, but sadly they're not.
Moments after stepping into the street the police charge, extending their battons.
BEATEN AND ARRESTED
“ON THE FUCKING SIDEWALK! NOW!” Immediately people are tackled and slammed into the street. Total chaos. “Get the fuck off them!” No one knows what they're doing including the cops. People are screaming alone, sometimes together: for the cops to get off their friends, that the police are scum, that they love their friends who are being tackled and beaten, some are trying to intervene – some sucessfully pulling friends and strangers from the police, others getting thrown to the ground themselves – thank god I don't hear anyone say they love the cops.
Police begin pointing their battons at individuals, gesturing that they're next. Some cops following through, chasing their targets down. Some of us get away, some are thrown to the ground, some stand screaming as they're cuffed, others are beaten merchanically. 5, 10, 15 seconds passes between rounds of blows to the face – how long can they do this before they actually kill one of us? If this isn't enough, a cop reaches down to a handcuffed hand:*snap* and breaks one pinky, then reaches down *snap* and breaks the other. Pepper spray and tasers.
Who would submit to the police to begin with, much less if they might get this?
Friends emerge from a dark street that they've been chased down and beaten on, faces streaming blood. The cops trying to keep their smirks under control. “You'll fucking pay for this!” someone yells.
Outside the paddy wagon, inside the paddy wagon (and later for the rest of the night inside the jail) screaming on and off for our bloodied friends to get treatment, and that the police are scum.
Out of sight someone smashes a police crusier. Save your conspiracy theories – it's legit. Not everytime we push back in direct, physical, visceral ways is it secretly the work of some all powerful, all-knowing state. (Later, a rumor will circulate that it wasn't dozens of people pushing the cops out of the park, but a handful of anarchists or provacateurs who immediately fled and left everyone else to be beat. Total bullshit.)
A PIG IS A PIG...
These are the police in their truest forms – brutal protectors of the status quo. How many of us have quit jobs for things far less horrendous than what they did Thursday night? And that's not the worst of it: Thursday night on the southside they evict and bloody us, Friday night on the east side they shoot someone (condition unknown) and Saturday night they shoot two on the northside, killing one (the other's condition unknown).
Police, from the bottom of my heart, fuck you.
Any “kindness” and “sympathy” shown by police or mayors last fall is now showing itself to be good-old fashioned politicking. They “allowed” us to gather last fall with the hope that the winter and internal division would kill us by spring. Now that we're re-emerging, the police chiefs and mayors know sheer force on the behalf of the police and slander and outright lies by the media will likely be their main tools.
If police across the country are working hand-in-hand like they were last fall (and there's no reason to assume they've stopped), across the board they may be trying to stop us (at all costs )from having space, getting to know each other, and forming dangerous relationships.
Keep your head up.
They tried to send a message to us: stop or you'll pay – the marks will be shown on your body and in your mind.
We don't advocate pushing on regardless. But the next night 100 of us danced in the streets – the police, realizing they've been caught going too far kept their distance. And while the march might have felt strange or confusing, I could feel a lot of the tension and pain they'd tried to sew inside me melt away.
How do we keep pushing? How do we keep occupying and blockading? How do we sustain ourselves? How do we make them pay?
It seems more and more people are saying, These are our lives, and you can't have them anymore.
OCCUPY. STRIKE. BLOCKADE. EXPROPRIATE. RECLAIM