Occupy brought in the New Year with a bang on both coasts as hundreds stormed the police barricades around Zuccotti Park just before the ball dropped in Times Square and set up a new encampment for 2012. The NYPD tried to stop the swarm with clubs and pepper spray but soon had to admit they were outnumbered and retreated. A few were arrested but the majority were able to keep the park, take down the metal police barricades, stack them in a pile, and dance on them to celebrate the New Year. On the other side of the country, Occupy Oakland was holding an Anti-Police Brutality march past the Oakland Police Department and to the City Jail. About 300 demonstrators set off loud fireworks, played music, and chanted “inside or outside, we’re all on the same side” as part of a nation-wide ‘Noise Demonstration’ for prisoners that took place in at least 25 other cities. At the time 20 Occupiers were still locked inside the jail.
On January 9thOccupy MJC started, for 2 days a dozen students
and supporters camped in tents with signs hanging from them reading “Strike, Occupy, Take-Over. “ Protesting the increasing tuition and decreasing access to financial aid and fee waivers, the students passed out informational material and talked to students about the issues affecting them. They played music, served coffee and snacks, and held a few meetings, eventually MJC administrations sent down word through their campus security puppets that the camp was going to get shut down one way or another. The camp was taken down without incident and the next day students held a banner on the free speech stage reading “It’s Not Over: OccupyMJC.org” leading people to a web-site where more info could be gathered. Soon campus security approached and began asking for names and forms of ID, some refused and some gave-in, but the group refused the wanna-be cop’s request that they leave with the banner. Security claimed to have the power to regulate the free speech on the “Free Speech Stage” on MJC’s East Campus Quad. The security guard acted like he was going to do something about it and left, the Occupiers stayed holding the banner and chatting with fellow students and staff about budget cuts and rising tuition for a few more hours. Taking a cue from the short lived Occupation, RHHR and K-Cizzl productions began holding weekly unpermitted open-mics and playing music and having a literature table nearby with local zines and information on local and educational issues.
In Los Angeles, the capital of homelessness, Hip-Hop pioneers
and LA legends gave back to the nearly 4,500 people living in tents and on the streets of Skid Row. Public Enemy, Kurupt, King T, Kid Frost, Yo-Yo, Money B of Digital Underground, Egyptian Lover, and Mellow Man Ace all gave free live performances to the hundreds in attendance to the completely free event dubbed the ‘Occupy Skid Row Music Festival.’ The festival went down on January 15th during the winter when many homeless have an even harder time finding adequate shelter. The day’s events also featured guest speakers that discussed poverty, homelessness, economic inequality, and Occupy LA. Hopefully Hip-Hop is able to add to Occupy by creating connections between the messages of the two movements.
Due to recent officer involved shootings, brutality cases, and the heavy-handed tactics used on Occupy protesters, on January 27th the Oakland police department was threatened with a Federal take-over. A Federal Court judge stated he was “in disbelief” over how badly OPD was doing in dealing with mass protests and demonstrations. Police Chief Howard Jordan now has to check with a federally appointed “monitor” before disciplining officers and changing policy or tactics. If OPD disobeys the monitor’s orders the judge vowed to order court-hearings on it.
The day after OPD go the news about a possible federal takeover of its department, January 28, over a thousand Occupy Oakland demonstrators took to the streets and, according to occupyoakland.org, “attempted to turn an abandoned building into a social center to converge and organize and provide the community at large with the services they had been providing before the encampment was disbanded. In response, Oakland Police used rubber bullets, bean bag shot gun rounds, chemical weapons, and kettling techniques and arrested 400 people [including an RHHR reporter] in order to terrorize political dissent into submission. Mayor Quan issued a call to ‘the national leadership of the Occupy Movement’ to disown the actions of Occupy Oakland. Your request for Occupy Wall Street and the other occupations to “disown” Occupy Oakland shows a failure to understand the nature of this movement and does a disservice to those you were elected to represent. Rubber bullets and tear gas are violence, opening a social center is not. If our cities spent as much money providing services for the hungry and homeless as they did cracking down on Occupy and if the federal government spent as much money on confronting social and environmental problems as it does on waging war and bail-outs for the financial industry, then we would not have nearly as much cause to Occupy in Solidarity with one another.”
Since then there have been numerous actions around the world as part of the Occupy movement. Many are preparing for a world-wide General Strike on May Day (May 1st) 2012.