they were clean, but inside out: or the story of occupy cville’s eviction

on wednesday morning i was still unsure whether i’d be risking arrest that night as occupy charlottesville faced eviction from our home in lee park.  but just in case i picked out my outfit carefully, as i would if i were getting ready to hitch hike,  adding a pair of clean underwear just to be safe.  then i went off to help clean and pack up the park, as we’d been served notice that anything in the park after 6pm would be seized.

when i got back from girls studies, i checked in to find out how the conversation between people who were considering arrest went.  it didn’t sound like there was much of a plan or even that many people considering arrest.  we continued to prepare for the night and just before six we did a mad blitz to get the rest of peoples belongings out of the park and into nearby cars.  someone pulled traffic cones out of a nearby parking spot so i could pack up my car.  when a cop came to harass us, noting that it was currently a no parking zone, the same woman who moved the cones responded that the notices said no parking between 6pm and 10 am and we still had five minutes.  we used those five minutes wisely and got out of the way.

but the tone was set.  cops were already harassing us and closing down three of the four streets that surrounded the park.  towing enforced parking notices were up on those three streets and police put up barricades at the entrances to block traffic.  later those same barricades would be used to keep foot traffic from following protesters who were yelling about being hurt.

we moved into our general assembly with the adrenaline pumping from our attempt to clear the park.  we read the declaration from occupy wall street in ny, we read our own reasons for occupying lee park and our core values, we heard announcements about the latest out of mayor dave norris.  the mood shifted to one of disappointment and disillusionment as we rehashed the seeming double talk we were getting from city officials and how it left us largely unprepared for an eviction scenario.  at one point we were told we would be given three days warning to get everything out of the park and to safely relocate folks.  instead we got a day and the city pushed us into a sense of urgency.

we heard quotes about how occupy cville protesters would be “drawing a line in the sand” if we chose to resist eviction.  we were told that dave norris thought the freedom of speech wall was an unacceptable place for citizens of charlottesville to exercise their free speech.  we heard all manor of disturbing quotes from a recent interview mayor norris gave.  as the GA wore on we discussed what the night might look like.  we created scenarios for arrest and non arrest.  how each group would support the other.  after a lengthy discussion, those of us swayed by the blatant double talk of city officials decided we better get some hot food before risking the possibility of spending the night in jail.  so we wandered over to christian’s for some pizza and laughs before facing the implications of our decision to risk arrest.  we ate and talked and plotted and then went back to lee park.  on my way back i called my mom, to tell her what i would be doing that night.  she told me she wouldn’t be telling my dad, but that she wished she could have been there to get arrested alongside me.  and that support carried me back into the park and through the night.

we moved the fire pit down to the edge of the park, on market street, so that we would be visible from the road.  both legal observers and the media were told that they would be risking arrest if they stayed in the park and tried to document what was happening.  people started to gather on the sidewalk in front of the park, started to chant and beat on buckets.  many people stayed in the park to support those who were not going to leave, waiting for the official warning from charltotesville police.  we waited and sometime after 11pm the announcement came.  the police were giving folks in the park 15 minutes to leave, many waited out most of those 15 minutes and then moved onto the sidewalk.  two people stayed, received summonses from the police and then peacefully left the park.  that left sixteen of us, a few standing, most of us sitting, with linked arms in a circle.  our legal observers (each arrestee had someone watching and documenting their arrest) sat along the wall taking notes.  cops formed a visual wall between those of us remaining in the park and those supporting us from the sidewalk.  and still i felt well supported: next to me in the circle was my lover paxus, standing just in front of me on the sidewalk was my sister molly, next to her with his green legal observer hat on was my lover lyle, around them stood over a hundred people cheering and sending love, and around me there were 15 other people, most of us linked together.  they issued the final warning and we waited some more.

then it was time.  one by one the cops picked people out and began arresting us.  as each person walked off or was carried off, we chanted love to them.  intermittently we mic checked the MLK i have a dream speech and various chants.  there was some cop bating from a single member on the sidewalk, and multiple times he was asked to stop the aggression by those of us sitting in the park still.  one of the women who was carried off was taken into a darkened spot along the side of the park where no one could get to her through the police barricades.  at that point one renegade cop used excessive force to try to get her to stand up, applying pressure point techniques and covering her mouth when she shouted out that she was being hurt.  others had pressure point tactics used on them but none to the abusive level of shelly.  people tried to get to her but couldnt and one reporter ran into the park at the sound of her cries, in an attempt to do her job but got to the scene too late.  

i sat there as they took everyone off, chanting and shouting and feeling both anxious and peaceful.  it came down to four women and we tightened our hold on each other.  it came down to two of us and we sat back to back, arms still linked.  the woman sitting back to back with me let me know that she wanted to go cooperatively and i did not try to tighten onto her when they helped her to her feet.  then it was just me and i waited a little longer.  when i refused to get up four officers picked me up and started to carry me out of the park.  because i was the last person, much of the crowd on the sidewalk ran to the corner where they were taking me.  i started yelping in pain and the officers carrying me set me down.  at which point people started getting too close for the cop’s comfort.  one of the women arresting me yelled that people were getting too close and my sister, who’d been sobbing as they carried me off yelled back that she could never be too close to her sister.  the same female cop told me i could make this easy on them and stand up on my own.  i responded that i was not interested in making this easy for them and that painful as it might be, they would need to pick me up and carry me to the paddy wagon.  and they did, then slid me into the wagon and locked us in.

shortly after they drove us to avon extended to the jail.  they unloaded the nine women first and put us into a tiny holding room with a window into the room where they brought the seven men arrested and began their processing.  when the boys came in, all of us in the holding room let out a tremendous holler.  we ran up to the window, used our breath to fog it up and our noses (as we were still zip tied) to draw hearts.  then we laughed and made funny faces at each other and there was a little bit of moshing that happened in the holding box.  as we waited we realized how hot we were, or other discomfitures and through team work, again with our hands tied behind our backs, helped take off layers or apply chap stick or pull up hair.  everytime a group of boys was processed out we would shout love to them.  finally it was my turn to be processed out and i came out of the jail to more hoots and hollers, hugs, bottles of water and bits of chocolate.  so many people had followed us to the jail and were waiting for each of us to be released.  it felt so good to come out of the jail and fall into the arms of my new community.

i drove my sister home and appreciated her out loud.  then went to bed in the arms of my legal observer/lover, and as i pulled my underwear off that night, laughed.  because while i’d been clear enough to grab clean underwear, i’d managed to put it on inside out.  and that was the thing.  none of us were sure wednesday morning whether we were going to be arrested, but when it came time to face the reality that we were being evicted from our home, we stepped up to defend it.  and it felt powerful to be there amongst so many people supporting our decision.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. paxus
    Dec 03, 2011 @ 21:40:38

    at the jail, the arresting cops confessed that we were the most pleasant and interesting group they had arrested in a while. And while their opinions dont matter tremendously, i was happy they did not generally feel the need for excessive violence and pepper spray – Shelly’s abuse not withstanding.

    Reply

  2. Felipe Ninetynine Percent Gallego
    Dec 04, 2011 @ 02:05:19

    and i streamed you guys live on The Anita Maria Show, on livestream.com/occupynorfolkva

    Reply

  3. joyce
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 04:08:07

    Amazing and light filled…like your mom i too wish i could have been there to be arrested with you and love that molly could be there with you…keep on…the light always prevails…and you as a goddess of light will do so too.

    Reply

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