Thanks to Raphael from Occupy Lansing for this awesome piece.
Raphael’s personal thoughts are in italics.
Thank You Occupy
It’s way past due for an occupation
It’s the wave of hope in every nation
Storm the city park for a long vacation
I’m so ready for the occupation
I’m sick of the tricks of the 1 percent
sick of wondering where the money went
sick of choosing health care, food or rent
I’m breaking out my occupation tent
Occupy Detroit you’re the best
You rock harder than all the rest
I love the way you educate and protest
We’re so proud to be your guest
We stand strong white and black
and I got something for your stack
we’re ready for a non violent attack
cause the straw just broke the camels back
As for solutions just wait and see
We’ll decide with direct democracy
What the path to tomorrow will be
when the planet will be free.
This is the account of I, Raphael , and Yeshua, from Occupy Lansing and our sojurn to the Detroit and Flint occupations. This is my personal opinion and not the official position of Occupy Lansing, so I will tell the tale warts and all.Saturday Nov 12 two charming representatives of Occupy Detroit, Destiny and Misty, came to our camp to request emergency support in the face of mayor Bing’s determination to have the police remove them from Grand Circus Park. The next day Bill Goodman the lawyer fighting the imposition of the emergency manager on Benton Harbor came to Lansing to give a talk on the issue, and he had seats open on his trip back to Detroit. Yeshua and I (sorry Bunny, we lost you in the confusion and Bill was anxious to go) grabbed our gear and headed out. We were going expecting to help do non violent civil disobedience in defense of Occupy Detroit so on the assumption I would interact with the criminal justice system I did not bring my best sleeping gear or my knife or keys. I normally do not carry ID, but I chose to bring an out of date licence so they could process me fast and to show I wasn’t ashamed or trying to hide my identity. We left with the belief that as was discussed earlier that day the media team would follow to document police actions, and we would get a ride back.We arrived in Grand Circus Park around 6 and we got to experience the waning days of what had obviously been a beautiful movement. The park is a large traffic circle with a central fountain and several green spaces crossed by several radiating paths to the street. It was full of tents with multitudes of people, black and white, homeless and activist, old and young, suburban and hood, all living together in peace. Thanks to the efforts of security committee members like Lucianna and Frank the occupation had been a complete success in terms of unity and non violence. The police as I understand it only had to be called in one time, though there were rumors that they had dropped off some homeless folks from around the city, adding to the infrastructure challenges.I had been told in advance that Lucianna was crazy, but I found her to be astounding, and told her that since we were from out of town and not on any local committee that she could count on us for support. It became clear that Occupy Detroit, while trying to get an extension to their permit so they could exit gracefully, had decided to end on site occupation anyway, and explore other ways to operate. As I understand it they will operate out of several donated locations, and will continue with active education outreach and direct action, but will not technically “occupy” a location without permission at night. I intend no disrespect and hope their new strategy works, and am in a poor position to criticize anyway, as our “occupation” in Lansing is by indefinite permission of our friendly mayor police and parks department. We attended Monday Detroit city council meeting to lend support to their request for an extension, and it became clear that most of the council was friendly to the occupation. I gather that Lansing learned that the situation had become less critical, so the media van aborted and we were left hanging. That is OK. Neither of us complained except in jest, and we realized no plans are carved in stone, and furthermore if we had left we would have missed all the cool stuff that happened later, so no hard feelings on our end.I should note at this point that my friend Yeshua is a deeply spiritual person, who is certain that we are in the end times and invisible powers and principalities dedicated to good and evil surround us constantly giving us signs. I am a reformed atheist who after listening to coast to coast radio has moved to more acceptance of the possibilities out there, and after the last week I cannot with certainty refute my brother. Pay attention to the rest of this article to notice the signs.We came east ready to go to jail, but our intention always was to back up the Detroit General Assembly in whatever course of action they decided by direct democracy. It was sad for us to have to help them dismantle their camp, but that was their plan so we tried to help out where we could. In the process I became a particular Detroit News reporters favorite quote factory. Google Rafael Detroit News for the articles. We went back to the city council Tuesday when mayor Bing did an end run around the council and arranged a one week extension instead of the two weeks our National Lawyers Guild spokeswoman had requested and that the council seemed willing to grant. Each time we walked down the street to the council chambers we had to pass this hair stylists called D’mongos (SIGN # 1!!!). Lucianna tried to bring this out of control multi tool past security that 17 of its 23 functions could kill unsuspecting council members. She remembered my loyalty oath and said “You! Take my pack and wait for us outside.” This was at 10 in the morning and I already needed to hit the bathroom ( all of which were beyond security checkpoints) but I suffered in silence for my beautiful leader (I know, we are all leaders, but if you have met Lucianna I think you will understand my reluctance to cross her). It was 12 noon before I finally got relief! The Occupy team finally decided to ask for the two week extension on the agenda to be tabled till the next Tue meeting, but before they could speak the council moved to endorse the Bing one week plan. The hidden issue was whether the occupation would be there for the Thanksgiving parade that passes right by Grand Circus Park. As it happens the last word I heard is Occupy will represent during the day, and a friendly union gave Occupy Detroit its spot in the parade. They were debating what kind of float to make, and I suggested just having a flatbed truck with tents and occupiers. Sarah (more about her later) didn’t want to see another tent at that point, and they probably went in a different direction.I got to meet Tony, who had been prominently mentioned in a magazine article as a street person who had noticed the defenseless suburban kids at the Occupy site, took them under his wing, and helped them build a security team to keep everyone safe. The article said that Tony would be in some danger if the Occupy folded, because he had made some enemies by defending the camp. I wanted to make arrangements to offer him sanctuary in Lansing, and in spite of some people casting doubt on all his story, I still hope he comes. Tony, if you are out there, 17$ on Greyhound to Lansing then 2 blocks west. Hope to see you brother.By then we were desperately trying to find a westbound ride back to Lansing. None seemed forthcoming in spite of efforts by the nearby hugely supportive church, and Destiny. We did find a guy willing to give us ride, but this other guy named D (maybe for…. DEMON sign #3!!!) convinced him we were shady and he should give D a local lift first. Our ride walked back later with a blood clot in the head and a broken thumb after being clocked in the head and thrown out of his car. the conflict allegedly involve two inebriated people arguing about which one was too drunk to drive and who owed 125$ to whom. We did not leave Detroit that night.I will now tell the tale of poor little Spor, the camp cat. There were several cool quadrupeds helping occupy (and thousands of generally unloved rats whose political affiliation was never discovered) including Lucky the adopted dog, and this little grey kitten that had learned to walk with a leash. But Spor was the best. It was this small black young cat that seemed to know to not leave the confines of the park. It would cavort around, letting people pet it occasionally, but really most interested in what was up with the rats hiding in the ring of bushes separating the fountain plaza from the tent infested green space. There was insufficient communication even among the occupiers about the guardianship of Spor, and no communication with the drunken revelers who flood the fountain plaza at night, have done for years before the occupation, and will do so after it leaves ( Most occupations try to enforce a good neighbor policy including no open alcohol or drugs, and Detroit tried at first, but at Grand Circus Park that was a bridge too far and Occupy Detroit had to settle for an acceptable level of chaos each night, still as I have said, only one call to police!) An old woman named Auntie was told the cat was homeless, and trying to bring it out of the cold she took it down the street toward her apartment. The cat scratched her and escaped to the second traffic island, and ran up a tree. We tragically never saw it again, and can only hope it found a good home somewhere. Please take this as object lesson for more communication!I got inspired one night in my tent (actually Steve’s tent lent to me by Lucianna, thanks guys), and whipped up a poem about my experiences in Detroit and feelings about the Occupy movement. I will share it here. [See Thank You Occupy above] I know, it is kind of dumb, but Detroit and later Flint really dug it. This stuff is easy for me when inspiration hits, as I am singer and songwriter for Lansing punk band Army of God (You Tube us!).Michael Epps while filming the remake movie Sparkle nearby sent over great quantities of excess catered film food that was delicious. On one of the last nights we started several controlled barbecue stand fires and reheated the still delicious Sparkle food. A mysterious helicopter came to investigate, and started lighting up the park with a roving spotlight. It reminded me of the opening scene from the Terminator. We grabbed signs to show the copter and the closest ones were signs for the names of the Detroit committees. I grabbed RACIAL EQUALITY AND SENSITIVITY. Sarah (who is great and I love in spite of our occasional disagreements) agreed that was pretty funny.The days went by, and soon we shifted our aim to trying to get to Flint for gathering of the tribes ( a name which for the record Sarah has no love for because of the injustice of privileged white suburbanites claiming native american words, but the guy who named it did not intend any racial slur, and only wanted to convey his belief that we need to bring political power back to a more decentralized level, and I for one except for a few obviously offensive words do not wish to further surrender our language to political correctness.), an invitation to members of all Michigan and I would say nearby Occupy sites to come together to share information, build community, and work on state and regional cooperation. We found a ride, but his phone number ended in 666 (sign #3 !!!). That same night I found in the warm stuff bin this blanket with REJOICE, CELEBRATE, HALLELUJAH, and THE KING IS BORN on the sides, and christian images in center (sign # 4!!!). I grabbed it to give to Yeshua, as I knew he would love it. Apparently it cancelled the bad vibes of the phone # because we made it to Flint with no problems.Flint was great. We participated in great outreach on busy cross street in front of Bank of America and the Mott foundation. The band Question gave musical support (you have to hear these guys) and we displayed signs to oncoming traffic, and distributed fliers to passersby and stopped vehicles from the sidewalk and from the middle of the left turn lane. Then we marched through the interior of the bus station back to camp.Their installation is fantastic! The feast was excellent. You have to visit. They are cool people who are absolutely in the circle of Occupy groups. Do not be freaked by the stories about open carry firearms. They simply value the whole constitution, and while some may see it as symbolically at odds with our broad non violent message, they argue that the danger on the ground in Flint makes protection of them and their guests a necessity. Sarah, you are correct that the proportion of minorities in their occupy is smaller than in the community as a whole, but I did not detect racism of any kind there. I would simply urge doubters to check for themselves. I know you will be welcomed and I believe you will be impressed.We sat down after eating for the Flint GA with representation from Detroit, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Alpena!!, and this great new group formed to facilitate inter Occupy unity, Occupy For All. At the unified GA Lansing made a successful bid to host the next gathering of the tribes on Sat Dec 3 (largely because we hoped it would be a more convenient trip for West MI occupiers), and if you see this in time please join us. Detroit is next to host later in December. There was still no guarantee of a ride back to Lansing, and we were considering walking 24 miles the next day down the 69 to my fathers house, but I finally made contact with my friend and fellow Lansing Occupier Mark, who brought his brother Daniel to come pick us up. I regaled the GA with my poem, changing Detroit to Flint, and it seemed like good capstone to the proceedings. Then we left, and finally returned to home sweet tent! We love you people of Occupy Detroit and Flint, and thanks to the northern Ohio unified media group for helping spread our hopefully enjoyable tale.