In response to the violent and uncalled-for response of the NYPD to the peaceful celebration of the sixth month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park last Saturday, Zoltan Gluck —demonstrator and activist—recounted his first-hand experience of the night and drafted the following open letter to the City University of New York Community. Please find the letter excerpted below:
Dear City University of New York Community,
Last Saturday, March 17, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators convened in Zuccotti Park to celebrate the six month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street (OWS). The gathering was a joyous event, a reunion for many, filled with song, dance, a General Assembly and lively conversation.
At around 11:30 p.m., with very little warning, hundreds of New York Police Department (NYPD) officers charged and violently dispersed the peaceful gathering, injuring many and arresting more than 70 people. Those arrested were thrown to the ground, many were beaten with clubs, I saw friends whose faces were stepped on by officers while being held down. One friend had his thumb broken and was bleeding from his ear. Another had two ribs broken. One OWS medic had his head smashed into a plate glass window by a police officer (this was captured on video by bystanders:
This roundtable discussion between myself and the editors of Occupy!: Scenes from Occupied America happened over email from December 7-9, 2011. Occupy!, the book, grew out of a forty-page broadsheet called Occupy!: An OWS-Inspired Gazette, put together by the same crew, and distributed at a select number of occupations around the country.
Occupy! editors Astra Taylor, director of the documentary films Zizek! and Examined Life; Keith Gessen, Mark Greif, Nikil Saval, Eli Schmitt and Carla Blumenkranz of the literary journal n+1; and Sarah Resnick, editor of Triple Canopy all participated in the discussion.
How did the Gazette come about?
Astra: Wasn't it Keith's idea? But I like Mark Greif's observation to me that Occupy! is a strange hybrid of my childhood newsletter, Keith Gessen's high school paper, and Sarah Leonard's college paper. I'm sure others made zines and other things too. In other words, we were destined to make the Gazette!
Mark: I think when I tried to explain it to people, I said, "You go home from the park, and you want to read about what you just saw. The Occupiers are doing this incredible thing, and they'll want to read about what they're doing. Maybe we could mirror the park to itself, for the Occupiers and the visitors and the bystanders." To help. Didn't we talk about the fence-sitters too--all the people we knew, who we thought should support what the Occupiers were doing? But they kept coming up with excuses not to come down to the park? Literary and political types. So we would bring the park to them. And it was definitely Keith's idea, the paper.
Nikil: Yep, Keith's idea for sure. I think the other term I kept using (to describe it to people) was "fellow travelers"--i.e. not just undecided people, but ones who wouldn't spend a bunch of time at the park, who nonetheless offered support and wanted to understand what was going on. People ideologically, if not organizationally, committed to OWS. Of which it turns out there are a lot. It was enough that there were people whose brain was like a homologue of the city--just like Zuccotti was always there in some crammed corner way south, your head could be burdened with daily life but still lighted by the obscure sense that the occupation was going on; growing, even.
Occupy!: Scenes from Occupied America editors Keith Gessen, co-founder of n+1, Sarah Leonard, an editor at Dissent and The New Inquiry, Kathleen Ross, business manager of n+1, and Eli Schmitt, an editor of the Occupy! Gazette, were arrested while protesting in downtown Manhattan the morning of November 17, 2011.
Kathleen, Sarah, and Eli were released later that day and and returned to join the gathering at Foley Square that evening. Each was given two counts of disorderly conduct.
Keith was charged with two counts of disorderly conduct, plus an additional charge of disrupting government administration, a misdemeanor. The reason is unclear. It could be because he declined to stand and walk to the paddywagon, and allowed police to carry him there.
Keith was released, along with the last of the OWS detainees, late the following night. The reason given for his being detained for over 36 hours was that the arresting officer forgot to sign his statement.
ABC News ran footage of Keith's arrest and the statement he gave while in handcuffs:
"Our political system is broken, our politicians get to Washington and don't do what we ask them to do and it seems like they don't listen to our votes. We don't have the money or resources and we have to come out to the street."
Occupy!: Scenes from Occupied America features the editors and writers of the celebrated n+1 magazine, as well as some of the world’s leading radical thinkers, such as Slavoj Žižek, Angela Davis, and Rebecca Solnit.