Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

Occupation in Philly, Day 28 (November 2)

“Get Up, Get Down, There’s Solidarity in This Town”

“Port shut down by wildcats, roving blockades of couple thousand, 850 University of California staffers not at work . . . flying pickets are shutting down stores that wouldn’t let the employees strike,” texted one occupier-friend from Oakland around 11:40 a.m. California time. “There’s thousands of people dancing in the street under a HUGE banner that reads ‘death to capitalism’ [and] ‘long lie the Oakland commune,'” texted a second friend from Oakland a few minutes later, or 2:45 p.m. our time here in Philly.

Their messages reached me as I stood outside Comcast, along with a couple hundred other people, in solidarity with nine of our occupier-friends inside the Comcast lobby, separated only by glass from us. I read these messages aloud, via people’s mic, to the crowd doing solidarity outside Comcast, and huge cheers rose up. About an hour earlier, some occupiers had rushed into the lobby, sat down, and linked arms, as part of a day of solidarity with the general strike on the opposite side of the continent.  An hour before that, at around 12:30 a.m. Philly time, upward of four hundred of us marched through city center, with chants like “I’m Scott Olsen; this is Oakland” and “Philly, Philly, raise your hands; we are Boston and Oakland; in solidarity we stand.”  Now the nine inside Comcast were surrounded by police, awaiting arrest, and we outside were attempting to lend them solidarity from the outside.

Simultaneous shows of resistance, far from equivalent in terms of their magnitude or historical importance today. All eyes are on Oakland around the world this November 2, and only a few eyes are on Philly. But as one woman who was grabbed by an undercover cop today in the Comcast lobby yelled when the cop snatched her camera and crushed her hand in the process: “All eyes! All eyes!” So many people have been awakened by the occupations, tear gas, evictions, banners, marches, direct actions, and now general strike; so many people have had their eyes opened up to inequity and the suffering of others, but also the sense that we increasingly have the power to challenge that inequity and suffering. And to take action–from civil disobedience to self-organization, from shutting down what we don’t like to opening up new spaces for what we might want instead.

One of the nine people arrested today in Philly, Diane, wasn’t planning on getting arrested; she’s never been arrested before. She’s on the board of Jobs for Justice and came to the solidarity march. When her friend Gwen decided to sit down and risk arrest in Comcast’s lobby, Diane decided to join her, out of solidarity. Gwen works at Jobs for Justice. Diane has been active in social causes for years, and has supported the Philly occupation from the beginning. She and her husband are upset that corporate profits are ruining the whole country; they are troubled by the obscene excesses of the super wealthy; and they decry the human and financial cost of military adventurism by the United States, especially in places where we shouldn’t even be. Today, a few years after retirement and after twenty-nine years as a nurse in Philly schools, she sat down in solidarity with her friend and those in Oakland in order to stand up in a new way.

Others lent their solidarity in numerous ways today in Philly, large and small. Dozens and dozens of folks encircled the police vans outside Comcast when the vehicles were brought in to take the arrestees away. One person outside got arrested. During the march, many of the signs (“100% love Oakland”) and chants (“Get up, get down, there’s solidarity in this town”) focused on our solidarity with Oakland, Boston, and other occupied sites under threat or that have been the target of police brutality. Right now, a dozen or so occupiers are braving the chilly night air to sit outside the Roundhouse police headquarters, doing jail solidarity for the ten arrestees inside, and numerous people have kicked in money for potential bail. Knowing that arrested occupier-friends inside the Roundhouse can hear them on the sidewalk on 8th Street, the supporters chant, “We love you, we miss you, we’re outside supporting you.” Folks fresh from the occupation general assembly are heading over, with new cheer and material aid for what might be a long  night.

And also right now, on the opposite side of the country, four thousand or more people have marched to the port of Oakland. As the San Jose Mercury reported, “Protesters have effectively shut down maritime operations at the Port. . . . The crowd stretched several blocks down Middle Harbor Road leading into the port as they begin their attempt to shut down the port for start of the 7 p.m. night shift.”

Sarah Ahmed has remarked that “solidarity does not assume that our struggles are the same struggles, or that our pain is the same pain, or that our hope is for the same future. Solidarity involves commitment, and work, as well as the recognition that even if we do not have the same feelings, or the same lives, or the same bodies, we do live on common ground.” And even more germane to how our common ground looked, felt, and worked today, Eduardo Galeano has observed that solidarity “is horizontal and takes place between equals.”

In Philly, as in Oakland, in forms modest and monumental, our solidarity today seemed to stop capitalist time and make time our own, binding us in ways that those who benefit most from capitalism can’t touch. Our social power is growing, and so is the power of our ideas, summed up in one cardboard sign, modified slightly by me, here in Philly today: “[Our] hugs work better than [their] tear gas and rubber bullets.”


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This entry was posted on November 3, 2011 by in Dispatches from Occupy Philly.
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