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After jail in another case, Occupy Wall Street activist is acquitted of …



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    NEW YORK — After being convicted of assaulting a police officer, an Occupy Wall Street protester who became a rallying point for activists was cleared Friday of charges stemming from another confrontation with police.

    Cecily McMillan was acquitted of obstructing government administration, after her second trial this year.

    It came three months after her release from jail in her earlier case, which stemmed from an encounter with police at an Occupy gathering and made the 26-year-old graduate student a celebrated figure among protesters and sympathizers.

    In the latest case, prosecutors said McMillan interfered with officers who’d stopped two accused fare-beaters in a Manhattan subway station in December 2013.

    McMillan claimed to be a lawyer, urged the two not to cooperate with police, hectored the officers and got in the way while shooting video when the officers took the two to a transit police station, according to police and prosecutors. Her conduct showed “utter contempt for the police and the important job they do,” prosecutors said in court papers this spring.

    But whatever it showed wasn’t a crime, said her lawyer, Martin Stolar.

    “Being annoying and obnoxious to the police is not illegal,” he said by phone Friday.

    The Manhattan district attorney’s office had no immediate comment.

    The arrest came as McMillan was awaiting trial in her first case. In that case, she was accused of elbowing an officer in the eye as he ushered her and other Occupy activists out of a park where they were marking the movement’s six-month birthday on March 17, 2012.

    She said she reacted instinctively after her breast was grabbed from behind, which the officer denied doing. She said police then roughed her up while arresting her as she suffered what she has described as a seizure.

    The trial took on a tone of demonstration in itself, with dozens of McMillan supporters lining the courtroom audience; some shouted “Shame!” when she was convicted. Director Spike Jonze, Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon and some City Council members wrote letters asking for leniency for her, and members of the once-jailed Russian punk group Pussy Riot visited her in jail on Rikers Island.

    She was released in July, after serving about 60 days, and went on to write a Cosmopolitan magazine piece about her time behind bars. She plans to advocate for inmates.

    “I walked into Rikers Island as part of one movement and left as part of another,” she wrote.

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    Three Years Ago this Month the Occupy Wall Street Movement Burst Upon San …

    By Frank Gormlie / OB Rag

    Start of March, Oct 7 2011

    Oct. 7, 2011. Author is in lower right front of photo in white shirt. Photo Credit T.Collins Logan

    It was October 7th, in the year 2011, that the Occupy Wall Street movement hit San Diego.

    In a huge outpouring of demonstrators, up to 4,000 San Diegans marched through the Gaslamp District of downtown San Diego – mainly protesting for social and economic justice, against the state of the economy and the role of banks and Wall Street responsible for the financial downturn. Occupy San Diego was born in a giant – for San Diego – protest in solidarity with the rest of the country and particularly those in New York City – where the Occupy movement began.

    After the march ended up at City Hall – where speeches were given in the Civic Plaza, the protesters moved back to the original site, Children’s Park, for their first night of encampment. In terms of progressive political expressions, this was the largest demonstration in the City for many years – and there hasn’t been anything like it since.

    Later the next day, October 8th, Occupy San Diego returned to the Civic Plaza – which they renamed “Freedom Plaza” and made an encampment that would last for days and weeks. A hundred tents were counted at one point, along with a kitchen, first aid, media tents, and sign-making, a couple of libraries,the encampment was a bright spot in San Diego’s political history.

    Finally, under intense police pressure – now known to have been directed from Washington DC – as well as its own internal contradictions, Occupy San Diego fell apart – along with most movements across the nation – by or near the end of that year, 2011.

    There are remnants, and here in San Diego, the most on-going and spirited spin-off is WomenOccupy, a mainly singing group. An anniversary celebration of sorts happened on Oct. 7th at the Civic Center at 7pm. The event was also in solidarity with the demonstrations going on in Hong Kong.

    Even though it did fade, the Occupy Wall Street movement changed the nation’s discussion – for the first time, the expressions “the 99%”, “the 1%” entered our lexicon, and the discussion focused on the role of banks and the role of Wall Street like never before – or since.

    Here is part of my report of the Urban Village created by Occupy San Diego – from Oct. 11, 2011:

    With all that had been put up during the occupation, something new and wonderfully addicting was being born. We were creating the beginnings of a new society right here in the shadow of City Hall, right here in the windy, cold corridors of San Diego power.

    As you walk among the nearly 90 tents set up in the Plaza, and observe what the occupiers are actually doing, you can sense that a small town, a small village, has been created right in the bowels of our large city, right in the heart of its civic government. A village born in the middle of a city.

    I looked around. People were in a food line, a constant figment of the occupation. The Food Tent was one of the first to be installed, and multiple tables were covered with boxes of food stuffs – lots of bread and rolls . Washing tubs stood nearby, along with bins for recyclables and trash. Stacked behind the tables were cases of water bottles and boxes of donated foods. Campers had been asked to bring their own plates, containers and utensils and most had.

    Twenty yards away was the medical tent, and it even had a cot inside. A sign hung outside that announced: “The People’s Clinic”. The Medical Committee appears to be very well organized and that there was always some volunteer hanging out in its tent waiting to be of service.

    From there, if you took a 90 degree turn to the west, you might run into the Voter Registration booth and tent, prominently set up so anyone walking by would see it.

    People were in their tents, talking, reading, eating – you know, the things that people do when they’re home. Small groups sat in circles, sharing food, stories and laughter. A few children were visible. Here and there, someone fingered their guitars. And you cannot escape seeing the overall amazing diversity of the encampment. All colors and varieties of human folk.

    Mingling with the humans were a number of very friendly dogs – all on leashes. I didn’t see any cats, however. I did pass the “Comfort” tent, where bins of donated clothing and blankets were being collected and displayed for the taking. Out of nowhere, two old friends appeared and strung up a Bulletin Board for the village. A hammock had been thrown up, hooked on sign poles, and someone had added a cardboard sign on the City pole with all the different destinations around the world that simply said “Occupy San Diego”.

    I walked some distance and around the corner was the Library, with a large display of books and reading material. Everyone had been asked initially to bring a book to share, and the occupiers and their supporters had certainly responded. There were also stacks of DVD’s to view, magazines, and other literature for perusal. No library cards needed here – the check out policy is very liberal.

    Up against one of the walls of the Quad was a string of tables under a tarp labeled “Media”. A live-stream camera was constantly on and a half dozen people sat behind their laptops.

    Legal observers and Safety Committee people mingle about. Tonight it was quiet.

    avatar

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    Occupy Wall Street protester on trial for pretending to be a lawyer

    The Occupy Wall Street protester who bawled over the dress her non-fashion-savvy lawyer had her wear in court found herself before another judge on Tuesday after allegedly pretending to be a lawyer.

    Cecily McMillan, 26, is charged with misdemeanor obstruction of governmental administration for allegedly interfering with cops trying to ticket two fare-beaters in Union Square on Dec. 7, 2013.

    “She was yelling at the couple, ‘Do not listen to them! Do not cooperate with the police! I’m a lawyer and I know the law,’ ” prosecutor Leah Saxtein told the jury.

    McMillan, 26 — who cried over the forced fashion faux pas after her May conviction for elbowing a cop in the eye in 2012 — was dressed demurely in a gray dress and black loafers on Tuesday.

    She served nearly two months on Rikers Island for the assault.

    The new charges could land her in jail for as much as a year.

    McMillan says the cops didn’t show their badges when they asked the couple to see their IDs, her attorney, Martin Stolar, said.

    Occupy Wall Street activist ‘threatened to kill police officer’s family’

    • Cecily McMillan, 25, interfered when she saw plain-clothed officers arresting a couple at Union Square station in December
    • Officer claims she accused his partner of being a ‘male chauvinistic pig’ 
    • Then she allegedly said: ‘He probably doesn’t have any wife or kids’
    • Continuing the suspected abuse, saying: ‘But if he did, I would kill them’
    • McMillan denies a misdemeanor charge which carries a year-long sentence 
    • Was jailed for three months earlier this year for elbowing an officer during the protest in March 2012

    Wills Robinson for MailOnline

    10

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    comments

    Allegations: Cecily McMillan, 26 (pictured arriving at a hearing earlier this year) appeared in court to face allegations she threatened to kill a police officer’s family during an incident on the New York subway

    An Occupy Wall Street activist has been accused of threatening to kill a plain-clothed police officer’s family during an incident on the New York subway. 

    Cecily McMillan, 26, who was jailed for three months earlier this year for elbowing an officer during the 2012 demonstrations, allegedly made the threats when two fare-dodgers were being arrested. 

    The graduate student from the New School appeared in a Manhattan court on Monday, charged with obstructing governmental administration during an altercation in Union Square station last December.

    Officer Luis Castillo told the pretrial hearing that he heard McMillan accuse his partner, officer Brian Rothermel, of being a ‘male chauvinist pig’,The Guardian reported. 

    He claims she then said: ‘And he probably doesn’t have any kids or a wife, but if he did, I’d kill them.’

    McMillan has denied the misdemeanor charge which carries a year prison sentence if convicted.

    According to her supporters’ website, McMillan was ‘arrested again’ by the NYPD for filming the police as they arrested two people inside station.

    The post reads: ‘Cecily saw two plainly dressed men begin to abusively confront and interrogate a young couple. 

    ‘When she began to question them about the harassment, it turned out the men were police officers who then arrested them. 

    ‘Cecily followed them to the subway precinct, watching to make sure they were not further abused, and began to take a video of the arrest process from outside the precinct doors. 

    McMillan, dubbed the ‘queen of non-violence’, was found guilty in May of assaulting a police officer during a demonstration two years before.

    As the verdict was read out and she was led away from the court room, her supporters shouted: ‘Shame! Shame! Shame!’

    The student, who was 25 at the time, was sentenced to three years but served around eight on Rikers Island in New York. 

    Her defense team maintained throughout the trial that she was startled and knocked the officer accidentally after he groped her left breast from behind. 

    Activist: The graduate student was jailed for three months earlier this year for elbowing a police officer as she was led away from the Wall Street demonstrations in March 2012. She served eight weeks of the sentence 

    Activist: The graduate student was jailed for three months earlier this year for elbowing a police officer as she was led away from the Wall Street demonstrations in March 2012. She served eight weeks of the sentence 

    During the subway incident, McMillan was said to have grabbed the officers hand when one of the fare-dodgers tried to hand over his ID. 

    As the pair were taken away, she continued to film the incident on her phone.

    Throughout the altercation, she claimed she was a lawyer, and when they reached the precinct doors, she tried to force her way in.

    According to officer Castillo, she then started shouting and screaming before she was arrested and handcuffed. 

    A trial will begin when a jury has been selected while the judge ruled that her previous assault charges must not be mentioned by the prosecution.  

    McMillan was one of 56 people to be convicted at trial for the demonstrations in March 2012, while another 11 people have been acquitted.

    The city had evicted Occupy’s Zuccotti Park encampment four months earlier, but activists gathered there to celebrate the six-month mark.

    McMillan (pictured outside a Manhattan court in May) denies the charges, saying she was only filming two plain-clothed police officers arresting two fare-dodgers at Union Square station, New York

    McMillan (pictured outside a Manhattan court in May) denies the charges, saying she was only filming two plain-clothed police officers arresting two fare-dodgers at Union Square station, New York

     

     


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    Three Years Ago Today – Oct. 7th, 2011 – the Occupy Wallstreet Movement …

    Oct. 7, 2011. Author is in lower right front of photo in white shirt. Photo Credit T.Collins Logan

    It was October 7th, in the year 2011, that the Occupy Wallstreet movement  hit San Diego.

    In a huge outpouring of demonstrators, up to 4,000 San Diegans marched through the Gaslamp District of downtown San Diego – mainly protesting for social and economic justice, against the state of the economy and the role of banks and Wallstreet responsible for the financial downturn.  Occupy San Diego was born in a giant – for San Diego – protest in solidarity with the rest of the country and particularly those in New York City – where the occupy movement began.

    After the march ended up at City Hall – where speeches were given in the Civic Plaza, the protesters moved back to the  original site, Children’s Park, for their first night of encampment. In terms of progressive political expressions, this was the largest demonstration in the City for many years – and there hasn’t been anything like it since.

    Later the next day, October 8th, Occupy San Diego returned to the Civic Plaza – which they renamed “Freedom Plaza” and made an encampment that would last for days and weeks. A hundred tents were counted at one point, along with a kitchen, first aid, media tents, and sign-making, a couple of libraries,the encampment was a bright spot in San Diego’s political history.

    Finally, under intense police pressure – now known to have been directed from Washington DC – as well as its own internal contradictions, Occupy San Diego fell apart – along with most movements across the nation – by or near the end of that year, 2011.

    There are remnants, and here in San Diego, the most on-going and spirited spin-off is WomenOccupy San Diego, a mainly singing group.  There is an anniversary celebration of sorts happening this day – today – Oct. 7th, 2014 – at the Civic Center at 7pm.  The event is also in solidarity with the demonstrations going on in Hong Kong.

    Even though it did fade, the Occupy Wallstreet movement changed the nation’s discussion – for the first time, the expressions “the 99%”, “the 1%” entered our lexicon, and the discussion focused on the role of banks and the role of Wallstreet like never before – or since.

    Here is part of my report of the Urban Village created by Occupy San Diego – from Oct. 11, 2011:

    With all that had been put up during the occupation, something new and wonderfully addicting was being born. We were creating the beginnings of a new society right here in the shadow of City Hall, right here in the windy, cold corridors of San Diego power.

    As you walk among the nearly 90 tents set up in the Plaza, and observe what the occupiers are actually doing, you can sense that a small town, a small village, has been created right in the bowels of our large city, right in the heart of its civic government. A village born in the middle of a city.

    I  looked around.  People were in a food line, a constant figment of the occupation.  The Food Tent was one of the first to be installed, and multiple tables were covered with boxes of food stuffs – lots of bread and rolls . Washing tubs stood nearby, along with bins for recyclables and trash. Stacked behind the tables were cases of water bottles and boxes of donated foods. Campers had been asked to bring their own plates, containers and utensils and most had.

    Twenty yards away was the medical tent, and it even had a cot inside. A sign hung outside that announced: “The People’s Clinic”. The Medical Committee appears to be very well organized and that there was always some volunteer hanging out in its tent waiting to be of service.

    From there, if you took a 90 degree turn to the west, you might run into the Voter Registration booth and tent, prominently set up so anyone walking by would see it.

    People were in their tents, talking, reading, eating – you know, the things that people do when they’re home. Small groups sat in circles, sharing food, stories and laughter.  A few children were visible. Here and there, someone fingered their guitars.  And you cannot escape seeing the overall amazing diversity of the encampment. All colors and varieties of  human folk.

    Mingling with the humans were a number of very friendly dogs – all on leashes.  I didn’t see any cats, however.  I did pass the “Comfort” tent, where bins of donated clothing and blankets were being collected and displayed for the taking.  Out of nowhere, two old friends appeared and strung up a Bulletin Board for the village. A hammock had been thrown up, hooked on sign poles, and someone had added a cardboard sign on the City pole with all the different destinations around the world that simply said “Occupy San Diego”.

    I walked some distance and around the corner was the Library, with a large display of books and reading material. Everyone had been asked initially to bring a book to share, and the occupiers and their supporters had certainly responded.  There were also stacks of DVD’s to view, magazines, and other literature for perusal.  No library cards needed here – the check out policy is very liberal.

    Up against one of the walls of the Quad was a string of tables under a tarp labeled “Media”.   A live-stream camera was constantly on and a half dozen people sat behind their laptops.

    Legal observers and Safety Committee people mingle about. Tonight it was quiet.

    Occupy Wall Street activist ‘threatened to kill police officer’s family’ after …

    • Cecily McMillan, 25, interfered when she saw plain-clothed officers arresting a couple at Union Square station in December
    • Officer claims she accused his partner of being a ‘male chauvinistic pig’ 
    • Then she allegedly said: ‘He probably doesn’t have any wife or kids’
    • Continuing the suspected abuse, saying: ‘But if he did, I would kill them’
    • McMillan denies a misdemeanor charge which carries a year-long sentence 
    • Was jailed for three months earlier this year for elbowing an officer during the protest in March 2012

    Wills Robinson for MailOnline

    View
    comments

    Allegations: Cecily McMillan, 26 (pictured arriving at a hearing earlier this year) appeared in court to face allegations she threatened to kill a police officer’s family during an incident on the New York subway

    An Occupy Wall Street activist has been accused of threatening to kill a plain-clothed police officer’s family during an incident on the New York subway. 

    Cecily McMillan, 26, who was jailed for three months earlier this year for elbowing an officer during the 2012 demonstrations, allegedly made the threats when two fare-dodgers were being arrested. 

    The graduate student from the New School appeared in a Manhattan court on Monday, charged with obstructing governmental administration during an altercation in Union Square station last December.

    Officer Luis Castillo told the pretrial hearing that he heard McMillan accuse his partner, officer Brian Rothermel, of being a ‘male chauvinist pig’,The Guardian reported. 

    He claims she then said: ‘And he probably doesn’t have any kids or a wife, but if he did, I’d kill them.’

    McMillan has denied the misdemeanor charge which carries a year prison sentence if convicted.

    According to her supporters’ website, McMillan was ‘arrested again’ by the NYPD for filming the police as they arrested two people inside station.

    The post reads: ‘Cecily saw two plainly dressed men begin to abusively confront and interrogate a young couple. 

    ‘When she began to question them about the harassment, it turned out the men were police officers who then arrested them. 

    ‘Cecily followed them to the subway precinct, watching to make sure they were not further abused, and began to take a video of the arrest process from outside the precinct doors. 

    McMillan, dubbed the ‘queen of non-violence’, was found guilty in May of assaulting a police officer during a demonstration two years before.

    As the verdict was read out and she was led away from the court room, her supporters shouted: ‘Shame! Shame! Shame!’

    The student, who was 25 at the time, was sentenced to three years but served around eight on Rikers Island in New York. 

    Her defense team maintained throughout the trial that she was startled and knocked the officer accidentally after he groped her left breast from behind. 

    Activist: The graduate student was jailed for three months earlier this year for elbowing a police officer as she was led away from the Wall Street demonstrations in March 2012. She served eight weeks of the sentence 

    Activist: The graduate student was jailed for three months earlier this year for elbowing a police officer as she was led away from the Wall Street demonstrations in March 2012. She served eight weeks of the sentence 

    During the subway incident, McMillan was said to have grabbed the officers hand when one of the fare-dodgers tried to hand over his ID. 

    As the pair were taken away, she continued to film the incident on her phone.

    Throughout the altercation, she claimed she was a lawyer, and when they reached the precinct doors, she tried to force her way in.

    According to officer Castillo, she then started shouting and screaming before she was arrested and handcuffed. 

    A trial will begin when a jury has been selected while the judge ruled that her previous assault charges must not be mentioned by the prosecution.  

    McMillan was one of 56 people to be convicted at trial for the demonstrations in March 2012, while another 11 people have been acquitted.

    The city had evicted Occupy’s Zuccotti Park encampment four months earlier, but activists gathered there to celebrate the six-month mark.

    McMillan (pictured outside a Manhattan court in May) denies the charges, saying she was only filming two plain-clothed police officers arresting two fare-dodgers at Union Square station, New York

     

     


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    The Americans Who Inspired Hong Kong’s Protesters

    Last week at the United Nations, after condemning Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and ISIS’s barbarism in the Middle East, Barack Obama acknowledged what, for non-Americans, is usually the elephant in the room: the morality of American behavior itself. “I realize that America’s critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals,” he noted. But while admitting that the United States cannot offer the world a model of democracy and human rights, Obama argued that it can offer a model of how a flawed society struggles to better itself. “What you see in America,” he said, “is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems, to make our union more perfect. … [W]e fight for our ideals, and we are willing to criticize ourselves when we fall short.”

    By deploying the pronoun “we,” Obama slyly conflated state and society. He deflected criticisms of America’s government by spotlighting the struggles of America’s people. In so doing, he implicitly acknowledged something important: America’s greatest contributions to democracy abroad often stem not from Washington but from the Americans who mobilize against it.

    Look at Hong Kong, where a group called Occupy Central with Peace and Love is playing a key role in a broader movement for free elections. If the name sounds familiar, it should. It’s a variation of the phrase made famous when protesters began congregating in New York’s Zuccotti Park roughly three years ago. In Washington, Hong Kong’s Occupy movement is widely admired for its challenge to China’s undemocratic rule. But in taking the name “Occupy,” Hong Kong’s protesters are paying homage to a movement that challenged the lack of democracy in Washington itself.

    The relationship between the two Occupies dates to 2011. “Central” is the name of Hong Kong’s main business district. And the term “Occupy Central”—which has gained international renown over the last week—was coined a few years ago when Occupy Wall Street was gaining steam. In October 2011, soon after protesters began sleeping in Zuccotti Park, several hundred Hong Kongers created their own encampment outside the headquarters of HSBC, the world’s second-largest bank. Calling their movement, “Occupy Central,” they remained encamped there until September 2012, thus comprising one of the longest-running Occupy protests in the world.

    A few months later, in January 2013, a law professor named Benny Tai proposed that protesters descend upon Central again, in the movement that became Occupy Central with Peace and Love (OCPL). At first glance, this new effort has little in common with the movement that started in lower Manhattan. OCPL is demanding electoral democracy: the people’s right to choose the candidates who will run for chief executive of Hong Kong. Occupy Wall Street, by contrast, was born from frustration that America’s electoral democracy was a sham because the country’s radically unequal economic system concentrated power in the hands of financial and corporate elites.

    But it’s worth remembering that Occupy Wall Street never formulated specific demands. Its message was broader: that unaccountable elites—“the 1 percent”—had created a political and economic system that denied ordinary people a voice in their government and a chance at a better life. It was the breadth of this message that helped Occupy spread rapidly across the globe, as local activists adapted it to their particular circumstances.

    And that’s exactly what Hong Kong’s new Occupy movement is doing today. Tai and his allies are not merely protesting a rigged electoral system. They are protesting the way China’s government and Hong Kong’s economic elite work together to empower themselves at the expense of the region’s people. Earlier this year, when The Economist unveiled its “crony-capitalism” index—“the countries where politically connected businessmen are most likely to prosper”—it ranked Hong Kong number one. The territory also boasts one of the world’s highest Gini coefficients, making it among the most economically unequal places on earth. As Jeffrey Wasserstrom of the University of California at Irvine and Denise Ho of the Chinese University of Hong Kong recently observed in The Nation, “The grievances of Occupy Central have much in common with those of Occupy movements worldwide: Hong Kong is a vastly unequal society, and government policies are seen as favoring real estate development over affordable housing, shopping complexes over little remaining farmland, and low taxation over more equitable redistribution.”

    The Democracy Report

    It’s no surprise, therefore, that the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong, and the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong have all denounced Occupy Central with Peace and Love. The protesters in Central may be focusing on electoral reform while the protesters in Zuccotti Park were focusing on financial power, but in both places, they were protesting the link between a lack of true political participation and economic unfairness.

    We’ve seen this kind of global ricochet effect before. In 1968, demonstrations broke out in the United States, in Western Europe, and in Warsaw and Prague. America’s cold warriors—who admired the Eastern European students protesting Soviet domination but scorned the American students protesting the Vietnam War—denied any connection between the two. To do so would have sullied the moral divide between the free West and the unfree East. But as Jeremi Suri and others have documented, students on both sides of the Iron Curtain saw themselves as protesting the way their governments used the Cold War to impose authoritarian, militaristic policies that offended their values and blighted their lives. While advancing different agendas, they shared a common spirit.

    The lesson of 1968, and of Hong Kong, is that the best way for Americans to promote democracy abroad is to struggle for it at home. Yes, the United States government can use its power against tyrannical adversaries. It can impose sanctions against Moscow, condemn Beijing, and bomb ISIS. But even the non-Americans who support such actions recognize them as tainted by the self-interest of a superpower that often supports tyranny itself. When America actually inspires non-Americans struggling for democracy, it’s less because of the actions of our government than the actions of those Americans willing to challenge it. The “most useful place to look for the inspirations that drive Arab democracy activists these days is not the speeches of George W. Bush but rather the protest movements among American civil rights activists in the period 1956-1964,” wrote the Lebanese journalist Rami Khouri several years ago. By choosing the name Occupy, the people risking their lives in Hong Kong are saying something similar about a new generation of American activists today.

    From Wall Street to Central—how to Occupy a space

    Back in 2011, I was small part of the Occupy Wall Street movement (occasionally helping stock the kitchen and First Aid tents in Zuccotti Park), so arriving in Hong Kong, I had a sense of what Occupy Central with Love and Peace would look like.

    This morning (Oct. 1), I headed over to Central, the main street through Hong Kong’s financial district, to see the occupation trying to secure for Hong Kong the democratic election they were promised in 2017. Walking east from the ferry terminal, the scale of the event certainly seemed like Occupy in New York—hundreds of people, many wearing that dazed, curious smile people get when they see their fellow citizens behaving as if politics could include them.

    Walking uphill on Central, now turned into a political pedestrian mall, felt like a kind of elongated Zuccotti Park. Then I got to the crest of the roadway, and looked down towards the Admiralty neighborhood, the moment captured in the picture above.

    And I realized how wrong I was about the size. Occupy Central is absolutely massive, endless participation as far as the eye can see. (Amazement at the scale of the event seemed to be a common reaction—my picture includes several other people holding up their cameras at about the same spot, having had roughly the same reaction.)

    I took my kids with me, and while I have never lost my midwesterner’s wonder at tall buildings and big groups, my kids have grown up in New York City and now Shanghai, so crowds don’t impress them much. What they were interested in (and what came to interest me) were the ways the occupation is adapting to the need to inhabit a two-mile stretch of asphalt 24/7.

    The first thing we noticed was the need to alter the surface of the space, to take an impersonal environment and modify it to say “We’re here. This matters.” Cities are occupied, every day, by their residents. To make an occupation different, to kick off a political conversation in what had just recently been a transportation corridor, requires taking urban-scale space and adding human-scale adaptations.

    Someone could update Stewart Brand’s How Buildings Learn to talk about the way various Occupy movements adapt seemingly impassive urban space to their particular needs, both rhetorical and practical.

    One common pattern is signs, of course…

    A clear statement of purpose: Beijing has said the only candidates who can stand for office in 2017 will be hand-picked by them; the Occupiers want to be able to nominate candidates, not just vote for them.

    Media is also a hugely important part of Occupy Central. All political movements look for coverage, of course, but here, evidence that an event is being documented takes on an additional resonance, since every bit of independent documentation knicks at the government’s ability to keep coverage of the event limited to its side of the story. Though the peer communication app FireChat is getting a workout (and a lot of attention as a result), the real social media story here is about publicity, not privacy. For people who want to be heard, the event has to carry past the streets of downtown Hong Kong, and outside the bounds of legacy Chinese media.

    Some of what was posted on the walls was just evidence that the event was being documented (making this picture fairly meta).

    There were also practical adaptations by the score. One of the first ones we came across was about wayfinding. Because the occupation is in the middle of a formerly busy street, there are no guides for pedestrians, so maps were drawn up and posted, to help people find their way along the avenue.

    The most famous practical adaptation, of course, was the umbrellas.

    Because the first clash of the protest involved occupiers defending themselves against pepper spray with umbrellas, this has become known as the Umbrella Movement.

    Even broken umbrellas can serve a second, rhetorical function. Tied to the the western-most barricade on Central, the umbrellas say “This is where business as usual stops and our particular temporary autonomous zone starts.”

    Since Hong Kong is, per Wikipedia, “a monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate”, umbrellas are ubiquitous; politicizing them provides some of the hiding in plain sight symbolism An Xiao Mina has written about so brilliantly. It also means that political symbols are readily for sale in a country known for subtle and pervasive symbolic control.

    An array of donated umbrellas looks like a combination of a yard sale and an armory.

    Likewise, the site of the occupation is distinctly not pedestrian friendly. Central is essentially a downtown highway, with borders to match. As people flow in by their thousands, they need to be able to do something the roadway’s designers explicitly tried to prevent: cross the street. There are several improvised barrier crossings, often staffed by volunteers.

    The other famous adaptation was to tear gas, with impromptu gas masks being created out of goggles and saran wrap, which they now stock by the bale.

    The occupation doesn’t go in for political graffiti—most signs are made and put up, rather than being painted directly onto walls. (Indeed, we saw protestors carefully scrubbing graffiti off the roadway today, an elaborate signal that this movement does not aim to destroy or deface property.)

    My friend Marianne Manilov pointed out to me that Occupy Wall Street strengthened its political message enormously with a commitment to look after anyone who showed up. In the industrialized world, taking care of other people has become a radical political act. The occupiers of Hong Kong have created an impromptu but effective distribution system for food, water, first aid, cooling supplies.

    The speed with which the participants in this movement have built an encampment with food and water and first aid and even border crossings is impressive. They have shown us, at a scope unimaginable even in Zuccotti Park in 2011, what it means to occupy a space. The odds against this movement are serious, but they have shown that adapting urban space to political communication is an act of shared imagination and adaptation.

    The original version of this essay is on GitHub. If you would like to share the photos or copy the essay, you can fork a version of your own.