April/May 2012bostonoccupier.com | The Boston Occupier - Free Press
the United States. The point, Crawford emphasized, is thatMartin’s killing “is not an isolated incident.” Among the cases was that of Patrick Dorismond, a26-year-old Haitian man who was shot and killed by anundercover narcotics officer in New York City in 2000. Theofficer had petitioned Dorismond for drugs. An altercationensued. “For defending himself against the stereotype thatthe undercover officer was projecting onto him, this manended up dead,” Crawford summarized. At the NAACP rally, Crawford reiterated the message of his teach-in: “From eight to eighty, whether you have ona suit or something like this”—Crawford pointed towardshis hoodie—“it matters not. If you are a black man or a boy you are seen as ‘suspicious.’” All three events drew connections between the TrayvonMartin case and legislation currently under considerationin Massachusetts, referred to as a “Stand your ground” law.Similar laws have already been adopted by two dozen states.In Florida, law enforcement agencies cited that state’s“Stand your ground” law as their reason for declining toarrest Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. AlthoughZimmerman acknowledged that he left his vehicle expressly to pursue Martin, state authorities construed his subse-quent shooting of Martin at point-blank range as an actionprotected by state law. (On April 11
, more than a monthafter the killing, a Florida special prosecutor announcedthat Zimmerman would be charged with second-degreemurder.)Since 2007, Massachusetts State Senator Stephen Brewer(D) has sponsored three versions of a bill that closely corre-sponds to this Florida statute. At the NAACP rally, Larry Ellison, President of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, spoke firmly againstboth the proposed bill and the name the bill’s supportershave claimed for it. “This is not about ‘Standing yourground,’” Ellison stated, “A more accurate name would be‘The last man standing tells his version.’ This law will nothelp [police officers] do our jobs.” Another theme at these events has been Zimmerman’s widely reported identification as Hispanic. Alejandra St.Guillen, executive director of ¿Oíste?, called on attendeesThursday to consider the “role of skin color in how weview one another even in our own minority communities.”Similarly, Brandi Artez, one of the organizers of Saturday’smarch, spoke for solidarity between African-Americans andHispanics: “I am a black Latina,” she said, “When peoplesee me, they see a black. Don’t let anyone tell you thatLatinos are not standing up for Trayvon Martin. We standtogether.” At the NAACP rally, Councillor Yancey reminded thegathering of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech on the samesite in April 1965. Reflections on the history of the civilrights movement were balanced by expectations for itsfuture, as Boston University law student Chelsea Lewisnoted the presence of many young people at rally. Attendees then walked across the Common to theStatehouse. There they participated in a lobbying campaignagainst the so-called “Stand your ground” law. The billis scheduled for a vote by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary on April 27.
Think you know everything about the Trayvon Martinshooting? Here are some key facts you may be unaware of:Evidentiary Irregularities
There was no collection of forensics from the scene of the shooting.
Police ran a background check on Martin, the victim,but not Zimmerman, the shooter.
Zimmerman was allowed to leave the police station, with his gun and ammunition, before the police hadeven begun interviewing witnesses.
Despite the lead homicide detective recommendingcharges of manslaughter, the DA didn’t press charges.
The police logged Martin into the morgue as a JohnDoe, despite having his cell phone (which was ignored,even while his father was calling him numerous times),and didn’t contact his family for three days after theshooting.
According to several witnesses, police officers collectingstatements “corrected” witnesses when they said thatthey heard Martin scream.
The lack of police action in response to a dead black child has caused a significant reaction by the black community, with many seeing this incident as part of apattern of disinterest in solving crimes where the victimis black.
Zimmerman’s father was a judge and his mother alegal secretary, leading many to see the lack of arrest inthis case to be caused by preferential treatment.
allotted for public comments, speakers from Occupy MBTA, Mass Senior Action Council, the T RidersUnion
and a number of private citizens stood up to ask the MBTA Board of Directors to “just vote no” to theproposed budget plan. “Just vote no” became a chant,rising from the crowd and interrupting the proceedingshalf a dozen times. Jonathan Gale, of Cross Disability Action Group,addressed the Board of Directors with candid frustration.“There were a lot of legitimate proposals from the peoplebehind me. Not one of them appears in your recommen-dations. Not one,” Gale said. “You’re still not listening!”Despite the concerns raised by the public, the MBTA Board of Directors voted, 4-1, to adopt the plan of limitedservice reductions and fare hikes, including a 20% increasein fares for bus service and a 100% increase in the cost of THE RIDE, a service for disabled riders.MassDOT Director Ferdinand Alvaro cast the only vote against this plan. “I cannot in good consciencesupport a budget that covers the gap and burdens the mostvulnerable people in our population with covering thegap,” stated Alvaro, “It is time for the Legislature to cometo the table.”Following the MBTA board’s decision, hundredsof people spilled into the streets to hold a ‘People’s Assembly’ in front of the State House. 400 protesters were present at the height of the day’s actions, anumber somewhat short of organizers’ expectations. April 4th had been planned as a “National Day of Actionfor Public Transportation.” The call to action had origi-nated with Occupy Boston and was answered with similarprotests in at least 18 cities, including Chicago, Portland,Seattle, and Detroit.In Pittsburgh, for instance, about 125 people - includingmembers of Occupy Pittsburgh and the AmalgamatedTransit Union (ATU) rallied against a set of severe antici-pated cuts to the Pittsburgh Port Authority. The
quoted ATU international president Larry Hanley saying “Service cuts, transit worker layoffs andhigher passenger fares...are really just another kind of tax,levied on those who can least afford it.”Detroit’s protest was small but resonant. A few dozenheld candles in a vigil for public transit and in memory of Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated 44 yearsago that day on April 4, 1968. King was a strong advocatefor increased access to public transportation, declaringin 1968
that “Urban transit systems […] have become agenuine civil rights issue.”
The Second Occupation
With the ruling of the MBTA Board of Directors,protesters’ focus shifted to the State Legislature.Lawmakers, controlling the state’s purse-strings, hadgreater power to close the budget gap than did the MBTA itself.The ten-day occupation of the State House steps was part of a strategy to focus public attention on theLegislature’s ability to alleviate the MBTA’s budget woes. Ariel Oshinsky, a Northeastern student and organizerfor Occupy MBTA, confirmed, “Our focus, now, is noton the board, but the State House. It’s [House SpeakerRobert] DeLeo, [Senate President Therese] Murray, and[Governor Deval] Patrick.”“We’re on the doorstep of those we’re trying to affect,”she added. As for the encampment itself --it may not have hadthe dense network of tents that came to be iconic of theOccupy movement last fall, but “Camp Charlie” still hadall of the familiar trappings of a protest encampment.The sprawl of sleeping bags, pads, umbrellas, tarps,tables, signs and rugs on the state government’s frontporch might look familiar to those who had seen Occupy Boston’s original encampment on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. An “Info Table” was stocked with freepamphlets, and a “Food Table” was restocked regularly foranyone who wanted a sandwich or, on occasion, a hot,fresh meal.Many of the day-to-day activities of the Dewey Squareencampment were also retained. Several experts came tospeak on the history of the MBTA’s budget problems, andRutgers professor Barbara Foley gave a speech on main-taining a radical perspective in a climate of ideologicalmoderation. General Assemblies took place on batteredrugs unrolled in front of the steps.Even in its short duration the camp was the scene of asolemn ceremony honoring Andy, a fellow occupier andmember of Occupy Boston’s Logistics team, who passedaway in early April. Like Dewey Square, the encampmentserved simultaneously as an ongoing protest action and asa gathering place for those who supported the group. At one point, the encampment was briefly forced todisband. The Massachusetts State Police ordered occu-piers to disassemble their encampment, reportedly atthe behest of the Secret Service, in preparation for thearrival of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at the StateHouse. Without the people-power necessary to hold theirground, the group chose to transport their gear out of sight for the night. The occupation resumed the followingafternoon.“We all understood that occupation is a powerfultactic,” said Oshinsky. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a way of making a commitment for sustained pressure.”
Changing Up the Game
Compared to Dewey Square, “Camp Charlie” wasa relatively small encampment, hosting between ten totwenty dwellers per night. Without tents and with greatervisibility and personal accountability, a safe environment was easier to maintain.It was also innovative in the specificity of its focus. Itbrought attention to a single issue - public transportation– and issued a set of distinct demands - ‘no service cuts,no fare hikes, no layoffs’. The use of such finite, precisionencampments may well become the norm for the Occupy movement, which finds itself in need of adapted andrevised tactics this spring.One of the strategies used in the course of theencampment was a first for the Boston occupiers: they made a direct appeal to the government for action. Onthe morning of April 9, occupier Katie Gradowski madea presentation to the Joint Committee on Transportationon behalf of Occupy MBTA.“Let us be clear,” Gradowski said, “The current messthat the MBTA finds itself in, burdened by more debtthan any agency in the country, […] is the direct resultof inadequate funding by this Committee and the entireMassachusetts legislature.” When Camp Charlie was disassembled on April 14as planned, the state legislature had not taken the stepsnecessary to maintain our public transportation system. While next fiscal years’ service cuts and fare hikes will notbe as severe as the MBTA initially announced, the MBTA still faces a long-term budget deficit that will have to berevisited this time next year.Occupy MBTA and its collaborating organizations didnot succeed in winning their demands. However, a broaderassessment of Occupy’s three-and-a-half month campaign– inclusive of the April4 Day of Action and Camp Charlie– is a more complicated task, one that participants are justnow beginning.
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Justice or Trayvon Martin
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Taking a break from protest, Camp Charlieholds a vigil in memory of Andy, of Occupy Boston’s Logistics team. (Photo: Liam Leehan)