Open Letter to Our Neighbors #2

Through a series of events, Occupy Northampton, part of the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Together movement, was made to leave its chief occupation spot and headquarters this past Thursday, October 13, 2011, after 6 p.m. and in rainy weather. For clarity and background about Occupy Northampton and the global Occupy Together movement, we refer the reader to our first letter of October 12, 2011. As the second in the series, this letter addresses the circumstances leading up to Occupy Northampton being made to leave Pulaski Park, the events that followed, and this writer's perspective on the implications of events and how they relate to the 99% here in Northampton. Occupy Together practices horizontal democracy. No individual among us is the leader. These pages represent one very active participant's first-hand, factual understanding of the sequence of events. Occupy Northampton made its first public appearance on Thursday, October 6, 2011, in front of Bank of America on Main Street in Northampton. With the active support and collaboration of the Northampton Police Department, parking spaces between Thornes Marketplace awning and Bueno Y Sano were kept empty and barricades arranged. We were allowed to occupy the space within those barricades, to play guitars and to beat drums, to chant and to distribute literature. We were given this space for our First Amendment rights to meet our neighbors, freely to share ideas, and to bring this global movement to the city which many of us know as home. One can read about the goodwill, positivity, and love channeled that day elsewhere, as it was covered by many local media. It was the beautiful, caring, and hopeful power and presence of that day that made the group vote to continue Occupy Northampton. In closing on October 6 at 8 p.m., police asked if we were coming back tomorrow. We answered affirmatively. For those not going home, the police directed us to sleep in Pulaski Park, and the headquarters of Occupy Northampton was born. Within three days, we agreed by a vote in our horizontal democracy General Assembly that we would maintain a daily 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. presence in front of Bank of America, holding signs, chanting, and distributing literature. At night, those who needed or wanted would sleep in the park, as they had in sleeping bags since Thursday, October 6. A tent or two were put up. Through an informal, unofficial liaison, Jon Hite of the Northampton Housing Authority, the writer of this letter was told that "Russ (Police Chief Sienkiewicz) had no problem with us being in the park." The group in the park-five, six, ten, or fifteen at most-varied each night both in the number present and the individuals who made up the group. The group was peaceful and orderly, and they kept the area clean. Single parents with small kids and infants continued to use the park, and many citizens of Northampton, young and old, visited for literature and a friendly chat. On Thursday, October 13, at 5:51p.m., Sergeant Kerouac and Officer Kohl arrived in rainy weather to tell the group to take down the tents, to gather all materials, and that people were not permitted to sleep in the park. Summoned by

those in Pulaski Park with the message that we were being told to go, I ran back from Bank of America, where I had been present with a couple dozen others singing "This land is made for you and me." I introduced myself to Sergeant Kerouac, asking him his first name (Craig), and I respectfully offered my hand, which he shook. Subsequent to this meeting, speaking with media outlets, I referred to the police as "wonderful." Sgt. Kerouac was completely polite and clear. His superior, Captain Savino, had sent him with the message that the tents, materials, and people had to go, and could not stay the night. Sgt. Kerouac was in no rush, he told me that the move did not have to be done in ten minutes. He was friendly and easy to talk to. I explained how I believe that we had been given permission for Occupy Northampton to be and stay in the park. He civilly and definitely reiterated Captain Savino's directive for the tents, materials, and people to go. As the son of a police officer and a peaceful monk, I shook his hand, bowed to him, and said that we would do so. We called an emergency General Assembly, and three dozen of us agreed by consensus to move the tents and get to work to find safe havens for those who would be left out in the next day or two of heavy rain. On Friday October 14, 2011, at 2 p.m., another representative of Occupy Northampton and I met with Captain Savino and Chief of Police Russ Sienkiewicz. Captain Savino told us six, eight, ten, or twelve people could sleep in Pulaski Park, but not 25, 30, or 40, and that no tents could be erected. Captain Savino also directed us to the Department of Public Works and the Board of Public Works, regarding the permit process. It was a positive, friendly, and productive meeting; again I felt that the Chief and Captain were present and caring. In a word, wonderful. I figured that there must have been a misunderstanding the night before with Sgt. Kerouac's telling us the tents and people had to go. Captain Savino was clear that ten or so, with no tents, could sleep in the park. On Monday, October 17, three things happened that are pertinent: a group of five if us met with Acting Mayor David Narkewicz, I picked up the Thursday October 13 police report, and the BardsleyJNarkewicz Ward 4 Debate was held at Smith College. Acting Mayor Narkewicz met with us for nearly an hour. He agreed that he would include himself and Occupy Northampton in a four-way conversation with the Board of Public Works and the Police Department. He expressed positive regard for Occupy Northampton and the Occupy Movement, and he promised to get back to us within the week. This appeared generous to us. We had asked that he get back to us in a week to two. The police report made by Sgt. Kerouac showed that there had been no misunderstanding. It read that camping and sleeping in the park was not permitted. As I write today Wednesday, October 19, 2011, I say to the reader, choose your word: evicted, kicked out, told to leave. We were not asked to leave. As when an officer pulls one over and asks for license and registration, one knows that one must. We were not invited or asked to leave Pulaski Park. We were told to go. In Monday's debate at Smith College, Michael Bardsley refereed to the city's treatment of Occupy Northampton as "atrocious" or "deplorable." The reader will have to judge for him-or herself. It was after 6 p.m., in what was guaranteed to be heavy and continuous rain,

and there were a number of people with no place to go and very little time to figure it out. With our hat in our hand, waiting now for a response and help from Acting Mayor Narkewicz, Occupy Northampton stands in a very funny and uneasy spot. Many with whom I have spoken in the movement had been talking about voting for Bardsley. Sitting alone in private, I found myself thinking and feeling that I had better keep my mouth shut about how I might vote. Even while writing this, I am not coming out to say so. Also, I certainly do not speak for Occupy Northampton, a horizontal democracy, which might be a truer one. I cannot say how individuals will vote. I do know that hundreds or perhaps thousands of Northampton citizens have been appealing to Acting Mayor Narkewicz-for a policy change, for sewerage, for a permit, etc-and at the same moment they are talking to a mayoral candidate. It has left me and some other people in the city furious. Is this how the 1% works? As seen in this week's Advocate article, a kind of confession of a 1%er, the 1% is most certainly represented on Northampton's City Council. Mayor Clare Higgins assured all Northampton that she would complete her sixth two-year office as Mayor. She passed the baton to David Narkewicz in the eleventh hour. Jessie Spector, part of the 1% group rich for redistribution, need not go to New York City and Wall Street to demonstrate and offer herself for arrest. Occupy Northampton, with or without favors, lives and thrives in her hometown. The writer of this letter, this particular monk, quietly lives here and serves in Northampton's public housing. I know two or three thousand people in Northampton who could use the access the upper echelon enjoy here in Northampton, and I would gladly meet with Jessie Spector in my two-room Sanctuary here in Northampton's McDonald House. We could discuss the transfer of wealth from the 1% here to the 99%. Perhaps then Jessie Spector could move from the group rich for redistribution to a new group of people: the formerlyrich for distribution. Jessie says that she loves her family, but hates how they accumulated and hoarded their wealth. The same goes for the acquisition and late-night transfer and hoarding of power here in Northampton. This is a very old story, with a very simple solution. We are asking (not ordering) for a very peaceful handing over of resources needed to live, which includes the resource of political access. Resources belong to the people who need them. It is time to begin to return resources to those from whom they were taken. And Occupy Northampton still would like a home here in Northampton, a tent. To be allowed, permitted, even invited to have a place to lay its head. Might we be granted a permit for the neediest, veterans and the brave among them, to sleep in the park in tents? . Samana, NGSE . (PO Box 321 Northampton, 01061, 413.584.8187) for Occupy Northampton October 19,2011

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful