St. Louis: What Happened Thursday Night

  • Posted on: 19 March 2012
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>Sometimes, when faced with the naked, brutal face of the state, we have the tendency to fixate on the moment of trauma that has fully exposed it. This piece hopes to paint a broader picture of the time in the park leading up to the arrests and beatings.

Police came to kick us out of the park, we chased them out, they were embarassed and when we decided to keep moving and not engage them they panic.Then they arrested and beat people.

Standing around awkwardly, excitedly, anxiously. Many new faces, a total mishmash of the region's wingnuts and radicals. It's raining and a little cold. Some have gone to the other side of the park to start setting up tents, others are waiting around to see what will happen at 10. The mayor has said that he'll share st. louis with us this weekend, and through the grapevine the police chief has said he'll enforce the park's 10pm curfew no matter what. </td><td><img title="Asymmetrical warfare is asymmetrical" src=""></td></tr><...

For a while there's no police – they're apparently at the wrong place, trying to enforce the curfew at an empty park. Shortly before 10 a few cops approach those huddled under the bathroom and an impromptu pavillion. They tell us directly this time that they'll clear the park at curfew.

After a brief meeting, it's decided we'll try and stand our ground; at first by saying we won't leave and asserting that as long as we're in the park its ours. We assume this is likely to fail, and also decide that in the face of overwhelming police force we'll leave and march down Grand in order to try and take another park. There's 100-150 of us, many from out of town with nowhere to go. There is this practical need to find somewhere to camp, but also a collective desire to experience this together, instead of wandering St. Louis alone for the night.

Shortly after 10, with a wall of a dozen cops, Eddie Roth, the city's blah blah blah, comes to kick us out. As soon as they move in shouts of “COPS OUT! OUR PARK!” fill the night. There's a moment's pause as Roth tries to talk, but after only a couple words is cut off again by chants and outright screaming and threats. Someone yells, “these motherfuckers murder people, i don't give a shit about what they have to say!” More shouting.

In frustration, Roth turns to leave.

I take a step forward, and my field of vision morphs: dozens of others are stepping forward at the same moment, creating the illusion that I might not have moved. The police look nervous. I take another step forward, unintentionally at the same time everyone else in my line of sight does too. The police take a step back. An eletric pulse passes through us, and all of a sudden we understand we're making them retreat. “COPS OUT! OUR PARK” is the chorus with verses of “fuck off!” “get the fuck out!” and “this is our park!” sprinkled in between. I feel wonderful. We're pulsing towards them, both my fingers in the air. I've never felt like this in St. Louis before. The police are retreating faster, and we're gaining speed. As police reach the edge of the park, smiles and laughter and cheers abound.

Not knowing what to do with our unexpected victory, and knowing it's likely to be shortlived, we're all pacing about. Rage, Gossip, Dead Prez and Gang of Four keep us amped. Not everyone's pleased with how we've handled the police, and some are getting upset, but most people are still smiling and yelling taunts. Like all things Occupy it would be totally untrue to claim tactical, emotional, etc. unity.

After ten or fifteen minutes more and more cops are showing up. Dozens of police are amassing and shouts of “Let's march!” and “Stay mobile!” get us moving again. A massive “POLICE STATE” banner is unfurled and used as a buffer as tents surreally start bobbing out of the park.

Earlier we had pushed police to the southside of the park, where they're now forming. We now head west, choosing to avoid further conflict with such an outmatched force as much as possible, as well as heading towards another park. The police are still huddled up being told what to do, and our maneuver takes them by surprise.

I wish we could say we gave it to them as good as we got, that the assault charges were true, but sadly they're not.

Moments after stepping into the street the police charge, extending their battons.

“ON THE FUCKING SIDEWALK! NOW!” Immediately people are tackled and slammed into the street. Total chaos. “Get the fuck off them!” No one knows what they're doing including the cops. People are screaming alone, sometimes together: for the cops to get off their friends, that the police are scum, that they love their friends who are being tackled and beaten, some are trying to intervene – some sucessfully pulling friends and strangers from the police, others getting thrown to the ground themselves – thank god I don't hear anyone say they love the cops.

Police begin pointing their battons at individuals, gesturing that they're next. Some cops following through, chasing their targets down. Some of us get away, some are thrown to the ground, some stand screaming as they're cuffed, others are beaten merchanically. 5, 10, 15 seconds passes between rounds of blows to the face – how long can they do this before they actually kill one of us? If this isn't enough, a cop reaches down to a handcuffed hand:*snap* and breaks one pinky, then reaches down *snap* and breaks the other. Pepper spray and tasers.

Who would submit to the police to begin with, much less if they might get this?

Friends emerge from a dark street that they've been chased down and beaten on, faces streaming blood. The cops trying to keep their smirks under control. “You'll fucking pay for this!” someone yells.

Outside the paddy wagon, inside the paddy wagon (and later for the rest of the night inside the jail) screaming on and off for our bloodied friends to get treatment, and that the police are scum.

Out of sight someone smashes a police crusier. Save your conspiracy theories – it's legit. Not everytime we push back in direct, physical, visceral ways is it secretly the work of some all powerful, all-knowing state. (Later, a rumor will circulate that it wasn't dozens of people pushing the cops out of the park, but a handful of anarchists or provacateurs who immediately fled and left everyone else to be beat. Total bullshit.)

These are the police in their truest forms – brutal protectors of the status quo. How many of us have quit jobs for things far less horrendous than what they did Thursday night? And that's not the worst of it: Thursday night on the southside they evict and bloody us, Friday night on the east side they shoot someone (condition unknown) and Saturday night they shoot two on the northside, killing one (the other's condition unknown).

Police, from the bottom of my heart, fuck you.

Any “kindness” and “sympathy” shown by police or mayors last fall is now showing itself to be good-old fashioned politicking. They “allowed” us to gather last fall with the hope that the winter and internal division would kill us by spring. Now that we're re-emerging, the police chiefs and mayors know sheer force on the behalf of the police and slander and outright lies by the media will likely be their main tools.

If police across the country are working hand-in-hand like they were last fall (and there's no reason to assume they've stopped), across the board they may be trying to stop us (at all costs )from having space, getting to know each other, and forming dangerous relationships.

Keep your head up.

They tried to send a message to us: stop or you'll pay – the marks will be shown on your body and in your mind.

We don't advocate pushing on regardless. But the next night 100 of us danced in the streets – the police, realizing they've been caught going too far kept their distance. And while the march might have felt strange or confusing, I could feel a lot of the tension and pain they'd tried to sew inside me melt away.

How do we keep pushing? How do we keep occupying and blockading? How do we sustain ourselves? How do we make them pay?

It seems more and more people are saying, These are our lives, and you can't have them anymore.


police cruiser "smashed"? cmon it was a broken windshield, if I hadn't been working Thursday night and had been there instead of all day Friday I would've made sure that fucker did get smashed though. I love how you missed not only the total alienation of the anarchists and especially black bloc Friday amidst the Occupy discussions and affinity group gatherings (dont know what Saturday or Sunday was like, but at least Friday night at the General Assembly people acknowledged black bloc tactics as something not to condemn). I know for a fact because I was dressed in all black and was identified as an anarchist that for two daylight direct actions, versus Monsanto and later against Peabody coal, most didn't even want to let me join their groups. I retreated to my small metro east apartment that night, with at the same time love for those who pushed the cops out of the park and for the bloodied comrades, but also strongly dispirited.

Keep it up St. Louis!

very good questions to consider as we head into the Spring Offensive!
it seems the cops in most cities probably are not going to let us occupy parks to organize from anymore. can we resist their brutal attempts to throw us out? should we change strategy?
i think the occupy tactic has to continue: either in parks, school buildings, abandoned buildings, or other places. we must claim a space to organize from and call our own.
maybe a response can be: if the cops evict us from a park, the next day we go occupy an office building or other place of commerce. make those who benefit from this system unable to function until the cops allow us our parks! this strategy is hard to do however because of the amount of repression.
other than that idea, i don't really have any great ideas for how to proceed tactically/strategically...

good luck with consensus democracy, and having all the moderates agree to that strategy.

Oh, because that is the only way we can act. We can only participate in strategy and actions with explicit permission from a mix of moderates, closet conservatives, and liberals. Damn. I forgot that we are helpless and cannot agitate and watch our comrades start to join us and the apologists/reformists get fed up with our antics and leave.

I'm glad we agree now, comrade. See you in the streets when the real occupations begin.

Shut up and take their money!

and their tents ... and the truckloads of food and medical supplies that show up.

Yeah, clearly there's nothing whatsoever to be gained by organizing with these people because I'm just so ... damn ... anarchist.

*cough* LOSER

what in the hell are you ranting about now?

the stuff you get when you occasionally work within the larger social movement?

ummm a Wobbly from Kansas City approached ME about buying books, and i sold those two books for half of what they go for from the printing press themselves since I bought in bulk, I actually lost money but didn't care since I was getting radical lit into the movement. That wobbly was the coolest guy I met at Occupy. Who cares if he spent 7 bucks on crimethinc books, seriously?

not worth it if you don't have a real movement but only an eventual liberal-tea-party for OBAMABOT2012 to use gin up votes.

organize with anarchists, do cool shit, and other people who are down will join in. organize with non-anarchists and you poison the movement from the start.

if you think this movement will succeed with just a bunch of anarchists left and not the rest of the 99% then it is already failing. if it succeeds the world that comes out of it will include more than just anarchists so get a clue, we need unity. wether you like it or not compromises will have to be made. consensus doesn't mean the anarchists get their way.

fuck you. anarchists started OWS and people CAME TO IT because it was inspiring and had potential.
there is no potential in liberalism and compromise with non-anarchists, when planning an initial action which sets the tone for the duration of the events.

once things get going, and people who are not scum bags trying to hijack the organizing for their own ends before it can even get off the ground have not been allowed to poison the tone from the start, THEN when people who see the action come to get involved, they are coming because they see potential in anarchist movements, not because they want to use anarchists as cannon fodder for their own non-anarchist ends.

i'm all for collaboration. i am not for compromise for the sake of that collaboration, it destroys the ability for anything meaningful to me as an anarchist to come out of it. so i either collaborate with those who are down with what i'm into without compromising my values to do so, or i won't participate. and neither will all the people who share anarchistic values, eventually.

Another account, I like them both, but I like this one a tad bit more:

There are now two accounts.

“Hey, would you help me unfurl this banner?”
So I found myself holding a corner of a massive banner, the size of a billboard that read “Police State.” The moment that my friend asked me this question I knew that the attempt to hold the park had failed. What occurred thirty minutes prior – a group of 100 or so people successfully shouting back the police – would not occur again. Pigs amassed in force. Suddenly, the agreement the group had made before the 10pm curfew that no one would talk to the police was forgotten, and politicians from both sides of the situation began to negotiate… well, it was more of the same “Occupy Movement” attempt to convince a city official that we had a right to set up a camp. The ridiculous 1st amendment argument that some people think is a ticket to freedom… because freedom is apparently synonymous with “rights.”

As I stood there, confused about all the conversations I see occurring at the bottom of the hill, pissed off that people are talking with the cops and the mayor’s aid, the police began to multiply. The first group of pigs stood there, rubbing their batons, obviously fantasizing about avenging their earlier show of weakness. As their numbers continued to swell, it became clear that to prevent ourselves from being arrested in the context of civil disobedience, and to end this night with some measure of power, we had to move. With spontaneity, a march was called, this billboard banner leading the way. As we began to walk south, blocking both lanes of traffic due to the size of the sign, the cops stopped their conversations and conceivably received some kind of vague order. They were pissed. They were disorganized.
I found myself on the west side of the street, closest to the sidewalk with my good friend Ryan on my left. The banner was approximately my height, so the fact that I couldn’t see anything except Ryan and the cars parked to my right made me extremely anxious. Less than 20 seconds went by since we crossed into the road and suddenly, I hear screams of “get on the sidewalk!” and “holy shit, holy shit!” I freeze in confusion and Ryan grabs me and pulls me on to the sidewalk. Several feet in front of me I see another protester… already the cops had picked off their first victim. Half of his body was on the sidewalk, the other half in the street, three cops incapacitate him with their knees. After a moment, I realize that this person happens to be a close friend, and I grab Ryan as we yell “let him go!” and “fuck you!” at the cops. To my right I see another friend get chocked by an officer with a baton and taken to the ground, without any provocation or warning. In an instant, this person went from standing in silent shock, to being kicked in the face, as he lies impotent on the concrete. I stand overwhelmed between two of my friends while I watch their identities be stolen by thugs and turned in to defenseless, nameless bodies.
But I yell, and I do what I can to let my friends know that at the very least, we’re all bearing witness to this attack. For a moment I lose track of Ryan as I see pigs lunge after any bystander within their reach, some run away, some get caught. I step back towards a side street to prevent my own arrest – the cops grope for any body they can get their fist around or bring their baton down on; with this kind of disorganized chaos everyone was at risk for their brutality. A moment passes, and I see Ryan bolt down this dimly lit side street chased by 3 to 4 pigs. It was the first time I watched someone run for their fucking life with the fear that if they got caught, they might not make it out. I find myself screaming “RUN RYAN!” But I stand, immobilized. A second passes, another friend also named Ryan (to prevent confusion this person will be referred to as Ry), sprints around the corner and down the street. I instantly realize he is running to put his body between Ryan and the police chasing him. I begin to comprehend the gravity of the situation: that two people I deeply love are being chased down a dark street by 6 to 8 cops… and my feet move in their direction, just a little… and then I am struck with the disabling realization that more pigs await behind me. What good am I in this situation? How does my certain beating help my friends? Some white shirt runs a few feet down the street and commands “come back, don’t chase them!” No response.
I glance to my right, I hear a friend shouting, demanding that the pigs who are arresting him explain what he has done wrong. They provide no answer. They read him no rights. They simply take him. Another comrade standing near as this is occurring, letting the pigs know what he thinks of them, gets chosen to go down… he manages to out run the fat fuck.
Another moment has passed. I see strange faces with wide eyes all around me. I feel that I am standing in the center of 360 degrees of tumult. I have not moved. I look back down the shadowy street. Ryan is now on the sidewalk. His face smashed against the concrete. There are at least two pieces of shit taking out their dissatisfaction with their lives on his face and body. He is beaten with feet. He is beaten with an archaic bludgeon they euphemistically call a baton – as though they spin and twirl them on their nights off. I am so scared. I am so fucking scared. I think of his little daughter. This beautiful, little person who doesn’t deserve to have to experience the misery and violence of life so early. They pick him up. The very people who chased him down a street, beat him, now have the power to take away all of his defenses and determine his fate. As he is walked up the street, I see his face covered in something and I pray to a god I don’t believe in that it is dirt. I know it is not dirt, but all I can do is hope that what I just saw didn’t actually happen. His stare is blank. He looked so confused. I was the first person he saw but I don’t think he actually saw me. I asked him, “did they hurt you?” Of course I fucking knew they hurt him, but I just wanted to hear his voice and let him know that this person on the sidewalk gives a shit. His voice quivered, “yes.” One of the pigs is repeatedly yelling, “I fucking showed you respect.”
I watch him be lead up the street and a friend comes out from the shadows and follows behind the three. The same cop who just declared himself such a respectful individual lunges at her, puffs up his chest and shouts “don’t you walk behind me, woman.” She backs up and I start following behind her, up to the main street that only minutes earlier we attempted to march down. As Ryan is being escorted through the crowd, people chant “shame.” And the white shirts start to disperse the crowds.
I find some friends, and we are all in shock. I somehow didn’t see Ry get escorted up the street. I knew what he did, but I can’t imagine how he did it. I don’t have words to describe the feelings I have when I think about him running to help Ryan. I have never seen such love for another person. I have never seen something so full of life. I will never forget what he did that night. I learn that he was also brutally beaten by the pigs. We all know our friends are fucked. They tried to hold on to their autonomy and that is what would most condemn them… later we learned that they were being charged with absurd crimes. How else would the state justify the violence of their paid enforcers?
For those that have never witnessed police violence, I want to make something clear. Nothing about this situation followed the prescription of an arrest – this media image of a “You are under arrest. You have the right…” is not what happens in real life. A friend said it best, what happened Thursday night was some gangsta shit. It was angry, vicious people jumping unarmed protesters and bystanders. It was an attack. It was intentional brutality. They did not follow any procedure of kettling, “less lethal” tactics, etc. Their actions were directly targeting individuals and beating the shit out of them. It was so fucked up.

The rhetoric of violence vs. non-violence is utterly irrelevant and insulting. My friends disappeared for 24 hours. Some strangers, who were weaponized and free from scrutiny, were deciding what was to be done with them. Pigs and judges have been given the power to determine the course of their lives. There is no such thing as non-violence. There is no such thing as safety. These ideas are complete illusions, and one can only hold on to them as long as one has the privilege to avoid the violence that maintains society. As we participate and live our lives, all we are doing is avoiding repression.
I am traumatized. I am having flashbacks, and the more I try to make the motions of my mundane life the more vivid they become. Work, school, friendly conversations all seem completely devoid of meaning. All I can do is tell the story of my experience and force the people I surround myself with to question the society we participate in. I am so fucking angry.

Welcome to the class war. I don't mean that as a sarcastic dig.
I mean your account reads like you just had that life-changing direct experience with the true nature of the struggle.
Like I did.

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