Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

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Crystal Zevon

Crystal Zevon is author of 'I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon,' an oral history of the life of her former husband and lifelong friend and co-conspirator

February 14th, 2012 2:33 PM

Occupy Freedom Plaza

We’re Still Here – Sort Of

I’ve been occupying at Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C. since the beginning of October.  A couple months ago, as storms blew down tents, the homeless population living in our community grew and rats found safe harbor under the pallets raising some tents in an effort to stay warmer and a hope that the rains wouldn’t flood the interiors so badly, some of us started thinking we needed to consider next steps.  In fact, I was sitting in a bakery near the Plaza eating oatmeal and checking my email when I read Michael Moore’s article suggesting it might be time to move indoors.  My first reaction was, as the chant goes, “Hell, no, we won’t go.”  But, then I considered my arthritic knees and feet.  I had to admit that in the middle of the worst storm, when my tent collapsed in the middle of the night, I went running down the street, drenched to the bone, and got a room for the night in the Harrington Hotel.   I must have sat in that bakery for an hour pondering, my emotions and my practical nature at war with each other. 

We had a community.  How could we continue to organize as an ‘occupation’ if we were separated?  What would happen to the homeless who had, in many cases, become integrated and participating members of our micro-society?  How would we hold GAs?  Where would we go?  There were so many people living among us whose lives had been changed by the experience here.  For myself, I couldn’t imagine going back ‘home’ whto spend inordinate amounts of time signing internet petitions and shouting about the ills of society from my living room couch.  For others, who had emerged as medics and cooks at Freedom Plaza, ‘home’ meant a park bench and a bottle. 

Most occupations had, by this time, already been shut down.  Most occupations were populated by people living in the area near the occupation.  Not so in D.C.  We have people from all over the country living here – people who left jobs and families to be where the government lives.  We came to D.C. for front row seat when bills went before congress or to the President’s desk.  We came to be heard, and we came to stay until we were heard. 

Still, there's no denying that some of us are older, some of us have medical issues, some of us are just cold and tired.   We looked for alternative ways to keep the occupation together and it turned out that the majority of us were determined to hold the occupation.  Others decided to do something a little different.  We moved into two houses that became extensions of the encampment.  One was a house about to go into foreclosure in Mt. Rainer, a nearby burb in Maryland.  A group moved in at the invitation of the owner and are working on coop business and occupy media projects.  Another group, myself among them, moved into a house long known as Peace House.  It is the place where Concepcion Picciotto, and William Thomas up to his death in 2009,  takes refuge twice a day to shower and eat.  It's her only relief for maintaining the longest 24 hour a day vigil in U.S. history outside the White House against nuclear proliferation.

We moved into Peace House, located a few blocks from Freedom Plaza, to build a hub for the Occupy Movement in Washington, D.C.  We are establishing a People’s Library and a center for research, teach-ins, film showings, meetings and organizing for actions.  We have an individual willing to put up half the money to buy the building if we can find partner investors.  We moved out of our tents to find ways to support, expand upon and implement the ideas born in this movement. 

Then came the morning of Saturday, February 4th when at 5:30 am, District Park Police began a systematic eviction of the Occupy D.C. camp at McPherson Square at 15th and K Street NW. It went on all day and it was devastating.  Most of Occupy D.C. was gone.  The next day, they came to Freedom Plaza.  We had a history of better relations with the Park Police, and our kitchen had earned a 98% cleanliness rating from the Health Department inspection.  Still, they took down some 25 tents, and both camps were told that sleeping would no longer be tolerated.  The first nights, they came through on the half hour, beating on tents with batons to be sure no one so much as had their eyes closed in the tents left standing (no meditating allowed). 

 They also took away our propane, so there was no longer a way to prepare hot meals, or get warm in the military tents where we held GAs, did live streaming and did our cooking.  Some churches took people in, and so did the two houses, Mt. Rainer and Occupy Peace House. 

 People take shifts at the encampments now, sleeping on floors and in crowded conditions away from the actual encampments.  Morale is low and the weather has gotten colder.  But, we are still there.  There are meetings planned to determine how the camps will be maintained and political issues addressed. 

As for me, I’m finally taking some time at home.  Trying to raise funds for Occupy Peace House (OPH).  Working with occupier Mira who is in Palestine organizing Teach-Ins at OPH via satellite, and Denise and Joseph who are holding down the fort while trying to drive people to new Facebook and Website pages.  Some of the original organizers from Freedom Plaza are organizing NOW DC, the American Spring, beginning with a Social Forum on March 30th.   Backbone Campaign from Washington State is organizing housing foreclosure actions to be staged out of OPH in April, and my daughter is writing songs for it.  OPH is supporting on-going Peace Projects, such as one seven year long student project to create the biggest peace book in the world (www.PeaceBookProject.org).  Meanwhile, there are GAs via skype and conference calls and searches for books to fill the People’s Library…

In a couple weeks, after my fill of grandkids and country air, I’ll be heading back to join my Occupy D.C., Occupy Freedom Plaza, Occupy Mt. Rainer, Occupy Peace House family… to get back out in the streets and into the thick of it.  We can’t sleep in our tents anymore, yet being at home feels somehow foreign now, not quite right… Like the Occupy Movement itself, I think there are many individuals like me, feeling our way… knowing we can never go back to the way we were, and that somehow, no matter what gets shut down, we are still there.

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