While working on the Veterans Day posts, my attention was drawn once again to the Occupy Wall Street saga. I had blogged this almost two months ago in my other blog.
This time, I’ve been watching through the activities of military veterans and related protection & service professions.
I’ve also been occasionally dipping into the activities of Occupy Wall Street via the Vibe app, as a remote lurker, and there is a whole other post coming on apps and the Occupy movement.
Then this morning two stories passed through my stream that really blew my mind. The first one came across one of my poetry lists.
Huffington Post: The Police Riot at Berkeley: If They’ll Beat a Poet Laureate, Will They Kill a Student?
There were two specific parts that grabbed my attention.
“He was the first of a number of students that had to be taken to the hospital that day. As you can see from the video, neither he, nor any of the other students being beaten with batons strike back at the police with violence. Instead, you can see him, barely able to stand, gingerly raise a peace sign after being repeatedly struck on the head, neck, ribs, and legs. ”
“When the police violence occurred again later that night, they broke the ribs of another English professor, poet Geoffrey O’Brien. When the police wouldn’t stop beating him even after he too had fallen to the ground, a good friend and fellow graduate student, Ben Cullen, rushed in and demanded that they stop. The police, in turn, rained multiple blows on him, bruising his ribs as well. And just in case it’s not clear yet that the violence was not only against ‘some kids looking to make a fuss,’ the police also thought it necessary to jab 70-year-old former Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Hass several times in the stomach with a baton as well.”
Then the news started flying about about the NYPD destruction of the ad hoc Occupy Wall Street Library created as a reference tool and resource by and for the protestors.
Occupy Wall Street Library: URGENT: Raid of Occupy Wall Street
Emotional Night in Liberty Square:
Let me back up just a bit and talk about the library itself. Many of the books were donations, but many were also ordered.
They’ve been doing all the good librarian and good open / transparency things, by cataloging their collection and making the catalog available to the public via LibraryThing. If you are curious what sort of content they had in their library (up until last night, that is) it is easy enough to find out.
From Harlequin romances & children’s books to New York tourist content, from ethics & history to economics & politics, it was a very broad range. Sometimes “was” is a sad, sad word. What did the library do? Well, reference for one thing, but if you want to know why there are libraries at MANY of the Occupy sites, you should read these two posts from their blog.
“There is a library because we are here and knowledge is necessary for survival.”
“Guerrilla libraries exist for many reasons:
– To meet the information needs of a hard to reach group
– To surprise and entertain
– To enhance people’s enjoyment of an event
– To educate and inform as conveniently as possible
– To offer a common space for education and intellectual engagement outside of traditional spaces like universities and public libraries”
This isn’t just one library, mind you. They have an entire movement getting going to try to create libraries to restore the origins of the public library movement.
Now the raid last night when the entire collection was forcibly withdrawn and put in the trash was not the first time NYPD had attempted to shut down the library. Earlier efforts were a little more subtle. Take the tarps, and the books will be damaged by the weather, and then no one will have them, right? But folks got more tarps.
There is a rumor that the books were discarded because “Bloomberg thinks books are a health hazard.”
A notice was posted that the content would be stored and could be retrieved by the property owners, however this doesn’t seem to be what actually happened.
OWS Library: Eviction Notice & Property Removal
Frankly, if they had removed the library to a secure location for later retrieval, I personally would not be half so upset. There is something about putting books in the trash that gets to me.
Right now, #thepeopleslibrary is exploding on Twitter. I don’t know how many tweets because my search couldn’t handle the stream. There have been, as of this writing, 1381 since midnight. People are paying attention, and it isn’t just activists and librarians. And of course there are already plans to rebuild the library.
So, if you are curious about this and want more info beyond what’s above, here are more resources.
Facebook: Occupy Wall Street Library:
Twitter: OWS Library:
So what did the poets have to say? This was being sent around last time I looked.
UPDATE, Nov 15, 2011, 5 hours later
The good news for me is that the library was NOT completely put in the dumpsters, as was reported.
UPDATE, Nov 17, 2011, 2 days later
It is really, really hard for me to believe this. From 5000 books to 100 books, and then again to none. Here is what the library looked like yesterday morning.
“The NYPD seized the People’s Library again tonight. We set up the library again today with 100 books, and the police came over this evening and stood in a line around the books, blocking anyone from reaching the books by creating a fence with their batons. The officers then ordered the Brookfield property sanitation crew to throw them in a trash can. We photographed it all, and video is available on the blog here. The police were asked why they were taking the books and one officer said “I don’t know.””
OWS Library: Your Library in the News: http://peopleslibrary.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/your-library-in-the-news-4/
The REPEATED destruction of the OWS Library is being described as dystopian and surreal. It certainly seems so to me.