RTS A Smashing Success!
Six people were arrested Monday night at the Reclaim The Streets event organized to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the WTO protests that rocked Seattle in 1999.
The event was advertised a way to call attention to the fact that the same police and prison system that brutalized people at the WTO is also sending Louisiana rappers to prison, failing to make our communities safer and instead defending with violence the policies of the WTO around the world. The event was intended to create a space where these failed institutions that destroy our lives are not allowed to operate, a space of freedom and liberation.
The event kicked off when about 40 people began hanging banners, throwing confetti, and launching party streamers over light poles on Canal St., near Royal St. The banners read “Abolish Prisons” and “Free Lil Wayne! Free Lil Boosie! Free All Prisoners!” and they were strung between light poles and the palm trees that line Canal St. A sound system blasted bounce rap from a bike cart, people got in the streets, and the party started!
The few locals who were outside, rather than watching the Saints whip the Patriots on Monday Night Football, were very supportive, and a handful even joined in the action. Flyers were distributed to people and bars along the route and thrown into the cool northeasterly winds whipping through the French Quarter. A banner on poles was hoisted into the air and carried with us, reading “No Justice, No Peace” on one side and “End Poverty! Smash Prisons! Take Back the City!” on the other side.
The atmosphere was festive and joyful. Barricades were dragged into the street to block automotive traffic, intersections were occupied and dancing began. On such a massive boulevard as Canal Street, it was difficult to hold the street for very long with 40 people, so the party made its way up Canal, heading for Dauphine Street, to turn into the narrow streets of the French Quarter.
One angry driver tried to mudge his way right through the midst of the party at an intersection, and he ran into a participant, who got knocked onto the hood of his car. The homicidal driver sped up, carrying the man for some 300 yards across Canal Street before he finally stopped the car. Friends came running, yelling at the car to stop. A Sheriff came out of a store where he was doing security guard duty and pointed a gun at one of the partiers, screaming at him to get on the ground. The Sheriff eventually realized that the incident between the driver and the man on his hood was more urgent, and left to deal with it, allowing the person on the ground to get up and run back to the party. The incident resulted in a court summons for the person who was hit and carried by the car, while the suit-wearing upper-class man who almost killed one of our friends was allowed to go free. How much plainer can it be that the police are worthless at protecting people?
The party continued up Canal Street. A cop ran up to the march from behind and started yelling at everyone to stop littering (!). When a participant attempted to engage the cop in conversation, the cop tried to chase down and arrest him. The cop was thwarted; he tripped and face-planted onto the street. The crowd cheered, but when the ogre got back up he was even angrier. He went up to the nearest person and full-on slugged him in the face! This cop was a foot taller than the person he punched, and the person was obviously not expecting it. The officer didn’t try to arrest anyone else, and the march sped up to make it to Dauphine Street and into the narrower alleys of the French Quarter.
The French Quarter was largely deserted– everyone was inside watching the Saints game– but as bottle rockets sailed through the air and popped, a sound system blared music, and people continued dragging objects in the streets (both to create a liberated zone and protect themselves from the gun-pulling and punch-throwing cops) a sense of common purpose took hold and people felt strong, defiant, and triumphant in the streets, if only for a few brief blocks.
The party wound its way through the French Quarter. It crossed Bourbon Street, home to scumbag restaurants like Tony Moran’s that refuse to pay their workers and steal their tips, operating under police protection while workers get no protection from their bosses. By this time the party had only about half the numbers it began with, and 3 amped-up cops on Bourbon decided they would sprint after the party and try to tackle people. The entire march began running through the streets, past the Louisiana Supreme Court building, that giant marble monolith to injustice, and people split down 3 different streets. The largest group ran back towards Bourbon Street on a side street, with the police in close pursuit. Three more officers waited like linebackers with their arms out at Bourbon Street for the sprinting crowd of rebels, and tackled a few of us by throwing people against the wall and kicking them in the face. Others managed to get away.
The protest dissolved into the chilly night, but not before reminding ourselves and those in power that we are everywhere, we are angry, and we will not settle for anything less than autonomy and freedom.
That night, the cracks in the old world were emerging once again: action is possible, resistance is necessary, our lives and our world could be so different, so much better, if only business as usual could STAY disrupted. Every day that we choose passivity, negotiation, mediation, representation, or restraint, more people die, our lives get worse, the appartus of control becomes tighter, and we live one more day of our short lives without freedom. On this night, in these streets, people sided with the future instead of the present. They sided with those who are in prison, who wish every day for business as usual to end. They sided with the world we want, not the one we have. They occupied space, transformed it, and attempted to seize it… a little earth in which to germinate the seeds of the new world, seeds that can grow into plants that break up the concrete of prisons, shopping malls and police departments, of Niketowns and Starbucks stores, a forest to break up the machinery of imperial wars and ecological devastation.
Occupations are just beginning here in New Orleans. The suffocating logic of capitalism will be pushed out of spaces, so that we may breathe and live and grow.
We’re going to destroy this world and create a new one, want to join us?
Keep updated with future plans at: http://nolaRTS.wordpress.com