Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Emergency Relief: Thank You Mary

Liquid Tide laundry detergent splatters into the puddle as the rain splashes down around the prancing homeless man, Jack, - his soggy shoes and clothing full of suds in scrubbing his hair and singing to the Occupiers under the awning of the Union Square subway. This is normal. But he is happy, if not a little warped in spirit. Sunday's New York Times had led with a story and photo of the blind Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng, arriving in Greenwich Village whilst coverage of the thousands of American dissidents who had descended on Chicago to protest the NATO summit went unnoticed by the mainstream media in a New York weekend that revealed sunshine, a 30 million dollar NYPD overtime expenditure for Occupy Wall Street, and the introduction of Robert Lederman, the artist/activist who was arrested over 40 times in NYC for display and sale of his art - living to not only beat all 40 charges, but to free city artists from needing permits or licenses to exercise their first amendment rights on public property in the city. This too is normal as the dichotomies of American civil liberties scale further to illuminate that the United States is a gargantuan quagmire of constitutional promise, police harassment and personal physical defense of our own rights in our own country on a daily basis.

And Mary sends me $250. Thank you Mary, because at the rate the government and financial concerns are taking Americans to the cleaners, we'll all need $250 every time an illegal summons is issued to citizens exercising their rights - like myself. Just two weeks after being arrested and having all my art and supplies confiscated by the NYPD, I lost the first round of my summons case for 'unlawful' vending claiming I was a protester and not a vendor, but unaware that the law had been made so specific so as to classify anyone who took money of any kind to be a vendor. I will appeal, but for now, the summons fine of $250 stands - so I went absolutely nowhere in now counting 3 weeks of police harassment. For the time being, Goliath wins.

Thank you America for continuing to encourage me to acquire meaningful work and contribute to society. What I have learned so far is that it would be much safer to work in a bank than to protest their slovenly business practices, because the way the law works currently, Occupy activists go to jail whilst thieving bankers get to stay out and have their businesses bailed out. So much for doing the right thing. 

Mary and I have not seen each other for maybe 10 years. She and I had worked in Korea in the advertising business, although never directly together. What we shared most professionally was the organization of a quarterly business diner call "Edmen" ('Admen' mistakenly spelled by a Korean hotel employee) that regularly brought together the far fewer than 20 senior professionals who worked together in Seoul at the turn of the millennium. It was fun. It was professional. It was hosted in a country where the police don't carry guns. We were allowed to smoke indoors. I miss that.

Meanwhile, the class war continues in America, even inside the Occupy movement. I had heard someone over the weekend describe the reason our media groups wanted the office in Brooklyn instead of Manhattan was that they "didn't want the homeless people showing up at the office". The homeless people. The people with which the Occupy movement was able to maintain a 24/7 standing army in a city park - thus bringing in nearly a million dollars in the fall of 2011- the people, or should we say soldiers, that gave the movement meaning, physical mass and millions upon millions of dollars of TV coverage so that the word Occupy could enter the global lexicon as a modern day battle cry against the greedy, the criminal and the immoral who seem to be driving way too much of the bus these days. The people, as in 'We the people' - but for many meaning, 'We the homeless people', as the number of Americans who do not make enough money to pay rent continues to increase. The people even Occupy doesn't want anymore. Sadly.

Today I've spent hours reading city law in regard to artists displaying their work in city public spaces. Sometimes it's amazing to bury oneself in good ole' American law to see how few real rights and liberties we really do have. But in Robert Lederman, at least artists have found a champion. Through his sixteen years of artistic activism he has not only made it possible for artists to display and sell their works in the city without permit or license, but even gone so far as to make it possible for you, yes you, to protest on the steps of the capital building in Washington D. C. without a permit. "Hmm. It's a protest against us", the government used to be able to say, "Permit denied!" But no longer. At the close of this post I'll return mail to Robert Lederman on my 3 open cases regarding police harassment and blatant disregard for our first amendment rights - to see how I can beat these things. It is indeed good to know I'm not going into these battles alone. Thank you Mary, and Robert and all who follow and support me. I've been complimented recently for being of extraordinarily good mood and character considering the real severity of many of my circumstances and I am lucky - I chalk a lot of that up to proper prioritization. So long as I can put my creatives muscles to work everyday, that goes a long way to keeping me happy - only after that can I work on making sure I make a proper living out of it. Living art.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Sky's Not Falling Yet, But It Could - George Soros on the Coming US Class War

The sky's not falling
yet, but it could
As we settle down to yet another Occupied night at Union Square, mesh netting now covers the scaffolding used by Occupiers for shelter, placed there by building management to deny us our right to use part of a public sidewalk as a protest area, aided by the ever present NYPD with a new weekly strategy to simply arrest one protester a day whether they're doing anything or not - George Soros pops up on my iPhone in a Newsweek story to tell me that what I and the rest of the Occupy movement are doing is not just totally bat-shit crazy. "I am not here to cheer you up. The situation is about as serious and difficult as I've experienced in my career.", says Soros, who, at the age of 13 saw Nazi soldiers invade and occupy his native Hungary in 1944, only later to have that fascism replaced by the totalitarian Soviets - only to watch that fail as well. “The collapse of the Soviet system was a pretty extraordinary event, and we are currently experiencing something similar in the developed world, without fully realizing what’s happening.”, he continues.

But for Occupiers, the system has already collapsed and those who deny or decry Occupy, are just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. “We are facing an extremely difficult time, comparable in many ways to the 1930s, the Great Depression. We are facing now a general retrenchment in the developed world, which threatens to put us in a decade of more stagnation, or worse. The worst-case scenario is a collapse of the financial system.”, Soros sees, and he fears the government's reaction to this protracted financial crisis and related Occupation protest could be worse than the problem itself. “It will be an excuse for cracking down and using strong-arm tactics to maintain law and order, which, carried to an extreme, could bring about a repressive political system, a society where individual liberty is much more constrained, which would be a break with the tradition of the United States.”

So there we have it. A man who knows police states, watching the formation of the world's newest police state - the formerly, 'Land of the free, home of the brave' good ole' USofA. 

This morning as roughly 6 or so Occupiers arrived to began setting up organization info tables, no fewer than 12 cop cars could be seen lining 14th street in front of the rather smallish Occupation - all police picking up that ever sought after $60 an hour overtime. Earlier in the week two uniformed and smiling NYPD officers had been spotted in Chelsea at 9th in front of the Apple store distributing community alert pamphlets highlighting an increase in neighborhood burglaries. Hmmm. How many police detectives does it take to figure that the $17 million spent thus far on overtime for policing Occupy might be far better spent, fighting actual crime? Maybe it just takes one concerned with protecting the 1% constituency of people like George Soros:)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Emergency Relief: Thank You Alex

Arrest me before I 
can speak freely. 
On 27 April I was arrested for being a participant in Occupy Wall Street. You can read that story here. As I was in police custody and working to secure my release, the NYPD raided the Occupy camp at Union Square and confiscated my personal rolling luggage as 'unattended' amongst other group property. That story is here. Inside that luggage was all the paint, brushes and supplies I use to make protest signs for the movement, and to collect donations that support my and the work of the movement. In one day, in a completely illegal arrest of an individual and theft of his personal belongings, a person was not only accused of crimes not committed, but denied the ability to support himself in his attempts to exercise his (and your) first amendment rights. And what's left of middle class America tucks in the kids and settles down to a hot cup of Nestle's cocoa, secure in the fact that the American dream is alive and well and the grass will still need cutting on Saturday. Or maybe not.

And the beat goes on. Thank you Alex for helping me rebuild after my attack by the NYPD. Never did I suspect, in my return to America from an expat life, that the banks would now be able to rob people, and that the people would now need to defend themselves from the law enforcement officials who are supposed to be protecting them from the other people who used to rob the banks. A bad dream at best.

Alex sent me $100 and reports: "I know this will go to a good cause". 

NYPD: "Duh"
In my quest to retrieve my stolen personal property, I have now logged 4 days at 4 different police locations but have yet to see a single item. I am told that it does indeed exist and have even seen some items on a computer printout but absolutely nothing has been returned to its rightful owner yet. 

Here's the routine so far:

Friday, 27 April, 10pm:

-  Arrested 7am - taken into custody
-  1 black rolling luggage cart removed from Union Square

Saturday, 28 April, 9am:

-  Visit Precinct 13 to pick up personal items from arrest - inquire about luggage cart/contents
-  No luggage cart found - told to inquire with Officer who took items

Sunday, 29 April, 3pm:

-  Interview Officer Lombardo - in charge of property impound at Union Square
-  Told property would be at the 7th Precinct and to check there

Monday, 30 April, 4pm

-  Arrive Precinct 7 - ask about property
-  Told no record existed. Need officer's badge # and precinct. Say, "Lombardo". They say they don't know Lombardo - send me away. "Try 1 Police Plaza", downtown. Extremely unhelpful.

Tuesday, 1 May

-  May Day march from Bryant Park to Union Square to Wall Street to Bull - Big success - not a good day to visit police stations

Wednesday, 2 May

-  Heavy rain, no travel

Thursday, 3 May

-  Heavy rain, no travel

Friday, 4 May, 2pm

-  Arrive at 1 Police Plaza - helpful friendly admittance, two very helpful officers at computer let me view the screen as we search first for Lombardo - found, search for lost property report - found, search for individual items: Interesting. At this point the officers determine that once found, my large black rolling luggage cart was emptied and the individual contents each logged with a catalogue number. My luggage cart has been sent to a warehouse in Long Island City, whilst the individual items have been mixed in with all items from the day and are at Precinct 7 - will need to visit both.
-  The officers print out 4 sheets listing some of my belongings and direct me to Precinct 7. They advise me to be very nice with people there and I will get my things.
-  5pm - Arrive at Precinct 7. Another Occupier is just receiving his belongings after 2 1/2 hours because the staff cannot figure out how to get a working printer on the network for property. A very nice civilian lady is just leaving for the day, but she checks my sheet, checks the property room, and then tells me that indeed, my items are there. I am advised to come very early in the morning, and retrieve the items, before they are sent to Police Plaza 1, back downtown.

Saturday, 5 May, 8am

-  Arrive at Precinct 7. Am almost immediately told that nothing would happen and that property could only be retrieved on Monday - Friday, from 8 - 5. Officer looks at my paper and asks where I got it. When I say Police Plaza 1, he looks surprised, as if they weren't supposed to give me that.
-  On the paper are listed POM, Craig Goodwin from the 105th Precinct as Invoicing officer, SGTs Jay Garcia and Quentin Fox from the 7th as Approval officers - yet the staff on this day wants nothing to do with any of this. Best to die and come back another day.

Again. Thank you all for your help. I had a thought this week that I should start a Kickstarter project called "Help Me Beat The NYPD". With it I would make a blog and documentary film that follow my arrest trial along with my efforts to retrieve my artwork stolen by the NYPD. Let me know what you think of that project, and what amount you think would be sufficient for funding.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Emergency Relief: Thank You Melissa

On Wednesday, just hours after my post for emergency assistance, I received a PayPal notice of deposit for $50 from a woman I had not heard from in years. It was the first help I've seen since my illegal arrest and the confiscation of my property by the NYPD last Friday. The next day, I received the following note: 

"I've been keeping up with your journeys via your blog and various updates that you do such a great job of putting out across the social media spectrum. Bravo! Your journalism is both candid and captivating. I'm terribly sorry to hear of the arrest and loss of your of supplies. I hope that I was able to help in some way. What you're doing takes some real balls and I absolutely admire that."

Demand #4623
And Melissa and I have never met. A few years ago, while I was living in Vietnam, Melissa had been referred to me by a colleague for some assistance in helping her secure an internship at my alma mater, Leo Burnett - so my job was to be a virtual mentor of sorts. Melissa never got that job and I never became the President of America but we've both gone on to Occupations that suit our talents and places in life. Melissa occupies a 9-5 insurance job in Las Vegas and I occupy New York City in hopes of bringing positive social change to a world that greatly needs it. Yet our missions are the same. Contrary to many people's beliefs, the Occupy movement is not anti-capitalism,  but it is anti-irresponsible capitalism. And contrary as well to conventional wisdom, occupiers may not have conventional jobs, but they definitely have a collective Occupation. With well over 12 hours a day invested in Occupy over the last 8 months, my being arrested by the NYPD has signaled that I am so constant an Occupier and so resilient an artist that I have now become a threat. And generally, this is a good thing. That means that I am doing very, very well at my job. Rarely a day goes by at Union Square that I am not approached by the 9-5 class and given thanks for doing a job that they are not able to do. And that job is to raise awareness about the issues that affect humankind the most - Economic justice - The right to a job and home - and non-profit healthcare for all.

Without the 9-5 Melissas and others out there, Occupy could never survive - but together we can continue to reshape and control the destiny that is our lives and the lives and futures of our children, grandchildren and beyond. Long live this Occupation. And thank you again Melissa.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Emergency Relief: Donations/Projects Needed

Scene of no crime
As per my previous story on being arrested on the morning of April 27th, that day, while I was in police custody, officer Lombardo and crew raided the OWS (legal) encampment on 15th Street and confiscated not only our OWS donations box, but my personal belongings in the form of a rolling suitcase containing all my artwork, supplies, paints, brushes, clothing and a Lumix camera I had been given as a gift. When confronted by OWS members objecting to the removal of the luggage, the officer responded, "That guy was arrested this morning - so his stuff is 'unattended'. Haul it." So in the space of one day, the NYPD not only arrested me illegally, but confiscated both my business and my home in one rolling cart. Somehow, I'm sure America is safer for this:)

To restart my sign-painting business, replace my camera and regain my other possessions, I am soliciting donations or projects to get back in the game. Yes, I find it deplorable that our law enforcement officials are being actively aggressive towards Occupy members and in my case, even taking the supplies that I use to support my Occupation. We Occupy exactly against these illegal activities.

Please help fight this injustice and contribute liberally to this cause. A recent comment to my post, "Arresting Developments" stated, "You make us all proud, David. We can't all be there, but you're a terrific surrogate." With that sentiment, please understand one thing:

Please use the PayPal donation button in the left sidebar and help me survive to fight again another day.

And if you have projects regarding advertising or writing, please contact me here - or visit my LinkedIn page. I'd rather have the work than a donation. Your support is greatly appreciated and needed in these days of police oppression against artists and purveyors of true liberty.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Arresting Developments: American Spring Sprung on Occupier Artist

Street Graffiti 
On Friday, April 27th, I was arrested by the NYPD for essentially, being an Occupier. When asked why I was being arrested, officer Kevin Wahlig said, "I don't know, a couple of things. We'll discuss it on the way to the station." Not until much later in the day before my arraignment in court was I aware of the actual charges and I was never read my rights. Stated as (1) Disorderly Conduct and (2) Resisting Arrest, I found the charges interesting in that my conduct was one of sleeping on the sidewalk and my resistance to arrest was premeditated in the officer's mind, well before I was actually arrested. It seemed immediately that preparations for disrupting Occupy's May Day plans were underway. According to a 2000 court order from the New York State Supreme Court, sleeping is protected as a form of "public expression", so I couldn't possibly being arrested for that, could I? Well, not legally, but if my sleeping was disorderly I suppose I could be cited (funny just thinking about that - "You hogged all the  covers so now you're under arrest!").

My Occupation
The police had come at 6:30am to wake up a host of Occupiers sleeping across the street from HSBC and helping Max in his vigil to highlight the plight of the homeless. I had awaken but fallen back to sleep due to a succession of rainy days and need of sleep. Waking me a second time no less than four officers were in charge of me with Wahlig taking the lead. As I prepared to collect my things and began putting on my shoes I was asked for my ID which I produced and continued packing up. Asking for my ID back was when I was told I was being arrested, so I immediately reached for a cigarette (knowing I wouldn't have one all day) and began to light it - but that set the four officers off in a flurry of trying to grab my hands to handcuff. Arms pulled behind me, entirely too much force was used to detain a 143lb man and the cuffs wrenched so tightly my left wrist was bruised and cut - my body pushed around and manhandled as if they needed to create a scuffle to make it look like something was happening. But nothing was happening except another routine illegal arrest of a member of Occupy Wall Street.

Sign of the times
Since the beginning of Occupy on September 17th, 2011 over 17 million dollars have been spent in NYPD overtime, policing a non-violent movement and over 2200 arrests have been made according to the National Lawyers Guild. I wonder how much it costs to arrest a homeless man for sleeping? Whatever the cost, it's too much taxpayer money that could be going to creating jobs and alleviating the homeless problem in the US, but in NYC it seems no amount is too much when it comes to funding the police department. Earlier in the week I overheard an officer say, "I hate Occupy but I love the overtime". Great. That's your tax dollars at work, harassing citizens, suppressing free speech and taking us yet one step closer to a police state - with officers just making up the laws as they go. At Occupy though, we see the NYPD overreaction as a measure of our success. Only if we are truly a threat to the status quo would they react with the brute force and numbers that they have.

My day proceeded with being handcuffed and thrown into a van, not able to take my rolling cart with all my artwork and clothing in it. So I left it with my fellow Occupiers, sure that they would keep an eye on things and I could pick it up later - but that would not be the case either. Once at the station I was relieved of my personal belongings, finger-printed, retnal-scanned and pitched into an empty cell. With no other customers that morning I was doing all I could to keep Precinct 13 alive and buzzing with the smell of a fresh kill. This crime fighting stuff is indeed a serious business.

An hour at the precinct and I was transferred downtown in a van to what is referred to as Central Booking. It's basically a city jail and as opposed to the rules at the precinct where I was required to remove my belt so I didn't hang myself from the shame of my charges, I kept my belt, wallet and ID and was put in a large cell with 10 or so other prisoners - and if one had to judge the state of criminal activity by this lot, it might be assumed that we were all living on Sesame Street. One guy was in for "moving cardboard" in an attempt to arrange a warm sleeping spot for himself. Another for DWI, of which he seemed totally capable, and yet another for short paying a cabbie claiming the guy ripped him off by driving a longer route. No axe murderers, armed robbers or drug dealers. Unless prisoners are arranged by the severity of their crimes it seemed this early morning crew of primarily black and hispanic customers were doing nothing but giving the cops a way to keep their operations budget and make the monthly arrest quota with just days to spare.

Hours passed and we were served dry bread with a piece of cheese on it for lunch at noon. Hours more passed and we were served another two pieces of dry bread with cheese on it for dinner at six - and by this time, very few people had been processed through to arraignment. So we were basically sitting around with our thumbs up our butts comparing charges - all misdemeanors. Finally, a number of us were moved to another cell to be able to speak with our respective attorneys. We were transferred by chain gang, all handcuffed together and began, one by one, to have short meetings with our public defenders. Outside we could hear both the police statements of events and the accused accounts. During the DWI guy's meeting we could hear the attorney speaking on the phone with the guy's wife who was downstairs posting bail for her husband. "She wants to know if there's a bar in the building", the attorney said, "While she waits for you to get out". Funny, this 'he and she' separated by phone and crossbars, seemed the perfect couple for the times.

My attorney had been arranged by the National Lawyer's Guild and came prepared to hear the trumped up charges. Representing the Legal Aid Society who had been retained by NLG to handle an overflow of cases (Of the over 2200 arrests made of Occupiers, nearly 700 from the Brooklyn bridge march back in October are now finally going to trial) currently going through the system, he recommends that we fight the charges instead of taking a plea bargain that would drop them after six months if I remained out of trouble. Now knowing the police can just make up charges whenever they want, I didn't feel confident that I could keep out of jail until then, and with any other arrests, even bullshit ones, I would be looking possibly guilty on the standing charge - and so I agree with my council and decide to fight. It's a no-brainer since we're now seven months into  the battle anyway. Methinks it's time to start winning.

Up In The Air
Arraigned and out before 9pm, I make my way back to Union Square only to find that the police had harassed and raided the Occupy tables there and confiscated my rolling cart with the rest of my clothing and all of my street art business (Signs illustrated in photos here). Eye witness reports of Officer Lombardo from the 7th precinct rolling away my cart are plentiful and I have photography and video of the heist. Now I was jobless by nature of harassment and theft by the NYPD. It seems once one is down, the procedure is to keep them there and I can assure you, the police are doing their best to oppress the less well-armed. Today I was asked if I ever thought I would get the bag back. "I don't know", I responded. But I can guarantee you, once I get back in the business of making those clever protest signs, I have a whole new target to aim fun at. Pissing off those who can write and draw well is never a good idea:)

It's time the NYPD is outed and rightfully disrespected for the childish and boorish organization they have become - arresting the developments of a society that has had quite enough of the rich getting richer while the poor become continually poorer. I myself, have not yet begun to fight.

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
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