Occupy Boston, like Occupy Wall Street, has begun to take up issues relevant to minority communities. Activists took part in demonstrations against police harassment and violence in the primarily African-American neighborhood of Roxbury, “on the one year anniversary of a recent, unresolved case of police brutality in Boston: the beating of a 16 year old boy arrested at Roxbury Community College, just blocks from BPD headquarters.” A video taken of the arrest shows at least six officers pummeling the youth.
In New York, Cornel West spoke to the Guardian before his arrest last Friday at a joint protest against the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” policy. “I think this is one of the ways in which we can deepen and expand the Occupy movement into communities of colour,” he said. “The issue of arbitrary police power has always been the central issue in poor, black and brown and red and yellow communities.”
Although protesters are facing continuous arrests at their main site of protest in Chicago, the challenge of working with the African-American community has also been taken up. Here the big issues are bank foreclosures and evictions. Earlier this month Bruce Dixon, managing editor of Black Agenda Report, spoke to Chicago south side activists: “We’ll see a lot more black people involved in this occupation stuff,” said J.R. Fleming of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Movement, “when we start occupying these thousands of vacant bank-owned homes and apartments. You can take a day to protest downtown, and come back here and you’re still homeless or about to be homeless. When we occupy the goods in our hoods, that will be the occupation that means something to people out here. That will be the occupation that really makes a difference.”
Obama’s ex-chief of staff and now Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has sent police for two consecutive weeks to prevent protesters from building a permanent home for Occupy Chicago in Grant Park, the site of huge protests against the Vietnam War during the 1968 Democratic Party convention. Currently the protesters are limited to the sidewalks of the financial district. On Sunday morning, 130 people were arrested, and 175 the week before.
According to the Guardian, members of the National Nurses United union who had set up a basic first aid station were also arrested when police tore it down. One of the nurses was Martese Chism who spent 23 hours in jail. “I was surprised that we were arrested,” she told the Guardian. “We weren’t there to protest, we were there to set up a first aid base.”
“The worst part, Chism said, was the cold temperature of the cell – which was accentuated when her mattress was taken by police, without explanation. ‘It was rough. It was cold,’ she said. She said police told her she was detained for so long as there was a wait to be finger-printed, but added: ‘We were seeing other people, who weren’t protesters, get processed in 2-3 hours. It was to send us a message, to stop us protesting. At first I was like I’m not going to do this ever again,’ she said. ‘But then when the guard refused to give us our mattress, I thought I’m not gonna let no one abuse my rights’.”
The nurses’ union is asking supporters to call Mayor Emanuel’s office at 312-744-5000 and demand they immediately drop all charges against the nurses and other protesters, and stop the harassment and arrests of the nurses and others peacefully exercising their free speech rights.