OCCUPYING THE HIGHWAY
It was a Tuesday night that we got into Phoenix, Arizona. It was late and we were all tired, crashing in the car on some sidestreet. The Occupation here is set up at Ceasar Chavez Plaza, and it is strong in comradeship and perseverance. The last time Yum-Yum and I were in Phoenix he was arrested for "urban camping." The city has an absolute zero tolerance policy for sleeping in the streets; no blankets, pillows, and no tents. Arrests are frequent, raids are commonplace, if only to to take away the single canopy that might be set up. The relationship with the police is a tangible one: either by the frustrating stare in the eyes of the officers, or the cold metal handcuffs that have been felt by many of the some 20-30 protesters, who gather almost every night for the GA.
They were happy to see us the next morning when we showed up. We went around and met them all: Fox, Mellow, Mickey, Loco-Lizard, Mike, Deda, Angel, Charlie, and the rest. A woman was renting out a house down the street for their base of operations. "The Occu-House" as they call it. Showers, food and a warm place to sleep. Our objective is simple: fuck with the police, in the same manner that they fuck with us. Thats what we do. Volunteering for arrest goes against my moral principles, but usually I care not what others do.
"Lemme see your tent" Yum-Yum barked, an unsavory trait of his. "It doesn't zip up anyways. We need to make a Tent Monster." A woman in Melborne, Australia came up with the brilliant idea of cutting holes into tents. When the police came over to execute the arrest, she would get up and run away. Ours would be a two-headed Tent Monster.
Arriving in the Plaza sometime in the afternoon, I struck up a conversation with Mickey, who told me he was ex-military. "The cops dont fuck with me unless something goes down" he said. "This government trained me to kill." He had a rather stark, cold look in his eyes. Attached to his backpack was his "service dog" - a legal companion. Cigarettes were smoked, pizza was eaten and conversations were had. Then a motorcycle cop drove up into the Plaza. "Tent Monster!" Yum-Yum and Pirate jumped into the costume and ran up to him. "This is guaranteed in my First Amendment," Yum-Yum told the cop. "Freedom of expression. This isn't a tent. This is a costume." The motorcycle pig turned on a generator-backed light that illuminated the vicinity, then drove off.
They showed back up about an hour later - roughly twenty swines who had glee in their eyes. Arrests were about to be made. Immediately they went over the canopy where food and chairs were sheltered. Mickey was quickly handcuffed. "Will you secure the two gentleman in the tent?" the Sergeant ordered; a known prick in this area. Yum-Yum reiterated his Constitutional plea. 'Why are you touching me," Pirate asked the cops. Footage of all this exists online. Four arrests were made, and property was seized. The night turned out exactly as expected with one notable exception: Mickey had weed on him. He would be spending his New Year's inside of a cell.
We all went back to the Occu-House and settled in. There were complaints from fellow Occupiers that people were spending too much time here and not enough time in the Plaza. I went back sometime before noon the following day, having decided to make a sign and protest while waiting for my friends to be released.. What to say? What evil needed to be exposed? I hadn't realized, prior to coming to Phoenix, that Maricopa County was really Arpaio Country - as in Sheriff Joe Arpaio, "America's toughest sherrif." Nobody likes the man, and those who say they do are lying. Many wonder why, at 79 years of age, he wasn't retired. I gather that he only stays on the Force because making grown men dress in pink is the only way he can get his dick hard.
I made several signs. They read, in part: "Fuck you Joe Arpaio"; "Fuck the Police"; "Free Mickey"; and then wrote "Fire the Police" on my diminishing beer belly. It's difficult to eat out here on the road. Two hispanics beat us to it. They were standing on the opposite corner with a bullhorn. "Shame on you Sheriff Joe!" the man bellowed. His partner held a sign that said that over 400 cases of child abuse had gone uninvestigated in Maricopa. "You are breaking the law!"
I began making my rounds around the crosswalk. On the opposite corner was a man with another sign that asked: "Who Ordered Operation Fast & Furious?" I agreed with this sentiment. The other side read: "Thank you Sheriff Joe for Upholding the Law. Those who dont are Traitors." He wasn't in good company here. I walked from corner to corner to corner with my signs. People looked at me with an even mixture of perplexion, anger, disgust and approval. The man holding the bullhorn was generous to let me borrow it. I began shouting unpleasant vociferations: "Sheriff Arpaio has no intention of solving the real problem in this country. Arizona just passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana, and he has been trying his damnest to get the dispensaries shut down. Sixty percent of the Drug Cartel's revenue comes from weed. The Drug War has forced millions of Mexican to cross the border. What would Sheriff Joe do without illegal immigrants to humiliate?"
At this point I looked up at the Wells Fargo building - where, strangely, Arpaio has an office - and shook my fist. "Fuck you, you blood-drinking piece of shit." I repeated this madness for about a half-hour before returning to the Plaza. Pigs were abundant. Yum-Yum and Pirate were soon released. Forgetable recollections about beer and sex followed this, as they usually do. We stayed another night and got up to do this little revolutionary dance one more time. I'll skip any unnecessary apertures; no need to detail all the bottles guzzled in-between the Battle, which was far from over here in Phoenix.
The next action would involve traffic. A crosswalk takes one from Cesar Chavez Plaza to the City hall building - a very modern piece of architecture, just like every other high-rise in this city. When the signal said cross, we did what every other nonviolent civil disobedient would do: we busted-out the signs and held up traffic. Yum-Yum, Pirate, Dizzy, Loco-Lizard, Angel and others. "Get the hell out of the way!" the commuters yelled from the cars. "Move! Now!" And the always refreshingly satisfactory, "Get a job you dirty hippies." Police were called expectedly. About an hour later the arrests came, including Pirate's second in less than 24 hours. Dizzy experienced his first ever. We were all proud of him. "It was cold as fuck in there" he recalled.
During this commuter congestion, I wondered over to the Plaza to "make conversation" with the police, holding my sign which said, of course, "Fuck the Police." They all looked at me with contempt. Anticipating a reaction, I summoned my own contempt. Then two officers followed me. One stood about a foot away. "Am I doing something illegal here?" I asked. "No." He was angry, and asked if I had a job. "Yes. I'm an activist." He then wondered what my grandparents would say if they saw me. "My grandparents are all dead." I explained to the ignorant swine that both of my grandfathers fought fascist Nazi's in World War 2. I was trying to live in their legacy by fighting fascism here, in my own country. I wanted an end to the harsh drug laws. "I'm just doing my job" the cop said. It was a usual response. Still, it went way above his head.
Again: Beers were guzzled, cigarettes were smoked, and ramon noodles were eaten. Eventually we all said our goodbyes and took off on the I-10. Next stop was the LoneStar State. We've been here for almost a week, and my report will be up soon.
ATTENTION: OCCUPY THE HIGHWAY NEEDS FUNDS! IF WILLING TO DONATE PLEASE CALL YUM-YUM AT 619-315-4083 THANK YOU