Tag Archives: #OWS

Death of Democracy in Detroit

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Lane and Lisa

Detroit, MI - This weekend I had the chance to visit the massive city of Detroit as part of a workshop, as a member of the Overpass Light Brigade, for the Allied Media Conference (AMC). As a first-time visitor to the city of Detroit, the first thing I was awakened to was the incredible breadth of ruined, blighted, abandoned and foreclosed buildings and homes. City residents and elected leaders are saddled with the infrastructure of a city built for 1.7 million people but the racist and neoliberal policies of the last several decades have decimated Detroit and other midwestern cities like it across the country, reducing its population by one-million residents. This reality has left remaining residents with an absurdly oversized city, built entirely around the automobile with less than half of the tax revenue the once-thriving metropolis enjoyed.

The ruins abandoned ruins of the once mighty Michigan Central Station.

The abandoned ruins of the once mighty Michigan Central Station.

“Nothing symbolizes Detroit’s grandiose rise and spectacular fall like Michigan Central Station. No other building exemplifies just how much the automobile gave to the city of Detroit — and how much it took away.” This monumental building stands ruined and rusted, a lasting symbol of what Detroit once was. For this very reason, we held an “ENDGAME” message with the towering remnant behind us.

Endgame meaning: ”the final part of a game, battle, or political process when the result is decided.”

End Game

The city’s recent fortunes have worsened, as Governor Snyder has decided to deal with the city’s struggles to right itself from the failed policies of the past by disenfranchising the predominantly African-American people of Motor City. Snyder has appointed an “emergency manager” who has been given the authority “…to over-ride the votes of local citizens and the decisions and contracts made by their locally elected mayor and city council. The manager has the power to abrogate previously signed union contracts with city workers and sell city assets to pay off the city’s creditors.” In response to this draconian action from Gov. Snyder we thought it was necessary to prop up one more message that shined the truth on what has happened in Detroit and other cities in Michigan.

End of Democracy

Flickr photo album of other Overpass Light Brigade actions.

“Homeless Chronicles” – My Embedded Life as a Homeless Person

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Madison's homeless population often sleep standing over building heating vents to try and stay warm in the winter months.

Madison, WI - The treatment of Madison’s homeless population has recently been in the spotlight, as the city has forcible evicted Occupy Madison and a homeless encampment from several different locations. This cruel and callous government treatment of the growing homeless population has prompted Madison activist Chaous to embed herself with the city’s homeless population in an effort to receive a firsthand account of what life really is like for a Madison’s homeless population. She is secretly documenting unusual or negative interactions with anyone outside of the homeless population via a Ustreaming (live online video) application on her phone. This “Homeless Chronicles” series of Chaous’ experiences as an embedded homeless woman will be featured here on Occupy Riverwest.

First Night Out

My first night out as a homeless person was fairly uneventful but heart warming. I carefully chose my layers. I needed to stay warm but also needed the ability to move fast if needed. This is Madison but lets face it, its really not as safe as people like to think. I couldn’t wear my warmest jacket either as it is pretty noticeable. After getting ready I tossed my backpack and sleeping bag into the truck and headed up town.

Once I reached my destination I decided to forgo the sleeping bag. I had a pretty busy day ahead and knew it would be more of a pain in the butt. Grabbing my backpack I was off. I walked down state street and back up. I stopped in at the fountain to let Craig know what I was up to and what area I would be in. I was quite amused by the fact no one recognized me. Like an idiot I stayed long enough to have a root beer. Then I started at Veterans Plaza.

Madison’s homeless population often sleep standing over building heating vents to try and stay warm in the winter months.

It was spitting snow off and on but it wasn’t too cold yet. If you could get out of the wind it was almost warm. I think the temp was around 35. One guy was sleeping standing up under the oven heat vent for ians. You have to sleep standing up most of the time because the cops will get you for loitering if you don’t. One guy was on the other side wrapped up in blankets and a tarp. I sat down in the plaza and did what most do. Stare at nothing and watch everything.
The bars were starting to close down at this point and I watched a drunken couple dancing a waltz across from me by the bus shelter. Young, old, suits and ties, tattered jeans, high heals to tennies. They were all pretty trashed. But did the cop slow down to check out any of them? No, he slowed down to watch the dangerous homeless person sitting down trying to keep warm and minding my own business.

A young college girl walked up and asked to bum a smoke. I thought to myself that they give tickets to homeless people for this very thing. She sat down next to me and said her boyfriend told her to ask me for one. She told him she couldn’t ask a homeless person but he goaded her into it. I just smiled and gave her one. She offered to pay me for it but I said no. She reached into her pocket and tried to give me 7 bucks. I told her to keep it and if someone asked her for one later on in life to give one to them. That was payback enough. She kept asking if I was sure then once satisfied with my answer she then asked if I needed a warm place to sleep for the night. I again convinced her I was ok and she finely left.

Madison police squad that was patrolling State Street’s homeless population.

The cop comes by again slowly. By now the cold has definitely creeped into my clothes and my toes were getting quite cold even with -60 socks on. I think I will write to the company and tell them their socks suck!

Another lady comes by and started giving us homeless people five bucks. She came up to me but again I refused the money. I told her other people needed it more then me and sent her to the car campers.

After a bit I got up and walked around the plaza a little trying to warm up. I was considering going back to the truck for my sleeping bag. The temp was down to 32 which isn’t really cold unless your in the cold continuously. I work outside but I wasn’t working.

The guy rolled up in the tarp woke up. He walked over wanting to know the time so I told him. He wandered off in search of a bathroom but no one seemed to let him use one. He came back over to me and asked if I needed a blanket. He had extra and was willing to let me have one so I didn’t get cold.

At this point I started to need a restroom myself. The Fountain was closed along with the other bars. The only place still open was a pizza place and they wouldn’t let me use theirs. I wont tell you much more about it except if your homeless and a woman, do not be an idiot and drink anything. Especially root beer at the Fountain.
Besides the cop coming around again and again it was uneventful. I ended up moving away from vets plaza because I didn’t want my cover blown yet.  I did notice though that it seems like the ones who care seem to be women and other homeless. I will keep a tally and see which category wins the caring more for others title.
So far the tally is
woman 2
homeless 1
men 0

Night Two:

 After working 14 hours I headed for home and got all snugly in my pj’s and climbed into bed. I lay awake for a bit listening to “the mouth” chattering away to his mom in a nearby room. I realized I wasn’t going to be able to fall asleep. I’d been going so hard that anything over three hours of sleep seemed to be too much. So I donned my “street” clothes and headed up town.

I parked my truck and and again laughed at my stupidity. I had attended a family function last Saturday and to make room in the truck for Sara I tossed my sleeping bag into the back. I knew that I wanted to be warmer than the other night and it was quite damp out. So there was my sleeping bag in the back of the truck, all covered in snow. As I brushed off the snow I could only hope the cover was water proof. Dodging snow and slush as much as I could I walked up to my “spot” and looked around. The two guys who were there the last time were there again. I was relieved. For one, familiar faces gave me comfort and two, I knew they were okay and no harm had befallen them. This time the top of State Street was quiet. The snow had pretty much quit but it was misting and very damp.

A cop cruised slowly by.

I sat down and pulled my sleeping bag out of its sodden cover. My fears were realized; the sleeping bag was soaked. I could only hope I had enough layers on to keep me dry as I wrapped myself up in it. I figured it could at least break some of the wind, or that was the logic behind my thoughts, even if it was flawed logic. I hadn’t had much sleep. That was my excuse and I am sticking with it. Funny how it didn’t seem to be windy when I was in my nice warm cozy plow truck.

As I felt the water from the sleeping bag slowly seeping into my clothes I thought about this latest development. I know from my own past that its hard to stay dry when you live outside. From Tami’s “pot luck” every Saturday we know this is an issue. Street people come to her and Connie asking for either a different sleeping bag that’s dry or maybe some quarters so they could dry them in a laundromat. So what, Dear Reader, do we do about this? Wet sleeping bags will not keep you warm or dry and can be very hazardous to your health. We could get water proof covers but those only work while the sleeping bag is in it. Garbage bags rip eventually and only work if they cover the bags. Maybe small tarps to wrap around the sleeping bags as they sleep would help? I think that this is something we definitely need to work on.

The cop cruised slowly by again.

Wrapped up in a soaking sleeping bag I snuggled up to the nice hard cold cement wall and ducked down as much as I could to escape the wind. Very few people were out and those that were kept there noses down into their scarfs, looking down at the ground and scurrying off to their destinations. Off around the corner I heard one of our city plow trucks clanking away down State Street. I watched as they drove by intent upon their job. I couldn’t see who it was and knew they wouldn’t recognize me even if they had looked over and I waved. I never understood how loud those trucks were till I tried snatching a few minutes of sleep out on the street. I could hear it from a few blocks away.

The cop stopped this time and stared right at me. He continued on after a few moments. I knew that it was only a matter of time until they tried and roust me from my “spot”. I was ready for it though. My phone sat with me locked and loaded, ready to ustream at a moments notice.

The belongings of a homeless person sleeping on State Street.

About 4am my clothes were totally soaked from my wet sleeping bag. Not moving was better than moving. Even though the clothes that were touching me were bone cold, the area that wasn’t touching was even colder. I needed to get some type of sleep before going to work but I really didn’t want to walk the few blocks to my truck. I just knew I would get colder once I got out of the sleeping bag. I finely just bit the bullet and climbed out into the wind. And yes it was much, much colder.

Think back to when you were a kid and had gone sledding. Remember how wet you got and how cold and miserable you felt walking home? But you got to go home, put on dry clothes, and drink something hot. You didn’t have to stay outside in the cold with wet clothes and nothing warm to drink. You got to go to a nice warm bed instead of waking up and wondering if you would ever feel warm again.

As I sit here typing this I wonder about another thing. Can lack of sleep make you go nuts? I’m a snow plow driver and I’m used to getting very little sleep. I am awake but things are very bright and crisp. Even I will need to play catch up soon. So how do the homeless do it? You do not get any real sleep when you have to worry about what could happen to you. Jerks throw things at you,and you live with the constant fear and threat of rape, or cops chase you from place to place because you can’t loiter. Noisy ass trucks drive by throughout the night, and you wonder if you’ll even wake up the next day. That’s life on the streets. That is the night soaked to the bone on your cement bed.

I will be out there again as soon as I can in order to tell these stories.

Where Can We Live? from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.

Overpass Light Brigade Shines Support for Striking Walmart Workers

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The OLB took out this message on Friday night in support of striking Walmart workers around the country.

The OLB took out this message on Friday night in support of striking Walmart workers around the country.

Milwaukee, WI - Joined on an overpass bridge by a striking Walmart worker and Organization United for Respect (OURWalmart) organizers, the Overpass Light Brigade (OLB – an affiliation of volunteer activists that use LED letters to spell out messages on Wisconsin pedestrian overpass bridges) took out another message of support for workers on Friday night. Close to thirty Brigadiers braved the cold Wisconsin night to raise the “SUPPORT WALMART WALKOUT” message for northbound drivers on I-43. This was the third in a campaign of Walmart worker support messages that the OLB has taken out. The OLB is not alone in their support of workers walking out on Walmart. Close to 1,000 stores are expected to see some sort of strikes or demonstrations in a build-up to a massive Black Friday Strike against the corporation long known for treating its workers poorly.

This “WALKOUT ON WALMART” photo was shared over 3,500 times through OLB’s Facebook page.

OLB’s first message of support was taken out on a bridge in West Allis, Wisconsin on Oct. 12th. The “WALKOUT ON WALMART” message came on the heels of a successful Walmart Warehouse workers strike and a breakout of walkouts in stores across 12 different states. The pictures from this action went far and wide with some photos being shared close to 3,500 times through the group’s Facebook page.

Last week the OLB took out a “BUY LOCAL” message to a Milwaukee Walmart.





Next the Brigade joined a “Corner Conversation” organized by CItizen Action Wisconsin in front of a Milwaukee Walmart store. An amplified sound system was used to speak to passersby about Walmart’s poor treatment of workers while OLB shined the message “BUY LOCAL”.

These three OLB messages are not the end of the messaging campaign against Walmart and in support of worker rights as OLB plans to take out additional messages, including one that will be held at a Black Friday rally in support of workers walking out at a Wisconsin store.

Support the Walmart Walkout from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.

Walkout on Walmart from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.


Overpass Light Brigade to Join Occupy Chicago for One-Year Occupy Wall Street Anniversary

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The Overpass Light Brigade will be bringing an Occupy Wall Street message to the Occupy Chicago one-year anniversary in Chicago Monday night.

The Overpass Light Brigade will be bringing an Occupy Wall Street message to the Occupy Chicago one-year anniversary in Chicago Monday night.

Milwaukee, WI - Occupy Chicago and the Overpass Light Brigade (OLB) have announced that they have finalized plans to collaborate Monday night in Chicago for the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street (OWS). Plans call for OLB to display an OWS message in front of the Chicago Board of Trade Building in the heart of Chicago’s financial district, which is where the Occupy Chicago rally and march will conclude. The rally starts at 5:00 at Congress and Michigan Street.

The Overpass Light Brigade takes political messages to overpass bridges around the state of Wisconsin.




Anyone interested in joining the Brigade in holding the message should meet at the corner of Quincy and LaSalle Street, where the LED letters will be unloaded and synchronized for a march to the Chicago Board of Trade Building (141 Jackson Blvd). If you aren’t familiar with the Overpass Light Brigade, they are an affiliation of volunteer activists that use LED letters to spell out messages on Wisconsin pedestrian overpass bridges. These performative actions, called “Bridge Parties,” use the people’s bandwidth of public space to engage peaceful protests and tactics of visibility. This Monday night’s OLB’s message however will not be on an overpass bridge but with the People in the streets of Chicago. Come and join them for what should prove to be an amazing evening of solidarity.

Facebook Event Page


The Overpass Light Brigade and The Illuminator Put Out Call to “OCCUPY ALL STREETS”

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The Overpass Light Brigade took out this message to Wisconsin drivers on the Madison Beltline.

The Overpass Light Brigade took out this message to Wisconsin drivers on the Madison Beltline.

Madison, WI - Milwaukee’s Overpass Light Brigade was once again in Madison on an overpass this past Friday evening with a new message. This night’s message however was special. OLB’s “OCCUPY ALL STREETS” message was not only being rolled out in Madison on an overpass bridge but in New York City, The Illuminator was also projecting an “OCCUPY ALL STREETS” message on buildings. The synchronized action was video streamed live by Global Revolution with livestreamers in both Madison at the OLB action and in NYC with The Illuminator. This particular bridge action was special because it marked the first time that OLB had coordinated a message with another group and it won’t be the last.

At the same time OLB took their “OCCUPY ALL STREETS” message to Wisconsin drivers, New York City was shown this message by the The Illuminator.

An original OLB’er, Wisconsin activist Jenna Pope recently departed Wisconsin to take the “Wisconsin Idea” to NYC, where she quickly came in contact with The Illuminator. The Illuminator is probably best remembered for “projection bombing” (casting video projector images) a 99% image on prominent NYC landmarks. This contact led to this first ever coordinated event between OLB and The Illuminator, which is only the beginning of such coordinated messages between the two groups.

OLB’s “Lite Brite Activism” is really catching on around the country and the “OCCUPY ALL STREETS” coordinated message is only the beginning in a new phase of the OLB existence. OLB satellite locations have already popped up (OLB – Fox Valley Wisconsin, OLB - Occupy Harrisburg, OLB – NW Dane County Wisconsin, Occupy Hilo Hawaii, Light Brigade Maryland) and more are in the process of forming. In other words, this movement coined “The People Bandwith” by OLB founders Lane Hall and Lisa Moline is growing into something bigger than anyone might have ever expected when that first OLB “RECALL WALKER” sign appeared. And why shouldn’t it be growing? In an age of corporate control of our media, The People’s Bandwith is one of the last means of broadcasting the truth to masses of people who might otherwise never be enlightened (pun intended). So if you want to join this movement or have a different creative way to get the Occupy Wall Street message or any other important message out then join The Illuminator and the OLB’s.

Occupy All Streets from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.