Chapel Hill sends SWAT team to arrest Occupy "anarchists"

Chapel Hill police sent a heavily armed swat team to evict and arrest a group of some 80 Occupy Chapel Hill protesters who'd taken over a long vacant used car dealership (they also arrested members of the press covering the action). The police claimed the force was necessary because they'd been briefed that anarchist squatters use man-traps, and they believed this would be the case because the protesters had put banners in the windows and sited "strategic lookouts" on the roof. In other news: Chapel Hill police are credulous, dangerous dolts who set out to believe boogie-man stories about "anarchists" and seized on any rubric, no matter how farcical, they could find to support this a priori belief.

The brick and cinderblock building with large windows fronting the sidewalk is owned by out-of-town businessman Joe Riddle and has stood empty for many years. One demonstrator said they were acting in the tradition of working-class squatters' movements around the world that some say inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement and its offshoots across the United States.

The group printed a flier that proposed a possible new use for the space that would include a free clinic, kitchen, child care, library and dormitories, among other uses. The flier acknowledged they were breaking the law by entering the building.

"Make no mistake: this occupation is illegal," it said, "as are most of the other occupations taking place around the U.S., as were many of the other acts of defiance that won the little freedom and equality we appreciate today."

Police arrest Chapel Hill protesters who occupied vacant business

(Photo: Downsized cropped thumbnail from an image by Katelyn Ferral)


  1. My question is: How is this being covered in the UK mainstream media, and if it’s being slanted (I hope it isn’t, but that’s probably naive), what alternate media sources do UK citizens turn to when they need better news (if in fact they want it).

  2. On one hand, I’m absolutely incredulous at the local police response to any of the Occupy demonstrations, as if having large numbers of people warrants bringing out the riot troops with their SWAT fetish and police state mentality.  Are they so seriously threatened by the (seemingly) small groups of people that they think this is an appropriate response, and that the existing police resources wouldn’t be better allocated to more serious crimes?  On the other, as an owner of commercial real estate under development, I’m baffled as to the lack of consideration the protestors gave to their ‘occupation’ of the vacated car dealership, particularly given that the original owner would be liable if any issues arose (as they frequently do, like fires and accidents), and the impracticality of converting one space to another without gobs of money.  Find a public space to protest, if it’s available, and if it isn’t, exercise your First Amendment rights by picking up the phone and asking the owner if you can occupy their space, and fully expect to sign some legal documentation releasing the owner from any liability, and post a sufficient bond to cover any costs resulting in damage to the property.  No one wants to have their property rights usurped, or be sued in court because someone banged their head on something.  Oh, and keep the anarchists out.  I’m sorry, but joining the Occupied cause with the anarchist cause is the fastest way to turn off public support that I can think of.  No one takes their message seriously, and what little interaction the public has had with them is running into their anarchist symbols spray painted everywhere, or seeing them bust the occasional Starbucks window on TV.  

    1. A worthy ideal. However, if you protest somewhere public, you’re liable to be ‘cleared’ (or worse) by the police; and no commercial owner (though I sincerely hope I’m wrong) will let you on his/her property, liability release and bond or not.

    2. You mean the public spaces where they Government has decided the public are not allowed to be?  Hastily passing ordinances for “safety concerns” to make sure people can not protest.

      It is a long vacant lot, and while the Mayors and Police chiefs would like you to think that every OWS is a germ carrying, poop smearing machine out to burn you our of your home if given the chance to protest that really is not the case.

      Anarchist causes, given the numbers of police officers infiltrating the OWS movements I think one could see a cause and effect.  The undercovers are often the ones looking for the “leaders”, and are the first to make suggestions about resorting to violence.  Kind of like the training we gave the FBI until recently stating that every Muslim is violent and just needs a minor push to become a suicide bomber ready to kill innocent Americans.  You people these people into a situation that they have no understanding of, and they apply the step by step process they read in a book.  We show up in riot gear, we rough them up, we keep them down, and everyone is happy… well until you end up putting Veterans into hospitals, and your people are randomly pepper spraying people.  But then you can lie and shift the blame to OWS people rather than a complete failure of the police force.

      The Mayors and Police Chiefs keep huge numbers of police on hand at these events talking about how it is straining their resources… and yet someone was shot in Oakland and it took 10 minutes before the officials showed up.

      While not every person at OWS is a perfect citizen on their best behavior, considering how they are being mistreated and having their rights violated on a regular basis I think they are going pretty well.

      What we have here is many elected officials who are being confronted with upset citizens who are doing more than a letter or phone call.  Who will not be bought off with a platitude, and they won’t go away when I told them to.  So they unleash the police and tell them to clear them out.  The difference between what we see here and what went on during the marches and protests in Dr. Kings time is the use of color cameras and the water hoses aren’t out… just yet.

      Well they might have had mantraps so we needed a riot response, and we needed to arrest the press to make sure no one could look at our actions and hold us accountable.  Isn’t think part of what OWS is protesting?  That the average person gets beaten with a billy club, and a rich person gets a hand written apology for law enforcement getting in their way. 

  3. Fuck ’em.  If you can’t see how 80 people taking over a building can be threatening, you need to take your blinders off.

    What the hell were these people thinking?  That the police wouldn’t do anything after such a clear threat to “law & order”?  That they’d somehow manage to resist the police and keep the building?  If it’s the former, these people are thick as a brick, if it’s the latter, it only underlines why the police could be concerned.

    I hate to say it, because it would be great if the “non-hierarchical movement of the people” could work, but it seems like, lacking clear goals, more and more fringe elements are trying to get credibility from resisting police in and of itself.  Civil disobedience only really works if it’s paired with clear demands–both because the action becomes meaningless without a goal, the public pressure builds until the goal is achieved, and the participants have their resolve strengthened from knowing what they want.  It’s devolving into occupying for the right to occupy.  You can’t bank that much on public sympathy alone.

    Squatting has only ever worked if people do it quietly and show their neighbors that they can be a positive force and improve the neighborhood.  It doesn’t work if you have 80 people charge into a building and flier all around how great it will be when they infringe on others’ property rights.  Actions speak louder than words, and you won’t ever establish a presence if you go in obnoxiously because the police won’t tolerate that.  Even in the most squatter-friendly places, you only get squatter rights after a long period of time occupying the place.

  4. Ya know?

    While I can agree (in principle, at least) with some of the complaints of the Occupy people, in truth they are their own worst enemies.

    They either passively ignore, or actively cover up, the actions of people using the movement for cover to engage in acts of violence and vandalism (and reports of rape, and possibly murders).

    They ignore or cover up the ‘members’ who interfere with the rights of the people they claim to support (like Occupy Oakland blocking access to work for normal, day to day, employees).

    Too many of them want something for nothing (like the San Diego Occupy movement that has befouled and given death threats to the food cart owners in the area, because they won’t give away their product).

    I *am* a full on supporter of the first amendment, and I *fully* support the right of these people to protest, but I do draw the line when it comes to violations of the property of other people, and when it violates the rules that are in place for every other group who might want to use those public spaces being occupied.

    It’s called ‘content neutral enforcement’. As long as the rules apply to all, they can also be applied to ‘occupy’.

    And in this case, rhetoric about traps, etc., notwithstanding, these people *did* unlawfully occupy the private property of another person. By law, there’s no reason for these people to be allowed to continue that occupation (If you believe otherwise, maybe you’ll agree to let them occupy your home).

    As I’ve said, I *do* fully support their right to protest (and I even agree with some of their points). But that right also comes with responsibilities. They don’t get to break the law (and if they do, they get to suffer the consequences). And if they really want to present a
    voice that speaks for the ‘average’ person, they need to do so in a way that doesn’t alienate those very same ‘average’ people.

    And the really sad thing is?

    There’s nothing stopping them from protesting without vandalism and tacit support of other criminal acts. They’d get much more traction for their cause if they would respect the rights of other people around them.

      1. Fun fact:  One of Disqus’s annoying little quirks occasionally comes in handy.  When you see those short lines and enormous spaces between paragraphs, it usually means that the text was copied and pasted.

        First-time commenter + copy-paste = sloppy turfing.

        1. Nah, just a copy and paste from one browser that wouldn’t work with Disqus (for some reason) to one that would.
          You can disagree with me (that ‘s fine), but I’m no turfer.

          I’m just someone who thinks that occupy has a good idea, but are not actually expressing it in the best possible way. 

  5. A couple of you people read like a pack of vicious dogs, yapping and nitpicking, ready to tear down anything anyone might try for the sake of revolution.  It’s so easy to sit on your duffs in front of a computer screen, warm, secure, apart from the herd, criticize, issue gainsayer comments, and play naybobs of negativity, but while you bitch and moan about their questionable tactics or sometime lack of decorum they’re out there trying to do something.
    Anarchist is a great term to toss about, but in times of social stress much harder to define. You can’t know what it’s like unless you’ve been there. After returning from Nam I was one of those disillusioned, DFHs, disgruntled vets who never missed an opportunity to protest.  People on the sidelines said the same damn things about us you’re saying about the current crop of protesters: almost verbatim.

    Different time, different circumstances, different goals, and certainly these people are newcomers to the world of protest.  They will make mistakes, but they will learn and grow from their experiences.  I strongly urge you to mellow out and support them.  For better or worse, they may well be the only hope we have for a better tomorrow.  

    1. “Anarchist is a great term to toss about, but in times of social stress much harder to define.”

      It could mean believing that social organization can and should be based on principles of equality, solidarity, and consent, and trying to work toward that.

      Now there are a lot of non-anarchists who don’t think it can be based on such things, but that it should come closer to these things. I think even small reforms of the current system require visible radical critiques of and alternatives to that system.

  6. The cops are expecting the kind of treatment they believe they deserve. Many are fully aware of the times they were let go unpunished for murder, for beating the shit out of a kid with a dimebag in his pocket, planting false evidence, stealing drugs, arresting people for DWB, beating the shit out of people they just didn’t like. They know that if someone treated them as they treat many suspects, they’d be apoplectic with rage and panting for revenge.

    Any tyrant will takes steps to eliminate those who threaten his power. OWS threatens to encroach on their way of life: a life of boundless power, subject to little regulation or accountability, access to the fun military toys paid for by taxpayers so local cops can play soldier without those pesky IEDs. A good number  of cops confiscate drugs and money and report a fraction of the take. It’s a complementary revenue stream. Sure, they’ve got a strong motive.

  7. I’m sure there were a bunch of dumb crackers who looked at the footage of marches on Washington and people getting firehoses turned on them and said: “You know, I sympathize with the Civil Rights movement, but they let so many radicals into their movement it just hurts the cause.” 
    To which those who actually have the intestinal fortitude to stand for what’s right say: “Then stay at home while the grown ups rick their ass for your future, scumbag.” 

    1. Sorry, that’s just crap.

      During the entirety of the civil rights movement, there was no evidence (or even any kind of credible reporting) of the rights protesters interfering with businesses and the average person trying to get by with their daily routine.

      They didn’t trash restaurant bathrooms. They didn’t throw blood and urine on food carts because the food cart owners wouldn’t give them free food. They didn’t take over homeless shelters, leaving the actual homeless to fend for themselves.

      They didn’t trash public property (and I’m pretty familiar with that movement, my parents were part of it).

      But, you know what, most of the opponents of the civil rights movement did interfere with the average person, and did convince (or intimidate) the local businesses, etc., to harass or interfere with the movement.

      And what is really fucking sad? As bad as the authorities have been (and I hold no regard for the cops, etc., who have used excessive violence in the current situations), it’s been (probably fringes of ) the occupy movement who have been guilty of damages, of obstruction, and of threats and the like.

      It’s one thing to agree with the basic things they’re arguing against, which I do (and some of those are truly valid arguments, deserving of real attention and action). It’s entirely another thing to excuse some of the behavior of people who are associated with the movement (which I do not), when that behavior is all but certain to turn off the very people you’re trying to convince.

        1. Did they cause thousands of dollars of damage to the lunch counter bathrooms?

          Did they actively block other customers from coming in to the lunch counter?

          Did they prevent the employees of the lunch counter from doing their jobs?

          The answer you’re looking for is ‘NO’.

          There’s a gawdawful, humongous difference between sitting at a counter, asking to be served like everyone else, and blockading employees, or throwing blood and urine on the place, and so on.

          And even if you make the argument that these are either rare and unusual events, or even that they are really crappy reporting by someone with an agenda, the fact remains that those stories are what the average person sees from at least some of the sources.

          Why are you so willing to excuse horrible behaviour (even if only from a small subset of the participants)?

          It may not be right, but it is a fact, that most things like this are judged by the worst of the participants. The overall goal (and behaviour) can be pristine and honest, but it’s going to get swamped by any crap that’s thrown by the assorted deviants that tend to hang on to these kind of things.

          If the Occupy people don’t actively (and vociferously) repudiate the troublemakers in their midst, they’re going to be a blip on the radar, as far as any actual accomplishments are concerned.

          1. So lots of OWS protesters are throwing blood on people and smearing feces on businesses and kicking people out of homeless shelters.

            Any posters here been to an Occupy protest anywhere? Did you witness this activity?

          2. You know, for someone who claims not to be a turfer, you’re doing a very good job of sounding exactly like one…

            So, before we go any further, let’s get some citations for your first comment: “They either passively ignore, or actively cover up, the actions of people using the movement for cover to engage in acts of violence and vandalism (and reports of rape, and possibly murders).”

            No? Got nothing? What about the whole “blood and urine” thing? Nothing to back that one up either? How odd. It’s almost like you’re deliberately taking a position of agreeing to the idea, albeit with caveats, in order to not sound like someone who is opposed to the concept (and thus be taken more seriously) while you deliberately spread misinformation.

            Surely we have a name for people like that..?

      1. Your understanding of civil rights history has been sanitised.  The civil rights movement was not entirely disciplined non-violence.  It had large scale rioting, looting, vandalism and arson.  (See for instance Detroit ’67).

        The worthiness of the cause and its eventual success goes a long way towards justifying these events when situated historically.

        Mass movements can not be controlled down to the last person.   When there is widespread disaffection the types of responses will not all be disciplined approaches to resistance.  After people have been beaten and corralled by police they often decide that purely peaceful means are ineffective.

        There may or may not have been some incident with feces and blood at some occupy camp.  It may or may not have been real blood and feces.  It may or may not have been activists or agent provocateurs of under cover police or right wing activists.  Obviously it does not generate good press. 

        The bad actions of a few, however, do not invalidate the message in any way.  Those actions should be evaluated as what they were, a peculiar isolated event that is not positive, but it has virtually nothing to do with the story of Chapel Hill.

        In terms of occupying unused land, I personally think it’s a very positive action.  The banks were bailed out and many people have lost their homes or livelihoods in the fallout.  The banks often have little interest in allowing people to live or use spaces when the rental income it would generate is low and peoples ability to pay is not guaranteed. 

        Resources should be for people, not for profit generating motives.  There are ways of ensuring that things are used productively (like for social centres etc. as these people were trying to do) that do not require a logic of unbridled profit generation at the expense of the vast majority of people.

      2. “During the entirety of the civil rights movement, there was no evidence (or even any kind of credible reporting) of the rights protesters interfering with businesses and the average person trying to get by with their daily routine.”

        Lunch-counter sit-ins? These pretty much forced businesses to either violate the segregation laws, or close, or turn to the police. These policies exposed the violence within the Jim Crow system, and they inconvenienced a lot of other people in the process. Bus boycotts? These forced businesses to either violate the segregation laws, or operate at a loss.

      3. With all due respect . . . No, the hell with that. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

        In fact the sit-ins at lunch counters in the South were precisely like OWS, illegal, but effective ways to show how bad the legal system was.  And the march across the bridge at Selma was put down by the same kind of over-the-top violence described in this article.

        And your list of outrages? Some links please.

      4. In fact, the occupation has roots in Resurrection City which MLK helped organize: a “town” built right on the Mall in DC to draw attention to poverty and economic injustice caused by racial inequality. Thousands of people lived on the mall for over a month.  More would have participated if King hadn’t been assassinated.

        There’s a lot more to the civil rights era than you learn about in school and read in the average history book.  I respect that you don’t like mess, but advocating for change is inevitably messy.  

  8. Wait, hold on.  Breaking into a building is…not the same thing as peaceful protest in public.  Not at all; there are policies & legal requirements of action when the police are aware of breaking & entering.  This isn’t free speech or trespassing, this is B&E, & yeah, that deserves a police response.  I get that it is an empty building, but it is still private property, & I can’t condone a group of people taking it over while waving the flag of squatter’s rights.  I’m all for OWS & other occupy protests, & condemn the police action in Oakland especially…but this isn’t a disproportionate response?  They broke into a building.  That requires the police to intervene.  & there are 80 people in there?  Yeah, I’d send the SWAT team as well– that situation sounds potentially volatile.  If we’re quoting, I’d say Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt’s deserves mention:

    “Along with facilitating citizens’ ability to exercise their
    constitutional rights, it is also a critical responsibility of all
    levels of government in a free society to respond when rights of others
    are being impinged upon[.]”

    & yeah, I have to say…he’s right.  This went beyond protest & into crime.  Protesting– not a crime.  Are people who are protesting being treated like criminals in some cases?  Yes.  But these people WERE breaking the law, & the situation was potentially dangerous, & the police response…in which no one was hurt…seems to be the correct move.  Which again, doesn’t mean that other protesters are criminals…but these people were.  Or well, pending charges & all that, yadda yadda.  Still, burglary is not a “small freedom,” & so yeah, sorry, I’m not buying the bill of goods the protesters are selling, not on this one.  Still, I hope they are only charged with a misdemeanor.

    1. Non-violence!=Legality.

      Police using a SWAT team on non-violent protesters is at issue. Not every broken law warrants a rapid response and a nuking with fire and snakes.

      1. I don’t agree that non-violence equates to legality one bit. If I come in & walk into your house & refuse to leave, I’m not…behaving legally. Or ethically. So yeah, I reject your axioms. & I mean, again– I’m not some ideologue here; or if I am, I’m on the side of people telling “corporate citizens” to stop buying the government, especially when those companies are terrible & run he economy into the ground. I’m not kneejerk “against” the Occupy movements.

        But I mean– there were 80 people inside of a building refusing to leave. This isn’t…fire & snakes & nuking. SWAT teams are groups of trained individuals. I don’t know how to break this to you, but everybody is non-violent until they…get violent. Flip the script– there are 80 people who have broken into public property & refuse to leave. You are the mayor– part of your job is protecting the citizens & their property. Sending SWAT is absolutely the correct level, especially since a lot of the police brutality we’ve been seeing have been from “white shirts,” who aren’t trained for this. The SWAT didn’t bust in guns blazing. They didn’t nightstick anybody. They did their job. This isn’t “nuking with fire & snakes.” These aren’t “non-violent protesters,” for that matter. They are burglars. 80 people who broke into a building. I’m with the fuzz on this one.

        1. “!=” is the programming shorthand for “not equivalent”, so he was  agreeing on the point that they can be non-violent while disobeying the law, unless I’m misreading it. I can also sympathize with you on the point that occupying private property can be very unethical/illegal and warrant action, however, there are other factors to consider here. The building which they occupied was sitting for several years, empty and without function, until they opted to use it for something beneficial the public. They weren’t interrupting any business or even doing anyone harm, in fact they were improving their community.

          It could be considered symbolic – they are taking assets which some distant entity has let sit vacant needlessly and using it to benefit everyone. It certainly raises questions relative to what’s happening globally right now: is it right to deny people from using the excess that (relatively) foreign powers can find no use for? Is it right to protect owners who don’t use their resources, especially in an age where so many are suffering without?

  9. You know, it’s possible to think that this squatting incident was stupid/wrong/illegal AND that responding to a bunch of unarmed squatters with what is basically a paramilitary police force is extreme overkill and very dangerous. Does a threat to someone’s private property really justify the use of deadly force?

  10. I’ve lived in Chapel Hill for 12 years and am surprised to see photos of the police marching down Franklin Street in full SWAT gear. I’ve always been impressed by the members of the local police force that I’ve met– friendly, intelligent, and measured in their behavior. Were they just dying to use that cool cop equipment?

  11. FWIW, the “actual” Chapel Hill OWS protest is still going strong. It is on the steps of the post office and is about 5 blocks down Franklin street from where this event took place. This being Chapel Hill it  is generally met with lots of support from the community. I drive past it every day.  What happened here with the auto dealership IS a case of bored cops who were in fact just itching to use that cool cop equipment. Ask anyone who has ever worked in law enforcement, 90% of the job is very boring paperwork.

  12. I suspect that the squatters actually expected such a response from the police, and may have even intended to provoke it, to make a point. And their point is this:

    When the extraordinarily wealthy and powerful people who control the banking and real estate industries trashed the world economy, causing massive hardship to millions of people, the response was multi-billion dollar government bailouts, followed by multi-million dollar bonuses.

    When a small group of so-called anarchists occupied a derelict building that hadn’t been used in years, causing no hardship to anyone, the response was a SWAT team of armed and armored police.

    The administration of  “Law and Order” in this country is highly relative, and this illustrates that point nicely.

  13. quoting trinium: “They either passively ignore, or actively cover up, the actions of people using the movement for cover to engage in acts of violence and vandalism…”

    i read that in portland on saturday, there was an incidence of violence where someone in the crowd threw something at a cop, and the occupiers took the person and shoved him out of the crowd into the police, so they could arrest him. they are serious about being non-violent, and anyone who is trying to make them look bad by inciting violence is being dealt with this way. i say BRAVO.

    1. in portland on saturday, there was an incidence of violence where someone in the crowd threw something at a cop, and the occupiers took the person and shoved him out of the crowd into the police, so they could arrest him.

      During one of our protests in the ’60s (well, early ’70s, actually), I once told a guy who was going around picking up rocks and bottles that if he threw any of those at the cops, I’d break his f*cking arm.  

      He said if I did, I’d be arrested.  I looked him over carefully, and then said, “Oh yeah?  For what? Assaulting a police officer?”

      That was the last time we saw him.  The next week, a completely different undercover infiltrator showed up at our meeting. :-)

  14. Just as in that incident some time back when the Israelis sent a commando squad to board the activist flotilla, a SWAT team seems like a terrible choice(even if you are in favor of clearing the place good and hard).
    Riot police, in general, are designed to deal with un or minimally armed protesters. They wear armor optimized for protection against thrown projectiles, blunt trauma, and some degree of sharp objects. They carry weapons optimized for a mixture of usually-nonlethal wounding and pain-compliance.SWAT teams are designed to deal with armed, even atypically heavily armed, criminals. They wear ballistic armor and their armament heavily favors firearms, with the exact distribution of rifles, shotguns, and submachine guns varying by circumstance.This makes them badly suited to crowd control. You walk in and hope that the crowd stands down immediately when they see your guns. If they don’t, you are standing there in a BDU designed to provide some protection from bullets, with a weapon that doesn’t really have any settings between ‘Safetied’ and ‘grievous wounds and/or death’. Essentially, a SWAT team is just a bluff unless you are actually willing to start gunning down civilians. A riot squad, by contrast, while it usually enjoys excess, has some chance of handling a crowd that chooses to resist without either being wiped out themselves or engaging in a bloodbath.

  15. I can name dozens of buildings here in Manhattan that harbor the most dangerous, corrupt and financially violent people of the last few decades that could use a good SWAT raid. But when you write the rules of the game, you can’t lose.

    The reason why this is news is because these Chapel Hill Occupiers forgot one simple thing: they never legalized their crimes first.

  16. #1) Anarchists are at the backbone of most of the #occupy spaces in this country. Who else do you think regularly uses consensus decision making in this country? Feminists, anarchiosts, and Quakers. (and anarcho-feminist Quakers!)

    #2) Some of you (and some of you #occupiers) are still stuck in the protest mentality. As if protest has even accomplished much. As if the millions of people in the streets in 2003 stopped a war. (Make no mistake, less than 10% of those people could have stopped the war, with different tactics). We are not protesting anymore. The occupy sites are both symbolic, and experiments with different economies and decision making systems, but they are also incubators for better more effective actions.

    #3) Exclusionary property rights are the backbone of capitalism. Thus, I predict you will continue to see responses like this to actions that challenge the notion that someone has a “right” to own unused property while people are thrown out onto the streets. Many cities are moving to foreclosure defense actions as winter comes on. If the banks give in – that will go viral. If they don’t – that will go viral as well.

    #4) Agree with everything said above re: the sanitization of past movements. Or even present ones. (see the fetishization of the Arab Spring movements as perfectly peaceful, even by activists and leftists)

    #5) Those who have never had guns pointed at their head by people who were legally authorized to kill them should refrain from speculation as to how violent of an action it is.

    1. Hey, Lemon G, don’t hold back – “Make no mistake, less than 10% of those people could have stopped the war, with different tactics.” Well, what are those tactics? Because back in 2003 I thought long and hard about that, and neither me nor any of the other really smart people I knew who were concerned with the question came up with much that was good. So, for Christ’s sake, let us know, because if you’re sitting on the answer, you’re wasting it.

      1. Well, a few hundred thousand human shields from NATO countries would have thrown a monkey wrench into things. (Yes, there were human shields, but not that many) if you wanted to go the total pacifism route.

        If not, there are lots of tactics (non-violent against people, most violent against property or property laws) that can paralyze a place of business, stop a military supply train, etc etc etc.

        I’m not saying that we had enough militant and ready-to-die or ready-to-go to jail people in 2003 around the world to make this happen. It is obviously one thing to march in the streets, quite another to face being bombed or take actions for which incarceration penalties can be 5-50 years. My only point is that if people WERE at they point where they were willing to take drastic actions AND their bottom-line question was not “Am I showing dissent” but instead was “Am I contributing in a material way to stopping this war”, the range of possibilities opens drastically.

        As usual, human empathy is such, that until conditions are directly affecting you or your smallest most intense circle of concern, it is impossible to muster the will to really step out of a somewhat-comfortable life and take these risks. I so this with no sense of condemnation, only the reality that when bombs are falling on you and your neighbors, the stakes are completely different then when you are just operating on a sense a moral outrage. (for most of us anyway)

  17. FYI, the reporter who took the photo that accompanies this article was detained during the raid.  She wasn’t alone. At least one other credentialed reporter was also ziptied by the police.

    I haven’t heard any reasonable person here in Chapel Hill suggest that the police shouldn’t have acted to arrest those who were occupying the building. I think what many people are concerned about are the specific tactics and level of force that were used and whether they were appropriate for the situation. There are still many details that we don’t have yet, and I look forward to those details being shared publicly so that we can have an informed community conversation about it.

  18. Oh, okay!  Then okay good.  That makes sense…I usually type =/= for the slashed equals sign.

    I’m willing to discuss so called “radical” possibilities– like “why is there an ownership class, anyhow?” & “is profit hoarding a core problem with capitalism?”  & stuff.  I’m all for asking these questions.  That being said, even if it is a building currently unoccupied by a business, it is still a private building.  The police are very much obligated to defend private property.  Given that, what is the best course of action?  I mean, there were 80 people in there; you’ve got to plan for the worst case scenario, or at least entertain the possibility of it turning violent.  They didn’t go in with guns blazing or anything– which I would unilaterally condemn– but rather acted in accordance with the…law?

    On the protesters, I don’t think they had an ethical right to be there…& I think an ethical stance needs to underlie any act of civil disobedience.  Protest in a public space & when the police come to root you out, I’m with you.  You’re doing the right thing.  But criminal acts undermine your stance.

  19. I’ve been to a few Occupy Miami General Assemblies and it’s nothing like what @trinium:disqus described. In fact, they go out of their way to make sure all laws are obeyed. The fringe groups are not accepted by the OWS movement. OWS is aware of the liability of crazies, and they don’t want to deal with it. Nor do I.

    1. Not accurate hungryjoe.  Take it from someone who just returned from a long GA going out of its way to make it clear – consisting mostly of people as surprised by any of this as the cops were. 

      We have an anarchist bookstore in town with a long legacy of involvement in good community projects, but they also tend to have their own ideas and discussions and Occupy Chapel Hill was not included in this particular discussion.

  20. @hungryjoe – Then they broke the law. Not every offshoot is organized the same way as the main OWS protest. But that should not take away from the fact Chapel Hill called on their SWAT team to deal with the protesters. The situation definitely didn’t call for it.

  21. Military trained SWAT teams wrapped in Kevlar and carrying automatic weapons are worried about something called a “man-trap”?

  22. I think this quote from a very well known anarchists sums a lot of issues up nicely:

     “…A.J. Muste, one of the great figures of 20th century America, in my opinion: what he called “revolutionary pacifism.” Muste disdained the search for peace without justice. He urged that “one must be a revolutionary before one can be a pacifist” – by which he meant that we must cease to “acquiesce [so] easily in evil conditions,” and must deal “honestly and adequately with this ninety percent of our problem” – “the violence on which the present system is based, and all the evil – material and spiritual – this entails for the masses of men throughout the world.” Unless we do so, he argued, “there is something ludicrous, and perhaps hypocritical, about our concern over the ten per cent of the violence employed by the rebels against oppression” – no matter how hideous they may be. He was confronting the hardest problem of the day for a pacifist, the question whether to take part in the anti-fascist war.”

    – from the 2011 City of Sydney Peace Prize Lecture by Prof Noam Chomsky.
    Just want to point out that anarchists are generally against state optioned violence,  the use of force in society is itself precisely what is at issue.  They are not against “order”, or against society as such.

  23. The black-clad bozos breaking store windows and spray-painting the so-called ‘anarchist A’ on walls are, to real anarchists, what heavy-metal hair-bangers spray-painting pentacles on walls are to real Satanists.

  24. I live there, i broke in there when i was like what, 18?
    the cops quickly came, and i learned a lesson. i got off with like 40 hours of community service.
    if you’re 25 and you break into there with 80 of your friends, the cops are going to come.

  25. I’ve worked in Chapel Hill for many years and have always found the police here to be most level headed, unlike the rest of NC.    I’m not saying I think SWAT was necessary in this situation, just that CHPD are not usually jack booted thugs so they may have had thought they had good reason.

  26. The thing that worries me is the police coming in with the ‘nuclear’ option (ie. comply or be shot.)  In the article below the break, the police stated they waited until the crowd had dwindled to a manageable size and then moved.  I believe the term is, ‘overwhelming show of force.’ 
         But, if some little thing went wrong this could have gone very bad, very fast.  As in something between Kent State and Syria.  Let’s keep cool, people.  That means both sides.  (Of course you’re both reading this.  Who are you kidding?)

  27. I mean, I’m as fond of some basic property rights as the next person. Were I to awaken one morning and find a small herd of strangers encamped in my living room, I would likely express some heated sentiments as to their removal and would consider it a mark of a healthy public apparatus if I could get some help with that. I get the impulse. Were I to meet this particular band of occupiers, is there even money I would find them to be infuriating, ill-informed layabout gits? Oh, probably. Was fond of civil rights, not so fond of the Tea Party, so we’ll just say that there’s a mixed record on my agreement with crowds in the street.

    But what the hell? In what world, when the cops know they are dealing with a (primarily) principled, (primarily) peaceful crowd (and the press!) setting up shop in space where no one lives, and no one works, and won’t for the indefinite future, does it make sense to bring armed force into the equation? They immediately changed some bit of exasperated theatrics with a potential for some misdemeanor tickets into a terrific opportunity to splatter the brains of some 20 year old poli-sci student all over the evening news. Patience and engagement seem to be underrated police skills in some necks of the woods.

  28. trinium’s not back with citations yet?  Weird, I was totally convinced that he knew what he was talking about and had a point to make.  /snark

    Oh, and keep the anarchists out.  I’m sorry, but joining the Occupied cause with the anarchist cause is the fastest way to turn off public support that I can think of.  No one takes their message seriously, and what little interaction the public has had with them is running into their anarchist symbols spray painted everywhere, or seeing them bust the occasional Starbucks window on TV.

    And WTF is this?  What’s with this “secret shadowy society of anarchists” crap?  I thought we outgrew the “mad bomber” rumors back around WWI when the British government was making it all up to promote fascism in the UK.  What is “the anarchist message” according to the guy who posted it and who the hell is voicing it?

    The few people I’ve seen who readily identify themselves as anarchists are passionately non-violent and anti-hierarchical.  I think there may be more than one turfer here.

  29. We should clarify the distinction between private property and personal property. Private property means, and has always meant, those properties which are productive – that is, those properties which can produce a profit for the owner(e.g. factories, rental properties, etc). Personal property on the other hand refers only to those objects which are of personal value to you, and can produce no surplus value(e.g.your guitar, your favorite jeggings, etc). Private property has always been the bedrock of the capitalist mode of production – it is the accumulated wealth that gives the capitalist class the entirety of their power. 
    Now, if we wish to challenge corporate power, then it follows that it is nessesary to challenge the structures upon which that power is based, legality notwithstanding. It must be remembered that we live in a world quite literally designed by the wealthy to protect the interests of the wealthy: this is the reason that private property has been so enshrined by the law.
    Many people on this thread happily support the occupy movement when it remains at the level of ideas and its actions are in the realm of the symbolic. It is not at all surprising to see these same people balk at even the suggestion of an action that threatens the basis of the social order. But in order for the occupy movement to be successful, it will have to do much worse than simply occupy dead spaces. It will have to turn our world upside down.

  30. Hey BoingBoing!  My town is in the news, hooray!… oh wait, it’s inaccurate.  Damn.   This will be confirmed by Chapel Hill’s local media and our Occupy website, but this was not actually Occupy Chapel Hill.  It was an entirely different group of occupiers, with only a few members in common between us, and the majority of us (the 99%? ;) ) didn’t know about it.  Today we had a pretty intense discussion about our (Occupy Chapel Hill’s) response to it.  The press release we’re issuing thanks the group and the local media for recognizing the difference between us. 

    I speak only for myself officially, but a lot of us at Occupy are very frustrated by this action in that it was essentially clandestine and not very well planned.  There was a big anarchist book fair in our town the night before, and those who attended it decided of their own volition to take their momentum and go do something direct (and thankfully, nonviolent).  At the same time, the police response was absurd when, honestly, it was eight people in the building at that point, who had issued a statement of nonviolence on their fliers – but up to this point, Chapel Hill police and the mayor had been very understanding and patient with us.   I personally do not like what this has done for our relations and am, like many, working hard to repair it. 

    I have to disagree unequviocally, and supported by Occupy Chapel Hill, with the person who said we “endorsed” this group.  We offered sympathy and support to friends (and unaffiliated strangers!) who were traumatized by having assault rifles pointed at their heads / backs as they laid on the ground, and we “stand in solidarity” – a phrase which I don’t really like, but it was held up as being very distinct and less strong than “endorsing.” 

  31. I saw this when Xeni (or maybe Cory) RT’d it on Twitter, and was immediately struck by something that was tastefully cropped out in the thumbnail here.

    In the full photo, there’s a dude at the right edge of the frame not giving a single fuck – he’s just standing there, hand in pocket, bored look on his face (watching the SWAT cops seen in the thumbnail here). It’s hard to tell, but it looks like at least one of the guns is pointed right at him.

    So my question is, what are we missing here? There’s obviously more context that we don’t see from this dramatic photo. I can’t find any other source for photos or video (with an admittedly quick search).

  32. Here is a link to the photo essay, penguinchris:

    That man is probably trying to stay cool and collected, maintaining his ground, in the face of something ultimately brutal and unwarranted.  This is my speculation.  

    Nostickgnostic speaks the truth.  I am also involved with Occupy Chapel Hill/Carrboro, and can testify that his or her post is valid.  Regardless of what people may feel is implied by “breaking into” a building, I feel that the excessive force was unwarranted.  I saw the distress of some of the people who were forced to the ground at gunpoint at tonight’s GA, and truly feel that the use of this force has created nothing but pain for those who truly had vision for a building that had been left empty and unrented for 10 years.

  33. I’m from Chapel Hill, and to be fair, there are co-ops there that self-identify as anarchist. Can’t fault the police too much for using the term.

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