By Katelyn Ferral and Mark Schultz News Observer
CHAPEL HILL -- A police tactical team of more than 25 police officers
arrested eight demonstrators Sunday afternoon and charged them with
breaking and entering for occupying a vacant car dealership on Franklin
Officers brandishing guns and semi-automatic rifles rushed the building at
about 4:30 p.m. They pointed weapons at those standing outside, and
ordered them to put their faces on the ground. They surrounded the
building and cleared out those who were inside.
About 13 people, including New & Observer staff writer covering the
demonstration, were forced to the ground and hand-cuffed.
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Those who had been outside of the building at the time of the arrests -
including N&O staffer Katelyn Ferral - were detained and then let go after
their pictures were taken. Eight people inside the building were cuffed
and put on a Chapel Hill Transit bus to be taken to the police station to
be charged with misdemeanor breaking and entering.
"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," Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said in a statement
issued Sunday night.
"This weekend a group of protesters broke into and entered a privately
owned building in downtown Chapel Hill. ... The Town has an obligation to
the property owners, and the Town will enforce those rights ..."
Police closed off four blocks of West Franklin Street with six squad cars
and a fire truck while officers removed signs the demonstrators had hung
in the former dealership's show room windows.
In a statement Sunday night, police said they had been monitoring the
building since Saturday night when they learned attendees of an anarchist
book fair held this weekend were aligning themselves with Occupy Chapel
Hill and that about 70 people had entered the former car dealership.
"Officers also learned that strategies used by anarchists in other
communities included barricading themselves in buildings, placing traps in
buildings, and otherwise destroying property," said the statement released
by Sgt. Josh Mecimore. "The group in the ... building used large banners
to obscure the windows to the business and strategically placed members on
the roof as look-outs."
Police waited until the crowd had reached "a manageable size" before
moving in Sunday, the statement said.
A crowd of between 50 and 75 people gathered across the street, watching
and taking pictures as the bus carrying the protesters pulled away. They
jeered police officers, chanting, "Shame! Shame! Shame!" When someone
noticed the Wells Fargo advertisement on the side of the bus, they began
chanting "Who do they serve? Wells
The group, who identified themselves as "anti-capitalist occupiers" moved
into the former University Chrysler and Yates Motor Co. building at 419 W.
Franklin St. on Saturday night, the police statement said.
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
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
THIS BUILDING IS OURS! Chapel Hill Anarchists Occupy Downtown Building
Nov. 13, 2011 Trianarchy
In the midst of the first general strike to hit the US since 1946, a group
of comrades occupied a vacant building in downtown Oakland, CA. Before
being brutally evicted and attacked by cops, they taped up in the window a
large banner declaring, “Occupy Everything…”
Last night, at about 8pm, a group of about 50 – 75 people occupied the
10,000 square foot Chrysler Building on the main street of downtown
Chapel Hill. Notorious for having an owner who hates the city and has bad
relations with the City Council, the giant building has sat empty for ten
years. It is empty no longer.
Following the Carrboro Anarchist Bookfair, a group “in solidarity with
occupations everywhere” marched to the building, amassing outside while
banners reading “Occupy Everything” and “Capitalism left this building for
DEAD, we brought it back to LIFE” were raised in the windows and lowered
down the steep roof. Much of the crowd soon filed in through one of the
garage door entrances to find a short film playing on the wall and dance
People explored the gigantic building, and danced in the front room to
images of comrades shattering the glass of bank windows 3,000 miles away
in Oakland. Others continued to stay outside, shouting chants, giving
speeches, and passing out hundreds of “Welcome” packets (complete with one
among many possible future blueprints for the building – see below for
text) to passersby. The text declared the initial occupation to be the
work of “ autonomous anti-capitalist occupiers,” rather than Occupy Chapel
Hill, but last evening’s events have already drawn the involvement of many
Occupy Chapel Hill participants, who are camped just several blocks down
Soon several police showed up, perhaps confused and waiting for orders.
Three briefly entered the building, and were met with chants of “ACAB!”
Strangely, the cops seem to have been called off, because they left as
quick as they came. For the rest of the night they were conspicuously
absent, leaving us free to conduct a short assembly as to what to do with
the space and how to hold it for the near future. The group also decided
to move a nearby noise and experimental art show into the building. As
some folks began to arrange the show, others began filtering across town
seeking things we needed for the night.
Within 30 minutes of the assembly ending, trucks began returning with
everything from wooden pallets, doors, water jugs, and a desk, to a
massive display case for an already growing distro and pots and trays of
food donated by a nearby Indian restaurant. Others began spreading the
word to the nearby Occupy Chapel Hill campsite, and bringing their camping
gear into the building.
Over the next few hours more and more community members heard about the
occupation and stopped by, some to bring food or other items, others just
to soak it all in. All the while dozens of conversations were happening
outside with people on the street. The show began eventually, and abrasive
noise shook the walls of the building, interspersed with dance music and
conversations, and ending with a beautiful a capella performance, and of
course more dancing.
More events are to follow tomorrow in our new space, with two assemblies
from the anarchist bookfair being moved to the new location, and a yoga
teacher offering to teach a free class later in the afternoon.
As of the early hours this Sunday morning, the building remains in our
hands, with a small black flag hanging over the front door. The first 48
hours will be extremely touch and go, but with a little luck, and a lot of
public support, we aim to hold it in perpetuity. Regardless, we hope that
this occupation can inspire others around the country. Strikes like the
one in Oakland present one way forward; long term building occupations may
-some anti-capitalist occupiers
TEXT FROM THE “WELCOME” HANDOUT:
We would like to welcome you to an experiment.
For the past month and a half, thousands of people all over the US have
been occupying public space in protest of economic inequality and
hopelessness. This itself began as an experiment in a small park in New
York City, though it did not emerge out of a vacuum: Occupy Wall St. “made
sense” because of the rebels of Cairo, because of the indignados of Madrid
and Barcelona and Athens. All of these rebellions were experiments in
self-organization which emerged out of their own specific contexts, their
own histories of struggle and revolution. Each were unique, but also
united by the shared reality of the failure and decline of late global
capitalism, and the futility of electoral politics.
Recently, this “Occupy” phenomenon has expanded beyond merely “providing a
space for dialogue” to become a diverse movement actively seeking to shift
the social terrain. From strikes and building occupations to marches and
port blockades, this looks different in different places, as it should,
but one thing is clear: Many are no longer content with “speaking truth to
power,” for they understand that power does not listen.
Toward that end, we offer this building occupation as an experiment, as a
possible way forward. For decades, occupied buildings have been a
foundation for social movements around the world. In places as diverse as
Brazil, South Africa, Spain, Mexico, and Germany, just to mention a few,
they offer free spaces for everything from health clinics and daycare to
urban gardening, theaters, and radical libraries. They are reclaimed
spaces, taken back from wealthy landowners or slumlords, offered to the
community as liberated space.
All across the US thousands upon thousands of commercial and residential
spaces sit empty while more and more people are forced to sleep in the
streets, or driven deep into poverty while trying to pay rent that
increases without end. Chapel Hill is no different: this building has sat
empty for years, gathering dust and equity for a lazy landlord hundreds of
miles away, while rents in our town skyrocket beyond any service workers’
ability to pay them, while the homeless spend their nights in the cold,
while gentrification makes profits for developers right up the street.
For these reasons, we see this occupation as a logical next step, both
specific to the rent crisis in this city as well as generally for
occupations nationwide. This is not an action orchestrated by Occupy
Chapel Hill, but we invite any and all occupiers, workers, unemployed, or
homeless folks to join us in figuring out what this space could be. We
offer this “tour guide” merely as one possible blueprint among many, for
the purpose of brainstorming the hundreds of uses to which such a building
could be put to once freed from the stranglehold of rent.
In Love and Rage,
for liberty and equality,
-some autonomous anti-capitalist occupiers
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
By Katelyn Ferral and Mark Schultz News Observer