Last night while gchatting with M, I clicked on a link to a streaming heli-cam just in time to see a thick swarm of Occupiers overrun a police motorcycle barricade, then run amok through the streets, sidewalks, around cars and buses, through the orange NYPD nets and every-which-way through the streets of SoHo.
The helicopter could barely keep up as the swarm turned unpredictably from one block to the next, running full-tilt at times, the only constant being a huge red flag that could be seen hoisted and fluttering somewhere in the mix. Even from the soundless birds-eye-view in the sky, the thrill of the Occupiers running loose through the city, flaunting the containment efforts of the authorities, was exhilarating. According to a report I read this morning, at one point the demonstrator-interventionists even swarmed through a movie set somewhere in the West Village – this particular detail warmed my heart for so many reasons…
The nights particular brand of defiant exuberance was sparked directly and deliberately by the events which took place in Oakland, California earlier this week. The authorities there made an effort to ruthlessly squelch their Occupation using tear gas, barricades, flash-bang grenades, bean-bag bullets, rubber bullets – basically every available tool short of metal bullets and plastic explosives. Of course, the disruption/assault/authoritarian-intervention was well documented as any well attended event in a public space is these days.
Of all the shock and horror of these images, none is so shocking as the scene when a group of Oakland Occupiers, fleeing from the violence, turn back to retrieve a limp and either lifeless or unconscious comrade. As they converge on the body, one of the riot-geared officers, from behind a barricade, takes a step and casually tosses a flash-bang grenade into the center of the group.
Back to New York: Apparently, the swarm being followed by the helicopter was only the largest of several groups which took off on simultaneous unpredictable swarm-marches in several directions from Union Square. Sitting at my laptop, eating New York Super Fudge Chunk, I could not have been more excited by this piece of non-streaming information and thought to myself: “Finally!” with a whole slew of exclamation points.
This is tactical aethetics in action.
“A dizzying array of tactics” was how I previously described the NYPD strategy which the Occupiers had yet to successfully emulate. But even in early October it had become evident that the NYPD (or more properly, the government of New York City) and the Occupiers were engaging in a socialized game of chess, the results of which are still unfolding to dramatic results. With the emotional response from New York to the assault on Occupy Oakland, we are starting to see an accumulation of an assemblage of tactical aesthetics establishing itself through the eye of the Occupation. The following list are what we consider to be some of the most pivotal and effective situational interventions to date:
1. the establishment of an endurance-demos at Zuccotti Park
2. the multiplicity of the Occupations, first across the US, and climaxing in the October 15 Global Day of Action
3. the Police Plaza march following the Tony Bologna pepper-spraying incident on University Place
3. the incident on the Brooklyn bridge
4. the fabulous vagaries of the Occupy Museums / Occupy Auction Houses / Occupy Artists Space &tc
5. this most recent swarming-march action
It is important to note that though the recent swarming-march may superficially resembling various impromptu “wilding” that has taken place in New York since the 80′s, the movement was fundamentally non-violent in nature. No fires were started, no windows smashed, no police were assaulted. In fact, the only significant violence came from the side of the police in their relentless efforts to contain the Occupiers’ movements. And this was the principle spirit of the swarm: absolute freedom of movement, absolute uncontainability. The penetration of the motorcycle barricade, and amassing of moving bodies in the traffic lanes of the street, defying the tyranny of the automobile apparatus of the city, illustrated this point as clearly as anything could have short of flying through the air between the cast-iron blocks of Manhattan.