The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism
August 31, 2015 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Our books lived, were killed, and reborn, and released. They were donated, organized, cataloged, seized, destroyed, saved, and became testimony, evidence, burden, and discarded. The Dregs of the Library: Trashing the Occupy Wall Street Library
posted by anastasiav (18 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am reminded of Honoré Jaxon, born William Henry Jackson. He was born in Toronto in 1861 but became sympathetic with the Métis cause in the prairies, so he moved west and wound up principal secretary to Louis Riel, who would later lead the North-West Rebellion against the government of Canada in 1885. Jaxon was imprisoned in an insane asylum after the rebellion but escaped and fled to the US where he became an important figure in the Wobblies round the turn of the century in Chicago. In 1951, nearing age 90, he was living in New York City and working as a caretaker in an apartment building. He had spent decades accumulating a library of newspapers, books and pamphlets which he hoped would form the basis of a museum of the Métis. The collection filled two entire apartments. He was apparently regarded by many as a crazy old man who collected random detritus and was rumoured to have fought in an uprising most of a century previously. Ultimately he was found incompetent by a court and committed for the second time in his life. This time he did not escape. He died a month later.

The collection he had spent most of his life putting together emptied from the apartments and brought to the curb, where it formed a pile something like eight feet high and thirty-five feet long. It was then hauled to the dump. James Keelaghan wrote a great song about him -- "Honoré" -- and mentions that it is hard to find a more perfect image for the treatment of aboriginals by North American governments.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:48 AM on August 31, 2015 [29 favorites]


The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the night stick is truly the mightiest of all.
posted by dazed_one at 10:05 AM on August 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


They were donated, organized, catalogued, seized, destroyed, saved, and became testimony, evidence, burden, and discard.

The eventual fate of almost every library, public and private (although sometimes, obviously, it doesn't happen all at once and is harder to see - and maybe not the evidence part, at least in a legal sense.)

I spent some time working as a used book buyer, and helped to break up some jaw-dropping personal libraries. These were the lifetime labors of folks obsessed with 60s / 70s computer music, interurban railways, early American labor history, the occupation of Palestine, lesbian and feminist poetry, Native American religion, etc. - hundreds and hundreds of hours of labor intensive collecting in the pre-internet era. And then there were the libraries of lifelong but less niche-crazed readers, which were a joy to look through, too. In every case, the owners either had no one to leave them to, or - more commonly - none of their relatives cared. They just wanted it out of the house. I was a collector going in, but left as someone who immediately gives away any book that I don't plan to read again or use for reference. Information may not want to be free, but books seem to want to keep circulating, for the most part.

Not that any of this makes the NYPD's trashing of the Occupy library less fascistic or telling.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:10 AM on August 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


metafilter, when it happened
posted by The Whelk at 10:12 AM on August 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ricochet biscuit, that is really interesting on Jaxon especially the connection to the Wobblies. I knew his name in passing in regards to his connection with Riel and knew he had been committed like Riel but I didn't know what had became of him. Thanks for the history lesson!
posted by Ashwagandha at 10:28 AM on August 31, 2015


metafilter, when it happened

Shaka, when the walls fell
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:34 AM on August 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thankfully, they managed to catalog the collection before the library was despoiled. The real crime that occurs when a library is destroyed is the irrevocable loss of knowledge, but if a catalog exists and the works are still available somewhere, the spirit of the library can live on. Unfortunately if there were a lot of ephemera or works with low print runs then there would be more of a problem.
posted by Small Dollar at 11:11 AM on August 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


So they are suing (or have sued) the city?

Good luck with that. I mean honestly, no one could be bothered to give a shit about the HUMANS, how do you expect to get any sympathy for the books.

Occupy was a revolution defused by money. Not money for the protesters, of course. It was money spent to make them look like crazy people.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:21 AM on August 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


The books served as evidence in announcing the federal lawsuit, and later as evidence in court. The library won the lawsuit, receiving $47,000 from the city for the destruction of the library and the books, which we decided as a working group to donate to a list of organizations that could continue the work we had started.
So, sort of? I mean, 47k$ probably didn't cover the legal costs.
posted by el io at 11:26 AM on August 31, 2015


Here's the catalog, or at least as much as they have recorded.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:05 PM on August 31, 2015


> The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the night stick is truly the mightiest of all.

The nightstick is just a sword edged with bureaucrats, expensive lawyers, and an accident-prone detention system. More bleeding, fewer deaths than swords, but that just means people don't hesitate to swing the nightstick for over little stuff.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:03 PM on August 31, 2015


Related, previously on Metafilter
posted by Rumple at 7:57 PM on August 31, 2015


Occupy was a revolution defused by money. Not money for the protesters, of course. It was money spent to make them look like crazy people.

Look like crazy people? *sigh* My wife and I live three blocks North of Zuccati Park, where Occupy Wall Street started. At first we were, of course, completely sympathetic to their cause. But things quickly turned very ugly for everyone in the neighborhood:

The small restaurants on the South side of the park -- all owned by working class folks and not hardly designed for one percenters -- were completely destroyed by the protesters. And I mean literally physically destroyed. The lobby of our residential building was a used as a toilet by the protesters. There were mounds of garbage everywhere. And my first hand experience of the crowd is that the genuine protestors trying to effect some type of societal change were out numbered at least ten-to-one by crazy people, homeless people, angry kids who had nothing else to do or just wanna be hippie types too lazy to bother protesting anything before 2:00 PM.

Yes, it is a shame the NYPD destroyed books. Bad idea and bad optics. But overall I thought the cops actually showed remarkable restraint throughout the entire time until it just became too much of an ordeal for all the non one percenters these folks were supposed to be helping.
posted by Dean358 at 4:54 AM on September 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


The full lawsuit was actually larger than the OWSLibrary suit, and the city of New York paid occupy over $330,000 for the destruction of the occupation. Legal fees were minimal, for the Library we had representation from Norman Siegel who is a civil rights attorney that famously "served as co-counsel in the historic Holtzman v. Schlessinger United States Supreme Court case, an attempt to halt the bombing of Cambodia."

Re Dean358:
Oh the irony of "sympathy" from liberals living in lower Manhattan. This became a thing during the occupation, where local residents would contact the city, the police, everyone to complain - email us and say "We sympathize... we support the protests cause... but the drumming is too loud, there are too many people... I can't walk my dog in the park anymore...."

The restaurants around the part were patronized by both occupiers and by people visiting the park, from news crews, to curious New Yorkers, to celebrities. Many of the local businesses offered protesters their facilities.

"The police showed restraint." It's hard to believe this isn't trolling, but I heard it so many times while there that I know it's what some people actually think. Yes, just a bunch of lazy hippies with nothing better to do than protest in the face of riot police violence...

Fascinating to imagine people generally can be so incredibly self-centered, self-obsessed, that they find the smallest interruption to their lives intolerable when that interruption is pointing out the massive horror of Wall Street's global neo-colonial, imperial project - experienced by millions of people across the world every day as: no access to clean water, medicines that are unaffordable, slave labour to keep clothing and other goods cheap, etc.

The only piles of trash created in relation to the occupation were the work of the NYPD. We had a grey water system recycling waste water at the kitchen, a medical tent, a clothing and supply depot, a library, etc. We lived IN the park, with infrastructure, and it was amazing, it was beautiful - and I'm a neat freak. Anyone, anyone who actually came and spent time in Zuccotti knows this.

There is actually an article about how trash and discard became central themes in Occupy - on the discard studies blog, which is linked above by Rumple.
posted by jardinier at 7:52 AM on September 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


jardinier: allow me to be a little more explicit. There were a bunch of mom and pop small food places on the south side of the park. IIRC there was a deli, a hamburger joint, a couple franchises, etc. The protestors so overwhelmed them they destroyed their rest room plumbing and public spaces, didn't spend any money and prevented any other customers from eating there. I recall one owner, a 50 something (?) woman who had emigrated to America and put her life savings into her shop begging the protesters for relief but to no avail. These people lost their livelihoods as the protests put them out of business.

As for me: our building has an outer vestibule and inner lobby, neither of which is attended. Late at night the protesters would break into the outer vestibule, piss and shit all over the floor and leave it for us to clean up. Here again, we tried reaching out to ask people to stop but our requests fell on deaf ears.

This is not about being liberal or conservative or self-centered or self-obsessed -- it's about basic human decency, which was sadly lacking, at least for those of us around the park.
posted by Dean358 at 9:52 AM on September 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I recall one owner, a 50 something (?) woman who had emigrated to America and put her life savings into her shop begging the protesters for relief but to no avail. These people lost their livelihoods as the protests put them out of business.

Tut tut, comrade, clearly she was a member of the rightist-bourgeoisie and lacked proper revolutionary zeal.

Foolish NYC liberals will never again make the mistake of demanding The Revolution adhere to the social norms of imperialist society! Down with toilets! Down with regular bathing! Down with paying for goods and services! Up with lending libraries and shooting galleries!
posted by Avenger at 1:30 PM on September 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Where were these folks who are so keen to defend the working class from the evil protesters when the banks on wall street were foreclosing on people across the nation, throwing 50-something émigrés out on the streets and stealing their homes? Or ripping apart mountains in mining operations overseas and in the US, or profiting off of war and illness driving people into bankruptcy because they got sick?

I guess they weren't personally impacted by it, so they weren't doing anything...
posted by jardinier at 7:32 PM on September 1, 2015


Where were these folks who are so keen to defend the working class from the evil protesters when the banks on wall street were foreclosing on people across the nation, throwing 50-something émigrés out on the streets and stealing their homes? Or ripping apart mountains in mining operations overseas and in the US, or profiting off of war and illness driving people into bankruptcy because they got sick?

I guess they weren't personally impacted by it, so they weren't doing anything...
posted by jardinier at 7:32 PM on September 1 [+] [!]


I know this sounds crazy, but the purity and rightness of your cause doesn't actually make it ok to poop in people's living rooms, or to steal food from workers.

Please forgive me for talking this crazy talk.
posted by Avenger at 8:32 PM on September 1, 2015


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