Monday, March 19, 2012

Occupy the Midwest Conference a Resounding Success Despite Police Violence

Occupy the Midwest
The Occupy the Midwest Conference, held March 15-18 in St. Louis, brought together members of over 20 Occupations from across the region. Participants held demonstrations against corporate criminals Bank of America, Peabody Energy, Monsanto, and Wells Fargo, as well as attending workshops and networking sessions.
“Over the course of four days, Occupy the Midwest participants from over 20 Occupations around the region came together for four actions, held over 20 educational workshops, and made the connections we need to take our regional movement to the next level,” says Rachael Perrotta of Occupy Chicago. “We’re ready to move forward, to plan coordinated regional and national actions. Every Occupation represented at the conference says they’ll be coming to Chicago to help us speak out against the warmongering of NATO this May.”

Thursday evening, Occupiers set up camp in Compton Reservoir Park and were violently attacked by police after they had left park grounds.

“Police gave no order to disperse from the park or the surrounding area,” says Eli Silva of Occupy Tulsa. “I was on the sidewalk, recording video footage when I saw the police hit another demonstrator, Brian Staack, in the neck with nightstick. I asked for their names and badge numbers, and was then told I was under arrest. In jail, Brian had a head injury and was obviously concussed, slurring his speech and fading in and out of consciousness.”

“I left the park before curfew at 10pm,” says Brian Staack of Occupy St. Louis “I watched from the sidewalk as the police beat my friends; they were covered in blood. A police officer hit me in the throat with a baton. He threw me to the ground, and several other officers piled on and began beating me as well. My jaw and teeth are displaced. Outside of physical injuries, I’ve been having nightmares about the experience. My family will be taking legal action.”

“We condemn the vicious attacks on protesters Thursday night and will pursue every legal avenue available to us,” says Maggie Ellinger-Locke, an attorney with the St. Louis National Lawyers Guild.

It has been alleged that the officer in charge of police operations on Thursday night was Captain Jerry Layshock, who has a long history of serious misconduct violations. When heading patrols in St. Louis’ Peabody housing project, he was repeatedly accused of intimidation and false arrest of residents and their families. Captain Layschock was heard after the police assault congratulating his troops for a job well done. Video of Layshock at Thursday night (see 12min 3sec):

In terms of future actions, Occupiers discussed attending and organizing a week of actions during the NATO summit meeting in Chicago on May 20-21, as well as another Occupy the Midwest convergence in August in Kansas City, MO.

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