My name is Kelly Schomburg, I’m the girl with the red hair in these pictures. I was protesting at the Occupy Wall Street march yesterday when I and several other women were sprayed with mace and subsequently arrested. Many have already seen the video, which has been spreading like wildfire over twitter, Facebook, tumblr, and other video feeds, along with hundreds of other photos and videos. This is my recount of what happened.
As we circle Union Square, about twenty NYPD officers haul out orange plastic nets (the kind used to fence off construction sites) and close off the road, diverting the crowd. But the detour, too, was closed, leaving us only one other option: straight down Broadway. The lighthearted carnival air begins to get very heavy as it becomes clear that we are being corralled. The main group, about 150 protesters, keeps on down the street, but the police are running behind with the orange nets, siphoning off groups of fifteen to twenty people at a time, classic crowd control.
A new group of police officers arrives in white shirts, as opposed to dark blue. These guys are completely undiscerning in their aggression. If someone gets in their way, they shove them headfirst into the nearest parked car, at which point the officers are immediately surrounded by camera phones and shouts of “Shame! Shame!”
Up until this point, Frank and I have managed to stay ahead of the nets, but as we hit what I think is 12th Street, they’ve caught up. The blue-shirts aren’t being too forceful, so we manage to run free, but stay behind to see what happens. Then things go nuts.
The white-shirted cops are shouting at us to get off the street as they corral us onto the sidewalk. One African American man gets on the curb but refuses to be pushed up against the wall of the building; they throw him into the street, and five cops tackle him. As he’s being cuffed, a white kid with a video camera asks him “What’s your name?! What’s your name?!” One of the blue-shirted cops thinks he’s too close and gives him a little shove. A white-shirt sees this, grabs the kid and without hesitation billy-clubs him in the stomach.
At this point, the crowd of twenty or so caught in the orange fence is shouting “Shame! Shame! Who are you protecting?! YOU are the 99 percent! You’re fighting your own people!” A white-shirt, now known to be NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, comes from the left, walks straight up to the three young girls at the front of the crowd, and pepper-sprays them in the face for a few seconds, continuing as they scream “No! Why are you doing that?!” The rest of us in the crowd turn away to avoid the spray, but it’s unavoidable. My left eye burns and goes blind and tears start streaming down my face. Frank grabs my arm and shoves us through the small gap between the orange fence and the brick wall while everyone stares in shock and horror at the two girls on the ground and two more doubled over screaming as their eyes ooze. In the street I shout for water to rinse my eyes or give to the girls on the ground. But no one responds. One of the blue-shirts, tall and bald, stares in disbelief and says, “I can’t believe he just fuckin’ maced her.” And it becomes clear that the white-shirts are a different species. We need to get out of there.” —
Jesus H. Christ.
A post I wrote a year ago.
I’ve been reading ever since I remember. I could read before I entered kindergarten, and I’m told I read to the other kids in my class. I read the backs of shampoo bottles, I read before bedtime, I read on long car trips, even as my father admonished me to get my nose out of a book and “look at the beautiful scenery.” I was a weird kid, and at times, books were my only friends.
I was trading book recommendations with one of my new professors this semester who kindly obliged my interest, but said offhand, “I doubt you’ll have much time for extra reading this semester.” “Lady,” I thought, “you sure don’t know me yet.” Today I checked out two books from the library by the new guy I’m supposed to do a seminar on in her class weeks from now — Dan P. McAdams. I like to get to know my theorists. I also grabbed a stack of other things, some of which I probably won’t get around to before they’re due, but I’ll get around to at least a few. Reading is to me what swimming is to fish.
I spent a good portion of my childhood perusing the secondhand books at The Librairie, a tiny bookshop in the French Quarter, a block from my grandparents’ house. I brought in old books for trade, and white-haired, red-suspendered Fred tallied up my credits and marked the total on a bookmark. I knew the shelves by heart, and spotted new arrivals instantly. When Faber in Fahrenheit 451 said, “Do you know that books smell like nutmeg or some spice from a foreign land?” maybe it was the smoke from Fred’s pipe that had saturated the pages, but I knew precisely what he was talking about.
So no wonder it broke my heart when @johntspencer tweeted that one of his students told him:
“I’ve never been to a book store. The only book stores around here are adult ones.”
It’s not like me to go to the verge of tears over a tweet, but I can’t imagine the poverty of a life that isn’t saturated with and surrounded by books.
I don’t know how to make it happen, but I envision two things:
An organization of book buddies (like Big Brothers and Big Sisters) that collects gift cards, used bookstore credits, and just plain donations, and takes kids who wouldn’t get the chance otherwise to the store to pick out their own books, and
A group of booklovers who take the time out to hang with kids and their respective stacks of books on a Saturday afternoon and model a love of reading. Imagine all those fingers moving across the page, and whispers of help with difficult words. How many adults do we know who lament that they simply don’t have the time to read? Let’s make the time, and let’s share it.
Create a culture of reading for pleasure. Forget about the stereotype of the weird loner kid who always has his or her nose in a book; let’s make reading a communal act. It requires no special tools, no money as long as you have a library card, and no special class or socioeconomic standing. The joys of reading are theoretically available to just about everyone. Let’s make it so.