Friday, October 28, 2011


This is a first hand account of what happened after 130 protesters were arrested in Chicago on October 22, 2011.

“It is now past 11 o’clock. The park is now closed. You can vacate the premises, or you will be arrested in violation of city ordinance 10-36-185: being in a park after closing. This is your final warning.”

The police bullhorn echoed across what had been re-named “Liberty Square” or simply “The Horse.” Protesters were caught in the stark white explosion of light as transportable towers popped on, all of their expressions illuminated for the world to see. And see it the world would. Camera men from all of the major news networks lined the press section of the barricade; reporters from The Wall Street Journal to Al-Jazeera circled the camp trying to find one last interview from the loudest, most sound-bite ridden member of the crowd. They sat on the ground, arms linked, voices hoarse from chanting “1. We are the people! 2. We are united! 3. The occupation is not leaving!” and in-between slogans, musing over what it would be like in prison. The police moved into position, forming segmented lines around the camp, the group having encircles the medic tent, the bright red crosses fluttering in the fall air. The white shirts headed each section, their collars the same color as the zip-tie loops at their hips, leading their subordinates to their section. As the crowd watching from the sidewalk grew, the drums growing louder, the chanting more passionate, the first protester was lifted from the ground, his hands tied behind his back, and was lead to the awaiting paddy wagon amidst applause and chants of “Hero! Hero!” I looked at the man sitting across from me, his high-school-varsity-linebacker-turned-fratboy body sinking lower against the planter, and whispered “Wow, it’s really happening.”

The Occupy Chicago movement and I had some different views on a lot of issues, but regardless, I felt as though they had the right to express those view at any point, and if they wanted to peaceably assemble around the clock, then that was their constitutional right. That is what brought me to the occupation on Saturday. I went, hoping that after the week before where 175 people were arrested, that this time they would see the support and just let them stay. I was wrong. Soon, we were all linking arms, chanting slogans, and being picked up off of the ground one-by-one, put in plastic zip-ties and being led to our respective style of vehicle which would cart us off to Central Holding, where a 99% majority would experience prison for the first time, myself included.

I was asked by a white shirt police officer if I would like to be arrested because “if not, [I was] free to leave and come back next week or whatever.” I then stood up, my legs screaming from the past 2 hours of sitting, placed my hands behind my back and was walked over to the Sherriff’s bus, laughing that it looked just like the movies. As we all were taken into custody, the crowd cheered, snapping photos and chanting “Heroes! Heroes!” Inside the bus, the atmosphere was similar. We were reunited with the people we sat next to earlier, loudly greeted one another, and chatted about how we were upset that we missed the Hawks game, trying to ask the riot-gear-clad cops if they knew the score. They didn’t answer. The ride to the station was jovial, except for some complaints about the zip-ties being too tight, with the bus launching into “If you’re happy and you know it, smack your seat!” (the clapping of hands was impossible.) Some managed to pull out cell phones, and tweeted, texted, and Facebooked, a fitting moment for a movement that is based so heavily on the internet.

The bus arrived to a carnival style roped off walkway snaking through the garage. “I call the front seat of the roller coaster!” someone yelled from the back. We shuffled along, to the calls of “quickly now!” from the detention officers. The zip-ties were cut. We were given bags, told to remove any string or string-like objects, empty our pockets, and remove our jackets, which we could have back after a friendly pat down. There was a full cell of women from the protest near the entrance, and as we walked in, we got another round of applause, some of them making heart shapes form their hands, others holding up fists. Being placed in the holding cell was still another round of applause, and then the waiting started.

If you put a bunch of people who are willing to be arrested for their political beliefs in one cell, there is bound to be a political discussion. This was true on Saturday night. Discussions on what the next week would hold, on failed ideas of petitions, on what the exact message of the movement should be, on labor unions’ help, all were discussed in an organized form, the typical Occupy “stack” (line) and “peace guns” (flashing two childlike “guns’ made from the hands to signal joining the stack) were strictly enforced and followed by the impromptu general assembly in the prison cell. This discussion lasted until the moderator was called out for processing, then slowly turned to factions discussing the merits of socialism, why they were democrats, protests in the past, the world trade center attack conspiracy theories, reticence about the use of extreme leftists in the protest, and the need for a cigarette. People were slowly called out for processing, and when I left at 6:30am, there were still about fifteen people in my cell, with more in the two cells I passed.
Processing is a rather quick process, and incredibly misleading. Walking up for the mug shot, you think you’ve started to reach the end of your time there. A quick picture, a turn to the left, another picture, boom. You’re on to the fingerprinting. They digitalized fingerprinting, so each finger is placed on a glass plate with a red light behind it, some clicking, and there you go! Done! The whole process takes two minutes, tops. They then hand you a receipt for the belongings they took from you, and as the smile starts stretching across your face with thoughts of what you plan on eating when you get home, or the couch you plan to sit on that isn’t made from concrete, they call you down a hall, finally leading you into a new, smaller, colder, jail cell.

My cellmate was a vegetarian, but when the detention officer asked if we wanted a bologna sandwich, he (and I) enthusiastically said yes. After we finished, exhausted, we tried sleeping. The concrete benches did little to keep body heat, and as I shivered under the halogen lights that stopped my internal clock, I started to think that I made a mistake. Some amount of time passed (an hour? A minute?) and I stopped pretending that I could sleep. Walking up to the door, I looked around, trying to catch the eye of people in other cells. I could hear two men discussing the difference between communism and socialism in the cell to my right, finally ending their discussion with “but that really doesn’t matter. I’m a capitalist at heart, but I’ll be damned if the media cares about that.” My cellmate woke up, and we started doing calisthenics for warmth. Back at the window, I finally caught the attention of the detention officer, and when he came over, I asked for my phone call.

“Nope.” He said, chewing on the inside of his lip, looking past me at the white walls.

“What do you mean, ‘Nope?’” I asked, perplexed as to how prison movies had led me astray. Wasn’t it always when they were in their solitary cell that they were called up, told they had a phone call, and given a quarter for the payphone?

“I mean nope. You done missed your chance. You’re supposed to do it while being processed.”

“But no one ever told me that.” By this time the conversation had caught the ears of not just my cell block, but the cell blocks over, as we all were yelling. Others cells started demanding phone calls, doors were banged on, and chants that centered around expletives rang through the halls. Even though the cells were spread apart, only ten in each wing, the lot of the protesters had found out about the phone call issue.

“Don’t matter who told you what.” He said, getting annoyed at the noise. “No phone calls.” He turned, and lumbered off down the grey hallway, past the beige metal doors filled with men smacking the glass, screaming that their rights were being violated. Defeated, I went back to sleep, this time on the floor since it was slightly warmer.

I woke up to what I thought was a prison riot. There was pounding on any and every metal surface, throaty shouts and high pitched screams, “PIGS!” echoed through the hallways, and the officers yelled back for everyone to stop. I asked my cellmate what was happening as he kicked the bottom of our door. “There is a woman in one of the cells that needs her medicine, but the officers won’t come to her cell.”

Time dragged, but the network of communication established with Occupy Chicago’s human microphone (where when someone speaks, all who can hear echo) got information throughout the cells. Announcements of time were finally made. A lucky man who was finally able to make a phone call announced the information from the National Lawyers Guild. Demands for toilet paper were made. Demands for toilet paper were made again. Demands for toilet paper were continued to be made, until a few hours later they were met by a slew of expletives and yelling from an officer. The toilet paper then made its way under cell doors, through a complicated, angular system to anyone who needed it. That’s when I found the records in our cell.

Sixty to seventy vinyl records were in a plastic bag hidden behind out toilet. Rick James, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Bob Marley, they were signs of home, signs of freedom, signs of hope. We decorated out cell with pull out posters, lined the benches with record sleeves for warmth, and then tried to share our bounty. Slid under doors, the records made their way down the block, crossing the hall for the other side to have. Some throws were missed, and for the next two hours I worried that when someone walked past, we would get charged with some other crime, littering the hall with a bunch of stray records. Instead, when we finally had our cell door opened, we were just called “assholes” and told to pick them up. The best case scenario.

As we left, finally out into the warmth of Sunday’s afternoon, we were greeted by fifty or so people from Occupy Chicago, a handful of news cameras, more applause, and yet another chant of “Heroes! Heroes!” I never realized that going to prison would be such a celebrated event, but having spent the night cold and feeling alone, even while surrounded by people, it was a welcome sight. The poured us cups of coffee, handed over donuts and bagels, patted our backs, and thanked us for all we did. Five of us had left by 12:30pm, with a couple more trickling out after us. Our bags of items were returned, everything accounted for, and as I signed up for a NLG lawyer, talked with people about future strategies, and enjoyed the ability to take more than three steps at once, I felt a surge of pride. Not for myself, but for those around me who were willing to stand up for what they believed in, for those outside who had spent the night trying to keep each other warm and awake so that when we were released we would be greeted with friendly faces, and most of all, for the people that were willing to talk about or attend Occupy Chicago for knowing that there are problems in this country, but also knowing that the country is strong enough to be able to fix them.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Overnight Activist

My name is Wyl Villacres, as you should be able to tell by the banner above. On Sunday morning, I woke up to see that 175 protesters were arrested from the Occupy Chicago movement from Grant Park where they had tried to stay the night. To me, this represented a breaking down of First Amendment rights that were due to the protesters. Constitutional Rights shouldn't end at 11pm.

I am not affiliated with Occupy Chicago, or any organization or political party. I do associate with the 99% of Americans that the movement represents. For me, the petition was not about a movement or a cause, but was about American principles and values. This movement forces us to have a conversation on a vast amount of issues, and for that, I thank them.

I do not agree with everything that Occupy Chicago, Occupy Wall Street, or other organizations say or do. But that doesn't mean they don't have the right to say it by peaceful means that they see fit. At the same time, the Occupy movement needs to set a platform (in my eyes) but they need a place to stay in order to do that.

I spoke with a woman who worked for what she called the "Nitty-Gritty Committee" where she does "the work that no one else wants to do." She works to ensure their Jackson and Lasalle HQ stays clean, and moves the semi-permanent structures every morning as per the CPD's request. She spends her nights in the golden glow of the financial district, keeping the movement alive 24/7 because she believes in the movement's potential and sense of community. Her biggest concerns were keeping the camp dry, and figuring out some place for them to keep their belongings and food storage, as well as figuring out a way to start preparing hot meals, especially with winter coming up. She is the backbone of this movement, and one of my biggest inspirations, not just with activism, but with life.

I am not an activist. I am a full time student of writing, a part time employee, and a concerned citizen who saw injustice and wanted to call them to the attention of other people. I started a petition on Sunday, and by the time of this post, there are over 9,400 signatures and growing. I had no idea what I was doing would grow so large so quickly. A woman named Nancy Wade emailed me when the petition was hovering around 4,000, and gave me pointers and helped me organize so that I could deliver the petition. She is affiliated with activist groups, but that did not in any way effect this petition or me.

I am happy to be able to assist the people who work hard to get everyone's voices heard, and proud to live in a country where that can happen.

I have just one request from whoever reads this; Listen to one another. We need unification, not division.

Thank you,

Wyl Villacres

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: Gina Frangello - Slut Lullabies

Slut Lullabies- Gina Frangello

Star Rating: 4/5

Readability: 3/5

Sex Appeal: 2/5

Ability to anger the elderly: 5/5

Slut Lullabies. That is the first mistake I make on the train ride home. Reading a book called Slut Lullabies. The word “Slut” placed prominently on the cover, on the throat of the cover photo of a woman under a scarf. The scarf is sheer, and the top of a pink nipple can be seen at the edge of the book, just popping out to say hello to the elderly woman across from me. She is not happy about seeing a nipple, because (and this is an assumption) she hasn’t seen her own nipples since they fell below her belly button many moons ago. Or perhaps she’s offended by the word “Slut.” She glares at me, and that’s when I make my second mistake. I don’t like old people, so I ask her, quite snipingly, what she is looking at.

“Your filthy pornography!” she hisses, grey hair leaving it’s carefully permed post to go rouge and prove her anger. “It’s filth! You should be ashamed!”

Old women have a habit of telling me that the things I’m reading are “filth.” Usually it’s because I am reading actual pornography on the train, ogling centerfolds and saving numbers for phone sex hotlines. And in those situations, I understand that cover stories like “Jenni Swift and Amber Foxx: Aussies Go Down Under” could make some people feel uncomfortable. Or maybe it’s the naked woman on the front. At some point I realize that the old woman is still talking at me.

“God’s wrath is boundless, and his vengeance will be known! Repent you pervert sinner! Repent!” Her face starts to turn red, the blue veins that snake across it are bulging and her eyes are trying desperately to escape from her head. She’s spitting with every word, and soon the rest of the train is staring at me like I have done something wrong. Let’s not forget that I was just reading a book with less than a half of a nipple under a scarf on the cover. The story that I am currently reading is pretty kosher too! It’s about… alright; it’s about women giving blow jobs. But that isn’t the point.

“Pervert” starts to echo around the train. Older women are the first and most brazen perpetrators, glaring while they say it. Then younger women, driven by their older counter parts, join in. The men start to look too. They seem to come from a different angle, though. The look they share is one of fleeting compassion, and then opportunistic joy. This then fades to faux anger and disgust, as they turn in their plastic seats to face their female counterparts. “That man is disgusting. Shame on him.” They seem to say. Inside, inside all of those men, they feel bad for selling me out. For not standing up for me. They could see the book, and even if they couldn’t, they understood that old women get too uppity about everything, and that if they judged anyone for looking at a porn rag, even if there was one, they would have to judge themselves harder, and first.

There is a difference between pornography and art. This debate has been had too many times, but still it’s a problem. Should nipples be part of cover art? Are sex scenes in movies gratuitous? Even down to the use of words with sexual connotations, we seem to have a problem talking about, looking at, or thinking about sex whilst in public. Gina Frangello doesn’t seem to have that problem, and it shows in Slut Lullabies. The collection of short stories covers sexual themes ranging from rape to passionless marriages to blow jobs in advertising. And all of it done in way that lets the reader know “it’s ok to talk about these things. You do it. Your friends do it. Your parents do/did it.” (not rape. But, you know, sex and stuff.) In ten stories, Gina Frangello takes you on a ride, leaving your breathless and feeling something inside you that you didn’t feel before.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pill Whore

You used to cut the coke with baby aspirin and baking soda. You could flip an 8ball like a quad. That means just about nothing to most people, but the kids you ran with would marvel at that statement and treat you like a goddamn god.

Megan never noticed that the gram you would sell her every other day was weak. She might have, if she hadn’t been so fucked up on pills, the pills you used to sell her, and using the baby aspirin coke to bring herself back up from it. She might have noticed if she wasn’t trying to coat her brain with powders; white to speed her up, pink to slow her down, light blue to completely incapacitate her. You sold her ketamine once. She liked that all too much, muttering on about how she could watch herself like a TV show, from above, flying. Her eyes sat in her doughy face, thick black eyeliner getting slathered wider around her eyes, trying desperately to cover up the purple bags sagging under them. She hadn’t lost much weight, unlike most of the other junkies that started calling you all too often. You used to go meet them somewhere, the Meijer parking lot, the Steak n’ Shake, the park, all of the lonely places in your town that would never catch a glimpse of the handshake that took just a little too long and was a little too sloppy, as tiny plastic bags slid across a hand full of bills, the exchange done in as secret a way as possible. But they would never come to your house. You lived with your parents still, you did. You had moved back home after failing out, doing too many drugs yourself and fucking up. Now you’re a dealer, trying to make money until you can find a job, trying to find an apartment so that you can move out of your parents ranch house with the big yard, the big black room you call your own, and the refrigerator that is always stocked.

Megan is the only customer you let inside your house. You’ve known each other forever, since you were kids. She always was bigger, especially in the middle, the thighs, the arms, the tits. Oh, the tits. You still think about that night the year before when you had your chance; she was jealous of the girl, her pretty blonde friend that you were hitting on and to assert her dominance, she started kissing you. You got a hand up her shirt, for a while. Then you moved and she fucked your best friend, then started doing coke, stopped fucking your best friend, and started visiting you, brown eyes glossy and shining in your dull basement light, asking you for a favor.

“I don’t have any cash right now.” She said, running her hand along the top of her tank top. It was winter, don’t forget, so why was she wearing a tank top?

“Then you don’t get any of this.” You said, shaking the bag in the air. You smiled.

“Well, I mean, is there something else I can do? A favor maybe? Something more interesting?” She was being coy, batting her eyelashes, looking silly, really, a girl trying too hard. You remember when she was eleven, falling down in gym class, scrapping her knee and crying, even though she didn’t break the skin all that much.

“I don’t think I know what you’re getting at.” You lie. You remember that time you had just started high school, and she asked you what it was like, as if it were some special privilege that you received, something great, terrifying, wonderful.

“I think you do.” She says, slipping her left strap off of her shoulder, the black bra strap falling as well, meeting the red fabric of her shirt, and you remember the night that you kissed, fighting hard to race the sun when you would have to leave, go back to your house; you wanted to go further, to start exploring, to start working your way inside her jeans, but you got stopped in her shirt, her friend asleep in the bed next to you, dawn rapidly approaching. Megan takes a step towards you, from the black frame couch you have pressed up against your wall, to the bed in the corner that you sit on, wooden stash box filled with baggies in your lap. She drops the other straps, her shirt barely clutching onto her now heaving breasts as she inhales and exhales in what you guess is a sexy way, in through pursed lips, out through her nose, the ring in it vibrating with each breath.

You think and you think and you think. What will you do in this situation? Chances are, you’ll probably laugh it off, tell her to fuck off, and spend the rest of the night masturbating while thinking of her.