Category Archives: Nicole Johnson

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“All personal belongings, tents and possessions must be removed from People’s Park on or before noon on Thursday, January 5, 2012.” — Mayor Mark Kruzan’s order, posted at 6:30pm, Wednesday, January 4, 2012

SHOWDOWN

Well, that’s that. Maybe.

Mayor Mark Kruzan has given the bum’s rush to the Occupy protesters at People’s Park.

They had until noon today to clear out. Cops posted eviction notices on lamp posts last night at about 6:3o. That triggered  a rush to City Hall where the City Council was gathering for its regularly scheduled meeting. Occupiers packed the chambers to express their displeasure. A few of them vowed to resist the ouster.

Occupiers At Last Night’s City Council Meeting (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/Herald Times)

City Council member Steve Volan told the Herald Times he wished the mayor had provided more notice not only to him and his colleagues but to the Occupiers.

My guess was there’d be at least a bit of trouble.

So, I packed up my digital camera and my pocket voice recorder and went to People’s Park a little bit after 11:00 this morning. Here’s what I saw and heard:

The big M*A*S*H-style tent is already gone, as are several of the other, smaller tents. People are busy gathering gear up and trundling stuff to nearby cars. Several sweep up half a winter’s worth of salt and pebbles from the decorative masonry walk.

A guy stands up on a bench and starts howling about the death of somebody or something. Immediately, six or more voices rise to drown him out. An older looking dude barks, “Hey ____! Fuck you!”

One young woman wielding a broom tries to calm everyone down. “Keep your dignity,” she says, almost mantra-like as she swept.

I ask another young woman why people are on the guy. “I don’t want to make any judgments about people,” she says, but she pauses, making sure I know she’s judging the fellow. Another guy who overhears my question comes up and angrily explains: “That’s _____. He’s sexually assaulted two people in this city.”

The young woman nods in confirmation. The guy on the bench will continue to circulate through the crowd for at least the next hour and a half, challenging the Occupiers to take up the cause of the dead man. And each time, voices will be raised to drown him out.

A couple of people begin the human megaphone trick wherein they loudly proclaim an announcement which will be echoed by the crowd.

“Mike check…,” the two say.

“Mike check…,” the crowd repeats.

“It’s 40 minutes until noon…,”

“It’s 40 minutes until noon…,”

“There’s still stuff…,”

“There’s still stuff…,”

“To be picked up.”

“To be picked up.”

Already the number of reporters and photographers on hand approaches that of the Occupiers. Ryan Dawes from the WFHB News Department whacks me on the shoulder. We agree to double-team for interviews.

He corrals a thirtyish woman who appears authoritative. She is Nicole Johnson, wife of Josh Johnson, one of the three Occupiers who was arrested on New Year’s Eve.

Nicole Johnson

“We asked for an extension from the mayor,” she says. “We did that last night. We had less than 18 hours to pick everything up. Our lawyer was there (at the Council meeting) because we knew stuff was going down but we just didn’t know what. So, the (Occupiers at Council meeting) consesused to ask for an extension. We didn’t know what we needed to be doing but we knew we needed more than 18 hours.

“It was a little unfair. We’ve been here for almost three months. To be gone in less than 18 hours is a little harsh.”

The eviction notices state that any tents or personal belongings left in the park after the noon deadline will be seized.

“We have a large constituency of homeless that live in the park,” Nicole says. “These tents here are tents that people have been living in. They have no place else to go.”

Nicole estimates some 20 homeless people have been sharing quarters with the Occupiers. She says some of the homeless have substance abuse issues which preclude them from being admitted to more traditional overnight shelters.

“We don’t even have detox in Bloomington,” she says. “And that is one of the things we’ve been doing here, a part of what we were doing anyway, and that is social services. There’ve been many times where we’ve had to bring individuals to the hospital because of alcohol poisoning, of the homeless. They would return to the park four hours later in full DTs. We would have to put them in the bed and watch them.”

I ask why the Occupiers did that for the homeless. As Nicole begins to answers she breaks down crying.

“Because they’re human! And you know, that’s one of the beautiful things that’s happened in this park.”

Nicole composes herself and then explains the decision-making process that these Occupiers had adopted. Everyone’s voice is heard, she says, all options and opinions are weighed. When people strongly disagrees with the consensus, they are welcome not to have to participate in that particular course of action.

“There is no forum like that,” she says. “There is no forum with that equality in our current government structure. That’s what we’ve been doing in the park.”

Ryan asks her how many Occupiers will remain in the park after the eviction deadline.

“We are staying in the park until eleven o’clock tonight (the usual park closing time).”

She then talks about how today’s activity — the tent breakdown, the cleaning up, the leaving — happened almost spontaneously. Then she points out a couple of tents in the far corner of the park, against the Bicycle Garage building. “I don’t know why people are setting tents up there,” she says. “I don’t know why people are meditating on top of the big bunk bed frames we built.”

Indeed, three young women are sitting cross-legged in the sunshine, their eyes closed, amid the activity. “So I don’t know what anybody’s planning to do at eleven when you’re supposed to be out of the park.”

She says her husband is at work at this hour. He’s to be arraigned tomorrow in Monroe County Court. She says the Herald Times has reported that the county prosecutor will charge him with two counts of felony resisting arrest with bodily harm to a police officer. She tells us to check out the You Tube footage of Josh Johnson’s arrest.

[The loudest voice in the video seems to be that of Nicole.]

Now she tells us that she and her three children stayed overnight at People’s Park when the weather was warmer but soon temperatures had become too harsh for them.

“This has been an amazing transformational period in my life,” she says. “This is really just the beginning.”

It doesn’t look like much of a beginning, though. People are still tearing down homemade structures and cleaning up after themselves. By now the number of reporters and photographers at least equals the number of Occupiers.

The human megaphone sounds again.

“Mike check…,”

“Mike check…,”

“We got two minutes…,”

“We got two minutes…,”

But that revelation instantly becomes a spontaneous song. Occupiers sing “We got two minutes” again and again.

Noon comes and no police officers or city workers are to be seen.

At five minutes past noon, a man winds his way through the crowd, sarcastically crowing, “What happens if there’s no violence?” He repeats the question, loudly in the direction of any journalists who, in truth, are in all directions here.

“What if there isn’t a fight?” he continues. “What happens? Then there’s no story! Then what are you gonna do?”

Moments later an Indiana University garbage truck pulls up to the corner at Dunn Street and Kirkwood. There’s a hush and then the human megaphone kicks on.

“Mike check…,”

“Mike check…,”

“It looks like…,” the leader says, her voice trailing off as she points at the truck. Now the truck pulls away. It had only been stopping for the stop sign.

“It looks like…, just a truck,” she announces.

A passing pedestrian walks up to the three young woman meditating on the bunk bed structure. He asks, “There’s still no leader here?”

“No,” one of the women says, “there will never be a leader here.”

At 12:20pm, I leave.

%d bloggers like this: