Campfire

Anchorage’s laws are not reasonable, but their firemen (eventually) are.

The “TL;DW” (too long; didn’t watch) summary:

  1. The Anchorage Assembly has passed laws to ensure safe fires.
  2. There is no objective standard for what constitutes a safe fire.
  3. The only standard is that fires must be in approved containers.
  4. The only approved containers are corporate products.
  5. Someone made an anonymous report of an “illegal” fire.
  6. This group of firemen eventually used a reasonable standard to determine that this fire was, in fact, safe, even though it was not in an approved container.

Delay!

We went to trial last week and the verdict was… a delay!

Actually, we didn’t get close to a verdict. We didn’t even make it to jury selection.

Scott Christiansen was there, and wrote a nice piece for the Anchorage Press that presents a nice, balanced view of what happened in court last Tuesday morning:

Protesting or Squatting?

For my own part, I’ve been busily preparing for the trial, and have neglected other duties, like updating this blog. I’ll make up for it by replacing freesoft.org’s lead video, which will eventually be called “Defense Exhibit A”, with “Defense Exhibit B”, an hour-long review of what happened to Occupy two years ago:

Arraignment

I made my second court appearance today. John and Margie came with me, even though it was only an arraignment. I pled not guilty, asked for a public defender to assist me, and was given a date in late July for a pretrial conference.

I then walked down the hall to a different courtroom where an actual pretrial conference was underway. Looks like I can expect a trial date in late August.

John and Margie have earlier trial dates, probably because they actually spent several days in jail before John’s mom paid his bail and Margie got her conditions of release modified to let her return to Town Square.

We haven’t actually returned to Town Square, at least not for a 24-hour sit-in. We’re meeting with our lawyers in two days, and I want to discuss getting a court order prohibiting the city from arresting political demonstrators for trespassing.

We’re also preparing flyers to hand out, describing our plans and goals. Ideally, a trial in two months would lead to a renewed occupation, with a court order in hand to prevent further arrests. If the flyers are successful, maybe we’ll have thirty people by then. Maybe we’ll have three hundred!

An incident later in the afternoon underscored why I’m determined to stage a revolution. The three of us were relaxing in Delany Park when two police officers on bicycles pulled up and told me to unplug my cellphone from the outlet, which was only for park employees and permit holders. “It’s called theft of services”, he said.

I complied and later complained to the city ombudsman, but there are so few places where I can use electricity that working on the website, porting Macaulay 2 to Android, or writing on this blog requires real ingenuity. I’m developing Android applications which I publish for free on the Internet, but I can’t keep the phone charged to do it.

I’m done! Done! DONE with this leadership! Christians are so PERSECUTED in this country!

No more! No more of this! Please, father God, no more of this! I can’t even work on my website, the hatred, the hatred, oh God, no more of this, please God, no more of this.

Almost every morning and every night now, I beg God to either restore this revolution or take my life. We’re supposed to love each other, and all I have in me is hatred, hatred, hatred for this majority.

What is the plan? We convince three hundred thousand people to pack up, move to Alaska, and BECOME the majority.

Day 11

Night 11 found the site unoccupied for the first time, with me sleeping at my campsite and John and Margie in jail.

I got a late start to Day 11, slept in until 9, spent an hour at church drinking coffee, and didn’t get to the site until almost two. I wanted to get there earlier, but everyone who knows me well knows that I’m notoriously unpunctual. It also took me a while to decide on a course of action.

I sat on the sidewalk, in compliance with the trespass order, but I entered the park to preach, and I intend to preach every hour, on the hour. I preached at two o’clock, on the dot. I want everyone to know what has happened to John, and I am absolutely screaming for revolution against this indifferent majority and their tyrannical democracy.

I’m also calling on people to occupy Town Square.

I preached again at three, and at four, and at five.

After my five o’clock sermon, a friend stopped by, the man who donated the sleeping bag on Night 1, and I went to his apartment for my first shower in two weeks. We worked on some math for a while, then he gave me another sleeping bag (a prayer answered!) and drove me back around nine o’clock. I went to bed at John’s campsite, which is a lot closer to downtown than mine.

Day 10

Night 10 brought a police raid at eleven o’clock sharp.

I had gone on a beer run and came back running. About a half dozen police officers were gathered around our site in front of where John and Margie were seated under the tarp, refusing to move. I quickly jumped onto the grass so that I, too, was on park ground. I was given a few minutes to gather my belongings and leave. I gathered only my phone charger and announced my refusal to leave, as John was announcing his. Once they put the handcuffs on, I walked out of the park under arrest as John and Margie were carried out behind me.

Everything was confiscated. I’ve been through this once before, though John has dealt with it ten times. I also managed to keep my sleeping bag the first time, but no such luck on this night. We were transported to jail, where I participated in a telephone interview with the magistrate. Perhaps “participated” is too strong a term, since I said little and the magistrate proceeded to offer me release on an unsecured bond, which means that I’ll only have to pay if I don’t appear in court or violate the conditions of my release, which include not entering Town Square. I was only asked to sign an agreement to appear in court, however, which I did, and was released around 1:30 am. John was held overnight.

I had an audio recorder running and made an hour and a half long recording of the arrest.

On the way out, I met two prisoners sitting in the entryway, one of whom was talking on his cell phone. After he hung up, I asked if we were allowed to sit there in the warmth. He suggested that I just sit there and enjoy the warmth, which seemed like good advice, so we sat and talked until a correctional officer came out and told us to leave. My friend had another trick up his sleeve, however, and we simply walked down to a different entrance where we were able to enter, duck into a vacant restroom, pray together, and rest for about two hours before being discovered and evicted by more correctional officers.

My friend then found an unlocked prison bus to shelter us from the light snow that was falling, but I decided to walk into downtown and soon encountered a disabled car. The driver’s only problem was a lack of gas or money to purchase it, so I helped him push it to a nearby gas station and gave him the $3.65 I had in my pocket. He thanked me profusely and I continued my walk.

I spent the next few hours wondering around downtown Anchorage until Side Street opened at seven, and I went in for coffee and a warm place to sit and write this blog. In the afternoon, I attended John and Margie’s bail hearing, where Margie refused the conditions of her release (stay out of Town Square) and John was required to post a $150 bond, which of course he does not have. Both remained in jail, while I retreated to my campsite near the university for prayer and much-needed sleep.

Tomorrow’s a big day.

Prayer requests: Guidance, guidance, guidance. Put your words in my mouth tomorrow. Stay with John and Margie, abide with them, Lord.

Day 9

Night 9 was John and Margie’s second. With rain in the forecast, we prayed for shelter, and a tarp appeared! A visitor stopped by to share and pray, then drove by half an hour later to drop off two nice blankets and a tarp. John and Margie had taken the evening off, and by the time they returned at eleven, I had strung up the tarp between three trees and a stake. No trouble from the police.

Woke up to a steady rain pit-pattering on the tarp. Now there’s even snow in the forecast! We talked some more about what message to paint on the tarp, and seem to be settling on “Christian Revolution”.

    rev·o·lu·tion

    1. a sudden, radical, or complete change
    2. a fundamental change in political organization; especially : the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed
    3. activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation
    4. a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something : a change of paradigm {\it the Copernican revolution}
    5. a changeover in use or preference especially in technology {\it the computer revolution; the foreign car revolution}

    Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Which is exactly what I’m trying to achieve! A Christian revolution in Alaska; fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation; a society where “Give to anyone who asks” is a core value; leadership that serves God and not money; disciples who “give up everything that (they) have” valued instead of persecuted.

If the United States wants a Christian revolution, great! Otherwise… God bless Alaska.

Day 7

Joe and I occupied Night 7. At first, I was going to sleep under the tarp, had packed all of the signs under it, and was actually in my sleeping bag when Joe showed up! I didn’t have room under the tarp, wasn’t going to tell him to sleep on exposed, bare concrete, and certainly couldn’t leave him in the park alone. So the signs went back up, I gave him my coat and blankets, and I slept in the bag, which was colder than I thought it’d be! Some road work awoke us around 4 am, and I got up and put on some long underwear from the suitcase.

At first I thought that Day 7 would be a day of rest, but it turned out to be a day of preparation. John Rodda, from Parks and Rec, showed up mid-morning to politely read me the riot act. The police have amble photos now of me and others sleeping in the park, and police action is implied. We have to sleep on the sidewalk.

After reading a chapter from Ezekiel, I went over to Side Street Cafe to charge my batteries, both physically and mentally, and met John and Margie drinking coffee there. Told them about Rodda and was blessed with a cup of coffee from Deb. Went back, read more Ezekiel, and worked on the phone until it went dead.

Over lunch at Downtown Soup Kitchen, Francisco explained how the 99% are going to hell, actually I think he said 99.999%, but I could be off by a nine or two. Then back to the park, where a visitor read Proverbs 15 since it is the 15th of the month, and I learned that Proverbs has 31 chapters. John and Margie stayed for a while, while I bought some treats with my food stamps (odwalla strawberry smoothies, avocados, and honey) and retrieved my battery pack from Side Street.

Then we talked about Rodda.

I explained my intent to retreat to the sidewalk. There’s just not enough to fight for. I can get up at six in the morning, when the park “opens”, set the signs back up, and go back to sleep for a few more hours. Few people are walking around at three in the morning. As we expand, we’ll run a row of tents down the sidewalk. Why not? Ask for a hundred people in prayer, and when we have surrounded the park with about fifty tents on the sidewalks, then occupy it. Why fight over something so trivial as what happens between midnight and six am?

John has a different idea. He’s thinking about occupying with me, tonight, for the first time!

Well, that changes everything! Obviously, if the most ardent occupier in Alaska is going to occupy, I can’t be under the tarp! John explains what we can expect legally, since he’s been through it so many times. They really can’t arrest us if it’s a protest activity. We’ll be released when we face the magistrate. They can confiscate the sleeping bag we’re in, and if we try to fight, then they can arrest us for that. We agree on a completely peaceful approach in this case. Us two men join in prayer with Margie, a deep, meaningful prayer for guidance, holding hands while praying aloud. Then I’m off to spend four of the six dollars I’ve got on batteries for the audio recorder.

Day 6

Spent another cold night, as there were four of us occupying and only one sleeping bag between us. I gave the sleeping bag to a woman, gave my coat to a man, and layered up with a bunch of dirty laundry I had in a bag. I prayed, of course, and felt guided to walk across the street to Covenant House, which donated a light blanket that I used for myself. I also found a dumpster full of cardboard and used it to make a bed on the sidewalk under the tarp. Spend a good bit of time in prayer, thanking God for sending me his people (none of them were any trouble) and begging him for more blankets and sleeping bags.

In the morning, two of my guests left right around six A.M. to catch an early bus. I was able to duck in the sleeping bag and grab a few hours of sleep for myself before a woman from Parks and Rec came around at nine thirty and told me very politely that we can’t have people sleeping in the park.

What is the point? Why am I here? I wish to tell the majority, very politely, that I will not accept capitalism, I will not accept majority rule, I will not work their wicked jobs, I will not disappear under a bridge, I will camp out here in the park and the only way to get rid of me is to kill me or disappear me into prison.

Prison is what at least one man expects will happen. After a brief visit to New Hope to grab a cup of coffee and find out if I could get someone else to pick up a food bag for me (I could not), I felt led by God to walk to the Downtown Soup Kitchen and preach, which is to say I talked about what I’m doing and why for three or four minutes to the people lined up outside. John Martin will probably object, describe them as a captive audience and tell me they’re sick of preaching. I see his point, but I really feel led to it by God, and I thank him for getting this thing going again. The only vocal reaction was from a man who pointed out that a jail cell was warmer.

After lunch at the soup kitchen, I got back to the protest site and had two different people ask me about the “Free Bike Rides” I had offered. The signs are down, but I simply told them that the bike had been stolen. I wasn’t real attached to the bike, but I’m trying to use it to learn how to manage the resources God gives me. I had been leaving it unlocked, and walked into the mall to use the restroom. Didn’t dilly-dally, either. When I came back, it was gone. I can’t tell you how I hate living in the world. They take everything.

God’s showing me the way forward. Keep praying. Keep occupying. Keep preaching. Do it God’s way; his time, his place. Sunday it was sermons from “the mound”. Yesterday it was fifteen second sermons as people walked by. Today it was the soup kitchen and probably the kids in the park this evening. Probably the Covenant House kids, too.

Prayer requests: Guidance, sending God’s people this way, sleeping bags, tarps, blankets, maybe a tent or two, continued food, sunny weather, paint brush and paint to label the tarp

Day 4

Some rain fell during the night, then let off in the morning, then resumed again in the afternoon. The tarp is fine to stay dry in a light rain, but wouldn’t withstand a downpour. Also, it’s wide open at the ends. I’m starting to call it the “Wind Tunnel”.

I preached several times today, since it is Sunday, starting at nine in the morning, and continuing every hour, on the hour, through noon. I eased off in the afternoon as the rain started to fall, but did call my mom to wish her a happy Mother’s Day, talked her through setting up her tablet for USB tethering, and let several other people call their mothers on my phone. I also put up signs that read “Free Bike Rides” and “Free Bike Rides, Phone Calls, Food”.

The bike disappeared while I went into the mall to use the toilet.

Day 0

Day 0 started rough, but God worked through it all. I packed up my campsite near the university, piled everything into a shopping cart around noon, and pushed it across town to New Hope, a local church that’s been providing space for John Martin’s Community Support Group on weekday afternoons. An old man came in; we provided him with clean clothes, some food, and I let him lie down to rest with my blanket to cover him and my rolled up sleeping bag as his pillow. I was the only person cleaning up, and when I was done, I woke him, then went upstairs to help carry a coffee maker downstairs for an evening meeting. When I returned, the old man was gone, along with my blanket and bag!

I left a suitcase and the shopping cart at church, started heading downtown at around 6 PM, saw him on Delany Park strip, walked over to him and he talked to me like trash!

“I’ll be over Town Square,” I said.

“I don’t care if you go to the moon!” he replied.

Not even a thank you for the bag. I lugged the rest of my stuff over to Town Square, dropped it all down, and started to cry. Why am I doing this? I’m broke; I’m homeless; I have no sleeping gear, now. Is this really what God wants?

I started thumbing through my Bible, and came to Luke 6:30: “Give to everyone who asks you and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” Well, I said to myself, that’s what I just did!

So I took out magic markers, wrote that passage on two signs, taped them together and set them up:

Luke 6:30

Then I started begging God again to provide me warmth to sleep that night. A friend of mine texted me and I called him back and told him what had happened. Even though he was pretty tired, he said that he’d buy a sleeping bag at Wal-Mart and bring it over.

That inspired me to write a second sign, Matthew 25:35:

I was part way into a third sign when John Martin showed up, and by the time my friend got there with a sleeping bag and a tarp I was able to introduce them. Then I finished the third sign:

Finally, I added a fourth sign to explain why we were doing all of this and now I had one from each Gospel:

My first interaction with the police came around midnight. John was still there, which was great, and the exchange was very cordial. I basically preached a brief sermon, explaining to the police officer why I was there.

This text will be replaced

John left soon after the police did, but quickly returned with a deaf mute in a wheelchair. We could only communicate with him by writing, but it was clear that he had no place to go, so I let him sleep at the site.

He got the sleeping bag.