“My Kingdom for a Horse” Shakespeare [Richard III]

BY: JIM LUKEN, Contributing Writer

Due to an odd set of circumstances, the Occupy Cincinnati group has found itself getting up-front-and-personal with several horses of late. No, we have not chosen to occupy the farm country in the suburbs. The occurrences were both downtown, both at Piatt/Garfield Park.

During the long, warm fall, our group’s GA (General Assembly) meetings were held each night around the statue of President Garfield near the library.

Every night, a string of horse-drawn, open buggies carrying tourists through our fair city would make the left turn onto 8th Street, with the curious passengers ogling our meetings. Many of us demonstrators would wave to the folks in the buggies, and often they would wave back. We felt like ambassadors for our city, providing the tourists with something a little different to talk about during their equine-enabled tour.

Then, on the Saturday before Christmas, as we held our afternoon GA, we were startled by a strange incident involving one of these same, ornately-festooned carriages, this one bereft of both passengers and driver.

Suddenly we heard the clatter of thundering hooves. One of the horses was running at a good gallop up on the far sidewalk going northbound on Vine, the buggy swinging wildly behind. Fortunately, no cars were approaching as horse and carriage raced through the intersection.  When it hit the curb nearest the library, the carriage bounced violently, almost overturning. Then when runaways reached 9th, the spooked horse took a hard right against the flow of traffic. The buggy seemed ready to fall apart. We Occupiers watched in amazement.

Immediately, in mad pursuit, came two squad cars, their sirens blaring. I heard someone in our group say, “Now they are really gonna scare that poor horse.” Later, we were told that the incident ended safely for the horse. Apparently, it tried to run between a car and a van at a stop light on Walnut and the carriage jammed itself against the back of the two vehicles, trapping the frightened horse between them.

The following Saturday, January 7, we demonstrators were confronted by another incident involving a horse, this one with a rider. About thirty-five of us were celebrating the three-month “anniversary” of Occupy Cincinnati, with a march from Lytle Park, the movement’s original home, to Piatt Park, our adopted home, where the ill-fated encampment had taken place.

Along the march route, we were carrying several colorful tents, fully set up, to commemorate the time when 25 tents had “occupied” the little park in the middle of 8th Street. Both tents sported signs. One said, in bold letters, “We Are In “Tents.” We had bullhorns and music. Everyone was in a festive mood, as we arrived back at Piatt Park.

Then something happened that dampened our spirits. One of our own, long-time Occupier (and Streetvibes salesman), James Brown, was apprehended by the police for walking in the street. James apparently had had too much to drink, but none of the demonstrators felt he had done anything that warranted him being cuffed and arrested. We shouted and yelled. Instead of “This is what democracy looks like,” (referring to our own exercise of our Constitutional rights), we shouted, “This is what a Police State looks like!”

Several of us tried to talk the police into letting us take care of James and get him safely home, but they would have none of it. By the time they put him into the first of the patrol cars, five police cars had collected there along Vine Street, all this to arrest one small, non-violent man.

Oh, yes, there was 6th (or 7th or 8th) police officer, a Mountie, on a huge black horse.

Many of us had walked out into the cross-walk, and all of us kept shouting, “Free James Brown,” over and over. One demonstrator, who gave his name as “Tequila,” told us had just arrived back in Cincinnati from Occupy Portland (Or). He was an African American, probably 6’3”, and he had commandeered one of our large American flags on a flagpole.

Occupier James Brown in the back of the police car, and officer Jones mounted on the horse that he uses to repeatedly push Occupier "Tequila." Photo: Courtesy of Occupy Cincinnati

This young man stood in the middle of the crosswalk as the police officer moved his horse around to him, bumping into him again and again. As the horse pushed him around,

Tequila seemed not to even notice. Waving his flag in the air, he refused to look at the angry cop, or to acknowledge him in any way. Several times, I glanced down to notice that the horse had very nearly stepped on the man’s foot.

Finally the incident ended, and we processed, with our tents again in hand to the Injustice Center (jail), where we held a mini-GA, and expressed our frustration and anger at having one of us arrested for what we saw as a non-crime.

As I mulled over the incident, I felt that this display of macho bravado, on the part of the cop (and the overkill of unnecessary arrest, symbolized, in a very clear way, the manner in which most of the police around the country have chosen to deal with us Occupy protestors. We are standing up to the Corporate Elite who believe they can control our lives. The cops act almost as puppets of the 1%. Over the months, we Occupiers have told them repeatedly that we are acting in their interest as well on behalf of all oppressed people. Our hope is that, at some point, they will stop horsing around join us in the struggle.