One Account from the CVS Building Occupation

The following is one account of the takeover of the building at 201 N. Greensboro St…

At approximately 3:30pm today, Feb. 4th, a group of about 50 demonstrators marched from a monthly Really Really Free Market to a nearby empty building owned by the CVS corporation.

Within minutes the crowd had taken over the building, hanging banners from the roof and windows, erecting tables outside with free food, and handing out welcome packets to passersby.

Others arrived with carpentry equipment, wood, furniture, a literature distro, and tools, and began building benches and tables. Some painted a large, cursive “Carrboro Commune @” and large squat symbols on the walls.

Still other supporters spread throughout the neighborhood, announcing the occupation and advertising an open neighborhood assembly in the building the following day.

The takeover, claimed by “anti-capitalists and occupiers” and done under the rubric of the “Carrboro Commune,” was aimed at holding the property permanently and building some kind of community or social center.

Eager to avoid the negative press and angry public backlash of an armed eviction of an occupied building late last year in neighboring Chapel Hill, police and the mayor were initially restrained. Unfortunately, the openness of the occupation towards random passersby also meant the Mayor himself was even in the building.

The occupation continued till around 7:30, after which police entered the building and began threatening arrests. A crowd of masked protesters left the building through a side door, chanting and carrying a banner to meet the crowd in front of the building. There were no arrests.

A bizarre scene then ensued in front of the building, where a large crowd of masked protesters, supporters, police, press, and local politicians packed together, screaming at each other in front of cameras. The mayor repeatedly tripped over his words, while some protesters cursed him and others gave speeches, chanted “ACAB”, and loudly vowed to return. One mainstream media outlet quoted Mayor Chilton as saying, “You’re full of crap,” in response to a masked person screaming about how impossible it is to survive in town on a service worker’s pay.

The Mayor’s sleek attempts to command the narrative of a peaceful de-occupation slowly started to slip away, eclipsed by the near violent hatred and frustration of a screaming crowd. The scene, which occurred in the busiest intersection of town in front of half a dozen cameras, was a bizarre shift for the supposedly tranquil and politically “conflict-free” small liberal town.

This is only a brief account by one participant. As of right now, we are still recovering from the last few hours, trying to figure out what went right and what went wrong. Certainly there will be a much more thorough account and analysis to come later; right now we would send our love and rage to all our comrades around the US and the world also struggling to reclaim a world that has been stolen from us.

We hope that our small efforts can inform and inspire others, and in particular offer some encouragement to our friends and comrades currently in jails on the West Coast, kidnapped for trying to also take back a future that has been stolen.

Posted on February 5, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Should have arrested all of those assholes immediately and without discussion.

  2. “The Mayor’s sleek attempts to command the narrative of a peaceful de-occupation slowly started to slip away, eclipsed by the near violent hatred and frustration of a screaming crowd.”

    Near-violent? Why on earth would you characterize the behavior of the Mayor as being civil and calm and yourselves as near-violent and screaming? While I can imagine this statement was more to color the drama of the situation, I gotta tell you that your language does give the impression that your organization had been willing to resort to violence that night in retaliation to the peaceful presence of the Mayor. In other words, by purporting that your group was near-violent, you’ve justified the need for police at every one of your functions because now you represent a physical threat to anyone who may try to hold a civil discourse with you. This threat was alluded to during the Yates incident, but now we have written testimony to confirm that you will indeed resort to violence when presented with non-violent opposition.

    • Fact: The Mayor used a crowd of armed strangers to evict an unarmed group from an empty building. Twice. (The guns weren’t drawn the second time). So much for the peaceful presence of the mayor. Just because you get someone else to hold your guns for you, doesnt make you “peaceful.” His argument that he was “doing his job” is not much solace; i can think of plenty of people who did their job throughout history to great affect in this matter, little of it positive.

      I don’t believe anyone was particularly interested in civil discourse with the mayor anyway, on a sidenote. I’m not sure what the point of that would be exactly – entertainment? And of course, his version of civil discourse involves telling a protester who is talking to the media about how impossible it is to afford to live here on service workers’ wages that they are “full of crap.” Brilliant.

      • That kid IS full of crap, and deserved to be told so. In fact, I’d say all of these protesters are full of crap, and should get some jobs, buy some land, and move far, far out into the woods somewhere where civilized people won’t be bothered. But of course…. they won’t. They’d rather to continue to mooch and complain about being repressed.

        There people are a bunch of self righteous, self centered assholes who contribute nothing positive to our community.

      • Joe:

        The “kid” was talking about having two jobs and still not being able to afford rent in this town; so im not so sure your “get a jobs” comment is particularly astute. Maybe try paying attention.

        PS. Mad points for the “get a job” line, nonetheless…That shit is really clever! You must have heard that yelled at a “hippy” in the “60s” or something, right?

      • Yes, but you still fail to address the part where the account says the crowd was “near violent and screaming.” By even your own accounts, the Mayor had a reason to feel threatened by even being at the site. So, of course, he had the police there with him. He needed protection from the “near-violent” crowd. And if no one was interested in civil discourse, including yourselves, then by what other means do expect to have your demands met? Either you will have to do it with words or by force. I mean you had the Mayor at your “demonstration” and only thought to just chant and scream at him. Why not try to open a dialogue? A real dialogue, where people speak and listen to one another and don’t just shout cliched sayings and abbreviations.

        Also, the Mayor wasn’t doing his job in the kind of “I disagree with what I am doing, but I have my orders” way that you are attributing to him. He was doing it because he, like many of his fellow residents, does not want to encourage people to commit criminal acts to get what they want, especially when they haven’t even tried nearly hard enough to go through the proper channels. Protest like this should represent a last resort, not the first thing you do.

      • You’re correct – he believed in what he was doing, which was evicting a group of people trying to use an empty building positively, which will (probably) otherwise be used by a corporate drug store. I think this is an accurate portrayal, one the mayor would agree with. And i think it says all that needs to be said.

        “If no one was interested in civil discourse, including yourselves, then by waht other means do you expect to have your demands met?”

        – On this note, the protesters demonstrated repeatedly that they were invested in having civil discourse with residents/neighbors/workers about what the space could alternatively become – this was the very point of distributing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of handbills by hand and by mailbox to the surrounding homes and businesses, advertising the next days open assembly.

        It sounds like what protesters were NOT interested in, or thought (correctly) was pointless, was civil discourse specifically with the mayor, or with CVS.

        On the question of demands: the protesters never made demands. They didnt ask the mayor or CVS to turn the building into something else; they moved in and started that process directly, themselves. It looks that these efforts will continue.

    • But, why do fifty citizens of Carrboro out of the many who live here get to decide how to use this land without being granted such authority by voting? In other words, why not run for Mayor? Why not run for some other office? If their goals and views truly have the support of a majority of Carrboro citizens, then they should be able to get elected to an office from which they will have the legal and civil authority to block the building of this CVS or similar businesses. However, if their goals and views are only held by a small minority or even just within their own circle, then why shouldn’t they be treated like criminals if they decide to take something from the community that the community has elected for them to have? You see your actions as positive, but such a descriptor is subjective. I personally think that they are being negative by stopping a source of privately-paid-for jobs in this community in order to duplicate services that are already exist in the community and would only create jobs that would be paid for by citizens through their taxes instead of through their purchases of useful goods. In the context of this subjectivity, our society dictates that voting ultimately decides how to act in these situations. We either vote on individual issues (a possibility for this movement if they’d try to work within the system instead of against it) or for leaders who will act on behalf of us in our best interests (another possibility for this movement if they can find such a leader to elect). I mean we live in Carrboro! How could this protest-loving, granola-munching town have a Mayor who doesn’t share in its perspective even a little? Our town, a very liberal and politically active town, voted in the Mayor, and if he thinks that the actions of this group are in opposition to the best interests of this town, then he is probably right.

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