Naomi Wolf on her Occupy Wall Street arrest

October 29, 2011

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(Video still/We Are the 99 Percent)

On Tuesday October,18th writer Naomi Wolf was arrested by New York City Police, along with her boyfriend, the film producer Avram Ludwig.

The couple was in Manhattan to attend an event hosted by the Huffington Post, for whom Wolf often writes. Guests included New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who was there to receive an award.

Outside, about 50 protestors affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement shouted into the night. According to Wolf, they wanted to talk to the governor about extending the soon-to-expire “millionaires tax,” about natural gas fracking in upstate New York, and about keeping police accountable for acts of brutality. But they could not get to the governor.

According to Wolf, police had kept the protestors cordoned off and away from the building, telling them that the permit event organizers had obtained for the evening gave them control of the public sidewalk.

The claim raised Wolf’s suspicions.

A self-described “permit nerd,” social critic, and political activist, Wolf has made a career of studying civil society and what keeps a democracy healthy and functional. Her 2008 book Give Me Liberty is billed as a “revolutionary’s handbook,” a how-to guide for meaningful participation and societal change.

Wolf believed the details of the permit gave the protestors the right to be on the sidewalk as long as they did not obstruct foot traffic. She intervened on their behalf, and was subsequently arrested for resisting a lawful order after police told her to “leave,” and she did not.

A few days later, Wolf was in Chicago to speak at Elmhurst College. She sounded shaken but exhilarated as she described her ordeal. Though she has written about the experience for the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, she described the events of the night in full detail before the live audience at Elmhurst.

Her story is long, but compelling - and can be heard in the audio link atop the page.

Here are some highlights:

2:13 I learned that the number one thing that was effective, most effective, in a tyranny, is protest. But not just any protest - protest in which business as usual is disrupted.

16:10 I literally felt that I couldn’t move. I felt like if I fell back at that moment, knowing it was not a lawful order, I was consenting to the use of force. And that as American I was forbidden to do that.

18:25 This may sound really weird but I felt my grandmother [who came from Czarist Russia and protested everything] with me at that moment…I hesitated that half-second and he made a gesture and I felt my arms pulled back behind my back and my hands cuffed with plastic handcuffs.

Wolf’s full lecture at Elmhurst College is available in the link below.

Dynamic Range showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Naomi Wolf spoke at an event presented by Elmhurst College in October. Click here to hear the event in its entirety.