Though we argued with the officer’s insistence that we leave the overpass, the Light Brigade regrouped on the grass by the off ramp while waiting for a phone call to bear fruit. The call was to Debbie Russell, activist with the Texas American Civil Liberties Union. Russell had previous experience negotiating with police to allow displays of banners and signs on highways as long as they aren’t physically attached. She called her contacts at the police. As we watched, more police cars arrived. Some officers looked angry. Then a supervisor arrived, the discussion continued, and all police left.
Though the future legal status of this action is uncertain, the Austin Overpass Light Brigade returned to the overpass. On November 5, thousands of vehicles along a very busy highway saw the message, many honking or cheering enthusiastically.
It’s a unique category, but it makes sense for this winner: Occupy might well be described as a permanent “march or rally” against economic injustice and in support of basic democratic rights. Since its beginnings as Occupy Wall Street and as it spread nationwide and into Austin, Occupy has turned the national discussion to questions of social justice and equity, and also generated reconsideration of police power and public engagement. Austin’s Occupiers are small in number but large in persistence and public impact – as Chronicle readers enthusiastically confirm.
I’ll be attending the awards party tonight at Emo’s (2015 East Riverside in Austin, Texas). Say hello if you see me there!
Photo by Kit O’Connell, under a Creative Commons license.