I was a high school dropout, sophomore year. Pretty much had a nervous breakdown. My whole life was a war zone. I haven’t gone through anything on this scene that could match living there. I had to fight all the way through. I had family problems, but I also had major problems with the community. I did not fit in there from the get. The cops, the skinheads, the crackheads down here can’t hold a candle to those rednecks up there when it comes to brutality. You couldn’t be a radical in high school because there was nobody to be radical with. I woke up in puddles of blood and piss so many times that, like I say, what goes on down here—I don’t get impressed with riots. From grammar school, junior high, high school, I was beaten unconscious so many times it’s amazing that I know the difference.

At one point we created a crew. It was a pretty awesome, pretty wild thing. We were well on our way to running that bloody high school. But then there was a falling out, and that’s when things got really hairy. I was used to fighting the rednecks. I’d had to get in fistfights with them since second and third grade, but when I had a blowout with that crew—I mean those guys were dangerous.

At the time, my relationship with my parents was definitely not good. They were as down on me as the people that were stomping me on the foot every day. So my home life was one disaster and my school life was another one. I was a hunted animal. I was worried about surviving, not passing, and I wasn’t making it. I tried not to have anything that I cared about.

Kent, Cornwall, Warren, Washington—there’s tons of tiny little towns around Litchfield County—Goshen, Morris, Bethlehem. I’ve lived in almost all of them at one time or another. The rural area up in the northwest corner of Connecticut is where the big New York State woods kind of rips across the border.

I had a keen scientific interest, which naturally led me to be a materialist, which naturally led me to be an atheist. I was an atheist by age eight. I’d say that was the first step outside—as an atheist, as a bisexual, later on as a user of recreational drugs. I became a political radical much later.

I was always a person with strong opinions and an alienated side, but more of a counterculturalist than really political. Then I happened to be out in San Francisco during the White Night riot of ’79. That was the first thing like it I’d ever seen. I came back east shortly after that and didn’t really get involved until they organized for the Surround the Pentagon action in 1981 in D.C. I did that DC action, came back, picked up a bunch of leaflets, started looking at them, seeing what else was going on. Finally I got to a point where I’d go to a city because there’s an action and grab every leaflet I could. If that town was boring, I’d go somewhere else. As the country has gone further and further to the right, the traditional strongholds start getting floods of refugees—New York, San Francisco, and Berkeley. It’s happened over and over and over. Things get too hard on the East Coast, go west. Five years, six years later, it’s too hard on the West Coast, come back east. Except right now both coasts suck. I don’t know what you do.

I was involved with the Lower East Side scene first with the Yippies—Youth International Party. I was staying at 9 Bleecker faction. The squatters’ movement had kicked off in the early- to mid-eighties and it seemed like the way to go. Actually, squatting is something the Yippies called for even back in ’68. In the chapter on housing, it says that urban centers are full of empty abandoned buildings—take them over, fortify them, call them home. Why feed the greedy landlords? Nobody really took it as far as we did back then because rents were still relatively cheap. But suddenly that chapter of the book made more and more sense. A bunch of us from 9 Yip came down here and got involved in the squatting scene quite early.

I’d squatted other places before I came to New York City, squatted a couple of abandoned houses in the country, squatted an abandoned radar base. I’d just been doing a bunch of local traveling around, moving back and forth, in and out of the city. Technically, I was staying with friends, but it was kind of a cramped arrangement. But when the whole tent city came together, I made the move into Tompkins Square Park and spent the spring, summer, and fall there. I think it must have been 1989. I literally moved in. I was one of two people who actually gave spaces up to move into tent city.

We were winning things right and left, both in the streets and in the courts, for a good three years. We were the only park in the city without a curfew, because we fought. We went from the announcement on the radio the day before the riot that there would be a curfew in all city parks, to the day after the riot with the mayor on the radio saying that there would be a curfew in all city parks except Tompkins Square. And that’s what held for three years. We proved that just straight up in your face could work.

Then we won the fire-barrel battle, which was long and hard-pressed that first winter. They started it as a way of harassment, busting homeless people for burning fires in barrels to stay warm. We took something like thirty-eight arrests that winter defending fire barrels. We had fire hoses turned on us in hard winter, fought it to the point where—partly because of the excellent lawyer work of Stanley Cohen—we actually wound up with permission for six fire barrels. Because the city had to admit that if people were allowed to stay there, they had a certain responsibility to see that they didn’t freeze to death. Of course, by that time, one of us had frozen to death because the police had come in and put an old man’s fire barrel out, and the old man died on a park bench. He was quite a nice guy, one of the many we’ve lost since I’ve been involved here. I try to concentrate on the fun of this thing, but it ain’t all fun. I’ve lost a lot of friends.

The loss of the park was one of three blows that seriously damaged the Lower East Side. The three big setbacks were the loss of 3BC squat, the sabotage of our books at the bookstore, and then the park. That was our final breaker.

I only had one arrest before I came to New York, a disorderly conduct in a bar one night, back in my late teens. Since then, my record says arrested eight times, three on my present record, but I actually calculate it’s more like forty-one times. The worst thing that I was ever charged with was assaulting officers with weapons in ’91, ’92. Those charges didn’t stick. They were totally baseless. The possession-of-dynamite charge came out of the encounter when Tompkins Square Park first reopened. I wasn’t even in town for the big riot of ’88. I had just come out of jail in New Orleans, where Pat Robertson had had me arrested by the Secret Service for harassment at the Republican Convention. So I got out of jail the next morning, launched a project called Draft Dodgers for Quayle, and then the following day flew back to New York—the first time I’d ever flown in my life. What a trip. I’m on probation now for felony riot on the same night that they accused me of the assault—the ’91 Memorial Day riot.

I’ve been at Glass House for a year and five months, since the beginning of last September. I like to travel. It’s really only these last couple of years of probation that have made me a Lower East Side homebody.


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