Thursday, February 16, 2012
This is a video of me and many others being kettled by the YMCA. My favorite part is the cop yelling at me at the end to “get out the building” as we were all standing on the sidewalk.
Besides getting arrested for a second time while reporting on Occupy Oakland, I’ve been actually reporting on Occupy Oakland! For the Guardian, AlterNet, Truthout, Citizen Radio and the East Bay Express, from civic engagement, to lynching, to OPD’s new smarter policing, to Occupy Wall Street West, to January 28th’s “Move In Day,” and to my first part of Occupy Oakland paintings. Of those six pieces, two have drawings, and five are basically wholly written. I’ve also done some sweet “media appearances” with Punching Down, Thom Hartmann and the Alyona Show.
In light of being left off my own goddamn union’s list of arrested journalists this week because I am a freelancer, I have to link again to this piece I wrote a few months ago about why I am a cartoonist — and why I am still a journalist. I’ve kind of given up on people understanding that I can do multiple things, though, so from now on I guess I just have to go with “journalist” for clarity.
I’ve decided to start blogging more frequently about Occupy and Oakland since when I tweet I just tip off the local press who won’t hire me. And I’m not going to put those frequent posts here, because this is more of a Susie Cagle clearing house for all my work.
Photo via whipartist, taken October 27, 2011 at Occupy Oakland.
Today my first piece for the Atlantic went live, which is pretty exciting. Please check that out. And then hire me to write long in-depth pieces all the time because goddamn do I love doing this work even though it means a life of poverty.
But if you’re not, I’ve recently written new Occupy stories for the Awl and the SF Appeal, and I’m contributing more frequent coverage over at In These Times on the Uprising blog with the inimitable Allison Kilkenny.
Flash mobs, mic checks, port shutdowns, all of it, and so much more in the works.
If you’re reading this, you probably already know that full-time freelance reporting is not an easy life to live. I have no institutional support or colleagues on whom to rely for help, and my expenses are all on me. While I’ve embraced my poverty for the last several years, I’ve been able to supplement my income with various short gigs and well-paid drawing jobs. Covering a popular movement, especially in an economically depressed city, is not nearly so lucrative.
But I don’t really fucking care.
So I’ve started a fund to help me stay on the Occupy beat and not have to take on some less than ideal illustration jobs to make ends. If you can, a couple bucks would help more than you might think. And thanks so much to everyone who has helped already.
Some exciting work developments on the Occupy Oakland front. I was thrilled to do this piece for GOOD tracking the first six weeks of Oakland’s occupations. And yesterday my first Oakland field report documentary for Citizen Radio aired (starts around the 18 minute mark). Yes, I’m making radio again!
More written work is in the pipeline, big announcements, etc, the usual.
In the late summer of 2008, I got what I thought was my dream job.
After more than two years of blogging and freelancing for next to nothing, dozens and dozens of job applications and interviews, and leaving New York City for the sometimes warmer shores of San Francisco in an effort to find work, it had happened. For three months, I was the editor of Curbed SF, an outpost of the national network that includes Curbed, Eater and Racked blogs around the country. For three months, I had a modest but regular salary, and the full-time reportage job I’d always wanted. I was covering real estate and development in perhaps the NIMBYest city in America, watching the economy crash all around it. For those three months, I could not have asked for a better beat at a better time.
Then two weeks after my health insurance had kicked in, a week before Christmas, I was laid off. I was offered a freelance position at 1/3 of my former rate, which I reluctantly accepted. A month later, I filed for unemployment and began teaching myself how to draw.
More than five years after graduating from Columbia’s Journalism School, surprisingly few of my classmates are now employed as journalists. Many went into PR. Others went on to get graduate degrees in other fields — law, business, social work. Watching the mass layoffs in early 2009, it seemed like as good a time as any to expand my own skill set. I may have grown up the daughter of an editorial cartoonist, but this vocation had never appealed to me until I felt backed into a corner, watching my checking account drain.
And so over the last two years, I have drawn. I’ve reported, written and drawn a graphic novella on food activism in San Francisco; drawn many editorial comics for local, national and international outlets; and even drawn long-form investigative comic work (it’s easier to go undercover with a sketchbook than a video camera).
I’ve also written articles, too, when I’ve gotten the opportunity/response to my pitches. You know, ones with words.
But once I started drawing, it became more difficult to get those jobs. Once I started drawing, I was just a “cartoonist,” a term I’ve heard delivered dripping with such condescension while out covering Occupy that though I am through and through a comics fan, I can’t help but cringe.
Though it was never my intention to become an illustrator, I found myself as a hired hand many times over the past year, drawing advertisements (like Google’s “A Google a Day” series that ran in the New York Times earlier this year) and, far worse for my ego, illustrating the reportage of others (like this SF Public Press piece). I took these jobs so I could eat. They nearly always paid better than the writing work I’ve seen since 2006.
I didn’t realize that in the process, I was apparently undermining my own credibility. From Mediabistro:
Cartoonist Susie Cagle was very publicly arrested last month while covering the Occupy Oakland protest. And yet, in its recent list of journalists who had been arrested while covering the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Associated Press did not include Cagle. We suspect it’s because she’s a cartoonist and not a traditional journalist.
Underemployed journalists often take day jobs that are less high profile. Bartending, retail and food service don’t become a writer’s identity — why am I only allowed to be one thing?
My outspoken championing of art in news certainly has something to do with this. I started Graphic Journos back in April, around the same time I spoke on a panel at the National Conference for Media Reform on the medium (catch me at SXSWi in Austin, TX with the same crew in March 2012). After nearly a year producing drawn reportage outside of the “comics” sphere and in the regular news and feature sections of newspapers, magazines and websites, I was frustrated with the lack of respect given to visual journalism.
Even as all of media seems to be creaming their pants over infographics, few are making the connection between images and information.
Most of our media is still controlled by word people. Word people don’t understand picture people; and to be fair, most picture people don’t understand word people. If you’ve worked at a publication, you understand the turf battle I’m talking about — people on both sides fighting for more space for what they perceive to be the most important part of the news, and the best way of disseminating it to readers.
By trying to do both words and pictures, I seem to have confused both sides. So please, for the last time: Susie Cagle. Journalist, and cartoonist. Yes, both.
The Oakland Police Department arrestee lists my arrest as occurring at 1:00 a.m. which is impossible, as I tweeted at 1:11 a.m.: sounds like they are declaring unlawful assembly at north end of plaza.
As I hit send, a teargas canister was thrown down a side street just north of city hall, followed by a line of police running, yelling and firing on individuals in the very spot where just a few hours earlier people had been barbecuing hot dogs.
I ran for cover in a nearby doorway with medics, legal observers and many scared occupiers as two police lines marched on the plaza, firing tear gas, flash bangs and “less lethal” projectiles in rapid succession. When they approached the entrance to our doorway, people screamed, “Peace, we want peace!” and “Don’t shoot!” with hands up.
“We don’t want to hurt you guys, we hope you don’t want to hurt us!”
I was arrested while reporting on Occupy Oakland on Thursday at about 1 am, wearing my press pass. My arresting officer acknowledged that I was press, and his officer friend even recognized me and knew my work (if you’re reading this, sir I would sure like to interview you!). I had a meeting set with the OPD press information officer for 8 hours later to obtain my official OPD press credentials. When I told this to the cops, they replied, “Do you want us to call her and tell her you’ll be late?”
I was detained for 15 hours and ultimately charged with the same misdemeanor as other demonstrators and NLG legal observers: PC 409, failure to leave the scene of a riot. Our arraignment dates are a month from now, and we were explicitly warned against returning to the plaza in the meantime. As I told ABC7, I feel like the OPD does, I think: confused.
You know it’s bad when Occupy Veterans is sending you personal supportive messages. This is a crappy video that I took while trying to run to safety — instead I ran into the kettle.
If you are interested in the whole saga, swim up my Twitter stream. The Oakland Police Department arrested 103 people that night, some of whom were not involved in Occupy at all. 95 received the PC 409 misdemeanor citation, but interim OPD Chief Howard Jordan told the New York Times that the group of arrestees were “generally anarchists and provocateurs.”
I am not the first journalist arrested while covering Occupy, and I doubt I’ll be the last — but I’m not clear on if other journalists are being charged with crimes, or arrested and released. Any information appreciated.
I’ll have a full piece about this clusterfuck at Alternet on Monday. I’m also still fundraising at Spot.Us for my illustrated history of Occupy Oakland (buy original art!). I may have an awesome new publisher for that — more details next week.
This is one of the sketches I did of the Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant camp pre-raid — actually just 12 or so hours pre-raid. I’m trying to put together a show of occupy art at the Oakland and SF camps with the generous support and aid of SomArts and other galleries in Oakland. Stay tuned for more details there, and if you or someone you know has been creating art around occupations here (best if it’s easily displayed — drawings, paintings, prints, photos, etc) please get in touch.