Reclaim Empty Spaces: Semi-Project Mayhem of the Present (less direction).

After not sleeping for two days because of my student loan status, I thought it would be a good idea to edit this later…

I was wrong.


The protests seem more like Project Mayhem (of Fight Club) now, more like Drugs, Sex, and Cocoa-puffs on crank now, in downtown more than anything else.  They stand today more chaotic, and more violent.  Confusion of pop-culture, violence, the activist’s new norm; action that is scary, dark, and disturbing.  A message that is mixed, diverse, and multi-purposed, weak, yet important.  Childish, but grown.  Glamour activism; a show, today as the world is a theater, and everyone wants the best part.  We act, they act, where is V.?  We see anarchistic propaganda and property destruction and we think…, or do we?  What is going on?  Are you involved?  Is Oakland okay-is fifteenth and Park all right?  Did it change the mind of those who witnessed.  They run, they carry spray-cans now, and a laconic message.  I saw his eyes and I knew it was him.  I saw his conviction, I saw his ideas, I saw his actions and I was worried.  I know there are a million or so like him, probably more.  He is one of the 99%.  I was worried because I knew there was more of them and I didn’t know what they were going to do…

What I understand from Math:  Mostly everything equals everything equals everything.  And there is a logical and rational excuse for everything and anything.

Church = Church

I found out about the reclaim empty spaces movement from a brochure I received while eating at the free church dinner.

All of this began sort of as a joke, but mostly because it felt good to be involved with something.  I mean even if you don’t agree, or aren’t fully involved, it is good to be involved with something.  I think people sometimes feel left out, and alienated…

I found myself walking from a diner never downtown to the Electric Fetus in hopes of exchanging discs for cash.  As I am broke because of lack of accountability on my part and disorganization on my school’s part.  This trip to make money did not work out; I ended up spending more money than I received.  I purchased the movie Life Aquatic, a must see for Bill Murray fans, and walked out the door.  Upon leaving I was bum-rushed by a parade of occupiers, masked up, carrying signs, walking down the middle of Franklin St. bumping music, and shouting anecdotes about freedom from government.  A girl handed me the brochure and I was in.  I love walks and I love people…

We walked through red-lights, and traffic, and through streets filled with ice and snow.  Cars honked as we walked in the sun, I didn’t know where we were going to go.  

There were copious amounts of cameras, bandanas, backpacks, and propaganda; standard attire for occupants of occupations and protests in 2012.

We were just walking down the street towards downtown waving at people and yelling.  We were gods.  I was, clean-shaven, walking with signs towards cameras with mics on top of them.  I was walking and taking in the sights, there was much confusion.

People shouted and expressed themselves as they walked, my headphones still in my ears.  I walked with no agenda, I walked to see where this was going, the motive and objective was unclear.  

After walking a distance individuals started directing the group of people towards an abandoned church, or government building, or something of the sort (later I found out it was actually a church erected in 1897).  This happened as police cars drove by looking suspiciously at letters and people.

The next thing I saw were protesters covering doors with massive signs; a strategic maneuver to distract the cops from what was really happening: they were tearing the doors down one ply at a time, they were going to break the fuck in and party.

The men in covered faces, bandanas and ski-masks, pulled out crowbars and power-drills which they took to the wood covering the doors.  I stood on the sidewalk, mostly confused, but more so extremely amused.  I was merely taking it in, I was in journalist mode.  Having no clue that this was going to take place I felt it better to detach myself from the crowd and wait for what was to come.  Who, what, where, when?  I was wishing for my camera.  I was perspiring from excitement on this windy, and cold day.  After some time the doors were kicked open and a majority of the group entered to find graffiti, music, and a dance party in this run-down church.

The most beautiful and random thing I have ever witnessed, the symbolism of breaking into a sacred place; the message, an attempt at attracting followers.  I wondered, possible donations?

I thought, who is the speaker, the pastor, the priest, and who has the megaphone?  We should know this at least. 

It was animal, it was capricious.

Bystanders outside watched confused, awestruck, and hesitant to do anything but stand and stare.  I walked up and took a look, I could see inside.  There were many people in the main room, dancing and shouting, taking in an account of their surroundings.  The innards of the building were mostly covered in dust, yet freshly tagged pieces shined on the walls.  Wood hung from the door-frames, holes dotted the floor and the ceiling, no bibles were to be found.  The occupants had occupied.  The cops came and I left immediately, but not before networking with an acquaintance, getting a photograph, and trying to understand the meaning of what was happening.

I did not understand the powerful imagery of seeing this aggressive act until I read the brochure at home.

I understand the need for the government to take care of what they have reclaimed from the people.  I understand that people living outside without shelter deserve to live in homes or shelters, possibly, but not realistically, in these abandoned buildings.  I also understand, however, for all practical purposes this idea is harder to fulfill than an abandoned church, or any government building for that.  It was easy to fill the church with people because it was planned out, maybe society lacks planning and conviction.

Maybe everyone needs to get a job and occupy a paycheck, but I won’t say that on the megaphone.  Its all in fun, I won’t say it on the megaphone though.  

Police in Minneapolis were more concerned with drugs, guns, and gangs.  The officer said to the people inside that they could all be arrested for burglary, and then he said good luck.  He pulled out his radio and called for backup.  He didn’t understand.  I didn’t either.  One of the covered faces came and tried to talk, but the officer directed him to the cruiser.  I figure when the police start giving orders (and especially moving things with their hands, or pointing towards things) it is time to get out.  I was about a block away.  I had no camera.  She took the photos. How sad?  I did not see any arrests.

Apparently, “Capitalism is the crisis, and it is not in crisis.”  I sort of semi-almost agreed with this statement, but I figure it is out of my hands.  I stick my hands in my pocket.  My pockets are empty except for a few lucky pennies, I suddenly, and adamantly agree with the crisis statement.  I then change my mind…

I walk on and agree, but nothing new was said, and there were no new listeners.

Just doing something to revolt against the norm is dangerous and outrageous, but doing something for a purpose is rational and interesting.  This demonstration was kind of both.  I didn’t understand what the purpose was until afterwards, but now that I think about it, it was more radical than purposeful.  It was more reckless than practical, but it happened for a reason.  I have never seen such a thing before.

People broke down doors and spoke on megaphones and spoke of change and condoned activities, some wished others good luck.

As I stood on the sidewalk watching the church a cop walked to the door and I thought oh fuck.  I put my hands over my mouth and started laughing and bent forward to the ground and back up again.  I spoke oh my god to myself.  The old man standing to my left was unimpressed.  I felt almost sick because of the whole situation, but my luck had changed.

I met someone who changed my mind, and we connected.  Had I not gone, had I not witnessed, I would not have been found; I would have been confused about my day, I would not have had this conversation.  My weekly outlook is different now because of this happening.

All of this was written on a brochure in exchange for my participation and evaluation:

He handed me the brochure as I ate pink salmon, he told me to come to the spot on Saturday.  I saw him again on Thursday at a convenient store and he told me the same.  I half-assed said I would make it, I half-assed thought I wouldn’t.  I never thought I would find this:


I have found so many pennies on the ground this week that I understand why my luck is up and down like a roller-coaster.  Thanks for that last one Tupac.

My luck is manic-bipolar at best, and I think the world will probably end soon because of this, or I will assume and be concerned for no reason.  

I told my roommates if my luck didn’t change for the better I was going to run across the street as fast as I could with my eyes closed.  They laughed and thought this was funny.  They said walk slower.  I then told them that my luck was so high right then, at that very moment, that I would never be able to do such a thing without thinking twice about what might happen next.

2 words, 8 hours, and 1 question.  9.5 for style.  Yes, life happens.  Proactive in a procreative way, but not in the reproductive sense.

“What’s next?”  That is the question that lead me to this situation.


On the walk home from the church situation I looked down at the rubble and trash across from the 19 bar.  I thought what a scummy city to have all of this trash lying about.  I thought I would pick some of it up.

I found broken bottles, I found broken glasses, I found pieces of styrofoam, and then I found a perfectly good glass with Pabst Blue Ribbon written on it.  Clear and blue, a little dirty, but nothing a remotely working dishwasher couldn’t take care of.  I grabbed it with my glove, took it home, and washed it.  I poured a fresh PBR and took a sip.

The taste was heavenly, and an angel arrived at my house to show me that I was all wrong about the closed eyed car situation, and that the world was brighter than I could see from one certain angle.

All night this interaction replayed in my head.  All night.  All night I thought about how I had come to find myself in this, and then I didn’t care.  Things happened because things happened.  That is what happened.

That glass was left outside like the pennies, like the brochure, like the parade, like the camera phone (that captured my photo and inspired a conversation, and this post), like the cops, like the idea of community, to inspire and change a person’s life.  All of these insignificant objects put together to create a significant collage with an idea that reads:  life happens.

One has to smile.

Underlying message:  Total confusion, but it happened, and that’s life.  “Life happens.”  Thanks for those words Miki.

All of this was on the ground, and in my fridge, just waiting to be taken in.

x+3 = 3x+2 = 3.5 = 3.5

Also, x = 1/2.

All of this was written on a napkin in exchange for photos and ideas…

At the Dakota lounging.


I was listening to jazz and drinking the finest of beverages with a good friend and some good people.  I never thought 3 am would come and go, and then morning would come and go, with my sleep.  It was lost, but I did get all the things I wanted to get done done.  Had the Dakota not happened, yesterday would not have happened.  Had 3 am not happened, my day would have been boring and sheltered.

All this aside nothing happened while everything was happening.  No one realized what was happening until after.  I tried to avoid only to get sucked in, to suck others in, to get sucked off, respectively.  Honestly, that sort of sucks, but it is sort of awesome.  I see it from a different angle now.  There are many facets, one movement (with differing directions), and a thousand heads to cut off before anything can be assessed and considered useful for the future.

“The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”  –Audre Lorde

So breaking into a government building with a power-drill (created by a corporation), and bumping music (produced by a corporation) on a boom-box (also created by a corporation) to prove the point that corporations and government are corrupt and out of line just might be an oxymoron.

The irony!

Also:  You have to get outside and see the weather.  You have to get outside, and you take a walk around the town.


About Terry Scott Niebeling

Hello, My name is Terry Scott, a human being with flaws. twitter: @sirterryscott Buy my ebooks:
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One Response to Reclaim Empty Spaces: Semi-Project Mayhem of the Present (less direction).

  1. Very surreal and imaginative, my friend. The math stuff fits right in, like some big puzzle. I think I know what happened, but the fact that I’m not entirely sure makes it all the more surreal…

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