August 24, 2012

Books vs police batons


The People’s Library of Occupy Wall Street observe that books have played a crucial role in the OWS. As they write on their Facebook page:

Books have become a key icon of recent uprisings and social movements. Last fall, libraries—like the People’s Library of Occupy Wall Street—popped up at every occupation. In November at UC-Berkeley, when the tents were cleared from Occupy Cal, students filled a plaza with books spread open on their faces, accompanied by signs that read, “These are our new tents!” And in February in Valencia, Spain, protesting students brandished books at the police in an action called “Books against Nightsticks.”

Book Bloc, one of the recent book/protest innovations started in Italy in 2010, has been making the rounds internationally, appearing at protests in London, Spain, California, New York.

According to the People’s Library, a Book Bloc consists of “phalanxes of protesters hoisting large shields against lines of riot police, each emblazoned with the cover of a book. ”

Here in New York, the OWS librarians are offering a workshop on making book cover shields on July 29th. According to their site, “Books Take to the Streets: a book bloc workshop” Librarians will be on hand to teach you how to make your own shield, discuss the history of the Book Bloc and “spark conversation about the tactical and symbolic uses of books.”

So, what book would you use as your “shield”?


Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.