|Oct. 26th, 2011 @ 02:04 pm hella occupy oakland.|
hey lj-land, i have internet at home - FINALLY! expect life updates soon ;)
but, RIGHT NOW is the perfect time to write about ... occupy oakland.
i have spent several hours at the campsite at city hall during the last two weeks, and it has been absolutely, profoundly inspiring. the camp began on october 10th, and it was brutally shut down by riot cops yesterday. so i've been reading all the articles i can get my eyes on, to learn as much as i can about how & why it happened this way. so, here is my experience - with research and photos from various local blogs (and a few i took myself).
the energy at the camp was like a festival - very well-organized, very peaceful. lots of wonderful things to explore, and lots of creative and passionate people volunteering their time, effort, skills and resources to make it all happen, an interactive marketplace with no currency. everywhere: people dancing, talking, reading, cooking, making art, building furniture, giving free tarot readings, free haircuts, free massage... there was constantly something going on: live music, hip hop performances (and the best beatboxing ever!), poetry slams, yoga, community meetings and workshops... there were talks on radical history, anarchism, marxism, the black panthers, economic systems, meditation, anger management and communication, different cultures, environmental issues and sustainability... my roommate claire gave a workshop about herbal medicine for female-bodied people :)
also, there was:
a community library with many pamphlets/zines and revolutionary reading material
a media area with computers powered by pedaling a stationary bicycle
a first-aid tent
several port-a-potties donated by someone
an arts and crafts tent
a supplies tent with water and blankets
a community garden of vegetables growing in pots
well-organized trash/recycling/compost boxes- and volunteers who picked up trash around the campsite every 6 hours
a free kitchen where there were always big barrels of bread/bagels and apples, take as many as you needed, as well as hot meals, like huge buckets of stew, bbq chicken, salads (with delicious homemade dressing!) and plenty of fruit.
and, a dishwashing station where volunteers tirelessly scrubbed dishes and silverware- my roommate claire often helped with this (YES I ACTUALLY HAVE ROOMMATES WHO DO THEIR OWN DISHES, TOO) :D
notice the blue gloves that the kitchen volunteers wore. THEY WERE REALLY STRICT ABOUT HYGIENE. i tried to grab something from a container and this lady hella scolded me because SHE was supposed to serve the food... i didn't think it was a big deal at the time, but after reading about why the camp was eventually shut down, i understand that the city's concern with public health related to cleanliness and food storage/handling was a major issue, so the kitchen staff really needed to be strict about that. also with dishwashing- they used HOT water, and of course there were specific buckets for washing and rinsing to be very careful about being clean.
also, there were signs posted around the campsite to please not smoke near the tents to respect other campers, and signs/ropes to protect the huge oak tree on the site (basically, don't walk or pee on me!) and a BIG sign by the entrance, expressing that everyone deserves to be safe. NO VIOLENCE IS TOLERATED. it was clearly only a problem with the very small number of mentally-ill homeless people who stayed at the camp. but also, as i have read, city officials have been concerned about drug and alcohol use, fire safety, food storage/preparation and other aspects of public safety and/or health. in the beginning, the oakland mayor was initially sympathetic to the movement, said "democracy is messy," and allowed the occupation to grow - but in the last week, city officials said that cooperative communication between the city and the camp has deteriorated. there have been a few incidents where police or paramedics were summoned to the camp by an individual, but then not allowed access into the site, which i can understand may be unsafe if there is a real emergency. campers have been trying to handle any issues or disputes by themselves, without any outside forces. but tension has also been rising gradually with the fact that individuals have different approaches to what actions ought to be taken in this movement, since that is simply the nature of individuality, and the movement is developing its direction one day at a time. as one blogger wrote, We shouldn’t romanticize what was happening in that camp; parts were incredibly beautiful and inspiring, and then parts were, like anywhere else you have people, problematic. But it was working and growing and struggling, until, of course, it wasn’t allowed to anymore.
after several letters from the city citing public safety concerns, and eviction notices from the police, and the relentless determination of campers to keep their community alive- the camp was ambushed at 4:30am on the morning of tuesday the 25th, by more than 500 police from different counties. over 75 people were arrested.
from someone who was there:
At the time of this writing I am filled with rage. Occupy Oakland, on its second week, was raided by an overwhelming force of approximately 800 police in riot gear. I was there, ready to defend when police from all entrances to Oscar Grant Plaza rushed in with sticks and began beating people. Their tactics were simple but effective: rush in with overwhelming numbers and push out those that intended to stay for a fight, slowly crush resilience of those who took up the tactic of civil disobedience by linking arms and protecting the camp. They beat people with sticks, shot people with rubber bullets, obliterated ear-drums with flash-bang grenades, and choked them with tear gas.
no injuries were reported by police. just one quick google search for photos and videos, and you'll see that was obviously not the case. :(
i was in the area on tuesday evening, after most of the raid had cleared up- my office is only 8 blocks from the camp, and we could hear helicopters all night long. several of my roommates, co-workers and friends were in the area earlier, some were tear-gassed and really shaken up. clouds of orange smoke everywhere. i wasn't physically there for the violence but it is absolutely chilling to see the aftermath, to know that the police who closed the streets and protected the peaceful protesters during marches through the city earlier this week, are the same police who completely obliterated the campsite and evicted the campers using brute force, weapons and toxic chemicals.
look at this before & after shot of a peaceful sign near the front of the camp- it was not blocking an entrance and it was unnecessary for them to tear it down- just an example of cops on a rampage. at the end of it all, cops mingled around the perimeter of the camp, taking pictures and laughing about their destruction. it really makes me sick.
from a beautifully written blog post, reflecting on the raid: We knew that it would happen. If you live with others in a public space in a city, if you set up shelters in which people can live without owning or renting property, if you set up an outdoor kitchen with which to feed anyone who wants food, if you establish a free school at which anyone can read and learn, if you set up bathroom facilities provided by organizations supporting your activities, if you show solidarity with struggles against police killings and police violence against people of color, against the poor, against women, against queers and transpeople, if you state your determination to defend the space you have created against the threat of eviction, in short—if you work toward organizing ways of living and relating to one another that might challenge those mandated by capitalism, your efforts will eventually be crushed by the police.
check out the rest of that blog post ^ ... and for further reading, i recommend these articles:
excellent portrait of a day at the camp: http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2011/10/occupy_oakland.php
the aftermath of the raid: http://oaklandlocal.com/posts/2011/10/occupy-oakland-touring-aftermath-community-voices.
we must be strong and carry on...