Oakland (February 2012)
Two physical occupations in Oakland have been shut down by the police this winter and, without a fixed location, it has been harder for Occupy Oakland to get together. In late January, OO’s media arm, Occupy Oakland Media, issued a statement:
On January 28, Occupy Oakland will take over a vacant building in the city of Oakland to establish a new home, social center and meeting space for the movement. The “Move-in” action will begin with a two-day festival at the new building site, the location of which will remain undisclosed until the day of the event. The seized building will be converted into a social center for the movement.
This building takeover/move-in action was approved by the Occupy Oakland General Assembly and signals a new direction for the Occupy movement: putting vacant buildings at the service of the community.
The police were watching Occupy through the social media. (And OO was following the Oakland Police’s tweets @OaklandPoliceCA .) The City was prepared for the action and issued a press statement of its own. The statement began:
Occupy Oakland protesters have announced their intent to occupy a
large, vacant building in an undisclosed location in downtown Oakland tomorrow, without the permission of the owner. At their General Assembly meetings and through other communications, they have acknowledged that this activity is illegal.
The progressive character of Oakland’s city government makes it different than the governmental units in the 60’s that were aligned against protestors. Oakland’s release quotes City Administrator Deanna Santana:
“This community has a rich history of community engagement and progressive activism to address the very complex issues that the protesters claim to stand for—poverty, the housing crisis, homeless, social justice, literacy, education, and economic inequality—
The release goes on to present a three page list of community projects that seek to address the problems – foreclosure, inequality, poverty – that Occupy is fighting against. It invites Occupy members to join in these programs:
This is a critical time of ever-shrinking resources and programs in our City when Oakland residents need these services the most. Oakland has a long history of supporting a wide variety of productive programs designed to help make the societal changes we all want to see in this great City. Choose one, and let’s work together to make a positive change for everyone.
I think of the Little Rascals: “Hey Gang! Let’s put on a show!”
The release did not prevent the protestors from an attempt to occupy the vacant Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. The police blocked the protestors using tear gas. Protestors fled into City Hall where a US flag from City Council chambers was stolen and burned. Several hundred Occupiers were arrested.
Occupy used social media to tell the story. Much of the protest is broadcast live on UStream and by the next morning there are dozens of videos on You Tube.
I watch an edited video on YouTube under the caption Occupy Oakland – Move-in Day! Cops Suppress Protest with Horrific Tactics. This video has a musical score that accompanies clips of cops swinging clubs and shooting tear gas canisters. I can’t identify the score. I think it might be Wagner – it is dramatic enough – perfect for the sturm and drang of the visual. (I get my iPhone and use Shazam to find out what the music is. Unfortunately there is too much peripheral noise to get a good ID.)
I view another video under the caption Clubs v Shields at Occupy Oakland. This one has narration to explain the events on the screen, a narration made all the more authentic by the fact that the narrator begins to cough half way through and the clip ends with him announcing dramatically that “I have been tear gassed”.
Another is called Occupy Oakland: Police use rubber bullets, tear gas, and flash grenades on protestors. This one has an incredulous narrator who punctuates his reporting with frequent commentary. He keeps saying “Holy Shit!” as the events unfold as if he is at the circus. He says, “Holy shit! I am a fucking idiot for leaving my gas mask at home. I just didn’t expect tear gas in the middle of the day.” He says, “Guys, keep getting this out on your social networks! The police are using rubber bullets now!”
The Chronicle reports the events in a less dramatic fashion, picking up a scene that was not on the video clips that I saw:
At one point, around 6:30 p.m., police cornered marchers near the YMCA at 24th and Broadway, and some of the protesters burst into the building, surprising people working out in the gym. Laura Wong of Oakland said she was familiar with Occupy.
“I just didn’t expect it when I was on the treadmill,” said Wong, 28, after police escorted her and other patrons out of the building. “It was kind of intimidating seeing a whole bunch of police in riot gear.”
Twitter is jumping with reports and commentary. Many of the tweets are from folks in the Bay area, but they are coming in from all over. OccupyPhilly is having a solidarity rally at LOVE Park. One tweet reports that @b9AcE is just back from a solidarity demonstration for Oakland outside of the US Embassy in Stockholm. There are several posts from OccupyBarcelona. A website called the Daily Kos aggregates Livestream feeds that show solidarity actions in LA, New York, Boston and Orlando.
Twitter also carries voices that hate on Occupy Oakland. Tweets point out the destruction of property, the violence, the burning of the American flag. “Vandals.” “They have lost the moral high ground and earned their arrests”.
The feeling is very different than the feeling in Zucotti park last fall. Maybe it is Oakland; maybe it is change in the movement.
- Jay Duret