Should #OccupyOakland Campers Stay? I don’t know.

Occupy Oakland General Strike (135 photos)

In my previous blog post, I enthusiastically gave #OccupyOakland my support.

On Wednesday, I participated in the awesome march to the Port of Oakland during the General Strike. (see photo album above)

Thursday, I attended the City Council meeting to discuss a draft resolution from CM Nancy Nadel, Rep for District 3 which includes downtown Oakland, that would allow camp to stay at Frank Ogawa Plaza. I tweeted throughout the meeting (see @tdlove5). If you want some riveting and juicy details (CM Brooks literally embarrassed the heck out of CM Kaplan), check out my tweets or read through tweets dated Nov. 3rd in this hashtag: #oakmtg.

Anyway, at the meeting I learned some things that have left me with mixed feelings on the whole issue. I will share what I learned at the meeting, pro and con, and explain my thoughts at the end.

Warning this post is long, but I wanted to be thoughtful and as thorough as I could be in my ‘reporting’ and subsequent thoughts. So get out your coffee, put your feet on the table and join me.

Again, let me reiterate that these are arguments that I learned from those who testified at the City Council meeting. Let me start this by saying that I truly admire those that take the time to show up to these meetings and speak. Especially the young children. It’s not an easy thing to do (people heckle others they don’t agree with).

I have attended meetings, and so far I have not been brave enough to say something. Yet. Someday, I will be ticked off enough about something to speak my mind. Or maybe even happy enough to say something nice.

Arguments for why Occupy Oakland campers should stay.

Occupy campers are providing a service to the community that the city of Oakland can’t/won’t.

Many speakers testified that there are homeless, disabled (mentally and physically), and jobless who are camping with Occupy. They are being fed, and treated (at nurses tent) and mentored on site. Something that the city of Oakland hasn’t been doing a job good of.

It’s their right. The Constitution does not preclude time or place or amount of time allowed to protest on public property.

The First Amendment of the Constitution does not explicitly place limits to freedom of expression. City Administrator Santana mentioned (and it’s my basic understanding) that you must apply for permits to have events at public parks and spaces..

(However, IMO (not Santana’s) many sit-ins and protests in the past that were successful, broke the rules and laws.)

Please note: Dorothy Jones, owner of Everett and Jones and supporter of Occupy Oakland, applied for permits so that Occupy could serve food and have events at Frank Ogawa during Wed. Nov 2 strike and provided a bbq for thousands of participants that evening.

You (the public and city) only have a problem with the trash because it is downtown.

CM Nadel and other speakers pointed out that there are homeless, trash, and violence in all parts of the city that people don’t seem to care much about. One resident said she has to live amongst violence and crime in her neighborhood in East Oakland everyday. Why does the city care about it now? Because it’s on their front door step. (and I would say because it is National news)

Occupy inspires young people towards civil protest.

A couple of young people attended the City Council meeting and testified before the council. They expressed admiration for those speaking out for their rights and trying to make a difference in the community. One young teen was a camper herself and asked that the police remember that there are young children in the camp. The police should not bring tear gas or shoot pellets at them. She also admonished them to take off their shoes upon entering the campsite.

(I have a picture as proof, but something doesn’t seem right about posting it here. shrug).

Furthermore, this is an “opportunity” for Oakland to be an example of progressiveness. To show the world that we care about equity and want to do something about it!

The police have committed unfair brutal attacks against the campers and protesters in violation of the city’s crowd control policy.

I am not sure if this is an effective argument of why they should stay, but it is a legitimate complaint. There are the examples of veterans Scott Olsen, and now Kayvan Sabehgi being injured by police action. Another resident talked about how her daughter had a tear gas canister explode on her ankle. Local reporter resident, Max Allstadt, was arrested for ‘being in the wrong place at wrong time’. And there are probably many more examples that I am missing..

Attorney Michael Siegel tweeted me a copy of the Oakland’s crowd control court order which you can download here.

Occupy Oakland does not condone violence, they are a work in progress that could use the city’s help instead of it’s condemnation. Don’t punish the whole group over a few bad apples.

Over the past couple of days you have probably heard statements from Occupy Oakland decrying the random acts of violence that occurred during the General Strike and on several other occasions. There seems to be a small sector of the community, who dress in all black and are labeled anarchists, that like to cause destruction. Even the Oakland Police Department, in public statements, identified the trouble makers as a separate group.

Occupy Oakland has apologized to the city and have organized efforts for clean-up. Last night they held a General Assembly to come up with ways to stop the violence. You can watch live streaming of GA meetings by following @OakFoSho’s live stream.

At the meeting Occupy Oakland asked the Council several times for help figuring out their electricity issues and invited them more than once to attend the General Assembly meetings.

Arguments for why Occupy Oakland should leave.

The campers are causing the city of Oakland to lose business.

The President of Oakland’s Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce testified to the city council that two businesses have left Oakland’s downtown’s office space and another business declined to make a deal to move to Oakland. Mayor Quan says that another business owner is concerned for the safety of the employees and warned that if he leaves, he will be taking 500 jobs with him.

Occupy Oakland is costing the City money and resources that the city can not afford.

Recently the city reported that the cost to the city from Occupy Oakland as of Oct. 28th has been a little over a million dollars. This does not include the costs from the General Strike or the loss of business from the shut down of the Port of Oakland.

Mayor Quan also testified that the city has limited resources..when the city directs those resources to Occupy Oakland, they are being taken away from areas of the city that really need it. Cops being used to police Occupy are being taken away from East Oakland. She pleaded with Occupy Oakland to help her, help East Oakland.

The camp has trash, public safety and violence issues. One of reasons for eviction on Tuesday, 25th was lack of communication from the campers, and not allowing the police or ambulance to answer calls of distress.

City Administrator Santana presented a thorough power point presentation listing the problems with trash and instances of violence. She said there was a report of a man being beaten over the head with a 2 x 4. A reporter being bit by a dog. The kitchen using illegal extension cords and propane tanks and various other bio-hazards that you can look at in the picture at left.

She says that the city tried various avenues of communication. She sent a staff member to GA meetings, who was not allowed to participate. They used social media, following tweets and reading Facebook posts, in order to find out what is going inside the camp. They even sent written notices that were ignored. The city were looking for a willingness to comply with the laws and to cooperate. CM Brooks even admonished Occupy in her speech saying “This was a Council that was willing to work with you”.

The downtown residents not involved in Occupy, feel their rights are not being fairly taken into consideration.

The Occupy movement had a lot of supporters at this meeting. However, there were a few brave souls who came and spoke in opposition to CM Nadel’s resolution. Residents testified that they don’t feel safe downtown anymore. That the national coverage sheds a negative light on the city. Via ear hustle, I heard one woman complain that she feels like she is being held ‘hostage’ in her own neighborhood.

When I tweeted this comment, I got some flack from a couple who were following my tweets. However, in her (and my defense), the word may be an exaggeration, but the constant drone of helicopters and the constant police action taken towards Occupy Oakland does leave one feeling trapped in a “war-like” atmosphere. (Another inflammatory phrase for you).

Further comments made by residents at the meeting (in summary): Oakland has had it’s fair share of protests and strife in the city. It’s not fair to continue to subject the city to abuse, when all we (residents of Oakland) are trying to do is survive this economic crisis and take care of our own. Why does Oakland have to be the example? Why not LA or New York?

The 1% is not here in Oakland.

CM Patricia Kernighan reminded the audience that the 1%, who Occupy is complaining against, does not reside in Oakland. Goldman Sachs is not in Oakland. Bank of America is not based in Oakland. Even the really wealthy do not live in Oakland. Why not go to Piedmont..or Marin? Or Wall Street?

The 1% don’t care about what is happening in Oakland. They are watching, sitting back in their comfortable homes and neighborhoods, and laughing at our expense.

SF Chronicle recently published an article on Bay Area companies that are targeted by the Occupy Movement (like Wells Fargo) and addresses the issue of their tax contributions.

What is the point of Occupy Oakland? Who is the leader? What are the plans? What are the goals? Why should we (city of Oakland and residents) support something without a clear agenda?

CM Brooks in her speech showed how she clearly supported Occupy Oakland. She camped out with them for the first couple of days. Yet, Brooks expressed disappointment in the fact they have yet to tell even her, a supporter, what their goals are.

In the end, the council did not make a decision. CM Nadel did not think she would have enough votes for her resolution that night so she decided not to bring it up. After a long meeting which heard over a 100 speakers, CM Reid called for another meeting at a later date to discuss specific policy solutions.

MY personal thoughts:

I actually agree with all of the points here. Pro and Con. This is why I have mixed feelings on Occupy Oakland campers staying at Frank Ogawa.

On one hand, I am in total agreement with the movement, for reasons I stated previously. On the other hand, I loathe the negative affects the occupation has had on the city of Oakland in particular.

I’m not really bothered by the fact that #Occupy Oakland has no real concrete position. I feel that this is a movement that is a work in progress. As well planned as the Civil Rights Movement has reportedly been, I find it hard to believe that there were no instances where a protest didn’t achieve a specific goal. I think that maybe there were instances in the past where people engaged in civil disobedience and protested because they were merely upset over what was happening and had no real goal in mind except to just register their complaint. Yet we don’t know about those, because there was no internet or media to broadcast those not-so-successful demonstrations for the whole world to judge and condemn. However, from those sporadic protests in the beginning, over time a thought out, goal-oriented and well-organized movement emerged that was able to achieve some success which is now being recognized and celebrated.

For some reason we aren’t allowing Occupy Oakland the chance to grow and learn. I don’t think it’s very fair. Especially if all some people are doing are being an armchair critics and not helping the situation at all.

If you are one of those feel that Occupy Oakland needs direction, guidance and focus: (my suggestion) go to their General Assembly and help them. You got concrete ideas and plans?..Share them at the GA. I have gone to the General Assembly meetings and you would be surprised at how organized and democratic they actually are. It’s pretty awesome actually. They meet in the afternoons. I don’t know what specific time but if you go to Occupy Oakland’s Facebook page you can find out.

I believe there have been successes within the Occupy Movement. Occupy Oakland shut down the Port of Oakland- the 5th largest Port in the US. Hit international and national corporations in their pocket books. If we know nothing about the ‘clear intentions, goals or expected outcomes’ of the Occupy Movement, we do know that they are tired of big corporations taking money from the 99%, and that attacking corporate pocketbooks is the preferred method to register a complaint. That’s what Occupy wanted to do and that’s what we (myself and thousands of supporters) did.

Other instances of success include Occupy Walnut Creek, and their success in getting residents to leave their banks. And today..the movement to get people to switch to credit unions. This may not directly be attributed to Occupy Oakland, but the conversation has changed. People are listening and not liking what they are seeing. Change is happening, slowly but surely.

Yes, this is costing the city (and country for the national movement) money and inconvenience. Unfortunately that’s the nature of protest. I can imagine, and it is probably documented in books that I haven’t read, the loss and suffering endured by innocent bystanders to the Civil Rights movement. However, the end did justify the means, right? We don’t like it while it’s happening..but there is potential. And in the future, when we look back we can marvel at the great change that occurred and it would be celebrated. We don’t know that yet.. but isn’t it worth it to see what happens?

Thousands of us walking to Port of Oakland- from http://www.sfbayview.com

I do not regret my part in the General Strike. It may have meant nothing in the end, but words can not accurately express what it feels like to speak out and be heard. When I was marching with the city..and we came to the overpass that takes you to the Port (as pictured above).. and we were able to witness the thousands who were marching with us…tears came to my eyes. I was so proud. It was amazing.

But does that mean that Occupy should camp out in front of Frank Ogawa plaza? I am starting to think not. CM Brooks stated (and I paraphrase) “This movement is bigger than a park. The movement won’t die just because you can’t camp out front.” This I agree with.

I also agree that the negative consequences of camping is unfair to the people who live in downtown Oakland and just want a safe place to be when they get home. The helicopters are annoying. And when I saw what (the small group of anarchists) did to Whole Foods..it broke my heart. On the other hand, it’s hard to control those who are bound and determined to make trouble. They were also bound and determined to make trouble before Occupy Oakland ever arrived. Is it fair to punish Occupy Oakland for this..or should the police do a better job of making sure this group does not have the opportunity to act again?

So what should happen? I don’t know. But, I do hope that the city and the Occupy Oakland team comes to some sort of peaceful agreement. I hope that both parties continue to communicate. I hope that members of the City Council and the Mayor attend General Assembly meetings and I hope that Occupy Oakland will allow them to speak. I really hope that the OPD can root out the small group of ‘anarchists’ and do something about them once and for all. Finally, I hope that Oakland residents can feel safe in their own city, while allowing other residents the opportunity to engage in peaceful and civil protest.

I will participate in the movement the best I can given my already hectic schedule. But, like I said, I believe in this movement. I can be patient and see what happens. I am optimistic.

What do you think?

Did I forget something that you think should be included? Let me know. Share your thoughts, complaints and solutions. I may not have all the answers, or any that satisfy you, but I love hearing different points of view.

So speak out!

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Advocacy, City Council, Oakland, Politics

3 responses to “Should #OccupyOakland Campers Stay? I don’t know.

  1. I wanted to clarify: I’m not a reporter. I do, however, concur that my arrest was for “being in the wrong place at the wrong time”. There were dozens of other people who were arrested with me who were just as confused about why they were detained. There were some others among us who had done more serious things, but they were in the minority.

  2. Thank you for conveying the pros and cons of Oakland’s occupy movement. A peaceful resolution for all sides would definitely be an optimistic outcome. I too concur.

  3. Tonya, I’m glad to see the way you empathize with all of the stakeholders. The situation is even more complex than you portray.

    Since the rains moved in, most of those who have a home to go to, go there to sleep at night, so the people who are sleeping in the encampment are what I call the indigenous homeless. Demographically speaking, most of them are People of Color, and perhaps a third of them are military veterans. All of them have one thing in common: they are there because it’s easier to be homeless in community than alone.

    The GA remains mostly white, and most remain highly engaged in the daily life of the encampment. (BTW, at the moment, they are meeting at 6:00p.m. on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). The question remains about how to make room for the voices of those who are affected by the decisions that are made. For me, it’s very much about healing and empowerment work, and that’s more readily done in community and with a community that’s visible. This is a move towards a deeper democracy than Town Hall Meetings where the power to effect change is still held in the hands of those with a vested interest in the status quo.

    It is extremely satisfying to see anti-oppression work being done among the oppressed; it is nauseating in the extreme to see that work being done almost exclusively among bleeding-heart liberal white folks. The structural racism that gave rise to the Oscar Grant tragedy is best addressed in Oscar Grant Plaza.

    Occupy Oakland’s undeniable service to the homeless is just one example of the way the movement is grappling with the socio-economic dysfunction that is the fallout of a capitalist system in a Culture of Violence that puts thing before people. I view Occupy Everywhere as the greatest social experiment our species has ever conducted, and I believe it is crucial that it be done in community, and with great transparency.

    Oscar Grant Plaza is now the home of the Oakland Commune. Occupy Oakland was launched on Indigenous People’s Day (October 10) to spotlight the fact that that space was already occupied territory. We’re questioning the whole notion of ownership, especially property ownership. Oscar Grant Plaza belongs to the community.

    It is true that Occupy Oakland has not yet found its place as a community in the community of communities that is the City of Oakland. The surrounding businesses that object to the presence of Occupy Oakland in the Plaza are the capitalists who would outsource their comfort and security to the police rather than presenting themselves as human beings to people who are looking for a win-win. The City hears their voice most clearly because it is their tax dollars that pay municipal employees. Do I hear echoes of K Street? Occupy Oakland is expensive? It costs a great deal to deploy riot squads, especially when Mutual Aid is invoked. I don’t remember Occupy Oakland asking the City for one thin dime, although perhaps a gift of ear plugs to the lawyers in the office building who are having difficulty working would be a low-cost, effective way to keep the peace. Occupy Oakland is not willing to bow to the almighty dollar when making decisions that affect the community.

    I’m glad that the whole world is watching. If the encampment could have some relief from harassment and violence, they might have the peace and space necessary to decide on their own to seek other quarters, at least for the rest of the rainy season. But if they are forcibly, violently removed, the OPD and administration will be disgraced, and I don’t even like to think of the violence. (“Four dead in Ohio.”) Even a “good” cop has a breaking point, and the most nonviolent among us can lose connection with our intentions under threat of bodily harm.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s