Mass actions are being planned for February 28 to stand up in nonviolent demonstration against the rubber bullets, baton beating, tear gas, and mass arrests of occupiers. So far, Occupy New York City, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Cleveland, Occupy Houston, Occupy Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Occupy Hollywood are on board. Signers to this Call to Action are activists, historians, immigration rights workers, a former poet laureate of the United States, professors, university deans, a retired bishop of the Episcopal Church for the Armed Services and Federal Ministries, reverends from the Church of St Paul and St Andrew, and from St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harlem, a clinical psychologist and reverend from New Sanctuary Movement, radio, film and television directors and producers, the U.S. Liaison Secretariat of the International Tribunal of Conscience of Peoples in Movement, a senior minister from Judson Memorial Church, someone from Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the director of the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Program Development at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis, a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, an adjunct professor from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and a colonel and retired US Diplomat from Veterans for Peace.
While two prominent Occupy Oakland participants are among those endorsing this action, Occupy Oakland’s General Assembly on February 22 is focused elsewhere. Some in Occupy Oakland feel they already stood up and shut down the Port of Oakland for a second time in response to repression. They’ve moved on. Listen to the accompanying audio for an open forum check-in on this topic at: http://redroom.com/member/jane-p-perry/media/audio/moving-ahead-with-occ....
The violence that erupted with Occupy Oakland’s January 28 action, billed as a two-day move-in festival to claim a community service and organizing space, left me totally unsettled. I had seen the cautionary information on Occupy Oakland’s website. This would be an action that would include police confrontation. Somehow I wanted to believe that the space was being made available to Occupy Oakland, perhaps with some negotiations around utility services to come. How naïve. I guess organizations already serving community need were out of the loop? Pressure and/or fear of liability like a few other unused spaces in the city that backed out of original offers to Occupy?
Actions teetering on tactics of “who did what” draw attention away. This is the sentiment at Occupy Oakland’s February 22 General Assembly. Participants to an upcoming protest action are urged on Occupy Oakland’s website:
Keep in mind that the goal is to end the lockout and get the workers back to work, so all actions should keep strategy, discipline, and accountability in mind when considering tactics.
Tactics are emblematic of the means by which the 1% maintains control. Occupy Oakland speakers at general assembly have said that exposing the illegality of the 1%'s enforcer tactics will force change. Case in point is the Chicago Tribune report on February 9, 2012 that Chicago has been ordered to pay $6.2 million to the mass arrest of 800 demonstrators the night Iraq was invaded in 2003 [http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/clout/chi-city-offers-62-million-to-settle-arrests-at-2003-war-protest-20120209,0,2808264.story]. Tonight we hear that an East Bay Express investigative report identifies an Oakland police officer as the one who fired the tear gas container in October 2011 into a peaceful protest march, severely injuring Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen.
The loss of physical space to organize and enact community service has been significant in the occupy movement. The space meant that organization of political action could happen without disruption. Equally as important and certainly quite powerful, was the experiential feedback of shared accommodation. The occupied space created awareness and generated activism. It was real-time verses hypothetical collaboration. The hum of the many servicing reliable, dependable, 24/7-available basic needs for food, shelter, interaction, spiritual support, and intellectual, aesthetic information and stimulation generated a qualitatively different experience and therefore awareness of how community can be.
While the occupy movement continues with some saying a relief from the constant fight for territory, the lack of an identified space is a convenience for the status quo because generative activism is not as easily available. Cal Occupy understands, securing sequential one night tent-overs last week in separate spots on the Berkeley campus to challenge the “I thought Occupy was over.” A February 21, 2012 story in the SF Chronicle reveals UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau’s true response during the November police baton use on locked-armed students during the campus encampment removal, despite his mea culpa upon international appall. “Our policies are absolutely clear. Obviously this group wanted exactly such a confrontation.” He elaborates in a second email. “It is critical that we do not back down on our no encampment policy. Otherwise, we will end up in Quan land.”
Health and safety in the camps had become a looming mantra, as if health and safety were not always a concern in serving community need. Crime, however, went down by 19% in Oakland’s downtown City Hall neighborhood during the encampment. “I’m not sure how you want to address this good news,” interim-now-Chief of Police Howard Jordan writes in an email to Mayor Quan.
On February 11, 2012 the Oakland Tribune asked readers: “Do you support Occupy Oakland?” Out of a total of 10,826 responses, 94% answered yes. 94%! Red Vine Licorice workers in Hayward, CA came to Occupy Oakland for help during stalled negotiations with a management that had locked them out. When undocumented Pacific Steel workers were fired and threathened with loss of pensions, they sought out Occupy Oakland for help organizing a protest march. Union workers locked out from Castlewood Country Club over a dispute for health benefits for their families came to Occupy Oakland to stand with them in a February 25 action honoring their two year strike. These are the 99%.
Occupy Oakland has linked with the Prison Reform movement with a President’s Day turned Prisoner’s Day protest at San Quentin and now a fundraiser, continues to disrupt foreclosure auctions, is collaborating with area educators and parents for school board meetings and a bi-monthly newsletter disseminating information on the history of school privatization in Oakland, planning for the March 1 and 5, 2012 Occupy Education marches locally and in Sacramento, and in ongoing outreach is participating in neighborhood meetings and park cleanups (OccupytheBrooms) and coordinating BBQs in different areas of the city, and maintains an active website for information and contextual elucidation. Go to OccupyOakland.org.