And that used to be what the American Dream was all about, right? You could be anyone from anywhere, but, if you were willing to work hard, then you too could improve your lot in life. Well, not any more. And the people I saw tonight, these decent, well-meaning Americans, they know it, they are acutely aware of this fact now, and they are bloody well pissed off about it. And they’re right to be pissed off. What’s a little tear gas, in face of crushing debt, burdensome college loans, medical bills that can’t be paid, foreclosure, a declining standard of living, and not much hope for the future otherwise?
Tonight, Oakland, you have a right to be proud of your citizens. And America, yes, and Planet Earth: You have a right to be proud of the people of Oakland. They stood up for you tonight, for all of you. For the idea that you — and everyone else — all have a right to lead a decent, dignified life, free of poverty and hunger and debt.
as i rode my bike home around 5:00pm i could see all the helicopters hovering over downtown, 1.5 miles from my home in west oakland. i knew that the #occupyoakland was preparing for a face-off, because at 5am on Tuesday morning their formerly-allowed encampment outside city hall had been forcefully raided. and i did, for a minute, think of turning my bike around and heading down there. but i had been downtown by accident during the Oscar Grant riots in 2009, and the memory of that, of seeing the riot police approach, of watching people run, of getting locked inside a downtown restaurant with my friend Sahar as the crowd smashed my car, was too strong. i didn’t want to go down there. and so i sat on the couch last night from 5:00-11:30pm watching this unfurl via the live streams and twitter.
THANK GOD FOR TWITTER, as the news kept cutting their feeds to “refuel” their helicopters at seemingly strategic times – like right before the first dose of tear gas went into the crowd. either the news didn’t want to show the footage live so that they could save it for their 8/9/10pm TV news reports (control of access to their footage), or they were cooperating with police to not show the moments of action in case something they didn’t want televised happened. some said it was the other way around – the police had radios that and knew when the TV choppers would go back to refuel, and timed their actions then. either way, Twitter was the only way to get actual real-time reports last night (see #occupyoakland in real time).
for those of you in my audience out there who might have been annoyed by my numerous tweets in that time period – i have this to say: as noted, twitter was how info was being disseminated. as someone NOT PRESENT, i felt like it was just as important to be spreading the info as it was to be there. participating in live, real-time twitter conversation is community-building. people do this during the Superbowl, the Oscars, earthquakes and tons of other collective experiences and i think it’s even more important during things like what happened last night.
so back to why i wasn’t in the streets, despite my strong support for the movement: i feel much the same way about this as i did about the oscar grant riots/protests: i support the movement, i feel the anger and frustration, but i do not support all of the actions. i polled a couple of friends after the 2nd or 3rd round of teargas had hit the crowd and @occupyoakland continued to call for more protesters and more pushback as to whether continuing to regroup and re-engage was the best strategy. perhaps it was me projecting my own personal fear of confrontation, but my gut feeling was that there must be a better way. most people answered that continuing to stand up was a show of resistance that was necessary, not only to show the resistance, but perhaps more importantly to show the world what the police and government were willing to do in response. and show the world they did.
but still, this morning, even after seeing that aftermath and all of the support from around the world, i am still unsettled about the path the protesters chose to take. during the middle of it all, the OPD tweeted their PR statement, and i have to say, taken at face value, i can’t disagree with much. i am not sure how much i agree that people should be able to build 24/7 tent cities on the city hall lawn that don’t have proper facilities or organization to be safe. if you want to show up there, every single morning and stay all day long, i believe that is your right. and yes, the OPD used excessive force to remove the people who refused to leave at 5am yesterday morning, slashing through their camp with no respect or regard and i know people are ANGRY. but i just kept imagining a different scenario, where instead of showing up at night with the objective to “take back the plaza”, the Occupiers had returned to city hall and cleaned up the mess the police had left, and agreed to regroup peacefully every single day from 6am to 10pm, fostering a civic mentality where families and children would feel welcome (see: Occupy Portland as an example) and leaving the plaza clean and empty every night. a scenario where the Occupiers were strategic, and not just reactionary.
perhaps that is ridiculous, but when the Occupiers in New York were told to vacate their space because of health concerns, what did they do? they cleaned it up and agreed to try to follow the rules, and the city has since (mostly) let them be. in contrast, in oakland, and someone please correct me if i’m wrong, there was no organized response to the City Hall decision on October 21 that the protesters had to leave at night because the park was unsafe. instead tensions brewed for 4 days until police action was taken.
i guess my point is that i’m not convinced it needed to be escalated the way that it was on the part of the protesters and that a more organized response would have been a better route. this is not a detraction – i agree with the above quoted piece that people should be proud and still support #occupyoakland, and yeah, i’m not down there in the middle of it and so maybe i have no room to talk. but i think that if the people down there in Ogawa plaza (and everywhere else in the U.S. that is being occupied) really want to have longstanding peaceful protests that are widely supported and not seen as riotous, there could have been ways to get the space back that didn’t involve physical resistance that might have been more successful and involved less tear gas.
i’m sure this is an unpopular opinion, and most will argue it was the Mayor and the OPD who were the instigators. yes, the police could have done like they did in Albany, NY and said “no” to spending their police resources hassling nonviolent protestors, or just stood there all night, in riot gear, without firing a shot or doing anything. they could’ve just held the line (despite reports things were being thrown at them. you have on riot gear – small projectiles shouldn’t be a problem.) and, as stated, standing up to them shows how far the Police are willing to go, highlighting one of the main problems in oakland that people are standing up against – excessive use of force. but that is not what the OPD did – and what that OPD did was, sadly, expected.
i am hoping that for the sake of the longevity of the movement and also to promote and model peaceful conflict resolution, more creative ways to resolve conflict around things like Use of Public Space can be found – for the Occupy movements to take the higher ground and really try to find peaceful, organized responses, working WITH our city governments and elected officials to get what we want. not fighting against.
people are regrouping down there again this evening, and i know people are angry. i just really hope that anger can be directed into something better, not worse, than what happened yesterday.
Filed in politics and news | Tagged with #occupyoakand, #occupywallstreet, #ows, capitalism, fuck oakland, oakland, oscar grant riots, twitter | Comment (1)
i think it was maybe a little insensitive/tasteless to have a musical interlude of “I Fought The Law and the Law Won” during the call-in discussion about Oscar Grant on KALX radio last night on the eve of the sentencing.
in today’s news, the judge will sentence Johannes Mehserle in the murder involuntary manslaughter of Oscar Grant on January 1, 2009. downtown oakland is once again braced for riots protests, as many are unhappy that Mehserle might well just walk out, time served.
update: Mehserle gets two years, one already served.Filed in politics and news | Tagged with NaBloPoMo, oscar grant riots | Comment (0)
Filed in bay area gems, politics and news | Tagged with bartshooting, oakland, oscar grant riots | Comment (1)
Protesters angry over a deadly New Year’s Day shooting of a young black man by a transit police officer erupted into violence in downtown Oakland on Wednesday night while investigators struggled to determine what prompted the officer to fire his gun into the unarmed man’s back.
After an afternoon of peaceful demonstrations and a memorial service, protests turned chaotic after dark as a small clutch of protesters set trash cans and cars afire and busted windows on police cruisers and storefronts. Police in riot gear responded with tear gas and billy clubs and at least 14 arrests were made, according to local television reports. Several major downtown streets were closed, and helicopter footage showed small groups of protesters roaming through the city’s deserted center. There were no immediate reports of injuries, but sirens continued to echo into the late evening.
Mayor Ron Dellums pleaded for calm as anger continued to build in the city’s black community over the shooting of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old butcher’s apprentice who was shot in the back while lying on the platform at the Fruitvale station of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.
“We’ve got to have a real investigation that people can have confidence in,” said Mr. Dellums on Wednesday night. “And my sense of it is that part of this reaction is that people have lost confidence.”
Mr. Grant, who had been involved in a scuffle aboard a train after leaving a New Year’s Eve celebration in San Francisco, died at a local hospital several hours after being shot. The bullet, which had passed through his lower back, ricocheted into his lung. The officer, Johannes Mehserle, resigned on Wednesday, but investigators said efforts to interview him about the circumstances of the shooting had been rebuffed by his lawyers and police union leaders, according to Linton Johnson, spokesperson for the transit districtThe incident was captured by at least four cellphone cameras held by passengers on a train idling next to the platform. The videos, which have been widely broadcast and streamed online, show Mr. Grant lying face down when Mr. Mehserle, 27, pulls his gun and fires a single shot. Mr. Mehserle looks stunned for a moment, and then handcuffs Mr. Grant with the assistance of another officer.
John Burris, a lawyer for Mr. Grant’s mother and his live-in girlfriend, said he had asked Tom Orloff, the Alameda County District Attorney, to consider filing criminal charges against Mr. Mehserle.
“If you can’t file charges in a case like this,” said Mr. Burris, “I don’t know what kind of case you can file in.”
Mr. Orloff said he was still investigating the case, as was the BART police department. Federal law enforcement were also reported to be looking into whether Mr. Grant’s civil rights were violated in his killing.
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so, yeah: all the windows in my car, parked RIGHT NEXT TO THIS ONE ON FIRE, were smashed.
in case you missed it, on new year’s day, a BART policeman shot an unarmed man in the back.
and obviously, people are pissed. there were protests all over today, and this one got way out of hand. the earlier part of the protest included a candlelight vigil and very peaceful. i know that, and that was the right thing to do. it’s just really unfortunate that what it spiraled into was completely counterproductive and violent.
i wasn’t there to participate in the protest. my friend and i had parked downtown to have dinner before we went dancing, and just got caught in the middle of it, like 3 times over the course of several hours between our dinner and dancing (but i twittered what i saw in real time!—>). we initially moved from one restaurant location @ 8th street/Broadway to another one @ 13th/Franklin to avoid the protest, which i thought was fairly peaceful looking, but it eventually followed us uptown and got more violent, and when we left the 2nd restaurant i couldn’t get to my car because it was being blocked by riot police. we just figured….what can we do? and went dancing. it was actually really nice to have this safe-feeling dance space to walk into after being surrounded by so much negativity and anger, and we danced hard. if armageddon or somesuch ever really does happen, can someone please just throw a party?
during the invocation, the speaker told everyone there was a riot going on outside and to be really aware and partner up when leaving, and some valiant defender of active democracy interrupted with”it’s not a riot, it’s a protest”. had she been outside? THAT WAS A RIOT. it was hard for me to keep quiet.
anyway, i figured it would all be gone by the time we were done, as this thing had been going on for HOURS already, but when we left the ballroom @ 19th/Broadway there was a huge crowd of police and protesters and ambulances right outside, and when we got back to my car it had been smashed. i guess i’m an idiot for not realizing it was going to get that out of hand and move all over and not getting the fuck out of downtown, but when we parked at the 2nd restaurant, there was no sign of the protest in that area, and it had seemed like it was dispersing. WRONG. it’s still going on now, i’m sure, after midnight. actually, i was invited to join the protest with some friends, and i was like “NO FUCKING WAY”, so i guess part of me did know it would get out of hand. more than anything i didn’t realize it was going to last so long and cover so much of the city.
i have a lot of thoughts in my head about this right now – about what options we have to stand up for justice besides rioting in the streets, about what to do with our anger, about violence begetting violence – but i need to go to bed so i can get up and deal with my car before i go to work tomorrow.Filed in bay area gems, photos, politics and news | Tagged with bartshooting, oakland, oscar grant riots | Comments (5)