Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pre-Occupied in Oakland

Shields made out of trash cans
protect Occupy Oakland warriors
Occupy Oakland is back in the streets an up against what is arguably the most vicious police force in the USA.And O.P.D. is once again up to its old tricks.

Saturday's march was called "Move-in Day and the plan was a takeover of a deserted commercial space to convert it into a community center where all sorts of activities like workshops, films and meals could take place. Granted, it was a bit of an overreach but a center of this kind would be a wonderful opportunity for outreach to the various communities of Oakland.

The march atmosphere was more animated and festive than most political protests. Seasoned Occupiers held makeshift shields made of garbage cans with peace signs or anarchy symbols painted on them. The sight of them under a  mobile row of Tibetan prayer flags gave the whole event the air of a fiesta in Latin America.  

Many marchers, including myself and my partner, had no idea where the chosen building was located. It was kept secret to prevent the police from interfering with the plan. The problem was that many police actually knew more than the marchers did.

There were quite a few logistical errors associated  with the selection of the mammoth Henry J. Kaiser convention center building as a move-in target, the biggest one being the construction occurring on the roadway beside the building along with the cyclone fences in front of it. The two rows of cyclone fencing created a trap for those of us directly behind the police line and in front of the building. When the cops started throwing flash-bang grenades and announced that we had one minute to disperse, there was nowhere to go.

Some folks had pulled apart the fencing as far as it would allow, creating a triangular hole that one person at a time could squeeze through. The young people were very thoughtful and courteous and let their aged comrades (Deborah and I) through almost at once. Fortunately for all of us, the cops held off on resorting to stronger weapons on their captive audience and after some sound and fury everyone was allowed to move on.

Just around the corner a few minutes later, the larger confrontations began and some of the trash-can warriors not only held their ground, but actually began advancing on the police. That is when the smoke bombs and teargas canisters began exploding and all hell broke loose.

The mass arrests didn't occur until later in the evening and I can't report on them first hand because we departed in the afternoon. On Sunday at a gathering in Oscar Grant Plaza, I learned that nearly four hundred people were surrounded by police and arrested outside of the Oakland YMCA in direct violation of their first amendment rights although the YMCA did help quite a few folks escape through their back door. Police claim their intentions were illegal ones, i.e.: the intent to take over a building. So, I guess it's official: thought crime is now against the law.

The mainstream media is making much ado over a flag-burning inside Oakland City Hall. It's helping Jean Quan  acquire much-needed political capital by championing her motherly protection of the city from wild and crazy radicals.

Supervisor Ignacio De La Fuente wins the award, hands down, for scariest politician. He has called the Occupy protests "domestic terrorism." Now you know how they're planning to use the National Defense Authorization Act. Indeterminate detention with no right to trial. I see a bleak image is appearing in my crystal ball...