[News] The Razing of Occupy Oakland at Sunrise

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 26 11:43:52 EDT 2011

October 26, 2011

1000 Strong March at Sunset

The Razing of Occupy Oakland at Sunrise



In the early morning on Tuesday, starting before 
5 am, the police temporarily destroyed Occupy 
Oakland, sending in a riot squad of over 500 that 
outnumbered protesters almost 3 to 1.  Oscar 
Grant Plaza (officially Frank Ogawa Plaza) was 
too geographically large and open to be 
adequately defended against the armed tactical 
operation.  Despite swallowing a lot of pride in 
watching the space get torn apart and dozens 
submit to arrest, Occupy Oakland made big 
strategic steps by picking our fights, beginning 
to define the terms of our struggle, preserving 
our forces, and maintaining the moral high-ground 
against a ‘Socialist’ mayor who is now wedded, 
however abusively, to the Oakland Police 
Department.  Twelve hours later 1000 people 
marched against the police as stuck commuters 
cheered them on.  Whatever the former communist 
Mayor once knew about dialectics, she apparently 
quickly forgot when she took office.

The formerly leftist Mayor succumbed to OPD 
pressure by raiding Oscar Grant Plaza and signing 
on to support a youth curfew in the last few 
days, after Police Chief Batts stepped down two 
weeks ago due to tensions with the mayor.  The 
City Attorney left for similar reasons earlier in 
the year.  In a progressive town with a vibrant 
history of resistance, where Occupy Oakland has 
broad support, the Mayor has succumbed, without 
much visible struggle, to the forces that truly 
run this town – the police, the fear-mongering 
media that thinks ‘Oakland’ is simply a synonym 
for ‘murder,’ and the wealthy and upper-middle 
class that clamor for more and more law and 
order.  The ruling class and political 
establishment do not much care that the cost of 
that law and order is the gutting, not only of 
peoples’ rights, but also schools, libraries, 
health clinics, jobs programs, after-school 
programs and more that the ruling strata don’t 
personally need to survive, unlike a large and 
growing number of people who are slipping from struggling to desperation.

The fact that a Mayor who is seen as ‘ultra-Left’ 
could preside over such a budget, one that cedes 
roughly 2/3rd of total city funds to the police, 
and then bend to the police when they ask for 
full control of the city, tells us a number of 
things.  The real enemies of the majority of the 
city’s residents – the working class, working 
poor and dispossessed – are the people who run 
the city.  Electing more ‘radical’ politicians is 
an utter waste of time.  When the State destroys 
our occupation, or smears us, or race-baits white 
radicals, or sends undercover cops into our 
space, or tries to intimidate us, they draw lines 
that they cannot erase in the minds of the 
Occupiers.  A chant of ‘shame’ directed at police 
who beat and arrested a man simply for taking 
video quickly turned to a resounding ‘Fuck the 
Police.’  They are the enemy, they made that 
point clear to everyone who didn’t already know.  Now what?

“Every hour, every day, occupation is here to stay!”

As the sun was coming up in downtown Oakland 
Tuesday morning, many of the evicted Occupiers 
snake marched through downtown, out-maneuvering 
the police, as workers made their way to their 
jobs honking and yelling their support.  One of 
us apologized to a white working-class man, in 
his 30s, in worn overalls whose old pick-up was 
blocked by our presence in the street; as he 
hooked a u-turn, he said with a smile that there 
was no need to apologize and that we should keep 
fighting.  There was a controlled anger and an 
overwhelmingly clear look of determination in the 
eyes of the evicted that we would come back 
stronger.  Not next week, but in a few hours.  And we did.

A 4 pm re-convergence was called that became a 
march of over 1000.  I believe that is the 
biggest number of people to come out at one time 
over the whole vibrant two weeks at Occupy 
Oakland.  Early, after the main raid  Tuesday 
morning, the Occupy movement re-took a smaller 
park in Oakland, Snow Park near Lake Merritt, 
that had also been held and was lost in a police 
raid earlier Tuesday morning.  There are no 
public plans, but several Occupiers expressed a 
strong desire to re-occupy Oscar Grant Plaza.  A 
few people I spoke with said the police would 
need to put up a fence, barbed wire and have 
24-hour patrols to keep us out – at which point 
we would occupy something bigger and 
better.  Tuesday morning was the end of the 
beginning.  Tuesday night is shaping up to be the 
beginning of something more as police fire tear 
gas amidst their own periodic retreat.

Who Occupies Oakland?

The order of the day is to decolonize, transform, 
and liberate Oakland.  This means being real 
about who actually occupies 
Oakland.  Politically, economically, 
discursively, militarily – the Oakland police run 
this town.  At one point Tuesday morning a 
phalanx of riot cops blocked us from the scores 
of other cops tearing down free schools, medical 
clinics, a kitchen, dozens of tents, our 
abandoned barricades – a whole mini-township and 
community that had been built over the last two 
weeks.  A young protester yelled at the police 
line that they had brought a ‘fascist police 
state’ to the city.  The truth is that all that 
happened was a geographical redeployment of an 
already existing militarized police force from 
the Deep East, Fruitvale, and West Oakland into 
downtown for the night.  What the racially and 
politically diverse Occupy Oakland encampment 
faced in the early hours of the morning was a 
glimmer of the daily, lived experience of black 
and brown working class people in this 
city.  From racial profiling gang injunctions to 
recently fast-tracked curfews, and ongoing 
killings of unarmed black men, there has been a 
police state here for many years – that means 
more than evictions, but life and death.

Oakland has long been occupied by a police force 
that lives largely elsewhere, in comfortable 
suburban homes bought and furnished by exorbitant 
salaries that start at $90,000 per year, for 
rookies, before overtime.  The police are not 
part of the 99% – that goes without saying.  They 
are obviously not in the top 1% of earners 
either, no matter how hard their Chief and union 
have been trying to get them there.  Furthermore, 
the whole ‘99%’ language glosses over 
contradictions, erases oppression and paralyzes 
us, in a similar sense that consensus 
does.  While we shouldn’t shun populism, we erase 
and reproduce a whole lot of inequality by using 
this frame.  While the percentage may not be 99%, 
most of the people who live in this city not only 
want change – they need it.  The first part of 
destroying inequality is shedding light on 
it.  The first step to undermining it is 
recognizing privilege and oppression in a way 
that builds solidarity and trust through engaged 
political work all over the city.  That work has begun and will continue.

 From Speaking Truth to Power, to Becoming Our Own Power

We are in the initial stages of what will be a 
long series of struggles.  We shouldn’t be wedded 
to any static plan or draw from outdated 
blueprints or de-contextualized (or 
unintelligible) theories.  The inequalities we 
seek to destroy are primarily political – about 
power and self-determination – or the lack 
thereof.  The general sentiment of the Occupy 
movement is about transcending existing political 
institutions, about ridding ourselves of 
politicians, not replacing them.  I think that 
those of us who hadn’t come to the conclusion 
already are beginning to see that speaking truth 
to power is not a strategy, or even a logical impulse.

The movement from the occupation of public parks 
to the occupation of private property, 
workplaces, universities, shuttered public 
schools in many cities, foreclosed homes, etc. is 
a likely scenario in the coming months.  Tactical 
escalation will necessitate political and 
organizational development to broaden our bases 
and begin to gain the active and engaged support 
of larger and larger segments of the broader 
society.  The movement needs to align itself with 
the struggles of the most oppressed – making 
issues like police brutality and occupation in 
communities of color, persecution of immigrants 
and acute joblessness central – while also 
linking with university student struggles over 
fees, student loans, and cuts, and with workers 
inside and outside of workplaces.  The State’s 
biggest fear is the coalescing of these 
populations and the existing movements around 
these issues.  We saw this in the 
non-profit/police/media/politician mantra of 
outside agitators when anarchists joined the 
Oscar Grant struggle.  Their biggest fear is in 
our solidarity, in our collaboration and 
potential cohesion.  We need to figure a way to 
be their waking, spreading, ever-present nightmare.

The idea that 99% of the population in this 
country is going to support a just social order, 
here and now, is more than a little naive, but 
believing that simple protest and activism alone 
will transform this society is even more 
naive.  We need to build our own political 
structures and our own politics, rooted in 
participatory and accountable democratic processes at the local level.

I am not proposing a vanguard party or even a 
platform.  I am simply trying to push the 
conversation.  We shouldn’t misread the Zapatista 
call to ‘make the road by walking it’ as being 
synonymous with the old deadhead slogan ‘Not all 
who wander are lost.’  We don’t have to march in 
line, but we don’t have time to wander.

If we, in fact, ‘want everything,’ lets figure 
out how to get it.  And then get on with getting it.

Mike King is a PhD candidate at UC–Santa Cruz and 
East Bay activist.  He can be reached at mking(at)ucsc.edu

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