Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May Day in Occupy Oakland: Let a million seeds sprout

What was Oakland’s muddy “Lake Quan” as Occupy went into winter hibernation has resurged as a sea of green. Green grass, that is.
After Mayor Quan and OPD evicted the Occupy encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza late last year, stating the occupation encouraged rats and other creatures and destroyed the lawn, city officials ran water sprinklers for days to flood the park and discourage re-occupation.

On May Day 2012 the grass is back!
As does much of what happens in the lives of human beings and their communities, this story has complexities.
Frank Ogawa Plaza has been renamed (unofficially and by popular usage) Oscar Grant Plaza in memory of a young Oakland father shot to death on the BART platform in that city on the first day of 2009.
Judging by the uneven quality of the Grant Plaza’s new grass it is not the usual citified seeded lawn. Instead, it’s the au natural tough stuff that resurges anytime seeds take the opportunity to sprout, to thrive, and to prosper the way our natural world can prosper!
It’s a good metaphor for Oakland…and for Occupy!

Thousands rallied at the intersection of 14th and Broadway in the evening of May Day to celebrate the spring forward of Occupy across our nation and our planet. It had been a long, warm afternoon milling around and occasionally dodging scores of well-organized police in and around Oscar Grant Plaza (despite mainstream press accounts, there was just not as much violence as described: read my blog account that shows a lot more pix).
A Maypole or two appeared. One of them, bedecked with dark green ribbon, attracted a group of the often-criticized Black Bloc-ers, some carrying make-shift shields, who danced around the pole and weaved the ribbons...then they turned around and danced in the opposite direction and un-weaved the ribbons.
A recyclable Maypole weaved by self-described anarchists!
Another metaphor for Oakland (“what ye anarchists weave, so shall ye have the opportunity to un-weave”)?

Oakland is a special city, a reflection of humanity that reprises many ordinary people’s lives: diverse, outspoken, hospitable although burdened with social and financial obligations, and longing for responsible freedom.
It also has far too many of a far too little heard segment of a growing population: mothers whose sons have been shot to death by Oakland police officers.
A handful of these mothers, and an uncle, addressed the rally.
As a former “military mom” who faced the potential death or injury of a beloved son in war I can only imagine the nightmarish rage one carries after a child is shot to death by those hired to serve and protect.

Yet, reflecting other human qualities, the City of Oakland also presents its fair share of NIMBY: “not in my backyard”.
As a media person and self-appointed “culture critique-r”, I tend to mingle in crowds and talk to a range of people. Yesterday, I encountered multiple episodes of NIMBY-ism.
One occurred as OPD closed in on the crowd and pressed it into the intersection of 14th and Broadway from three directions. An elderly man approached to warn we’d better go home. Then he asked where I was from. I told him I live about a mile away in another city. (In fact, before engineering an estuary, my city was a peninsula that jutted off the Oakland Hills and into SF Bay.) He launched into what seems to be a consensus among Oaklanders and reiterated by Mayor Quan: “they” (Occupiers) come from out of town to make trouble in “our” town and “we” must pay the financial burdens -- extra security, damage to local business, etc.
I heard the same complaint on the re-routed bus as I returned to the plaza for the 6pm rally. Three passengers near me kvetched about Occupy: “don’t see the point”: “messes things up for all of us”: and “they come from out of town, don’t even live in Oakland!”
We engaged an energetic debate for a couple of minutes: only one woman was willing, grudgingly, to concede “it takes a village” to create change.
For Occupy is not only about Oakland. It’s about ordinary people, here, there and everywhere, evaluating the quality of our lives and finding them out of whack; it’s about ordinary people agreeing to risk raising our voices in the fast disappearing public commons; it’s about all of us striving to improve things for all of us while we still can.
It’s about bringing us together, not about dividing us.
And it’s about not demonizing any groups, especially those on the frontlines, until they’ve unequivocally showed us that they’ll always be against us.
Just as segments of the anti-war community tend to demonize military recruiters, for example, Occupiers tend to demonize police.
Indeed, an Oakland man addressed the rally last night and urged the crowd of several thousand to “oink” and send a message to “the pigs” that make up OPD.
I don’t oink…not as a member of an already emotional crowd.
For history teaches very clearly what can happen when emotional crowds lose their bearings.
This man is angry – righteously so: his nephew was murdered by police in a public place.
We, the 99% have a long way to go. We must keep our bearings as we head into Occupy 2012.
Meanwhile, let a million blades of grass bloom: unseeded, uncitified, uncultivated…in Oakland, and around the world.
Viva Occupy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Occupy Oakland - May Day 2012

What was muddy "Lake Quan" at the beginning of winter 2011 is, on May Day 2012, green grass!

Oakland's grass is back (photo: Susan Galleymore)

It lives! Oakland's grass re-surges after being drowned out last year. 

Late last year, Mayor Quan and OPD evicted the Occupy encampment at Oscar Grant Plaza (saying Occupiers encouraged rats and other creatures) then destroyed what was left of the grass.
City of Oakland's Dept Public Works ran sprinklers for days and flooded the park to discourage re-occupation. (See post below for pix of what became known as muddy "Lake Quan").
Today, May Day 2012, the grass is back! Judging by its uneven quality it's not your typical citified seeded lawn grass but the au natural variety that shoots up anytime a chance exists to grow, to thrive, to reproduce, and to prosper!
A great metaphor for Occupy Oakland!

Black Bloc-ers round the May pole outside Oakland City Hall. 

Anarchy...and recycling the Maypole

This is the first view of the day of a Maypole, this one bedecked with dark green ribbon. Here, a group of Black Bloc-ers dance around the pole and weave the ribbons...then they turn around and go in the opposite direction and un-weave the ribbons.
A recyclable Maypole!
Another great metaphor for Oakland ("what ye Anarchists weave, so shall ye have the opportunity to un-weave")?
This particular Maypole appeared throughout the day around Oscar Grant Plaza -- then re-appeared for the the evening rally having been carried (and weaved/unweaved?) along the march route from the Court House to 14th and Broadway and the plaza.

Views of OPD

Shortly after I arrived at 14th and Broadway at noon  two flash bangs exploded on Broadway, north of 14th and, by the sound of it, close to 15th or 16th. By the time I arrived at 15th, OPD (and friends? - there were lots of 'em) was firmly lined across 14th. The standoff continued for sometime then, as people drifted away, the cops dispersed too.
About 12:30 or so, a group of about six, one of them a woman carrying a mic and accompanied by what looked like independent media assistants all loudly urged a man and a woman away from the group: "get the fuck out of here...go, get the fuck out of here!" Not sure what to make of it - other than this couple had violated some code of behavior and were personae non grata. The cowed couple seemed to agree as they put up little resistance to their unceremonious ejection. No police involved.

About 1:38p a call went up that OPD was massing behind City Hall.  A group of about a dozen young men dressed in black with masks marched over yelling, among other phrases, "Anarchy is total freedom" and aligned in front of what turned out to be about two dozen police.
They stood around until, about ten minutes later, a group of about 60 to 80 arrived carrying a banner: "No Borders. No Stayaway Orders." This group circled City Hall several times until, at about 2:15p another couple of flash bangs exploded, this time on 14th near Clay.
About 99% of the crowd surged over to 14th/Clay.
I did not see who exploded the flashbangs although by all accounts (and a variety of mainstream media) it was the police -- apparently to thwart threats of violence against them. 
OPD began congregating on each street leading to the intersection at 14th and Broadway. At first they stood about a block away ...then incrementally, each batch came closer and closer.

Looking east down 14th


 Coming down 14th from west


Looking south, police come down Broadway toward intersection


Leading up to the arrest of yet another peaceful meditator, this time in the intersection of 14th and Broadway 


OPD - and colleagues from surrounding cities - close in on the intersection......then they pack up and leave - at least for a while...

The APC is going...

...and the APC leaves!

Street scenes and signs of the times

Early Birds can pay an extra 18.5 percent tax on $6.75 to park near downtown Oakland. A good example of what Occupy is about - egregious taxes for the many into the pocket of the few.

"Coffee, not Cops" - sign carried through the streets on May Day 2012.

Symbolic barricade on Broadway near 14th.

"Dignity and Resistance, May Day." Group of students gathered for the evening rally.

OPD guarding the entrance to City Hall, May Day 2012.

Several thousand gathered at the intersection of 14th and Broadway for an evening rally.

Yet another message to the once-"radical" and "revolutionary" Jean Quan, now Mayor Quan.

Moon over the Tribune.

(All photos by Susan Galleymore, Occupy Oakland, May Day 2012. Rights reserved.)

Read another blog post on Occupy Oakland, May Day 2012.