Oakland Takes Out The Trash.
Tuesday, 3am – 7am
On Monday, October 24th the second weekend of #OccupyOakland had come and gone; charisma from Saturday’s march [link] had passed and a police raid was imminent. Beyond popular speculation that the city and the police were planning the destruction of Oscar Grant Plaza, there were a few obvious clues that Monday night would be the night. For one, the city had issued letters to select businesses around the plaza suggesting that there would be police activities sometime in the coming day. In addition, the city seems to have forced the Fire Marshall to come to the occupation to “remove” the propane tanks (and thus restricting us from cooking on site).
Before the rubber bullets and concussion grenades, the hundred or so arrests and unrelenting spider mobs that saturated downtown Oakland, there was joyous, eager barricading. It was trash night. The already desolate streets surrounding Oscar Grant Plaza were quickly cleared of whatever debris could act (symbolically and/or effectively) as an impediment to the police. Locked in an alley of City Hall were nearly one hundred metal police barricades. They were quickly liberated from their cage and placed strategically around the encampment. Reports trickled in slowly: several police units, from many agencies all the way out to Vacaville, were mobilizing and traveling to the plaza via motorcade or BART. Arguments broke out at the occupation – some called for a united strategy of defense, while many continued building barricades, spray painting and hammering away at the cobblestone floor. Eventually, around 4am, the distant sirens quickly turned into dozens of police units in formation, giving dispersal orders before attacking the encampment.
There was hopeful but little supposition that these people and barricades could deter the police, let alone defend the camp. When the spotlights from police helicopters began indiscriminately scanning the plaza, a panic fevered the already frantic people. It took only moments to realize that to stay inside the plaza was hopeless. Those intent on posturing and symbolically “standing their ground”, were subject to projectiles, batons and ultimately arrest. The scene was panicked, oppressive and defeating. For now, the fight for the plaza had been lost and most everyone inside dispersed.
Outside police lines, many looked to reconvene, others arrived responding to the emergency text messages and phone calls they’d received from others – they found each other at 14th and Franklin, one block east of the plaza. To the police it was clear that this massing crowd would not be reduced to impotent spectators. Moving away from the sidewalks into the street, what was now the morning traffic detour route, the intersection filled with hateful slogans directed at the police. There was a startling impatience and lust for revenge. It had grown to nearly 200 people when a police motorcade was ordered to intimidate and disperse the crowd. Shape shifting and turning over trash cans, the group headed in the opposite direction. Shouts of excitement, more seething remarks toward the police and a medley of thudding and crashing filled the streets. The police came prepared to assault the plaza, not to be met with the consequences of doing so. From 5am to 6am the streets east of the plaza held a familiarity to some and an unprecedented emotion for others.
An offensive decision by the city and its allies brought opportunity to those subject to their increasingly irrelevant authority. Tuesday morning, the city took to actively discouraging people from going to work in the downtown area. Despite this official suggestion, one could overhear security guards, baristas and other service workers phoning into work announcing their absence on their own initiative. Someone initiated a campaign to eject Jean Quan from her position as mayor. Tweets and texts exploded with announcements to rally at the downtown Oakland Library at 4pm. The Alameda County Labor Council among other local unions had publicly denounced the actions of the police and the city.
Yet to take shape as either a spectacle or rebellion, The Town, once again, opened itself to the freedoms found in possibilities.
Library. Riot. Continued.
Tuesday, 4pm – Midnight
12 hours later, the contingency plan approved by the GA in case of a raid, was put into place. At 4pm, close to 1000 people gathered at the main Oakland Library to listen to inspirational speeches and condemnations against the police. One could not avoid the general feeling of animosity towards those responsible for what happened last night. Something spectacular was going to happen tonight.
After the speeches, people marched to the Downtown jail to show support for those arrested the previous night. Along the way, the march passed through two separate lines of police, but on the third one, as the march was a block away from the jail, the police pushed back. They grabbed two people from the front of the march and threw them to the ground. Seeing this, the crowd immediately surrounded the cops yelling at them, trying to grab the comrades and free them. People pushed and paint was thrown. As the tension continued to escalate, the police knew they were fighting a losing battle, so they brought in reinforcements with tear gas and flash grenades to disperse the crowd. Those being arrested initially, amongst the chaos, were secured by the pigs and loaded into a van. One of the arrestees was fucked with while in jail, called racist slurs and physically harassed. How could we not hate the police?
Throughout the arrests of Occupy Oakland’s resistance, we demonstrate solidarity with the state’s hostages in a multitude of ways, emotionally and physically. The march regrouped and proceeded past the jail making noise and letting those inside – every single one of them – aware that the march was here for them in total solidarity. A comrade who has been released from jail, arrested the previous night, said that it was one of the most beautiful and powerful things they have ever seen. To hear and see 1000 people outside making noise, making their solidarity known to those on the inside. Solidarity means attack.
The march returned to Oscar Grant Plaza where the group proceeded to try and retake the plaza. After 20 minutes of confronting the police at 14th and Broadway, rounds of tear gas and flash grenades were used once again (there would be somewhere around seven different instances of the police using tear gas and flash grenades in an attempt to disperse the crowd. The crowd did not deteriorate this time nor any other).
This was only the beginning…
This first major tear gassing was also the incident were a veteran was hit in the head with a tear gas canister and either knocking him out or causing his system to go in shock – he was on the ground in front of the police with eyes open, not moving and not responding to anything. People immediately ran up to him and tried to get him out of the way, which is when the police throw another flash grenade directly on top of him and near those who responded in aid. This bears repeating: the police throw a flash grenade directly on someone that was lying motionless on the ground, dispersing the crowd that was trying to take him out of the warzone. The injured protester was eventually removed and taken to the hospital with a skull fracture and is currently in critical condition and undergoing surgery. Many were injured. Not everyone has reported their injuries for obvious reasons.
By this point, the march had doubled to more than 2000 people. The group marched to Snow Park to gather, but it wasn’t long until people marched back on the plaza again. In what became the standard of the night, the march confronted the militarized area formerly known as Oscar Grant Plaza and was met with tear gas and flash grenades causing people to faint and throw up. But this didn’t stop anyone; it only galvanized the crowd and incited many at home to head downtown and join the resistance.
The march started at 5 and lasted until late into the night with over 6 hours of snake marches and almost constant confrontation with the police throughout downtown.
Towards the end of the night, people began to worry about being kettled, so some people took it upon themselves to set up barricades around the surrounding intersections. This action would allow people to respond before being trapped, by either getting away or fighting back. The barricades included the city’s own barricades that were established throughout the area, dumpsters and trash cans (some of these were set aflame to relieve the lingering tear gas present throughout all of the downtown and to cause more trouble for the police if they dared to intimidate or assault crowd).
As the night went on, the group slowly dissipated, confident that this fight was not close to over.
The Retaking of Oscar Grant Plaza.
Wednesday, 6pm – Midnight
It was obvious to everyone the previous night that people were heading back to Oscar Grant Plaza. By this time, police were nowhere to be seen around the plaza. The only thing that was there was a metal fence erected around the spot of the occupation. Well, it only lasted a little while. Before the General Assembly even started, people spontaneously began to tear down the fence. Initially, some “peace police,” spouting something about non-violence were trying to get them to stop – that was of course to no avail as the fence quickly was torn down.
The GA that happened that night was the largest one yet for #OccupyOakland, with over 2000 people participating. Since it was such a large GA, everything took more time, but the one proposal that was passed was worth it all. Following announcements that various occupations around the US were participating in solidarity marches, and that people in Cairo are going to march on Tahrir square this Friday saying that “Cairo and Oakland are one hand,” the proposal to call for a General Strike this Wednesday, November 2nd was passed with overwhelming majority (97%). Get ready Oakland, shits about to get real….
Following the GA, people announced that OccupySF was under threat of eviction. People made a call out for people to go to San Francisco and make their solidarity physical. But this wouldn’t happen. Before people could even make it into BART, the station was closed. Pissed, the small group that was heading to SF instead took to the streets in Oakland where the rest of the GA, who was still around, joined them. The march immediately headed towards the jail to show solidarity with those still inside. Everyone could see the inmates hands on the windows and the flickering of their cell lights, letting us know that they see us.
Over the next couple of hours, the group marched around downtown Oakland with no police interference. There were reports of police staging close by, but they never made themselves visible more than a few cars in front and back. After the previous night, they realized how badly they fucked up. Tonight, we controlled the streets. It finally ended in Oscar Grant Plaza, with people just chilling, standing and sitting in the middle of 14th and Broadway (the main downtown intersection), with no attempt by the cops to disperse the crowd.
As the proposed General Strike is just but a week away, there is a lot of work that needs to be done and a lot of connections to be established and strengthened. Some people began to set up camp again at Oscar Grant Plaza, but others are merely taking this time to rest, to regroup, to gather themselves for what is to come.
Get some rest comrade. We have yet to see what’s around the corner…