Like any number of urban freeways, the I-980 and I-880 are lines of containment. They mark out the zones and boundaries of economic apartheid, making West Oakland into an island of poverty, a police zone, boxed in on all sides. A freeway, in this sense, is merely one of the most visible forms of the lines of force that cut up our cities and, in turn, our lives, that butcher them according to the logics of race and class, money and property. How can we see these arteries as anything less than instruments for the formation of a controlled population, instruments in the successive waves of urban centralization, white flight, gentrification? They are checkpoints and blockages – massive pours of concrete, of labor, erected to determine who gets to go where and how. And they have no meaning beyond the insinuation of the automobile into every facet of our lives, the automobile which is hallmark of US economic power in the 20th century, token of class mobility, passageway to pseudo-freedom, emitter of poison gases, turning our lives into a cut-and-paste of frantic alienation and isolation, responsible for more deaths than the M-16. Who could love a freeway?
Those of us who chose to take our march onto the I-980 have been accused of turning our backs on the tactic that made the student movement so powerful and inspiring, the tactic which inscribed our actions in a lucid, anticapitalist language – occupation. Don’t worry. We haven’t abandoned anything, only expanded our repertoire. The last six months have been a process of experimentation, one in which it becomes difficult to distinguish the failures from the successes, since the two fold into each other, since each action, regardless of the outcome, is a process of learning, of adaptation, part of a living conversation, one in which there is as much disagreement as there is agreement. On a day dedicated to the convergence of political actors from multiple spaces across the Bay Area it would have made little sense to barricade ourselves inside a building on this or that campus. If there were a suitably central, common and defensible target, perhaps we would have occupied that. Perhaps we will next time. We still look forward to the emancipation of foreclosed homes and apartment buildings, shuttered workplaces, to the permanent occupation of university buildings. None of that is behind us. We are not yet powerful enough for these things. We are still trying to build a force capable of taking and holding a space, and then another, and another.