Occupy Oakland and Me, Breakin’ up is Hard to do.

Occupy Oakland took over the council meeting again last night and railed at our city government which  was in the middle of grappling with a huge state takeback that threatens many of our jobs and our future economic development. Funny, I can still remember when the Occupy movement gave us all hope and breathed fresh air into our stagnant political environment.

Not so anymore, at least here in Oakland. If you ask most city residents what OO is doing, they’ll say, don’t know, don’t care. If you ask Oakland’s progressive community with a long time history of struggling for civil rights, civil liberties, economic justice, and democracy with a small “d”, what do you say?

I say it’s time to stop besmirching our movement. It’s time to stop threatening our city. It’s time to stop having tantrums in or around our city hall. For me, it’s also time to stop ignoring my democratic choice to pick my city council and my mayor.

While we’re at it, can you really be encouraging and celebrating the-as another Oaklander put it- testosterone-fueled stalking of our first woman mayor? Can you really be wreaking havoc, or hoping to-if you had the damned numbers-in Chinatown every Saturday night-oh-especially during New Year’s celebrations?

Wait…I almost laughed when you valiantly challenged the city council to call off the cops to save money during the Fuck the Police marches. Really, isn’t that the point? You’re making the damn revolution playing tag with the OPD every Saturday night, vandalizing businesses, encouraging arson, and you want the city to call off the cops so you can do that unencumbered?! But I didn’t laugh cause I was just too pissed off.

Listening to our president the other night, I reminded myself that he probably wouldn’t have been able to issue a populist (to the extent he did) challenge to the Republicans without the burgeoning resistance that Occupy Wall Street represented. I will always be grateful to all the folks who took time out from their own private struggle, who unleashed their creativity to form flash mobs, paint signs, write skits, and ultimately, to risk arrest and injury to bring us to our senses and out onto the streets.

But like first love, we were all on our best behavior then as we moved as one down the overpass to the port one glorious summer (California summer, that is, November) evening. Even then, we were deluding ourselves as young lovers often do.

What was the reason for shutting down our port? Was it the workers in Longview, the truckers without contracts, or a reaction to the horrendous police repression? Reaction only works for so long as motivation. Trying to make us believe that every interaction with the city and even OPD was brutal is like trying to convince us that our only love can never be wrong.

One quote I remember well as I stood with a group of peacekeepers the morning of the second eviction was an astonished, “I’ve never had such a positive interaction with the police.” So the brutal second eviction, just another lie we tell each other to keep the love from dying.

Have the police harassed protestors and arrested them for trivialities? I believe they have. Sadly, we will all pay for that harassment, and we are sickened by our police force’s inability to see the need to change its relationship to our citizens (residents=citizens). Do we think these little hissy fits in our streets will fix that? Come’on.

Before I fall out of love altogether with a movement that was supposed to represent all of us, please stop issuing threats to close down our port or our city hall. Remember, threats can’t make me love you again. They can only make me flee your touch.

23 thoughts on “Occupy Oakland and Me, Breakin’ up is Hard to do.

  1. Oh, Pamela. THANK YOU for putting into words what I have been feeling…. Without government, it is anarchy. Is that what OCCUPY represents? Will OCCUPY fix the potholes? Keep the libraries running? Keep the Senior Centers open?

    We need change but not like this…

  2. Occupy Oakland isn’t destroying Oakland. Most Occupy Oakland people are opposed to the Saturday “Fuck the Police” demonstrations — which, it’s significant to point out, are not sanctioned by OO and are not part of OO.

    Before we do what liberals often do — eat our own and tear each other down rather than actually working together — let’s consider that Occupy Oakland belongs to all of us, and will become what WE make of it. Want to swing the balance of Occupy Oakland’s power to a more nonviolent approach that will negotiate with City Hall? Show up and vote, and encourage your neighbors to do the same.

    I’m a proud Occupier, I’m a proud Green Party voter, and I’m a staunch supporter of nonviolence. There are many like us, but WE’RE GETTING OUTVOTED.

    The more good people like you flee, the more Occupy will degenerate into thuggery. Don’t piss away the biggest chance for social upheaval and legitimate positive change we’ve seen in half a century just because you disagree with some of the louder and more bullying (and yes, testosterone-saturated) voices.

    • Of course, Kevin, I agree with most of what you say, and as you know, have been working with some OO groups. I don’t think I can or should have to show up at long meetings that do not have a place for analysis. I just think the structure doesn’t work well. This is my way of trying to influence those of us who still care to prevent a showdown on Saturday that would do none of us any good. For most of Oakland, the FTP marches are what OO has become. I have worked hard to dissuade them from seeing only this, but now I have to take a stronger stand, and this is how I know best to do it.

  3. Great piece, Pamela. When there are so many productive things people could work on, it is entirely infuriating to see the OOremnants just going for scatter-shot disruption instead.

  4. Thanks for this, Pamela. Occupy Oakland is a renegade offshoot of what is an ethical, progressive response to the inequities in the American system everywhere but in Oakland. This branch doesn’t deserve to carry the name and should be stopped from the damage it does and plans to do. I think the best response is to gather enough volunteers to confront this terrorist group and drive them back to nowhere.–Susan

  5. Besides passing a nonviolence resolution, when OO decides to pass a no smoking resolution too and enforce it, I might be able to return and physically engage in the GAs again. My health became compromised at the initial Oscar Grant camp by the contradiction between freedom to smoke versus the freedom to breathe, which is a basic human right even above freedom of expression.

    Anything that reeks of constant abuse is a form of violence no matter who is doing it. OO has been abusing the City of Oakland ever since the police started the fight with the first raid. Problem is that some of OO’s intentions come from a vendetta with the police and local government rather than from any kind of true love for Oakland from what I’ve seen.

    The bad lover analogy is a good one. Serious elements within OO are like a really bad lover that doesn’t know when and how to quit yelling, screaming, demanding, expecting, threatening, etc.. That part is seriously dsyfunctional and unhealthy, in great need of therapy, rehabilitation, separation or divorce. Those who hang on could be exhibiting codependent behavior thinking there’s no one else out there to be with.

    Contradictions at OO that exhibit violent tendencies whether in speech or physical abuse within OO have and will cause it to lose public support quickly. OO is just as capable of disintegrating much like the ultraleft groups that exhibited violence in the late 60s and 70s unless it straightens up and matures quickly as a whole. Pro-revolutionary ultralefts peppered the anti-war movement and helped to usher in a more conservative generation that wanted to disassociate completely from the Left and turn the country towards the Right in the 80s.

    Violence and abuse, even if it’s rhetoric, will never win full support for this movement. It will only keep hurting it, especially when the intentions come from within. FBI and police provacatuers know this too and may be hiding inside OO and Black Block fanning the flames. The majority of community people get tired of violence really fast. Just ask some of those who have lived through the ’60s counter culture revolution as it fell apart or even those who have lived through any wars these past or current years. Residents who live around abuse on a daily basis will also tell you how tired they are of it.

  6. On the mark, Pam and also Kit. That denial analogy is great.

    And being in a Twitter bubble reinforces the denial.

    I was just reading a note from the facilitation committee saying that a threat from persons inside of OO caused them to cancel facilitation of the GA on Jan.25. Nothing specific, but I wonder which factions are warring with which other factors.

    But I do have to take issue with Kevin above….. It has been almost impossible to make change with the process of 90% needed. It not enough to go down. We would have to re-mobilize all the supporters who have left to come back to make the changes we need.

    Instead, I have heard some people talking about an OO 2.0 that wuld be fundamentally non-violent and more adept at real outreach to the diverse communities of Oakland.

  7. Very well said. Thank you for your thoughtful words. It was great that the OOers were at City Hall to support City workers. I loved the ‘Let’s go Oakland’ chanting. Unfortunately they undermined their power by breaking up the Council meeting in the midst of an important discussion that was beginning to move in a positive direction.

  8. There was definitely more conversation and details on Facebook than on Twitter about the internal threats yesterday, but it would be better to be able to talk directly with the facilitators and those who feel threatened. So much for social media which has both good points and also real limitations.

  9. Maybe I am naive, or in denial, but I for one do not want to give up on the Occupy “brand,” for lack of a better word, in Oakland. I do agree that some people have managed to hijack the movement and take actions which many of us are not proud of. But these same people may well be there the next time a home under foreclosure needs protecting, or, perhaps, when Lakeview school closes down at the end of the year, and they may help to make those small, more positive actions that much harder to dislodge. If we can re-establish Occupy Oakland’s relationship to the city, through careful research of the issues, and a more proactive outreach and engagement with groups of citizens in and around the city who have been working at these sorts of things for years already, then I think Occupy Oakland could once again have a positive effect. Yes, we have “changed the conversation,” and we should all be very proud of that. Now, I believe, the few who are really dedicated to substantive change need to self-organize, self-educate, and re-direct the energy that is still there before it turns even more self-destructive.

    For instance, I think it was great that we crashed the council meeting, at least for a short period. I saw the appreciation in the union members’ eyes. I’m not sure how such a meeting could ever be positive, as even if they are laying off fewer people now, they are still agreeing to lay off more people in the future. The problem as I saw it was we had no educated speakers, nobody knew what was going on, what the council people were saying. If we had an OO person from the LS committee or some such to speak alongside the SEIU, then that’s a partnership from which a positive and demonstrable direct action might take place in the future.

    • Unfortunately OO has stated publicly that they do not WANT a dialogue. Their actions show that they want to interfere with city government… They say that the Mayor is “irelevant”… They interfere with City Council… They claim that Oakland shouldn’t get more police! Yet their actions keep the police downtown instead of in our neighborhoods where we NEED them!

  10. I’ve been semi active in OO and hope we can focus on winnable issues that relate to people. Leafleting last week end there was a real polarization of supporters and non supporters , some with us some against us.That was on College in Rockridge. The younger supporters seemed very positive.
    I wrote a piece “Mo Better Local Democracy” which you can Google. Mayor Quan after reading it suggested that it would need to go through the voters through Charter reform. She seemed to suggest that local activist create a chater commission to review progressive proposals like mine.Maybe even get OO on the commission, I would think.
    The Occupy movement takes some inspiration from the Black Panthers which has something to do with their style.Given the lack of coverage of progressive movements in the mainstream media you can see why they have a romantic vision of the past and of the Panthers.
    Along with more better local democracy ,citizens need more better financial rights .In a sense this is where Occupy Wall Street started. Irononically one of the countries best organizations in that field has a North Carolina main office, one in DC and a third one across the street from Oscar Grant Plaza. The Center for Responsible Lending would be the lover OO needs. OO and CRL could be a great love story , a sequel to Oakland based Made in America.
    OO should also think about a love affair with the educators and college students. I wrote another piece “California’s Silence of the Scams ” about the research done at Cal Tax Reform and how we’re getting taken for billions on commercial property tax loopholes. OO and the education community have this major issue just waiting for them.
    I saw Money Ball the day of the General Strike catching a matinee between the morning and evening activity. The Port is where labor working for $.32 an hour can enter our country. The shipping with the container technology drops the cost to 1 or 2 percent of overall cost, meaning shipping for all intents and purposes is free . A great book about container history is “The Box,”by Marc Levinson. The ports are where corporate America meet their Asian mistress.
    Pam Drake could be a great matchmaker bringing the high quality broadcasts of KPFA to the Democrats of Oakland through the Wellstone Club. She would be the perfect person in my opinion to pull it off. KPFA has great media ,the Democrats have 80,000 Democrats with permisable email addresses , hungry for a real relationship. Between the political and music programs, it a match made in heaven.

  11. Great post, I agree. I think “tantrum” really is the right word here. It’s not radical, it’s not strategic, it’s just throwing anger tantrums. This is not a game, and we need to mature as a movement if we’re gonna bring about any change.

    And really good call on OO asking the city to not send in cops for the Fuck the Police rallies. There’s really no strategy behind these actions….. Ugh….

  12. Would someone recommend some of the non-tantrumy, more-strategic, on-message actions going on under the OO umbrella or seeking to carry on the “brand” and let me know how to reach out to their organizers? Going to the GA doesn’t work for me. Kazu, I liked your post and shared it on Facebook. Thanks!

  13. Piping in here with my internet experience with OO yesterday, May 24. I stated ” I wish OO would change the slogan from Fuck the Police to the Black Panther Party demand of Community Control of Police etc and was expecting maybe 5 comments. Instead about 175 comments filled with hate and mean spiritedness, many very ageist. Only a couple of folks in their 40s got my joke midway thru “Why are you asking people to have sex with cops”. I hope they noticed I got more individual likes from different people than all of their circular firing squad combined. At 63, with AIDS, arthritis and health problems I decided not to go for fear of physical attack. I also offered press contacts for radio shows to help publicize and gave out my number. No one called–they don’t even bother to ask what help I can actually provide. Which to me says the clique is not really interested in anything but themselves. The fact that I spent 7 weeks inside the Wounded Knee occupation was completely ignored. then some of them started dissing the Black Panther Party in the city where it was born on Emory Douglas’ 69th birthday. I have shared the press list with the Leonard Peltier and Bradley Manning Defense Committees and Save KPFA. People I trust and we have to have trust in people to work with them. Sadly I can no longer trust the FTP bunch, altho there are still some great individudals working on it. It makes me beam when OWS live-streamed Occupy MN With Love on Wed (from Duluth where I was born) and today Presente did a mass email to support the Occupy MN With Love foreclosure action in Mpls. I trust my Minnesota peeps to do the right thing and did chastise them once when they criticized a smaller group, led by WK buddy Clyde Bellecourt, for stopping a white power Nazi rally in Duluth by pelting the racists with snowballs. I am going to cc this to 3 people who were on the discussion.
    It has become very similar to when AIDS denialists took over ACT UP/San Francisco and tarnished the brand in the Bay Area. It made life much more difficult for those of us doing real work in Act UPs Golden gate and East Bay. I was lucky as all our allies know me and know I was not associated with the denialists who employed many of the same tactics. ACT UP Golden Gate had to change their name. We kept the name and chapter going due to the request of ACT UPs New York and Phillie, where the brand is hella strong. When i asked to post the OWS, Healthgap, ACT UP.NY 25th annivery action where they shut down Wall St, the street not the exchange, I was told it was not relevant to OO. So I guess I am not relevant either, nor were my offered press contacts.

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