I Am an An Occupy Oakland Survivor & I am Voting to Reelect Mayor Jean Quan-Guest Blog by Joy Newhart

To my Friends and former Occupiers, please forward this letter,

I am an Occupy Oakland Survivor. I regularly attended the meetings, even caught a cold sitting for long hours on the chilled cement stairs listening to debates about the use of a “diversity of tactics.” I brought food, blankets, and refreshments to the residents of the Tent City, and I attended a huge rally at Laney College that Mayor Quan spoke at supporting the Occupy movement. Then only days later at 4am I got a phone call from a friend telling me the raid was starting.

Armed with my video camera I stood on the front lines as we, the unarmed citizens, watched hundreds of police from all over the region arrive in full riot gear ready for a fight. I was not arrested and managed to avoid the teargas, but I was furious-the friend who called me at 4am still is. Only a few days earlier the mayor and several other city council members had said they supported Occupy. Now people were getting beat up. I blamed Mayor Quan and-though I had voted for her- when I was later asked to help fight the recall I declined. One word “Occupy.”

[Editor’s note: the attempted recall was initiated before the Occupy Oakland eviction by parties who objected to a port commission change and the lack of funding for hundreds more police. It was a combination of more conservative groups who ironically, called for more development at the Oakland Army Base, which Mayor Quan has moved forward. It was not connected with events at Occupy Oakland.]

Then I saw that Mayor Quan was just as furious as I was that Police Chief Jordan had authorized the use of tear gas while she was in the air and out of reach-returning from a trip to D.C. to secure funds for port development. This needs to be re-stated-Chief Jordan authorized the use of tear gas without first getting approval from his boss, and as soon as she landed she ordered the tear gas stopped, but the damage had been done. She ordered an investigation into the department’s actions. This is the first thing Mayor Quan did to “fix the problem.”

The next thing she did had never happened in the history of the Oakland Police Department. Forty four police officers were either fired or disciplined. She made these 44 officers suffer the consequences of their illegal behavior. This is why the Oakland Police Department is resentful and will not endorse Mayor Quan.

Finally, she replaced those officers with recruits trained in the many new police academies she has funded. These new officers reflect the diversity and values of Oakland. I am a West Oakland resident and proud that the new captain of the West Oakland district was raised in West Oakland and is the first woman commander in the department.

The next thing she did was meet with the federal regulator overseeing the federally mandated police reforms, as neither Jerry Brown nor Ron Dellums had bothered to do. She re-invigorated the community policing reorganization model that previous mayors had allowed to stagnate. In many ways these two previous mayors hold a lot of the responsibility for what happened with Occupy because they did not focus on implementing these mandated reforms.

The next thing Mayor Quan did was select Police Chief Whent to head the Oakland Police Department. Prior to Chief Whent’s appointment as chief he was the supervisor of the Internal Affairs Division. Chief Whent was in charge of policing the police and with that background and experience, who better to rebuild the department?

As a result of these reforms and others, violent crime is down over 30% across the city and murders are down almost 50% from 2012. While violent crime is down all over, the decrease is greater in Oakland than other cities.

This is why I am voting for Mayor Quan. She analyzed the problems with the Oakland Police Department and addressed them at their root. She approaches this city’s problems from a socio-economic perspective, not a Law & Order perspective and she’s done all this with four balanced budgets.

You can’t argue with success.

Sincerely, Joy Newhart

More Videos from Oakland

I’ve learned to make short videos, sometimes with music, sometimes without. When I use music it is invariably from my collection of oldies-except the two videos I made using Boots Riley performing “Underdogs” at a rally against gang injunctions. I have made cat videos, mostly with my cat, Woody, but some with neighbors’ cats. I have made videos celebrating Lakeshore Avenue’s retail upsurge, well, one about the opening of Kwik Way and of local happenings near Lake Merritt.

But, mostly I make short videos of political events that say something to me. The funny thing is that I have a bunch (no idea of the actual length) of videos from the Occupy Oakland days which are languishing somewhere on my old computer’s hard drive-never did get around to putting them together which probably says something about my still sad, angry-confused inner zeitgeist on the whole damn thing. Someday.

(If you watch the first video, then keep watching, other videos will pop up or got to my channel on youtube.)

So, back to the music problem. If I use recordings I have come by legally downloading them, I still find that youtube has prevented them from being seen on mobile devices. A couple made it through before they decided to block them. The two videos I made using Boots Riley as a chorus I put on vimeo so no commercials would be sold on them; and I used one other platform for a long video of a meeting-don’t remember which! If you are acquainted with somebody who will let me use their homegrown music to avoid that problem, let me know. I can’t promise to make them famous though. The most hits I have gotten on my little channel is 336 on my “Save Adult Education Now” for a grand total of 2, 575 hits.

Well, I just checked my channel, bethpikegirlagain, and reminded myself that I made a really silly video on squirrels and one on bees buzzing my neighbor’s giant flower bush, nah, can’t remember the name of that fabulous plant, but it’s an ode to spring.

I’m still using windows movie-maker which leaves a lot to be desired and have recently used my phone to record video which really leaves even more to be desired. I should start carrying around my tiny camcorder so I’m always ready.

I don’t even know why I do it. I never take videos of tourist attractions. I don’t have grandchildren to record (yet). I can only get my kids to succumb when they have no way to prevent it (ha, my son’s law school graduation is very soon!), but I continue to want to document the life around me. There’s lots of snippets on my computer, waiting to be accidentally deleted, no doubt. Say a prayer that those snippets survive my general electronic incompetence.

Yes, I am as blown away that I can do any part of this as my friends are. Most of the time I don’t know how I got it put together. Just finding the damn shots stored on my computer can take up to an hour…then I used to have to convert them to another format before even using movie maker because I had an old XP system that could not translate some formats. Good grief, what language am I even speaking?

It’s just this damn tenaciousness that is a family trait. I might start making my video around 10 PM and wrap up around 2 AM waiting for youtube to finish uploading-and that’s for a 2 and half minute video! Without the assistance and encouragement of some folks formerly of Oakland Local-I won’t name them because they might be embarrassed by my product-I wouldn’t have persevered.

Anyway, while this videos never go viral, they are the little bit of art that my arthritic hands can still get satisfaction from creating. I hope that they inform, provoke, entertain, or annoy a few folks here and there. Whatever, I can’t stop documenting some of the moments that provoke, annoy, and even uplift me. So here are some more you may not have seen.

Oh, one more note, without some form of art and creation, life is not worth living, so maybe that’s why I do it.


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.

Occupy the Courts, Oakland Style, on Jan. 20th

Most Oaklanders have followed the Occupy movement in and out of the tents and onto various other actions, some of them controversial; but do you know that Occupy Oakland has committees working on a broad range of issues? There is an arts committee to advance street art and murals, etc, and the Occupy the Courts/Move to Amend Committee is working hard on an event to be held in conjunction with the Occupy SF/Move to Amend actions on Friday, January 20th.

The twentieth is the 2nd anniversary [actually January 21st] of the Supreme Court ruling described  in MovetoAmend.org as “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections [allowing unlimited secret corporate spending on elections based on their free speech rights as persons] and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions.”

Inspired by Occupy Wall Street, federal courts around the country will experience a one day “occupation” designed to hasten the end of corporate rule. Both San Francisco and Oakland will stage activities in the morning, but Occupy Oakland is asking East Bay folks to come to the Ronald V Dellums Federal Building on Clay Street from 8 to 11 am and then BART over together to SF for the afternoon activities there. A table will remain at the Oakland Federal building for information on Move to Amend and Occupy the Courts throughout the day.

Phoebe Sorgen of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission has been working on this issue  for a decade and said that the Citizens United ruling was the ultimate anti-democratic decision after a century of the courts moving toward establishing corporate personhood. She said, “The only way to overrule the courts is with an amendment to separate corporations from the state.”

The committee has been putting together a program of speakers, skits, and music, among them Aimee Allison, Director of Roots Action, an online organizing network, and former host of the KPFA Morning Show and, Laura Wells, former Green Party candidate for governor. Occupella, a creation of Bay Area singers and cultural workers- Hali Hammer, Betsy Rose, Nancy Schimmel, Bonnie Lockhart and Leslie Hassberg will kick off the day with songs like the Belly Button Test-if it doesn’t have a belly button, it’s not a person. If you’ve been to very many Occupy gatherings, you have heard or sung along with them.

Katy Polony who runs her own business, Espresso Express, got involved through the Local Business Liaison Committee and friend, Geza Polony, suggested that she and some others from that committee set up an Oakland branch of Occupy the Courts. Katy says that more musicians are still signing up to play for the event.

There will be a teach-in and lots of information on how to get involved with MTA [Move to Amend] and fun. To paraphrase Emma Goldman, if I can’t have fun, I don’t want to be part of your revolution. This thoughtful, creative group of East Bay folks invites you to join them on Friday, January 20th, rain or shine (bring umbrellas, still legal at the federal building) to Occupy the Courts. Please see MovetoAmend.org, Occupella.org, or contact info@occupyoaklandcourts for more information.

Mayor Jean Quan:Embattled or Fighting for Oakland?

Mayor Quan with friends at Chabot event

It’s an old cliché that almost everyone who writes about Oakland feels they must use. You know, it’s a gritty city. The latest one was the New York Times article that touted our new restaurants, which are great, don’t get me wrong. But the writer still felt he had to refer to our “grit.” I’ve never quite figured out what that means-is there sand in your sheets whenever you stay here? Do you get stuff in your eyes walking around our beautiful lake? By the way, which one, we have two and there is some sand involved in both.

Ok, so the new cliché is to describe our mayor as embattled or besieged. I checked google for some of the adjectives used to describe Ms. Quan and discovered that this is not an unusual way to describe a mayor. There were at least seven other mayors so depicted on the first page.

My question is how did this get to be the cliché of choice for our new mayor? Is it a result of the constant string of sexist and racist insults on her facebook page, no matter the subject? Or did it arise from the heckling she received at the Commonwealth Club? How about the three rude people on Grand Avenue when she showed up to promote that shopping district? I know this mayor has encountered unforeseen problems, unforeseen even given the worst economy since the Great Depression (so what is this-the Not-so-Great Depression?)

But, I didn’t see an embattled mayor at the Chabot Space and Science Center on Saturday night (January 7th) nor did the 400 or so Oaklanders and their families who attended the holiday party there. In fact the Mayor seemed to be floating in a red dress among her happy constituents, neighbors and friends, her face glowing, her enjoyment obvious. Before the event, her annual one, she and her husband Floyd cooked for hours for the giant potluck. The crowd was a potpourri of Oakland and the world around it, meeting and greeting each other along with their mayor and her family.

I didn’t see an embattled mayor on Friday afternoon among a crowd of hard working men and women of the Laborers’ Local 304 who told her, “We’ve got your back.” She exudes the same earnest concern as she knocks on doors in the Elmhurst asking neighbors if they know when their Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council meets and handing out meeting notices and other info about city services. She chats with the kids who can’t believe the mayor has come to their neighborhood, much less their homes.

Many folks never even meet their council members in their districts, and I don’t remember any former mayors who have stood on the doorsteps of their constituents responding personally to their questions. Is this the sign of an embattled politician, hardly? This is, rather, a mayor unafraid to bring her ideas to the folks most affected by them.

I have seen this mayor grow into her job like she was born for it. And, indeed, more than any previous mayor I have known, she has almost grown up preparing to be mayor from her poor beginnings in a neighboring suburb where the library was her solace to her years as an active public school parent, school board director, and district council person.  She has learned about Oakland the way only a true grassroots activist could.

If you get to meet Mayor Quan, I mean when you get to meet her, she attends neighborhood activities as if she never sleeps, ask her anything about Oakland you always wanted to know. Her knowledge of our history, finances, neighborhoods, topography, and its people is encyclopedic. It is difficult to stay unimpressed when you see her grasp of our needs and wants catalogued with the many solutions she is devising (and has throughout her history here).

Yes, I’m a supporter and I’m working hard to stop the recall. No, we don’t always agree on everything. If you read my blog at all you’ll see that; and I’m not quiet about it when I do not see eye to eye with her administration. But, she’s not just my mayor, she’s the mayor of folks who think the police should be unfettered by oversight because they rarely misbehave. She’s the mayor of young people who camped at Occupy and think it is the most important thing happening in Oakland. She’s also the mayor of folks who hear gunshots at night and want their children to be safe in their beds as well as from police harassment and the lure of gangs.

Mayor speaks at Oakland's Women Suffrage Celebration

She’s the mayor of residents who need a good grocery store and not another liquor store and the mayor of all the drivers (and bicyclists) who want their potholes fixed, merchants who want free parking, and seniors who want their centers open all day, every day. She’s even the mayor of the governor who used up all our redevelopment dollars-during the good times-and then- like the guy who snatched up the rope ladder after climbing to safety, well, you know what happened there.

If you spent a day following Jean Quan around-that’s a challenge I wouldn’t take-I don’t have the stamina-you’d see a smidgen of the length and breadth of her knowledge, hard work, and problem-solving skills. You’d see leadership of the not-so-slick-or-shiny kind, not the glib-easy-answer kind. You’d see thoughtful, hard working leadership in a woman who is just where she needs to be.

Mayor Quan receives resolution of support from the Norther Cal. District Laborers' Affiliates

Chronicle Editors Outraged, Mayor Reads News Online!

Mayor Jean Quan with her husband, Dr. Floyd Huen

The San Francisco Chronicle is on a tear. They have spent years and presumably thousands of their hard-earned dollars paying columnists to trash Oakland. I think the only mayor we ever had that they didn’t attack with such ferocity was, yeah, you guessed it, Jerry Brown. But Jerry was clearly part of the political establishment.

I won’t try to psychologize why they never found anything that about Dellums to like. It might have started with Dellums’ own disparagement of the press and just gone downhill from there. But, it wasn’t just Dellums, whenever possible they castigated city council members except for maybe,  de la Fuente (a Perata ally).

But now their editorial team is reaching so far out to find fault, that it’s becoming laughable. First the Chron editorial team meets with our new mayor and nitpicks its way through a nasty depiction of her new administration.

Then they declare that “Quan should be outraged”. Maybe they missed all her press briefings, “Open letter to Occupy Oakland”, and her outraged defense of port workers and port business while they were sitting in a corner of their San Francisco ivory tower reading print editions of their paper.

Let’s see, no city has been able to control its “occupations” without overwhelming force and heavy expenditures, but Quan should have able to do better than all of them. The port, which sits in our city, represents commerce from around the entire Bay area; yet we are still expected to beg or pay for assistance from other police agencies-dealing with the aftermath alone when they don’t follow our “crowd control” rules, including the resulting lawsuits and negative publicity.

Okay, yeah, guess our new mayor isn’t superwoman although even the Chronicle could never fault her work ethic and dedication to our town. But the other issue they have with her is that she reads the newspaper online. Wow, since the majority of newspaper readers in this day and age, digest their news online, is this for real?

Why don’t these cranky folks come out and say what they have against our mayor and our city? I don’t know what their problem is; but since I do read their paper (in print form most days), I have noticed a pattern: delegitimizing our system of voting and disparaging our grassroots work.

The folks at the Chron endorsed the machine candidate for mayor and fully expected him to win. When he didn’t, numerous stories began to appear casting aspersions on RCV, ranked-choice-voting, which I admit, helped to elect the first grassroots mayor in our history.

In terms of that silly resolution demanding the city prevent any future port closures, well, that was just posturing and carried with it no guarantee of how that might be accomplished.

Occupy Oakland has said that it no longer sees that as a tactic, but now some of the more reactionary elements in the movement may want to take on the challenge issued by de la Fuente. I hope they won’t be goaded into such a wrongheaded move; but I think the attention the resolution brought to the difficulties all cities face in these days of turmoil, did more to promote uncertainty than to contain it.

Occupy Oakland-What’s Next for the Movement?

I am a poster child for the 99%. I am a woman, an older person with no retirement savings, and I raised two kids by myself. My kids experienced chronic illnesses as children and one of them still struggles with medical issues and the costs associated with them. I do my best to help on my part-time job.

I was on the verge of despair over the combination of economic problems, climate horrors (which can exacerbate chronic illnesses), and the war on women. I was elated when the Occupy Wall Street movement started because I really need this movement.

But I also gotta say that when someone handed me a flyer that we were gonna occupy my town, I asked why, why Oakland? We’re not a financial center and very few of the 1% live here. Hell, the director of our Chamber of Commerce lives in Tiburon.

I felt a shiver go through my body as I envisioned riots once again in downtown Oakland and little shops owned by other women and people of color being vandalized.

Then came October 10th and I was cheered by the crowd and the sense of common purpose. I couldn’t stay away and visited almost every day-raising funds for supplies, and photographing, writing, talking, meeting, and attending GA’s when I could.

I was impressed by the organization, the creativity, and the upbeat mood. In terms of the GA’s I loved the diversity of the crowd and just the fact that there was a crowd-glorious! But, I never thought that these late night, long-ass meetings were a substitute for democratic elections and rules of transparency. Politicians will always try to break the rules but because they are clear, it is possible to force them to comply.

Now, not surprisingly given the pressures on Occupy Oakland (and you can’t imagine the pressures on city officials, or maybe that’s the problem, you don’t try and imagine them), troubles- schisms, paranoia and a boat load of arrogance seem about to overwhelm our home-grown version.

It’s not just the provocateurs, some undoubtedly paid and some who believe in “heightening the contradictions” or the romanticism of revolution or the folks who think the whole thing boils down to confronting our infamous police force.

The paranoia is not surprising but it is debilitating. For instance, I attended a press conference with long-time activist and former Council Member Wilson Riles was accused, accused being the operative word, of being a member of the organization that had originally been formed to elect a grassroots candidate as mayor, the Block by Block Organizing Network. He wasn’t a member but that shouldn’t have been the point. This organization, which has its own internal contradictions and struggles, has gone on to hold a town hall in every city district.

Then Dan MacCleay, himself a former candidate for mayor, was chided at this press conference -which was being held to promote an open forum at the GA -for the having the audacity of holding it without consulting the General Assembly first, huh, what??

So what’s this movement all about and how does it relate to the rest of Oakland- a city that truly struggles under the weight of federal and state governments which continually bleed it, a city where a battle was recently won against machine politics, a city where the most creative entrepreneurial folks from around the world come to set up shop, a city where 40% of its youth don’t get to graduate from high school, and many families struggle to live and work in unsafe neighborhoods.

Leaving aside the issue- which always seems to resonate in Oakland-as to whether the young occupiers come from here-I don’t come from here- although since coming here, I have truly made it my home. We attract creative folks looking for a new way of doing things and that’s good.

And, leaving aside the terrible mistakes our new mayor has made and what her decision making process was, how much the police union had to do with how things came down on October 25th, leaving aside all that since so much has already been written about it. Even leaving aside all the posturing that has gone concerning our mayor….

Now, I want to know what kind of cockamamie process leads folks to believe this movement should be about fighting cops, denouncing locally elected officials they never even tried to talk to, and now occupying, in the worst sense, a neighborhood that was never even consulted??

And while we’re at it, why does downtown Oakland need another march? What have the owners of Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café, Oaklandish, and on, and on, done to deserve the streets repeatedly shut down around them or to live with the fear of destruction yet again? Did the GA also announce that everyone should spend enough money to make up for the folks who won’t come?

While we’re speaking of the GA, what on earth gave this shadow government the right to decide what happens in our city? Really, whoever shows up is in charge of the next stage of the movement, my movement too, even if I can’t participate in all these meetings?? Furthermore, I can’t go because I can’t tolerate the amount of smoke that billows around me.

So that leads me to another point and not a small one, I might add. Years ago when my very asthmatic son was small and I was the chief of staff to a city council man, I worked hard with the American Lung Association to make Oakland the city with the toughest smoking laws. We then went on and passed the toughest state laws. When my family would visit relatives back East, we had to put up with and live through places like planes and restaurants with smoking sections. It was horrible but smoking has been limited since then, thank the goddess.

But the GA decided, in its wisdom, to bring back smoking sections. So much for my hard work in a democratic process and so much for my comfort, not to mention that of lots of folks who are sensitive to smoke?

As many of you know by now the GA recently decided to move the OO encampment to a lot and park at 19th and Telegraph where the neighbors have not been consulted and where the city (remember that group of elected officials we get to ignore?) has decided to build a public art space.

Maybe the folks at the GA didn’t know all this stuff but now they do, and they also know that they may be splitting more folks off from the movement-the movement that some of us really need to succeed.

Folks, even politicians listen when there is an uproar, is this little bureaucracy so difficult to maneuver, so in-grown, that it can’t tell when it’s time to reassess the process and the point. Is this movement part of Oakland or will it be consumed fighting Oakland?

I believe that the next step for OO has to be particular to Oakland’s needs and desires, and no one group or neighborhood or assembly can speak for that. Many organizations are hard at work in Oakland making this a better place. Many neighborhoods are struggling. We’ll have lots of allies if we listen, consult, and begin to go out to the neighborhoods and ask how we can assist in their struggles.

When I say we, I am asserting that even if I can’t attend all these damned meetings, I’m still a part of this movement whether I am willing to pretend that the GA’s actually represent it or not.

The strength of OO was that so many people from all over Oakland came together to talk about the real issues of living in a country that is truly in the middle of a class war. Now it’s time to stop focusing on our lovely navels and move into a stage where we focus on the rest of Oakland. Give it some thought, occupiers, some of our lives depend upon it.

OO Fatigue (or is it harder just being homeless?)

Okay, I know many of us are suffering from OO fatigue. I told everyone at a meeting I was attending last night on that very subject that I couldn’t discuss it anymore. It’s perplexing that the movement that was designed to confront our frustrations at the 1%, is now frustrating so many of us.

But it does still dominate so many discussions in this town. This morning I got off the bus to attend a Public Works meeting at City Hall on a project that is being built in my neighborhood, a wonderful little plaza, as a matter of fact, where folks can gather in our charming district.

I took out my camera to snap a shot of the amphitheater that was shining in the morning sun and saw a man who I realized was experiencing a seizure. Two people were holding him so that he wouldn’t hurt himself.

As there is seizure disorder in my family, I was not particularly frightened for him so long as he was being protected from injury. After calling 911-by the way, it’s 777-3211 on cell phones so that you don’t get routed through the Highway Patrol-I asked some of the helpers to keep their voices quiet as epilepsy sufferers are in sensory overload after a grand mal and need a long period in a quiet, dark place (unlike an ambulance, but there was the possibility of other injuries).

A seemingly drunk older man who was there argued loudly with me, and a woman who was helping the man remarked that the older man was often difficult like that. The ambulance did arrive soon and take the man away.

I saw another man painting a large banner to string across the plaza demanding that Mayor Quan be recalled and that someone named Derald Harris be elected. I asked who that was and he replied, “Me!”

After the meeting I stopped at a shop on the plaza for a bite to eat and ran into some of the facilitators whom I recognized, chatting, eating, and planning. As they left I asked how they were doing, and one young man replied that he was no longer camping but otherwise still quite involved and doing fine.

The restaurant owner explained to me and another patron that she was upset that during the 2 days the plaza had been closed by the police, she’d had no business as no one was even allowed through.

This owner totally supports OO and said that these are the conditions [the OO encampment] that many people now live in all over the country. She believes it’s good that they are calling attention to so many people’s suffering. She even lets them cook some of their meals in her kitchen. By the way, the occupiers have planted a winter vegetable garden in the city planters.

Vegetable gardens are blooming at the Plaza

I walked over to Snow Park on my way home and found a bucolic scene at the little encampment there. One gentleman who now lives there told me that their group did not want to live in the crowded conditions in which many on Ogawa/Grant Plaza live. I suggested they design their own city planning codes that would limit the number of tents, and he said that they had already done that. He told me that their group sends reps to the GA’s at the plaza but otherwise have their own events and issues, like mowing the grass and taking care of the park. He said that their occupiers, like the ones at city hall, were trying to reach out to local businesses.

I asked him if he would be living in the “streets” if he did not have the camp and he told me that he had been unemployed for 8 months and no longer had an apartment. He said that if they are moved they will set up camp somewhere else.

If you look around Oakland very carefully these days, you will find many sizes and styles of encampments. This is now a reality in our society that no city council or chamber of commerce can stop or apparently prevent.

Man washes his hair in the sun at Snow Park

So tonight, I have no new conclusions to draw or grandiose answers to offer. But, it seems to me that the pressure to close down the OO encampment is building rapidly and has the possibility of taking down a very progressive, solution-oriented mayor as well as resulting in pain to those to whom it has given hope and even to those who revile it.

I keep hoping for a way out of that sad ending and it’s what keeps me visiting, talking and writing about it. I was outside in my front yard as one of my neighbors, a progressive woman who works in the public sector, was walking her dog-I asked, “So what’s the solution (I hadn’t named the problem)?” And she replied, “It’s complicated.”