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The first excursion out of Occupy Oakland – An Anticapitalist March

From Bay of Rage:

This Friday, Oct 14th, the 5th day of Occupy Oakland, an anti-capitalist bloc led the first march out of Oscar Grant Plaza (Frank Ogawa Plaza). A diverse crowd of at least 200 chanted “Fuck the police, we don’t need ‘em. All we want is total freedom”, “Burn the Banks”, and “ 1, 2, 3, 4 – organize for social war” throughout the demonstration. The march started from 14thand Broadway where we circled around the plaza, stopping at the State Building briefly, and then proceeded to the Oakland city jail by going down Telegraph and then snaking our way through Old Oakland. At the jail, bullhorns, air horns, more chants and announcements of support echoed through the cages inside the stark narrow building. Prisoners inside responded with noise and wild gestures barely visible through the slit windows of the north facing cells. Someone made an announcement about the ongoing hunger strike of over 12,000 prisoners taking place in California prisons and that some of their demands consist of better living conditions, medical care, and an end to solitary confinement.

Joining the march was a significant contingent of members of the local Muslim community who held their Friday prayers shortly before the march set off. An Imam who participated in the march later offered his full support of the Occupation and stressed the importance of solidarity and self-organization. Confrontational rhetoric is too often feared as being alienating to hypothetical communities but, in moments of crisis and revolt, many people are immediately interested in identifying with the radical spirit of the moment. People recognize themselves in the struggles of others and often go beyond what they might deem to be politically acceptable in the normal sense. The once “alienating” slogans of past years, “Occupy Everything” et al, have now become standard and the least controversial of chants.

As the march returned to the occupation, so did the police. They lined themselves along the corner of 14th and Broadway. But it was all in vein. Within minutes, the crowd retreated from the steps of city hall, where they were rallying, and forced the police off the sidewalk and into the street through chants such as “Cops get out!” and “Pigs go home!” They eventually got back into their cruisers and left the occupation.

Amidst the recent resignation of Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts, the police appeared as if they were receiving mixed messages through their line of command and to be in disarray as they escorted the march through downtown. In full riot gear, their attempt to appear as peacekeepers and public servants was transparently deceptive. This made it easy for those in the march to maintain a contentious presence – confident and without fear of police intervention, even when the police attempted to block our route to the jail and intimidate people once the march returned to the occupation.

Rather than “mic-checks” (which in our opinion, and apparently in many others’ who are participating in Occupy Oakland, create a space for loud leader-types that falsely alludes to consensus) Occupy Oakland’s general assemblies are facilitated and participated in through an amplified sound system. This is done in defiance of the city’s request that we do not use amplified sound (unlike other occupiers in other cities who have conceded to the demands of local government and police). We mention this to demonstrate the success of having a non-compliance position with those who seek to control and co-opt our efforts. We hope others participating in occupations around North America do the same. Several days earlier, Lupe Fiasco was asked if he would like to say anything after delivering much needed supplies to Occupy Oakland. While he did end up getting coaxed into speaking to the crowd, he initially responded, “Nah. Actions speak louder than words.” This phrase, however vague and over-used, narrates well the overall tone of Occupy Oakland. The ferocity of this first action and the rejection of the use of “mic-checks” demonstrates this perfectly.

A combination of the radical, collective history of Oakland and a consistent agitational force is greatly responsible for the high spirits and confrontational nature of this occupation. Today’s march is inspired by this history as well as young people with fresh ideas informed by their absent future. While the police are forced to adapt to their current circumstance, we have staged an environment that requires its participants to constantly recreate themselves. If not to keep the police on their toes, then to ensure that we are always interacting with one another in reverence to the Town’s history while engaging with the ever-decaying present.

Expect a full analysis and report back of the first week of Occupy Oakland this coming Monday.

With love,

An affinity group within Occupy Oakland

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