Filed under: war-machine | Tags: anti-capitalism, bay area, general assemblies, general strike, oakland commune, occupy, occupy everything, oscar grant plaza
In the early hours of Monday morning (11/14) the police conducted the second eviction of the Oakland Commune. Far less spectacular than the first, a few hundred campers and supporters picketed and protested inside police perimeters and under the ruthless lights of helicopters for hours. Numbers dwindled down to dozens by 9 a.m. The following day, as planned, a large rally was held at the downtown Oakland Public Library followed by a march back to Oscar Grant Plaza (OGP). Upon arriving at OGP no tents were raised, the kitchen was not re-established, and there was no library, no free store or medic tent. By the mayor’s orders, the plaza was to be open to the public for 24 hours a day, but no camping would be tolerated and the plaza would be under police supervision for 3 full days thereafter. Next to the mud puddle that used to be our strong, police-free common space, we held our regular Monday night General Assembly under the eye of more than one hundred police, paddy wagons on hand. Despite how uninspired and crushed one could feel at this time, it was hard to forget, after all we’ve been through, that this is still Oakland.
On Tuesday, a contingent of Oaklanders marched from OGP to UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza to join the students’ second attempt at an encampment on the evening of their campus-wide strike (called for the evening of their first attempted encampment of the plaza). As the march approached the University, rich with the history of 2009′s student occupations, they chanted “Here comes Oakland!”. Occupy Cal’s General Assembly was attended by thousands, and they set up camp and partied late into the night. Police presence was minimal compared to the first day of Occupy Cal. This day’s activities overshadowed and largely disregarded the death of Christopher Travis, a UC Berkeley student who was shot and killed by the UCPD that same day (allegedly for having a gun on campus, though details are unclear).
Wednesday’s GA drew out a rough blue print for actions to come. A proposal to establish a new camp at 19th and Telegraph[link], blocks away from OGP, passed among a crowd of at least 250. This was a particularly bold proposal because every detail of the event was disclosed publicly. It was a testament to the collective confidence and loss of fear that informs the people of OO.
At around 10:30pm it was brought to the attention of the new encampment that the sound truck (used during many marches and throughout the day of the General Strike) had been stopped by the police. This was clearly unwarranted harassment, but the pigs used the excuse of a local anti-sideshow law to impound the vehicle. Campers ran with excitement to 17th and MLK to try and stop them. After the drivers had left the truck, a cop got inside to drive it away, but people had it surrounded. It was only minutes after comrades responded that the police responded too – about 30 riot cops, running towards the comrades with their batons drawn. One of them, in an unmarked crown vic, drove into two people, leaving them without injury but in a fit of rage.
Occupy Oakland has received the warmest statements and actions of solidarity and inspiration from comrades in Chapel Hill, Seattle, Egypt, Mexico, St. Louis and many more. It is clear that Oakland has found a place in the hearts of rebels far and wide. But this is not enough. We must challenge ourselves to create our own media and to secure consistent communications among the rebels who carry each other. Meet these ends creatively and not under the illusion that we can subvert the mass media any more than we can subvert the banking industry, the misery of service work, or the police. May these lines of communication open as the veins and vessels in our own bodies did during the inception of Oscar Grant Plaza. Let’s assess our thought processes and the practical application of our most complex theories and simplest desires. If your heart beats to see the world in communization, negated or in total ruins, you know that you will not find your revolution here. Your absent future, on the other hand, may be further realized at this time.
Like the impressive actions of those in black bloc during the Nov 2nd General Strike, or the spontaneous eruptions of spray painting, minor looting and window smashing of that evening, it is important that our demonstrations necessitate creative use of our bodies and minds. Saturday night, 500 or more people participated in tearing down the fence surrounding the lot on 19th and Telegraph. The collective realization that this barrier between Oaklanders and a vacant space could be destroyed spread like wild fire in a matter of seconds. Where we are economically and emotionally alienated from each other, we are also alienated from our own bodies, our desires, our individual and collective potentials. Many in Oakland have resolved to stop asking for their most basic needs to be met. Many more linger in the absence of artillery – friends.
If this movement really is doomed, we must push it to its limits, suspend ourselves in time and space for just now, and redecorate the insulting facade of this world with indications of its destruction. If not for today, than for the security of the network of rebels we must depend on tomorrow. #Occupy is the perfect example.
Keep in touch,
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: capitalism, crisis, Enemies, general strike, nihilism, oakland, occupy everything, Occupy oakland, oscar grant plaza, private property, public space, society of enemies
We are the consequence. Thus reads the poetry of the moment, spraypainted on the side of a dumpster-barricade outside of Occupy Oakland in the hours before it was besieged by hundreds of cops and destroyed. A threat, a promise, but more than that the phrase means that what is happening here in Oakland is not just a ephemeral explosion, not just another one of the twice-yearly riots that passes through the city like a comet. No, it is part of a sequence. There are consequences to the things we do. Our days are no longer a collection of mere happenstance and triviality, no longer a random distribution of inconsequential moments. Finally, what happens happens for a reason, even if from the perspective of the dominant order this reason appears as purest irrationality. Finally, what happens is what must happen, even if from the perspective of the dominant order this necessity appears as pure contingency. There are consequences. We are those consequences. We are the pure products of a political and economic system that can no longer guarantee for us even the mere survival upon which its own survival depends, that can’t even provide us with the unbearable jobs and mind-numbing schooling of decades past. Nor can the American state any longer guarantee social peace – not even if it could afford to imprison another 2 million people. The consequences have arrived. After orbiting the world as riots and general strikes, massive urban encampments and near-revolutions, those consequences have finally come home to the decaying US cities from which the crisis first emerged.
But we are more than simple symptoms of capitalism’s collapse. We are also the agents of consequence. We are the hinge between if and then. We are what makes what must happen happen. If we were driven to occupy Oscar Grant Plaza by the nature of the conditions, then it is also true that we did so intentionally, with clarity about our purposes, and with minimal equivocation. We established a space premised upon free giving and receiving rather than exchange, a space where anyone could find a meal or a tent, attend a workshop or political conversation, and, if they wanted, participate in the maintenance of the occupation in numerous different ways (though participation was never a requirement). We did this with open hostility to the cops and the city government, refusing their entreaties to negotiate on multiple occasion. Such a commune can only result from all kinds of care, attention, willfulness, decision and effort. This space was, in many regards, the opposite of the spontaneous. And yet, without an openness to the spontaneous, without a sensitivity to the order of what happens – in other words, “material conditions” – it could never have come about. The crisis is the necessary but not the sufficient condition of the commune. When we tore down the fence the city erected to keep us from the returning to the plaza, we did so not only because we had to, not only because we wanted to, but because we chose to.
Curiously, nihilism has become the philosophical vogue among radicals at the precise historical moment when, for once, people can do things that actually matter. Of course, if you plays the odds, nihilism is the safest bet. Most of what we do doesn’t matter. Chances are that capitalism will be succeeded by something as bad as it or worse or by centuries of total ruin. Furthermore, any sober assessment of the enemy and the state of those who have avowed their total opposition to the status quo can only lead one to conclude that any force capable of establishing some other way of living must emerge not as a result of willful, voluntary antagonism but in response to new historical developments, new “objective conditons” among people who are not now, in any sense, declared enemies of what exists. But what such a standpoint misses is that we are history, too. We are those objective conditions. This is why the moment of crisis is significant, because it is a moment when the spell of “objectivity” is broken, when the myriad apparatuses and institutions designed to ensure that what we do doesn’t matter – from the police to the universities to the media – stop functioning, when they can no longer fulfill their task of neutralizing, displacing, misrepresenting or repressing antagonism. Crisis is the moment where what we do matters because the apparatuses for containing antagonism have failed. Because there are consequences.
Crisis is the condition. It is the conditional term in the proposition, the if phrase, but crisis is not itself capable of producing consequences, of turning an if into a then, a condition into a consequence. So many people – friends and strangers – who did what needed to be done, who recognized the opportunity! None of this just happens. It takes tremendous effort, preparation, intelligence. It is the fruit of years of conversations and friendships and projects. Though none of this will ever be acknowledged openly, and no names will be shared, each of us knows the dedication and ferocity and courage of our friends, as well as the incredible things done by people whose names we will never know. We know what it took: from the most mundane tasks to the most thrilling, all of it necessary.
Two years ago, “occupation” was adventurism or vanguardism, the suicidal plunge of the lunatic fringe that barricaded university buildings or rioted in the consumer corridors of university districts or marched insanely onto freeways. The signs read we are the crisis because we were, we were the first expression of a crisis become general, the insane children of an insane world. But now we are no longer merely the crisis. We have grown up; we have graduated (even those of us who never went to college or were already quite grown). We are the consequence. We have moved from the futureless universities into the presentless squares of our cities, from the sites of the formation of labor-power toward the place of its circulation, and finally, with the general strike, the place of exploitation. Small though they were, those flares lit the way: they provided moments of theorization and practical elaboration which have pointed now, finally, to the centers of all our cities. The slogan Occupy Everything, once absurd, is now banal. Though occupation has up until now remained bound by semi-public property – university buildings and parks – the general strike now looming promises the possibility of taking occupation to private property itself. We can start taking the things we really want and need: the buildings we will need to survive the winter months, for example. There will be consequences to what we do on the November 2. Let’s make them as brutal and beautiful as possible.
–The Society of Enemies
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: bay area, coffins, march, oakland, oakland commune, occupy wall street, oscar grant plaza, OWS, police, police brutality
According to inside Bay Area:
“OAKLAND — The Occupy Oakland encampment at City Hall was quiet Sunday, a day after protesters again took to the streets and nearly had another confrontation with police.
Earlier Sunday, a board covered a section of the Oakland Police recruiting station at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, hours after protesters broke it as a Saturday night march against police brutality was winding down.
The march saw some tense moments as police in riot gear faced off against protesters. Other organizers intervened, holding up peace signs, and marchers returned to their camp at the plaza in front of City Hall, although some marchers broke parking meters, tagged buildings with anti-police slogans, and broke the window on their return to camp. Police did not intervene.
As many as 60 tents are pitched in the plaza at 14th Street and Broadway. City efforts to disband the camp last week led to a confrontation between police and protesters and catapulted Oakland into the international spotlight. Campers returned to the plaza shortly after.
Occupy Oakland demonstrators continue to prepare for their planned general strike on Wednesday, where businesses and residents are encouraged to close their doors, stay home from work and rally for solidarity. Organizers hope to shut down the city.
Also Sunday, well wishes poured in on a website created for Scott Olsen, the 24-year-old former Marine and Iraq War veteran who was seriously injured in the Oct. 25 protest. Witnesses
said Olsen, of Daly City, was hit in the head by a tear-gas canister fired by police trying to control the crowd.
Visitors to scottolsen.org can post messages and make donations to help Olsen’s family in a fund maintained by Iraq Veterans Against War.
Olsen’s roommate, Keith Shannon, said the site was created Thursday and Friday by well-wishers. Shannon expects to take over stewardship of the site soon.
Olsen, who suffered a fractured skull and brain swelling, was transferred Saturday from Highland Hospital in Oakland to an undisclosed medical center.”
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: fence, oakland commune, occupation, occupy wall street, oscar grant plaza, tearing
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: 1%, general assembly, general strike, oakland, oscar grant plaza, proposal, shut down oakland, work
“Below is the proposal passed by the Occupy Oakland General Assembly on Wednesday October 26, 2011 in reclaimed Oscar Grant Plaza. 1607 people voted. 1484 voted in favor of the resolution, 77 abstained and 46 voted against it, passing the proposal at 96.9%. The General Assembly operates on a modified consensus process that passes proposals with 90% in favor and with abstaining votes removed from the final count.
We as fellow occupiers of Oscar Grant Plaza propose that on Wednesday November 2, 2011, we liberate Oakland and shut down the 1%.
We propose a city wide general strike and we propose we invite all students to walk out of school. Instead of workers going to work and students going to school, the people will converge on downtown Oakland to shut down the city.
All banks and corporations should close down for the day or we will march on them.
While we are calling for a general strike, we are also calling for much more. People who organize out of their neighborhoods, schools, community organizations, affinity groups, workplaces and families are encouraged to self organize in a way that allows them to participate in shutting down the city in whatever manner they are comfortable with and capable of.
The whole world is watching Oakland. Let’s show them what is possible.
The Strike Coordinating Council will begin meeting everyday at 5pm in Oscar Grant Plaza before the daily General Assembly at 7pm. All strike participants are invited.
Stay tuned for much more information and see you next Wednesday.
Since this announcement, social media has been abuzz with calls for a US-wide General Strike and a Global General Strike!”
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: bay area, general strike, march, november 2, oakland, oakland commune, oscar grant plaza, police raid, riot police, rioting, tear gas
From Bay of Rage:
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…
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: 1500 people, bay area, general assembly, meetings, oakland, oakland commune, oscar grant plaza
An image of the meeting of at least 1500 people at a general assembly in Oakland meeting to approve a general strike.
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: anti-capital projects, oakland, oakland commune, occupy everything, occupy wall street, oscar grant plaza, the bay area
From Anti-Capital Projects:
We knew that it would happen.
If you live with others in a public space in a city, if you set up shelters in which people can live without owning or renting property, if you set up an outdoor kitchen with which to feed anyone who wants food, if you establish a free school at which anyone can read and learn, if you set up bathroom facilities provided by organizations supporting your activities, if you show solidarity with struggles against police killings and police violence against people of color, against the poor, against women, against queers and transpeople, if you state your determination to defend the space you have created against the threat of eviction, in short—if you work toward organizing ways of living and relating to one another that might challenge those mandated by capitalism, your efforts will eventually be crushed by the police.
We know this because we know that the question is not whether the police are “part of the 99%,” on the basis of their salary. What is called the 99% is ruptured by many divisions. Among these is the dividing line that runs between those who want to change the world and those who uphold the status quo, between those who work to undermine the brutal order of property and those who work to enforce it. For those who transform the world by challenging capitalist economic and social relations, working to displace and overturn them, the police are one among many enemies. We know it is their job to destroy what we create, and it is no surprise when they do that.
At 4:30 am on October 25, Occupy Oakland was raided by more than 500 police from multiple counties. From a comrade who was there:
At the time of this writing I am filled with rage. Occupy Oakland, on its second week, was raided by an overwhelming force of approximately 800 police in riot gear. I was there, ready to defend when police from all entrances to Oscar Grant Plaza rushed in with sticks and began beating people. Their tactics were simple but effective: rush in with overwhelming numbers and push out those that intended to stay for a fight, slowly crush resilience of those who took up the tactic of civil disobedience by linking arms and protecting the camp. They beat people with sticks, shot people with rubber bullets, obliterated ear-drums with flash-bang grenades, and choked them with tear gas.
What wrenches on these mornings (so many, for so many of us), what presses out on our temples, constricts our chests, fills our throats so that it can’t be properly spoken is a contradiction: we knew that this would happen; we can’t accept that it has happened. We know, insofar as we struggle, that our struggle will be repressed. But no amount of knowing can fortify against the sickness that we feel every time an army of cops rolls in to brutalize and arrest our friends and comrades.
All the tents are down, pots are strewn everywhere, the library scattered, the garden stomped, the Commune is in ruins. “Though it fed thousands for free and welcomed the city’s desperately poor homeless population, this public park can hopefully now return to its natural state of being completely empty.” Dozens of smug assholes and their batons surround the emptiness they prefer to the fragile possibilities that were created, getting paid overtime to chat across their barricades with idiots who think the cops are on the same side as those they just attacked and threw in jail, while others hurl insults against dead ears.
The Oakland Commune matters not because it could have lasted any longer than it did and not because of how many cops it took to tear it down. It matters because for as long as it was there it was evidence that the impossible resides in the heart of our cities, amongst those who already live together on the streets, amongst those willing to live with them. It isn’t that this is “Round One” of a longer fight. It isn’t that those who lived and worked there all day and all night “will be back.” It isn’t that this is “just the beginning.” It isn’t just the beginning because it’s been going on for a long time, because the history of struggle is the history of capitalism. Because the history of capitalism, in its unfolding, in the movement of its contradiction with itself, is the coming into being of communism. If we won’t be back in Oscar Grant Plaza, if the Oakland Commune won’t be there as it was for two weeks, that is because we are everywhere, and the substance of history articulates itself unceasingly across the movement of what it creates. That is not an abstraction; it’s a letter of solidarity from Cairo, arriving the afternoon before the tents are torn down: “An entire generation across the globe has grown up realizing, rationally and emotionally, that we have no future in the current order of things….So we stand with you not just in your attempts to bring down the old but to experiment with the new.” Our true loves are everywhere, a friend replies. We won’t be back because we’re not going anywhere.
For a long time we have dreamed the end of capitalism. The twenty-first century is the time in which that dream will come true. We are waking up, and we are learning again, among one another, how to use our tired bodies. This is what it feels like to wake in a tent on the grass of Oscar Grant Plaza. Comrades in Baltimore write, “this occupation is inevitable, but we have to make it.” Nothing of that dialectic can be displaced by the police.
“The revolution” does not exist. It is not a horizon to be struggled toward, and no movement in the history of struggles has “failed.” The real movement is the movement of bodies, working on what exists. If the occupation is inevitable, it is because it is what is happening everywhere, now. If we have to make it, it is because our bodies are the material collective that it is. If it is repressed, its inevitability remains. The twenty-first century is the time of that inevitability, because the limit it surges against, repression, is also the dynamic of its movement: in its death throes, the openly repressive forces of capital are the manifestation of its own weakness, returning people to the destitution from which they revolt. “This occupation is inevitable, but we have to make it,” because in a time of mass debt, of mass foreclosures, of ruthless austerity, of sprawling slums, there will be no alternative to the material necessity of taking what we need and using it amongst ourselves.
None of this makes a difference this morning, while the enemy guards its ruins and our comrades are in jail. But if we knew this morning would come, we also know that the clocks have already stopped, that the real movement continues, and that time is on our side.
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: autonomous, banks, bay area, bay of rage, liberated space, occupations, occupy, Occupy oakland, occupy wallstreet, oscar grant plaza
From Bay of Rage:
Social rebels from around Oakland have descended upon Oscar Grant Plaza and have created a genuine, autonomous space free of police and unwelcoming to politicians. Whereas other occupations have invited the police and politicians, or have negotiated with them, Occupy Oakland has carved a line in the cement. That line of demarcation says: if you pass this, if you try and break up or over shadow this autonomous space, you are well aware, as observed over the last couple of years, what we are capable of.
This article is a report back on the first week at Occupy Oakland, a reflection on problems we have been facing and some thoughts on moving the occupation forward; onto some next level shit.
After much organizing, logistical coordination, joy, sweat and tears, we’ve managed to hold down the first week of the occupation of Oscar Grant Plaza (conservatively known as Frank Ogawa Plaza). The police have not stepped foot inside the parameter of the occupation without an impassioned, hostile response. Likewise, the people who do enter the space have not left without an inspired and rebellious spirit – a fever.
On the first night, there was concern about how many people would show up or if any of them would feel empowered enough to stay the night. Despite the rain, at least 1,000 attended the rally and about two dozens tents were erected. After food was served, the first general assembly took place in the amphitheater of City Hall. In the form of a speak-out, an amplified sound system and an open floor made way for those in attendance to passionately talk about why they were there – why they hate capitalism, its pigs and its prisons. Here, people could speak their minds without the obstacles of an agenda or decision-making.
Different from many other occupations in the occupation movement, organizing took place for a week prior to the plaza takeover. On the very first day, the camp had a fully functional kitchen, an info-tent and a supply tent. By the end of this week there was a medic tent, art supply tent, an insurrectionary library, a free store, the Raheim Brown Free School, a media tent, a POC tent, a Sukkah, a DJ booth, and not to mention hundreds of sleeping-space tents. In addition, the rotating kitchen crew has been feeding everyone consistently from 8am until midnight and throwing spontaneous BBQs. Despite a few hiccups, these designated areas and tents have been beautifully maintained and non-exclusive – functioning to attract new-comers, leaving little prospect for anyone to feel like a spectator.
Immediately, different logistical issues that had to be dealt with spawned various working groups, or committees. These committees are in constant rotation. This “beauty in chaos” allows for a loose, flexible structure. Simultaneously, people are freely organizing and interacting with the camp however they desire. A few crucial sub-committees that the occupation hasn’t necessitated until recently, but have since been created (and experimented with) are: security (dealing with outside forces such as police, who from the beginning were not welcome), mediation (dealing with internal conflicts and dynamics), a facilitation working group (which organizes the agenda and shapes the process of the general assembly), a POC caucus that has been meeting every day, and finally, a newly formed anti-authoritarian/anti-capitalist caucus and a queer working group. People are no longer spectating the increasingly rapid destruction of their everyday life, instead they are actively participating in breaching normalized boundaries – how people relate to one another in a way that empowers everyone involved.
The General Assemblies, or “GAs,” are places where the people of the occupation can get updates, have debates, plan for actions, and decide on proposals. The GA Facilitation Working Group came up with a modified consensus process where a 90% majority – instead of 100% – is sufficient to pass a proposal. However illusory or “democratic” this process functions, its strategic implementation strips power away from potentially authoritative individuals who might hijack or otherwise sabotage our ability to make decisions and move forward. Because there is a specific group working on the facilitation process, the GAs operate smoothly and are usually quite exciting. Additionally, a lot of people that speak at the GA are really fucking on point. Thus far the general assemblies (of 200-300 people nightly) have passed decisions to never endorse political parties or politicians, to send a solidarity statement to comrades at Occupy Wall Street and another to those on hunger strike in the Pelican Bay state prison. This is also a space where anti-state and anti-authority sentiments flourish, be they against the police or the city government. As can be expected, some people say some really fucked up racist/sexist shit, but they are usually booed off stage. With what may be a perfect ending to the first week, a letter from the city (delivered en mass 30 minutes before the GA) was read aloud. The city detailed specifically what must be improved or taken care of “for our own safety” (when did the city ever care about our safety anyways?). Boldly (you could feel tension when the idea was initiated), some began chanting, “Burn it”. Without hesitation, someone took a lighter to the letter. Another person added lighter fluid to the burning, single sheet of paper. The flames raged wildly for a full minute. The crowd of at least 300 cheered and hollered with an enthusiasm unprecedented at any prior GA. For some reason, we feel that Occupy Oakland is different…
In addition to the amazing infrastructure and the excellent facilitation that has been set up, the organized events are extremely diverse and most of the time explicitly political. Each of the events throughout the first week nurtures the overall, vengeful tone of the occupation – performances, Hip Hop shows, poetry slams and movie showings. In each case, people find time away from hard work to enjoy each other’s company. In addition to planned events, numerous impromptu ciphers, dance parties and performances break out – accentuating a generalized desire to cultivate autonomous actions. One day a SambaFunk Band marched their way into Oscar Grant Plaza, proceeded to play for almost an hour – hundreds surrounding them, dancing. This beautifully unexpected addition to the occupation, along with others like it, demonstrates a recurring spontaneity. Multiple times throughout the day you hear people exclaim how inspired they are by this occupation and what is possible here. In addition to the more creative and fun events, workshops take place during the day and have been explicitly nonconformist. The workshops range from topics such as contemporary uprisings in Greece, Chile, and Oaxaca to Occupy Everything, which connect the student occupations to what is happening here. This upcoming week, everyday from 1-5pm there are more of the same: specific talks discussing particular political topics such as “Police/State/Prison” and “Oakland schools are being shut down! What are we gonna do?” Notably, the very first demonstration out of Occupy Oakland was an anti-capitalist march where over 200 people marched through downtown Oakland chanting, “1, 2, 3, 4 – organize for social war!” — among other things . This march attracted a diversity of people. Over 200 rebels chanting these radical slogans chill you to the bone. The following night, a queer march left from the occupation and went to Hella Gay, a queer dance party in Oakland. Upon reaching the club, marchers demanded to be let in for free and the venue acquiesced.
Incessantly, Occupy Oakland startles and excites many with its implicit radicalism. On Saturday, October 15th, MoveOn.org (a “grassroots” organizational front for the democratic party) organized a march and demonstration in conjunction with the national occupation movement’s day of action. They attempted to exploit Occupy Oakland when they announced that it would draw to a close in Oscar Grant Plaza with a series of speakers including several mayors from around the Bay. Upon this announcement, a proposal was brought to the GA: a refusal of special treatment and/or endorsement of politicians and political parties/organizations. It passed like a maple leaf in the wind. After negotiations with MoveOn, and based on our own policies, no politicians would be allowed to speak on behalf of their party at that event and thereafter. Surprisingly, MoveOn eventually complied with our demand. When someone broke the agreement (rather, they took advantage of a loophole) and began reading a statement from Congresswomen Barbara Lee, someone from the occupation promptly told those from MoveOn how they broke the agreement and how the democratic party is “counter-revolutionary.” At this point those who were brought to the occupation via MoveOn’s march begun to disperse and explore the camp (perhaps because it was far more interesting than hearing all of the old boring democratic rhetoric that has been said time and time before).
Over the past few years, Oakland has demonstrated its uniqueness in social conflict and protest. This distinctiveness isn’t anything new; rather, it has just reemerged. To elaborate, a comrade wrote in The Occupation Movement: On Greed, Unity & Violence:
“Oakland is currently under occupation by the police. The form of this occupation varies; the situation is much different in Temescal than in deep East Oakland. We live in a militarized space. Whether it’s police executions of Black youth, police harassment of sex workers along International Boulevard, or the city council’s racist legislation in the form of anti-loitering laws, gang injunctions or the suggested youth curfew, this paramilitary occupation is a project of local government to pacify and contain the city so capitalism can go about it’s business uninterrupted.
But Oakland doesn’t just have a violent, repressive contemporary situation; we have a vibrant history of struggle and resistance. From the 1946 General Strike to the formation of the Black Panther party in 1966 to the anti-police rebellion following the execution of Oscar Grant in 2009, Oakland has long been a city full of people that refuse to sit down and shut up. Despite every attempt by the state to kill that spirit, it lives on and will be out in full force over the coming days.”
Occupy Oakland reflects Oakland’s radical history. Because of this, an overwhelming anti-police sentiment guides the conversation about and the reaction to police. The GA has refused to comply with the city’s demand that we apply for permits (which we were told would automatically be accepted without charge). This lawlessness has played out when police have attempted to enter the occupation. On several occasions, many surround the approaching police and in unison began chanting “Pigs go home!” and “Cops get out!” When the police officers realize their lack of power, they have no other option but to leave. This tactic of resisting the presence of the police started spontaneously, but has since been the usual response. We hope that other occupations will look to this practice and realize its significance.
Despite the brilliant infrastructure, there have been problems. Some extremely important committees have been slow to respond to the growing need of the camp. Some of this is due to the transient nature of the groups, where people come in and voice their disagreements and then take off, leaving the work to the people in the committees who are already stressing about getting things done. Although there is “beauty in the chaos,” it has become evident that to some degree, disciplined organization is imperative. Ideally, a harmony of chaos and composition will surface.
One of the biggest problems emerging in the camp is specific dynamics of racism, sexism and other oppressive habits. In the first several days, excitement and festivity ruled the commune. This slowly transitioned into over-frequent dance parties that spilled late into the nights. Excessive drinking, unwanted sexual advances, harassment, and fights persist daily. This behavior, it should be mentioned, also exists without the presence of alcohol, but takes on a different form with alcohol. [NOTE: we are beginning to see reports of delinquency, drug use and violence in the media that may begin to duplicate in other media outlets. This could be the beginning of a campaign against the occupation. We would like to mention that these problems exist everywhere, as this occupation is to some extent a microcosm of Oakland, and until there is incentive to unlearn these behaviors, “peace” cannot be actualized. Again, this is not to say that they are not serious or that they are tolerated.] All of this has led to concern about the camp developing a Burning Man or Woodstock environment, devoid of almost all political content (other than the politics of culture, sub-culture and counter-culture which have a very limited potential and ultimately alienate people from one another). What is desired is a complete transformation (or destruction) of society, not just a cultural one. These dynamics are not unique to the occupation, but rather happen every day in Oakland and everywhere – they are symptomatic of a society that has broken all of us. In reaction, a mediation team has been set up to deescalate situations and allow for dialogue between those in conflict, resulting in much benefit. Despite all of this, Occupy Oakland is magnificently self-regulating – when a fool’s gotta go, a fool’s gotta go. This occupation is constantly growing and expanding – becoming more and more dissident by the day, pushing us all to our limits. Let’s see what else this occupation movement has to offer…
Beneath the internal conflicts lies an aching desire to externalize such wrath. Hundreds upon hundreds of people simply talk and mingle, discussing politics and life. You can almost taste a collective hostility towards each individual’s own socialization. People are learning how to be human beings without the mediation of capitalism and its apparatuses. Whereas alienation and isolation rule our every interaction, it has been replaced by the crisis of remembering the last 10 names of those you’ve met in the past hour. The war on alienation and isolation is fought through complex and voluntary social experiments, ultimately revealing the gaps of power relations that are facilitated, in part, by capitalism
Another pressing issue is that of expansion. The plaza now hosts somewhere around 150 tents on the grassy areas alone. Sunday night, 30 minutes before the GA, a letter from the city was delivered en mass to people in the occupation. It detailed the city’s intolerance to many things, among them, camping in the concrete area of the plaza. Logistically, moving to the concrete would be the most immediate remedy to the growing population density of the occupation. Are we to push that boundary? Already, a small encampment has manifested in Snow Park, which is a few blocks from Oscar Grant Plaza. Almost all of the grass is taken up at this point and if we are to push the boundaries with the city, we must be prepared to defend the spaces we select to house us next. Expansion onto the concrete would only be a temporary solution. If we are to expand to another location, we must nurture the crisis of the occupation – population density – and encourage many more from the street find a home in the occupation movement and seduce others out of their homes to do the same. [NOTE: Those occupying Snow Park stand their ground against police who tell them they are not allowed to be there due to a school being nearby. Since then, to some extent, the school and its students have announced support of the occupations in OG Plaza and Snow Park. However, Snow Park is in need of a greater occupying force. As of tonight, we are unsure whether that extension of the occupation can be held through the following day.].
The recent letter from the City gives light to their attempt to stifle our capacity. With good reason, they are afraid. It is likely the occupation will attempt a diversity of expansion strategies through the coming week. Undercover police are naive to think we haven’t noticed their technique of dividing the occupation on already present tensions – some COINTELPRO type shit. The camp is vulnerable – bearing wide-open entrances in almost every direction. Do we look to barricades? Do we take the barricades into the street? These are questions that will be answered in either a collective, intuitive and organic response to police eviction or in much planning and preparation. One thing is certain: the people of Occupy Oakland are well prepared to defend their new home.
Occupy Oakland (as you may have gathered at this point) is unlike any other. We begin to appreciate this when we realize our potential and current condition – that we are a force to be reckoned with, a danger to the capitalist functioning of Oakland. Police attack is no more imminent than the all too likely opportunities of widespread insurgency. Strategizing in accordance to our immediate geography’s potential as well as its weaknesses is key. Unions, schools, libraries and more, they are already our allies, as we are theirs. An overpowering confidence saturates the air of Oscar Grant Plaza – a threat and a promise.
Occupy Everything! Demand Nothing!
-Autonomous individuals among the liberated space known as Oscar Grant Plaza.