PART 1: Impressions on October 30, 2011
Occupy Everything, Liberate Oakland!
LATE LAST TUESDAY NIGHT, October 25th, social media feeds buzzed with the story of a two-tour Marine veteran of Iraq, Scott Olsen, struck by a police projectile fired at close range and left unconscious with a fractured skull. By Wednesday morning it was the lead story on Berkeley's Pacifica radio. A member of both Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, the twenty-four-year-old Olsen had been on the front lines of the downtown Oakland march, protesting the dawn eviction of Occupy Oakland. Police from seventeen different cities and from as far away as Gilroy exercised their right to assemble long-coordinated strategies of repression on Tuesday night, shooting teargas and "fin-stabilized" rubber bullets at the crowd from behind shields and body armor (all courtesy of last decade's Homeland Security grants). The cops even lobbed a "flash bang" grenade at the group of protestors who attempted to pick up the injured Olsen, who now languishes, finally conscious though unable to speak, in Highland Hospital.
Hearing the news, I thought of Rubén Salazar, struck in the head by a LAPD teargas canister inside the Silver Dollar bar in the aftermath of the East LA anti-Vietnam demonstration known as the Chicano Moratorium, in 1970. I thought of the several strikers shot and killed by Bay Area police in the 1934 Maritime strike. The workers' answer to police murder in 1934 was to call a general strike in San Francisco.
The past ten days have been heady ones for the self-styled Oakland Commune. After almost two weeks of being camped out downtown, an eviction order for the occupation came on Thursday of last week. The exceptional situation in Oakland — exceptional even in this surprising moment, with something like the left now occupying plazas and streets nationwide — was suddenly under immediate threat. On Saturday, October 22nd, a joyous march (featuring two bands as well as the infamous Book Bloc) made its way from Frank Ogawa Plaza (now called Oscar Grant Plaza by the communards) to the Oakland farmers market, where the marchers' roar was aided by the amplification of the freeway they paused below. From there they marched into a Chase branch, shutting it down, before circling all the way around Lake Merritt and back up 14th street to the Plaza. The 3 plus hours were captivating and exhausting, especially for those carrying the largest sign: a sail-like black banner with the slogan "Revolt for a life worth living" emblazoned on it.
Two days later, on Monday afternoon, activist listservs filled with chatter about a possible police eviction late Monday night. That eviction did come in the early hours on Tuesday, and, even with a planned retreat in place, over 110 people got "popped," with many additional arrests l...read more