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My experience with Occupy Oakland… so far!

I don’t know what the future holds for the Occupy Wall Street movement, but I have no doubt that the economic injustice that has fueled this popular expression of outrage isn’t going anywhere… and therefore, neither are WE. This movement will continue (and a good thing, too — it’s already been credited with derailing the Keystone XL pipeline project that threatened environmental and economic devastation).

I visited Occupy Oakland a couple of times, and I was largely heartened by what I saw: an open political space where citizens could interact (and occasionally take advantage of an open-microphone to address the crowd).  The site was populous, well-organized, non-threatening, and clean.  (Both times I visited Occupy Oakland, I took it upon myself to clean the area up a little, filling a small container with sidewalk litter before leaving — but doing so was barely necessary, as the Occupants were already doing a fine job picking up after themselves.)

The Occupy Oakland site was well-organized and supplied with everything from food and blankets to basic medical supplies for those who needed them.  It offered a designated safe space for children, at least two “library” tents, portable bathrooms, sanitation (water and soap), a station for trash/compost/recycling, and, most important, an actual space for peaceful dissent in America — something that barely exists anymore, in the age of “Free Speech Zones” (barricaded dissent, far from the protested event, or NONE).

(And yes, there was some public smoking of pot at Occupy Oakland, but no more than I’ve seen in certain other countries, like Canada or France, where they have this crazy thing called FREEDOM.)

Mayor Qwan, like NYC’s Michael Bloomberg, was simply doing the bidding of big business when she deployed a small army of police (at exorbitant cost to the city) to dismantle this harbor of peaceful assembly.  She cited the “threat” to public safety, indicating that a man shot and killed a block or two from the plaza last week had stayed at Occupy Oakland in the previous days… but consider the implications of that decision:

a) There has been no indication that the killing was in any way connected to the protest; and

b) If the official response to some unidentified miscreant murdering a peaceful protester is to SHUT DOWN the protest, doesn’t that just provide an incentive to any deranged, homicidal critic of the Occupy movement?  Should killing a protester serve the interests of banks and unctuous officials like Jean Qwan, giving them an excuse to shut down the whole enterprise???

Two months ago, for the first time, I heard Mayor Qwan speak at a public event, the ten-year 9/11 commemoration in Oakland.  She spoke about America’s victims, neglecting to mention the hundreds of thousands of victims of Washington’s savage response to those notorious attacks.  Mayor Qwan shared the stage with an alleged Christian who elected to celebrate the current Pope — the guardian of the Church’s pedophiles for over a decade, whose frequently incendiary comments have consistently denigrated liberals, secularists, Jews, and Muslims.  And Qwan more or less equated the value of Oakland’s diversity with “Taco Tuesday” (insulting and singularly uninspiring, with NO sense of the solemnity of the occasion; just another photo op).  

And now Oakland’s political, religious, and business elites have joined forces to shut down free expression in America.

In closing, I’ll just say this: Occupy Oakland introduced me to a lot of good people: long-hairs, future leaders, and concerned fuddy-duddies, my age and older; students (high school and college) trying to get a better handle on their society; professionals like teachers, construction workers, and farmers; hardworking, shrewd, and dedicated activists (representing Think Progress and the California Food and Justice Coalition); and others, just passing through, like Herman — a military veteran and also a veteran of America’s battle for civil rights in the 1960s and ‘70s — who had come to express solidarity with the downtrodden and offer solutions, facts, and insight.

But the nuttiest, most eccentric character I met during either of my excursions to Occupy Oakland was a tobacco-smoking (and marijuana-averse) Steinbeck enthusiast and self-identified “Republican” (no lie) who confided in me his disappointment that none of the gathered protesters — not one of the Occupy Oakland crowd — were offering violent “solutions,” such as ARSON (speaking for himself, he told me that he wished someone at OO would seize the microphone and begin calling for anarchists to set fires to bank-owned homes seized in foreclosure — “That’ll get their attention!”).  In response to his clearly misguided theory, I made the case that such actions would do NOTHING to help our cause… and could well end up harming the 99%, giving an excuse to government officials and law enforcement agents who have already demonstrated a predilection for fascism.

So let’s keep up the good work and leave the criminal and unjust actions to the kooks and our detractors, the enemies of free expression and the Bill of Rights: cynical and corrupt politicians like Mayor Michael (break my promise and buy my third term) Bloomberg and Mayor Jean “Hummus equals diversity” Qwan.


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