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Anonymous Comrades, "Occupy Oakland Reports to Occupied London"

"Occupy Oakland Reports to Occupied London"
Anonymous Comrades

[This dispatch was composed by J. and read out at the General Assembly of Occupy London in front of St Paul's Cathedral at 7:30, Thursday 27th October. Appended to it are two messages that came in from S. and D. later in the evening, and which have been passed on to the Occupied Times of London. IB]

"To our sisters and brothers at Occupy London, from Oakland, California, greetings.

On Tuesday there were about 2000 of us on the streets in Oakland. There were some scuffles and gas attacks by the police during a march which wound its way during the evening to the Plaza where the eviction had taken place early in the morning.

The march arrived at 14th and Broadway about 7.30 p.m. Cops from throughout California had blocked all entrances to the park, which was no simple matter as it has about six approaches. Cops were also stationed at all the freeway entrances, recalling a demo last year that managed to block the 880 freeway during rush hour.

So within the space of 12 hours we had a diabolical inversion whereby the police were occupying Oscar Grant Plaza while we, the 99%, occupied the streets.

There seemed to be very few police other than those locking down the
plaza and the freeways. Austerity has bitten there too and the OPD has
lost a couple of hundred officers over the last few years. Even an
hour after the march had ended I would guess there were still more
than 1000 people in good spirits.

Inevitably an OPD sergeant read the riot act giving us 5 minutes to
disperse "on behalf of the people of California", which raised a
cheer. People remained casually in place though, spread back across
the junction and into 14th street facing the police. When the gas and
grenades came, people ran back to Franklin but regrouped quickly back
at the police line. I saw one kid shot from his bicycle by a salvo of
rubber bullets when he attempted to gather debris from one of the
grenades. A group of cops ran out from their line to collect what he
had dropped.

Scott Olsen was one of a number of people who received head injuries
during the night that followed. There were 4 or 5 of these incidents
whereby the crowd were confronted by police attack using gas, grenades
and rubber and bean bag bullets filled with lead shot. In more than
just Scott Olsen's case, there were demonstrators who went to the aid
of a prone comrade shot at or attacked with grenades.

Demonstrators held the streets for several hours while police never
left their line. In a remarkable display of revolutionary discipline
there was little or no retaliation carried out against police, no
stoning, molotovs or physical attacks. At the same time several
suspiciously lonely police cars parked in the vicinity were left
unmolested and were not burned out, nor were banks attacked. The mood
remained festive and our presence and confidence on the streets
reinforced the idea that the loss of the park was no defeat for the
movement locally.

And so it turned out. This evening – Wednesday – the plaza was filled
with another large crowd for a General Assembly. Again the crowd was
diverse and included many showing up for the first time, incensed with
the behaviour of the police on Tuesday night and with the eviction.
The fence that the city had put in place was dismantled and removed
and the plaza was again thrown open to debate and the human mic. The
police did not show themselves until late into the night and as I
write hundreds of people are playing cat and mouse with the cops in
downtown Oakland.

Politically, the eviction has been a disaster for the city. The Mayor,
Jean Quan, a liberal notable who participated in establishing the
Ethnic Studies program at UC Berkeley back in the day is drowning, and
has resorted to throwing underlings to the dogs. She is being
abandoned by some of her own staff, a few of whom demonstrated
alongside us on Tuesday night and witnessed the barbarism of the
police under her orders.

The chief of police spent Wedensday morning denying that any grenades
had been fired but once the local TV channels started running video of
exploding ordnance among the demonstrators, he began to blame cops
from other jurisdictions. It would appear that no one is in charge in
Oakland. Scott Olsen, the two-tour Iraq vet and anti-war activist who
spent his days working in a computer store in SF and his nights
sleeping in the Oakland Commune where he fell, has become a cause
celebre and the TV coverage becomes ever more sympathetic to our side
and critical of the police and the political class.

A friend [EY] remarked: 'Tonight felt especially transformative - a
different feeling entirely than all those anti-war marches. Class
consciousness IS diversity, it turns out.' "

Having read out this dispatch before the General Assembly in London to
sustained applause, IB added these words in closing:

"This dispatch - which arrived a few hours ago from Oakland - is
helpful, I believe, in thinking about the movement of occupations both
here in London and around the world.

Making space for our deliberations is vital, but today from Oakland we
learn that the temporary loss of one site need not be fatal to the
cause, which is nothing less than the abolition of the travesty that
dares call itself democracy.

There are also fruitful lessons, I suggest, in recalling two other
occupations, one of them still vivid in the memories of many elders in
Oakland - I am speaking of the Native American occupation of Alcatraz
in 1969. The Commune of Alcatraz lasted 19 months and was an
inspiration both to the movement for indigenous rights and dignity, as
well as the anti-colonial sovereignty movements of the fourth world
and the small island communities of the Pacific.

The second occupation I am referring to took place in Putney, just
four miles up the river from here, back in '47. That is, 1647. Upon
being ordered to break camp and go home, the levellers within the New
Model army refused to disband, on the grounds that they had not fought
a civil war to return home to the old dispensation. Tomorrow, the 28th
of October, is the anniversary of the Putney Debates, in which
commoners and grandees sat down together in St Mary's Church by the
bridge to discuss a new constitution for England. As you know, despite
the subsequent abolition of the monarchy, the House of Lords, and the
Anglican hierarchy, the English Republic lasted hardly a decade before
the counter-revolution of 1660. Therefore we are gathered here with
some unfinished business. The late Christopher Hill, historian of that
historic defeat, when asked "What was the outcome of the English
Revolution?" replied: "It's too soon to tell." In other words, we are
in this for the long haul.

Finally, the same state violence that felled Scott Olsen in Oakland
yesterday - and we keep in our thoughts tonight Scott and the
countless other casualties in the long battle against capital and
empire - enraged a young poet who was in Italy when he heard news of
the massacre of peaceful protesters at St Peter's Field in Manchester
in 1819. In his fury Percy Shelley composed the 'Mask of Anarchy'
which ends with indelible lines that should encourage us during the
cold days ahead as the movement braces for bad weather (at some point
the occupation of a winter palace or two may seem like a good option):

'Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
which in sleep had fallern on you -
Ye are many - they are few.' "

S writes:
"Good morning, everyone. I have not been spending a lot of time at
Occupy, but was out last night and the movement has become one of the
most inspiring I've been a part of. We are all so used to
participating in movements that ultimately feel marginal, but the
Occupy movement, which almost by definition should appeal to everyone,
has palpably broad support. This is evident from the state's
hesitancy in dealing with the situation nationwide (San Francisco
appears to have called off a raid last night, and Oakland, despite two
days of deliberate violence preceded by days of high-level planning,
seems to understand for the moment that police violence is not going
to solve this problem for them), as well as the reaction of people on
the streets and the customers I saw walking out of fancy restaurants
and bars to make common cause with the movement.

Last night's General Assembly was unbelievable. More than a thousand
people, truly of all ages and walks of life, conducted a well
organized and efficient public meeting in the town square. It was
clear that a lot of new people had come out in response to the
violence of the night before, especially the news of the serious head
injury inflicted on Iraq veteran Scott Olsen. I don't think I have
ever seen a more literal embodiment of the First Amendment than last
night's General Assembly.

The night concluded, for me anyway, with a large midnight march
through downtown Oakland. The young people are amazing - festive and
angry at the same time. As we marched on police headquarters, which
was surrounded by hundreds of the same cops who fired on the crowd the
night before, the baseball chant - "Let's Go Oakland - clap, clap,
clapclapclap" - was repurposed into one of civic pride and defiance.
As we gathered outside the police complex, the prisoners inside
Oakland's massive concrete tower jail began flashing their lights on
and off, and the flickering of the narrow translucent windows became
their means of connecting with the movement.

Greetings to all in London."

D writes:

"Maybe this is a good time to look at the specific contributions of
Occupy Oakland. This is neither Wall Street nor San Francisco. This is
the city that brought you both the Black Panthers and the Oakland
Raiders whose flag was flying at half staff from City Hall due to
legendary coach Al Davis’ recent death, when the police cleared out
the occupation.

From the first day of the Oakland occupation a scant two weeks ago,
this was clearly a wing of the movement that pushed for a more radical
politics to be heard in the occupy movement. Occupy Oakland’s first
rally, in which they occupied Frank Ogawa plaza, was held in tandem
with Indigenous People’s Day, both as a statement of solidarity and an
expression that this action firmly situated itself against colonialism
and nation states.

Occupy Oakland, in contrast to Occupy San Francisco, also clearly
stated that they were 100% opposed to both political parties and
police. There was to be no cooperation with the state in any form.
This was to be more than an occupation, it was to be a liberated
space. However Frank Oglawa Plaza was decidedly not an empty space
when the tents were set up by the occupiers. The plaza in front of
Oakland City Hall was in fact already occupied by many people living
in cardboard bivouacs under the trees. The ever-growing U.S. homeless
population became a part of the movement, and many of those long time
park-dwellers said it was the first time they had been able to sleep
safely in years.

By the time the eviction came, people at the plaza were already
talking about pushing the movement outwards, viewing the occupied
plaza as a convergence point from which actions could spill forth, as
much as a political statement in itself. And so people had begun
trying to spread the movement: there was a brief anti-capitalist march
that made a loop through downtown Oakland and when the police followed
them back to the plaza the officers were driven away with chants of
“Go home! Go home!” There were also calls to support any and all
striking workers in Oakland and beyond. And holding fast to their
principles, when a demonstration ended at Occupy Oakland and several
elected officials wished to speak, they were denied the opportunity.

What happened on of the day of the eviction is already well known:
people returned in the afternoon and began rallying at the now-emptied
Frank Ogawa Plaza, where they were subsequently teargassed and beaten
and yet still demonstrated until early the next morning. A
demonstrating veteran soldier was gravely injured in the head by a
tear gas canister. The next evening thousands of people regrouped at
the emptied plaza, tore down the fences that had been thrown up around
it, and held a General Assembly in which they called for a general
strike the following Wednesday. And for once in my life I didn’t hoot
at the idea that a general strike might actually happen, if not this
Wednesday then sometime in the very near future. This movement has
tapped into something very strong and that political current, I
predict, is not going away anytime soon.