Many people arrived at the Occupy Oakland General Assembly last night fully prepared to support the proposal to rescind the decision to camp at 19th and Telegraph. I was one of them and, based on emails and other informal conversations, it was clear that many others agreed. Once it became clear that the vacant lot across the street from the Fox Theater was also next to the Oakland School for the Arts (OSA) and its playground, the potential public relations nightmare hit us. This would no longer be a discussion about hurting small businesses but a discussion about children, and few people wanted to go there. So let’s just unwind this thing gracefully, have a great march on Saturday, and regroup after Thanksgiving.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the proposal–the OSA people showed up.
They walked into our assembly with all the self-righteous indignation that you would expect from yuppies who have taken over the Uptown district. Is that who they were? Who knows. But that’s how they acted and while many of us were willing to give them an inch–the benefit of the doubt–they chose to take a mile instead.
They hooted and hollered throughout the first part of the GA, absolutely furious over the fact that their concerns were not front and center. This is after the fact that the facilitation committee chose to put their proposal first on the agenda without a vote of the GA and placing the open forum at the end of the meeting.
As our process went through its typical slog, they yelled at every vote, every vote about voting, and pretty much any other attempt to move things along. Then they basically blamed us instead of the police for the ongoing violence in downtown Oakland and talked about keeping their children out of the crossfire without ever mentioning the OPD.
By the time we actually voted, many of us were so turned off by their attitude that we actually wanted to take the lot on 19th and Telegraph because, as one longtime activist told me, these “sanctimonious assholes” changed our minds.
Ultimately, I still voted for their proposal only to get the 70% threshold so that we could go to amendments and potentially declare Oscar Grant Plaza the new camp location. Unfortunately, we did not hit the threshold so my vote was wasted–the proposal failed just failed altogether and we moved on. So did they, going back home after we talked about their issue never to return, so it seems.
Let this be a lesson–most of us at Occupy Oakland are reasonable people who want a good relationship with the community and are totally willing to hear outside voices, excluding those who send the police to brutally assault us. But when you are invited into somebody’s house, don’t shit on their carpet.
You need to respect us and our process. We sit through these cold, damp meetings night after night because we believe in democracy. It’s messy and it’s beautiful. You are welcome to participate or not participate at any time.
But if you can’t be patient with us then we will likely have little patience for you. Perhaps next time you could take some of those lessons that you give to your children and students every day and apply them to your own behavior.
In the meantime, the plan to take 19th and Telegraph stands. I doubt that anybody wants to stay there too long, but when we leave it will be on our own terms.