Yesterday’s labor march was an overwhelming success. As several thousand people stood between the Grand Lake Theater and Lakeview Elementary to protest school closures, a speaker from the “rally truck” announced that this was the largest march in support of schools in the history of Oakland. Moments like these are what make us all proud to be participants in Occupy Oakland, and that includes the teachers and postal workers who marched with us yesterday.
As we marched back downtown and approached 19th and Telegraph, however, it was entirely unclear what would happen next. I kept thinking there was some secret plan to redirect the march back to 14th and Broadway up until the moment that the fences were literally being torn down. In spite of all the nervous chatter around this issue and the disruption to the lives of the surrounding residents, the moment felt like a huge success. It would be hyperbolic to compare it to the fall of the Berlin Wall, so I am not going to make that comparison, but it certainly felt like liberation to us.
However messy and ill-considered the plan to take the lot at 19th and Telegraph might have been, it gave everybody the sense that Occupy Oakland is here to stay. Everybody I saw was exuberant. The only dour faces were those of the cops, who were made painfully aware of their own impotence once again. The moment gave thousands of people a sense of hope and power. For years we sat by and watched wars break out in spite of our bests efforts, innocent Black men get executed and Wall Street destroy the world economy only to get bailed out and defended by the President that many people in our movement put into office. That all breeds a sense of powerlessness. The taking of 19th and Telegraph was one of those moments that helped change all that and is a precursor to mass, militant struggles against inequality and war.
We now know that we’ve got the power and we’re figuring out what to do with it. Anybody who sits aside and scoffs at these developments is going to be made irrelevant by history. Pick a side, even if you don’t always agree with the tactics.
Critics gleefully predicting the end of Occupy Oakland yesterday will be sorely disappointed to see the news this morning, that the camp was cleared out with no arrests and now we’re looking for somewhere else to go. Like I said before, hardly anybody really wanted to be there long-term as far as I could tell. Concerned neighbors can chill the fuck out and go back to their PTA meetings. We got our occupation and you got your empty lot back and you only had to deal with a single night of revelry. I appreciate that the whole thing was probably loud and annoying but I am not sure what else you expected when you moved in next door to the Fox Theater.
The whole thing ended with a fizzle with no arrests and no PR disaster. It will be entirely forgotten before Thanksgiving. By this morning people were joking around with the cops and taunting them with a delivery of donuts. “Whose donuts? Our donuts! Whose sweets? Our sweets?” A Batmobile-like Porsche with police lights even arrived carrying a trailer of coffee, like some bizarre scene out of Back to the Future. Yeah, it was that kind of morning. Not exactly the disaster our detractors were hoping for.
All the nonsense I have heard about how the occupation at 19th and Telegraph was going to be the end of the movement, or was the last straw that convinced people to leave Occupy Oakland, is now exposed for what it is. Sure the plan had its problems but let’s not blow things out of proportion. We are trying to figure this out day-by-day. Every time I think this movement is down and out it comes roaring back. That–and not the expected PR fiasco–is what occurred over the last 24 hours.
To the detractors who threw up their hands after–and before–the GA on Friday night, I prefer you remained in the movement but you can always hide out in Obama’s campaign headquarters down on 17th and Telegraph if you must. They’re waiting to welcome you with open arms. Let us know how that works out. And don’t blame me for creating this dichotomy–I am just noting it, not creating it. History has already created it for you.
In the meantime, we’re not going anywhere. We are the 99%.