Our OWS correspondent, Kim Boekbinder, has sent Myles Boisen‘s own reportage our way. Myles, an Oakland-based musician and photographer, was one of thousands of citizens attending the downtown OWS protest there this week. Here are two separate collections of writing and imagery from him in one go– the first written/compiled after the worldwide headline-grabbing events of the 25th, and the second completed early this morning, PST. Feel free to repost/distribute any text or photos. Thank you, Myles! Kim’s next installment of “Occupy Everywhere” will be along shortly as well. –Mer
All photography in this post is by Myles Boisen, and was shot in downtown Oakland, CA between October 25th and 27th.
A Taste of Tear Gas (10/25/11)
I first noticed the constant whine of helicopters at about 4 pm today. Checking the news, I learned that the Occupy Oakland camp in downtown Oakland had been cleared by police in the middle of the night, and a series of afternoon protests had been called in the nearby area. With plans in place to go downtown later that night, I searched the internet with a mix of curiosity and anxiety for news of what was happening.
A flurry of twitter messages at the www.occupyoakland.org site detailed a few non-violent marches snaking throughout the downtown area, all headed for the disputed encampment that had become known in recent weeks as “Oscar Grant Park”. An Oakland teacher’s brigade led the march. As phrases like “unlawful assembly” “tear gas” and “bring gas masks” began popping up in OWS feeds, I knew I had to head downtown – camera in hand – to see for myself.
Before heading out, I followed a link on the www.occupyoakland.org site that encouraged me to send an email to the office of mayor Jean Quan. In this missive I identified myself as a business owner, renter, and taxpayer in Oakland, as well as someone who supports the Occupy movement, and now regrets voting for our popular first-term mayor. I also pointed out that concerns about sanitation at the Occupy camp could have been efficiently and affordably dealt by allotting a few city resources, rather than calling out the costly full-scale police assault we are currently witnessing. Protests can also be directed to the OPD and Oakland City council members by phone or email through easily accessed municipal websites. Now would be a very good time to make your feelings known, via the internet or by showing up in Oakland to add your voice and support.
Walking by foot down a mostly deserted Broadway through downtown, there were no broken windows, no smashed cars, not even a single broken bottle. Wisps of smoke from a smoldering garbage can fire were the only evidence of anything close to a “riot”, at least until I arrived at 14th and Broadway to see the line of police and sheriffs in full riot gear, lined up behind barricades to prevent the re-taking of Oscar Grant Park.
Helicopters buzzed overhead, police announcements warned of arrest and chemical agents, and a mostly young and racially diverse crowd milled about nervously, interwoven with older movement veterans and a few street crazies. Most of the media had left by now, some say under police orders. If you were watching the Channel 7 news feed (as I was earlier) you couldn’t help but notice that news helicopters diverted their “eye in the sky” just before the police fired their first tear gas volleys. A few video camera operators remained, wearing very modern gasmasks that looked even nicer than what the police wore.
The phrase being used throughout the mainstream media is “clashes between protesters and police”. And while this may make for splashy headlines, it was far from the truth. What kind of clash can there be between overwhelmingly peaceful and idealistic protesters vs. police in riot gear, armed with shields, tear gas, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, and helicopters circling directly overhead? I would describe the mood as a nervous faceoff between officers who know they are in the 99%, and kids with t-shirts and bandanas over their mouths getting a sobering taste of the future (see photo.) That taste, by the way, is tear gas, and it sticks in your throat for a long time.
Feel free to circulate this to your social media circles, post the attached photos freely, and tell your real friends too. Sadly, you just can’t get the real story from the corporate media anymore. And if you have been wanting to get involved, we really need your help in Oakland now. Bring a drum, a sign, food and water for a few people, dress up, get creative and OCCUPY!
Occupy Oakland poster by Rich Black.
No Cops = No Violence (10/26/11)
It has been an amazing 24 hours. In a stunning about-face – responding to petitions, public outrage and support – Mayor Quan allowed the 99% to gather and retake Oscar Grant Plaza tonight. And during a huge general assembly, Oakland Occupy has called for a general strike in Oakland on Nov. 2. Read on for details and media links.
The corporate media tells us that support for the Occupy movement is nearly 50% nationwide, so you know it has to be much higher than that, especially in the Bay Area.
I spent all afternoon on the computer researching links, and sending out emails and photos to media outlets. This journalism stuff takes a lot of time! I also got a call from my friend Carey with the National Lawyer’s Guild. She told me that as of this afternoon there were only 12 protesters remaining in jail.
Video via HuffPo
Tragically, one protester – veteran Scott Olsen – is in the hospital with a serious skull fracture and brain swelling from a police projectile. Our thoughts and prayers are with Scott, who survived 2 tours of duty in Iraq, only to be hospitalized at home by the OPD.
Tonight, back at Oscar Grant Plaza, I arrived around 6 pm to find news vans taking up both sides of 14th street. Walking around the park, I saw reporters interviewing a young man with a huge bruise, holding a rubber bullet in his hand:
A rented chain link fence surrounded the grassy area of the park that had been cleared out in the middle of the previous night. The fence stood as a sad and impotent symbol of Oakland’s attack on the Occupy camp, but it didn’t stand for long. As 2000 or more people swelled the ranks of the Occupy GA (general assembly), the fence fell to disassembly, with sections stacked in neat little piles that even your mother would approve of.
What’s it like to be in an Occupy GA? You may be surprised to know that there was no partying in evidence, and none of the chatter or random texting one has come to expect from large groups of young people out at night. Quite to the contrary. Democracy Occupy-style is serious hard work, and it takes a long time. For four hours most of us stood or sat without complaint on cold concrete in front of the Oakland City Hall, listening to 5-10 word phrases spoken over a woefully underpowered P.A. system, and then relaying those words out to the farthest edges of the crowd. When the person speaking is not audible, the crowd quickly erupts with calls of “mic check!” and after brief confusion the echoing begins again. The whole time news and police helicopters are beating their wings overhead, making communication even more laborious.
The topic under discussion was a proposal to call a city-wide general strike in one week’s time (Wed. Nov. 2). It was pointed out that there has not been a general strike in this country since 1946, and that was in, you guessed it, Oakland. The facilitators took great care to explain the organization’s procedural rules, all carefully crafted to invite consensus and never exclude disagreement or individual action. Briefly, a proposal has to be adopted by at least a 90% majority vote, with comment from ad hoc voting groups of 20-30 people, in turn broken down into smaller subgroups of 2-3 people for discussion purposes. It was all frightfully well-organized, and if I had been Mayor Quan watching from the windows of City Hall directly above this miracle of street democracy, this meeting would have scared the shit out of me.
The whole thing ended triumphantly, with the Nov. 2 general strike and mass day of action proposal passed by 97%. Save the date, and tell your boss you won’t be in that day! A planning meeting for the strike takes place Thursday Oct. 27 at 5 p.m. at Oscar Grant Plaza, with a GA at 7 p.m. Concerns were voiced about how best to integrate students, the unemployed and underemployed, unions, et. al. If you want to help shape this historic event, get on down and get involved. Messages of support were relayed from Occupy Wall St., and a call for help came in from Occupy SF, who are having their own police invasion tonight. Greetings also came from Greece, as well as Egypt where demonstrators plan to march on the American Embassy to protest the way we are being treated here in Oaktown! And there was not a single policeman in sight the whole time. Well, not in uniform at least. No cops = no violence.
Myles Boisen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For up-to-the-minute information and twitter feed.
My Occupy Oakland photos on flickr (higher resolution, better for posting/ forwarding/ distribution):
National Lawyer’s Guild Condemns Excessive Force Used by Oakland Police
National Lawyer’s Guild S.F Chapter (NLG) http://www.nlgsf.org
Demonstrations Defense Hotline (415)285-1011
This is the number to call from jail if you have been arrested at a demonstration. The NLG will take your information, help get you an attorney and out of the slammer ASAP. NOTE: This line is not normally staffed and is only active during demonstrations. If you are planning to be at a protest, write the NLG number on your arm. Legal observers allied with the NLG are identifiable by bright green baseball caps, and can be relied upon for help on the ground.
The Huffington Post (AOL’s news feed) is providing some decent protest coverage. HuffPost’s Robin Wilkey reports:
In a press release issued on Tuesday night following hours of heated Occupy Oakland protests, the Oakland Police Department reported that officers had not used rubber bullets or flash-bang grenades during the protest. However, a YouTube video released on Wednesday appeared to show officers deploying a flash-bang grenade.
Google stands up to law enforcement!
In a page entitled “Transparency report/ Observations on Content Removal requests” Google notes:
“We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove. Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement agency for removal of videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We did not comply with those requests, which we have categorized in this Report as defamation requests.” This certainly refers to more videos than just those of Oakland Occupy. But yay, Google!
Link to Signon.org (part of MoveOn.org) to sign this petition to Oakland mayor Jean Quan. The petition is excerpted here, with the link at the bottom.
Subject: Demand Mayor Jean Quan Stop the Police Repression of Occupy Oakland!
This petition will be compiled and presented to Oakland Mayor Quan.
“We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Occupy Oakland.
We are outraged by your decision to have that peaceful, lawful and inspiring assembly raided. We denounce police intimidation, harassment and incarceration of peaceful protesters. We call on you to drop all the charges against these community leaders, to release them immediately, and to allow for the restoration of the encampment.
Occupy Oakland has been a public forum, on public land, about matters of dire urgency to the public: unemployment, affordable housing, taxation, bank accountability, and the unconscionable and deeply racialized inequity between the 1% and the rest of us.
A city government of the 99% should work proactively to support the encampment with resources like medical assistance, electricity, and bathrooms.
This type of violence cannot happen again in Oakland or any other city around the country. We demand that mayors and police chiefs around the country refrain from similar Oakland-style police attacks, we the concerned citizens of the country are watching.”
An amazing story by Stan Weir of the 1946 Oakland general strike.