24 hours of occupation - Page 3

Oakland activists transform a city square and wrestle with organizing a movement
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Despite mediators' efforts, Kali went on a rampage, triggering an emergency meeting to determine how best to handle this kind of aggression. Once he departed, however, the encampment's emotional rollercoaster seemed to wind down.

"It's up to us to figure out creatively how to maintain the health of this camp," organizer Louise Michel told me later. "It's really important for people here to figure out how to problem solve ... Everyone has the commitment."

 

LOOKING FOR REASONS

Dialogues had been started to address safety issues — but the city of Oakland was highlighting reports of assaults and sexual harassment as reasons the encampment would not be allowed to stay.

Security volunteers were regularly stationed around the plaza perimeter. Tim Simons began his shift around midnight, pacing the sidewalk and gazing out at the deserted downtown Oakland street while maintaining constant communication with his security crew via walkie-talkie.

"It's been the most intense mixture of people coming together that I've ever seen," reflected Simons, who'd watched the occupation grow since the beginning. "They're camping here because they want this to become a revolutionary political force. The significant question is: How do we project outward from here? Is this going to become more than just a camp?"

He stressed its significance as a takeover of public space, saying it integrated all manner of people whose lives had been impacted by failed economic policies. Simons also acknowledged the anti-police attitude shared by many occupiers. "In Oakland, it's really hard to play this game that the police are on our side," he said. "There's no real illusion here about what role the cops play."

That sentiment wasn't shared by everyone, though. "We're trying to practice a nonviolent response toward police," Mindy Stone, who was staying in a tent at the Occupy Oakland overflow camp at Snow Park, told me. "We want to try to make them feel like they are the 99 percent."

It had been an eventful night. I drifted off to sleep in a borrowed tent, as the banter of people sitting and smoking on park benches floated in.

The next morning was sunny and warm, and the mood of the camp was buoyant. Kitchen volunteers busily prepared food, joking together as they listened to music. Donations flowed in daily from Arizmendi bakery, farmers' markets, and other generous supporters.

In the arts and crafts area, people were painting a banner to urge people to withdraw their money from major banks by Nov. 5, Guy Fawkes Day. A redhead in a flowing silken outfit wound his way through camp with a garbage bag, asking people if they had pocket trash. A self-defense workshop was in swing, its participants partnered up, giggling, as they practiced holds and blocks.

 

INCUBATING IDEAS

Dallas Holland was tending wheatgrass, bok choy, herbs, and other edibles in a container garden. "I've been overwhelmed with the way the community has come together ... It's amazing to watch this transform into a Mecca of ideas," she said. "People are having meetings and thinking of ways to perpetuate the movement." An Alabama native, Holland graduated from college in 2006 and had been unemployed for a year.

Allen Adams, a 37-year-old Oakland native, told me he'd been sleeping outside regularly since before the occupation. "I quadruple up on the shirts. It gets to you," he said.

He'd had little luck finding work, though he was constantly searching online. With him was Brandy, his well-loved, four-month old pit bull.