Week 1 through Week 3
Occupy Oakland Dispatch
by Irina Contreras
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When we began to receive notices during Week 2, preparations went under way immediately.
Gas and flame stoves were supposed to be taken away and then somehow brought back or never really left.
I would like to say that we prepared properly for the evening of the October 25th Raid and Attack, and yet I know that we didn’t really in many ways.
The walkways and planks I spoke of were pulled out (dispatch 1) to pass inspection. Any items of importance, for the most part, were taken away. Our altar in front of the POCQPOC tent stayed-marigolds in place until the pigs smashed them.
Most of the children are taken home as well as elders, some houseless folks and our peoples with mental health struggles or concerns.
People who have historically lived in Ogawa/Grant Plaza stay for the most part. If there is one thing that Disoccupy Oakland has been successful at besides responding quickly, it is ( perhaps more importantly) that people have been fed regularly and adequately without question. People have been given clothes and basic need items that the city does not. In the fall of 09, I was one of those people that called the Food Bank of Oakland to get emergency food. I got a call 3 weeks later with a message that said "Oh, I hope things worked out....".
The homeless population is vast and intergenerational. They are young and old and my age. Outside of my Food Not Bombs days as a teenager and young twenty-something-er, it is the first time that I feel a sense of that “wall” being broken. During FNB, I have always felt they knew that they were doing charity work besides the fact that we gave them shitty food (Guerilla FNB, I am NOT talking about you) and with Grant/Ogawa, if I serve food it may be to anyone that I serve. And if I am to receive food, it may be anyone giving it to me.
Yet there are still many security and safer spaces issues around mental health and race that are troubling, to say the least. There are several incidents in which "Security" only replicates the daily violence experienced by poor people of color or of the poor and addicted say of the Tenderloin.
When there is an incident, people will rush to see what is happening. Sometimes, it reminds me of high school during a girl/cholita fight. Other times, elders step forward to de-escalate and intervene. There are self elected "security" that become more like the People's Security. These self elected tend to be people from Oakland generations deep that know everyone and challenge "Security" from Occupy. At least twice, Oakland Police Department is called because people say they don't feel safe at the camp.
Right before the raid and attack, I spend some time talking to folks in Security about what I can do/who I can send from our group to make sure we can change things. This is one way that “organizing” works best at Grant/Ogawa- you come and you sit in open space and look for people you know, and talk to them. I find myself sitting in hay sometimes in my stupid work clothes doing this to build relationships. One thing strikes me while I am sitting one day: security person comments about a man who is standing near the Barbecue line. “That man has been eating all day....he hasn’t moved”. Another person from Food walks by and says “he is hungry and he has been hungry....we are gonna make sure he gets full”.
On the other hand, the tension is thick in the air the night before the raid. Things are uncomfortable and have become quite, dare I say.....anarchic. Groups of crusty youth have joined the camp and are fighting. Other folks are high and doing hard drugs giving some to the kids. There are reports of girls being assaulted and/or turned out. Knowing a youth affected, I am scared because I have been that young girl sleeping in a squat knowing I might wake up with someone on top of me.
When I wake up, it is not a person but our BayAction Text Messages all coming in late (as they have been doing in half of the city) telling us that the camp has been raided/people have been arrested and taken etc. We head to downtown to see if it is possible to retrieve anything at all, even things from our altar, our whiteboards for meetings, our tent...anything....Police are everywhere, Oakland's tank is parked on 14th and there are paddywagon's as well. Tired cops line every possible entrance and exit and we make out a cop chanting "We are the 99%" with a snake march wrapping around Telegraph. We wait for the march and realize it's mostly upper crusties who have probably run out quickly as well as some media. As we walk away, I look at the barricades and realize that they have used our own wood that we used to make accessible routes on the dirt. It's hard for me to not think of DF where tourists everyday go to look at the ruins that are built upon the ruins upon the ruins. I get coffee and head to work to call NLG.