‘Occupy Oakland’ Encampment Becomes Bustling Community

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Since it began last week, “Occupy Oakland” has grown into a bustling miniature city in the shadow of Oakland’s City Hall, equipped to provide medical aid, food, and shelter to hundreds passing through every day.

The Oakland encampment—inspired by New York’s “Occupy Wall Street” protests—began with a large rally in Frank Ogawa Plaza on Oct. 11 as protesters angry about economic troubles, deadlocked politics and lists of other complaints pitched tents and prepared for a long stay.

The nature of the “Occupy” protests, which have quickly spread to dozens of cities throughout the world, is to create an ongoing presence in the seats of government and economic power, both as a demonstration of those affected and as an alternative to those institutions.

A banner over the entrance to the demonstration welcomes visitors to “Oakland Commune; Oscar Grant Plaza,” the occupiers’ new name for Frank Ogawa Plaza, named for Oscar Grant III, who was shot and killed by a BART police officer in 2009.

PHOTOS: Bay Area Occupy Protests

Just beyond, a series of tarps, tents, shelves and tables are arranged into a large kitchen area, where protesters estimate that thousands of meals are served every day to anyone who passes through the encampment.

A supply tent takes donations from anyone who drops them off, provides tents as available to anyone who wants to join the encampment, and hands out dozens of blankets every day, according to protesters.

Beyond that, small tents and canopies provide protesters with a library, run by the Raheim Brown Free School, an arts and crafts center, legal information, media outreach and general information.

A makeshift garden is centrally located, created with buckets of soil with small plants just starting to spread their leaves. Near the library, a bicycle sits propped on two supports, and protesters take turns generating power by pedaling.

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Beyond the bustle of the central area, paths defined by wooden pallets and planks wind through dozens of tents. In the northern corner, one canopy has been designated the children’s village, just beyond several medical tents.

Another canopy overlooking City Hall has been designated the “Kehilla Community Synagogue,” and at lunchtime Wednesday, as people lined up for meals, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship held a meditation circle just outside of the main occupation area.

“The occupiers should not be trying to build a constituency; they should be reorganizing social relations. Oakland seems to get this,” read the top of The Oscar Grant Plaza Gazette, the short newsletter distributed on the information table at Occupy Oakland.

But by camping out, demonstrators open themselves to the possibility that police may forcibly evict them, as protesters at “Occupy SF” across the Bay have discovered. On several occasions, San Francisco police have removed tents and other equipment from the sidewalk where Occupy SF is held in the middle of the night.

The city of Oakland so far has not attempted to remove the encampment, but has instead communicated expectations with demonstrators camping in the plaza. The city has issued a series of letters to demonstrators asking them to remove certain structures, to only camp on the grass sections of the plaza, and to install fire extinguishers near the cooking tent, among other things.

Subsequent letters have praised the Occupy Oakland protesters for complying with the city’s requests, addressed ongoing concerns, and have alerted demonstrators to upcoming events also scheduled in Frank Ogawa Plaza, including a wedding scheduled for Friday afternoon.

The wedding, however, has embraced the protests. The bride and groom Mateus Chavez, the grandnephew of labor leader Cesar Chavez, and Latrina Rhinehart, an Oakland elementary school teacher, said in a statement that they consider their wedding in solidarity with the Occupy Oakland protests.

Some rules the protesters have put in place on their own, in an ongoing effort to better organize the sometimes-chaotic encampment. Quiet hours, from midnight until 9 a.m., are posted throughout the area. Homemade signs warn occupiers to stay out of a central tree area fenced off from the rest of the plaza.

Protesters say they have installed fire extinguishers and shelves in the cooking area, to address potential rat infestations, but are still in need of more shelves to complete the improvements.

“We’re trying to keep it clean; we have to live here,” said Brian Glasscock, who has been staying in the encampment since it began.

“So far they’ve complied with most of our requests,” Oakland Mayor Jean Quan told reporters Wednesday. “It takes about 48 hours to get through their democratic process.”

Quan said she toured the camp on Tuesday, and said she did not find the encampment threatening, but did not say how long protesters would be able to continue camping there.

“We’re making the rules day to day,” Quan said. “It’s clear people have a right to protest, they don’t have a right to have permanent camping facilities.”

Quan said city spokeswoman Karen Boyd has been more involved in communicating with the protesters. Boyd was more critical of the potential for health and safety problems.

“We have an ongoing rat problem, we’re concerned it’s going to be exacerbated,” Boyd said. “We do continue to be concerned about public safety issues.”

As the protest has grown, it has also spread. Occupy Oakland quickly grew beyond the confines of its inception at Frank Ogawa Plaza, and for the last four days occupiers have taken a plot in Snow Park, overlooking the west side of Lake Merritt.

Not content to simply occupy, this offshoot has set out to help maintain the surrounding park, even spending $250 on manual lawnmowers to maintain the lawn, and collecting leaves and dried grass.

Protesters there said that police arrived to evict them around 4:30 a.m. Thursday, after alerting them that they would not be allowed to stay after the park closes at 10 p.m. The protesters said the police left without incident, but are worried they may return.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  • Jerry Frey

    An unscripted reality show, Occupy America is a populist movement in the tradtion of the nineteenth century Cross of Gold. Speculation (George Soros; hedge funds), long or short, oil futures, de-regulation, neo-liberalism, benefits the 1 percent connected class with no social benefit. Banks once organized and allocated capital in order to produce wealth, economic expansion, that benefited the many rather than the few. Globalists know no national loyalty and are detached from their nations.

    -Median wealth among Hispanic households amounted to $6,325 in 2009, down 66 percent from 2005.
    -For Asian households, median wealth fell 54 percent to $78,066.
    -For blacks, wealth declined 53 percent to $5,677.
    -For whites, it dropped 16 percent to $113,149.


  • StokeyBob

    There is a good video somewhere around CBS5. I just saw it on the news. A lady from the camp was ask if they were ready to move. She said something like, “I don’t think they get it. This isn’t a protest. This is a movement. We gave them years to get it together. Now we have set up our own government and are doing it ourselves. We are here to stay.

  • wiseold snail

    thanks for publishing truth. one addition::: it is important to publicize the brutality and destruction offered up by sfpd in their efforts to quell this movement. they have destroyed property of citizens whose taxes pay their salaries…


    • Darwin

      Moral of the story, don’t put your property somewhere it has to be destroyed! With power comes responsibility, that goes for everyone, including the people.

      • wiseold snail

        ? so if you’re stuff is destroyed or stolen you blame it on yourself? ‘don’t put your property somewhere it has to be destroyed’ indicates that you believe what you’re saying, that somehow, by definition, if we, the people, use peaceful occupation of space by sleeping and meeting to discuss issues on public property, it ‘has to be destroyed’??? what does this even mean? do you or do you not believe that you have help pay the salaries of police? if so, how can you justify the police protecting some while terrorizing others? unless you’re a billionaire, you are part of the 99% of americans who are being robbed by corporate interests through a system which allows those with the most money to have the biggest impact on government. you came only to make an ignorant, trite remark, without even considering what is being discussed here.

  • Tours Martel

    Rats, filth, and the Left- a natural symbiotic relationship. Considering that the vast majority of the protestors voted for the people who caused the problems, I fail to see what they are angry about. After all, the basic tenet of Chicago Democratic politics is “Pay to Play”. The investment bankers and public employee unions paid up to elect the President, and they have been rewarded. Those who didn’t pay, can’t play. And if you don’t like that, then vote the rascals out in 2012. Just don’t keep electing the same tired old faces and expect a different result.

    • wiseold snail

      first, you have some evidence of rats and filth being an issue at all? then have you more evidence that the imaginary ‘rats,filth’ problem is being caused by those protesting for your right to be safe from those trying to take over government with economic terrorism? you also, i presume, have evidence to present to back up your statement that ‘the vast majority of the protestors voted for the people who caused the problems’? this isn’t something a few honest politicians can fix. the monied interests lobbying those corrupt legislators who are willing to do anything for a bribe will continue to trump the votes of the people. in case you haven’t noticed, those monied interests are purchasing the votes, thereby purchasing the right to govern.

  • gladys

    Why Oakland of all places?

    • wiseold snail

      what is the question? why is oakland succeeding? why do people in oakland care? why are the people of oakland generously supporting the encampment? why are the folks occupying public space in oakland doing such a fabulous job of communicating with one another with respect, no matter our differences? please elaborate on your question. thanks.

      • gladys

        Hello Professor

        I am one the 99% and support change but I just do not see Oakland as a player in the whole Wall Street money grab – it’s such a poor place in so many ways, and with crazy violence rates. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see this type of organization and passion put into stopping the gang violence – guess no one really gives a sh** about that in Oakland.

        Is your comment accurate about how they are communciating with other respectfully – “City spokeswoman Karen Boyd said Thursday’s order was in part based on reports that a mentally ill homeless man who had been living in the camp assaulted several protesters on Tuesday. No one called police. Instead, witnesses said the homeless man – who went by the name “Kali” – was pepper-sprayed and beaten unconscious before he left the camp. As of Thursday, he had not returned.

        I will be impressed if these folks, many who are not even residents of Oakland, clean up when they do break camp. It will be interesting to wait an observe to see if they are as passionate regarding the outcome as they are at delivering the message.
        I am concerned the message is getting diluted.

  • wiseold snail

    cbs::: please post my recent response to gladys, already. what’s the deal? gladys, i responded, but cbs isn’t bothering to post it.

  • http://calibermag.org/articles/reflecting-on-robert-reich-part-iii-class-struggle/ Reflecting on Robert Reich, Part III: Class Struggle | Caliber Magazine

    […] to offer goods and services, free of charge, to the destitute and disenfranchised. For months, Occupy Oakland managed to feed, clothe, and shelter hundreds (and on occasion, thousands) of people in need on a day-to-day basis, and offered a collective […]

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