OAKLAND (KCBS) — Two years ago there was a campground at Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza followed by riots in the streets. On Friday, the Occupy Oakland movement commemorated their anniversary and examined what they should do next.
In 2011, the movement called attention to the concentration of wealth among the top one percent of income earners.
The celebration had a much different tone than the tumultuous events of two years ago, which were marred by rioting and violence by some protesters and fringe groups like Black Block.
Attendees said they would like to see change. “We’re looking to basically re-spark something, especially with the government shutdown,” said Zachary RunningWolf, who waved sage to purify Frank Ogawa Plaza where more than a dozen police officers guarded the lawn. “I mean this is austerity, nothing more. You can say and see this worldwide.”
Frank Ogawa Plaza was ground zero for Oakland’s Occupy movement and was unofficially renamed Oscar Grant Plaza by protesters. The site also became a campground where meetings were held and speakers and activists gathered. The campground served food to homeless and camping protesters alike, but was eventually dispersed at the orders of the city.
Carey Leedowns Jr. was among the relatively small crowd of dozens marking the anniversary and said there are still plenty of problems.
“You see the racial profiling of young people, no jobs; you know there’s education reasons,” he said.
Some of those who gathered for the anniversary participated in “Chalk-u-py,” and made temporary street art on the bricks with chalk. Meanwhile, live music that was performed borrowed a line from Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”
Chaca Quenea of Oakland said Occupy’s ideas haven’t turned into action.
“It’s like a comfortableness here in America. When things be bad they just be like, ‘oh well’ instead of trying to change,” he said.
UC Berkeley Professor Harley Shaiken, who specializes in labor issues, said many remain apprehensive about their economic situation.
“They’re fearful. They don’t know what to do and we have something out there that says if you’re having problems, it’s your fault. You’re not fixating, versus there’s something wrong with the system,” he said.
Shaiken said Occupy didn’t have the set of ideas to make the second step. He called it a great paradox, that so many face economic problems and unprecedented inequality, but there is no broad movement seizing the moment.
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