Oakland has been my home for 23 years. I love its diversity, its culture, its weather. I love my neighborhood, where everyone mixes, and where I can walk to just about everything I need. When I learned the Occupy movement was coming here, I was glad, satisfied that Oakland would do its part.
I was also a bit nervous, as Oakland has been used by troublemakers in the last few years during demonstrations. We've got a partly undeserved bad reputation, and I was hoping that wouldn't enter into the Occupy picture. Fortunately, Oakland remained peaceful, and a fair number of people showed up. The local news estimates around 600, which sounds about right to me.
I found a few differences from the SF march. This seemed more organized, with visible speakers. There were a few call and response moments, which kind of scared me a little. There was a 15 minute period where everyone was supposed to split into small groups, and that felt a bit like 10th grade to me.
Last Wednesday, only one person wouldn't let me interview them. Today, over half the people I asked didn't want to speak to me. These were mostly the younger people, and I started to get a little disappointed in that. I didn't want a video of just people my age. A couple of people pointed out to me that the SF group had been in existence somewhere about 10 days by the time the march happened, and this was the first day for the Oakland group. I'm hoping as this grows, more young people will have more to say.
Looking at the Occupy Oakland website, its a little more specific about the intent, it has more to say, and yes, it borders on real old fashioned propaganda.
The website states:
We are reclaiming public space to use as a forum for the people to come together, meet one another, listen to each other, and build power for ourselves. Occupy Oakland is more than just a speak-out or a camp out. The purpose of our gathering here is to plan actions, to mobilize real resistance, to defend ourselves from the economic and physical war that is being waged against our communities.
And it goes on a bit from there. It has a couple of strong letters of intent from local organizations. It's hard to pinpoint, but I feel a seed of opinonatedness and agenda that is refreshingly missing from the SF and Wall Street websites. I have an uneasy feeling that the purity of leaderlessness and free agenda can't last forever, there are always people waiting to take things like this over and push for what they want.
I spoke to the police, and asked if they would let the campers stay. They said they could stay for the night, and a decision from higher up would be made about the future. They seemed impressed by the communication and cooperation they had from the Occupy members they had been in contact with, and seemed ready for a peaceful night.
Even though I didn't experience the same exhilarating energy I got in SF, I was impressed with the number of people that showed up, and I got to speak with many people who had great things to say. So much so that I had problems editing my video of interviews down. It's over 11 minutes, and it hurt to chop it down to that.
I look forward to see what will happen here in my hometown, and in hometowns across the country. This movement is growing surprisingly fast, and last night, Occupy Oakland made the top of the news. Last weeks march was about 20 minutes into the newscasts. The media might finally be starting to take this seriously. I hope they do. And I hope our country starts a badly needed reparation, a healing of our wounded national psyche, a forging of a brighter road ahead.
I went back this morning to take pictures of the tents. No matter what you think of this movement or it's participants, you've got to respect their perseverance. It rained a fair amount around here last night, I doubt it was a party camping in the wet park.
As I was leaving, a woman enlisted me to help her set up a tent. It will be used for kids to play music in. I pushed a few tent poles, and untied the bag that had the tent stakes in it. I hardly did anything, but I did something, and that small action felt good, and disproportionately big. I thanked her for letting me help, and she thanked me and told me to come back. Anytime. And I said I will.
I wished my good friend and co-intrepid reporter Linda Seccaspina had been with me this morning, so I could have been in the above photo too! Today Linda posted a beautiful photo blog on both the Oakland and SF events.
My post on the SF march can be found here.
All content by me. Many thanks to everyone who spoke to me. And though I'm a little critical of things, many thanks to the people who organized and brought this to my hometown. Stand tall, and stand proud.