#OO: An Attempt at a Timeline
The thing about writing about Occupy is that by the time you sit down to write about Occupy, everything has changed. Or only a few things have changed, or nothing has really changed, but it feels that way, especially here in Oakland. Never have I seen something grow and morph and shift and spread and explode so quick—and as someone who spends a lot of time following/engaging via my computer (as opposed to out in the streets/in tents) I witness it constantly via blogs and twitter and and and and… I keep trying to write about it but it’s writing itself. I want to write about it but I keep talking about, reading about, consuming instead of producing, acting instead of processing. I keep thinking that one of these days I’ll sit down to sum up my thoughts and perspectives and what my role is and how I’m feeling about this and that thing that is so huge and pressing and by the time I think I’m ready days have gone by, and there’s a whole new proposal at the GA, and another camp was raided and my husband’s glaring at me as I obsessively check my Twitter feed when I think that no one’s looking…
It’s like it’s been like this forever and it’s only just begun.
Occupy, you’re fucking with my sense of time.
Occupy, this whole thing is not unlike one of those relationships, the brand-new ones that start fast and fierce and meant-to-be and you’re spending every day and night together and it’s all you think about and you’re having intense fights and intense sex and you’re sharing all the good hard deep stuff and you’re soulmates and enemies and suspicious strangers and you’re not remembering to come up to breathe and then you finally emerge for a second and call back your best friend and she asks “So… how long have you guys been together anyway?” And you pause and think and try to remember what day it is and then you’re like “Ummm… three weeks?” Whoa.
Can we just talk about time here, for a second? Can I try to reconstruct this all?
Because if today is December 1st, 2011, then it’s been 51 days since October 10 (Indigenous Peoples’ Day as we call it here in the mindful Bay Area): the first day that “Occupy Oakland” shows up in a search of my gmail, the day of the first Occupy Oakland “rally/protest/sitch ” as I described it in the email, the day that the Occupy Oakland camp was established. 51 days since I wandered through a decent-sized crowd of people at Frank Ogawa Plaza with my hasty sign comparing Fortune 500 CEO salaries to those of Oakland Unified public teachers, observing the drum circles and speakers and sage burnings and mumblings and whispers and sidelong glances through the chilly October grey saying, what is it? Do you think it’s something? And as I was leaving there was one tent going up, then another, and another, and wow, I guess it’s really happening.
Only 51 days? Seriously?
And it’s 50 days since Mayor Jean Quan visited the camp to say hi, condone its existence, and ask that campers refrain from urinating on the Historic Oak Tree, because it “has shallow roots.”
41 days since I made all those sandwiches and took them down to the new encampment, wandered around talking to people until I found the kitchen. The kitchen!?
43 days since I took my journalism students to visit this tiny new city a few blocks from their school, to let them see how it was hopeful and messy, defiant and calm, fucked-up and fun. More tents and more tents and an info tent, a library, a medic tent, a children’s village, a full-on working kitchen feeding the people that came out of the doorways and into the camp. My students, wide-eyed, wandered and listened. 40-something days since I started to feel like hey, wow, this is really happening… this is really real. This is where I/we/you belong.
37 days since the still-black morning of October 25th, when they swooped in at 4:45am, hundreds and hundreds of cops in riot gear, the rudest awakening, the worst dumbest decision. 37 days since that afternoon when we gathered at the outskirts of the site, to watch lines of police behind metal barricades, riot shields up, defending the now-empty grass, our city still mayor-less, fed an empty statement about the peaceful raid. I held up a sign to passing cars and it read “DUDE WHERE’S MY MAYOR” and it made people laugh but it was very true. And then some students from the high school where I teach appeared and I gave them the sign and headed back to teach, knowing full well that they were ditching to protest, and no way was I going to bust them for it. 37 days since you gathered at the Oakland Public Library to regroup and rethink and retake your city, to refuse to disperse, and the fury grew, the cops came down and suddenly, again, I’m watching our city explode on TV, wanting to be there, glad to be home. 37 days since they arrested 102 people, 37 days since they burned your eyes and gassed your throat and stomped on your neck and busted your skull.
36 days since 2,000 people returned to that grass, tore down the fence, and held a GA, the biggest one yet, to vote on the General Strike. In a small group of 20 I processed and discussed and considered the strike proposal with a bunch of strangers, and came to consensus.
29 days since the first U.S. General Strike since 1946, once again in Oakland. No one will do a crowd count but I can tell you that as we crested the Adeline Street Bridge in West Oakland, the California sun settling behind the 5th largest port in the country, I saw miles of people streaming behind and before me, winding down toward the stopped trucks, the Star Wars cranes, the San Francisco skyline in the distance. 29 days since a living room was set-up outside Chase in the middle of an intersection to protest foreclosures; since I marched with my 2.5 yr old daughter in the Children’s Brigade as she chanted “Who are the 99? Kids are the 99%!”; since we danced to a marching band in the middle of Broadway, and to Michael Jackson outside a DJ booth at Oaklandish. Since I saw a neighbor I’ve never spoken to and said Hey, aren’t you my neighbor? and we smiled and high-fived. Since I ran into my students and their parents and gave them hugs and said I’m glad you’re here. Since tens of thousands of peaceful people filled the streets. Since tens of black-masked hell-bent somebodies made their statement by smashing the windows of Whole Foods and various banks. And a dry cleaners. Since I arrived home after 9pm, feet aching, adrenaline pumping, checking Twitter and watching the news until midnight, desperately hoping to wake up to peace.
28 days since, after midnight, the smashing and burning and shit-storming began, and the policing and gassing and cuffing and kettling and shooting at stationary individuals and arresting of journalists saying “Press! Press” Since they twisted your wrists and stepped on your necks and zip-tied your hands and shot you, again, another fucking vet. 28 days since we woke up in the middle of the night just to check Twitter, and saw it all, line after line of 140 characters documenting the mayhem. Shit.
27 days since I went to the Plaza and helped a dude sweep up broken glass outside of Tully’s, a coffeeshop whose windows were casualties of the previous night.
26 days since the Oakland City Council was packed full of demonstrators and citizens and Chamber of Commerce reps and the sad beleaguered mayor and outside, at the GA, I sat cold on the concrete, by myself in the dark, surrounded by a raw and desperate debate on protest tactics. Words like agent provocateur and non-violence and so-called anarchists and Black Bloc and smash and state and Gandhi and pigs and diversity of tactics and comrades and violence and windows and breaking and small businesses and capitalism flew fast and hard, hitting not quite like non-lethal police projectiles, but still pretty fucking hard.
20 days since 25-year-old Kayode Ola Foster was shot and killed at dusk, at the exact spot where me and that dude swept up glass. After a week of non-stop talk about “what constitutes violence,” the #OO medics were first on the scene; desperately trying to save a young black man’s life as his blood pooled, staining the Plaza, fortifying the City’s mission to end this.
17 days since the NYPD raided Zuccotti (which was 1 day after I’d remarked on how maybe Bloomberg was actually gonna be the mayor to not fuck it all up.)
16 days since the second #OO raid, the one that really ended the camp as we knew it. The 16 people arrested by the 100s of cops were mostly from the Inter-Faith group; their crime was meditation. Failure to stop. 16 days since, later that night, the mayor’s legal advisor and her deputy mayor resigned. And 16 days since the UC Berkeley police showed the world what they think of free speech, as they broke a non-violent human chain by pulling English professors to the ground by their hair, hitting former poet laureates in the ribs with batons, and slamming some of the best and brightest students in the world to the ground, knees on necks, all in that glorious thing we call broad daylight.
15 days since I went to the first Occupy Tha Hood meeting, indoors, warm, welcoming, and filled with people of color and long-time activist ready to take actions and be heard and seen.
13 days since UC Davis peppersprayed the world. 13 days since I found myself suddenly enmeshed in the intense and dramatic inner workings of Occupy Oakland, finally speaking at a severely contentious GA, officially declaring myself done with “this iteration of #OO.” But that’s another story. And which iteration did I even mean? Which one are we on now?
12 days since thousands marched, again, through the streets of Oakland, ending up at an empty lot at 19th + Telegraph, where they tore down fences and had a big-ass dance party. The rain poured down, people camped, the cops stood back, dry beneath the rafters of the Fox Theater.
11 days since the cops reappeared, kicked everyone out and dismantled more tents, then headed to Snow Park to evict that utterly peaceful, officially non-violent camp.
9 days since I attended a “Tweet-up” at a bar and met a bunch of people who do nothing (it seems) but tweet about #OO all day.
7 days since the #OO Thanksgiving was destroyed by cops who couldn’t handle the delivery of two Port-a-Potties.
6 days since Black Friday actions happened in Oakland, Emeryville, and all over the country.
I’m missing so much. There’s so much left out—anyone and everyone can/will tell you that.
And now here’s the thing—this whole piece is kind of a lie because I did indeed start it on Dec. 1, and did all the counting-back based on Dec. 1, but now it’s Dec. 3, it’s Saturday night, the baby’s asleep for now, Twitter’s mostly quiet aside from stand-off in PDX, and I actually have a moment to finish this and it’s already dated, thus, I suppose, proving that whole point I had to begin with.
Deep breath. It’s December. Already.
There’s no real way to end this now, because we’re right here in the middle of it, or the beginning, maybe the middle of the beginning? There is no neat conclusion, or even a messy one. Tomorrow’s another GA and on Tuesday it’s a national day against foreclosures and then on Dec. 12 it’s the West Coast Port Shutdown and then… Who knows how to write about Occupy. Who even knows what the hell it is, exactly? All we know is it’s like nothing I’ve seen in forever. It’s intense, it’s fascinating, I’m kind of in love.