Activism. I was thinking back on the the Occupy Oakland movement and 2011. Brought on by one of Lacey Reah’s threads about MLK and demonstrations. I don’t always feel like revisiting the year, the time, because I was in trouble and of no use to anyone and definitely not a political movement of any kind, yet I remember the buildup one day toward an imminent call-4-action. There had been posters stapled to telephone poles and canvassing all throughout Oakland leading up to it. I was in my apartment watching Democracy Now which was covering the event, and you could already hear the helicopters hovering over downtown. They weren’t gonna leave after rush hour was over and the sun went down and the people began heading out on foot, by bicycle, by skateboard, bus, or train to Broadway and designated areas like the 14th and 19th street crosses downtown, subway stops near the lake. The organized protests were to be non-violent, but the city prepared for the worst kinda riot. I’m sure corporate lobbies were strong, what with all the infrastructure and banks and businesses situated there. The media would of course cover it all. The police were mobilized in force, with full gear and helmets and shields all up to make boundary walls that might enclose the protest in a demarcated area. This was many months before the most successful demonstration, which started in the afternoon and marched all the way to the Port of Oakland and blocked the trucks and stopped the million-dollar-a-day commerce from taking place for a couple of days. And after the Oscar Brown injustice, which set off a stream of protests and was (far from the first) precursor to all of the demonstrations we have seen lately in this country against police shootings. It had become a pretty regular thing for the city of Oakland to prepare for these events. Obviously the city is rich in history of demonstrations, being the home of the Black Panthers and neighbor to Berkeley and San Francisco. But the police force by this time was so corrupt and out of sorts it had been federalized, yes, the federal government took the Oakland Police under its jurisdiction by force of court proceedings! So there may have been extra weight behind them in the form of federal funds, but weaker local leadership.
None in the new millenium would get as much media coverage as the Occupy Movement which was of such national interest and concern five years ago. The internet allowed for speedy pop-up shop demonstrations and facile communication. Democracy Now provided almost a central organizing principle to the whole thing, or dressed it into larger, truth and justice-seeking themes. So anyway, what was I doing? Nothing worthwhile mostly struggling and depressed. I remember feeling excited nonetheless because the city was buzzing with tension. What was gonna happen tonight, downtown? All I knew was that I was gonna go, and I said I was gonna go and I never went. The story of my life that year, making plans and not following through. Addiction would have a chokehold on me until February 19th, 2013. Still, I felt like I was there; I talked to friends who went and I walked downtown the next day in the aftermath and saw all the vandalism that took place, mostly by renegade kids from the suburbs wearing masks. Broken storefront windows. Spraypainted everything. The only thing that looked more of a disaster was me and my life. It had been a night to forget for the Oakland PD. National coverage caught the cops implementing their weaponry, you probably saw it on tv. Looked like the 4th of July, and sounded like war, the noise makers, the usual flares and tear gas and rubber bullets and tasers. It made for a new meaning for when-the-lights-came-up-on-broadway. That night a soldier who had returned from the war in Iraq was put into a coma when he was hit in the head by a flare shot. He would live to tell.
So what of all this? Why would I have anything to say about an event in which I did not participate? In a year in which I was completely broke down and out of commission? I don’t know. All I know is the Occupy and the Oscar Grant demonstrations had a great effect on me. The demonstrations against the Prison Industrial Complex did, too, but that one was safe indoors in a school gym. The ones in the streets meant more to me and it’s because I was in the streets back then, marginalized and easily dismissed, often desperate for a handout, some food, a couch, or even a word of kindness. Sometimes I think you almost have to be marginalized and feel that way, to really care about those who are marginalized. I say that, but at the same time I pause to recognize it’s not a fair statement, because there are plenty of lawyers and journalists and politicians and people who never have been marginalized, who have stood behind the marginalized. We call them heroes. And having been marginalized I know how it feels and I have a real adverse reaction in my gut every time I hear the Occupy Movement dismissed as some disorganized dilute homeless and criminal encampment looking for handouts! It was decentralized (on purpose) and not disorganized at all, and there were all kinds of people and all elements of society represented among its advocates, including the homeless and people with criminal records! It was branded by the government as some kinda terrorist activity so they could use funds from Homeland Security to stop it. And non-violent protesters were treated with shock and force and tear gas canistry, and piggybacked upon by losers from the suburbs putting on masks and coming in by train and breaking corporate storefront windows and spraypainting crap all over! The media at first blamed the violent response on the Occupy protesters or smudged them all together, though to their credit many journalists properly admonished the City of Oakland for terrorizing the movement, injuring civilians and overuse of force once they saw the Occupy people out there scrubbing away and cleaning up the streets the very next morning. No, the movement cannot be dismissed so easily!
There would be too much pressure against it, ultimately, for Occupy to continue having viable non-violent demonstrations across the country. But a statement was made and boldly. At the very least the general public got their heads dunked in cold water. That the wealth of this country is concentrated in the hands of too few, and the rest of us are seeing a declining portion of that wealth over time. Most of us knew this beforehand, and little could be done about it. The Occupy Movement was not any kind of failure, in my opinion, for it proved that something happens when people come together to rally behind a common cause. People come to know that they are not alone in how they feel, that horrible malaise of economic disparity. This venting may not in itself, correct the underlying economic disparity, yet is a critical part of a greater process which continues to unfold in its own time! This critical process is what we know as a social paradigm shift and is happening all around us, over time. It is met with great resistance (as all change is) but leads ultimately to overall changes in individual/institutional perceptions, changes in worldviews and changes in our culture trending toward justice, trending toward greater consciousness, many of which are toward healing and wholeness, and reclaiming marginalized parts of ourselves and society. You can see this all represented already in your world, if you just look around. LGBT rights, for instance. And there will be many more micro movements towards the macro movement. As individuals we need only follow the prescient wisdom of the day and ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’. To anyone who feels marginalized or discarded or hopeless at this time:Don’t give in and please Don’t give up! – KatYa
My poetry was chosen for another ezine, you can find it here alongside some other good poets of the community — Words On Fire Ezine . Also, I am training for the California International Marathon this December and donated some money to the crown jewel of Sacramento parks – The American River Parkway (my favorite place 4 cycling). This will be my first marathon. I am up to 10 miles now. You can find the CIM here — CIM! 2016. Book #3 of myurban fantasy series should be out by October 31st, latest.