We live in a time when tents have become the singular weapon of the people which power cannot tolerate, and against which it does not know how to defend itself. The bureaucrats are in shambles; the ‘city’ and its ‘police’ are at each other’s throats; middling reformists have no idea where to position themselves. Everyone agrees: it’s about to explode.
This is the situation as I write on the night before the morning of what will be the second police raid on the Occupy Oakland encampment, announced in a memo leaked this afternoon. It is a situation that devolves, primarily, from the fallout of the first evictionon 25 October. Like any important historical sequence,the story of what has happened in this city during the past two weeks is harrowing and inspiring, beautiful and unbearable.
Occupy Oakland has distinguished itself within the US occupation movement by its radicalism – its ‘intransigent elements’, the City Council likes to say. In defiance of city policies, it makes use of a sound system for its General Assembly and of open flame in its kitchen. Unlike the majority of occupations, and to the chagrin of civic authorities, it refuses to seek permits or to negotiate with the Mayor’s Office, though it is camped directly on its doorstep outside City Hall. ‘I want to remind you all’, the mayor’s husband has written in an email to neighbourhood organizers with whom he hopes to divide and conquer the occupation, ‘that OO has no negotiating team. They are the only ones in the country that do not. You need to know how exasperating this has been for this type of encampment to exist in a city with a progressive mayor who is offering to help but nobody to talk to about it.’ Oakland’s ‘progressive mayor’, Jean Quan, wants to ‘help’ in so far as she wants to move the Occupation elsewhere, out of plain sight at the main intersection of downtown Oakland, off to some other place where it will not impinge upon the operations of business as-usual. Suffice it to say, this is not the sort of help Occupy Oakland is seeking.