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May Day in Occupy Oakland: Let a million seeds sprout
by Susan Galleymore ( sgalleymore [at] hotmail.com )
Wednesday May 2nd, 2012 12:08 PM
As does much of what happens in the lives of human beings and their communities, the story of Occupy Oakland on May Day, 2012 has many complexities.
What was Oakland’s muddy “Lake Quan” as Occupy went into winter hibernation has resurged as a sea of green. Green grass, that is.
After Mayor Quan and OPD evicted the Occupy encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza late last year, stating the occupation encouraged rats and other creatures and destroyed the lawn, city officials ran water sprinklers for days to flood the park and discourage re-occupation.

On May Day 2012 the grass is back!
As does much of what happens in the lives of human beings and their communities, this story has complexities.
Frank Ogawa Plaza has been renamed (unofficially and by popular usage) Oscar Grant Plaza in memory of a young Oakland father shot to death on the BART platform in that city on the first day of 2009.
Judging by the uneven quality of the Grant Plaza’s new grass it is not the usual citified seeded lawn. Instead, it’s the au natural tough stuff that resurges anytime seeds take the opportunity to sprout, to thrive, and to prosper the way our natural world can prosper!
It’s a good metaphor for Oakland…and for Occupy!

Thousands rallied at the intersection of 14th and Broadway in the evening of May Day to celebrate the spring forward of Occupy across our nation and our planet. It had been a long, warm afternoon milling around and occasionally dodging scores of well-organized police in and around Oscar Grant Plaza (despite mainstream press accounts, there was just not as much violence as described: read my blog account and see pix).
A Maypole or two appeared. One of them, bedecked with dark green ribbon, attracted a group of the often-criticized Black Bloc-ers, some carrying make-shift shields, who danced around the pole and weaved the ribbons...then they turned around and danced in the opposite direction and un-weaved the ribbons.
A recyclable Maypole weaved by self-described anarchists!
Another metaphor for Oakland (“what ye anarchists weave, so shall ye have the opportunity to un-weave”)?

Oakland is a special city, a reflection of humanity that reprises many ordinary people’s lives: diverse, outspoken, hospitable although burdened with social and financial obligations, and longing for responsible freedom.
It also has far too many of a far too little heard segment of a growing population: mothers whose sons have been shot to death by Oakland police officers.
A handful of these mothers, and an uncle, addressed the rally.
Sobering.
As a former “military mom” who faced the potential death or injury of a beloved son in war I can only imagine the nightmarish rage one carries after a child is shot to death by those hired to serve and protect.

Yet, reflecting other human qualities, the City of Oakland also presents its fair share of NIMBY: “not in my backyard”.
As a media person and self-appointed “culture critique-r”, I tend to mingle in crowds and talk to a range of people. Yesterday, I encountered multiple episodes of NIMBY-ism.
One occurred as OPD closed in on the crowd and pressed it into the intersection of 14th and Broadway from three directions. An elderly man approached to warn we’d better go home. Then he asked where I was from. I told him I live about a mile away in another city. (In fact, before engineering an estuary, my city was a peninsula that jutted off the Oakland Hills and into SF Bay.) He launched into what seems to be a consensus among Oaklanders and reiterated by Mayor Quan: “they” (Occupiers) come from out of town to make trouble in “our” town and “we” must pay the financial burdens -- extra security, damage to local business, etc.
I heard the same complaint on the re-routed bus as I returned to the plaza for the 6pm rally. Three passengers near me kvetched about Occupy: “don’t see the point”: “messes things up for all of us”: and “they come from out of town, don’t even live in Oakland!”
We engaged an energetic debate for a couple of minutes: only one woman was willing, grudgingly, to concede “it takes a village” to create change.
For Occupy is not only about Oakland. It’s about ordinary people, here, there and everywhere, evaluating the quality of our lives and finding them out of whack; it’s about ordinary people agreeing to risk raising our voices in the fast disappearing public commons; it’s about all of us striving to improve things for all of us while we still can.
It’s about bringing us together, not about dividing us.
And it’s about not demonizing any groups, especially those on the frontlines, until they’ve unequivocally showed us that they’ll always be against us.
Just as segments of the anti-war community tend to demonize military recruiters, for example, Occupiers tend to demonize police.
Indeed, an Oakland man addressed the rally last night and urged the crowd of several thousand to “oink” and send a message to “the pigs” that make up OPD.
I don’t oink…not as a member of an already emotional crowd.
For history teaches very clearly what can happen when emotional crowds lose their bearings.
This man is angry – righteously so: his nephew was murdered by police in a public place.
But.
We, the 99% have a long way to go. We must keep our bearings as we head into Occupy 2012.
Meanwhile, let a million blades of grass bloom: unseeded, uncitified, uncultivated…in Oakland, and around the world.
Viva Occupy!

Susan Galleymore occupies when she can…and, among other things, she writes and “does” radio. Read her blog post with lots of photos from May Day, Oakland.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Anonymous
Thursday May 3rd, 2012 11:47 AM
As a working class resident of east Oakland, I think that it actually does matter that you come from out of town. I assume you are from Alameda, our beautiful, low-crime, upper middle class neighbor. The majority of Occupy Oakland demonstrators come from out of town, primarily from places such as Berkeley, San Francisco, Alameda, and Marin. We view the fact that you are bringing this to Oakland rather than your hometowns as a rather extreme form of NIMBYism. Downtown Oakland has several nice restaurants and coffee shops; the overwhelming majority of Oaklanders are happy they are there, we go there on our days off after laboring for people in SF, Berkeley, and Alameda all week. The aggressive attempt to end 'gentrification' here comes across to most people outside of Occupy as a bunch of rich white kids trying to tell us we are not allowed to have anything beautiful, telling us to stay poor. I know many Occupy participants; I know many of you are going back to Alameda or Berkeley, eating at a pleasant restaurant, shopping for a new pair of cute shoes, smiling and waving at your neighbor, mentioning the weather instead of bringing up that their million dollar home came from their job at Wells Fargo. Self-satisfied with having come to play radical in Oakland? Most of Oakland is far more radical than Occupy. We want what you have. Please stop oppressing us. I invite you instead to take your 'diversity of tactics' where it has some chance of impact: slash your banker neighbors' tires in Marin, take a hammer to the ATM machines of the Berkeley hills, invite a bunch of homeless people from Richmond to storm that usused building in Alameda and take up residence next to you, intimidate waiters and baristas in Albany for not obeying Occupy demands, then come to Oakland and help out in our schools, patrol our streets, and make yourselves useful.
by AnonUpon
Thursday May 3rd, 2012 12:19 PM
ABSOLUTELY! Our City is not your playground. You want to go set trash cans on fire and smash windows - go do it somewhere else. This isn't the place. We're tired of being oppressed by our bosses but we're more tired of being oppressed by those that claim they want to "liberate us." In Oakland, we're trying to build ourselves up and better ourselves - What these kids want to do is to keep tearing us down because when they go home, it's to a nice safe neighborhood. They don't have to live in our neighborhoods. They don't have to deal with our responsibilities. They don't have responsibilities other than finding their next bowl full of weed.

I wish every business had a Phil Tagami with a shotgun.
by Konsider
Thursday May 3rd, 2012 12:27 PM
I am from Berkeley and have an income of about $930 dollars a month. Section 8 is off the table. I was homeless for 6 years but was lucky to have found a room. I support my mother as well. I attempted to work with Occupy Berkeley but the elite pacifists there have maintained their hardline stance that we should concentrate on outreach rather than radical actions, on grounds that Berkeley isn't ready for it yet. It's hard to believe, but I am serious. There were no actions on May day in Berkeley. Am I allowed to come next door, or do you have a monopoly on Oakland?
by Back on the Island
Thursday May 3rd, 2012 12:31 PM
Susan Gellymore, the darling anti-War mother, wrote this piece. Susan, did you write this from your cozy house in Alameda, or from a comfortable cafe down on the main drag there in Alameda? Easy to crow so lovingly about Occupy when they're not shitting all over your downtown isn't it? Is your son talking to you? Things seem strained according this Chronicle article.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/04/03/MNGIQ609LN1.DTL&ao=all
by Of Course!
Thursday May 3rd, 2012 12:33 PM
Of course you're welcome! Just don't set anything on fire, don't break glass, and don't terrorize shop workers and owners. In other words, act like a human being.
by Konsider
Thursday May 3rd, 2012 1:22 PM
Thank you sir, your so benevolent. I am so glad I have your permission to protest in the right way. Glad to know that being a human being is a US, er, I mean Oakland thing. With such pseudo nationalistic thinking, perhaps Oakland might someday become a proud state.


by .....
Thursday May 3rd, 2012 3:33 PM
worried about damage to property while gthe cops have killed your sons??? youre insane!
by Zachary RunningWolf
( runningwolf.zachary [at] yahoo.com ) Friday May 4th, 2012 7:39 AM
Let a million seeds sprout that are indigenous to this land and are helpful in feeding the densely populated area - East Bay. The lawn comes from the British aristocracy representing a sign of wealth. The lawn represented that you had so much wealth (land) that you did not have to grow food. This is why on all institutions like The Commons (Oscar Grant Plaza), Universities and other institutions of Amerikkklan you will always see lawns. As soon as I saw people planting seeds of food that the powers at be were going to try to crush the movement. Remember they did not get us all as the tree sitter survived the 900 police invasion of downtown Oakland. I say this not to blow my own horn but to identify how to defend our encampments in Public places and not run into buildings (private property) to be Kettled and go to jail. Tree sitting along with staying in public places (ie. the commons and parks) puts the pressure squarely on our local government to explain why poverty is a crime (No curfews). I'm not saying don't grab buildings but don't announce to the police and challenge them when we do not have the numbers. Do not worry we will have the numbers soon.