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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism
What the Oakland Commune did
Some seem to have willfully forgotten that the Oakland Commune banner flew over the camp at Frank Ogawa / Oscar Grant Plaza during it’s hey day. Lest this amnesia spread, let’s remember what the Oakland Commune did.
Before it was known as such, and before the first tents were pitched in front of City Hall, the Oakland Commune came together in Mosswood Park because the winds were changing, the spirit of Occupy Wall Street (inspired, at least in part, by what had taken place in the Bay Area not more than two years previous) was spreading to towns across the country, and it was time for Oakland to take part.
At the height of its popularity, the Oakland Commune fed over 1,000 a day at pretty much any hour with no exceptions made. Basic First Aid, mental and emotional support were also provided to anyone who asked, all of these being extended to those abandoned by city, state and national policies that go back at least as far as Reagan.
The Oakland Commune sought to shatter the illusion that we are a wholly united 99%, an idea that weakened the movement with each racist, misogynist and homophobic remark. Instead, it sought, though often admittedly failed, to provide safe spaces for women, queers and people of color. Where it did fail, it tried to rectify through mediation and facilitation.
As much as the Oakland Commune looked to Occupy to bring people together, it also looked to the decades of hard work that the people of Oakland have put into fighting foreclosures, imperial wars, racist police violence and austerity measures that unravel the few remaining public services in this cash-strapped town.
When the first camp fell, the Oakland Commune rallied while the Oakland Unified School District decide to shutter five schools in underserved neighborhoods and Oakland Police shot tear gas into a crowd of thousands, nearly killing Scott Olsen and firing rubber bullets at the people who came to his assistance.
The Oakland Commune fretted over whether the port-a-potties could be serviced before, during and after the November 2nd General Strike. That same day, and also on December 12th, the Oakland Commune came together to shut down the Port of Oakland in protest of Goldman Sachs stranglehold on the city (a stranglehold that the City Council itself would attempt to loosen with a vote to end the debt swap months later).
When the camps were gone, the Oakland Commune dissolved in body and spread to new spaces.
The Oakland Commune traveled with a thousand others to San Quentin to support one of the most successful and least reported successes of Occupy Oakland’s tenure, Occupy for Prisoners, and joined the farmers, professional and otherwise, to Take Back the Tract. The Commune supported the sit-in that occupied one of the aforementioned shuttered schools and helped open the Biblioteca Popular (now run by the community it serves).
The Oakland Commune continues on not only in the form of raucous street parties, but in the form of campaigns against fare hikes that threaten the most precarious of communities, assemblies of workers and the unemployed, in solidarity marches with the victims of police violence from Oakland to Montreal to Anaheim to Lonmin.
For all of these actions to which it lent support, the Oakland Commune sought no credit or claim.
While Occupy Oakland wouldn’t have existed without the Oakland Commune, the Oakland Commune continues on in a new forms. So while a few seem to be fighting hard for the name and brand of Occupy, the Oakland Commune continues to fight for a life worth living.