The (d)evolution of Occupy Oakland

Categories: Discussion, Open Mic, Reflections

There are a lot of reasons that protest movements wax and wane. People have short attention spans, or limited time committments. People move, have babies, get new jobs, or have to deal with family tragedies.

Other times, the attitudes of those protesting can lead to reticence. They can make even someone who has donated lots of time and resources feel hesitant to return. Sustained movements like Occupy Oakland have a social component and definite social dynamics, and those dynamics began to turn ugly around the time of the second raid on OG plaza.

My housemate and I were at the plaza for almost every GA and open forum. I wrote letters in the library and went to meetings. We lugged fresh veggies from our garden down to the plaza. My housemate was involved in gardening and the children’s village. In short, we were trying to be actively engaged in the community as we could while still working our day jobs, taking care of our pets, and meeting other obligations.

We didn’t mind the time our involvement took away from other facets of our lives because this was important work, and we were meeting many engaging, warm people who also wanted to make a difference.

Then came the General Strike. When we left the port, it was triumphant. It was a good day, filled with thousands and wide ranging support. But as I pedaled back toward home, I sensed a change in the air. I did not yet know about the actions taking place downtown, but I would soon hear. And see.

I rode to 12th street BART the next morning to head to work and my heart was heavy when I saw not only the damage, but the reaction from all of the folks on their way to work. I knew then that it would be an uphill battle to win back the people’s trust.

And indeed, many folks felt like I did, and were visibly, passionately supportive of mending the damage and coming up with a way to feel comfortable within the movement going forward. This was met with immediate and fierce resistance. As weeks went by and people argued, the folks that remained grew more and more bitter and stagnant, with a few exceptions.

My personal breaking point was a GA I attended after the second raid, when OO was still looking for a new camp. There was a lot of tension about the lot at 19th and telegraph that night, and people from the neighborhood to be affected had shown up to stack the vote. I could understand the annoyance at having outsiders come in, but the level of derision these folks received was off the scale, and very unlikely to win anyone over. Then, after they all left, a few proposals were neatly dealt with, until the last one.

Now, this last proposal shouldn’t have really been a proposal. It was a statement of principles, and was long and flowery. But it was the last proposal of the night. nothing truly important was behind it.  At a moment when Occupy was clearly having an identity crisis, perhaps taking a few moments to really think about why we were all there was not a bad thing. As he read, my overwhelming emotion was worry for him, as I could see the folks in the smoking section gearing up for a major takedown. They had already started jeering and booing. I cajoled him in my mind to take the signal and hurry it up, but he went on, oblivious to the social cues around him – which is probably why he had thought it appropriate to bring this proposal here in the first place!

A few who lined up to comment tried to be judicious in their comments, but others seemed to revel in a combination of smugness and self-importance as they dug into him for “wasting their time” when “there was so much important work to be done.” There was one woman who got up to speak who I had disliked from day one – she had a habit of rushing into meetings and discussions halfway through and demanding to be caught up on what she missed so that she could give her two cents – derided him for “wasting our fucking time” and ranting about the work we could have been doing at that very moment on the next port shutdown. Which, yanno, they had had a meeting about at 5pm that day. The man who brought the proposal was clearly shaken, and I will forever remember the image of his friends surrounding him after he pulled the proposal, rubbing his shoulders as he hung his head in dejection. What did you accomplish in tearing him down so violently? Satisfaction? Did he make a good proxy target for all of the real anger you feel inside about the state of the world? (There’s a lot of that misplaced anger floating about, if you look just beneath the surface.)

Is this how a movement is built? By making newcomers and different drummers feel utterly scolded? By playing the “I’m more involved than you” card at every moment? One night, I was sitting in the non-smoking section, with two families with toddlers in my discussion group. A young dude in front of me lit up and was drinking out of a bottle in a paper bag.  I approached him cordially and reminded him of the rule, and he basically said that because he camped there, he could do whatever the hell he wanted. I told him that the people had agreed on this rule, and pointed out the kids. He told me to go fuck myself. All of this happened next to a “crowd advocate” who had been joking with the dude a few minutes earlier, and who utterly declined to intervene.

Take these self-important attitudes and lack of respect, mix in some adrenaline and police violence, and soon you have a hardcore group of folks who no longer care about the community they are supposedly fighting for, who feel that any legitimate questioning of their actions is an attack that must be destroyed at all costs.

I had come away from that last GA meeting with one shred of hope – the announcement of a camp at a foreclosed home two blocks away from me. I left the GA and rode home to finally dig the tent out of storage to give to them. I couldn’t abide the folks at the GA anymore, but perhaps these small occupations were where I needed to focus my energy. My housemate and I walked over there and donated our tent and gave some contact info and went out the next morning to go food shopping, including ingredients for a big pot of soup for the occupiers on our list. And as you all know, by the time we got home from the store, the owner had changed her mind. the information that day was spotty, but something went cold in my heart when i heard that she had asked them to leave and they didn’t immediately pack their things and go. It wasn’t about helping folks, it was about them and their camp.

So I stopped getting involved. I focused my energy on the holidays and my friends and family. I shopped locally and basked in the vibrancy and good cheer of all of the Oakland shopowners who are working hard to make this city a unique and proud place.

And I will look to the organizations who have been doing amazing work in Oakland for a long time in order to bring about justice in my city. They came, they tried to get involved, and many of them left feeling bewildered. These were your natural mentors, and you chased many of them away.

Now, you’ve destroyed a children’s art exhibit at City Hall. All of the press and #OO tweets I’ve read have been about the police violence and hating Jean Quan and bringing down the elites, and that’s all well and good. But you need to address this. Because many of those people who swelled your ranks for days and weeks and months see something like that and think, “Occupy has really lost it now.” Because there is absolutely no excuse for such behavior. None. Don’t twist yourself up in knots trying to defend it as the byproduct of a larger day of police violence. Did OPD overreact throughout the day? Certainly. Should they be challenged legally over every act of violence? Most definitely. Did that give you an excuse to destroy art, especially children’s art? Hell no. Is burning a flag ever going to get you the support of the public, no matter what it represents in your head? Absolutely not. It’s the act of fools who have buried themselves so far inside of their movement that they forget that the point is to bring others in. If you continue to alienate everyone, you will be easier to pick off, beat and arrest. The charges will get higher. OPD will know that the whole world has stopped watching and they will get heavier handed – and that is what is already happening. Take a moment, really look at yourselves, and decide what you want to be. Do you want to focus on being a force for positive change in Oakland, or do you want to be a ragtag group of increasingly beat upon rebels who scorn help, support, and most of the community that they are fighting in the name of?




50 Responses to “The (d)evolution of Occupy Oakland”

  1. Americans4secessioN

    @russd – oh great so politicians are addressing the issue of ‘income inequality’ and ‘the poor’ great job yes of course politicians are going to incorporate this into their many other campaign promises like creating jobs , fixing the economy exc. exc. so the primary focus of OO right now is ‘squatters rights’ ? what happened to income inequality and corporate influence in government ?

  2. russd

    one thing? One thing? we have influenced the national conversation such that our issues are being addressed nationally, even at GOP debates they disavow being crony capitalists.
    And BTW Squatters RIghts is not an Anarchist thing. That is something that is enshrined in common law and even in state law. Though they have raised the bar quite high in the last 30 years as people have begun to pierce the veil of this artificial scarcity in the real estate market, and take advantage of existing squatters rights laws.

  3. Americans4secessioN

    ” I think part of the problem is that the Occupy movement somehow got conflated with a squatter’s rights/anti-capitalist movement here in Oakland ” …… thats what happens when a group does not have well defined goals and specific objectives they are working to accomplish . its easily hijacked by groups that do have a strong focused agenda . anarchists do not recognize social laws and they know specifically what they want to change and thats current laws governing society and property ( abandoned buildings should belong to anyone who has a use for the space and should be given to them – squatters rights – communal ownership of property ) they do have specific goals and so they are more focused on exactly what they want to change . the occupy has never been focused on actually changing anything specifically they have only addressed two general problems – that income inequality exists in our society and that corporations have influence in our government – both these things are well known facts to most people in America but most people realize that this reality is part of our system and cannot be removed from the current system – they might be able to influence these things a little ( passing laws , regulations , exc. exc.) but that takes years of focus on specific laws or specific well defined goals . occupy protestors neet to ask themselves at one of these meetings one simple question ” what does success look like ? ” and from there develop steps to make it happen .

  4. Americans4secessioN

    this is what is happening with the occupy movement in general not just in Oakland . its not just the protestors in Oakland who are trying to take over forclosed homes and vacant buildings . this movement has been vague from the very beginning and if anything has only become more chaotic and unfocused over time . this project is a complete failure and thats because of the lack of focus on what exactly they wanted to see accomplished specifically . yes they had vague goals like ” income equality ” and ” corporate influence in government ” . ok great – name ONE THING they have achieved in actually changing these things . is there more income equality now what exactly are they doing to make that happen ? of course the answer is absolutely nothing unless setting up tents in abandoned buildings and getting kicked out repeatedly ( obviously they cannot stay in a building that they dont own ) is somehow putting a dent in ‘income inequality’ or putting a dent in ‘corporate influence in government’ ?

  5. younggringos

    Enjoy your siesta.
    We’ll try to pave a way for your grand entrance.

  6. D-Program

    What I hear: division, complaining, and smart people not looking for solutions but blaming each other.

    This to me is proof that the destruction of property and flag burning is not helping create solidarity. Rather than being discouraged and walking away we need to look for solutions:
    A harm reduction committe?
    A pledge of non-violence by ALL Occupy camps?
    A crew of streamers and bloggers dedicated to TRANSPARENCY and protester accountability?

  7. Winstanley

    Oh yeah and I just wanna say that anyone who thinks that some nice landlord is gonna give up his space for an Occupy center (and that the cops would leave it alone) is completely out to lunch. Shit, we can’t even keep LEGAL shelters/clinics open! Taking over a bank-owned property for the people is a great idea, people have been doing it for many years secretly and a lot of people would support doing so openly. It’s just that the Kaiser was the wrong choice. Here’s an idea I’ll post elsewhere: let’s make a map of every foreclosed and/or bank-owned residence in Oakland and distribute it widely. That way we will always have our Plan B! There are so many of these empty houses in Oakland!

  8. Winstanley

    Yeah Tlahtolli but remember who OWS was NOT speaking to: homeless people, people trapped in the justice/prison system runaround, people who come from generations of dispossession…And also remember that Oakland is Oakland, not some other place. The Riders scandal is no fluke, the Black Panthers were no fluke, Oscar Grant’s murder and its aftermath was not a fluke, shit, Stop the Draft Week (in 1967) was no fluke either – you see where I’m going with this? Maybe there’s a lot of kids from L.A. or wherever who have come to Oakland to take on the cops but that doesn’t mean native Oaklanders don’t have good reason to not trust OPD or even be openly hostile to them. Personally I think taking on OPD head on (along with all the back-up agencies they can call in) is not strategically smart but I can feel where the rage is coming from and want to engage people coming from that.

  9. earmstro

    Mayor Quan can cry all she wants about her precious city hall, but will she ever realize this wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t uneccesarily and illegally violated and traumatized hundreds of peaceful protesters. (I agree that getting involved at OO was hard enough before the rabid, bullheaded “diversity of tactics” agenda started being pushed). Now all she is left with is those who are in this to streetfight with police.
    Regardless of how you feel about the actions taken by members of OO, it’s so infuriating to hear people blaming them for the “cost to taxpayers”. As if whatever damage caused by Occupiers even comes close to the cost of multiple rounds of illegal mass arrests.

    Be hopeful! I believe the true movement is spending some time nursing hurt feelings and traumas from bullying activists, violent police, and corrupt police, and will be back in full force once we are ready to truly fight for economic justice, and bring Occupy Oakland back to that mission.

  10. younggringos

    Pretty sure, Marco, but thanks for asking. Now muster your faculties and try to contribute something.

  11. Summerspeaker

    I urge those of y’all who castigate the flag-burners to consider the implications of the narratives you employ. Condemning people as “juvenile” supports agism. Combined with the charges of unbridled passions and inferior mental capacity, this resembles the venerable rhetoric habitually leveled against workers, people of color, and other oppressed groups. Do you want to continue this cycle? A movement built on the exaltation of discipline and hard work perpetuates pernicious bourgeois values and excludes the people most marginalized in this society. That’s a far cry from liberation.

  12. Summerspeaker

    This strikes me as moralistic nonsense. If OWS refuses to become a revolutionary movement, something else will take its place.

  13. Summerspeaker

    Solidarity form a member of (un)Occupy Albuquerque. I just want folks to know the so-called extremists inspire many of us across the world. My comrades and I consider that flag-burning picture beautiful. What better symbolic rejection of the horrific U.S. nation-state could you ask for? While I know next to nothing about the local dynamics, any movement based on policing resistance and striving for respectability risks perpetuating the nightmarish status quo. I speak for myself and don’t represent (un)Occupy Albuquerque.

  14. steven61

    I have come to the conclusion that trying to change the minds of people bent on violence and destruction is at best futile. Their limited minds will never be changed. Most of us would not think about destroying the lobby of City Hall, or throwing a rock at police. But some will somehow , within their small parameters of grey matter, justify any action they take as ok.
    I feel very sorry for the true believers in Occupy Oakland. They have watched their hard work smashed by close-minded, stupid, juvenile, little people. These folks could care less about your cause. They bring national attention to the movement, but at what cost. The movement no longer has what any grass roots movement needs, the energy and sympathy of the country.
    Most decent hard working people like me will never again attend a march because of the actions of the few you refuse to denounce.
    The true Occupy movement though has no one to blame but themselves.

  15. Winstanley

    The idea theat “those who show up the most” are naturally going to be steering the movement is one of the major problems with the de facto leadership of OO. Yeah there are a lot of unemployed or casualized workers in OO, lots of students and younger people with more time on their hands, but in spite of the high unemployment rate there are a lot of us whose work simply does not allow us to be at as many meetings and events as these folks. And this gets to the problem of the lack of openness and inclusiveness that many people here are criticizing. We don’t just need people physically at meetings etc to advance this movement, we need MORAL SUPPORT FROM THE MASSES OF PEOPLE. And just because some people think the masses of people are rioting in the streets doesn’t mean that this kind of activity is going to get the support we need in this place in the here and now. We need to work with what we’ve got, not pretend that everyone else is this close to becoming an anti-capitalist who hates the cops. Such confrontations are exciting and maybe radicalizing to a handful of people but they are strategically pointless. Fuck, just read the histories of the 1960s/1970s social movements (please)! I’m not a pacifist but I’m trying to maintain the bigger picture comrades…

  16. marco01

    Bravo! Occupy Missoula has the courage to stand up to the violent anarchists who want to hijack this movement. There should be sharp line draw in the sand over violence.

  17. marco01

    And here we have the opinion of the average American who would normally be supporting OWS. Take a good look, I may soon be among them.

  18. marco01

    Are you sure you weren’t provoking them by throwing rocks and bottles?

  19. marco01

    Pardon me if I say this sounds so loopy. The leaderless movement model seems to me to be failing badly. A nice sentiment, but not practical or functional. As a glaring example, a small group of violent anarchists are destroying the movement, and it appears they are intent on continuing to do so.

  20. marco01

    Well said, you highlight another serious problem this movement has. It is dying of too much inclusion. There is no message, we are all just supposed to “know”.

  21. marco01

    For Occupy to have a prayer, it must completely denounce violent tactics and responses and completely embrace peaceful civil disobedience. Remember the protesters who got pepper sprayed at Davis? They had the sympathy of the nation. These flag burners most certainly do not, nor do any of the violent Occupiers.

  22. Jazewell

    Before Adbusters promoted the idea of Occupy, there was Chris Hedges who stated a truth that must be faced before anything in the form of protest begins. It is that a slow motion coup d’etat has taken place in this country, crowned by the Citizens United decision, and we must first realize that we have lost. First, admit defeat. Begin there, and ALL is possible. He went on to say that as we confront the power of this massive security state the only option is massive organized non-violent civil disobedience. He was by no means diminishing the strength contained in that form of resistance. He was calling us to use this greatest of weapons against the power of the state. At Zucotti and Oscar Grant parks, it began well. The perception that change was actually possible spread across the country. We can never depart from the principle of non-violent civil disobedience.

    As to the topic of this discussion, I can only ask those who broke into City Hall to think about this … are you ready to dedicate decades of your life to the real grindstone of change? Are you ready to first admit defeat, and then say to yourself, First, Do No Harm?

    We have a chance to change the country and the world. Thoreau, Gandhi, and Hedges are who you should be reading. Don’t let this movement turn into what I saw in the 60′s with idiot personality cults and snakes eating their tails. Occupy! Plan on at least 10 years of steady, reliable pressure against the formidable corporate kleptocracy! Unite in non-violent civil disobedience and be like the waves against the cliffs!

  23. younggringos

    When we were nice to the cops do you know what they did?
    They beat us, tear gassed us, and arrested us.
    Now that we tell them to go fuck themselves they beat us, tear gas us and arrest us.

    Were you paying attention when occupy across the nation and world was systematically and brutally shut down?
    This movement is in a fight for its very existence against entrenched interests with unlimited resources.

    I don’t agree with everything that OO does, but I don’t have to. Point out another organization that is standing up to the current system of exploitation. The Dems? The church? The big unions?
    For years everyone was bitching that there wasn’t a movement. Now there is a genuine grass roots movement and everyone is bitching that it isn’t everything they dreamed. Then make it better. Organize a peaceful march. Do it. I’ll march next to you.
    Of course those who show up the most are going to have the most influence. How is that unusual?
    If you care this deeply be there to steer things in your direction.
    Don’t settle for an online rant. Make it happen.

  24. massphotoguy

    OO had some sympathy from me when they started. Fighting economic injustice? Sure, that sounds good. But taking over public buildings to which you have no legal right? Ruining a children’s art exhibit? That doesn’t sound like a group wanting positive change. It sounds like an out-of-control mob. A group that will attempt something like that needs to be stopped, because they’re one small step from harming innocent people.

  25. Dr. C

    Thank you so much for raising these concerns. I am so saddened by these childish acts — vandalism, flag-burning are not acts that will win people to this movement. Right now, I’m worried that a few tantrums could cost us the opportunity to build a true class-based social movement in this country. I keep hearing that the guys who burned the flag don’t represent OO. Well, that’s great. But instead of crying about police violence, we need to admit our own mistakes. OO needs to denounce the violence. And by the way, embracing a strategy of non-violence does not mean passivity.

  26. Palmarino

    I agree with many if not most of your points, but….I am going to keep fighting for the heart and soul of occupy oakland. I feel that people who are not really committed to this city have hijacked OO for their own uses, but when it is no longer useful to them they will pack it up and move on…the sooner the better imo…and when they do, those of us that have been working on these issues for a long time can and will step in to take over…in the meantime it is time to call some people out, and possibly ask or tell them to leave now.

  27. Sean

    Tlahtolli: I don’t accept your comparison. The history of big important social movements is filled with disagreements and divisions among allies for progressive change, including the civil rights movement. I understand your desire to detach from a particular group at a particular time, but for all of us who are hungry for change (that will take time), I don’t believe giving up is a productive way forward. Instead, we may need to reposition ourselves where we feel we can be most supportive of occupy—our movement—while maintaining dialogue internally about the strategy and tactics that will enable us to build something really big together.

  28. meganthemegan

    Thank you, James. I too am saddened that the loudest OO message has devolved into “us vs. OPD/us vs. Quan” — and evidently now even “us vs. City of Oakland” (I cannot understand why the Convention Center was selected, and I have read OO’s reasoning).
    At the same time, I just contributed to the OO Bail Fund, as it is clear OPD’s inability to protect City Hall coupled with its repressive kettling/mass arrest tactics of peaceful demonstrators proves, once again, it cares little for its stated value “Recognize that we are here to serve the needs of the Community”.
    I am very angry about the destruction at City Hall and the flag-burning. To call either of these actions juvenile would be an insult to young people. Of course, neither of these were endorsed by OO, but the silence is deafening — which means there will probably be more of those tactics to come.
    So my contribution today will likely be my last action in support of OO. I hope it can regroup and refocus on effective actions against the 1%.
    In the meantime, given my personal beliefs in what works and what doesn’t work, I’ll find an occupy or op that has adopted a clear commitment to non-violence.

  29. steven61

    Thanks James for writing this post. It exactly captured my feelings about what I first thought was a great and profound movement. I wanted so bad to join what I think the movement is about.But that seems to change depending on the person your talking to.
    I work in Frank Ogawa Plaza and I have watched this movement from day 1. I have attended some GAs but didn’t like what I was seeing take place so I stopped going.
    When Occupy Oakland:
    1. Gets a solid message.
    2. Welcomes all ideas.
    3. Denounces violent behavior.
    I believe the numbers will grow. Until then they will be looked at as a bunch of misfits and not a serious movement. Smashing windows and taking over plots of land wont do it.
    I believe there should be another movement started with no ties to Occupy, that concentrates a message of addressing the inequalities that truly exist in America.
    Again, Thanks. You said what need to be said.

  30. Tlahtolli

    Sean, your post reminded me of what an abused woman would say to herself after being beaten by her boyfriend:

    “He’s such a great guy, but he has a little problem and we’re working on it.”

    My advice to you is to wake up, smell the coffee, and stop being in denial. At the rate things are going, you don’t want to be in the ranks of Occupy Oakland.

    This coming from a former supporter.

  31. Simcha

    James, that is an extremely excellent idea. I’d be willing to meet up with reasonable people to figure out who to approach about getting a space that is ours free and clear without fear of police removal. I’m disgusted with the current leadership and direction of Occupy Oakland. I think we should start another Occupy Oakland in a place where we can be without harassment from the authorities. Then we could start a real community center and organize events that have relevance for us, the 99% of Oakland. I have experience in providing mental health treatment and counseling to people who are homeless and I have some experience in case management to find housing for people who are homeless. I also have experience in helping people to find work and/or obtain benefits. I’d be happy to work for positive change using positive solutions using the principles of non-violence. How could we do that? How would we find each other to speak in person? I won’t go to a GA run by the leadership of what is currently called Occupy Oakland.

  32. James

    1) I did not actually see what happened, because I did not break into City Hall. Nor did anyone I know. When I heard the news reports, I scoured the internet for details. I found some pictures of destruction in the lobby (overturned trash cans, display cases smashed). The exhibit people are referring to was the “Re-Create Traveling Art Exhibit” and there are pictures of it up on the city hall website. It was going to be at city hall in January and then travel around to various libraries.
    2) I didn’t say that Occupy shunned any organizations – simply that folks were left wondering exactly how to get involved, which is what I heard in my discussion groups and from folks grumbling as they left the stage. You’re right, I can’t name names. I know people involved with the Interfaith Coalition who are still very much involved, last I heard. I’m glad that they are.
    3) Yes! Lots of union folks and ex-military folks have a really complicated relationship with our country, and while they may not support imperialism, flag burning goes a step too far. Most members of my family and my friends’ families supported the Occupy movement, but many of them fly flags in front of their homes everyday.
    I know that democracy is messy. It is not the homeless or the mentally ill or even alcoholic (I come from a family full of them and know how to deal) people that bother me – it makes sense that these most powerless of people would gravitate toward a movement that seeks to end the system that oppresses them most. No, it’s those who believe that they possess the Truth about the world and anyone who disagrees is stupid, meek, or an imposter. I can try to work with them, but is it worth it? Can I do more without working within the framework of Occupy? I don’t know the answer to that yet.

  33. DNVRM

    Occupy is really a state of mind more than it is any group or specific goal. You will never see any person or group rise up as the ultimate decider, Such a concept is contrary to the idea of Occupy. It is a free association.

    The actions of Occupy Oakland are theirs and theirs alone. We stand in common cause. The struggle is hard. There will be mistakes.

    If Occupy Oakland cannot establish themselves as a positive force in the community they are doing it wrong. There will be dissent on how things are done within the movement. If there is opposition to the point where people quit and fight against, there is need for deep introspection by all parties involved.
    The actions of OO are theirs and theirs alone. We stand in common cause. The struggle is hard. There will be mistakes.

    If Occupy Oakland cannot establish themselves as a positive force in the community they are doing it wrong.

  34. Sean

    Winstanley and DNVRM: I appreciate your replies. I agree we are a broad movement and need to stick with each other to advance it, even when it gets tough. Feeling somewhat disheartened this morning (after a long, intense day/night Saturday on the streets), I went to OGP and participated in the GA at 2 pm. There were strong voices of solidarity and some soul searching, confirming that I am not alone in my concerns. I’m still solidly occupy, but believe we need to continue to create safe space for internal debate and critique if we’re going to continue to evolve in ways that bring many more people in. That’s the spirit in which I bring my comments today. At this point in time, I believe that means creating space to challenge random vandalism and other (non-strategic) acts by a few that undermine our efforts and derail our message. The mainstream media will do what they do and we can’t control their reporting, but we can control what We do. And that requires discipline.

  35. James

    I am glad to hear that, John! That is how it felt when I first got involved. I do think that OO needs a space, but I think that the tactic of seizing a building is logistically impossible at this time, and will only lead to clashes that further invoke tensions with the community. Surely there’s an old warehouse somewhere in Oakland with a willing owner, so that the cops have no power to evict people who go there? It may not be as symbolic as seizing a foreclosure or city owned empty space, but it would provide space and community to launch further operations without constantly involving OPD in a cat and mouse game.

  36. James

    The Occupy movement as a whole changed the political discourse in this country, I believe for the better. Everyone is talking about class and unfair taxation.
    As for Occupy Oakland, there were many beautiful elements of it. Hungry people were fed, the homeless found community and respect for the first time in years, people planted food and made art and met their neighbors, and started to break down the barriers of race, gender, and sexual orientation. A lot of great networking happened among different community groups.
    Don’t take my words above to be an utter slander of Occupy. They did a lot of good and many folks involved still have the capacity to do great things. They’ve just let the loudest, not wisest voices take charge.

  37. jamesbutler

    I hope my message is not lost in the noise. I came to this website to learn about the Occupy Movement. I see many committees, many agendas many meetings…. Etc… But I could not find a single page that explained what the “Occupy Movement” IS. I am sympathetic person, deeply in the 99%…. and I cannot figure out the point of your organization. I am not trying to be disdaining or cruel. I am trying to help. If your organization cannot explain its goals or why it exists, or simply what it is…. I am afraid it is nothing.
    The organization seems to get lost in the minutia of its own existence, and gets frustrated when the powers that be won’t support what you’re doing… BUT, SPEAKING AS ONE OF THE 99%, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE DOING. As such, even people who would happily donate and happily become part of your movement see nothing but disorganization and childish behavior.
    Again, I cannot use the word “childish” as a pejorative. It is a carefully selected word to describe a group that appears intent on kicking and screaming about what it wants without being sophisticated enough to explain its needs. You may have explained to someone, BUT as one of the 99%, I am telling you as clearly and plainly as I possibly can: I have no idea what your movement is about. I have no idea what your goals are. And as such, it is impossible for me to support you.
    PLEASE GROW UP (meaning figure out why you exist. Learn how to communicate,)… Or go away. You are costing my community (Oakland) resources it needs to help itself. As such the occupy movement appears to be purely destructive. I don’t believe that is your goal. But that is what you’re doing, and as such if you cannot explain what your goals are I will begin to OPPOSE you, AS ONE OF THE 99%.
    Do you understand? Please try to understand. Please make an effort to fix your organization.. Or go away, for the good of the community.

  38. tiwane

    Thank you for writing this, James. Occupy Oakland has become more about “Occupy” and not at all about Oakland. Or Wall Street. Oakland has enough problems, don’t create more. You don’t have a right to “occupy” this building and exactly what good will it do to fight corporations and their influence in politics? I don’t always agree with Mayor Quan, but at this point you ARE acting like spoiled children throwing a tantrum. Let’s get real, peaceful, legal change going.

  39. DNVRM

    It’s important that you do not cut yourselves off from each other. Occupy is about so much more then what one group in one city thinks it is.

    You are awake, you are free. It is easy to feel sad and defeated when things go awry. However, if you ever really cared about the ideal you thought Occupy represented. Then don’t turn your back, redouble your resolve.

    This doesn’t mean you must operate within the GA system that is OO perhaps you need to spread the GA elsewhere. There are many communities in desperate need of a voice that the GA give them.

    It is not going to be easy evolving. Press on!

  40. Winstanley

    James, you definitely bring up some real shit, but I have a couple of questions about your post.

    1. Did you actually see people destroy a children’s art exhibit, or hear about this incident from anyone who was there? Have you seen photos of a destroyed art exhibit? Also, do you happen to know what the exhibit actually was?

    2. Who are the “organizations who have been doing amazing work in Oakland” who have been shunned by Occupy? And what is your criteria for “doing amazing work”? Do you think if you wrote some names here that no one would dispute your claim?

    3. Do you think the kinds of people who will write off Occupy just because they saw an image of a handful of masked people burning a flag are those who we had a chance of “bringing in” anyway?

    I do realize that there are some profoundly anti-social and/or know-it-all types that have gravitated to the Occupy scene. This is definitely a problem. But Occupy exists as a *movement* that is still fluid and still open to change, regardless of the cliques that have developed. Part of the task of making change is dealing with shit like that. As you’ve heard a thousand times, real democracy is messy. Do you know what “lumpenproletariat” means? We DO have to deal with pathological and abused people, alcoholics, paranoiacs, etc. If the world was as we wanted it these folks probably wouldn’t be wandering around desperate to perform their acts in front of us. But you should still point out shitty behavior when you see it. Get a posse together who agree with you and who will back you up. Be persistent. Don’t give up because the going is rough. Deal with it, and help us all deal with it.

  41. George Vreeland Hill

    Occupy is made up of trouble makers and idiots.
    Their behavior is getting worse and worse.
    I believe Occupy is getting violent because of their frustration at not being able to change things.
    Occupy started out as a curiosity, but quickly became a laughingstock.
    Now they are hated by just about everyone and that includes the 99% they talk about.
    Time for Occupy to quit.
    They lost.

    George Vreeland Hill

  42. occupymissoula

    Occupy Missoula is and will remain a non-violent movement. The General Assembly of Occupy Missoula officially denounces the violence perpetrated by authorities and citizens in Oakland on Saturday as reported by the media. The details of Saturday’s events are still unfolding. What is happening there can be followed by going to There may be sensational coverage in the coming days and we encourage people to educate themselves rather than counting on the 1% that controls our media to shape the facts. Because as we stated in our declaration, which can be viewed at, “Many among the economic elite are using their control over politics and the media in the hope that we will dissolve into our constituent parts and melt back into the woodwork. But we will not compromise our futures. “ We continue to stand in solidarity with the non-violent protesters in Oakland, around the nation, and around the world.

  43. kd3569

    I’m obviously out of touch but what exactly is Occupy Oakland? I’ve looked around the site but can’t find anything that explains what OO wants. Where can I find that info?

  44. john seal

    Curiously, it’s been having the opposite effect on me. I marched yesterday and was overwhelmed by the good feelings, happiness, and general positive energy surrounding the initial march. I knew that things would probably get ugly once the actual occupation got underway, but I decided I was sympathetic enough to the goal–a home for OO where much good work could (hopefully) be done–and thought it was the least I could do to help swell the ranks. I’ll never regret that decision.

  45. Tlahtolli

    I think part of the problem is that the Occupy movement somehow got conflated with a squatter’s rights/anti-capitalist movement here in Oakland. Part of what gave the Occupy movement in general its strength was the support of people like James (who wrote the above post), in other words, regular folks who had lost their jobs and homes as a byproduct of an unchecked economic system. It was our agreement that there is injustice that needed fixing that brought us together.

    I would argue that Americans in general are civilized enough to avoid violence and extremism in pursuing social goals because a majority of us become involved in “the system” and we somehow find ourselves represented in “the system”. In every society there will be people who aren’t represented, but that’s the way of the world, sadly. That’s not an excuse, though, to neglect those without a voice.

    There are many ways to serve the underserved. And there are many ways the underrepresented can make themselves heard. But to do that, we all have to speak the same language. If I’m Mexican, and I want to communicate to an American, I should know how to speak English, or, at the very least, I should know where to locate an interpreter. I can’t expect to talk loudly and slowly in Spanish and expect my boss to hear me. But that’s what Occupy has been doing lately. Occupy has been speaking loudly, but not clearly, and it should be no surprise that the police and the public in general has reacted the way it has, with contempt.

    The message that gave Occupy its strength was the economic disparity in the United States. It is a message that is still relevant and valid because it affects us all. The fact that Occupy Oakland doesn’t have a home is not something we can all relate to because that message isn’t about you and me and everyone else, it’s about Occupy Oakland. And before Occupy Oakland says that it representes you and me and everyone else, they should check themselves and see if their goals are furthering (meaning not harming) the core message: economic injustice. To be fair, it’s a bit of a stretch to forcibly trespass a building to set up a new headquarters and claim that it has something to do with economic injustice.

    Anyway, I’m happy I participated at the GAs and actions when it mattered, but I learned something: Occupy Oakland doesn’t have a monopoly on moral outrage or on the struggle against economic injustice. But what it does seem to have a monopoly on is making itself look bad.

  46. Simcha

    Thank you so much for writing this piece. I couldn’t have written a better synopsis of my own feelings and thoughts concerning Occupy Oakland. I have come to the realization that Occupy Oakland is less and less about addressing the inequality that harms the people of Oakland and the people of the world. It has become all about the pet issues and the egos of the hard core Anonymous, Black Bloc, and other anarchist extremist people who have hijacked something that was beautiful.

    Occupy Oakland has become a selfish, destructive, and petulant child that cares nothing about it’s effect on the city and people of Oakland.

    I can’t participate in Occupy Oakland in good conscience anymore. When this all started it was beautiful to see all of us united in exposing the injustice of the system that the 1% uses to oppress us. I was proud and honored to participate. Now it has become ugly and it no longer unites us.

  47. Sean

    This piece captured my frustrations exactly and I’m now weighing if and how to raise such concerns internally for some serious reflection…or whether to walk away as I imagine many others are at the point of doing.