My involvement in the Occupy Movement has largely been in a supportive capacity: I went on late-night postering runs for J28, I took over the Oscar Grant Plaza Gazette when the original editors dropped out and I became heavily involved in the Anti-Repression Committee. Spending so much time promoting Occupy and trying to keep it alive has of course begged the question: what is this thing that I am working so hard to protect?
I know what I have wanted Occupy Oakland to be. Months ago, I saw Occupy Oakland as a leader in an national movement (with international ties) to reclaim the commons as a first step in a prolonged and coordinated fight against economic injustice and the subordination of the world’s majority to racist, patriarchal, heteronormative domination. After the clearing of the first encampment, we started to look outward, beyond the necessities of our own daily self-maintenance. Then again, as repression increased we redoubled our focus on our own self-preservation, fetishizing the plaza and various milestones in our own brief history. Occupy Oakland as such is on a slow and sure downslide as we fail to become less insular and self-referential and remain largely irrelevant to local struggles.
When speaking of a movement composed of innumerable left tendencies with no clear objective, it is necessary to paint a picture of success for the sake of reference. I want a mass movement. I want an organizing body that welcomes motivated and talented folks at all levels of political experience to mobilize around concrete political issues. Occupy Oakland understands itself to be completely open, but is in fact organized like a social scene which is completely impenetrable to many: the unacknowledged (and therefore unaccountable) leadership is composed of people who have the most experience, political training, time or resources (or a combination of the above) and there is no mechanism that I have witnessed to develop new leaders. Feuds between groups and between individual organizers have become entrenched. Occupy Oakland as such has run its course. We put on inspiring spectacles, we empowered new organizers, we made connections between pre-existing grassroots working groups and created new ones. But no one new is coming in and the attendance at general assemblies is dwindling. It’s time to take the network we have forged and turn it toward organizing projects aimed at political realities outside Occupy.
When the old Gazette crew dropped out and I became the week-in, week-out bottomliner, I re-assessed the role of the gazette in the organism of Occupy. It was important to have a newsletter to welcome people who were new to the movement, to acquaint them to the range of our politics. The Gazette was also a forum to to have the debates that were crucial to the development of the movement. Alas, no one new has come to the general assembly in quite some time. We routinely have less than a hundred people on Wednesday nights and, in the wake of May 1st, even Sunday assemblies barely have quorum. There are plenty of other forums for movement news and debate.
I have never been full time on the Gazette: my energies have always been split between work and other projects within and outside of Occupy. The Oscar Grant Plaza Gazette has therefore not always been as relevant, as up to date, or as thorough as I would have liked it to have been. If I don’t quit now, it will become sporadic and careless. One project in particular, The Summer Where No One Leaves, is poised to monopolize my time and creativity. This project, spearheaded by the East Bay Solidarity Network, will involve most organizations currently doing anti-foreclosure work in the Bay (including OOFD) and a host of organizers new to the housing struggle in a coalition to build neighborhood councils that could be ready to defend against foreclosure and eviction as self-organized bodies by the end of the summer. It will be a concentrated push for anti-foreclosure work as a social movement in a time where foreclosure represents one of the largest mass thefts of wealth from the black community in history. The Summer Where No One Leaves could not have gotten to its current advanced planning stages without Occupy Oakland. Indeed many occupiers will be crucially involved. This project, Occupy AC Transit, Occupy the Farm and recent solidarity actions with the families of Alan Blueford and Brandy Martell can be counted as the future of Occupy.
Goodbye from the Oscar Grant Plaza Gazette. It’s been real.