Archive for September, 2012

We, the Policed: A New Way Forward in Oakland

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed…”
Declaration of Independence, United States of America, 1776

One of the most fundamental premises of our political culture is the idea that government exists to secure the rights of the people and must be based on the consent of the governed.  In our system of representative democracy, our elected leaders stand in for us, there to insure that our government exercises its powers – especially police powers – fairly, justly, lawfully and in the interests of the citizenry. 

Events of the past few weeks have shown again that that things work backward in Oakland. Our rights and needs are being subordinated to those of a well-organized, well financed (and well armed) group of Oakland city employees, the vast majority of whom don’t even live among us.  Our police department is out of control, and virtually running the city from the narrow perspective of their own group interest. 

To me it’s clear:  The council must act now to address our current police and political crisis by putting operational authority in hands of a special interim civilian police commission.  This commission must be given sufficient resources and a strong mandate:  to get us on track to an effective law enforcement program that is equally committed to protecting the civil rights and liberties of Oakland residents.   

I attended the Oakland City Council on September 18 to support the grieving family of a young man named Alan Blueford, shot to death last May just weeks before high school graduation by OPD Officer Miguel Masso as part of a “stop and frisk” gone bad.  His family members have remained strong in pushing for answers in the face of a total stonewall by the Oakland Police Department and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office. 

The Bluefords were there that night with a large and diverse group of community and religious supporters. They told the council that the recently obtained Coroner’s report contradicted OPD’s changing versions of events. They also noted that Masso had been hired by Oakland while he was named in a federal civil rights action charging police brutality while he was an NYPD officer. Finally, they demanded that the city provide them with a copy of the police report in Alan’s shooting, which had been promised to them months ago. 

With the family at the podium, Larry Reid (in whose District the shooting took place) and City Manager Deanna Santana said that Chief Jordan had been contacted and was on his way over with a copy of the report. The meeting was adjourned briefly to await Jordan’s arrival, but the break stretched on and on.  Council members circulated through the audience, speaking with the family and supporters, expressing empathy in this horrific situation.  Jordan never showed. The council meeting was re-convened briefly before jeers broke out when councilmember De La Fuente was unable or unwilling to explain why there was no report, no Chief Jordan. [For an account of the meeting and background on the case: http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/09/19/searching-for-answers-to-a-police-killing/]

I was astounded. What a snub by Jordan and Santana to the family, the community members who were present, and to the council members who had just publicly promised the report.  But then it got worse. 

A few days later – still no report for the family – OPD leaked to the media a rumor that, improbable as it seems given the Coroner’s finding that there was no gun shot residue on his hands, Alan’s fingerprints were found on a gun located twenty feet from where his body lay. [http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Oakland-police-Victim-s-prints-on-gun-3886366.php].  This after the mayor and council had promised the Bluefords that their son would not be slandered in the press.

Then, just when I thought that the OPD leaders couldn’t make themselves look any more like an arrogant, out of control gang of thugs, I read that members of the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) are now publicly attacking a city council member currently running for re-election, over remarks she allegedly made that night to family members and supporters.  An OPD Sergeant and OPOA officer says he heard Rebecca Kaplan compare the hiring of Masso by Oakland after the incident in New York to the practice by the Catholic Church of transferring pedophile priests from one parish to another.

Actually, I find that to be a fair comparison. Masso’s actions and the horrible nature of the incident were well documented [http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/oakland-police-officer-involved-shooting-of-alan-blueford-raises-questions/Content?oid=3295686] .  Whether or not he was acting lawfully when shot and killed Alan Blueford, the question remains: why would OPD would hire an officer who was involved in a case like that? 

According to the head of the OPOA, Kaplan’s reported comments were “extremely offensive to all those who wear the blue uniform,” and OPOA had withheld an endorsement of Kaplan as a result. Sadly, Kaplan is backpedaling and apologizing as fast as she can.  What does it mean that a councilmember can be so easily muzzled? Who will put their foot down when it comes to hiring practices like these?

What a travesty – police officers heavy handedly injecting themselves into our local election in a nasty attempt to shield a questionable cop and a possible murderer.  It’s one thing when a public sector union uses money or muscle to advance its members collective bargaining rights, it’s another thing entirely when they do it to shield an allegedly violent, abusive cop, or to obstruct an honest and open investigation into the police homicide of this young man, thereby increasing the rift between the community and the OPD.  [http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_21630899/opd-accuses-rebecca-kaplan-smearing-officers]

Despite the constant cheer leading efforts on the part of the department and the city, public confidence in the OPD is at an all time low. Oakland is far from homogeneous, but there’s something there for everyone to dislike.  In the OPD we have one of the most highly compensated, poorly administered, and least effective police departments in California [http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/the-high-costs-of-outsourcing-policeandnbsp/Content?oid=3306199] Contrary to OPD propaganda, the recent Frazier Report confirms it is far from the leanest staffed department in the area [http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/cityadministrator/documents/webcontent/oak036236.pdf ; see page 113]. Yet OPD has one of the worst crime clearance rates for homicides and other violent crimes.  And you can forget about getting an officer to respond to a property crime.

Ten years into a Federal Court monitored negotiated settlement agreement stemming from the horrific systematic police abuses perpetrated over the course of years in West Oakland and brought to light by the Riders lawsuit, the OPD has cost the taxpayers more than $58 million in judgments and settlements because of gross and repeated civil rights violations against members of our own community, and they continue to rack up more complaints every day. Depending on the outcome of a December hearing before Federal District Court Judge Henderson, Oakland could become the first city the country with a police department placed in federal receivership, even after the millions that have been spent on a raft of outside police consultants and contractors.  The legacy of this is with us now: lawless disregard for our citizenry by the police only breeds disregard for the law among our young people.  

Instead of taking seriously the fiscal responsibility that should come with using up 40% of our collective resources, the police budget is wasted on inadequately researched, ineffective technology boondoggles, through-the-roof workers compensation costs, featherbedding that is rampant in Internal Affairs and elsewhere, selected officers who are raking up the highest overtime payments in the state, positions which could be better performed by lower paid civilians that are filled by sworn officers. Instead of siding with the community and making police effectiveness a priority, OPD and OPOA petulantly demand unquestioning support, full control and are constantly lobbying for even more resources. History makes it clear – the OPD cannot reform itself. 

That brings us to the subject of City Administrator Deanna Santana.  Her role has been highlighted recently, both by revelations in the press [http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/deanna-santana-tried-to-alter-damning-report/Content?oid=3341245] , and by her efforts to have federal monitor Robert Warshaw removed by the court based on charges of sexual harassment.  The bottom line is this: whatever the merits of her harassment allegations against Warshaw, Judge Henderson refused to replace him.  This alone should have lead Santana to step down from her role with OPD, given the obvious conflict of interest. As it stands now it appears that, in spite of the devastating financial burden it would impose, no one in city government is making an effort to avoid trusteeship through compliance and cooperation.

The Police Commission I envision would deal with far more than issues related to complaints against officers and individual discipline, supposedly the purview of our current, badly broken, ineffective Citizens Police Review Board (overhaul of which should also be on the agenda).  We need and have a right to meaningful oversight and input into a whole host of issues that are crucial to having an effective force which protects and respects the civil rights of our citizens. Issues like:

–        curriculum content for the police academy and other training,

–        policing policies and directives, such as crowd control, use of force, stop and frisk and community policing

–        terms of agreements between OPD and other police agencies, 

–        terms and conditions of federal and other grants and their obligations,

–        decisions on major equipment and systems purchases,

–        efforts to cut costs by civilianizing positions, and other means,

–        effective human resources management, including contract negotiations to keep compensation, progressive discipline and working conditions at but not above area standards,

–        intelligence gathering and surveillance within our community

While some of the above do appear on the agenda of the council’s Public Safety Committee, the council does not have the authority or the concentrated focus.  But these are the range and types of issues that are addressed by civilian police commissions in Berkeley, San Francisco and a host of other cities.

According to the Oakland City Charter, Section 601. Boards and Commissions: “The Council may create by ordinance such operational, advisory, appellate or rule-making boards and commissions as may be required for the proper operation of any function or agency of the City and prescribe their function, duties, powers, jurisdiction …”  Some may say that the timing is bad given the upcoming elections.  Some on the Council may just be sitting on their hands and hoping that Judge Henderson will take the problem away through trusteeship.  How about some members stepping forward to demonstrate that they aren’t the captives of the OPOA they sometimes appear to be?

It’s not that hard.  Draft an ordinance creating a special commission.  Give it four missions: to increase police effectiveness and maximize resource utilization; to create a culture in which the respect and protection of the civil rights of all our citizens is central to the OPD mission; to develop a permanent model for effective civilian oversight and control of policing in Oakland and to aggressively attempt to find alternatives to the institution of federal receivership over the OPD.  Dive in and recruit five to seven well qualified and committed citizens who can bring expertise in constitutional law, public administration, technology and communications, labor relations or other areas, and who are willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard for this city – they are out there.  Empower them to hire a civilian Inspector General to oversee, audit and inspect any aspect of the department’s operations and report back to the commission.  Bring the community to the table by holding hearings and soliciting input. Cities like Los Angeles and Detroit have emerged from situations as bad as ours by taking similar paths. 

The Blueford family is headed back to City Council on Tuesday, October 2, once again looking for answers.  I’ll be there too, ready to ask our democratically elected council members to take a real stand for change, for Alan and his family, for the crime victims in the Hills and the Flatlands, for the plaintiffs in the Riders case, for all of us in Oakland, to put our interests first.  I hope that everyone else who cares about the future of Oakland will be there as well. 

 
Jan Gilbrecht
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One year on the crazy Occupy ride: big lessons, reflections, and next giant steps

by Zappa Montag

I have been part of some weird shit in my lifetime, but Occupy Oakland may be the weirdest of the weird. I still shake my head in amazement and confusion over the wild ride it’s been. Unbelievably it has been only a year since Occupy Wall Street bloomed its first flower of rebellion in New York. I was immediately excited by OWS, partly due to a shift in tactics that seemed to draw lines directly to the source of inequity, and also because my friend Stephanie was one of Brooklyn Bridge folks, and she took some inspiring pictures that gave the first early views of the coming wave of People Power. From that day I was waiting for the Oakland version to hit. I knew Oakland was gonna be different and powerful, but it was in a whole different way than I could have ever dreamed. In my early vision, I saw myself working with many old friends and activists groups, and finally getting a movement worthy of our passions and dreams in Oakland. With that optimism in my heart it was also nearly a year ago that I attended my first Occupy Oakland meeting at Mosswood Park. A meeting which left me feeling annoyed, confused, and vaguely optimistic, and gave me clues that I was not able to read as to how things were really going to be like. I shrugged of the doubts and jumped in with optimism that I hadn’t felt about the movement in many years. Little did I know that the negative and infuriating dramas would be nearly as incredible as the momentous moments of pure magic that I would experience, often nearly simultaneously. What a year! What a freaking year!

We have learned a whole lot in this last year, lifetimes of knowledge and understanding opened before our very eyes, and we have reaffirmed certain truths that we may have forgotten about. We have struggled mightily, but have kept going. It is no secret that cliques and ideological and territorial turf wars and severe personal disagreements within the movement have shaped the struggle in Oakland. At times it has been very intense, and all consuming, yet at the same time, one year later, we continue on. As fractured as it has been in some cases, I would say that we have all learned from each other and have influenced people who stuck it out and paid attention. Even those who cannot work together at this time due to movement conflicts have shaped each others approach for the better. I am also happy to say that I have met an amazing amount of beautiful people since last September 17, many of whom have become integral parts of my life. It is a rare thing for grown adults to meet a significant friend at any time after a certain point in your life. The fact that I have made so many connections, and am able to build with these wonderful folks, is to me the greatest blessing of the tumultuous year we have had. The personal bonds that we have created have allowed us to continue to build towards a focus that is just now becoming clearer…

So what is clear to those of us who I have found common ground, and shared effort with, and what are we building? From where our extended group of friends and activists see things there are several lessons that provide the bulk of our framework for our next year of organizing and community building.
For one thing we have affirmed that certain old truths remain truths now more than ever, and one of these truths is that “The pen is mightier than the Sword/ Drone”, and that there is no doubt that “The truth is on our side” and that “T he truth shall set us free”… We are writers who put ideas in motion. We need to write our own fearless truth, and help each other do the same. We have amazing writers; we have perspectives that need to be heard. The continued misinformation and unimaginative analysis of Oakland from the East Coast, or from local movement voices with little long term roots in the area, was one thing that drove us to be purposeful and powerful with our writing. We are now inspired to write with intent and passion, and to build our own networks to spread and receive the people’s truths. We are developing a network, and infrastructure to sing our story to the far corners of earth and beyond. After all we are writers with multimedia skills and technological savvy, and creativity for days. This is a skill and power we can help bring, and we will. Write the heck on!

We are dreamers who believe in the power of music and arts and the creative, wide open, human spirit and kind-hear ted nature. We believe that these are our strengths and our medicine. We have creativity pulsating through our community, and we have gathered our  creative energies here in the west because the only way left to go is into the limitless world of the imagination. We believe that Oakland and the Bay Area, needs to be led by the creative, optimistic, artistic, not the addicts of consumerism and disharmony. We will build our arts, music, our gardens of fertile creativity, as an asset, and source of strength to carry us through the shattered and sickened society with its negative drain on our collective emotional health. We will organize as artists, and we will write a new way, a never-ending musical starring everyone, and everything. The issues surrounding gentrification, First Friday art murmur, and the imbalance favoring management over the artists and community they serve, are issues that encapsulate our struggle and give us focus. We believe in supporting and developing our local talent, especially the youth, and allowing the gift of peace, which is what the arts bring, to be bestowed widely and without regard to corporate financial interests.

It is also clear to us that strategic nonviolence, or peaceful intent, builds stronger activist community, and community involvement. Semantic hair-splitting aside, we all know right from wrong, and we all know that at some point, self-defense and survival trumps ideals, but we also know when aggressive tactics are truly called for in terms of self-defense, and we know when our actions are perceived as morally justifiable, and when we look like bullies and goons. Is there room for healthy debate as to when self-defense is called for? For sure. Is there always going to be some debate as to what violence is? Yes indeed. On the night of the tear gas attacks (Oct. 26th?), I would occasionally take to drumming on streets signs, or other loud entities during our hours of marching. I even had a good session right in front of a large group of cops guarding the plaza. Is drumming on sign violence? No, but I was trying to hype people up to continue to march back to 14th and Broadway, and to fluster the police without using crude name calling. In some ways I feel like I could have been pushing people towards danger. On the other hand, on that same night I personally intervened when I saw people contemplating, or engaging in petty violence and vandalism. In each case I could see that the perpetrators were scared and pissed at the violence the cops had inflicted or were threatening to inflict. I watched the night unfold and felt that the police were hoping to provoke a riotous melee, as they didn’t even try to defend the businesses downtown that they used gas and projectiles to push the crowd back towards. I also sensed that if we kept it cool we would win the day, and I was so proud of how we did keep it together. As an old school “action faction” type, I can’t pass judgment on the urge to smash things, or otherwise create discomfort for the corrupted elite, as I know the urge well. However, strategically, it seems clear that this was/is a time for building bonds, and focusing rage against the previously invisible economic elites. This is not a good time for engaging in a strategy of symbolic violence and police skirmishing, which inherently and inevitably produces fractious debate and conflict inside the movement.

Anarchism 101 teaches us that even symbolic violence changes the conversation, and thus has power. Sometimes the conversation does need to change but in this case it was too early to force that conversation, as we didn’t know each other. The secret Black Block planning and actions for the November 2 General Strike, as well as the mayhem from the poorly planned Travelers Aid takeover, was the main cause of the fracture in OO that never healed. Our Port Shut down March, our great triumph, was overshadowed, and our momentum to take even another, bigger step was ground to a halt, and recrimination and division took root. The “security culture” militant solidarity ethos that dominated, stifled attempts or desires to reach common ground and remains a source of movement insecurity, ironically. Thus, early on, I found myself as a DOT adherent, finding more allies in the Non Violence groupings, and thankfully in the Children’s and Parents Committee/Children’s Village, which gave me a functional and calm route to focus my involvement with the more structured aspects of Occupy Oakland such as the GA. I focused my other organizing with working with longtime friends because I was feeling concern about the amount of anonymous or unfamiliar people’s with aggressive postures. I joined up with Decolonize Oakland after hesitating initially.  To this day, I have remained in both Decolonize Oakland, and Occupy Oakland, and I plan to continue to be part of both despite having earned the ill will of quite a few Occupy Oakland folks on a level I have not experienced in my 20 plus years as an activist. This ill will began to set in to the movement in the after math of the November 2nd conflicts, and has been fueled mainly by divisive militant actions such as Move in day, and May Day, in which ideological and organizing divides played out on the streets, on social media, and in the press, mainstream and alternative, and have yet to be resolved.

Another key lesson is that we see community building as the key to organizing success. We are proud of the many ways we have been able to help this happen in our community. Some of the powerful and ongoing efforts that have emerged from our efforts are discussions and work around race, and privilege, and overcoming the division that can so easily spread. Mediation between groups and individuals in conflict has been a needed role that has been developed thanks to some strong and dedicated organizers. We also have had a variety of social gatherings, from house parties, to picnic meetings, to educational events, and have begun to build beyond the confines of Occupy in terms of both the people and politics. We are organizing a series of social, cultural, creative, community empowerment events and social meet ups for the next weeks leading up to various Occupy anniversaries, and the sham national election in early November. One of the larger ones will take place on October 26 at the Humanist Hall, so keep a look out. We believe that optimism and unity need to be created and maintained, and that demonstrations involving anticipated violent repression from law enforcement mostly build unity amongst those who are already in a similar state of mind. We choose to organize slowly, and in ways that will be more inclusive, and allow for growth. Or maybe we just like to party?…naaw, we just need to get to know and trust each other for these coming times of struggle. Now the key is to find ways of weaving politics, and community, and creativity into our social events, so we keep getting things done. That will be a focus in the coming year.

Many in our larger organizing circles also believe that as flawed as the Occupy Oakland General Assembly often was, it was still a reminder of the basic human rights of assembly and collective decision making and action. Humans need ways to meet in small groups and get things done that the government, can’t or won’t do. This predates government, which is why I don’t buy the idea that GA’s are an “anarchist” invention, which has been repeated so often. Holding assemblies is a human, and probably not just human, method to get things done, and taking collective responsibility. The Occupy Oakland GA has fallen into total disrepair, but we feel that other groupings should continue to create assemblies, and that in light of the corporate bought elections taking place this year, the timing is ripe for our own process to begin to emerge to counter the bullshit.
We have a natural right to assemble and make decisions outside of the agreed upon electoral process. When the Oakland Mayor and power brokers, gave the orders for me and my fellow concerned citizens to be gassed and assaulted repeatedly for attempting to exercise our right to sit down in an intersection in our city in protest, the truth was exposed to all. Rather than choosing to negotiate on October 26th, and seek a peaceful resolution to our disagreements they chose to unleash terror and suffering. That was the moment that it was crystal clear to me that our rights as regular Oaklanders are a secondary concern to them at best. Our government will subvert Democracy and use violent intimidation and worse, to keep us under control. We need to take back our power. We need our own process. We need to assemble freely, and set our own course of action, and “legality”, and “legitimacy” as defined by the system cannot used to keep us silent and dependent on them.

We collectively see a clear need for a multi tendency organizing approach. There is no one path to justice, and no one definition of what it takes to be a radical or a revolutionary. Furthermore, people grow and change, and learn. In fact that is why we organize, to push people to step outside their comfort zones and change their actions and habits. The radical ideological litmus tests that seem to permeate segments of Occupy are limiting and negative in that they hold people to set ideas, and write off those who are not perceived to be hardcore enough. If we only organize with people who are already staunchly radical or militant, we limit ourselves to a small segment of people, and we lose the chance to engage with the large segments of our community who are sympathetic, but more mainstream in some ways. I see no contradiction in engaging with many groups with views that may differ from mine. Pretty much everyone sees things differently than  I do. Deep down I am an eco-freak hippie, with a serious problem with many aspects of the modern technological society. Most people’s views are less extreme than mine in this area, but rather than write folks off as naive or blind to the real facts and shun them, I would rather work with people on that which we agree. After time, and familiarity, then we can debate strategy in the areas where we disagree to determine if there is possible common ground.

A multi tendency movement is more flexible, has more knowledge and resources at its disposal, and has more community buy in. Furthermore people work well together based on personality and style more so than politics. Most of the folks that I organize with are not in the same spot as me on the political spectrum, but yet we get along fine because we want basically the same things, and we see how personal histories shape each of us in our own way, and we enjoy each other. Maybe the 99% is a little too inclusive, but we need some members of every group within the 99% to join up. We can’t write off entire groups as outside of our movement without trying first to work together. If you are unable to work with people from a wide range of political and social orientations, you will not be an effective organizer. The folks that I work closely with believe that organizing is our number one task, and effective organizing takes hard work, flexibility, and communication. Organizing has to be done in a way that is friendly and truly inviting to people who may feel hesitant to join in. Many people in the early days of Occupy Oakland began to feel unwelcome, or not invited, and left, or stayed mostly on the sidelines. I am proud to be part of ongoing efforts to bring these and other folks back in to discussion, and collaboration. This is something that we will continue to build in this next year and beyond. We will organize!

Many more lessons can and have been written about, but I wanted to touch on what comes to mind for me, one year into the rebellion that began in New York City on September 17th. So far I am having a blast, and riding a wave of optimism that offers to carry us to the new paradigm. This has been a chance to make things happen, and I wanted to express that organizing, and dreaming solutions, and paths to unity, are underway in our little corner of reality (which always has room for more folks btw). We will be having events all throughout October, and beyond, and we are always looking to support and promote anything that is cool and for the people that you might be doing. We are also encouraging all writers to step it up, and make your voices heard, and will be looking to find ways to maximize our energies. Let us continue to build, and join together to dream up a new world for all. Thank you to all who have given it your all this year, you have re inspired me. Let’s keep it going!

       

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Ushering in a new era of Civil Disobedience: Strategic Explorations for our times

By, Zappa Montag

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
Anatole France, The Red Lily, 1894

I remember hearing some version of the above quote probably when I was in my early teens, and getting it, liking it, and tripping off it. It is still one of my favorite political quotes. It sums up perfectly the pompous and self-serving nature of arguments that uphold the “rule of law” as an essential to a fair society. Anyone blessed with a normal human sense of fairness notices many instances in which laws are enforced unfairly, and unequally, and are used to further social inequity rather than protect all citizens, and promote the general welfare of all. Some laws are just plain unjust, and morally indefensible, such as the Jim Crow laws of old, and similar laws today which codify discrimination based on sexual identity or gender. Then there are laws that are unjust because they have a greater burden on certain segments of the population, usually people with less financial clout, or political power. Attacking unjust laws, and unequal enforcement of laws, has always been a key component of protest movements as a means of highlighting inequality and establishing a moral high ground, which emboldens people to take on powerful social interests. One of the first times I was arrested was for serving food at Golden Gate Park with a small group of folks from Food Not Bombs in 1988. The idea that we couldn’t feed people, who were hungry, in a public park, was absurd to me, and I had no problem breaking that law and being arrested for it. As it turns out, we were able to highlight the moral bankruptcy of the law, and spread the Food Not Bombs ideals and mission through our civil disobedience. A mission that carries on strongly to this day!

One of the things that I loved about the early months of the occupy movement was that disdain and disregard for unjust laws, and the unfair enforcement of laws was widespread and assumed. We all were willing to break at least some laws that we knew were unjust, and in many cases just plain stupid. From camping on the plaza, to feeding people without permits, to helping people back into foreclosed homes, and disrupting financial business as usual, we followed our own moral compass, and ethical standards. While there was always disagreements as to how to go about breaking laws, we all were willing to expand our tactics to include some level of law breaking, and were willing to face consequences for following our moral code over the legal code of an unjust society. It is my belief that we should return to this practice of breaking unjust, immoral, and unequal laws in a way that is more strategic, and targeted. Over the last year we have seen the methods that the power elites have been willing to employ against our protest, and we have seen how their methods curtail our unity, and undermine our appeals to morality over legality. In the process, however, they have provided us with the blueprint to build our case against them, and carry out a campaign that highlights the injustice of the law, and the need for us to break unjust laws in order to do our work.
The encampment at the plaza allowed us to break several unjust laws, and areas of enforcement at once. We were utilizing public land and resources to benefit the community, without applying for proper permits and following zoning regulations which inhibit regular folks from gathering together, and helping each other. We had the numbers to be able to feed and house people, entertain each other, and conspire together openly, in ways that a small group couldn’t pull off. Often these types of social programs are the realm of the churches or other monied groups who take it upon themselves to care for the “less fortunate”. Of course, in exchange, church groups and charities get to promote their worldview and gain positive publicity for their work. This is an example of how legality, mixed with economic clout, and legal protection, allows certain groups to benefit and grow by providing needs and services that the government is unable to, while other groups, like Occupy, are kept from helping people due to unfriendly government policy, and enforcement of permit laws, and regulations. Often, health and safety concerns, and rules are cited against nontraditional groups like Occupy, while these concerns are not used to prevent church groups or other agencies from providing services.

I believe that Occupy should again take up a campaign to feed, and provide other services to Oakland citizens, and that we should intentionally disregard laws and regulations that are used to dissuade us. For instance, healthy balanced, nutritious meals being served by us are no more a health concern than the low quality meals and food that many food bank programs provide. We have a moral right to serve healthy food to people, and to talk to them about life and all that it entails while we do. Similarly, maintaining group camps, and providing supplies for homeless people to gather in safety together is the moral thing to do. Especially when the alternative is to send people to sleep in dangerous, noisy, polluted, and unpleasant areas, such as under freeways. Utilizing public space, and unused facilities, be they public or private, is morally correct, and laws and regulations that prevent this should be challenged. Other areas that should be challenged pertain to city funds being used inefficiently for law enforcement jobs for officers who don’t live in Oakland. These large budget expenditures have not led to safer communities, and other means of lowering violence and keeping the peace are not given similar resources, and jobs are not created for Oak landers to develop peaceful solutions for ourselves. Similarly, “poor taxes” in the form of increased traffic fines, and other fees are levied against those who can least afford them, and the money raised is paid to predatory banks like Goldman Sachs, and to provide financial incentives to gentrifying business as overseen by the entrenched forces at city hall. All the while long time Oakland residents see little or no investment in jobs and programs for us.

These are but a few areas that call for sustained campaigns of civil disobedience, and public pressure in many forms. The beauty is that by carrying out these campaigns, we could build our movement, highlight injustice and the lack of creative solutions from city hall, and call to question the increased dependence on law enforcement to enforce a society built on inequality. The key would be to create organized, sustained campaigns, which would employ a variety of tactics. While it is tempting to look back at the camps, and try to recreate that level of civil disobedience, I believe that would be a strategic mistake because it would draw focus away from the morality of our campaigns, and instead recreate the militarized climate of repression that the powers that be are more comfortable with. We need to ridicule their previous heavy handedness, as we show that we are just trying to do good deeds, and come to each other’s aid where the government has failed. We need to reaffirm our moral right and duty to disobey unjust laws, and to challenge outdated and indefensible methods of social control. These types of campaigns have many historical models that we could draw from, and lessons drawn from current campaigns, such as the powerful actions being enacted by undocumented members of our community, that are already underway. The election seasons final two months could give us an excellent back drop from which to highlight politics based on morality and humanity, vs. the soul less, money driven policies of our current system. Let’s go break some bad laws and make some good things happen!

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Life is Radical, and so are you

Life is Radical, and so are you.

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Life is Radical, and so are you

The situation that we find ourselves in ain’t no joke.  Hurtling through space, on a journey that started before time, and that will never end.   Our puny existence, with it’s mundane and sometimes pointless human rituals, is so precarious, and so precious, and so imprecise, so on the edge and sometimes exhilarating.  It’s some radical, crazy, beautiful terrifying thing to be alive.  Life is not liberal, and it definitely ain’t conservative. Nope, life a radical dream all the way, to where?

At this time, you probably might be wondering why I have ranted this rant, and if I have a point? Well, I do!  The point is that we are all radicals, living on the edge, completely insane as our existence is pure unexplainable madness that we must pretend makes total sense.  The one small consolation to all of this, however, is that you could write a radical piece of self expression and submit it to the Oakland Radicals blog, and possibly alter the entire set up just by getting the right person to chuckle at the right moment, about any old random tidbit, which could lead to some unimaginable chain of events. …..Now that is power my friends.

So please accept your radicalness, and write something with us.  Or at the very least, praise, question, or even ridicule the efforts of those who do post their thoughts here.  Oakland Radicals is a site dedicated to radical inclusivity..you, you , and you, and all of your friends, and the rest of yous.  If you aren’t from Oakland, but you feel the spirit of Oakland Radicalism coursing through your veins, then you are all good.  All radical perspectives are welcome here, but you gotta be radically respectful too. Golden Rules for Radicals are in effect.  Be profound, be absurd, be overly intellectual, or uniquely creative.  Do your thing, but don’t be a radical pain in the butt (unless you really, really, need to).

And despite the lack of much sociopolitical commentary on this rant, Oakland Radicals is a blog that will cover some fairly serious political bull stuff, and respond to the so called “situation on the ground” here in the greater East Bay as issues and events arise.  So try to keep it relatively on topic,.  As this site has been unused for a while, and only briefly previously, I am going to put up a lot of content, much of it preexisting, over the next few days, which might give folks direction or inspiration.  Thus concludes exercise1   Have a radical day or night, and write something for us soon.

written by Zappa Montag

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