In 1968 Armory Douglass wrote a book entitled, Oakland’s Not For Burning. Douglass himself was no real authority on Oakland or it’s social movements, as he was a Yale-educated Wall Street Lawyer who tried to ice out the Printers union on behalf of the corporate Publisher’s Association. In short, he wasn’t exactly the personification of progressive America or Oakland. In fact, he was only in Oakland on special assignment from the Commerce Department. Nonetheless, his words struck a chord. I referenced his title before in the aftermath of the Oscar Grant uprisings in 2009, and they seem fitting again.
To work to improve your city and society is an admirable vocation. However to destroy your city in the interest of making it better is misguided. It’s become newly apparent that much of Occupy Oakland’s shrinking base is not of the community they purport to represent, nor does their agenda reflect the day-to-day social ills many Oaklanders are dealing with. Over a weekend of multiple homicides, Oakland police have to stand toe-to-toe with protestors decrying the 1% and police brutality? Something isn’t computing here.
We appreciate Oaklanders who have participated in the Occupy Movement; In fact, we count ourselves among those ranks. Hundreds have often gathered to vote at General Assemblies, thousands have taken to the streets to voice their discontent and tens of thousands participated in the general strike on November 2nd. In the aftermath of the attack on Scott Olsen there was a crystallizing moment in which Oakland was thrust to the forefront of the international Occupy movement; a movement aimed at economic equity and a myriad of other causes that united under the 99% banner. That promise is still there, but as the movement became less visible it lost steam. Now, thanks to it’s recent acts of anarchism, much of it’s popular support has soured.
We here at 38th Notes are proud of Oakland’s revolutionary history and the legacy of community uplift. And we’ve supported Occupy Oakland’s present day attempts to reconcile the social ills that plague this country and city. The tenor is now changing however, making it hard for us to support the actions of a shrinking group of misguided activists playing revolution in the streets of our city. Occupy has evidently become a far more fitting name than we could have imagined.
No one has articulated the current community sentiments regarding Occupy Oakland quite like non-violent leader Kazu Haga in his recent article on The Positive Peace Warrior Network. Without further ado, we’d like to direct you to his insightful piece, “Occupy Oakland: A Fitting Name?”. Like Haga we believe in the aim and potential of the movement, but something has to shift soon, or else, as Oakland film maker Mandel Lum put it, The Occupy movement will “have as much legitimacy as the Hyphy Movement.”