Yesterday, Oakland City Council member Ignacio de la Fuente called a press conference along with three other council people to demand the immediate end of the Occupy Oakland encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza. It was, no doubt, a hilarious spectacle. Politicians–who know they can call a press conference in the lobby of city hall any day of the week–claiming that they’re being censored by a crowd of people who only matter to the press when they start yelling things. Come on, now.
Beyond the drama, there’s some ironic issues to note about the council people’s hysterical preoccupation with the plaza. I live in councilman de la fuente’s distict 5. My neighborhood in the Courtland Creek areas is literally the area’s garbage heap. A car was once left in front of our house, in the middle of the street–full of garbage, like several hundred pounds of it. The backyard of the rental unit next door was full of garbage for months–garbage that was rotting, toxic stuff, right there in the open, yards away from my house. We tried to get the city to do something about it for months, and they claimed their hands were tied. That’s not an isolated story.
Area police don’t respond to this kind of thing, and generally turn a blind eye to it when it actually affects citizens living in the city’s poor neighborhoods. You can’t call a cop to come and do something about a dumper, even if you just saw them dump a couch in front of your house. They don’t care. As I went out to photograph this, my neighbor commented “sick of it, too?” and agreed that police will roll right by someone dumping their trash in the common spaces on their way to nowhere.
Here’s a picture of a growing trash heap, I took yesterday:
And here it is today:
And yes, that is a mattress a few yards up the road.
Courtland creek, which would be a lovely place for people in this neighborhood to picnic and spend time, is full of dumped garbage all the time. Landlords regularly use the park areas around the creek to dump the life-possessions of human beings after they’ve been evicted. And there are a lot of evictions. On one particularly bloody eviction day, I came out of my house to see stuffed animals lying in various prone positions throughout the neighborhood–it looked like the climax of a Scorsese film about stuffed animal gangsters. There’s always big heaps of people’s former domiciled lives sitting everywhere. Its an ugliness that doesn’t even begin to scratch the real tragedy beneath, especially when you consider who those stuffed animals belonged to.
De la Fuente’s constituents are used to poor administration and have gotten tired of asking for help to keep the neighborhood free of vandalism and garbage. The guy hasn’t even updated his website in three years. He has a lot of things to check off of his to do list before getting around to repressing a popular mass movement.
Occupy Oakland has grown, in part, to draw attention to this business as usual approach to Oakland’s decaying neighborhoods. Council people don’t understand this yet, but I think they may before its through.
Update: Close to a week later, the garbage pile is still there and bigger. A satellite heap has grown around the discarded mattress, also still there.