Ever since the last police raid that destroyed the camp at Occupy Oakland, the Interfaith Committee has continued to challenge the city’s authority to stifle free speech actions. Interfaith members braved arrest in an act of civil disobedience on the night of the November 15th raid; they returned to the plaza in the ensuing weeks. The interfaith committee challenged the city’s ordinances by keeping their canopy up during the day, celebrating the spirit of the Occupy Oakland camp by counseling community members, running their ‘free store’ of free items, providing smiles, warmth and conversation.
Reluctantly, and without granting that the city’s right to stifle freedom of expression, the interfaith group has respectfully taken down the canopy at night in response to a police order to do so. The city maintained that the interfaith community could keep their canopy up during the day, but had to bring it down for a curfew beginning at 10pm. It must be stressed that these decisions seem to have no basis in city law; nevertheless the city gave the impression that it was trying to be ‘reasonable’.
But the city changed its mind shortly after it allowed an Occupy Oakland vigil to have a symbolic Tipi structure during the same hours in an adjacent part of the plaza. According to people present at the scene, in the subsequent days, Assistant City Manager Arturo Sanchez suddenly recalled that the city had a long standing, unwritten, but nevertheless historic policy banning shade and canopy structures in the plaza. Sanchez told surprised Interfaith members that there had never in the history of Frank Ogawa Plaza been shade structures in the plaza [except in the area where the Tipi now stands during day hours]–there was a “precedent” of not allowing them. They were forced to take down their canopy.
With the possibility in mind that Sanchez was experiencing a false set of memories, perhaps brought on by the stress of helping to stifle free speech in Oakland wherever it rears its head, intrepid Occupy Oakland members took to the internets and in very short order found a series of odd images:
Many are wondering how Sanchez will square these images of the ostensibly banned phantom canopies appearing at random through time and space at Frank Ogawa Plaza, most recently just last year. The photos represent a clearly discriminatory application of city policy–almost anything and everything is allowed shade structures except political free speech events. Its clear that the city is attempting to prevent the precedent of constitutionally allowed structures facilitating free speech in the plaza now that it has been forced to allow the Tipi. Quan and her administration fear a proliferation of structures promoting freedom of assembly and speech in the plaza.
Perhaps the lesson for Sanchez will be: when making off the cuff Orwellian proclamations, its important to remember that the city does not yet have a memory-hole system. Though I’m sure they’ll start working on it soon.
[photos provided by Phil and Geekeasy]