Insane Priorities in an Impoverished City and a Troubled Time

Posted on January 5, 2012


Enthralled with the beauty and community of the new 247vigil at Oscar Grant Plaza last night, I let go of all worry of a police raid. There was an almost holiday spirit of giving and sharing; everywhere you turned in the South End of the plaza people were laughing warmly or having intense political and philosophical debates. The energy was contagious and strangers who’d never visited the occupation stopped in to find out how to get involved. The GA was the most communal and fulfilling I’ve witnessed to date. When I left at 10 pm or so, I didn’t have a worry in the world. There hadn’t been any police presence, and it seemed like we had dodged the bullet. I didn’t have any illusions. I knew we would face the police again with days. But it seemed like we had won this round.

I debated for a while after I heard about the raid whether to go down. I’m frankly pretty tired of riding my bike from my Fruitvale neighborhood back and forth to the camp and wanted an early night of sleep. But I went anyway and joined the large group that had gathered around the courthouse. I got a flat tire on my bike, and had to return early if I was going to catch a ride with a fellow Occupier. When he dropped me off, he looked at this disgusting spectacle that sits right in front of my house and said, “My god, Omar, you live in the third world over here.”

While the OPD repress constitutionally protected dissent, crimes that really do impact city residents go unchallenged. These are, of course, violent crimes, such as the robberies, assaults and murders that are to varying extents a regular part of life in my Fruitvale neighborhood. But there’s also this incredibly easy to deter crime, that goes completely unchallenged and that poses great dangers in a neighborhood full of children:

This dump zone has been here since December 27th, complete with a rotting garbage and an aquarium full of thick broken shards of glass. It’s not only against the law–and not just ordinances, but state laws regarding dumping of hazardous waste–but the sign explaining that is right next to this dump zone:

Police are rarely seen on my street, though it is one of the premier dumping grounds for unscrupulous contractors and evicting slum lords. They do make sure to destroy freedom of expression structures, where activists feed the hungry and engage in constitutionally protected speech, create media, art and discourse,however.

And as last night’s raid demonstrates, the city and OPD do it with a great deal of vigor, economic investment and planning. The guy sitting at the desk, posing a danger apparently to society by using a laptop in a public place, was one of the people targeted and arrested in yesterday’s raid. He’s still in jail, and won’t even be arraigned until tomorrow. The woman sitting in the tipi  is also at this moment in Santa Rita. The woman to the left wearing the parka is in jail as well, as is the woman at the far left of the photo wearing the red hoodie, seemingly posing a threat to the residents of Oakland by having a quiet conversation on the steps of Oscar Grant Plaza.

People in the city have complained about the city’s priorities for decades now. Occupy Oakland is also complaining about it. If you want to live in a crime-addled city full of garbage that focuses millions of dollars of police work on preventing and destroying constitutionally protected speech–and that will shell out even more money in the successful lawsuits brought against the city that are sure to come–make sure you support OPD Chief Jordan and the City Adminstrator’s office’s vendetta against Occupy Oakland.