At the Occupy Oakland encampment at Snow Park near Lake Merritt, cooking equipment that used to serve hot meals in the middle of the camp is gone, and the library and clothes donation area are a shell of what they once were, some campers say.
But there are more tents. After a larger Occupy Oakland encampment with hundreds of tents at Frank Ogawa Plaza was dismantled by police Monday morning, some of the evicted protesters came and set up at Snow Park, according to some protesters at the park on Thursday afternoon.
From Harrison Street at Lake Merritt, Snow Park looks like a campground. There are a fraction of the political signs that cluttered Frank Ogawa Plaza, and far fewer people as well. People who work in the office buildings around the park were standing on sidewalks around the park Thursday, smoking cigarettes and watching.
“This is a refugee camp,” said a woman named Matilda, who would not give her last name, but said she has been camped at Snow Park since the Frank Ogawa Plaza camp was raided the first time on Oct. 25.
Interim Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said at a Monday press conference, after Frank Ogawa Plaza was cleared of campers, that there were about 25 tents at Snow Park at the time, and that this area too would be “decamped” soon. Matilda said the rumor around the camp was that a raid would happen this coming Monday.
At midday Thursday, there were at least 40 tents at the park, from the top of the hill on 19th Street down to Harrison Street near the lake. There is one bathroom in the park, but it was locked shut. On the door of the one portable toilet at the park, a handwritten sign read: “Clean up after yourself.” Tarps and other belongings lay near tents, and some people slept or talked inside their tents, or walked around. A dozen people gathered in the center of the camp where meals are served under a tarp, eating pieces of bread.
Two young people who would not give their names sat on the grass not far from the center of camp, leaning on a large blue backpack, eating bread and watching their dog, Koda, who was having trouble adjusting to being around humans after living for weeks in the woods. The couple, in their 20s, said they arrived last week from living in the woods in Oregon when they heard about the “day of action” on Nov. 2. They’ve been camping out at Snow Park ever since.
They both said they noticed a change in the Snow Park camp since the Frank Ogawa Encampment was evicted. “People flocked here,” said the man, who has a long brown beard and was wearing a black ski cap. “The people that were originally here kept things together. Things have become disorganized.”
Matilda, wearing a black sweatshirt with green paint and dusty pants and boots, said there has been a distinct lack of food at the camp, especially because police come by every morning to make sure there’s no cooking equipment being used. She said she’s a former firefighter who has been running the medical tent at the camp since she arrived, and has found it to be “far less needy” than the tent in Frank Ogawa Plaza.
Matilda said any efforts the city makes to shut down the encampment will only “fuel the fire” of protesters, and lead to more action. She said she thinks it’s wrong that city officials want to kick people out of a park who have no other place to go. She said she expects a big crowd on Saturday for the “mass day of action” organized by Occupy Oakland protesters in downtown Oakland.
For now, she said she’s going to enjoy camping in Snow Park. It’s quiet, she said, and people tend to get along. But she said she knows it won’t last.
“People had better enjoy the space and peacefulness now,” she said. “Because the rumor is they’re coming to take it back on Monday.”
You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here.