Despite the rain and cold, scores of Occupy Oakland protesters gathered Sunday morning around what remained of the group’s latest makeshift campsite, a vacant lot at 19th Street and Telegraph Avenue. Once again, earlier in the morning, police had cleared away tents and told Occupy protesters they could not camp in the city overnight.
By noon Sunday, according to police spokeswoman Johnna Watson, no arrests had been made in this latest police sweep.
Late into Saturday night, protesters had celebrated the establishment of their new campsite, which they took over by removing a fence that stood around the 19th and Telegraph lot. Watson said police arrived a little after 8 am Sunday and gave a warning to
disperse. The campers complied, gathered most of their possessions, and left peacefully.
“They (police) were polite,” said Gabriel, a 39-year-old protester who declined to give his last name. “They were efficient. They did their jobs.”
As he spoke, other protesters stood behind the police line chanting and taunting the police. One protester declared that the U.S. was becoming a fascist state, while a group of men cracked jokes about the police, and a young woman sang peace songs to the officers. Some protesters brandished signs that read, “You can jail the revolutionary, but you can not jail the revolution.”
The establishment and decampment of the new Occupy Oakland site near the Fox Theater comes six days after the OPD evicted Occupy Oakland protesters from Frank Ogawa plaza for a second time. Some protesters then set up tents at Snow Park, while others argued that they needed a new location near Frank Ogawa Plaza and that the lot was a prime spot to rebuild their campsite.
According to the Occupy Oakland website, the new location protesters set up, the open lot at 19th and Telegraph, was ideal for this purpose. It was also right in front of a residential complex — “so any police operation to evict the encampment,” the website read, “will happen in front of hundreds of onlookers.”
But by midmorning, after the police cleared the lot out, crews from the city’s Public Works Agency could be seen clearing debris and leftover trash from the street and muddied field where Occupiers had spent the previous night. Police then began moving protesters away, and the crowd thinned out as the rain began to pour.
Not all the residents in front of the second encampment were pleased with protesters re-occupying in front of their homes. Former Air Force captain Steven Warren Luce, 57, who lives in the apartment complex across from the empty lot on 19th and Telegraph, stood under an umbrella and told protesters they should protest in front of their own homes. One protester shouted, “We don’t have homes!” After a heated exchange with Occupiers, a commanding officer pulled Luce aside to ask him not to incite protesters further.
“I think you made a solid statement, but it’s not going to convince them,” the officer said.
“All the residents here – this is the kind of crap we don’t want to listen to,” Luce replied about protesters’ chants.
Luce told Oakland North that although he sympathized with protesters’ grievances, “Trashing other people’s property doesn’t cut it.”
“Every resident feels the same as I do,” Luce said. “But they’re afraid of physical violence against themselves, and their property.”
Protesters stood around trying to figure out what to do next. “I think Occupy Oakland is really going to have to push back. But with the confidence that the police won’t push back harder,” said a 25-year-old protester who declined to give her name. “Someone will come up with an idea.”
Soon after, a text message went out stating that Occupiers were planning to pitch tents again at Frank Ogawa Plaza. A small contingent of about 25 to 30 protesters huddled under a tree at the plaza, and held an impromptu meeting. In the now familiar Occupy mic-check style of group repetition, they discussed: “What the fuck are we going to do?”
Ideas swirled about whether to occupy a school, a BART station, or a tree in the plaza.
“We can’t occupy that tree!” cried one protester. ”That’s the Oakland tree!” Although they did not make a decision, a few people scattered to look for a new re-occupation site. Someone sent out a text message calling for an emergency General Assembly meeting tonight at 6 pm. No location was given.
In the meantime, pigeons have occupied the plaza.
You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here.