By 7 p.m. on Monday night, the encampment at Lakeview Elementary School that drew over 200 people from the community had quieted. Parents, teachers, and activists who had taken over the school in protest of the district’s plans to close it and four other elementary school campuses were preparing for the night’s rest and having two roundtable meetings outside of the school.
The day had been full of tension. Earlier Monday morning, the Oakland Unified School District had notices to leave the premises and not return for 30 days delivered to the encampment by police. According to protesters, over ten police officers, including a police negotiator, came back around 3:40 p.m. asking to inspect the encampment. According to protesters, the officers also brought people from the city’s housing task force who filmed the campus with their camera before leaving peacefully.
The protest had begun as a set of tents set up outside the school building on Friday, June 15, but earlier on Monday protesters had entered the building. During the daytime, the protesters inside the school building held the first day of class for The People’s School, a summer program they launched that focuses social justice issues. None of the people involved will disclose how they obtained a key to the building or who has it, but they said an alarm went off when they opened the entrance door to the school. To muffle the noise during class, members of the encampment placed at hat over the alarm bell and shut the classroom door. The encampment has a two-man security team to make sure no one comes into the building when class is in session or the doors are open.
On Monday there were 11 students in the people’s school, according to Fey, an OUSD after-school teacher who declined to share her last name. People affiliated with the Occupy protest were also present throughout the day, providing food and volunteering for anything the encampment needed.
Pamela Chinn-Scoffern, who has been a teacher at Lakeview for 25 years, slept outside during the encampment first two nights without a tent, choosing instead to use a sleeping bag. Chinn-Scoffern spent Monday night cleaning out her classroom: throwing away papers, going through the closet, and stopping to look at the sign that read “People’s School Now in Session” across her first grade classroom marker board. “I’ve been eaten alive by mosquitoes,” she said. “The last time I slept in my car, but the first two I slept on a sleeping bag on a mat outside. It was wonderful.”
“I’m exhausted but it’s also been uplifting,” said protester Joel Velazquez, whose son attended Lakeview, of his time spent at the encampment. “The reality is that community is standing up, parents teachers and students, the businesses around here. Everyone’s supporting this and knows this is the right thing to do, but because of a mistake that was made somehow we can’t go back and fix it? We can’t heal and do the right thing? This isn’t about trespassing. This is taxpayer money. This is a taxpayer building. It belongs to all of us, and were doing what’s right—we’re doing what these buildings were intended to do, which is educate children.”
On Sunday night 15 adults slept in the outdoor tents along with five kids. On Monday, at least 25 people were expected to spend the night, including some that were a part of the Occupy protest. At this point they are still sleeping in the tents outdoors and have set up some kiddie tents.
Not anyone can sleep on the school site, according to Fey. “We are trying to keep it a safe space so were asking that it be mostly parents, educators, staff of schools, and children, but there have been people that have been really supportive of us from Occupy. Some of those people are teachers,” she said.
The risk of arrest is a concern for people living in the encampment. “There are people who have made a conscious choice to be arrested. They will do it peacefully—sit on the ground and not resist arrest. It’s a huge risk but we feel we are doing something positive. When we are here on the site with each other it’s a really loving warm feeling and to feel like there’s a threat of arrest for something we don’t feel is even a illegal act is scary,” said Fey.
“Were not confronting the cops,” she continued. “No vandalism. This is a peaceful action and it will stay that way from the moment the come put us in handcuffs.”
The protesters refused to allow the media to listen to their discussion or take photos while they were talking privately during the meeting. By 8 p.m. at least 30 people remained at the encampment and took a break from their meeting to eat pizza.
You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here.