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Occupy Oakland protesters reconvene, return to plaza for evening meeting

on November 14, 2011

With the site of what was once a camp teeming with people now not much more than a mud patch, more than 1,000 Occupy Oakland supporters marched down 14th Street and back into Frank Ogawa Plaza on Monday evening.

On the minds of many: What happens next?

The gathering was the first for Occupy Oakland supporters since protesters were evicted—and 33 people arrested—in a raid of the plaza early Monday morning by police. The raid was the second one since Occupy protesters first set up camp in Oakland on October 10, and had been widely anticipated following the issuance of several eviction notices by the City Administrator’s Office.

The evicted protesters had called for an afternoon rally on the steps of the downtown public library at 14th Street and Madison Street, which served as a departure point for the march. The crowd swelled from around 100 people just before 4 pm to at least ten times that when the march began an hour later. By the time the crowd reached Frank Ogawa Plaza, night was falling and disparate chants unified into one loud chorus of “We are the 99 percent.”

“Welcome back to Oscar Grant Plaza!” a speaker who identified himself as Jasper told the crowd, referencing the unarmed man shot to death by BART police in 2009, in whose memory protesters have re-named the plaza.

A few uniformed Oakland police officers talked to people on the perimeter of the rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza, and another half-dozen were stationed at the most open entrance to the plaza, at Broadway and 14th Street. As night fell, the muddy area around the amphitheater that once had grass and scores of tents was practically empty, with people dragging their bikes across or talking on the sidewalk around the park. There were no tents being set up and did not appear to be much of a movement to set up camp again tonight.

The crowd filled the amphitheater steps in front of city hall, and organizers used a “call and response” technique to amplify the speakers’ messages to the crowd. Jasper told the crowd that on Tuesday there would be a march from Broadway and 14th Street, right outside the plaza, to the UC Berkeley campus that would start at 2:30 pm. “When we striked on November 2, they marched down here to support us,” he told the crowd, referring to UC Berkeley students. “Now we’re going to return the favor.”

Some of those who joined the evening march had been arrested at the plaza earlier this morning. Father Louie Vitale, a 79-year-old Franciscan priest, was one of 13 people arrested at the interfaith tent. Vitale said he and other religious leaders were singing “We Shall Overcome” when police arrived at the camp in the early morning hours. “They were very peaceful, and we of course were very peaceful,” Vitale said of police at the raid.

As soon as he was released from North County Jail around 3 pm, Vitale immediately headed for the library to find out what the next step would be for the protest. “We still firmly believe in what is going on and will continue to be present,” Vitale said of religious leaders. “We’re just not sure what will happen [now]. But the religious community is with them.”

Kerie Campbell, a middle-aged woman wearing a purple bandana and carrying a sign that read “Whose lawn? Our lawn” also said she showed up at the rally to find about what will happen to the protest next. “It’s our lawn, we’re going to take it back for sure,” said Campbell, who said she lives nearby and was the cofounder of the Occupy camp’s children’s village. “It’s our tax dollars.”

But, she added, “I can’t say that’s the plan.”

Earlier in the day, the city’s Emergency Operations Center released more information about today’s raid, including statistics that more than 36 tons of waste were removed from the plaza, and raising the estimated preliminary cost of the city’s response to Occupy Oakland to just above $2.4 million.

The city’s release also announced that that Snow Park, the site of another small Occupy Oakland encampment near Lake Merritt, would be cleared in the near future. There are currently about 25 tents at Snow Park, the release said.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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