Occupy Oakland marks six-month anniversary with barbeque, workshops
on March 18, 2012
Occupy Oakland protesters marked Occupy’s six-month anniversary on Saturday by hosting the first of what organizers intend to be a series of weekly neighborhood barbeques.
Around 200 people gathered in Arroyo Park in East Oakland for an afternoon “BBQ & Speak Out” to play music, participate in workshops such as free medical training hosted by the People’s Community Medics, and enjoy free food. Later that night at the weekly Saturday march, roughly 30 activists gathered at Telegraph Avenue and 19th Street in downtown Oakland and marched as a sign of solidarity with activists arrested during a larger Occupy Wall Street protest earlier that day in New York.
At the afternoon picnic, Occupy Oakland supporter Kimberly Rojas said the group is trying to reach out to all segments of the local community and to find out what the need of each community is. She said that even though there are no more tents in downtown Oakland and the Occupy marches count fewer participants than before, the protest has not slowed down. Rather, it has become decentralized and is being organized from within different communities. “We are still trying to change the system in order to make society better,” Rojas said.
During the winter months, Occupy protesters diversified their support among smaller causes such as Occupy the Farm, an effort to create access to food for everyone, to reclaim land in the East Bay and use it for good, said Occupy the Farm member David G. (He declined to give his full last name.) He called this recent development “‘Occupy everything’—Occupy Wall Street, Occupy the Farm, Occupy fast food, Occupy your mom!” “
“The Occupy movement is about drawing attention to what is going wrong in our society, such as the distribution of food,” he said. “We have the same message in mind, we all need a better understanding of what is necessary, such as the water infrastructure that should be localized and decentralized.”
Rojas said she is certain that Occupy Oakland protesters will begin to camp in tents soon, as it is getting warmer again. She hopes the group will soon occupy a house in Oakland which can be used as a center for organizing. “Anything and everything is possible” she said. “Revolution is possible!”
Occupy Oakland has increasingly sought to work with local organizations such as Copwatch, which advocates people whose rights have been violated by the police. Andrea Pritchett, a founding member of Copwatch who joined the Occupy supporters at the Saturday barbeque to give a talk about how protesters should interact with police, said that Copwatch’s aim is to increase police observation and documentation when officers exceed legal use of force, which has been an issue at some Occupy marches. Pritchett calls police tactics at the marches “a chilling effect to scare protesters away.” She advises those who attend marches to “always carry a camera to have documentation, proof. That is very helpful when filing complaints and campaigning against an officer who overstepped his rights.”
Violence and arrests were much-discussed topics at the barbeque. Aaron Paradiso, who is paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a car accident but who still participates in as many meetings as he can, said that it is important for Occupy protesters to bring their message across without people getting hurt. “I’m out here watching,” he said. “This is history!”
Sharana Curley, a member of the People’s Community Medics, said it is very important that the BBQ & Speak Out be a positive and peaceful event. “Occupy is about helping and supporting people,” she said. “That’s why today we tried to bring communities together, to teach them basic medical skills and give them free food. It is not about tearing up anything. The majority of the violent occupiers no longer exist within the Occupy movement. They are not part of Occupy.”
You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here.
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