Occupy: to take possession and control of (a place), as by military invasion
For years, some Oakland leaders seem to have portrayed financially-strapped Oakland as a blank canvas in need of occupation from the outside.
The city’s official website still proudly links an article to a March 20, 2011, Los Angeles Times article titled “The Oakland Renaissance.” The article opens, “Oakland, once known for grit, crime and the Raiders has changed. Trendy shops, nightclubs and restaurants have moved in, along with modern condos to go with Art Deco gems.”
In order to revitalize Oakland, former Mayor Jerry Brown proposed 10,000 new housing units to attract new residents to Oakland. Brown’s program would shadow Oakland’s citizens. Thus, to many outside of Oakland, there was no “home” in Oakland. To many outside of Oakland, Oakland is just blight and helpless victims in need of “progressive” enlightenment and salvation.
In October, Occupy Wall Street came to occupy Oakland. Its participants set up an encampment in front of City Hall. They set up long enough to stake a claim to the place. However, the Occupiers began disrespecting Oakland’s health and safety laws. Oakland asked the campers to leave, but they didn’t. On Oct. 25, local law enforcement had to remove them. Oakland put up a fence to close off the area.
The Occupiers fought to reclaim what they came to see as their turf. Protesters confronted the police. They tore down the fence that the city had erected. According to the news reports, bottles and rocks were being thrown at the police. The police ordered the crowd to disperse. The protesters didn’t and a violent clash ensued. They accused the police of brutality.
The Occupiers eventually won the battle. They returned with their tents and reclaimed the plaza in front of Oakland’s City Hall. They re-named the plaza after "Oscar Grant Plaza." The police would not even enter the encampment unless called. The media made Scott Olsen, a Daly City resident who came over by BART to join the protest, the face of the movement and a hero.
The media redefined Oakland as the home of the Occupy Movement. The Oakland Tribune has called Oakland “the epicenter.” SFGate.org asked if it was “ground zero.” The media did not profile Oakland citizens, but protesters who had come from other places. For example, one SFGate.org article quoted a protester who had come from Eugene, Ore. The most patronizing moment came when filmmaker Michael Moore flew through Oakland and claimed it to be the defining place and time in their struggle. He overshadowed the mayor, Oakland’s official representative, who the protesters booed back into the shadows. Reportedly, there was something like a gunshot during his speech and someone in the crowd yelled, “Welcome to Oakland.” Moore joked, “We’re doing this Oakland-style.” That was insulting.
Occupy Oakland moved to determine Oakland’s leadership. As if to divide and conquer, they exploited the riff that already existed between the mayor and law enforcement. Their calls for Mayor Jean Quan to resign became louder and louder mainly because of the clash between the police and the protesters. Their calls got more media attention than the recall petition some Oakland citizens had already filed.
Occupy Oakland confronted Oakland’s leadership. On Nov. 9, the City Council called for dismantling the camp. Protesters shouted them down with “We are the 99 percent of Oakland!” Tellingly, a Berkeley resident led the shouting.
The Occupiers worked to divide and conquer Oakland’s leadership.
“This display was indicative of the problem with Occupy Oakland,” the San Francisco Chronicle quoted one Councilwoman as saying. “These are people who believe everybody ought to have a voice, yet they came down here to silence our voices ... The mayor needs to step up and do her job and get these people out of here. We will not be held hostage.”
Occupation often includes propaganda to manipulate the masses. The Occupy Wall Street Movement placed a television commercial to mobilize Oakland residents. Police brutality is a hot issue among many Oakland citizens. Immediately after the clash with the police, MoveOn.org repeatedly ran a television commercial on what they considered police brutality. The commercial concluded, “Call Mayor Quan and tell her, ‘This happened under your watch. Stop the police brutality and protect the rights of the citizens of Oakland to peacefully assemble.’” Yet the commercial featured Scott Olsen, not an Oakland citizen, but a Daly City resident.
Furthermore, the movement’s definition of “police brutality” was different from most Oakland citizens. When Oakland citizens complained about police brutality, they argued they it was unprovoked. In contrast, the Occupy Oakland protesters defied and physically threatened the police in the name of “free speech.”
The television commercial also deceptively suggested that the rights of Oakland residents were being violated. In fact, most of the protesters arrested in the movement lived outside of Oakland.
As if to proclaim their takeover of ALL of Oakland, Occupy Oakland called for a city-wide boycott or strike that would “shutdown Oakland” on Nov. 2. They wanted the boycott to send a message to the rest of the world. But what would that message be?
They wanted no one to go to work and no student to go to school. Small downtown businesses would be shut down - many in fear. Workers would not get paid for the day. Yet, no one had asked ALL Oakland citizens if they wanted to pay the cost to deliver that message.
Perhaps the message was that financially-strapped Oakland was being held hostage.