UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza | November 15, 2011
Looking for poems
TROUBLE BESIDE THE BAY
Â© Robert Galbraith | Reuters
Painting of Jack Foley by Anthony Holdsworth
âStop the tear gas.â
— Mayor Jean Quanâs daughter
in a text message to her mother
âLook what happened to Rome.â
— A protester
“Poor Jean. I want to title the photograph ‘Quandary.'”
— Jack Foley
Â© Lacy Atkins | SF Chronicle
I know Jean Quan, the mayor of Oakland. Sheâs an old Leftieâwas part of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley way back when. Her husband Floyd recalled the FSM at her victory dinner. He said: “On strike, shut it down!” That’s exactly what the Occupy Oakland people are planning to do to Oakland next Wednesday. By calling in the copsâwho obviously did a terrible job–Jean firmly placed herself on the Fascist side of the great divide. “All right, we are two countries,” wrote John Dos Passos in his great book, USA. I wonder whether Floyd remembers what he said at that victory dinner.Â The Occupy Oakland people have set up their tents again. Will the mayor learn from her mistakes and do something to help them rather than staging another pre-dawn raid? Probably not. Hard for a politician to say, I was wrong. But she was wrong. And she has made herselfâand Oaklandâs eliteâthe object of opprobrium from progressives throughout the country. Michael Moore arrives today!
In a public statement, Jean Quan tried to be âaccommodatingâ and hoped that everyone would âunite.â But she told Occupy Oakland that they can’t camp overnight. Zip goes the accommodation. The tents, the âoccupationâ is the whole point, the symbol of the movement.
Occupy Oakland will of course attempt to camp overnight. What will the mayor do? Call the police in again? Injure someone again?
Jean Quan is a person who has done much good work and deserves support on many levels. Though she has personally apologized to the seriously injured Scott Olsen, I think the mayorâs major problem at the moment is that she really doesn’t understand the situation she’s inâor the nature of the protest Occupy Oakland is making. She should attempt to work with the protestors, allowing them to have their tents and their âoccupation.â That way she could have some influence over what happens. (Santa Rosaâs City Manager Kathy Millisonâno doubt profiting by Quanâs exampleâhas ordered police to allow camping outside City Hall, at least for a few days.) By telling the protestors they can’t have their tents, Quanâs attempted âaccommodationâ becomes just another ploy for her to assert power. And they have the upper hand in this game. Her foolish, expensive police action means that if she does that again she will look doubly bad. And, as they used to say and are saying again, âThe whole worldâs watching.â A friend writes: âI’m starting to wonder if it’s even POSSIBLE to govern from the Left. Â Some very talented, good-hearted people have sure been crashing & burning of late.â This incident is a sad indication of how far Jean Quan has moved away from the politics of her youth. “On strike, shut it down” is now what people are saying to her.
Oakland City Councilmember (District 2) Pat Kernighan writes:
By the second week the encampment had become a dangerous fire hazard for the people staying there, not to mention a health hazard from people defecating all over the place. The people who were residing in the encampment on Frank Ogawa Plaza refused to talk with or cooperate with City staff about how to make the encampment safe for the people staying there. The residents of the encampment included people in fringe political groups, chronically homeless people, and others who refused to take responsibility for keeping the place clean or safe. They had open flames from candles and barbeques right over the hay which covered the entire site, not to mention propane tanks in the mix. The place was a conflagration waiting to happen. There were a host of other issues, including the refusal of the campers to allow paramedics into the camp, even when campers called 911. The City Administrator very reasonably believed it was a life safety issue and decided the campers must be evicted since she couldnât get any cooperation from them.
Some of the media coverage and much of the internet reporting of the police evicting the campers was one-sided and inflammatory. Many reports left out the fact that the police gave the campers the opportunity to leave the camp voluntarily, which a lot of them did. The ones who resisted pelted the officers with rocks, plates and bottles, but still the eviction happened without anyone getting hurt.
Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, the City should probably not have had such a large and visible police presence at the Tuesday night protest march. The sight of all those officers in riot gear set a confrontational tone.Â However, given the recent history of the Oscar Grant riots, the Police Chief had good reason to think it would be prudent to have a large force available.Â At the first Oscar Grant protest, the police took a more passive approach, only to have the march turn into a riot where small businesses were vandalized all over downtown.Â OPD took criticism for allowing that to happen, so they have staffed up for subsequent demonstrations.Â The unfortunate truth in the Bay Area is that no matter how just the cause and how reasonable the majority of marchers, there will always a small group of anarchist provocateurs who show up to instigate violence.
Note that Councilmember Kernighan does not address the question of whether there were people within Occupy Oakland that were working to solve the problems she names. And why should âa small group of anarchist provocateursâ merit âsuch a large and visible police presenceâ?
In her District 4 newsletter of October 28th, Oakland City Councilmember Libby Schaaf writes:
These are difficult times for our country. Many people can’t find work, families are losing their homes, and there is great frustration about our political system. Thousands of people in cities across the country have joined the Occupy Movement to express their frustration and to make their voice heard. Â Occupy Oakland has an important message not only about political and economic injustice, but also about how individuals can collectively act and make a difference. While a small handful of protesters clearly acted irresponsibly, the central message of the protests resonates with many of us.
The issues being articulated in the Occupy movement are, as my son Sean rightly points out, quite different from the issues being articulated in the 1960s. Yet the strategies are strikingly similarâand the strategies suggest that, despite the differences in specific issues, the deepest objects of protest are the same and are in fact the same throughout the world. We live in a society of spectacle, of image, in which much information is communicated by what things look like, not by what in fact they are. What does the image of armed police in riot gear descending in the early morning hours on a group of young people asleep in their tents look likeâespecially when the young people are there to protest a situation which almost everyone agrees is inequitable and out of control? Al-sha’b yuridu isqat al-nizam (âThe people want to overthrow the systemâ). âBe the change you want to see in the world.â
This is a poem by Oakland-based poet Adam Cornford:
OCCUPY EVERYWHERE TOGETHER
Occupy Wall Street
Occupy Wall Street and the Loop and the Financial District and the City of London and the Bandra Kurla and the Paseo de la Reforma and the Nihombashi and the Pudong and the Bankenviertel and the Paradeplatz and every other ganglion of the parasite clamped with its million hooked lips over the aching skull of the world
Occupy Tahrir Square and the Puerta del Sol and the Piazza di Spagna and Liberty Square and Trafalgar Square and the Place de la Concorde and the Akropolis and Red Square and Alexanderplatz and Tiananmen Square and Ogawa Plaza and every other place where just popular governmentâs parchment promissory note has crumbled and expired
Occupy capitols and parliaments and palaces and national assemblies and all their cupolas and halls and corridors and expel the designer pimps of profit and pollution and cover cold marble symmetries with hilarious hand-lettered shouts and outrage banners and warm loud angry imperfect bodies of democracy
Occupy the offices of bankers and landlords and hedge fund managers and the offices of the CEOs of global retail chains and mining corporations and oil companies and arms manufacturers Occupy their networks to uproot their file systems decrypt their secrets Occupy their publicity and power-wash their corporate faces to reveal the rotting flesh Turn their quarterly reports into collapsing towers of zeros
Occupy the net and the web and the social media and the blogosphere and the infosphere and all the other virtual villages and suburbs and malls Make all Powerâs secret cities into naked cities all its invisible cities into visible cities Occupy all the hidden cities and forbidden cities and public squares and gated communities of the communiverse
Occupy the public parks and the public lands and the sliced and shrunken wilderness against the belching backhoes and graders Occupy the public schools against the soft-spoken reasonable graders and backhoes of fake equality leveling minds like the tops of small wild mountains Occupy the public universities and chop off the money tendrils of parasitic partnership crawling through labs and research centers
Occupy the factories hells of boredom and injury teach the robot cutters assemblers presses new dances for making new rhythms for need met with utility and grace Occupy the fields industrial carpeting of chlorophyll machines in sterile gray nutrient and give the old nutritious cruciforms and grasses back their alliances their intermingling in live dirt as intricate as skin
Occupy language as it scrolls and crawls and winks Powerâs festering poetry in shiny pixels and screen-head voices all around you Clean it with brisk brooms of incredulous irony and wire brushes of collective scorn Occupy language and above all wash it with our imaginative tears for all the misery and death it has been tortured and neutered into concealing
Occupy the seven parts of speech and the rhythms of long and short phonemes along the trail of the sentence winding or straight Occupy hypotaxis and conjunctions to build a commonwealth of words where beauty clarity and purpose move again together in one body electric like blood its red sign and figurations its nerves and syntax its conjointed bones
Occupy your bones and stand them up like tent poles for your sweaty skin Occupy your blood so it circulates the iron-tasting oxygen of truth Occupy your nerves so they carry news of the soiled wind and the stolen ground and the ragged multiplying multicolored banners of solidarity Occupy your hands and close them on other hands to know them and bear them up bear them up bear them up
Occupy. Everywhere. Together. Occupy! Everywhere! Together!
And these are some interesting websites:
http://www.bopsecrets.org [Server may be down, so keep trying]
http://www.dailykos.com/ âLook at the first picture in Cairo.Â Tahrir Square folks rallying for Oakland.Â That is really amazing.â
Demanding their share … protesters mount tractor trailers loaded with shipping containers, raising their banners to proclaim victory, in the Port of Oakland. (Coverage by the Sydney Morning Herald)
October 30, 2011
THIS IS OUR CITY AND WE CAN SHUT IT DOWN.
A note from a friend:
âAn estimated five thousand students and teachers and parents and childrenÂ joined the general Oakland Strike today, including a âChildren’s Brigade.â They are now marching on the Port of Oakland to close it down and have been successful in turning workers away. Unfortunately late in the afternoon a group of anarchists known to the PD as the Block Black turned to vandalism smashing windows at Whole Foods andÂ banks. Protestors were not part of this.Â Be interesting if the media tries to pass off the violence on the protestors. Local media has been fair on this coverage and PD acknowledged violence was due to the anarchists that infiltrated the march.â
Another friend saw on a live stream a banner saying âPOETRY TENDERNESS REBELLIONâ and was energized by it. He asked me to photograph it, but I couldnât find it. He added, âIn London, during the occupation of Fortnum and Masons in Picadilly a few months ago it turned out some members of the Black Block were agents provocateurs.â
What I saw Wednesday of the Occupy Oakland movement event was just fine. Pleasant, good weather. Pretty good reggae singer, not so good rap poetsâone of whom pointed out the limitations of President Obama. Good vibes, as they say. Lots of we-are-the-people-we-are-wonderful-and-better-than-the-people-who-are-not-the-peopleâalways a feature. Not a lot of police presence and no sense of any need for that. Similar to the 1960sâbut with an interesting difference. In the 60s people at such gatherings made a real effort to be friendly, to talk to strangers, etc. It was part of the Be the change you want to see. The people here understood about protest and about the need for âunity,â but they were like any group of people on the subway or a bus: they werenât unfriendly but there was no effort to be sociable with one another, no welcoming smiles. They get the notion of protestâwhich is goodâbut they donât seem to get the sociable aspect of these things. Welcome the stranger; heâs here too. Still: a good experience. Jean Quan will probably get some good points for it.
The Occupy Oakland movement seems to have hit the headlines all over the world. Our son Sean [Foley], currently in Kuala Lumpur, was delighted to see it on the BBC. The âGeneral Strikeâ was a huge success. It shut down the port of Oakland. The guys driving the container trucks welcomed the demonstrators and invited them to climb up on the trucks and ride. It was grand. And it was massive. Hundreds and hundreds of people, myself among them for part of the time. Jean Quan will undoubtedly take credit for thisâand rightly so. This time she did something right. Incidentally, Sean suggests that the reason the people in the crowd did not manifest the friendliness of people in similar crowds in the 1960s is this: these young people have never been properly socialized in terms of face-to-face connections; their primary interaction with people is via the internet! Perhaps heâs right.
What I said above needs to be qualified a little. Apparently, during Wednesday night, a bonfire was lit in the street. The police suppressed this and used tear gas and flash bang bombsâbut not to the extent that they did earlier. Also, a car driven by an angry driver, furious that people were preventing him from getting on, hit a demonstrating pedestrian. The pedestrian was not seriously hurt.
Someone remarked that the night had been unfortunate but the day had been wonderful. It had been wonderful.
Take a look at I AM NOT MOVING – Short Film – Occupy Wall Street.
It’s amazing that Oaktown should be, momentarily, Revolution Central. Yet we have immense ethnic (and even gender) diversity, good weather, terrific restaurants, and a working class with an attitude. We have banks, we have economic woes. We do not have a university. We have schools being closed and confused leadership. We have drugs, murders, discontent, and anger. And we have a port that can be (and was) shut down.
Here is a flower (words are flowers)
Weâre the men and women
Who broke the banks
Who scattered the cache
(That kept the cash)
On Wall Street
al-sha’b yuridu isqat al-nizam
âThe people want to overthrow the systemâ
November 3, 2011
Â© 2011 Jack Foley