Is Occupy Oakland as Bad as They Say?
Much ado has been made about recent media reports describing Occupy Oakland as a cross between Lord of the Flies and Animal House. The leftist magazine Mother Jones was furious about the negative coverage, deeming it "The Right-Wing Media Assault on Occupy Oakland," and attempting to debunk the bad press. But Big Journalism lashed back with an article entitled MotherJones: Truth To Unflattering Reports On OWS.
Out of curiosity, I decided to check out the scene for myself to settle the matter.
Occupy Oakland is a tent encampment in the park facing Oakland's City Hall. Wooden pathways wend between dozens of tents inhabited by over a hundred activists.
Saturday, October 22 was a special day for the Occupiers: A rally and march were planned at noon. A talented local artist recorded the scene as hundreds of day-protesters arrived to hear the speakers in the amphitheater adjacent to the camp.
Adding to the excitement: Today was "Bring Down Capatalism Day," so we were all eagerly anticipating the destruction of "capatalism" by nightfall. The only remaining question was: How would we bring it down? With "Group Cacases"?
This protester had the answer: Behead all the evil capitalists.
Many in the crowd, such as QPOC (Queer People of Color, for all you ignorant facsists) called for the death of capitalism in a more generic sense.
Some of the speakers addressing the rally wanted to go "the full Lenin."
But some of the protesters reminded us: If we aren't all in tune with Allah, nothing will change. As the uprisings in North Africa have reminded us: the only path to true revolution is through Islam. Maybe this will be the American "Arab Spring" in more ways than one!
One thing quickly became apparent to me: Occupy Oakland at first tried to create a completely anarchistic rule-free social utopia — but as the days and weeks pass, the Occupiers are inescapably re-creating society from scratch, and before long will have all the same rules and customs and problems that they tried to abandon. (All of this is entirely predictable, I might add.)
During the boring speeches, I strolled around the encampment and discovered that many of the reports about Occupy Oakland are, unfortunately, true. Let's look at them one by one:
DRUG USE and COMMERCE
Everywhere I went, I encountered people taking drugs — mostly marijuana. Many of them were understandably camera-shy. But this guy stood right on the main walkway and puffed away on a drug pipe.
The ground around and inside the camp was also littered with other evidence of drug use, such as this crack cocaine baggie that had been dropped or discarded.
This guy was sitting outside his tent, riffling through and counting huge wads of greenbacks. I can't say for sure that he was a drug dealer, but I found it mighty suspicious that he would have such a massive amount of cash amidst such squalor.
The City of Oakland issued an eviction notice the day before the rally, citing sanitation issues, garbage, rats and other hygiene problems at the encampment. The protesters announced that they simply wouldn't budge, and the city temporarily caved in, so for now the standoff continues, though the eviction notices are still taped up around the plaza. But as far as I could tell — yes, the city has a very good point. The place was pretty disgusting.
Paradise for rats.
Even more disturbingly, all over the camp were signs that said "Not a toilet," because some occupiers basically relieve themselves wherever and whenever they feel the urge. Disgusted campers started putting up signs so that their particular tents wouldn't be on the receiving end of any effluvia.
One tree had basically become an outside communal toilet, so the more environmental-minded Occupiers put up signs trying to discourage doing one's business au naturel.
INTIMIDATING "INTERNAL SECURITY" TEAMS
Occupy Oakland has agreed by consensus to not cooperate with the Oakland Police Department under any circumstances. But as the law-breaking and nuisance behavior within the encampment started to grow, the evolving mini-society found it necessary to appoint its own ersatz police force. Basically, the scariest looking guys, and/or those guys with with strongest authoritarian urge, have assumed the role of internal policemen. As many reporters have discovered, these guys really really do not appreciate having their picture taken, so I could only get a few surreptitious shots. In this scene, someone had found a large Bowie knife in the camp and turned it into these two Occupolice, who set about scanning the crowd for the potential owner, ready to wreak justice on anyone who broke the "no weapons"
law consensus agreement. They communicate with walkie-talkies.
There also seemed to be a possibly separate "rally security force" consisting of guys wearing Black Panther buttons on their berets.
People have often cited Lord of the Flies in reference to Occupy Oakland, and I tend to agree -- but in a good way. In the original novel about boys stranded on a desert island, it's not just that they descend into barbarism, but more interestingly they start to re-create society from first principles, instituting hierarchies and rules and customs where none had existed before. And it's quite obvious that, left on their own for a sufficient amount of time, the book's characters would naturally have developed a new society not much different from the one they left behind.
I see the same thing happening at Occupy Oakland: They reject the existence of the current police force, only to find it necessary to found a new substitute police force of their own, which were it to mature would eventually become an institution probably not much different from the original Oakland Police Force they so reviled. Here, for example, is the first incarnation of a "police station" in the emerging Occupy culture.
Around and around the cycle goes.
Remember Lovelle Mixon, the serial rapist, child molester and murderer who single-handedly committed one of the worst mass killings of police officers in American history? Yeah, that guy. Well, the anti-police sentiment at Occupy Oakland is so intense that they regard Lovelle Mixon as a hero!! Whatever other crimes he may have committed, if he offed some pigs, then all is forgiven. Fuck the Po-lice! Power to the people!
I guess there are so many crime victims at the camp that the Occupiers have found it necessary to establish a donation fund to help them -- presumably to replace stolen items. Come back in ten years' time, and this will be called "the insurance industry."