In the most recent issue of California Northern: A New Regionalism, D. Scot Miller sums up his experience of Occupy Oakland in his essay “The Hungry Got Food, the Homeless Got Shelter: The First Days of Occupy Oakland.” It’s worth tracking down a copy of this magazine just to read Miller’s essay. He gives one of the best summaries yet of what Occupy Oakland was trying to do, written by someone who was there from the beginning:
The hungry got food, and the homeless got shelter. The street kids who smoked and drank at the plaza before Occupy arrived continued to smoke and drink — and now they passed around books from the free library. People were helping each other, looking out for one another, and turning their backs on the stresses of foreclosed homes and benefit cuts. I saw people being radicalized by conversation and generosity….
If that’s what Occupy Oakland stood for, Miller also provides one of the best summaries I’ve yet heard of what Occupy Oakland stood in opposition to:
To me, the Occupy movement is a simple acknowledgement of a class war that was declared against the “99%,” a war that has resulted in the dismantling of the labor movement, an escalation of the war on drugs, the growth of the prison-industrial complex, cuts in school and domestic programs, and a consolidation of wealth and power by corporations that put them beyond the reach of any governmental body. The rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer, and ignoring it ain’t working.
However, Miller says the media never portrayed Occupy Oakland accurately. For one thing, the media misrepresented race:
We watched the corporate media train their cameras on the people and incidents that “proved” Occupy was a monolithic, hierarchical structure composed of white, middle-class twentysomethings. Those of us who didn’t fall into this demographic, like my black self, were invisible.
Finally, Miller offers insight into where Occupy has gone:
After the Novermber 2, 2011, general strike,… I didn’t get involved with any other direct actions. Many of my friends had moved on to more focused cells focused on separate issues such as fighting foreclosures and creating sustainable free daycare and healthcare…. I’m not attached to any location, any name, any ethos….
In other words, the work that has to be done was never tied to Occupy Oakland or Oscar Grant Plaza. Putting up tents in front of Oakland City Hall is done; we can check it off the list. Now there are other things to do.
A painter’s view of Occupy Oakland in front of Oakland City Hall, October 24, 2011, some 12 hours before the police broke up the encampment.