The Saga of Lies About Oakland Occupy’s Attempt to Take the (Unused) Kaiser Center
For two days in a row, in the 29th and 30th January 2012 issues, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that on the Oakland Occupy march to take over the city-owned, empty and unused Henry J Kaiser Convention Center, “Police ordered marchers to disperse after someone in the crowd threw what appeared to be a smoke bomb at the officers” (“Trading Blame in Occupy aftermath,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 30, 2012).
This is a big lie.
My companion Beth and I were on the Oakland Occupy march, and we were present on the South side of the convention center when the first attempt to bring down the cyclone fence took place. The fence separated the occupiers from the convention center, and as this could have been the only way into the target, a few individuals were trying to bring it down. A thin line of cops on the other side of the fence guarded the empty center. We were a few yards away, when Beth saw a cop detach something from his belt, and toss it right at us. Suddenly, the smoke bomb exploded right at our feet. We were both knocked over, I think by others who were also shocked by the explosion, and trying to get away. We picked ourselves up despite slight injuries, and moved on.
Police did order people to disperse in this incident, but it was (this is the correction) AFTER the smoke bomb that we saw. The smoke bomb, fired by police, was in direct response to the attempt to access the unused, city-owned center, and it was before any order to disperse. The repeated orders to disperse did manage to (gradually) get the march heading back toward Oscar Grant (Frank Ogawa-City Hall) Plaza. But the smoke bomb was from the cops, not the protestors.
Another big lie: who attacked who
Next, a few minutes later, there was an explosion of tear gas and smoke bombs (flash bangs) just a block or so away from the Kaiser Center. The police attack was met by anarchist militants who had both plastic shields and large shield contraptions made of corrugated metal, with carry-handles bolted to the inside, requiring several people to carry. A bit cumbersome, I thought. We were a block away from this action, but we heard a cheer go up at one point. “What happened,” I asked. Someone threw a tear gas canister back at the cops,” was the reply. My first thought was, I hope that person was wearing gloves, since these things are hot. I heard later that someone who threw a tear gas canister back at cops suffered severe burns.
This raises the question of attacks on the police. There may have been one or two instances in which things were thrown at the cops, I don’t know. The cops managed to come up with three “injured” officers, one with a bruise, one with a scratch, etc. Who are the chief perpetrators of violence? The police injured many in this action, some in brutal vindictive beatings, in which they wailed away on protesters for no reason.
Demonstrations such as this have many elements, and some protestors may hurl a thing or two at the defenders of property and the capitalist order. The vast majority of this march wanted to peacefully liberate unused property in order to provide social services… services which capitalism is cutting back on, and not providing. The protectors of capital and property are far and away the chief perpetrators of violence.
And another big lie: the YMCA
In the second march, the one that happened mostly after dark, marchers were trapped in a “ketteling” (read corralling, or surrounding), right outside the YMCA at 24th and Broadway. According to witness reports, some 300 plus were arrested, after the cops charged in from two sides and pinned the marchers against the YMCA building. Media reports that the Occupy had tried to take over the YMCA were so much dreck. What happened was that the cops jammed people in against the building, but did not give an order to disperse. They simply said, “You’re all under arrest.”
According to eyewitness reports, some marchers were asking to be ordered to disperse, but this was not to be. The cops proceeded to handcuff and throw hundreds into busses, which were brought up for the task. About 100 protestors escaped the dragnet by entering the YMCA and running out the back door. At no point was there any attempt to take over the YMCA.
Yet another big lie: the City Hall
The Mayor said they used a crowbar, but witnesses are united and clear that the doors to City Hall were open at 8:30 p.m. or so on the night of the 28th, when a handful of protestors entered City Hall and did some damage, such as tipping over a model of the City Hall building, spray painting, burning a U.S. flag, and allegedly damaging a display of children’s art. Furthermore, reports from frequent Occupy supporters indicate that the City often left the doors unlocked so that occupiers and homeless people could come in to use the facilities. And there was a press conference about to take place. So why did the city make up the lie that someone had used a crowbar to open the doors?
Occupy protestors were outraged when Mayor Jean Quan said, at a press conference that night at 9:00 p.m., that the doors had been opened with a crow bar (where’s the evidence?); and City Council member Ignacio de La Fuente charged the Occupy protestors with being “domestic terrorists.” Just like the regime of Ron Dellums, another notorious liberal who came before her, both former leftist Jean Quan, and conservative former union bureaucrat de La Fuente, have shown that there is no difference between liberals and arch reactionaries when it comes to defense of private property and the state. (de La Fuente is also a former “leftist.”)
The Occupy movement has many challenges ahead. The attempt to take the Kaiser Center was politically solid, but tactically virtually impossible. The cops had the advantage, and chased, pursued and arrested the demonstrators all day and night. A handful of people trashed some things, but the occupy movement as a whole suffered a defeat, and it showed on the faces of many that night. There are many decades of revolutionary experience, and class-struggle lessons to learn from. It’s time to get started.
—February 3, 2012