I’ve been at Occupy Oakland for a few hours now. It’s tense and sad. I’m watching cops who look exhausted and near emotionally broken. I have been talking with my fellow protestors. I’m asking them to please not hurl angry words at the police on the other side of the barricade. Once or twice that has brought angry words at me. I’m ok with that. When I look across this barricade and I see grown men on the verge of tears I can’t help but feel that this entire circus is bad for everyone. The police are just people. They are the 99% as well. When protestors yell that a smiling police officer is a disgusting pig, what they are saying is that joy in another human being is wrong. Most of the people who crack smiles on the other side of the barricade look very nervous. Smiling is a nervous reaction.
Last night the various police forces of the bay area joined together to slowly, carefully, evict people from Oscar Grant Plaza. I’m not sure why. I’m not sure what the goal was. Does the city really believe this will do anything other than energize the movement? Persecuted groups fight back. They have a force to unite against. I wish the force we were fighting against looked different.
I don’t want to fight the Oakland PD. I know about their reputation. They have earned it after years and years of brutality. How can it be changed? How can the people of Oakland work together with the people who are supposed to protect and serve this city? What kinds of things would build a bridge? Last night the police were at least more gentle than normal. I feel very resentful of the fact that I am surprised.
I think that every person should have the gut level expectation of civil treatment. But that isn’t how the world works. Instead we are cruel and vicious with one another and we have to say thank you when someone refrains from hitting us. We can rail and complain and be upset about that, or we can say thank you when someone refrains from hitting us. I feel like that is a lesson I’ve learned a bit too well. There is no such thing as the “right” to being treated well. Please God, most people treat one another well out of the kindness of their hearts. It’s not a right. I don’t know that I believe in rights much.
I’m not sure if I believe in rights, yet here I am. Sitting with a meditation circle (you can see how well I meditate) and watching city employees clean up the debris of a tent city. I’m here because my Constitution gives me the right to peacefully assemble. And I think I should do it. I think it is my obligation today to assemble here in Oakland in support of the homeless people who were just evicted from this park. Because let's be clear here: the encampment is about serving the needs about the homeless population in Oakland. It's a small part of the overall Occupy movement.
Mayor Quan, what were you hoping for?