Monday night, shortly before the General Assembly, a distraught stranger took the stage and began speaking to the crowd about his experiences, apparently just hours earlier, in foreclosure proceedings that took his family home. At first, I think, he seemed angry at us all–and you may be able to hear me say in the recording below “how is this our fault?” or something like that. I realized a short time later that he was simply cutting loose the burden of experiencing such a devastating loss alone. Apparently, this man–and I still don’t know his name–had believed the media narrative that paints Occupy Oakland as an absurd and/or violent clique of spoiled rich kids from Atherton who’ve never experienced hardship of any kind.
I’ve met others at OO who are homeless because their house was foreclosed, and there are others who are homeless for the often-ignored–in the context of the 99% meme–fact that city rents are high and the end result of not paying on time are the same as having one’s home foreclosed. The reality is that the camp is filled with people who have been where the speaker was, some recently, some more than once.
As he speaks, you can hear people calling out to him in support, offering to help defend his home with occupation, and asking him to speak to the General Assembly about his experience. One of those people had just had his bag stolen, which he said contained his computer and pretty much entire life, by some of nefarious predators that have been stalking the camp for the last weeks.That kind of crime was endemic to the downtown area before Occupy Oakland got there; police were never very interested in preventing this kind of violence here or elsewhere. This is the kind of solidarity produced at Occupy Oakland.
The city and attendant media can spread all the lies they like about Occupy Oakland, but the truth is that it gives voice to the voiceless. Who knows what this man would have done if he hadn’t come upon the GA? There are thousands of people experiencing exactly this kind of real “violence” from authorities in Oakland, which are eager to enforce the law when the target is a disempowered poverty-stricken person who can’t afford their artificially inflated debt, but take a walk when its the corporate con-men who’ve run America’s cities and states into bankruptcy.
Once it was common practice to tell people like the impromptu GA speaker to go somewhere else and suffer in silence while they contemplated homelessness and destitution. But no longer.
I wasn’t able to attend most of the GA that night, but I did see him in line to speak. If anyone has the story of how that went, please leave it here in the comments section.
I managed to make an audio recording of some of what he said Monday night. Here’s the link to the audio page, which has an embedded player [also if anyone knows how to embed the player in WordPress, I’m all ears]:
This writing I’ve been doing is part of a larger project with the goal of documenting the history of this unique and unprecedented movement. If you’d like to support this project feel free to visit and contribute to my kickstarter campaign