The Brief but Influential Life of Oh-Oh Three-Oh at 19th & Telegraph

Certainly, those who claimed that the move to 19th and Broadway Telegraph was a tactical error will think they can claim the high ground today as the OPD throws away yet another set of tents. But the reality of the day of actions on Saturday is not such a simple story. Rather than lend credence to the idea that OO can’t co-exist with residential communities, and that it must fastidiously guard its PR brand, Saturday’s successful event proves that the movement can’t be boxed into conventional ideas of protest, nor when it should be allowed.

First of all, the crowd that took the lot at 19th and Telegraph was huge–thousands. It wound itself into a gigantic cluster of joyous and raucous people in front of the Grand Lake Theater and took the entire span of Grand on both sides on its way to the new encampment site. Along the way, drivers happily pulled over and/or waited, honking their horns, pumping their fists and hooting. Even people on the bus were enthused; that’s a tough crowd.

When the thousands-strong mass arrived at the corner, a lonely and sad group of people who claimed to be residents of the community were out protesting against the encampment to-be. A couple of protesters from OO helped create some space between the two, to prevent the kind of shouting matches that end up becoming “two sides” stories in the news at 11—one side being thousands of people, the other a handful of others with an opposing view. The anti-protest protest gave up quickly, as they often do. When you are publicly protesting against the idea of public protest, I assume you start feeling stupid within a very short amount of time. Soon after they left, they were replaced by two men holding a banner with the 99% slogan—the attempt to hi-jack the 99% meme to paint protesters as divisive backfired, a product of the meme’s own success as a vague place-holder for true dissent and real political discourse.

Once OO 3.0 was staked into the earth, a dance party ensued. I actually don’t think it was the best strategy to do that, but the idea was to keep as many people there all night as possible to prevent the rousting that was the eventual fate of the camp. A night of pissing rain nipped that strategy in the bud [the fate of the music truck is a story for another day]. Personally, I think if not for the rain, the camp would have held on to the lot for at least another day. We’ll never know now.

But some issues and ideas emerged clearly from the day:

The movement is going strong, and has tons of community support. Every time people count out this movement, it doubles back stronger than ever. No one knows why, even the people that organize and make these events happen are constantly shocked and amazed at the turnout and support. The reality must be, I think, that the level of dissatisfaction and anger at the status quo is so great that people don’t even have to be organized anymore, they simply join in. They’re simply waiting for something to jump into.

The character assassination by city hall, the media, police, the Oakland Chamber of Corporate Hegemony and now “local residents” has failed to demonize this movement. Despite predictions that Occupy Oakland would permanently deform growing minds if placed too close to their school, thousands of Oakland residents marched to the new site to establish the camp.

Thousands of Oaklanders Head to 19th and Telegraph to Establish OO-3.0

As you can see in this video, bystanders honked, hooted and cheered and were more than happy to pay the price of sitting in traffic and the creation of a lost generation of critically thinking children resistant to conventional platitudes and establishmentarian support at OSA.

Supposed local residents who opposed the camp may have been in the minority. No more than a dozen residents participated in a counter-demonstration on the corner of 19th and Telegraph. This is remarkable given that the square block is home to hundreds of people in half a dozen condominiums ‘luxury’ apartments.

Close to midnight, one resident came down to bring a family size French press full of coffee, and a basket with cups, sugar, and milk to the core of demonstrators who stayed to brave the rain and defend the camp. Though she preferred not to be named, she was happy to speak to me and I conducted a short interview with her. She revealed that most of the neighbors she’d talked to were really only concerned about the possibility of high sound levels late night. She considered herself a “radical moderate for immediate regime change” and had bought earplugs; she felt that the earplugs were a small price to pay to maintain the constitutional right to free speech.

Occupy Oakland proves that it’s a protean and organic movement, as close to “leaderless” as any movement full of human egos can be. A march to Lakeview school, which was ordered shut down by a government that can spare millions for endless militarized police wildings, but not for education, did not detract from other events of the day. Intrepid direct action protesters set up a memorial vegetable box garden at the north end of the old camp site, in full view of police guarding the plaza. It was an act of civil disobedience so fucking beautiful that no one in the city or police has been able to summon the cruelty necessary to dismantle it as yet.

Another waste of city money and police resources in a failed effort to prevent encampments hurts city hall, not the movement. Its only a matter of time before the city and police concede that theirs is a failed strategy. OO has the support of the people—police, the city council, the mayor, do not. Supporters of the Occupy movement don’t blame the campers for the expense, or inconvenience, or “violence” but the people actually causing those things, city hall and the police.

Rather than a failed attempt to repost camp, the march to 19th and Telegraph and the temporary encampment there are another positive referendum on the primacy of dissent over local and national authority. Sometime this week, the city will have to decide if it wants to rebuild the fence around the lot, or complete the process of its destruction so that the community can make use of the space in their neighborhood as they wish—for planter boxes, picnics, gatherings, and sports and recreation for the all-important children of the area.

 The decision is a symbolic mirror of the choice that everyone in Oakland faces at this juncture—to return to a state of affairs in which a corrupt, inept structure runs the city into ruin, while preventing people from making use of the potential before them. Or to continue on this new path–though not always safe or comfortable–which demands that we all  pose tough questions about the status quo and the heinous reality it already represents.

Note: Shortly after I wrote and published this, the city did indeed rip out the garden. There’s no conceivable reason for this. Not even Quan’s most liberal supporters will be able to justify this one [I’m probably speaking too soon here, too]. Perhaps an inebriated arugula from the violence-prone box threatened nearby school-children.


23 thoughts on “The Brief but Influential Life of Oh-Oh Three-Oh at 19th & Telegraph

  1. Thanks. I so much appreciate your commentary on the ins and outs of and on the whole wonderful, ever unfolding Occupy Oakland experience and extravaganza.

  2. the condos surrounding sat at 85% occupied for over a year as the developers refused to lower the over the top rents. the only building full is the one that was mandated low income. gentrification fail.

      • so, what you are saying is that the low income housing was filled, correct? That seems to be a good thing, to me. The “gentrification” of the uptown area has worked well to revitalize the area. The housing displaced empty warehouses and brought people back to downtown. Now, unlike 15 years ago, business is thriving in downtown and uptown with locally owned businesses. Owned by the same rainbow of people that make up Oakland as a whole.

      • Gentrification is a symptom of a system that can’t address systemic inequality. In essence, it says that the way to help struggling businesses is to rid the area of poor people and replace them with affluent people who can afford to buy enough of the wares of the local business to keep them above water. Where do the poor people go? Well, if you can’t fit them all into the one subsidized housing complex in the area, I suppose they’re just supposed to go to hell.

  3. I didn’t like the idea to move to 19th because it felt like a de-escalation, when we ought to be ramping it up. The port shut down is plenty escalation for me, and folks consensed on 19th, so I stayed all night to defend it. I learned to love it, and it hurt to see it get trashed by the cops. I’m down to re-take 19th any day of the week.

    • I think it showed that the power is still there as well as a large measure of support. The power comes from the fact that no matter what media and those who oppose say about OO, the public still supports it and comes out in great numbers. That’s amazing.

  4. I just to clarify what has been incorrectly stated over and over and over again. The residential areas are not–nor have they ever been, or were ever PLANNED to be condos. They were built to be apartments around 5 years ago. I have lived here since day 1. The Uptown is a complex comprised of 3 buildings ALL of which are mixed income. ALL of which operate at or very near occupancy. Because the buildings are mixed-income our community is very diverse, and runs the gamut from fully subsidized families to single NBA stars. The Uptown is home to immigrants, graduate students, families, artists, home-business owners, restauranteurs, and others of every nationality, ethnicity, orientation, and political affiliation you can think of. The community TRULY represents the diversity of Oakland. The other complex is a separate group of subsidized APARTMENTS. I do not know as much about that property, but I do know -they were NEVER condos. Additionally, I don’t see how this is ‘gentrification’ since the very purpose of the apartments was to provide affordable, safe, housing, close to a quality public school in the heart of Oakland. Or how it ‘failed’ The placement of the apartment have increased foot traffic to many area businesses, which has helped them thrive. The apartments did not displace anyone and were built on the site of what used to be a Sears auto center and was most recently parking. Please do not misrepresent the residents that are very proud of their community. There is no reason to say they are something that they are not. I can provide ample documentation for all these points. You could do, if you had done the research.

    • Okay, you proved that they’re rental units, not condos–I used the term without really thinking about it. If you read my piece, its not integral to anything I wrote–I’ll change it now.

      But that’s not really the point you claimed to be making. You’re saying they’re affordable and thus allow a mixed community. You seem to be saying that the fact that they’re not condos means that they’re affordable by default. THEY’RE OUTRAGEOUSLY EXPENSIVE–AND THEY’RE MARKETED AS LUXURY APARTMENTS.

      A studio starts at about $1500. That’s almost double the rate in surrounding neighborhoods, if not more. Someone making a decent salary, something like 40 grand a year [the median income in Oakland], would be paying half their take home in rent to live IN A STUDIO. Sorry, that’s crazy. I have nothing against people who want to pay that much for rent, nor people who live in condos. Rather, my complaint was against people who say they support the Occupation movement, while trying to make sure its nowhere near them, and not giving a crap whether it lives or dies.

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  6. Here’s the first: Oakland Tribune July 17 2004. The second article on the page discusses the developers plan to start building 100 apartments and then add more in later phases:

    This one outline’s Forest City’s plan to build 1200 apartments and student housing and condos for Berkeley students. Condo’s were planned to come later–not as part of the housing development I currently reside in:

    This is a lengthy article but worth it. Read “The Activist’s Plan” and the description of RENTAL units

    Written in 2004 Describes voting on the proposal to build 700 apartments

    Do you want more? I am not sure how much I am allowed to post at 1 time. As you can see–though other ideas were tossed around since the 90’s, Forest City’s proposal was written and accepted in 2004 to build 665 apartments. When they broke ground, the intention was to build apartments–not condos. Though there was (maybe even is?) some talk about a SECOND phase that would include creating condos at an as yet to be determined site, The Uptown was apartments. I chose to live here because I grew up in low income housing (in another state) and it was completely segregated. Just by listing my address, people knew I came from a poor family. That is why, as an adult, who no longer receives subsidized housing, I chose to live in a community that supports mixed economic housing. I am not saying the place is perfect–it’s not, but I am saying a lot of good people who really care about Oakland and want what’s best for its future live here. I just want to be portrayed accurately.

  7. Thanks for this story. I did the march but then got exhausted by the time it was headed toward the theater and had to go home and was only able to watch the dance party on the livestream — it looked wonderful though, as brief as it was.

    The next day I saw amazing photos on a London website of joyful faces as people climbed over the fences and took over the space — at that point the world did not yet know that the space had already been raided.

    And the point is, what matters was not whether the camp continued to exist or not, but that the images of ‘what can be’ are being broadcast around the world — knocking down the fences that contain us and control us, cheering and smiling while doing so. It was an amazingly iconic image and those are the images that plant seeds in the minds of people all over the world.

    Seeing where we want to go — imagining it, feeling it — is critically important as one step to getting there.

    If for nothing else but that, the continued efforts to advance the Oakland Commune, this effort in particular, are probably more important than any of us realize right now.

    Writer and activist Rebecca Solnit describes it so well, the potential importance of such actions:

    “It’s always too soon to go home. And it’s always too soon to calculate effect. I once read an anecdote by someone in Women Strike for Peace, the first great antinuclear movement in the United States, the one that did contribute to a major victory: the 1963 end of aboveground nuclear testing with its radioactive fallout that was showing up in mother’s milk and baby teeth. She told of how foolish and futile she felt standing in the rain one morning protesting at the Kennedy White House. Years later she heard Dr. Benjamin Spock—one of the most high-profile activists on the issue then—say that the turning point for him was seeing a small group of women standing in the rain, protesting at the White House. If they were so passionately committed, he thought, he should give the issue more consideration himself.”

  8. nitpicking, but not sure why this and so many others articles on this say 19th and BROADWAY, and then later say 19th and TELEGRAPH–often in consecutive sentences. Not only is Bway incorrect, but the inconsistency is confusing.

    • You’re right. You can see in the headline, I wrote Telegraph, but in writing I absently wrote Broadway. Fixed it, IMHO, not a very big issue, because its the one place in Oakland where its hard to remember where you actually are, where the streets fork.

  9. @Jaime; don’t you think YOU’RE responsible to do your research and edit your work BEFORE publishing it? “Long day” – that’s your excuse for posting without even bothering to look it over? It’s shoddy and irresponsible, and it serves only to add fuel to the fires of those who claim that the OO movement is comprised of many of the same, ranting radicals who can’t be bothered to do the difficult back-end work like collaborating with those pesky “residents”. I’m so sick of the whining. I look forward to seeing a well-written article about what the OO movement has done to IMPROVE the community and bring the 99% together. Good luck with that.

    • Of course, that’s why when people point out errors, I feel a tinge of shame. When those errors are substantive, I regret them and do my best to correct. None of the errors pointed out here have been substantive. Whether or not these are condos, or rental units was not something integral to my argument–but it was to the person making that comment, in that they sought to prove that the fact that these are apartments means that they’re affordable. They’re not. They’re advertised as luxury apartments in the website, as I’ve shown, and the cheapest one is roughly equivalent to the salary of a person making minimum wage in Oakland. On the issue of telegraph vs. broadway, I’ll admit to writing Telegraph in the headline and subsequently and absently writing Broadway a few times. Whoa. Intrepid fact checking there.

  10. Seriously? Didyou READ the articles??Saying they are condos is different. You are right–some of the units are pricey. I told you, we have people like NBA stars living here. They chose this location because they love it, they can afford to pay full price (like myself) and they know by paying full price they can help to ensure that those who cannot pay full-price live here. Did you also see that at least 20% of the apartments has to be low-income occupancy? Did you see that most other residents making up the ‘middle class’ receive subsidies? Did you actually READ the articles? Did you see how the proposal by Forest City and City of Oakland worked to ensure that people could live here with full access to welfare offices? That a diverse population could be here? Do you deny that the apartment next to the Uptown is 100% LOW INCOME/AFFORDABLE HOUSING? Yep, right next to the school. They also border the park that was inhabited. My articles DO show that. I can’t help if you did not care to read/understand them. The fact that you paint people here to be very rich, even part of the 1% is a HUGE problem. I work a medical resident, I work hospital 90 hrs a week. I make less than 30,000/year . I chose to live here b/c it is close to transportation and I don’t have to pay for a car. I volunteer at a number of organizations, and could not come out to support other residents on Saturday b/c directly after leaving the hospital I go volunteer for a program offering free medical care to children with HIV/AIDs. They rely on me–I couldn’t get out of it. Do NOT tell me how much I pay in rent defines who I am, also you are not accurately portraying us. As a ‘journalist’ you have to realize that even the smallest terms you use, such as “condos” creates a tone that paints an inaccurate picture. What if I, as a physician mixed up the words “Toporol” and “Tinzanidine” and said “Ah–sorry guys. You’re right. Long day–but close enough.” I assure you they are all LONG days. Luckily your mistake didn’t kill anyone, but it did affect your message. Additionally, making mistakes like calling them “condos” instead of “apartments” undermines your message–we sit wondering-what else did this person not bother fact checking?

  11. And by the way, I find it more than a little bit obnoxious that you sit back and write an article without doing adequate research, and then challenge your readers to correct the errors and do YOUR research for you. Although I love to see people come together for any cause, I kind of think you should be responsible for researching YOUR OWN article before publishing it.

  12. Here’s a little info on Fox Courts, which you have conveniently ignored in your arguments. Even if you are convinced that the people of the Uptown were two busy sitting back in their gold-plated “condos” counting their money to care about Occupy, you have to admit that Fox Court is TOTALLY 100% Low Income and VERY Low Income Housing. Along with the School they border 1/3 of the park and are an INTEGRAL component of our burgeoning neighborhood that we take GREAT pride in.

    Unfortunately, I now have to get back to my own job, so I have to retire from being your research assistant for the day. I really hope by reading these articles you can begin to appreciate the work that has already been done here, and you can understand how the residents are continuing to work to improve the community. You are right, I was not at occupy on Saturday. As I stated, I have very little time of my own, and I must choose carefully how to spend it. To me, sick kids will win, because I know I have a specific set of skills I can use to care for them, and there are not many people who can replace me in that way. That does not mean I am a bad person, or part of the 1%. I chose to improve my little corner of the world in a different way. I think it would have been really fun to party in the park with music, and get to know everyone involved, I REALLY do, but I had to make a tough choice.

  13. And in response to your statement Gentrification is a symptom of a system that can’t address systemic inequality. In essence, it says that the way to help struggling businesses is to rid the area of poor people and replace them with affluent people who can afford to buy enough of the wares of the local business to keep them above water. Where do the poor people go? Well, if you can’t fit them all into the one subsidized housing complex in the area, I suppose they’re just supposed to go to hell.

    Keep in mind before the two different Apartment Complexes moved in (1 which is 100 percent affordable housing) and the other which must remain AT LEAST 25% affordable/low income housing, there was NO LOW INCOME HOUSING here. Gentrification implies as you state “Rid the area of poor people”. NO ONE LIVED HERE, and if someone was ‘squatting’ in the parking lot or a vacant building (which no one found evidence of) they would certainly qualify for housing at one of the locations. Prior to the Uptown, this was a parking lot and an old building that was considered to unstable to restore and had no evidence of squatters. As for part 2 of the definition, The apartments that went up include the Fox Court Apartments with 100 percent low income and VERY low income housing, and the Uptown with 25% Low income and very low income housing, and the remainder of people across the board. Many receive subsidies for mid-rate units to make the ‘ridiculously expensive’ less expensive. So once again, no one was displaced. Additionally, no one said that the Uptown and Fox Court were going to provide housing for every low income person in Oakland, and no one told them to “Go to Hell” either. It’s a start. They worked with the city to do SOMETHING to help people find safe and affordable housing, and to encourage those with extra money to spend it in Oakland. I think they have done a great job of both.

  14. The following was posted to Jamie’s previous post: answer me one thing: how does disrupting an elementary school, low income housing and small businesses alleviate economic inequality and hold banks accountable? Aren’t those the goals of Occupy? How can stunting the growth of an upcoming neighborhood in Oakland achieve the aims OWS initially set out? Separating yourself from the community will only serve to destroy the movement. Attempting to occupy 19th and Telegraph was merely pitting the 99% against the 99%. No more no less. It had nothing to do with Citibank or an uneven tax code. I support the Occupy movement. I no longer support Occupy Oakland.

    Also, Broadway and 19th do not fork with Telegraph whatsoever. You know nothing of this neighborhood, nor do you care for it. You are reckless and irresponsible and it’s individuals like you that undermine the positive elements of “Occupy.”

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