Occupy Oakland, from Near and Far


If you don’t live in the immediate Bay Area, or even if you do, you’ve been hearing about how violent last week’s Occupy Oakland “general strike” was. On NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”–not a news show, I know, but still a place I usually think of as careful with facts, the day was summarized as one where police clashed with protesters who tried to shut down the city’s port. No police tried to stop the port shutdown, there were no clashes there, and the protesters succeeded in shutting down the port.

Here’s the way a local news commentator, who knows better, puts it: “The place for action last week was Oakland, where thousands of righteous demonstrators who believe they’ve been marginalized by those in power clashed with police, littered parks, broke windows and defaced buildings to vent their anger at the callous disregard they’ve experienced.”

Leaving for later why these accounts have gained currency–a combination of destructive, belligerent behavior by a relative handful of the demonstrators combined with the media’s natural tendency to focus on trouble wherever it occurs–I just want to say don’t believe everything you read or see (also leaving for later: the philosophical conundrum of whether you should believe anything you read or see right here).

From talking to both participants and people who covered the events that day, the vast majority of folks who took part in the Occupy Oakland strike were people bent on just one thing: peaceful protest. (Next you’ll want to know what they were protesting, and I think you’d get a thousand, or ten thousand, different versions of what brought people out there).

Anyway, here are some pictures of signs seen that day, long before the late-night miscreants (self-styled anarchists whom a friend calls “joy-riding thugs), seized their moment.

Journal of Self-Promotion


Friday morning, I heard on KCBS, the local all-news AM station, that some students had “taken over” Wheeler Hall, a building on the UC-Berkeley campus. As I wrote our morning news team a note about that, the phone rang. It was one of the morning news team asking whether I could go out and cover the Wheeler Hall story. I said I would.  

When I went out to get in the car, I realized I had a flat tire. I thought of riding my bike, but knew it would be hard to find a secure place to lock it up. As I walked back inside the house to ponder my next move — if I walked or took the bus or BART, I’d miss the air time for the upcoming newscast — I heard the neighbors’ dog barking outside. One of the neighbors in question works for the university–in the news office, actually. I ran outside hoping I could catch a ride to campus with him. I did.

I showed up outside Wheeler to find yellow police tape around the building — it might have taken a quarter mile of tape to do put up that line — and several dozen students with banners who had parked themselves across the main north-south path through campus. In a few minutes, I’d sized up what was happening and had lined up a young woman who said she was one of the protest organizers. She wouldn’t give her name, but said it was OK to call her Jane Doe or Emma Goldman. Yeah, she really said that. We put her on the air. I was on, too–both for one of the newscasts and our longer “Forum” discussion show. One observation: I say “um” and “ahhhhh” a lot.

Here are the links to the audio of these immortal radio (and associated) appearances:

The California Report: UC Students Protest Fee Hike

Forum: Students Occupy UC Berkeley Building

Photo slide show: Wheeler Hall protest

And in other self-promotion news: November 22 marks this blog’s sixth anniversary.