the oakland police

"i see how dirty they rollin'."

mary is telling charlie and i about her 3 a.m. experience of being trapped in an alley by the oakland police. "they just show up, and they say, 'now you got five mitutes,' and then they jes' throw that [the tear gas]."

a berkeley resident who showed up to visit some friends, mary ended up staying at the occupation at oscar grant plaza until 2 or 3 a.m. "i'm just looking" she repeats, indicating she did not participate in any activism. she notes how she was impressed with teachers and lawyers taking care of the homeless.

a 61-year-old small-framed woman, mary sure doesn't look like a threat to the oakland police. yet right as she was leaving, the police surrounded the camp and wouldn't let her go. they gave everyone a five-minute warning, and began to tear-gas them.

this was the raid that inspired the first occupy riot in oakland. the rest is history - tear gas, concussion grenades, scott olsen... these stories are old news to people in the bay.

and mary's experience is not entirely unique. my friend stefanie, an old-guard disabled-rights activist, got tear gassed in her wheelchair. "i was just sitting there and praying," she later told me. "we weren't doing anything illegal, although they declared it an illegal gathering."

i've always been interested in street politics, but stories like these inspired me to see for myself what things were like during a police raid in oakland. yesterday i got a text alert on my phone that the police were about to raid oscar grant plaza. i hopped on the bart to downtown oakland, and this is what i saw:

i arrived in time to see a raucous crowd of about 40, screaming and cursing at five stern looking police officers. a tree-sitter hovered above. at least as many people were hanging around the center of the plaza eating, playing foursquare, smoking cigarettes and chatting with each other.

the word was that people had trickled down here from other occupy locations around oakland that had been raided this week. as a result, the oscar grant protest had once again swelled in size. the 24-hour vigil, the police said, had no permit and had to go - at 2 p.m.

about 2:15, more police came around the back of the plaza and told people to move their belongings and the food stores. the ensuing shouting and refusal provoked six or seven rather violent arrests. but what were the official charges? loitering? disorderly conduct?

a lot of occupiers around here have been getting arrested for "resisting arrest." can someone tell me how that works again?

i was pretty sure that the oakland police weren't acting in anyone's best interest, so i joined the effort to block the police van from leaving the plaza. a soft-spoken police officer shoved me back, and they were on their way.



29 degrees fahrenheit.

at people's park we found that more than a dozen people were visible sleeping in the landscaping and out on the sidewalk.

people with clean records and no substance abuse problems, friends of mine, are sleeping outside. on christmas eve.

i'm calling you out berkeley interim city manager christine daniel. your christmas week eviction notice made dozens from our camp sleep on sidewalks and in alleys, separated from the only family they knew by the city municipal code. it's sickening.

being houseless isn't necessarily psychologically damaging, but being robbed of shelter and a place in a community is. shame on the city manager for evicting us.

and shame on the berkeley police officers who hit unarmed women with their clubs without warning. eviction is a nasty business. i'm writing the city! does anyone have a pen?

no more camping bans! write:

christine daniel
professional proliferator of classism
(510) 981-7000 

also: here's a photo essay of the city-mandated shutdown of the occupy eugene encampment.


how we (almost) saved #occupyberkeley

late at night on the corner of center and mlk, phoebe sorgen and i are sitting in her bumper sticker-plastered car, staring down a city map. it's been a long day. the view from phoebe's windshield looks out on around 100 tents, crispy in the late-night frost that plagues december in berkeley, california.

on september 17th, an occupation protesting corporate greed and the hi-jack of our republic by corporations started in manhattan, the first in north america. berkeley followed suit 3 weeks later with an occupy protest outside bank of america. it is one of the longest standing occupations in the united states.

a lot had changed since protestors first set up here on october 8th. numbers had grown dramatically, and a gradual move down the street to mlk park was undergone. american police had dismantled all of the bay area camps, including the neighboring occupy oakland camps, which had served as an unofficial west coast capital to the movement. we were the last camp standing in the bay.

we are trying to save this cause.

as members of the occupy movement, phoebe and i had been attempting desperately to find a way to de-escalate the violence within the this camp. phoebe is a local activist who spent hours every day volunteering with and caring for the residents of this park; and i lived here.

the occupation at the corner of mlk and center was a bit of a paradox - so much strife bleaguered it, and yet the police did not once raid the camp. in contrast to the violent and anti-human city policies of neighboring oakland and san francisco, the city council here endorsed the occupy wall street movement, and suspended the park curfew to at least give the camp a chance to flourish. the police policy was strikingly hands-off.

but the camp had internal conflicts. a relatively friendly crowd during the day, many in the camp would turn violent and start to brawl at night (my account of my first day in berkeley). rapes and attempted rapes were committed. resolutions made by the general assembly, this camp's autonomous government, were largely ignored by rowdy campers. drugs and drug trade abounded.

the berkeley p.d. received hundreds of incident reports, and eventually resorted to walking through and ticketing defiant campers who refused to stay sober or smoke on the sidewalk rather than in the park. despite the efforts of activists in berkeley to restore order to the camp, a largely alcoholic and drug-abusing population of houseless refugees refused to cooperate. the camp was out of control.

within a few days of arriving, i was working hard to save the camp. i talked sympathetically with different groups, listened to stories and encouraged folks, cooked food, fetched water and cleaned up trash. and i also started strategizing for a new drug-free camp where everyone involved in the movement could feel safe camping.

we settled on ohlone park, a quiet location just a few blocks away. proposals to activists garnered mixed reactions. we moved ahead. unfortunately, so did the police. tuesday night, without the knowledge or consent of the berkeley city council, the police served up an eviction notice - the park curfew was to be enforced wednesday night, they said.

so we blitzed. phoebe and i, along with russ, christine, maxina and many others started pro-active negotiations with members of the out-of-session city council. what we heard surprised us. council members jesse arreguin and kriss worthington informed us that the police were refusing to communicate with them. by the end of the day, we had no grounds to believe that the police would not try to raid our new camp as well, should we succeed in establishing one. our plans began to spiral down the drain.

the police attacked a half-way torn down occupy berkeley camp late on the night of wednesday, december 21. non-violent resistance to the raid led to violent attacks from the police. the kindness and respect we had received from them was done with; the city cleared tents out in the morning.

taunting was occurring on both sides.

it was sad to see the police take immature and violent actions against immature but non-violent protestors. it's sad, but the camp had to go for now. however, i have hope for the future. even though the camp is gone, i know the movement will live on.

i am still trying to find places to sleep for several safe and sober people involved in the movement who were just evicted from the park by the police. email me (joeldevyldere(at)msn(dot)com if you have any leads on that.



the stars are always smirking on the east bay,
under chuckling
clouds, faux rivers flow, where thunder interrupts the stereo:

turn off the creek! put out the smog!
stop living large and start
seeing God


defense authorization act

detainees at guantanamo bay military prison
quick update on the world:

the defense authorization bill can be studied at a glance here.

the obama administration seems poised to sign it in to law, possibly today.

you can contact your representatives using this directory. or on twitter ( in oregon, @reppeterdefazio @barackobama, etc.).


port shutdown

karyn and i made shoddy fake press passes, packed snacks and cigarettes and hopped on the bart to west oakland. 

from oscar grant plaza we marched with thousands people of all ages down to the port where occupy oakland had already succeeded in shutting down all of today's operations. we took picture and asked questions.

the atmosphere was electric - music and dancing were the activities of the day. people chanted political slogans and we heard from boots riley, angela davis and famed police brutality victim scott olsen.

once we arrived, a general assembly was called to decide what would be done. the decision was made to hold the port at least until 3 am.

police were scarce. there were no arrests, and all roads leading into the port were guarded by officers. there very few cars on the roads, but a few large vehicles loaded down with dancing protestors blasted dance music for all to hear.

many oaklanders lined the streets, and treated the protest as a parade to watch. some joined in.

the defend oakland tent. these folks occupy foreclosed homes.

not just here in oakland, but all up and down the coast ports were shut down. people were attacked by police in seattle, arrested in houston. in portland people danced and played games of ninja destruction while protesting corporate greed at the port.

you can check out what's happening with the oakland port shutdown by searching #occupyoakland on twitter.


letter to the instigators

unlicensed protest in russia

dear readers,

what is the nature of our rebellion?

i tried but couldn't entertain coherent thoughts about the substance of our revolt. the only message that i hear, five little words:

who made us your slaves?

who engineered post-lockean consent? who closed the public space and opened up the prisons? who tapped the phones and locked the doors? 

who cranked up the tariffs and turned on the licensing fees? who defined corporations as people and money as free speech?

and who do they think they are?

this is only the middle of tyranny. we are running out of these woods, dancing in the intersections and singing revolution songs.

as ever,


"i think the word 'security' is one of the most dangerous words that can be used by governments... security is all right, but freedom is even more important." - stephane hessel
(full interview)



in headlines this week:

$500 million in u.s. military weapons, including helicopters and m-16's have been given out to police forces. doesn't sounds so bad, except...

there is no opposing military force in the u.s.

that's right, despite a remarkable drop in the rate of violent crime nationwide, the u.s. military is now arming local p.d.'s with grenade launchers. 

the pentagon's 1033 is the program under which war-ready weapons are being dispensed to any law-enforcing agency with "powers of arrest and apprehension." 2.6 billion has already been given out, and the daily reports that "orders in fiscal year 2012 are up 400 percent." but why?

micah silfry reports that searches for the word "revolution" are beginning to peak on google search trends, just like they did in greece with the with the may 5 protests, in spain with 15-m and in egypt with the original taking of tahrir square. many in the states have called for an all-out revolution.

the pentagon is not ignorant of this, though a debate still persists on what constitutes conclusive evidence that the department of homeland security is coordinating attacks against the u.s. occupations.

wait... why are police departments around the country gearing up for war? oh, well maybe this: