Frankly, at the beginning, I was not a huge fan of Slutwalk or #Occupy. I’m still not particularly enamored of either.
Three weeks ago, I loitered on my hotel bed in Collinsville, waiting to go home, when, thanks to Twitter, I first saw Youtube videos of my hometown at war. Already raw from the events at work, I was shocked to see men in body armor marching through my downtown against a hazy orange sky. I teared up at the smoke clouds before my BART station, and pre-angrily clenched my fists at my city as war zone.
My criticism of both Slutwalk and #Occupy comes down to, I think, essentially two intersecting points:
1. They’re nondirectional, in that there is not a particular, discrete target of either. I mean, maybe there is. Misogyny? Capitalism? But the “misogyny” aspect of Slutwalk is so obscured — see, e.g., the blatant racism and classism endorsed by many — and come on, like the vast majority of Americans/the 99/even the Occupiers think that capitalism, itself, needs to go.
2. Both are targeted — if they’re targeted — at forces that don’t necessarily respond to democratic protest. For example, in high school, I, too, participated in protests against going to war in Iraq, but I still stand by that now, because, at least nominally, those decisionmakers are supposed to listen to the electorate. Goldman Sachs, however, or whoever, doesn’t have to listen to us at all.
So, against this backdrop, why have I rallied for #occupyoakland? Frankly, because of the insane, overwrought police backlash.
I don’t need to beat a dead horse. If you know me, I’ve probably subjected you to an interminable newsfeed of horrendous OPD behavior over the past few weeks. But for a recent example, today, the newspaper reports that at last night’s raid, most police officers covered their name tags and badges with tape or body armor — directly defying California Penal Code § 830.10, which requires all uniformed law enforcement personnel to display their name or identification number on their uniform.
Again, if you want more background, I’d be happy to talk to you about it, or to point you to some specific resources. But my own personal perspective is that when I have needed, have requested, the OPD, they have never been there. My one-on-one interactions with OPD officers largely have been absolutely fine, and even during the event I’m about to mention, have been perfectly pleasant. But there has got to be an institutional issue.
I have called the OPD, at one o’clock on a weekday morning, several times in a row, asking for their assistance in an emergency. And they showed up — two hours later. And they walked him away, telling him to sleep it off at a friend’s house, but he came back thirty minutes later.
And all I’m saying here is that: when you have an emergency, and it takes them so long to come that the potential crisis would not have been averted; and when you live in one of the wealthiest zip codes in the city, and “sound white,” and describe the imminent threat to your dispatch agent, and still must wait so long; and when there is a one-foot, sixty-pound discrepancy between you and your antagonist, and all the police do is walk him to the front door —
And then you see hundreds of officers converge on a peaceful protest, at which there had been, at that point, no property destruction, no violent incidents, no crime out of the ordinary, and all this congregating was located in a business district in which the protestors were not keeping local residents awake at night, because there are none —
And you see the OPD and the city do this, again and again, and both parties attempt to absolve themselves of responsibility —
And you hear the OPD and the city complain that the protestors need to leave so the police officers can “go back to their jobs” and police the rest of the city —
And you remember that the FBI considers Oakland the fifth most dangerous city in the United States, and that all parts of the city except the site on which the protestors congregate are considered fairly dangerous, and that girls go missing every day, and over one hundred people have been killed with guns so far in 2011 (seven of them by the OPD), and this rate has increased this year, and there is prostitution, and open drug dealing, and shootings, and break-ins, and beatings, and theft, and burglary, in most of the city, and the police do very little to help these residents in any zip code but my own, and my neighbors’ —
And you know that the Oakland Unified School District had been (has been, is) so plagued by failure that the state took it over for five years, and that the OPD has manifested such utter disregard for the rule of law that it has been under the monitoring of a federal judge since 2003, per a U.S. Department of Justice inquiry —
And you see Cal students peacefully, loudly protesting in Sproul Plaza, when the UC cops suddenly lose their shit and start waling on the students with their batons, again, and again, and again, while scared students shriek in confusion and anguish, but hold their line —
And you remember that, on the night the police first congregated and laid waste to #occupyoakland, it was just another night in Oakland, on which most of us were sleeping comfortably in our beds but too many were scared, were endangered, were dangers, were hungry, were cold, were exhausted, were hopeless —
And you remember that the protestors organically decided to rename Frank Ogawa Plaza Oscar Grant Plaza, in remembrance of the poor young man, lying face-down on a BART platform, shot and killed in the back by a BART officer on New Year’s Day 2009, well before all this occupy v. police insanity ever went down —
while I might think #occupy overall is a little too amorphous for my own tastes, the instant I saw my beloved Oakland as a war zone, I, too, thought that, fucking finally, the world can’t deny the OPD’s institutional failures.
P.S. Another time — Renaming the Plaza and the Erasure of Asian-American Political Influence