The Occupy Wall Street movement continues to develop in cities around the country and here all around the Bay. Early this morning, San Jose police arrested four protesters outside City Hall, and cited another for camping on public property.
In downtown San Francisco today, interfaith religious leaders marched in support of the burgeoning movement.
Meanwhile, in Oakland, demonstrators continue to defy the city’s orders to take down their tents.
Oakland’s encampment went up two weeks ago, when hundreds of people took to the streets outside Oakland’s City Hall in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement – and they haven’t left. Over the past two weeks, Frank Ogawa Plaza has become a veritable tent city, complete with a free kitchen that serves food daily, a medical center, a kids’ zone, and wooden pathways built between the tents.
Oakland city officials had been relatively tolerant of the occupation until last Thursday, when they issued a notice to vacate, citing health and safety concerns. So far, the police have not made a move to enforce the ban on overnight camping.
Protester Penny Opal Plant says she thinks the demonstrators are in for the long haul:
PENNY OPAL PLANT: Personally, speaking for myself, I think that the tents will stay and the tents will stay wherever they are around the country. And that if the tents get taken down that they’ll come back with more people, and that there’s Twitter and Facebook and all the telephones, and every other way that people let others know that the tents are being taken down in every city. When those words go out, people show up.
Last week, KALW’s Jen Chien and Sara Bernard spent a day at the encampment – from early morning until midnight – to learn more about its culture, rhythms, and logistics. Here’s what they found, as reported by Jen Chien.
JEN CHIEN: It’s 7:30am and some city workers at Frank Ogawa Plaza are using some very noisy, high-powered hoses to clean off the steps. There aren’t a lot of people up yet, even with all the noise. But then a sleepy-eyed man stumbles out of a tent near the camp’s main center…
SHEIK ANDERSON: My name is Sheik Anderson, I’m from Oakland, California, and I’m an artist.
I ask him to give me the lay of the land.
ANDERSON: We have a supply tent where we have clothes that are donated, blankets, sleeping bags… We have a school where we have information, we have a media tent and an info tent, we even have a little garden growing, and we have a full kitchen – no one’s hungry…
There’s no one individual that could take responsibility for anything that is done here. Everything is a collective effort.
And that’s not just for practical reasons. Unlike at most political protests, many at Occupy Oakland see this collective effort as fundamental to their aims: a promise of a new way to organize society. You can see it in action around the plaza. Over in the kitchen area, two young men are peeling carrots and potatoes in the prep tent, while two others are serving cooked food at a long table. Jamal Porter shows me around the kitchen area.
JAMAL PORTER: My name is Jamal Porter, I was born here in Oakland, California. And I’m here to assist. The front table is lined with condiments and staffed by serving individuals, who serve anyone who’s hungry. Off to the side we have our little pantry, with our oats and berries, and canned goods that people are so generously donating…
We go in shifts, we don’t have a schedule, just someone shows up and relieves someone. And then behind that is where the dishes are done. So this is going on 24 hours a day.
The high-pressure hoses have now stopped and it looks like a yoga teacher has set up for a class, but no students yet… There are some tourists taking some photographs of the encampment.
MIKE PORTER: My name is Mike Porter, I’m from Concord. I’m kind of embarrassed to say it, but I sell Direct TV. I am pedaling a bike that’s hooked up to an alternator, to power our media tent, and to charge cell phones.
CHIEN: Have you taken a shift here, for a specific amount of time?
PORTER: I just saw there was nobody on it, and I was finished eating, have some time to kill before I have to be at work, so…
The campers put down straw all over the grass at Frank Ogawa Plaza. And they’ve made a walkway using wooden pallets and boards going through the tent area. There’s a lot of tents, and among the hundreds of tents, there’s even a kids’ zone, with crayons, toys, and books. Rachel Dorney, sporting a green face-paint mustache, is watching the kids.
RACHEL DORNEY: This can be a really big driving force for the occupation. Just not being so serious all the time, and aggravated. If people would just look around and be like, “There are these beautiful kids, and the activities that they’re doing, it’s just so wonderful.” The other day we had this drum circle with the kids and it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I kind of cried a little bit, just seeing it. It was perfect. I kind of wish the world could be like this …
It’s about 8:45 in the morning, and right in front of City Hall, the yoga class now has five students, and live musical accompaniment. Over at the opposite end of camp from the central kitchen area is a first aid tent, and I notice some port-a-potties over to one side…
CHIEN: Inquiring minds want to know, where are people using the bathroom?
CARLA WEST: There are these Porta-Potties. They are getting a little full. They are serviced on a regular basis, but they might need to do it more often …
That’s Carla West, a radio producer and high school tutor who has been camped out at Occupy Oakland for the last three nights.
For more on the story, visit KALW.org.