Tag Archives: Politics

Occupy Oakland Update: Foreclosure Defense, Occupy the Courts, and Move-In Day

Gayla Newsome in Front of her Re-Occupied Home

Here are a few updates on my experiences in Occupy Oakland, which seems to suck me in deeper every time I attend. It’s hard to resist, at least for me. While it’s huge and vast and intimidating, it is also remarkably self-empowering. With the force of passion and numbers, there is the real sense that you can make a difference. You can feel it in the air. Also, I personally tend to have a lot of opinions about politics and Oakland, and I tend to like to talk about them. Now that Occupy is here, it seems disingenuous of me to talk so much without at least trying to put my money where my mouth is. So, here are the updates:

When last I wrote, I told about OO’s Foreclosure Defense Subcommittee, and canvassing in West Oakland. Since my writing, the homeowner in question, one Gayla Newsome, back into her home following a massive rally in a nearby park, and, together with a rotating shift of Occupiers and ACCE members, held the place down for several weeks. A few days after the move in, three police officers, a realtor, and a locksmith showed up at her front door. The Occupier who was there on shift refused to grant them entry, telling them that he was there lawfully (which is true: at the behest of ACCE, the foreclosure defense experts, Gayla formally leased the property to an ally in the fight, who then can grant permission to anyone to stay there — the leaser must now be evicted for the property to be forcibly, legally vacated). 30 Occupiers showed up within the hour and crowded the entryway. Phone calls went out to the Oakland Police Department, to the legal defense team, and to city council. A few hours later, the police and the locksmith and realtor left. The next day, OO Foreclosure Defense held a rally at 51st and Broadway, at the Chase branch where Gayla’s mortgage was held. Miraculously enough, this resulted in Gayla sitting down with the branch manager, who went on to admit that her eviction had not been lawfully executed. In effect, the eviction was called off. Today, the shifts at her home are winding down. Believe it or not, victory. An actual and demonstrable good. I hope there will be more like it (though for some reason I haven’t heard back from the subcommittee organizers or the ACCE people — according to an Occupier I know who spends more time at the plaza, in fact there have been about 5 other successful actions like this, but the homeowners wanted to avoid the publicity).

Now on to Occupy Oakland Courts. Here is a group spearheaded by my cousin, Geza, who got the idea based on the national Move to Amend initiative to nullify corporate personhood, an outgrowth of that strange and hugely unpopular decision brought by the Supreme Court two years ago in the Citizens United case. There is a national day of action on January 20th, the same day that Occupy San Francisco plans on shutting down the city’s financial district (this seems to be coincidence, or rather the financial district action resulted from the MTA national day of action, and the true motivation was forgotten, which, interestingly enough, is in parallel with Occupy Wall Street’s original genesis as well, also planned in part as a protest against corporate personhood). We are holding a rally in front of Oakland’s Federal Building at 14th and Clay, with street theater and talking points, before crossing the bay to join the others in San Francisco. While I personally believe that local issues should usually be Occupy’s focus, here is an exception, if only because the polls are so vociferously disapproving of the Supreme Court’s wholly undemocratic decision, that influences our democracy so thoroughly. If Occupys around the country can get behind Move to Amend, show their anger about this case, something might well come of it. Hope to see people there at 14th and Clay on January 20th.

The Henry J Kaiser Convention Center — Could It Be?

And then there is the understatedly titled Move-In Day. A few weeks ago, a proposal passed at the GA (by a very slim margin, just barely above the 90% threshold) to seize and Occupy a large building, whose location is known only to a few select and trusted members due to obvious and justifiable fears of police infiltration. This is perhaps one of the most radical actions Occupy Oakland will be taking yet, right up there with the port shutdowns, and as such, it has been hugely controversial. I myself at first was inclined not to vote for it. If you ask me, except for a few holdouts such as the 24-hour vigil-holders who remain at the plaza (they have to stay awake all night, but they’re still there), the camps and the Occupations are pretty much over with. The police know what to do now, and it has become clear that no one is going to hold them to account for whatever brutal actions they end up taking to achieve their goals. Trying to take and hold a building, on the face of it, seems the most surefire of lost causes. And yet, swayed by the infectious and romantic and somewhat hopeless support this proposal seemed to have, I ended up voting for it, and now I have joined the Messaging Subcommittee, under the Media/Outreach Subcommittee, and we are holding by-daily meetings. The issue is as contentious as it is electrifying. I now believe that, potentially, even if this particular building gets shut down, this could in fact end up as a whole new direction for Occupy Oakland, and a chance to get the rest of the city behind us with still more force. I will explain more in a later post, cause this one’s getting a little too long. Stay tuned. And rest assured, that even without the camps, Occupy Oakland, for one, is still very much alive and kicking.

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Obama’s Latest Campaign, a Tentative Sign that Occupy Is Working

Obama Takes Populism to Middle America

President Obama’s recent speech at a small town Kansas high school was probably specially intended to stir discussion. With his focus on inequality as “the defining issue of the time,” the speech was largely in line with the President’s recent rhetorical shift towards populism and relative leftism. It seems that Obama is taking a stand. He is done attempting some elusive concept of “centrism.” Done talking about reaching out to Republicans who can’t resist calling him a socialist no matter what he does. Obama has finally accepted that meeting them half way is a lost cause. Congratulations. Better late than never. Is it coincidence that his re-election bid is less than one year away? I think not. If we are to judge by comparing his pre- and post-election levels of support, the man is a far better campaigner than legislator. This speech is probably the latest evidence of such.

President Obama has a knack for saying one thing and doing another. In my opinion, this is why he has so perfected the art of pissing everyone off. While his Administration has been, in terms of policy, one of the most business friendly of the modern era, his consistently anti-“Big Business,” Pelosi-esque rhetoric has convinced sensitive CEO’s everywhere that he is the devil incarnate. His healthcare plan, pitched as a strike against the corporate monopolization of medicine, will probably end up most benefiting the pharmaceutical and insurance companies he so derided. If Obama actually follows his Osawatomie speech with a shift in policy, un-prodded, I will be surprised.

But then again, none of us should expect otherwise. Of course he is a political animal. You can’t spell “politician” without “politics.” And yet, for those of you who agree with the message, or at least sentiment, of the Occupy Movement, Obama’s latest talking points are probably justification for encouragement. The latest evidence that we have in fact “changed the conversation.” Still, I let out a short groan when Democrats released their latest offer to Congressional Republicans concerning the Payroll Tax and extended UI Benefits, proposing to pay for these vital programs with a tax increase on those earning more than $1,000,000 a year. Because it would be fantastic indeed if the Republicans went along with this. If nothing else, the Democrats now feel empowered to play the Republicans at their own game, that is, holding a gun on the rest of us, and daring their counterparts to let them pull the trigger. If the agreement doesn’t pass, as I’m becoming increasingly sure that it won’t, the Republicans may well hold the blame in the long run. But in the short run, millions of people will suffer. A perfect example of a political system that has become absolutely incapable of addressing the needs of its citizens. How did we go so wrong? What hope is there going forward?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s the Occupy Movement. You can now add the President to the list of people who believe that we are having an effect. And while he may not be the most astute observer of the national mentality, he is most certainly an important one. This is a terrible time for everyone, politicians included. No matter what we do, things probably aren’t going to get any better for some years yet. We should take these latest developments for what they are: evidence that Occupiers do indeed have people’s attention. Now that the camps are gone, this is our chance to use it. It’s time to move on, and take direct action against those issues that affect Americans everywhere, even in the red states. Things like the foreclosure crisis, student loan debt, and runaway healthcare costs. Instances of recurring pain at its most absurd. Because the politicians like Obama, who may well sympathize, in that well-protected chamber deep down in their hearts, will perhaps find it increasingly difficult to justify their sanctioning of heavy-handed police crackdowns based on an out-dated faith in law and order. Perhaps, then, right downs of mortgages, taxes on the wealthy, re-regulation of big banks, and investment in infrastructure, will enter into consideration. Perhaps we a new New Deal may seem less fantastic. Obama could yet be the FDR of the 21st Century if we force him to it. But we have to force him to it. So far, the polling booth hasn’t worked. The traditional avenues haven’t worked. Sadly, Occupying may now be our best, and indeed our only alternative.

Analysis of Obama’s Speech

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