My first day in Oakland was pretty much wasted. I was so demoralized over losing my camera that I didn’t want to go anywhere without it. So I didn’t. I spent the day resting and researching new cameras and places to go. I didn’t go to the Occupy Oakland birthday celebration because I was moping. But the celebration didn’t turn out to be a celebration; instead, it was turned into a vigil for a man that was shot and killed outside Tully’s Cafe that evening. As of yet, he has not been associated with the Occupation but the Occupy Oakland medical team was first to arrive on the scene. This incident will likely be linked to the movement regardless, as it gives the opposition a violent situation to cite when they need a new reason to disrupt the protests. Was his death preventable? Would he have died if the Occupation wasn’t nearby? It’s hard to say. If the police force wasn’t so focused on the protestors maybe they would have seen this other incident occurring. Then again, the city has turned a number of lights off in the park at night which might make it more difficult to see anything. Perhaps its a good thing the Occupy Oakland medical team was nearby in fact as they were the first to respond.
Oddly enough, an incident in Burlington, VT occurred in a similar fashion. Though the shooting was not murder but the suicide of a veteran that was staying at the encampment in City Hall Park. This shooting has also been associated with the movement when it probably shouldn’t be. The camps were taped off due to the investigation but will they be reopened? Emily Reynolds in Burlington is shown on a youtube video talking to the press about the association of violence with the movement and especially concerning the death of the man in the park. I appreciate her emotion and her ability to objectively see how the media twists these daily occurring violent acts into a character of the Occupation. This needs to be remembered as these acts continue and the Occupation needs to remain strong and solid.
It is true that the encampments attract a large amount of chaos. It has become a large homeless shelter and as much as drugs and alcohol are not condoned, they still make their way into the scene. There are radicals that support violent protests but overall the ideology of the Occupation is moving forward with nonviolent resistance and positivity. The stories of the unimpaired organized individuals making these protests possible just aren’t exciting enough to get similar media coverage.
I don’t deny there are downsides to the movement. Small local businesses surrounding the plaza in Arcata, CA were crying distress when the encampments started. In one case, a street vendor who pays rent by the day couldn’t set up shop because his spot was blocked by camps. This is difficult for the Occupation because they don’t want to hurt local businesses but at the same time what’s the alternative to moving the camps? It has to be set up in a public place that’s visible and relatively inconvenient. If the camps could be moved to a Walmart parking lot that might be more ideal as far as local businesses, except it might also be easier to ignore.
Today in Oakland, I went into a pawn shop near the camps to replace my camera and the clerk there gave me a good deal for essentially not being the “type” he usually sees in there. He said that business has gone down but they only had to close one day because there was a group of protestors smashing storefront windows. They were spared because they were off Broadway st. where most of the marches occur.