Occupy Oakland: Hundreds at plaza vow to continue movement
Hundreds of defenders of Occupy Oakland, from grandmothers to young children, massed at the main library and marched back to the cleared civic center plaza Monday evening, determined to keep their movement alive by reestablishing a visible presence and branching out.
"We need to take back our village in the plaza because it was a very special place to many people," said Maxine Holz, 55, of Alameda, who has been active at the twice-razed camp for the past month. "It was our base."
Her comments met with uproarious cheers from a crowd that soon flooded onto the muddy lawn where 150 tents had been hauled away hours earlier.
Others spoke of the need to diversify, occupying homes foreclosed by banks and "many city parks, many buildings," and taking the message into the workplace.
While the appetite for the downtown encampment has soured among many local residents because it tapped city resources and affected local business, the general assembly left no doubt that the spirit of the underlying message -- to combat widening economic inequality -- is robust and even energized.
"Welcome home!" a woman with a megaphone roared to whoops as the crowd settled in just feet from City Hall's door. A police helicopter with a searchlight circled continuously overhead -- a sign of the constant yet tempered police presence interim Police Chief Howard Jordan had promised earlier in the day.
Several speakers at the library rally condemned the small group that has marred recent demonstrations with violence and vandalism, and received broad applause.
Joan Craig, 70, did too, when she called "for everything to be peaceful." But when she suggested citizens' arrests of troublemakers, to be later turned over to police, a number of objectors cried out, "No police."
A few in the crowd wore face kerchiefs but the majority vowed civil disobedience through peaceful means, in a reprise of other gatherings that have nevertheless veered off message when agitators acted out.
But Iris Arcenciel, 26, of Alameda, echoed what many felt. The plaza must be retaken because of its symbolism, and the succor it offered to those long on society's fringes.
"Regardless what they do to that encampment, this awoke something in all of us, said Arcenciel, who serves on Occupy Oakland's media committee. Even the violence and drug abuse "are symptoms of the larger problem" in society, she noted. "Those people need a voice too. I don't want to see that end."
As for Quan's wish that the encampment find donated private space: it didn't fly.
"The important thing to remember is civil disobedience," she said. "That camp in front of City Hall makes a much larger statement than appeasing City Hall."
--Lee Romney in Oakland