The answer should not surprise you. On the day after seven people, including a one-year old, had been shot in Oakland, it took at least twenty police, the City Attorney and his aide, a bunch of private security, vast numbers of press and a Running Wolf no longer in a tree before everyone stood down and allowed a teepee to be erected on Frank Ogawa Plaza / Oscar Grant Park.
How much is twenty police? It represents somewhere around 10% of the entire Oakland Police force on duty at that time (assuming three shifts and about 600 on the entire force). How many people, not counting all those listed above, were on the Plaza? Maybe fifty, assuming you were counting downhill with the wind at your back. How many exhibited any signs of violence? Zero. What is the population of Oakland? 400,000. You do the math; I'll tell the story. Read on, and check out the pictures.
I headed down to Oakland in the cold Berkeley fog, prepared, literally, to chill out. I emerged from the 12th Street BART a mere three miles away to a cloudless, warm day, a few minutes before the 24-hour vigil to reclaim the Plaza was scheduled to begin. But if there was a significant event planned you wouldn't have known it just by looking around.
A half hour later some seventy people had gathered in the amphitheatre to commence the vigil. Running Wolf, who has been #occupying a tree in the plaza for the last seventeen days, explained the significance of the teepee and the vigil, and how the teepee was not to be used for camping, but as a symbol of #occupation and #decolonization. A table was set up for people to inscribe messages to be hung on the teepee, further emphasizing it's messaging aspect.
Then a policeman informed Running Wolf and the vigil committee attorneys that they would need a permit to erect the teepee. And so it began.
(For background on the vigil and some of the legal issues involved, check out Occupy Oakland: P-Q4. The Vigil Gambit Begins)
All of what I tell you here is true to the extent that I saw it and heard it, but much of what happened and much of what was discussed betwixt the police, city officials, Running Wolf and the vigil committee remains obscure.
After some time milling about, Running Wolf and supporters headed off to the North side of the plaza to erect the teepee where they were blocked from proceeding further by the police. More police seemed to arrive every minute.
A tense standoff ensued, with a small crowd of attendees surrounding Running Wolf, a lot of police surrounding them, and press scattered amongst everyone. Runnning Wolf was of a mind to attempt to start erecting the teepee, stating that he was willing to go to jail. But he kept his cool while the lawyers talked things over.
The tenseness was defused somewhat by an announcement that the City Attorney, Arturo Sanchez, would come down from
Barad-dur City Hall tower in five minutes to sort things out. He eventually did come down, although it took far more than five minutes.
As is befitting any negotiation, once he did arrive the lawyers kept telling the crowd "five more minutes." The police and the crowd kept a watchful eye on each other as all this played out, but there were no incidents other than typical shout out to the police to "Go chase down criminals" and the like.
Some thirty minutes into the negotiations, the City Attorney presented the City's offer to the vigil attorneys: #OccupyOakland could erect the teepee and maintain a 24-hour vigil, but the teepee itself had to come down between the hours of 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM. There was no explanation that I noted as to why those hours were chosen as the park itself seems to be, legally, open twenty-four hours.
The vigil attorneys huddled as you see above and eventually decided that they would "conform" to the City's restrictions. They stated that they disagreed with the City's right to impose such conditions on the vigil, and reserved the right to file a lawsuit against the curfew. I talked with one of the attorneys immediately after the fact, and asked him if a lawsuit would indeed be filed. He replied that he intended to file a lawsuit in Federal court as soon as possible. (They have the lawsuit all prepared, as they had stated previously, so this should not take long, should it actually come to pass).
Note: A tweet I've recently seen says that the agreement or permit is only good for three days. But this was not stated as a condition by the vigil lawyers when they announced to the crowd the situation and said that the teepee should be erected. The exact situation remains unclear to me.
At this point the teepee began being erected, the excitement wound down, and I decided to head off.
But that's not all. While all this was happening, an entire side-story was playing out just a few feet away. This is the Interfaith Tent, which has been #occupying the Plaza for a week or so now. Notice the artillery emplacements:
This tent is visible from City Hall (that's the lower floors of City Hall in the background). It's not like no one noticed it until today. I'm told the Mayor, Jean Quan, even paid it a visit some days ago. But, oddly enough, today during the standoff, was the day the police decided to inform the Interfaith group that they would need a permit or the tent would have to be removed.
Can you say "selective enforcement?" I knew you could. Apparently the deadline for removal is 10:00 PM, as allie123 tweets
I am going to take a nap & go to #OccupyOakland at 9:30pm-- OPD threatened to take down interfaith tent& Running Wolf requested support
BootsRiley Boots Riley
RT @FaezaMoghul 10PM is deadline for taking interfaith tent & teepee down. Running Wolf requests your support. #OO #Occupyoakland #OWS
You can be assured that there will be plenty of police about the Plaza at that point, zealously guarding the right of the people to
peacefully assemble be shot at in liquor stores while the police are elsewhere.
Stay tuned as the City of Oakland decides whether to commit police, attorney and monetary resources in a single-minded effort to derail #OccupyOakland, or to stop little kids from getting shot. In a bet on which direction they'll take, I know which choice my money's on.
Credits: Alyssa, aka our own allie123, aka alyssa011958 on Twitter, took these pictures. I just uploaded them. My story is my own.
Police say officers and private security will be on hand to make sure no tents, sleeping bags or camping equipment are set up at the site, but they will allow a seven-day vigil at Frank Ogawa Plaza.
7:48 PM PT: A video of the teepee going up, wherein I am, briefly, visible way in the background