The tactic of physical Occupation is alive again in Oakland, California. On June 15th, a group of
violent anarchists parents, teachers and concerned citizens Occupied the Lakeview Elementary School. The school had just completed its last day of classes and some months ago the Oakland School Board had voted to close it permanently, deciding to turn the space into administrative offices. Protests against this and other school closures in Oakland have been ongoing even before the vote but to no avail.
The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is closing 5 schools reportedly due to budget cuts. Parents, teachers, and community members are in an uproar as access to public education dwindles -- particularly in poor communities of color. In protest to the school shut downs, a handful of community members set up a tent encampment outside the Lakeview Elementary campus on Friday, the last day of school.
Rally on the school steps.
Most people are below on the sidewalk.
That's me under the tan sun hat at the lower left.
A few of the five or six tents
occupying the schoolyard.
School district police officers assessed the encampment Monday morning and then posted signs advising the protesters that they were "interfering with the good order of a school," a misdemeanor violation.This is at best mysterious, since the property is no longer an operating school, and at worst idiotic, since even if it is in some sense still a school, school is not in session, so there is nothing going on there that could be being interfered with.
Undaunted by these posters, the Occupiers stood their ground and called for a rally at 4:00 PM Monday afternoon. It was attended by about 150 people, yours truly and a number of other Occupy Oaklanders included. At the rally the organizers called for a "mass convergence" at Oscar Grant Plaza in downtown Oakland at 12:00 noon on Saturday, to be followed by a march back to Lakeview Elementary.
The police came back at around 3:30 PM on Monday and "toured" the school, ostensibly to make sure that
feral children were not vandalizing anything, but probably to scope out how many people were around, where they were, and how easy it would be to remove them.
What's going to happen?
Oakland Unified School District officials said they had no immediate plans to clear the school.There is no reason to trust them. On the other hand, removing Oakland citizen parents, teachers and possibly small children committing an act of civil disobedience from a school has a far different symbolism and is a different political calculus than removing
Support is building for the occupation; labor unions are starting to show interest, and as the rally was going on honking by passing cars was almost nonstop. Coverage by the local news media was intense, with six to eight news vans at the school during and after the rally and many articles published (e.g. ABC local).
If the school is not cleared out soon, it may be politically "too late." On the other hand, if an attempt is made to clear the grounds that could backfire by generating even more publicity and support. The school occupation group made it clear that if they are ousted from the school grounds they will attempt to "blockade" the site, setting up picket lines to prevent workers and suppliers from entering the new "administrative offices."
One other school Occupation has taken place recently, that one being in Chicago in mid-February, 2012.
Kossack Hyde Park Johnny put together the Complete Story of Occupation of Chicago School, ending the narrative with an agreement to have the Occupiers meet with the school board to express their concerns.
Unfortunately, nothing came from the so-called meeting (which turned out to be a conference call). A few days later the school board voted to close/charterize the schools involved in the dispute anyway, despite the occupation, the meeting, and scads of testimony in opposition.
Given that the Oakland Unified school board has already voted to close Lakeview and four other schools, prospects of any better outcome in Oakland seem slim. Nonetheless, the very fact that such a direct action by concerned residents was conceived of and then executed is reason for hope.
People are learning that meekly acquiescing to the powers-that-be and/or waiting for the next local or national election (which will be dominated by the one-percent's money regardless) is not going to be sufficient to get them the time of day, let alone have politicians actually represent their interests. Only a combination of direct action, civil disobedience, mass protest AND throwing the bums out is going to have any impression on the one percent who control the purse strings for the education, health care, retirement and general welfare of the rest of us.
"Why is Oakland closing schools while squandering millions on consultants.
Support the sit in at Lakeview School."
You can read a good accounting of the protest to date in this article.
Here is the Save Oakland Schools website, which has background on the struggle.
You can follow the Lakeview School Sit-In on twitter. If you are local and want to get text alerts (e.g., if and when the school police decide to go "OPD") send 'lakeviewsitin' to 41411.
If you would to send some pizza or salad their way Slice of Hollywood, which is close to the school site, looks like a reasonable way to go: 510-268-1000. The address of the school is 746 Grand Avenue. Here are some other options. They don't need to be innundated with pizza, since we aren't talking about hundreds of people there at any one time, but I'm sure a few pies for lunch and dinner would be much appreciated.
Photo credits: Kossack allie123 (Alyssa) took the Grand Lake Theatre and tents in the schoolyard photos. Scott Johnson, publisher of the Occupied Oakland Tribune took the rally picture.