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Occupying Oakland, 3rd Time the Charm?




First it was the Kaiser Convention Center, a huge, vacant, almost ancient-looking City of Oakland owned building on the shores of Lake Merritt that would have taken thousands of people to defend. Attempts to reclaim that as public space didn't go down so well.

Then it was the Lakeview Elementary School, shut down days before by the Oakland Unified School District. Occupied for weeks, it was used as a summer school and community space before OUSD Police finally rousted a brave few there at four in the morning.

The third attempt at Occupying public space is a smaller abandoned building -- newly dubbed the Victor Martinez Community Library -- a picturesque structure that the City of Oakland had left to rot, its yard a dumping ground for trash and old mattresses.

...the next nearest library is miles away... With its eroding chain link fence and decaying, armored exterior, the building is much more than an eyesore; the unused, but inaccessible, space creates a life-draining dark vacuum of stability that serves at best as a convenient place for the unscrupulous to dump their old mattresses, couches and assorted garbage.

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The Carnegie Foundation gave it the City circa 1916, and it was put to use as intended until the 70's, when

from the early 70s till the late 80s this building was a School created during the Chicano Movement. it was called Emiliano Zapata Street academy. it moved out in the late 80s and has been abandoned ever since.
Until this morning.

No one I know knows quite how the building found itself unlocked but...

This morning, a group of activists opened this building again for use as a library. Inside is the modest seed for a library and community center -- hundreds of books donated by people who envision the rebirth of local, community-owned libraries and social and political centers throughout Oakland. We've named the building after recently deceased author, Victor Martinez, who overcame a young life of hard agricultural work to become a successful writer in the Bay Area. His semi-autobiographical novel, Parrot in the Oven, has become a seminal work of the Latino experience. Martinez died last year at 56 of an illness caused by his work in the fields.
Occupy Oaklanders and other activists have been busy cleaning up the site (located at 1449 Miller St, East Oakland, CA), setting up the library inside and letting the neighborhood know what's happening.

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"All we ask is that you consider keeping it out of the hands of a city which will only seal the fence and doors again, turning the space back into an aggregator of the city's trash and a dark hole in the middle of the community," according to the group's news release, aimed at residents of the surrounding Fruitvale and the 23rd Avenue commercial district neighborhoods. -- Oakland Tribune
The police have driven by a few times but so far have not done anything violent. How long that will stay true remains, of course, to be seen. But if this kind of thing keeps up
Jaime Omar Yassin @hyphy_republic
Neighborhood kid on a scouting mission just ran back to his clique, yelling "it is a library!" #peopleslibrary 1449 Miller Ave. Fruitvale
perhaps OPD will not be much welcomed by the neighborhood. Unlike the Convention Center and the Lakeview School, isolated to a large extent from the neighborhoods surrounding them, it may be that those living in the Martinez Library neighborhood will see the value in a building being used instead of abandoned. Perhaps they will demand that the City hand over the keys and give its blessing instead of continuing on with its negligence. One can dream.

Updates:

Occupy Oakland announces a community potluck at 6pm local time and poetry/spoken word reading at 7pm at the Library tonight!
There is also an #OpBART rally starting at Fruitvale BART Station at 5:00 PM, which will be marching almost directly past the new Libary and it is rumored that a stop will be made in solidarity with the Occupiers.
Op BART @OpBART
Let us go say hi! #peopleslibrary 1449 Miller Ave, Fruitvale, Detour before #BARTHQ
#OpBART is taking place on the anniversary of BART turning off cellphone service inside its stations because it feared terrorists peaceful protesters.
worthoftheworld @worthoftheworld
Garden going in at #peopleslibrary!! CALL for seeds starters soil Tools water, drills & screws for garden beds &people !!
4:21 PM PT:
Emily Loftis ‏@eloft
@OaktownMike @hyphy_republic Interesting the City thought it needed $4 million before re-opening the building. How much have you spent?

11m Jaime Omar Yassin ‏@hyphy_republic
Including the cookies and juice we bought today for everyone?
@OaktownMike @eloft

12m Op BART ‏@OpBART
BART PD ALREADY in riot gear, Dont shoot us, we are from the internet! #OpBART #Anonymous
Retweeted by Elle of Oakland
 

8:25 PM PT:
OO_Conference ‏@oo_conference
ABC7 reporting City Administrator's office will be issuing a notice to vacate The People's Library. We need support! http://pic.twitter.com/...

5m Emily Loftis ‏@eloft
Poetry/ spoken word in front other reclaimed library. http://pic.twitter.com/...

7m leoriot ‏@riotleo
Neighborhood kids building farm boxes at the #peopleslibrary. Poetry reading in front. Kids love my skateboard. #Winning #OO #solidarity

Originally posted to jpmassar on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 03:48 PM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.

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