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First they came for the anarchist books,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't an anarchist.

Then they came for the trade union books,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the religious and political books,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't religious or political.

Then they came for me, and I objected,
But they had already seized the books with the Bill of Rights in them.

They came, as usual, in the middle of the night. Fifty or so of them, armed to the teeth and ready to carry out their mission. They came not to occupy, but... to remove the books.

Oakland Police evicted the first Occupants in many years of the abandoned building at 1449 Miller Street late on August 13th. That was the same day the abandoned building had been proclaimed a people's library and public space, a Biblioteca Popul for a neighborhood in East Oakland sorely in need.

The keepers of the books were undaunted. The next morning they were back. They decided to  re-establish the library on the sidewalk. Kids came. The children wanted to restart the garden, now inaccessible out back, and so a sidewalk garden was started. More kids came, some asking for books about dragons. Perhaps someone found them The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Pern, I can't say for sure.

More people came, some dropping off books, some browsing, some borrowing. The book keepers announced a pot luck dinner, and then kept vigil through the night. For four days, with the Oakland Police hovering threateningly in idling cars just tens of yards away, they kept at it.

On Friday, they tweeted their announcement of a BBQ and community meeting for Saturday. The Occupy Oakland BBQ Committee, having previously proclaimed its own dissolution, nonetheless did not hesitate. Back they came, rivaling Lazarus, and with a little help from their friends...

OO_Conference @oo_conference
#PeoplesLibrary Neighborhood family-friendly BBQ starting up. Bring some treats and some books if you can.

leoriot @riotleo
@eloft & I making good ole #OO BBQ potato salad for 2pm BBQ at @bibliotecapopul #peopleslibrary enjoy! I gotta work...

Occupy Oakland @OccupyOakland
The BBQ at the #PeoplesLibrary has 60lbs of chicken to get rid of. Stop by 1449 Miller for food, books & fun.

produced, by 2:00 PM, one of the finest spreads in East Oakland.


Occupy Oakland @OccupyOakland
This #BBQ at the #PeoplesLibrary is off the hook! come on down! 1449 Miller Ave. @Bibilotecapopul
People visited through the afternoon, dropping off books and food, or lining up to eat. Interesting books showed up...

"All libraries should be paid for and all police stations should run out of funding"

Biblioteca Popular @BibliotecaPopul
Donation by co-editor of book with special inscription for BPVM #peopleslibrary
That 60 lbs. of chicken? All gone. I'm sure a couple of hundred people made it through the buffet line before...the ice cream arrived! What would a warm, sunny day be without ice cream?
Occupy Oakland @OccupyOakland
#PHOTO: BBQ at #PeoplesLibrary! Ice cream being served at the moment.

The Only Emperor is the Emperor of Ice Cream!

And then down to business.

 One of the organizers called everyone together, explaining that the community would have to begin to decide what actions they wanted to take with regard to the building and the surrounding space. Activists, even Occupiers, could not continue forever to maintain a 24-hour vigil, keep the library organized and see that food found its way hereabouts forever.

And, if the tweets are any indication, it worked! Ideas flowed as neighbors talked.

Emily Loftis @eloft
A BBQ @BibliotecaPopul is dominated by the neighbors, as activists hoped. #peopleslibrary

The meeting is bilingual, as most of the residents are Latino. @BibliotecaPopul #peopleslibrary

One mother told me, @BibliotecaPopul was closed bc she thinks Mayor Quan is racist. #peopleslibrary

Neighbors are sharing their experiences of living in this neighborhood. @BibliotecaPopul #peopleslibrary

Neighbors took up most of talking space of the meetings, sharing what they want to see @BibliotecaPopul: classes, Head Start-like problems.

Some people want to see programs for young girls, many of whom are currently surviving as sex workers. @BibliotecaPopul

Neighbors are suggesting petitions & marches to City Hall to demand the city let it be opened. @BibliotecaPopul #peopleslibrary

But some neighbors say they would participate in more direct action. @BibliotecaPopul #peopleslibrary

The big question is how neighbors can step up & take over the @BibliotecaPopul & how activists can exit. #peopleslibrary

At the breakout group I participated in, the children & mothers led the meetings. @BibliotecaPopul #peopleslibrary

One activist said no matter what, she'll visit the kids once a week as they are now her good friends.. @BibliotecaPopul #peopleslibrary

The building at the center of this has a long and respected history. For many years it was a library, donated to the city by the Carnegie Foundation almost a century ago. Closed because of Proposition 13 cutbacks, the Emiliano Zapato Street Academy run by Chicano Revolutionaries took it over (whether initially by Occupying it first and getting permission later, or perhaps by more legal means, I'm not sure). The academy still exists, but it moved out in the late 80's, likely in search of a bigger space.
Emily Loftis @eloft
The building is an important node of the community's historical consciousness. @BibliotecaPopul #peopleslibrary
The neighborhood is not happy to watch as the City of Oakland lets such a distinguished building gradually crumble into ruin while the surrounding space is used for sex and drugs. They would love to see it reclaimed.
Emily Loftis @eloft
Neighborhood ministers will meet w neighbors & a handful of activists to discuss the next steps. @BibliotecaPopul #peopleslibrary

Emily Loftis @eloft
One neighborhood minister tried to get the building open by asking the city, but the city refused. @BibliotecaPopul #peopleslibrary

leoriot @riotleo
meeting wrapping up @BibliotecaPopul & kids are hitting the piñata. Where the Pigyata at? #peopleslibrary #OO

And so it goes.

The Oakland City Council pontificates about paying for more police to further intimidate and terrorize Oakland's residents. They allocate more money to investigate whitewash complaints against the police force they nominally oversee. They fret about a budget when a rogue organization consumes 40% of it, costing them millions of dollars in absurd lawsuit damages every year.

And while there is no money to renovate a beautiful building to use for the betterment of a neighborhood begging for services, there is plenty to send fifty plus police to board it up and keep police continuously there on guard, monitoring the books.

Lest people read them. And get ideas.

Jaime Omar Yassin @hyphy_republic
Amazing day of political dynamism @ #peopleslibrary . The tactics & energy that took flight w/Occupy now coming home to community organizing

Biblioteca Popular @BibliotecaPopul
Community came together in our first meeting about how to reclaim this space. Activism in the front; bbq & greenhouse construction in back

Emily Loftis @eloft
Was pretty amazing. @hyphy_republic: This was the best day I've had in months and perhaps years. #peopleslibrary @BibliotecaPopul



Photo credits:
  I've forgotten who took the picture of the library entrance.
    It might have been @LazyEyeDude who took this similar one.
  Adam in Oakland @AdaminOakland took the buffet shot.
  Biblioteca Popular @BibliotecaPopul took the book incription picture.
  Occupy Oakland @OccupyOakland took the waiting-for-ice-cream photo.
  PoliticalFailBlog published the books in milk crates image.

8:56 AM PT:
This 1982 documentary on Chicano gangs in Oakland includes a brief clip inside the Emiliano Zapata Street Academy. The Street Academy, which grew out of the Chicano movement in Oakland, taught students in the building at 1449 Miller for years in the 70s and 80s. 9:31 AM PT:
Jaime Omar Yassin ‏@hyphy_republic
Walking into empty library & illegally stocking it w/books, will go down in top 10 moments of my life. Only regret:wasn't wearing cape, mask

Originally posted to jpmassar on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 08:31 AM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.

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