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Occupy Oakland attempts to transform vacant public building into Community Center

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David Dougherty: Occupy Oakland staged a “moving day” action on Saturday, January 28th as they attempted to occupy a vacant public building and convert it into a community center. Riot police moved in to violently repress and disperse what they said was a disorderly and illegal assembly, and at the end of the day between 300 and 500 people had been arrested. While the majority of marchers were peaceful, some demonstrators retaliated the crackdown by organizing behind improvised defense barricades and throwing objects back at police. Occupy Oakland member Mark Mason was present at Saturday’s action.

Mark Mason, Occupy Oakland: The police basically blocked off one of the streets and said it’s illegal can’t do it disperse immediately there was a standoff between the marchers and the police, the police fired tear gas, bean bag projectiles, they fired flash bang grenades and I was there I saw a few protestors throwing stuff and it could have been plastic bottles I had seen thrown other objects rocks or whatever, there was a confrontation on Oak Street at that time and it’s the sort of quintessential moment when the class warfare came to the city of Oakland on one street and one moment on Saturday.

David Dougherty: The Oakland Police Department issued a statement saying that the order to disperse was issued “after demonstrators began destroying construction equipment and fencing” and that “officers were pelted with bottles, metal pipe, rocks, spray cans, improvised explosive devices, and burning flares.” The building targeted for the attempted occupation was the Henry Kaiser Convention Center, a public building that had been vacant for more than 6 years. Mark explains how in addition to looking for a new base of operations, the occupy movement had planned on establishing a community space where a variety of social services and creative venues would be offered to public.

Mark Mason: We have the Children’s Village for opportunities for kids to play and interact with each other, there’s services regarding homeless services and services for those who have joblessness problems, millions of people are out of work, the idea was to set up a community center that would provide some access to community support and help them be directed towards government opportunities for assistance.

David Dougherty: Occupy Oakland has insisted that it will continue efforts to occupy public spaces in spite of the city’s latest violent police response. Mark says the occupy movement arose out of the necessity to build new networks of community support in response to a growing number of social and economic pressures in the United States.

Mark Mason: That sense of community is connected to the real world, there’s a crisis in democracy in the US, the corporate media, Wall Street and Barack Obama, they’re living in some kind of fantasy world that doesn’t exist, millions of people- we’ve all heard statistics over and over again- thrown out of work, thrown out of their homes, people without medical care, the list goes on and on…

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