Some meandering thoughts as I prepare for the West Coast Port Shutdown tomorrow . . .
My husband and I moved to the Bay Area about 15 years ago when our son was starting high school. We wanted to immerse him in what has come to be known as “San Francisco Values.” My husband, a draft resister who fled (literally) from the induction center in Downtown Oakland, had been drawn to People’s Park in Berkeley for decades in much the same the way Richard Dreyfuss was drawn to Devil’s Tower. He said he was first attracted to me because my big blonde afro reminded him of Angela Davis.
As for my transformation from a child in a very small, very white, town into a DFH . . . during the Summer of Love, when I was eight years old, my parents drove me and my sister through the Haight and took us to Glide Memorial Church, where my groovy, pot-smoking minister uncle was a guest speaker. I got to sit up on the stage near the choir, right next to a six-foot-tall transvestite in platform shoes. I was mesmerized. (Forty years later, Glide still fills to the rafters for two services every Sunday morning and it rocks the very soul of even atheists like me. It’s still one of my favorite places to go when I need to be moved.)
So we moved to the East Bay to be with our tribe and the East Bay did not let us down. Being told by his history teacher to skip school and rally with Jesse Jackson at Sproul Plaza, and living mere blocks from historic 924 Gilman Street, our son turned into a drummer and a socialist, in that order. We relished every opportunity to march and protest even though things never seemed to change very much. For all these years, my husband has been saying, fuck this! We need to be camping out in front of City Hall. And finally he got his wish – if only for a month.
Now our encampment at Oscar Grant Plaza has gone the way of all the Occupy encampments in America – swept back under the carpet as the oligarchy tidies up for the 2012 election. The plaza, guarded by private security to the tune of at least $300K, has been watered day and night and has turned into muddy Quan Swamp. The historic oak tree that we were admonished not to pee on may literally be drowning. The divide, conquer and suppress strategy of the 1% is working like a charm – so well, in fact, that some of our comrades have forgotten the meaning of civil DISobedience and are threatening the momentum of the movement.
This morning’s SF Chronicle has the requisite Occupy concern-troll stories spread throughout several sections, including a lead story headlined “Opposition growing to shutdown of Port.” In addition to interviews with union members and truckers who are conflicted about supporting the shutdown, the story says that “some activists” have concluded that a port blockade is “too extreme” and so strongly disagree with confrontational tactics that they now call themselves “99 Percenters” instead of “Occupiers.” Various groups affiliated with Occupy Oakland have been holding trainings on diversity of tactics and non-violence strategies in anticipation of tomorrow’s events. On several Facebook forums there are very heated discussions involving rumors of peacekeepers who may be planning to “kettle” any comrades who do not comport themselves in whatever they deem to be an acceptable fashion.
As I read this, as always, I think: What the Fuck Would Mario Do?
Mario Savio included “organized labor” in his list of those running the odious machine, the machine that we must not stop passively, but must stop by putting our bodies upon the gears:
be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone!
After he gave that famous speech, Mario was arrested, along with 800 others, and sentenced to 120 days in Santa Rita Jail - the very same place some of us may find ourselves occupying tomorrow. I have never been arrested and I’d like to keep it that way. But I am willing to march with heroes like Scott Olsen and all the others who have been arrested and brutalized. I am willing to take that risk, especially to support the people who man the front lines and push through the police barricades and refuse to allow the state to have every single ounce of the power. Without them, who among us would have had the guts to be the first one to sit at that lunch counter or stand up on top of that police car and demand our right to free speech?
Finally, a couple more videos: First, Angela Davis talking about violence, as some food for thought. I am not advocating armed rebellion. But everyone still needs to listen to this and to watch the entire Black Power Mixtape documentary; it is quite a revelation.
And secondly, on a more uplifting note, a People’s Park video – the ending gives me mad hope.