You are browsing the archive for Occupy Oakland.

#Occupy Oakland: Hey Hey! HoJo! Howard Jordan Has Got To Go!

5:18 pm in Uncategorized by hotflashcarol

occupy oakland day 16 part 2 020

Flickr photo by Oakland Local

Oakland’s ruling troika of Larry, Moe and Curly Police Chief Howard Jordan, Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana.

In this week’s segment of You Can’t Make This Shit Up, it was revealed in federal court filings that for the past year, beleaguered OPD Chief Howard Jordan used a spam filter to divert emails he received that contained subject lines such as “Occupy Oakland,”"police brutality” and “respect the press pass,” straight to his junk mail folder. So he never saw them. Because that crap was getting on HoJo’s last fucking nerve, OK? I mean, not only was he having to contend with those DFHs hanging out in the plaza with their signs and their chalk and their food and their hopes and their dreams, they also thought they had the right to assemble and march and the freedom to speak, any time they wanted! The last thing he needed to see in his email box was some exaggerated BS about one of his officers knocking some college girl off her bike and cracking her head open or arresting some loudmouth journalist or lacerating the spleen of some guy with a camera. He was forced to deal with that, uh, unfortunate Scott Olsen thing, since the whole goddamn world suddenly seemed to be all freaked out about some skinny veteran almost losing his life in the streets of Oakland. (Jordan and Quan had really hoped they would get their turn to be on the The Daily Show, but not like this.)

The Children's Brigade, i.e. the cutest part of the 99%

Flickr photo by anirvan

Interfaith group

Flickr photo by geekeasy (Adam Katz)

Above: Hippie children and the occupants of the illegal Interfaith Tent Umbrella, just two of the many banes of HoJo’s existence.

Now poor HoJo is in even more trouble with Judge Thelton Henderson, since emails from Robert Warshaw (the federal monitor Henderson appointed to oversee OPD) ended up in HoJo’s junk mail and he never responded to them. It’s not Howard’s fault that Warshaw titled his message, “Disciplinary Actions-Occupy Oakland.” “It was never my intention to ignore the monitor,” Jordan said in his declaration. In fact, Jordan and his officers have taken the threat of federal receivership hella seriously. For instance, they posted defaced, racially insensitive photos of Judge Henderson (an African-American) and Mayor Quan (a Chinese American) on a bulletin board in the Oakland Police Administrative Building and didn’t even take them down after an employee complained. So there, Mistah Warshaw, you devil, you. The irresistible Ms. Santana may win this round yet. Or maybe not.

Anyway, all this unwanted (and undeserved, in Howard’s estimation) attention on OPD is like deja vu all over again. It reminds HoJo a lot of when he had to bust some hippie heads back in 2003, during that episode when OPD infiltrated an anti-war group and then used wooden bullets, sting-ball grenades and beanbag rounds to break up their non-violent protest at the Port of Oakland. (Back then Jordan had this to say: “You don’t need to have some special skill to infiltrate these groups. Two of our officers were elected leaders within an hour of joining the group. So if you put people in there from the beginning, I think we’d be able to gather information and maybe even direct them to do something that we want them to do.”)

That little dustup in 2003 led to a class action lawsuit and ultimately resulted in OPD’s hands being tied (theoretically) by the adoption of a new Crowd Control Policy that strictly limits the use of force. Now those same bleeding hearts that were all upset back then are up in arms again, suggesting that OPD continues to violate its own policy. And all this drama is making HoJo look like an incompetent liar. Which is not true; lying is something he excels at. Just ask Alan Blueford’s parents.

On the bright side (Judge Henderson, are you listening?), OPD’s new 2012 Occupy Oakland War Room is a well-oiled machine. Millions of taxpayer dollars are funneled from schools, libraries and neighborhood crime initiatives in order to ensure that no illegal camping takes place downtown, that no graffiti mars the Clorox Building or CitiBank, that no Chamber of Commerce member is inconvenienced. While OO marked the one-year anniversary of the October 25th camp raid and police riot,

inside a downtown building, dozens of city, county, regional and state workers gathered at the city’s Emergency Operations Center to provide support and coordinate the troops on the streets.

Three officers sat at computers monitoring Twitter and other social media for clues on protester plans. Other officers coordinated the taking of internal affairs complaints, and some oversaw the gathering of street intelligence. Five televisions and several other screens showed live streaming video from locations around the city.

The story above also revealed some “undisclosed technology” that allowed OPD to keep track of a protestor who allegedly threw rocks at an officer; he was arrested later when he had fewer comrades around to save him. My guess is that “undisclosed technology” is actually a low-tech undercover officer; as HoJo says above, it don’t take no special skillz.  Hey, Officer Friendly! Follow me on Facebook! I know, you already do!

And Howard, I couldn’t leave without posting a little something special just for you; you know I’ll be thinking of you every day between now and December 13th:

Occupy Oakland: Reflections on #025

12:13 pm in Uncategorized by hotflashcarol

Thursday, October 25, 2012, marked the one-year anniversary of the Oakland Police Department’s violent assault on the Occupy Oakland encampment and the ensuing protest in which Iraq veteran and anti-war activist Scott Olsen was shot at close range with a barely-less-than-lethal beanbag round. People attempting to administer aid to Scott were forced to flee when an officer fired a flashbang grenade into the group. Eventually Scott was carried away by his comrades and driven to Highland Hospital, where it was determined that he had a skull fracture and brain injury that kept him from being able to speak. Scott survived Iraq only to be critically wounded by a sociopath paid by the City of Oakland to protect and serve the interests of the one percent.

Chief OPD Sociopath Howard Jordan, facing the likelihood of federal receivership in six weeks, at long last has been forced to acknowledge that it was an OPD officer under his command who fired on Scott Olsen and not some rogue member of the numerous other law enforcement agencies who provided mutual aid that night. In an unprecedented shakeup, HoJo has stated publicly that the officer who nearly killed Scott Olsen “acted inappropriately” and at least a couple of sacrificial piggy heads will roll.

OPD received more than 1,100 complaints related to Occupy Oakland incidents. Based on OPD’s ongoing investigations (they’ve only addressed about half of the complaints so far), a total of 44 officers will be disciplined. Two officers will be fired, one will be demoted, three are to undergo counseling and training, 15 will be suspended for up to 30 days and 23 will receive written reprimands. This makes me think of a joke: What do you call 100,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start. (Apologies to lawyers; feel free to replace that group with the demonized demographic of your choice.)


Flickr photo by Bora S. Kamel, taken in Cairo, Egypt on October 28, 2011

The ensuing months have not dampened the horror and the rage that so many of us felt on October 25, 2011. That rage catapulted Oakland into the spotlight and helped to catalyze the Occupy movement around the globe. Within days, attendance at our general assembly had grown from 300 to 3,000 and within just a week we were able to mobilize 30,000 or more to participate in a general strike and a shutdown of the Port of Oakland. Despite his continued anxiety around cops, Scott Olsen continues to participate; he says that Occupy has been “a success overall . . . it has radicalized a generation who I don’t think is going to give up until we create a world that we want to live in.”
Read the rest of this entry →

Oakland: A City in Pieces (An Update on Alan Blueford)

1:57 am in Uncategorized by hotflashcarol

Image: greendoula / Flickr

Background: Two weeks ago, the family of Alan Blueford and their supporters sought answers from the Oakland City Council about Alan’s death — answers they have been seeking since their 18-year-old son was murdered by Oakland police officer Miguel Masso on May 6, 2012. Answers were not forthcoming. The council attempted to move on to other city business, including a resolution proclaiming Oakland an “International City of Peace.” The community rose up in anguish and distress and said: No Justice, No Peace.

* * *

In an attempt to avoid facing an onslaught of distraught citizens again this evening, city administrators held behind-the scenes meeting where they discussed limiting the number of people who would be allowed in council chambers. It’s comforting that they were able to focus on such matters while violence continued unabated on the mean streets of their city; five people were shot to death in the last couple of days.

Although such restrictive policies were not yet supposed to be in place for tonight’s meeting, dozens, if not hundreds, of people were barred from entering the council chambers. Balcony seating was closed. I didn’t attend, but I watched the livestreams and chatted online with people who were there. A friend who made it inside said that at the beginning of the meeting, there were only about 75 people present and many seats were empty. (There is seating for 216 and standing room for many more.)

According to media reports (which almost always underestimate crowds), about 100 people took part in the Interfaith March for Alan Blueford, which began at the Alameda County Courthouse and continued to City Hall for the meeting. Interfaith member and fearless Occupier Nichola Torbett says that the group blocked the streets at rush hour, without a permit. (Whose streets? Our streets!) Once they arrived at City Hall, many of these people were denied entrance to the council meeting by the police.

Read the rest of this entry →

Oakland City Council: “We’re gonna party like it’s 1984.”

11:19 pm in Uncategorized by hotflashcarol

It’s deja vu all over again.

Back in May, I wrote a diary about Alan Blueford, the African-American high school student who was murdered by Officer Miguel Masso of the Oakland Police Department. Initially, OPD said that Officer Masso and Blueford had been in a “gun battle.” That’s what Blueford’s parents were told hours after they arrived at police headquarters seeking answers. They’d been notified by Alan’s friends (as opposed to police) that their son was dead. Police informed them that their son (and the officer that he supposedly shot at) had been rushed to Highland Hospital. Those were lies. It turns out that Officer Masso shot himself in the foot. Alan was apparently left to die in the street and was never transported to the hospital. The coroner found that Alan had not fired a gun. Officer Masso’s credibility has been further undermined by revelations that he may have been hired by OPD while he was still under investigation in a civils rights lawsuit filed against him when he was a New York city cop.

On May 15, the Bluefords appeared before the Oakland City Council asking for help in finding out what had really happened to their child. Chief Jordan was missing in action and the council had no answers for the Bluefords that evening, although one of them helpfully proposed that a more efficient next-of-kin notification protocol might be in order the next time the pigs blow a black teenager to Kingdom Come.

On September 18, frustrated by more than four long months of obfuscation and stonewalling by the City and OPD, Alan’s family once again appealed to the City Council, asking them to produce the police report on Alan’s death. Once again, the council promised that Chief of Police Howard Jordan would materialize. And once again, after a “10-minute break” that lasted more than a half hour, HoJo was a no-show.

Council chambers were packed with hundreds of supporters of the Blueford family from all segments of the community, including—but by no means limited to—members of Occupy Oakland. When it became obvious that no police report was forthcoming, the crowd began to chant, “Where’s Howard Jordan?” The council attempted to reconvene and introduce the next item, which was a resolution to name Oakland as an “International City of Peace.” Although the irony may have been lost on the council, it was not lost on the crowd. The next chant became the familiar standby: “No justice, no peace.” Council president Larry Reid abruptly adjourned the meeting, leaving the Blueford family without answers and the remainder of city business undone. A few days later, OPD leaked a “new” report that Alan Blueford’s fingerprints had been found on a gun at the scene. The Blueford family quickly responded, saying that OPD was continuing to slander their son and that the timing of the leak was suspicious and self-serving, given OPD’s ongoing inability to produce a police report.

The Bluefords and their supporters—in particular, members of the interfaith community—have vowed to return to the next city council meeting on Tuesday, October 2nd. Anticipating that another large crowd of people might show up and demand accountability from their elected representatives, City Administrator Deanna Santana is attempting to limit the number of people allowed to attend the meeting. In a series of off-the-record meetings with other high-level city officials, Ms. Antoinette Santana has proposed that the balcony area of the chambers be closed, reducing the current 214 seats by about half. She also wants to bar citizens from standing in the chambers or congregating immediately outside the doors, which has been a longstanding tradition. Instead, overflow crowds would be diverted to rooms with video feeds (and, of course, no access to the council members safely ensconced in chambers with a manageable group of 100 or so).

Edited to add this lovely bit of doublespeak:

“The primary goal is to make sure the city’s business moves forward and the public has a chance to participate in the political process,” city spokeswoman Karen Boyd said.

You can imagine how Oakland is reacting to this latest fascist fantasy dreamed up by the gang that brought you Scott Olsen. Stay tuned for an update on Tuesday.



C’mon Kids! Let’s Occupy!

12:39 am in Uncategorized by hotflashcarol

Shameless pimping for The Coup’s new album Sorry To Bother You.

Shake it, yeah we agitatin’

Yeah, we bump and break it,

Yeah, we fit’n to take it

Hey now, we goin’ work it

Yeah, we jam the circuit,

Yeah, we got the verdict

Yeah, it’s fuck that circus


(If these lyrics are wrong, I hope Boots will correct me. Pretty sure he’s the first hip hop artist to use the word “dagnabbit” in a song; that happens later but I wasn’t up to transcribing the whole thing.)

So . . . election season is killing me. It can’t be over soon enough. My attempts to have a civil discussion about voting (or, more precisely, voting for Jill Stein or—gasp!—not voting at all) have resulted in people who don’t know me from Adam calling me a “lefter-than-thou asshole,”  a violent, window-smashing anarchist, and a “hit-and-run [See You Next Tuesday].” People who do know me say that I am fatalistic and that I have fallen into the same “government-hating” trap as the teabaggers; they wish I would stick to talking about cats. And those are the people who are still talking to me; lord only knows how many people have unfriended me in virtual space, or for real. Facebook has recently added a “custom” list feature; I am sorely tempted to divide my FB friends into “violent, fatalistic leftist assholes like me” and “everyone else.” If I made such distinctions, more of my list would fall into the former category than the latter (as opposed to the real world).

But never mind that. Last night, mr. hotflashcarol and I went to our first Occupy Chico General Assembly. It was the most hopeful I have felt in months. After living in a neighborhood that we not-so-lovingly refer to as “Grandpa Acres,” where the noise – and the conversation – consists not of gunshots but of lawn mowers, leaf blowers and weed whackers, we were thrilled to find some kindred spirits who wanted to talk about revolution.  It was a small but spirited gathering. I asked a dozen questions and got a lovely little Occupy Chico history lesson. Just like all the other occupies, Occupy Chico has not disappeared or gone into hibernation. They’re still making news. For the past year, they’ve been working on stopping foreclosures, Occupying Monsanto and Beale Air Force Base, reconstituting the local Food Not Bombs, establishing a “time bank” where people can trade services, educating people about California’s Proposition 37 (which has significant ramifications for this local agricultural community) and preparing for Occupy Evolution, an anniversary event that takes place on Monday at Chico State University. Can I get a round of twinkle fingers, please?

As much as I am coming to love Chico, I left at least part of my heart in Oakland (apologies to Tony Bennett). My OO homies have plans for an October 10th Anniversary Assembly and a reconvergence to Take Black the Plaza on October 25th. We hope to bring a convoy of outside agitators from Chico to that event. It’s time to re-energize, to feel that sense of Hope and Change in the air again. A lot of people say it was the best time of their lives; wouldn’t it be something to re-ignite that fire?

C’mon, kids! Let’s Occupy!

(More shameless pimping for The Coup. But if the Magic Clap doesn’t make you happy, it’s on you.)

#Occupy Oakland: Racial Profiling? FTP (FILM the Police) UPDATED

11:57 am in Uncategorized by hotflashcarol

We need a fucking gang injunction against y’all!

This is video from Occupy Oakland livestreamer and hella courageous citizen Jessica Hollie (aka Bella Eiko), who was apparently downtown for the “Justice for Alan Blueford” rally that had taken place earlier yesterday afternoon at Oscar Grant Plaza. Jessica confronts police who have just detained two young black men at gunpoint. I strongly encourage anyone who has ever fantasized about standing up to the police to watch all 17-1/2 minutes; you’ll get a lesson in defending your rights and a reminder that these thugs are supposed to be accountable to us.

This is not an isolated incident in Oakland; we’ve all seen it happen over and over. Cops jump out of cars with their guns drawn in the middle of a busy intersection, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are putting everyone in danger. Jessica’s fear that the pigs are going to shoot one of these two men as they try to obey complex instructions to put their hands up and walk backward to the left is not at all misplaced. I suspect her accusation of racial profiling is not misplaced either. It’s not clear what the men were detained for; at least one of them was released within the 17-minute timeframe of this video.

OPD makes the news virtually every day for some new or ongoing outrage. So far this week, they’ve been on TV for posting photos in a patrol lineup room of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Judge Thelton Henderson that were defaced in a “racist and inappropriate” manner (Henderson is the African-American judge who will decide whether a federal monitor takes control of the department). And for wasting millions of dollars in technology purchases for items that have gone unused from vendors who have gone out of business—while at the same time laying off police for lack of funds. And it’s only Wednesday; stay tuned.

UPDATE: Jessica is taking a lot of heat for her video, particularly for her language. Here is her response:

#Occupy Oakland: Hope? Nope.

12:09 pm in Uncategorized by hotflashcarol

All photos by hotflashcarol

Like an oversized version of this imaginary government mosquito, President Obama buzzed around Oakland yesterday and sucked out a few million dollars of the city’s lifeblood — an estimated $4 million in campaign donations and likely another million or two in police overtime as well as lost business, wages and productivity for those who got trapped in the O-zone. Dear Leader and his Haag had already begun to systematically decimate Oakland’s tax base by shutting down legally-operated medical marijuana dispensaries that pay millions in local and state taxes. Harborside and Oaksterdam supporters staged a large protest at Oscar Grant Plaza early yesterday in anticipation of Obama’s visit.

Read the rest of this entry →

#Occupy Oakland: Justice May Never Get Here

12:16 am in Uncategorized by hotflashcarol

The first FDL diary I wrote about Occupy Oakland, back in November, was called “Justice Is Not Here Yet.” The title was based on a quote from longtime, prominent Oaklander Dorothy King to City Councilwoman Desley Brooks. Desley asked her old friend Dorothy why she needed to continue to camp in Oscar Grant Plaza; after all, she had made her point by simply being there. Dorothy responded by saying: “Justice is not here yet.”

I fear that justice may never find its way to Oakland. Almost every diary I have written since is about the latest injustice in our unfair city. Unfortunately, this diary is no different.

Oakland Police Department

Photo by vision63

The Oakland Police Department Shoots Itself in the Foot. Literally.

Early on the morning of Sunday, May 5, 2012, Oakland police officer Miguel Masso shot and killed Alan Dewayne Blueford, an 18-year-old African American man, in East Oakland. Initial police reports (dutifully reported as true facts by MSM stenographers) indicated that officers on patrol came upon three young men, one of whom they believed was armed with a concealed weapon. The suspect fled, was pursued by one officer, and a shootout ensued. The suspect shot the officer and the officer returned fire, shooting the suspect three times. Both the officer and the suspect were rushed to Highland Hospital. The officer had non-life-threatening injuries to his lower extremities; the suspect was pronounced dead at the hospital. In the next day or two, the suspect was identified as Alan Blueford, who was on juvenile probation for burglary. So, to summarize: notorious East Oakland neighborhood; armed thug; heroic cop who barely escapes with his life. Game, set, match.

Except that’s not what happened. Not at all. The truth has begun to trickle out like Alan Blueford’s blood as he lay wounded and dying on the street for four hours. The gun allegedly found at the scene and allegedly belonging to Alan and reported as being as few as five feet away from Alan’s body or as many as 30 feet away from it—had never been fired. Officer Masso (whose name has not been officially released) shot himself in the foot.

Alan’s two friends were held by police for the next six hours. Alan’s parents were not aware that their son was dead until his friends were released from police custody. The friends told a different story, a story about how three teenagers were waiting on a corner around midnight for “some girls in a white Chevy” to pick them up, as Alan had told his father in the last phone call he made before he died.  A story about how the cops rolled up on them with their lights out and their guns drawn, and how Alan did, in fact, run, because he was scared.

On May 15, 2012, the remarkably composed family of Alan Blueford appeared before the Oakland City Council. Alan’s mother, Jeralyn, told the council about how she and her husband, Adam, had rushed to the police station upon learning about Alan’s death from his friends. About how they had been told to “go sit down” and were forced to wait for two hours before someone finally came and told them that their son had been involved in a “gun battle” with police. Alan’s cousins talked about what a wonderful young man Alan had been, how he’d just been to the prom at Skyline High School and how he’d had been looking forward to graduating. The meeting was packed with people who had come to bear witness to yet another family’s grief, grief inflicted by OPD. We were all overcome by their courage in the face of such injustice, such outrage, such sorrow.

Except for the council members, many of whom fidgeted with their phones and seemed to be engaged in other, more pressing business. Councilwoman Desley Brooks, to her credit, at least demanded to know why OPD Chief Howard Jordan was not present to answer the Blueford’s questions. Unfortunately, Desley’s concern seemed to be about whether or not OPD had followed the established protocol for informing yet another mother that her young black son was dead at the hands of the police—rather than questioning the perfectly insane notion that such a protocol should even exist.
Read the rest of this entry →

The high cost of being broke and disobedient in America

1:19 am in Uncategorized by hotflashcarol

It’s hella expensive to be broke in America. As Louis C.K. says at the very end of this video, “This shit is brutal.” And that was back in the halcyon days, when the recession and the bailouts were just twinkles in Little Timmy Geithner’s eye. But it’s not just the banks taking $15 of our last $20 and giving it to people like Mitt; we are being preyed upon by the very government we pay to take care of us.


Exhibit A: Street Sweeping Tickets

We live on what looks like a dead end street in a mostly industrial area in East Oakland, in between the railroad tracks and the BART tracks. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s a nightmare street, the one you end up on at 2 AM after you get off the freeway to get gas and can’t find your way back to the onramp. If you’re brave enough to drive to the end of the block, you discover that you can actually turn right, but you might run over an old couch or an engine block or whatever has been illegally dumped that night. Or you might speed up when you catch a glimpse of the folk art in front of the house on the corner that consists of garishly painted mannequin parts in an easy chair and random pieces of metal buried halfway in the ground, surrounded by old tires. Or you might have to back out because you can’t get past the rows of stripped cars being processed at the chop shop on the far corner. If you roll down your window, you might hear Norteño music turned up really loud. Or the blast of the freight train whistle. Or the high-pitched squeal of the BART train. Or the pile driver tearing down the old freeway. Or the incessant drone of the drum machine loop that our building manager forgets to turn off (he has the musical aptitude of at least an eleven-year-old). Or gunshots. Often, it’s all of the above.

So once a month (yes, once a month!), the City of Oakland is supposed to sweep our street, sweep away a months’ worth of condoms and needles and crack pipes and candy wrappers, not to mention the dog doodoo that our building manager kicks off the curb instead of picking up. And we’re supposed to move our cars so the gutters can be swept. And if we put our cars back before noon, even if the street sweeper has already come by, we still get a ticket. For $63. For the past four months, though, the street sweeper hasn’t come around. But the parking citation people never miss a sweeping day. They come and hand out tickets anyway, even when the street doesn’t get swept. Because that’s not the point, now is it?

bumper stickers

Photo by hotflashcarol

Exhibit B: Parking Tickets

Does the vehicle above (imagine it with the California plates it has now) look like it might belong to Occupiers? Dirty fucking hippy Occupiers who think they can just park in any old parking place they want? If you were an upstanding member of the Oakland Police Department and you happened upon this vehicle at 3 AM on the periphery of Oscar Grant Plaza, could you possibly just walk on by? I mean, it has a marijuana lei hanging from the mirror, for chrissakes. What if this was the very car that belonged to those filthy little commie tent dwellers, the ones who were probably this very minute dwelling in that tent that has Fuck the Police written on it in two-foot-tall letters? I mean, come on, this is practically an invitation. A ticket for a violation entitled “Obedience to Signs” practically writes itself, doesn’t it? Occupiers? Obedience? Exactly.

Nevermind that not a single one of the four parking tickets left on said Occupiers’ vehicle during the height of OO was legitimate or correct by any stretch of the imagination. One of the tickets listed the wrong address – a street under the freeway where no parking places exist, nowhere near where the VW was actually parked. Attempts to dispute these tickets via emails, with extensive documentation, failed; further appeals require you to pay first and then request an in-person administrative hearing later.


Exhibit C: Tinted Window Tickets

Our other car is a totally respectable Volvo station wagon (albeit with Oakland Raiders license plate frames). This car also received a parking ticket in downtown Oakland. Five minutes late getting back to your parking meter will set you back $58. And driving with factory tinted windows on the last day of the month will get you pulled over; gotta meet those monthly quotas. Mr. hotflashcarol doesn’t have a drivers’ license. Long story short: a suspended license 15 years ago, coupled with a DMV error that shows it was never reinstated, equals a brick wall. He’s had a perfect driving record without even a parking ticket since then (until Occupy) and he goes to the DMV about once every six months in an attempt to find someone who can rectify this. But nobody knows what to do. So, anyway, he drives the Volvo to the supermarket in neighboring Alameda and gets pulled over by a motorcycle cop for the window tint ostensibly being too dark. And they discover he has no license and so they tow the car. This happened within walking distance of our house but it cost us $350 to get the car back from the tow yard, also right down the street. And I had to go beg and scrape to an “administrative officer” who was wearing jeans and a Harley Davidson T-shirt. I had to promise that I would never let my big bad husband drive the car again. Infuriated as he was, mr. hotflash saw this as blessing in disguise: finally, a court date and a chance to get in front of a judge and maybe get the drivers’ license thing squared away after all these years. There must be a statute of limitations or something, right? Well, the court date came and he went and stood in line for hours only to be told that neither the driving violation nor the tinted window ticket had been entered into the system. And that there was no way of knowing if it ever would be. And no, you can’t see a judge if you haven’t been charged with anything.


Exhibit D: DMV

A few days ago we got the registration renewal notice for the VW from the California DMV. The actual price to renew it is around $120. However, what they want us to pay is nearly $900. They’ve added the disputed parking tickets to the total, of course, and by now they have all doubled or tripled due to non-payment. There may be a way to dispute them at this level, but I’m sure you have to pay first and fight later. $900 is what we paid for the VW back when we bought it from its original owner. So, hey, no problemo, Department of Muthafuckin’ Vehicles, we’ve probably got that much floating around in our couch cushions.


Exhibit E: Landlords

We’ve made thousands of dollars of improvements to our warehouse space (some with actual money but mostly with mr. hotflashcarol’s sweat and blood). They rewarded us by raising our rent, due to “increased maintenance costs.” When a pile of mattresses got dumped on our sidewalk, I waited a full two weeks before I emailed and requested that it be cleaned up. The landlord scolded me and said, “nobody else has complained.”

Remember Eddie Murphy’s poem from SNL?

Dark and lonely on the summer night. Kill my landlord, kill my landlord. Watchdog barking – Do he bite? Kill my landlord, kill my landlord. C-I-L-L my landlord.


And, finally, Exhibit F: the IRS (yes – F the IRS)

Show of hands: how many of you have had a Federal tax lien filed against you? Aw, c’mon, there are millions of us now, especially since unemployment started skyrocketing. My personal relationship with the IRS began about 30 years ago when I worked for an ad agency in Reno. The agency’s clients were mostly casinos. Somehow the Feds decided that I actually worked for a casino and had failed to claim my tips. So even though I was making very little money and just scraping by, they thought they’d hang on to my refunds until we got this thing sorted out. Which took years and years and years. Somewhere in there I worked for Scientologists who deducted taxes from my paychecks but failed to send them to the IRS; they probably went to Xenu. So that didn’t help. I became disenchanted with the process and stopped filing (see, that obedience thing was a problem from the get-go). Periodically the special IRS mailman would bring me my IRS notices. You may think I am kidding, but I am not. Eventually they started garnishing my wages. They gave me a phone number to call and all I could do was leave a message. This went on for months and I finally discovered that the person I had been leaving messages for, “Mr. Brown,” was no longer there – if indeed he ever existed at all. I thought – somewhat seriously – that maybe I should visit the Golden Gate Bridge and relieve my tax burden once and for all. Instead, I contacted Congressman Dellums (back when he was actually a public servant) and he got me a sitdown with a real live IRS lady who hooked me right up to the IV and got me into a plan that left the requisite amount of blood in my system so that I was actually able to continue working without fainting. They were the tiniest bit smarter and less greedy back then.

Fast forward to now. I still have that obedience problem. They had to come to my house this time. They sent an IRS lady whose name is the same as a winter holiday (and it’s not Christmas and it’s not Hanukkah). I’m sure that when she saw my neighborhood and stepped over the condoms and the crack pipes and the pile of dirty mattresses that she thought to herself, yeah, this is a good use of my time. That hotflashcarol is holding out on us again; she just won’t ever learn that working class people have to pay as much – ideally even more – than they possibly can, and that we will hunt them down and find them if they don’t, every single time.

* * *

I’d be happy to pay the occasional parking ticket, if it meant that kids didn’t go hungry and schools didn’t close in Oakland. And I’d be happy to pay my income taxes without a fight if it meant that everybody could have health insurance (something my family and I haven’t had for more than 10 years), if people’s basic needs could be met, if we spent it on something other than war and the excesses of the owning class. But for now, I still have to be forced into being fucked this hard. I still insist on kicking and screaming. And they charge you a lot for that.

I’ll end with two fellow discontents, Boots Riley and Tom Morello, of the Sweet Sweeper Social Club, and their song called The Oath:

I pledge
To get their foot off my neck
I shall demand my respect
I’ll fight
Even if I won’t win
The beginning is the end
I pledge
To make the bosses cringe
Instead we’ll get some justified ends
I’ll fight
Til the system is gone
This ex-losers song

#Occupy Oakland: What Does Non-Violence Even Mean in a War Zone?

10:54 pm in Uncategorized by hotflashcarol

“Not Yet Free” by The Coup with Boots Riley, released in 1993

In this land I can’t stand or sit and not get shit thrown up in my face

A brotha never gets his props

I’m doin bellyflops at the department of waste

And everyday I pulls a front so nobody pulls my card

I got a mirror in my pocket and I practice lookin hard

I’m lookin behind me beside me ahead of me

There’ll be no feet makin tracks here instead of me

But I can’t disregard just what the news says to me

I’m twenty-one, so I’ve reached my life expectancy

At any minute I could be in some shit that kills my skinny ass

From motherfuckers doin the sellout strut or probably Oakland task

My relationship with OPD has been like one big diss

Long arm of the law, grips my dick so tight it’s hard to even piss

So I forgot ain’t even got a pot to do it in

Up at the church they’re tellin me it’s because I live in sin

So I grin, but nevertheless my mind won’t dwell

I must be trippin cause I thought I was livin in hell

Capitalism is like a spider, the web is getting tighter

I’m struggling like a fighter, just to bust loose

It’s like a noose asyphyxiation sets in

Just when I think I’m free it seems to me the spider steps in

This web is made of money made of greed made of me

Of what I have become in a parasite economy


Today I watched a young man shoot another young man. To say it happened right in front of everyone, in broad daylight, would be an understatement. It was just after lunch and a handful of us “Mac-Tem (MacArthur Temescal) Neighborhood Assembly” folks were in Mosswood Park, waiting to join the Occupy Education march from UC Berkeley when it came down Telegraph Avenue in a half hour or so. The rain had just cleared and the sky was like a big blue diamond and the still-wet grass under our feet was all shiny green and we were standing at the edge of the park talking about soup. And then there was one gunshot and what had been a tight little knot of people directly across the street began to sort of come unknotted. And then there were more gunshots, maybe five or six or seven. Most of us hid behind a big tree for about a minute. When I looked back across the street, the man with the gun – a young African American man in a black hoodie – was still sort of pacing around a little ways up the street.

Nobody screamed. I thought there would be screaming. But it was kind of still for a minute and then the people I was with started talking about what the gun looked like. I don’t think I actually saw it but apparently it was big and silver. If you hadn’t heard the gunshots, you could not have guessed what had just happened. The people filling their cars with $5/gallon gas at the gas station only a few feet away seemed to be going about their business. The people who had been shot at were still on their feet, sort of milling around. Except for one. In another few minutes, people began to yell and point at a young man who had run around the corner and fallen down about a half a block away. My friend Z. ran down the block to check on him and came back and said he had been hit in the shoulder and was bleeding pretty badly. I started to cry. I thought there would be crying. But it was just me.

After maybe 10 minutes some cops showed up. No ambulance, even though Kaiser Hospital was a stone’s throw away. But Kaiser’s not a trauma center; Oakland’s Highland Hospital specializes in gunshot wounds. I’m pretty sure I remember hearing that medics on their way to Iraq or Afghanistan do their training at Highland; after all, a war zone is a war zone.

I went to my car and made my way home in kind of a fog. When I got home, I heard from friends on Facebook that an ambulance finally arrived about 20 minutes after the shooting. The young man who was shot – Z. called him a “teenager” – is in critical condition but apparently is going to survive and the shooter apparently has been caught. So far this is the only news story I can find about it; it was not today’s only shooting in Oakland, and he was just a teenager, not a toddler.

* * *

During the past few weeks, I had kinda broken up with Occupy Oakland. At least we had stopped seeing each other as often. The relationship had some issues. You might call it violence fatigue. Or “insurrectional dysfunction.”  After J28, I started re-evaluating the idea that every major action must involve a police riot; OPD can always be counted on to start one if that’s the plan. Many of us began to question where we were at and how we got there and what should happen next. But discussions about tactics continue to devolve into arguments about the semantics of violence and non-violence and blah blah blah, yada yada yada. The most obnoxious and divisive people continue to be defended under some sort of “comrades uber alles” mentality. When it finally begins to feel like junior high school, you realize: Hey, I’m not 13, I don’t actually have to go.

And yet . . . you can’t stay away. That’s why I was there at the Mac-Tem neighborhood assembly today, at an event that was billed as family friendly and non-violent, that probably would have included some kids if it hadn’t been raining earlier. But you can’t count on Oakland to be non-violent. Not my Fruitvale neighborhood in East Oakland, where Oscar Grant (and just recently, his cousin) was murdered by the police and where I hear gunshots all the time. Not further into “Deep East” Oakland where there are shootings pretty much every day, and a death every two or three. Not in West Oakland where someone was shot just today; and not even in Mosswood Park in North Oakland, in the culturally diverse, hipster neighborhood of Temescal.

It is not a mystery why people are shooting each other in Oakland at all hours of every day and every night. Boots Riley, among others, has schooled me about the “parasite economy,” “made of money, made of greed, made of me” that forces impoverished people, people who are the victims of decades of institutionalized racism, who have been chewed up and spit out by the prison industrial complex, to do whatever it takes to survive. Unemployment is 14% in Oakland, as much as 20% in East Oakland, and higher than that for people of color. I can’t even imagine what the statistics might be for parolees. And yet . . . when you see the consequences unfold in front of your eyes, when you watch as one more young man waits 20 minutes for an ambulance and another is taken away to jail, it still seems so incredibly fucking wrong.