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Activist Communique: Occupy Oakland keeps the fires burning

Occupy Oakland held their "Move In Day" demonstration on Saturday in Oakland, California.

Occupy demonstrators had hoped to occupy a long-time vacant convention centre, leading to hundreds of arrests and the Oakland police department's deployment of chemical weapons, rubber bullets and flash grenades on demonstrations well into the night.

Activists were deluged with tear gas during the day and kettled into mass arrests in the evening. At one point during the evening, activists broke into Oakland City Hall, damaging displays and burning an American flag.

One of the focal points for the demonstration was the Occupy Foreclosure movement -- the premise being matching homeless families with foreclosed homes. Or as Jerry Nelson describes it, "matching needy homes to needy families."

Occupy activists across North America are all essentially looking for the same thing -- a safe space.

In his December 2011 article for the Huffington Post, Nelson goes on to say, "This could be the next step for the Occupy movement. Already occupations are being planned in more than 20 cities nationwide -- and the list is growing. In Atlanta this week, the police and movers refused to evict a 103-year-old woman who was living with her 83-year-old daughter. Now if you think that evicting a 103-year-old lady is morally corrupt, ask yourself at what age is it morally okay when you'll end up just leaving the vacant house to fall apart and decay."

In the similar desire for a safe public space to re-occupy, Occupy Oakland had planned to occupy the vacant Henry Kaiser Convention Center. On Saturday, January 28, 2012, 400 people gathered in front of Oakland City Hall before marching to the Centre, breaking through a chain-link fence that surrounded the building. The Oakland police responded by firing smoke bombs into the crowd.

Of the attempted occupation of the Convention Centre -- which was eventually thwarted by the police -- Occupy Oakland defended the tactic: "since November, the city of Oakland and its police force have made it impossible for us to meet, to serve food and to provide a place for people to stay."

As the day progressed, activist and police clashed as demonstrators not only attempted to occupy the convention centre, but also entered the YMCA and City Hall. Demonstrators later denied attempting to break into City Hall or the YMCA as a political tactic.

By early next morning, more than 100 had been arrested in Oakland, many activists having been caught up in a police kettle that stretched into early Sunday morning.

In their call-out for the Saturday, January 28, 2012 day of action, a communiqué to activists pro-actively addressed the question of squatting as a tactic. "We believe that a successful, long-term occupation is contingent on a high number of occupants and supporters. Therefore, please prepare to stay overnight, at least throughout the festival. The first two days will give us an opportunity to self-organize and determine the future of the building."

Occupy Oakland has a history of fierce demonstrations, including a November 2, 2011, call for a general strike and a Occupy Strikes Back -- West Coast port blockade on December 12, 2011.

Oakland's occupations garnered world-wide attention last year when two U.S. military personnel were injured. Marine veteran Scott Olsen and U.S. Army veteran Kayvan Sabehgi were both seriously injured during clashes with the police.

Scott Olsen was struck in the head by a police projectile on October 25, 2011, while attending an Occupy Oakland demonstration.

Kayvan Sabehgi suffered a lacerated spleen from an alleged beating at the hands of Oakland police while attending a Occupy Oakland demonstration and general strike on Wednesday, November 2, 2011.

Occupy Oakland demonstrations are scheduled to continue Sunday at a "Rise Up Festival" at Oscar Grant Plaza.

Occupy Toronto has called a solidarity action with Occupy Oakland for Sunday night in front of the U.S. Consulate in Toronto, 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm.


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