Week 1 through Week 3
Occupy Oakland Dispatch
by Irina Contreras
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Ogowa/Oscare Grant Plaza
Ogawa, which has been re-named Oscar Grant Plaza is slick with rain. There appear to be around 40 tents max. The ground is soggy and some people have arranged their camp so quickly that they don’t even have a tarp underneath or above their tent to trap the water. My partner and I laugh at the haphazard nature of it all.
We wander looking for a place to plug in to what is happening. I decide to check out the infotable to see if I might be able to help provide literature. There are several zines in very short stacks that someone from a distro may have been able to provide. There is a zine about Barcelona General Assemblies and very limited materials as far as international movements are concerned with. The zines sit on a makeshift wooden crate that looks like it might not make it through the night. A tarp has been created by plastic tubes with some plastic over it. I take notes and decide which of my favorite things to xerox at work and bring. In the end I make a few copies of special items writing on the front "rare zine from 94 Chiapas uprising about Compa Ramona, please share or bring back when done". They are all taken within two days and I figure or hope someone must have really liked them.
We also stop at food to survey what is there and join the food meeting. It appears that the group is with varying levels of experience and doesn’t have an actual chapter of Food Not Bombs involved or anything of the sort. I realize that someone is actually attempting to fix their camp stove while we are meeting with a lamp on their head. He holds a lighter and a few other objects that I cannot recognize in the dark The group is about 15 or so of us and no one can hear one another very well at all.People take cardboard from the water donations to sit on top of the wet ground.
There is a facilitator that seems to have a general lay of the land but occasionally relies on an older fellow with a Slingshot Organizer. He is writing notes in his organizer while he lays on his stomach. He is obviously not cold and gives advice about how to best set up the food for everyone. He seems to me to be fairly incoherent though when asked a direct question, has a specific number for everything. There is one tent and one cardboard box with pans that a fellow brings during the meeting. People are so happy they cheer. Mostly, there are 4-6 24 packs of arrowhead water bottles and some tea on a table. There was coffee, which is now gone.
As a group, we are fairly unprepared and it is within these first 24 hours that I realize how unprepared. I realize from a personal perspective that I "used" to have a tent and some camping equipment. No more... Some people seem to have a lot and for the most part, things are shared. Large family sized tents are donated the next night by Lupe Fiasco as well as more cooking and camping equipment. Additionally, within the next 48 hours of Week 1, while we are not prepared we make for it in quick response. It seems to me that this our strength. We may not have much but we are quick and resourceful. We know how to respond.
It’s always easy for me to think of food so I will use that example. By the time I come back after work on Day 2, food is in abundance and in fact a full stocked kitchen is in place. There is an actual pantry with vegetable and dry goods sections. Between Day 1 and 3, The sinking and smooshy ground is covered with hay (also donated) in its most problem and high traffic areas and with a pathway of wood boards that are actually adhered to the ground running parallel to the sidewalk and wheelchair accessible pathway.