There were a couple of attractive sounding Occupy actions in my area for Valentine's day. One of the things that sounded enticing was they were both very peaceful sounding. They made for a good day off, and a productive way to spend Valentine's day as a single person.
The first was in San Francisco. A new affinity group of Occupy SF called the Environmental Justice Working Group had a small “break up with B of A” protest. It was held in front of the Bank Of America at 1 Powell Street. The protest was inspired by a similar action taking place in New York.
I arrived at 11:30 AM and the protestors were setting up a broken cardboard heart. They had blue hearts to pass out that explained the protest. The heading on the Valentine read “Stop Investing In Poisoning the Environment”, then it detailed the connections B of A has to things like fossil fuels, coal, fracking.
Two of the protestors put on a street theater performance where a woman broke up with a man who represented the bank.
At it's peak, the protestors numbered 11, and yes, I'm including one woman's dog. All were good natured, extremely peaceful and friendly. I started to realize there were more police lingering in the area then demonstrators, so I walked around to count. There were 18 officers scattered around, and there were 10 police vehicles parked nearby, including an arrest van and a truck with barricades.
I think after about 15 minutes the officers would have realized these people would be no trouble at all, and some of the police could have left. But at least the police were affable about everything. I spoke with Sargent Garrity, and he was surprisingly respectful and conversational. Whenever I run into that from a policeman, which is always outside of Oakland, I feel like I'm hallucinating. It makes me realize all the more that Oakland has a uniquely troubled police force, and that it doesn't represent all police. Which is good to realize.
I love small actions like this. I'm a strong believer that every action has an effect and value. In some ways it's almost harder to go out in small numbers, if for no other reason then you become more visible, each person's presence has a little more weight. Large turnouts are great too, but I think a variety of actions of different shapes and degrees is good. Speaking with these protestors got me thinking about a lot of things, and I'm grateful for that.
I went home and took a long nap, and slept longer then I intended to. Eventually I got myself together and went to the Occupy Oakland Valentine's Day March.
The Occupy Oakland website's announcement for the event said: “Join us on Valentine’s Day to express our love for each other, and our beautiful city, on a march through the downtown Oakland area. Participants should wear red and/or pink in celebration of Valentine’s Day, and are encouraged to bring flowers, bubbles, Valentine’s candy to share, glitter, confetti, and flower petals.” It was stressed that this was to be a peaceful and family friendly event.
I arrived late and had to drive around to find the march. I found some police cars that were following it, I parked and ran to catch up. There were about 300 happy Occupiers basically doing what the website's description said. At one point I got glitter all over me. As I walked along I was offered candy and home-baked cookies. There were pets and children scattered within the crowd.
As we marched, police followed on the outskirts. There's always a tension seeing the police blocking off streets, but they didn't intervene, much to people's relief.
Eventually the crowd returned to the starting point, which was at a small park at 19th and Telegraph. Some people dispersed, some stayed and hung out, while some had a little dance party.
There were no moments of violence. I was around the corner from where a man lit a flag on fire on the statues of civil rights leaders in the park. I saw an Occupier I know jump up, grab the burning flag, stomp it out and scold the man for doing that. I did not see a bunch of approval for the flag burning.
Earlier in the day in San Francisco I had spoken with one of the protestors who voiced his disapproval regarding the flag burning on Jan 28th. It was hard to get him to understand that was one person out of over 1,000. This was just one person, and it made me sad to see a bunch of cameras capturing the remaining ashes of the flag on the ground. That was not what the evening was about, any more then one person at a baseball game who decides to do something offensive or violent represents all of baseball, or the home team.
There was a gentle, kind and peaceful hand in both of the day's events, something a lot of people just don't see about this movement. Most Occupiers I've met, and I think most of the ones I haven't met, are peaceful people. Somehow the Oakland police have been able to violently attack the Occupy community and make it look like it's the Occupiers who are the violent ones.
I watched a woman on the march walk up to one of the many cars we passed that honked it's horn in approval. She gave the driver a flower, and that moment was Occupy Oakland to me. Are the Occupiers strong willed and determined? Absolutely. Are they upset about the Oakland Police? I know I am. Do they push the issue sometimes? I think it has to be pushed, or the police will stop the movement. But I've seen more, many more acts like the handing out of the flower then the flag burning. Many more.
The history of Saint Valentine is nebulous and confusing, but by many accounts he was a martyr for standing by what he believed. He may have been based on up to 14 people. Somehow, that got converted into a celebration of love. In light of all the persecution and violence done to Occupy by the city government of Oakland, this peaceful protest of love seemed especially poignant and touching.
I had a great and uplifting day attending these events. I hope to spend more days in the same way. Many more days.
all content by me. i don't believe in copyright. i do believe in the power of beautiful peaceful protest, especially if cookies are involved.