Five Nights in Oakland June 2020

Friday all Hell broke loose.

Stepping off from city hall, the night started out by making a loop, and taking the freeway. Thousands in the streets making ground maneuver for the police impossible. At that point, every single person there who has gotten out of the house, and into the streets, is helping to bring attention to the truth that without justice, there will be no peace. Taking a freeway is the least destructive way to get attention. Burning imperialist icons is to really get attention.

After a fuse ignites combustible material, what happens next is unpredictable. Anger blew well past imperialist icons, and got scary. Like, am I going to be able to get food tomorrow scary.

Saturday night started off with the Black Hebrew Israelites telling me I am the devil. The energy seemed much calmer than the night before, and the BHI voice was bringing light to the situation. Other than the game of trying to get reactions out of people, the main speaker had an incredibly calming voice, and offered much modern contextualism for the bible. Towards the end of this rolling dumpster fire of a night where someone who got hit by a car received EMT help from OPD, I overheard an OPD lifer Captain speak with someone who was angry. The Captain listened to his pain. I listened to his pain. I tried to feel it. And I saw it came from within. There was connection between all of us, right there, standing on the corner in Oakland.

Sunday night was quiet. A demonstration in front of the city jail, maybe 300-400 mostly chanting in front a phalanx of officers in riot gear blocking the jail. The crowd was mostly peaceful, but there were probably about a half dozen projectiles hurled at the police who were prevented from returning any kind of fire by crazy people who had brought their kids. Almost as soon as something hurled, a strong black female spirit warned she would unleash fury on the offender. This spirit tried to lead an engagement with the phalanx of officers who stood before us, but was met by a good amount of people from the back who were there for other reasons. People whose hate, and bitterness could only see these people before us as the devil. The projectile hurlers, and crazy people in the back were won over by a moment where everyone took a knee, together, in recognition of the reality that we are together.

The demonstration got mobile around 11PM, and an Oakland lifer in a bright gold Warriors sweatshirt lead us on a peaceful ride to capture the freeway. With only a crowd of 200-300 it is a much more difficult game for the red team because the blue team is pretty mobile. But red team had 3 shots on goal, and on the third shot a few people made it up a hill through a gap in a fence, but not enough for one of those really dramatic photos that gets attention. At half time of our game, the female spirit from earlier in the night walked the line inches from a phalanx of officers blocking the entrance, and said words to the effect of, “they know us, we’ve been doing this for years, don’t act the fool, and you don’t have to fear them.” There was another universal kneel down moment.

Monday I was not there, and 60 people got arrested as OPD launched tear gas, and closed phalanxes to trap people in intersections 20 minutes before curfew night 1.

Tuesday, curfew night 2. As curfew approached, a group of 1000 or so turned into a group of 200-300 with watchers spread out to look for mass arrest enclosures. This night felt much more like fuck the curfew instead of fuck the police. After the police themselves turned to leave, the female spirit from Sunday night asked the attention seekers to do the same. Captain Joshi of the OPD lead his officers in a moment of bringing everyone’s attention to humanity.

The streets were eerily quiet on the way home, with some really hurting people out and about. I watched someone dig through a garbage can, and smash glass bottles on the sidewalk. I asked if he needed a friend. He seemed stuck somewhere very bad, and it seemed the completely empty streets were somehow bringing it out.

It was clear OPD does not want to enforce this. At a human level they don’t. It is also clear that the more light there is on the streets, the better it is for everyone. I don’t know when the curfew will be lifted, but I encourage everyone who reads this to get out of the house, into the streets, and be the light, curfew, or no curfew.

Wednesday night at city hall is the first time I have ever felt fear in Oakland. Several thousand people turned out to openly defy the 8pm curfew, bringing out good music, and good vibes as the clock approached 8. With the Ohlone people banging out beats from Burning Man, and the warm evening sun on the grassy field, it was starting to look like the kind of night that would turn into tell all your friends to get there STAT. But at 8pm the beats stopped, and the bottom dropped out. I looked around, and sensed the mood change. The energy got angry. I was surrounded by thousands of angry people wearing masks, and I noticed some of them had weapons. Then someone approached me, and asked if I was with law enforcement. I panicked a quick “what if” scenario, and made my way out of the center as quickly as possible.

For several days prior as a road guard, I raced down streets in the wrong lane of traffic, flagging down on coming cars before they met the mob, had grown very comfortable at the perimeter, and come to know the other support bikers, motorcyclists, and EMTs. I came Wednesday night expecting to see some friendly faces, and witness a night of transition, and rebirth. But my friends were hidden behind a sea of angry energy behind a mask.

Later that night, Cat Brooks addressed the crowd: “Who keeps us safe? We keep us safe!”

I love Oakland for the love I have felt in Oakland. Wild crazy goodness. We are an example of how we can be free, and good.

A group called BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) appears to be capturing this movement. They are not very bright. I encourage everyone to get out, and be the light.

An open question to BAMN: Agreeing that Trump is terrible, and Biden is better, is there any means you would not employ to remove, and replace Donald Trump?

October 1 update:

Friday May 29, 2020 remains a historically explosive event. It should probably be seen with distinct analysis from the constant insurgency of about 50-100 permanent militant malcontents who believe in the virtue of destruction. A group so blinded by anger they smashed a black female owned coffee shop/grocer that gives free groceries to the needy.

It was the most raw display of the collective interpretation of justice I can imagine ever witnessing. It was the real time dynamic evolution, and application of justice I can imagine.

For 7 hours, starting from a little before 8PM Friday the 29th, until almost 3AM Saturday the 30th, Oakland was in a state of pure chaos. The strong arm of the government, commonly referred to as the police, were powerless to stop anything, short of the nuclear option. The nuclear option is mass lethal force against the governed, and is synonymous with the government losing all legitimacy. Insurgents operate under cover of this understood protection.

The only reason it ended is because people got cold, tired, and hungry.

But at the height of the kinetic energy, it was easy to wonder some “what-ifs” that shed light on what is. What if the mob took over city hall? What is power? If you torch every branch, can you hurt banks? How important is any physical thing in an information economy? All it takes is 1% to take to the streets in support of insurrection, and the government is nullified in terms of protecting physical property. I felt completely safe in the eye of this storm.

There were many kinds of people in the streets, for many different reasons. If there was any kind of a unified theme, it was the ambiguous idea of justice. It becomes crystal clear around matters of life and death, but much less so beyond that. A woman will stand before the Walgreens at 14th and Broadway, defending those who work, and shop there while black bloc smashers hammer windows around her. She stands with the courage of knowing many around her will defend her, but not the windows behind her. People will clarify “not the Grocery Outlet” while they watch the Mercedes dealership go up in flames directly across the street. Hard not to cheer the Grand Theft Auto master who drove a Honda out the window of the Honda dealership with a service department that holds cars hostage for mechanical work. The “this is for all those late fees” photo ops inside the Chase Bank at 14th and Broadway is a disproportionate message to entropy. Chase Bank’s fire suppression system was far superior to the Mercedes dealership.

Concluding thoughts on what is power in 2020, specifically how to monetize, and weaponize information. What is new is easier to monetize than what is old. The narrative of pure conflict naturally draws attention. What is human conflict in its most pure form?