Decolonization by Occupy Oakland

Here is a virtual tour of the Oakland Commune, at Oscar Grant Plaza, on Ohlone Land.

The Oakland Commune is growing so much that it is now also occupying another park nearby towards the lake. Both this second park as well as the lake have yet to have their names decolonized, as we have already decolonized the Oakland Commune (former “City of Oakland”), which is centered around the daily, 99%-consensus, general assembly that takes place at Oscar Grant Plaza (former “Frank Ogawa Plaza”), on Ohlone Land (a share of what’s formerly and still occupied “United States of America”). Our names and our languages make us who we are in communication/coexistence with life around us, so we ought not to dismiss the importance of actually changing our lived and living languages. But changing words alone would not suffice, nor would speaking and writing about decolonization without actively participating in the decolonization process, taking action in the brutally physical decolonization of our public spaces, our streets, our neighborhoods, our places of work, our places of living, our places of playing.

How is such decolonizing action to be taken?

People in their hundreds marched from Oscar Grant Plaza on October 22, 2011, occupying the streets for more than three hours around the lake next to the Oakland Commune. This march accomplished several things: it gave a good and healthy stroll to the people of the Oakland Commune on a beautiful and sunny Saturday, alongside and mingling with several other people who make up the same community, even if they can’t or don’t sleep at Oscar Grant Plaza, enjoying seeing each other, catching up, venting, ranting, raving, shouting, chanting, singing, dancing, playing, joking, sharing water and popsicles, crashing a branch of Chase to tell them our feelings, surrounding the folks locked-in at Wells Fargo, and of course, giving a loud shout-out to all our friends across the continent: Shut down Wall Street!!

The gathering and march are necessary for energy, attention, communication, and solidarity between the people sleeping out in public spaces and people in their homes. It is also necessary to attempt to use the media to send messages to people beyond our communities. Since it seems that “shut down Wall Street” isn’t clear enough for the numbed audience of corporate media, who accuse that our movement “doesn’t seem to have any coherent demands”, we can walk slowly around town and point out not only where the problems are (banks, government buildings, etc) but also where the solutions are: Shut down OPD, not the Public Library!

Decolonization requires removing the police, who are the violent executioners of colonization, from our communities.

Decolonization requires the cultivation of our knowledges, our histories and stories, our places of learning, our places in common, our places of caring and sharing.

And yet decolonization requires that we decolonize ourselves. We are not merely asking someone who pretends to authority to change some policy about books or batons. Occupying Oscar Grant Plaza on Ohlone land and collectively building the Oakland Commune, cultivating democracy through the general assembly, we are already decolonizing our community and ourselves. When the pretenders to authority at City Hall issued an “eviction notice” to our movement because of “deteriorating camp conditions, physical damage, and health and safety code violations”, the contrast between the colonized and decolonization became glaringly apparent: we ignored their pretended authority to “evict us” and pointed out that “the rats, drug crimes, and violence in the area of 14th Street and Broadway went unchecked before we arrived.” ( ) The colonized view the encampment at Oscar Grant Plaza as a source of rats, drugs and violence because they never bothered to pay attention to what goes on around the corner of 14th and Broadway; the growing numbers of people criminally deprived of a roof and unjustly laid off work have been suffering these rats, drugs and violence for a long time. Now that we are organizing ourselves through the general assembly, decolonizing ourselves in fact, the plaza is cleaned up daily, and drug abusers and violent people are asked to leave the common space. And we still have much to do and much more that can be done!

So what is to be done?

We must continue to improve our organization, including more and more people and addressing immediately the basic needs of those who are suffering the most in our communities. We must continue to improve our self-discipline, maintaining peace among ourselves and curbing any sort of abuse. We must continue to improve our democracy, cultivating consensus and taking action through our general assemblies. We must continue to improve our strategy, extending and expanding  from our occupations of public spaces to the occupation and recreation of our spaces of work and our spaces of living. We must continue to improve our tactics, including but not limited to art, boycott, cacerolazo, debt-holiday and direct action, e-activism, fights, guerrilla, hacking, insurrection, jamming, kindness, living in harmony with the rest of life on earth, marches, nonviolent resistance, occupations, picketing, questioning authority, riots, strikes, tax-holidays, un-arresting, walk-outs, youth leadership and zAp!

Decolonization does not proceed by making demands of colonizers, but in decolonizing ourselves we are organically determining the contours of the world in which we remake ourselves. We organize free meals and shelter for anyone in our community in need, cultivating healthy food and decent housing as a right for everyone. We organize free public education for everyone in our community, sustaining a place of learning and library at the heart of Oakland Commune and amplifying the struggles of students, teachers and academic workers everywhere. We organize ourselves communally, integrating everyone who decides to be included in our community and deconstructing notions of separation by gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, etc. We organize ourselves democratically, cultivating the practice of making our own decisions about our way of life collectively and sidestepping the clientelism and apathy that result from rule by a bureaucracy and a kleptocracy through the sham of representation. We organize ourselves in association, neither paying nor receiving wages for the work we do for the community, neither charging interest nor rent from ourselves. And we organize ourselves collectively for the abolition of those institutions that exploit the people and our environment, the banks and corporations taking profit from our work and taking interest and rent from our life in our common land, and that bureaucracy that exploits us through taxation and oppresses us through police brutality and other peoples through military and economic imperialism. We organize ourselves for the decolonization of ourselves and our world, justice for all the peoples who have suffered and continue to suffer genocide, reparations for all the peoples who have suffered and continue to suffer slavery, restoration of a healthy and sustainable metabolism between ourselves and the agro-ecosystems in which we live, and the peace and plenty which the bounty of the earth can provide to all of us – if only the many of us who lack so much expropriate the few colonizers who are consuming and wasting everything in the planet for their own private benefit. Some among them might succeed in decolonizing themselves and join us, but most remain too entrenched in their hateful pride. In decolonizing ourselves and depriving them of the power, wealth and authority to which they pretend, we eliminate the colonizers and reach towards the completion of decolonization of our world

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