Last week I interviewed David Osborne on Community Currency to ask him about how the idea of it came into being and how the organizing was going, as well as the thought and strategic motives behind it. I thought it was a brilliant, great idea and was glad to learn that 70 cities were participating, but I was sorry that the local groups were focusing most of their attention on the March Occupy Education actions. David informed me that Occupy Oakland was doing a solidarity action, so I couldn't resist going.
I tried to spread the word electronically and printed out lots of flyers, but I couldn't find anyone willing to drive an hour to Oakland with me with the bad weather forecast. I expected to get very cold and wet. The plan was to meet at a beautiful park, next to Lake Merritt at noon for sign making and ice cream, before shutting down a number of banks. I baked cookies (one reason that I was late) and also got myself lost on the way to the park, but the cookies were still warm when I arrived and went well with the ice cream. I forgot to count noses, but I think there were about 75 people gathered in the park, enjoying lunch, ice cream and one another's company. I saw a couple of old friends, but I didn't recognize most of the people. I did meet a couple of people from San Diego and other places, but most of them were local. I had fun passing out the cookies and the Perception and Deception Dollars, as well as the ALEC flyers, but I soon ran out, luckily others brought flyers, too and shared them. I also brought the HR 2990 flyer and explained to folks how Representative Dennis Kucinich introduced the legislation last fall, but that few people knew about it, and how it would take the power to create money out of the hands of private banks and instead allow money to be created as a public utility to meet out needs, including repairing infrastructure, healthcare and education. People grasped the idea right away and were glad to know about it and help spread the word.
The weather was mercifully kind and our first destination was the Bank of America located in an unusually shaped building just across the street that permitted a lane of traffic and two rows of cars beneath it.
When we showed up, the bank decided to lock its doors and customers couldn't get inside. We politely gave them informative flyers and let them know that the bank was closed. That was the first stop, and a few of us stayed to maintain a presence while the larger group went on to shut down other banks in the vicinity, including Chase.
Most people had not heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council which is hard to succinctly describe in two sentences. I would say that it was an organization funded by large corporations that gets legislators elected and writes legislation of, by and for corporations, at great public expense. Often people would stop and be curious and I would give more details about the attacks on our rights, education, the criminalization of the population, the growing prison for profit industry.
I enjoyed speaking with protestors and the people walking by. I was astonished that one of the Oakland police seemed quite interested, as well, and happily took the flyers, as well as a Perception and Deception Dollar. The more technologically adept folks would let us know what was happening in other cities and it felt great to be doing something effective in solidarity with the growing movement.
On Tuesday evening, I attended a meeting discussing violence/non-violence within the Occupy Movement and we mostly agreed on how counterproductive violence was, including property damage and breaking windows and how it would harm the movement. Prior to the march, everyone agreed on non-violence, no property damage, staying within legal limits. However, some people don't seem able to refrain from venting their anger and do say offensive, provocative things. There was certainly diversity amongst the protestors in their choice of words, signs, costumes, but our general purpose and intent was clear and shared by most people, including many of the bank's customers who were encouraged to move their money to the nearby credit union which remained open.