Today, the Occupy Stanford movement held a walkout from 11-2. The group, supposedly working in solidarity with the Occupy Oakland movement, which is also supporting a walk out today, urged students to skip class and professors to not teach during these hours. The turn out at White Plaza was weak to say the least, and I’d be willing to bet that most of those in attendance didn’t have any classes that conflicted with the event, so it was less of a walk out and more of an “occupy if you’re free.”
Furthermore, the leaders of Occupy Stanford asked attendees to assist in “tak[ing] back Oakland” by gathering in Frank Ogawa Plaza, or as the protestors call it Oscar Grant Plaza, at the corners of Broadway and 14th street in Oakland at 5 PM.
This call to gather in Oakland is where I start doubting the validity of the movement.
My first issue lies in that the Occupy movement plans to shut down significant areas of Oakland commerce. Oakland, a city with major fiscal issues, needs all the revenue it can get. Yet, by attempting to shut down commerce in major areas of Oakland (downtown and the port), the protestors are simply cutting the city’s revenue. In addition to reducing city revenues, the protest, and possible riot, could cost the city a hefty bill. The police action in response to the last Occupy movement cost the city nearly $1 million. This money could be used on many of the city’s programs helping the 99% that the Occupy movement claims to support. In this way the Occupy movement treats the 99% eerily similar to how the 1% treats them.
Secondly, as an Oakland native I have seen first hand the chaos brought about by protests in Oakland. Though the people of Oakland are very capable of having peaceful demonstrations, Oakland protests have a proclivity towards rioting. The tendency to riot is more often than not a result of the swarms of outsiders that come to support cause at issue. As evidenced by the Oscar Grant riots, it is most often non-Oaklanders who incite the vandalism and property damage that require police to take action. Then, when police take action to disperse the crowd people get hurt. So, Occupy Stanford’s ingenious plan to assist in protesting this forcible policing increases the likely hood that the forcible policing will occur.
Occupy Stanford claims to stand in solidarity with Oakland but their actions seems to contradict their words. Showing up to protest in Oakland will only create chaos, not change. If Occupy Stanford really wants to change Oakland it should start being part of the cure not the problem. And the first step is not going to Oakland.