Before dawn on Monday morning, hundreds of police in riot gear raided the Occupy Oakland encampment in order to evict peaceful protesters. They arrested more than 30 people who chose to remain as an act of civil disobedience. Later in the day, Mayor Jean Quan’s chief legal adviser resigned over what he called the "tragically unnecessary" police raid. Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman visited the camp on Sunday, prior to the raid. One participant, Ali, told her he was there to protest the closure of libraries and schools, and the massive layoffs of teachers and other public workers.
ALI: My name is Ali. How are you all doing?
AMY GOODMAN: Hi. Have you been here from the beginning?
ALI: Pretty much. Pretty much, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And what do you want to see happen here?
ALI: Well, there’s a lot of things. You know, I’m from Oakland, you know what I’m saying? So that, for me, to see changes, it’s not a Wall Street thing, it’s not a bank thing, but it’s a social thing. You know what I’m saying? Everything that’s been going on in Oakland—the homicides, schools being closed down, libraries being shut down, teachers being cut off, public workers getting laid off, work furloughs—everything that the city is supposed to be taking care of its own is not being done. You know, that’s what I’m here, is trying to get them to start taking care of us as a people in Oakland, California. I mean, this is minute. You know, this is a small thing right now, if you look at it from Oakland’s perspective, OK? But this is not small: we are a role model for the whole world. And that’s what’s going on.
AMY GOODMAN: And how are the police dealing with this at this point?
ALI: Can I—can I be frank? I don’t care. I want to say it in different words, you know, but I just—I don’t care, you know, what the police think. I don’t care what Mayor Quan think. I don’t think what any politician think about what we’re doing here, because what we’re doing here is starting something new, you know what I’m saying? I don’t deal with any type of politic situations or none of that. What I’m dealing with is this encampment of Oscar Grant Plaza, OK? That’s the only thing. That’s the only my concern.
AMY GOODMAN: And why is it called Oscar Grant Plaza?
ALI: I mean, you know, it’s a representation of what’s been going on in Oakland, California, for a long time, with the oppression of poverty here, of the people of the community of Oakland, OK? Oscar Grant was a young male who was pretty much handcuffed on a BART train with a 250-pound officer on his back, six-four, OK? While he had another officer on his neck. And the officer pretty much pulled a gun and shot him in the back, while he was still in handcuffs, laying down on the platform on his stomach. So how—I don’t understand the threat in that, OK? And that’s the threat of these corporations on our society and our community. It represents that. We are all in handcuffs. We are all on our back. We have no way of getting out of it. And they pretty much have got these guns on our back, and they’re shooting us. It’s a representation of a whole.
AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think this encampment has accomplished? How long has it been out here?
ALI: I mean, you know, this encampment has accomplished a lot, OK, for myself and—you know, we have discussions all the time, you know what I’m saying? And it comes to what society labels us as, you know? And this right here, this encampment, has given the people a chance to change what those labels are, you know what I’m saying? Whether you’ve been called a black man who’s a criminal or a Hispanic who’s a car thief or an individual who’s a racist, this is a place where none of that exists, OK? Because if you come with those, you’re going to have some type of change. OK?
And pretty much what I’ve seen happen here, because this is our own world, our own community, our own society, that’s by the people, we feed people, OK? We house people, OK? Not just people, but families, as well, you know what I’m saying? These people, if you go around West Oakland, the homeless encampments all across West Oakland are pretty much here. They are a part of the society, and they have to be recognized that they are here. You know what I’m saying? But everybody here is not a homeless individual. Some of us are hard-working class. You got these homeless people, crack addicts, heroine addicts, disabled people, right along with the same people that are doctors, lawyers, practitioners, chiropractors, teachers. We’re all here together, OK? We are parents. We are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. Everything here is together, no matter what label you put on us. You know?
I’m a criminal. I’m a thug. I’m a convict. I’m a gangster. I’m a womanizer. But you know what? That’s what society labeled me as. This society—I’m not none of those. I just met these people right here, you know? I just met you guys. Do you guys consider me as a thug or a criminal or anything?
ALI: There we go. You know what I’m saying? And that’s what’s been going on in society is that we have these labels upon ourself, living in these low-income areas. And pretty much like I was saying is that we need to start showing the people.