Page One

New: Occupy Berkeley Deliberates Reviving "How Berkeley Can You Be" Oct. 30; Calls for "Grade-in" and Lawn Watering Saturday--in Lieu of a March

by Ted Friedman
Friday October 21, 2011 - 01:05:00 PM

Next up for Occupy Berkeley, a teacher grade-in and lawn watering at Martin Luther King Center Park behind City Hall Saturday noon. No March is planned. The following week, Occupy will homage Berkeley's beloved (and not) How Berkeley Can You Be? with its own, "How Occupy Berkeley Can You Be?" 

Grade-ins, like Occupy, is a young grassroots organization, often sponsored by the Classroom Teachers Association, to alert the public to pay cuts to over-worked teachers. Teachers will be publicly grading papers while Occupy Berkeley tries to get an "A" for what an event organizer describes as "a day of education." 

It was a sight for sore eyes when Tuesday night's Occupy Berkeley planning session moved to revive Berkeley's beloved (sometimes derided ) How Berkeley Can You Be Parade as an event in Martin Luther King Civic Center Park, Sunday, Oct 30 (Halloween Eve), 3-7 p.m. 

The surprise move to revive How Berkeley leaves Occupy Berkeley's fledgling infrastructure--a slew of committees and contact lists--struggling to mount a How Berkeley event on a week's notice. 

According to a member of the facilitator's committee, events for the next two weeks will give protesters a chance to leaflet among the community and for the community "to learn about us." The learning process could be a two-way street. Especially if the usual zanies show up for How Berkeley next week. 

At the planning session (general assembly) Tuesday night at Bank America Plaza, downtown, the How Berkeley proposal competed with another proposal--"How Occupy Berkeley Can You Be." How Berkeley Can You Be seemed to be winning the hearts and minds of young protesters, many of whom would like to be Berkeley, but stagger under the ambiguity of it all. 

However, Wednesday night a How-Berkeley-Can-You-Be proposal was tabled in favor of "How Occupy Berkeley Can You Be." 

Despite debates over the naming of next Sunday's event, the protest is giving Berkeley's zany How Berkeley Can You Be (sans parade) a chance to do its thing once more--if news of the protest can only reach them. 

If the protest event fails to draw crowds on short notice next Sunday, it would not be the first time the popular event has been derailed. How Berkeley was first cancelled, in 2009, when a dip in the city's revenues forced it to remove its funding of the event. 

Numerous attempts to revive the parade have broken down. Occupy Berkeley's nod to the event is the latest attempt of Berkeley's anti-Wall Street protest, which is dwarfed by Oakland's and San Francisco's, to distinguish itself from protests around the world. 

For Berkeleyans (and those Montclairians brandishing lawn chairs) who have had two years without a parade, Sunday's event gives them one more--possibly last--chance to explore Berkeley ontology. 

And how Berkeley is it to join a revolution-in-the-making while asserting the Berkeley brand? 

Pledging itself to non-violence, Berkeley's me-too protest has eschewed a powerful media magnet Tuesday's and Wednesday's general assemblies, while spirited and more efficient than past ones, were also the smallest gatherings in ten days. 

Food support has dwindled at BA plaza, perhaps because the protest now maintains two sites. Civic Center park was added last Saturday; the overnight encampment in the park continues with (usually) ten overnighters. Three more tents have gone up, and the tent village is looking good-camper-civilized. 

Future disputes with the city of Berkeley's City Manager's Office loom over ground maintenance policies. The tent encampment interferes with the park's sprinkler system. 

Russell Bates of Occupy's Health and Safety committee appealed last night for Berkeleyans to show up at the park Saturday with watering cans. 

"Bottom-line," said Bates, "We are not moving out of the park." 

Meanwhile the continuing interface between Occupy and Berkeley's downtown homeless, with which it must co-exist, erupted Tuesday night into a confrontation between some angry Berkeleyans confronting the newly formed mediation committee--which, the previous night, had driven off a woman who was interfering. 

The confrontation between protesters and the newly formed mediation committee took place at the end of the general assembly Tuesday when committees caucused for the first time--rather than reconvening around town. 

Calling the mediation committee, "a gestapo," Michael M. (sixty-something) challenged a mediation committee member (twenty something) to prove he had the qualifications to deal with homeless persons with disabilities. The mediations committee point person agreed to contact Berkeley Mental Health--with which he was unfamiliar--to arrange a training. 

Two members of the Occupy Berkeley's communications committee were interviewed on KPFA Wednesday's "Flashpoint" show. 

Perhaps the Occupy Berkeley protest will go into the history books as an emerging populist struggle with a fresh approach to community organizing. 

Ted Friedman has been hearing this Petula Clark song in his head (about the protest): "When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown. When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry seems to help, I know, downtown." The protest is downtown.