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In the crowd assembled last night at Occupy Oakland was a group of 6 or 8 strong no-nonsense guys, some wearing shirts with City of Oakland shoulder patches and "facilities management" embroidered on the pocket.  They said they were Oakland union workers there to support the protest, unofficially of course.  The picture's angle conceals their faces just in case anyone is inclined to give them grief.
In the crowd assembled last night at Occupy Oakland was a group of 6 or 8 strong no-nonsense guys, some wearing shirts with City of Oakland shoulder patches and "facilities management" embroidered on the pocket. They said they were Oakland union workers there to support the protest, unofficially of course. The picture's angle conceals their faces just in case anyone is inclined to give them grief.


New: Oakland Mayor, Chief, Don't Plan to Dislodge Protest Now

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Saturday October 29, 2011 - 11:25:00 AM

Occupy Oakland protesters are again pitching tents in the plaza in front of Oakland City Hall but Mayor Jean Quan and police Chief Howard Jordan said yesterday that they don't have any plans to remove the tents or the protesters at this time. 

Although hundreds of officers from the Oakland Police Department and other agencies went to great trouble to remove protesters and their tents from Frank Ogawa Plaza Tuesday morning, Jordan said police only have "a minimal presence" at the plaza now and "there are no plans for police action unless there are calls for service." 

Rallies at the plaza the previous two nights were peaceful, with no arrests and no violence, he said. 

Joining Jordan at a news conference at City Hall, Quan said, "We don't want them to camp downtown" but she doesn't want to crack down on protesters at this time "if closing the camp would create more violence." 

Quan added, "It's a complex situation" and "we have to make an assessment day to day." 

She said she's more concerned about potential health and safety issues at the plaza than she is about the tents. 

Although health and safety issues prompted police to clear the plaza Tuesday morning, Quan said such concerns "haven't started yet" following the protesters' return to the plaza. 

The violence Quan referred to occurred Tuesday night, when a confrontation between protesters and police led to injuries on both sides. 

"There may have been mistakes made, probably on both sides," Quan said. 

Jordan said that seven police officers suffered injuries when protesters assaulted them with bottles, rocks and hazardous materials. 

"Some are back at work, some are not," he said. 

The protester who was hurt the most was Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old Daly City man, whom his friends said was critically injured when he was hit in the head with a projectile fired by police. 

Olsen is being treated at Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he was listed in fair condition. 

Quan and Jordan said they have both visited him at the hospital and apologized that he was injured. 

Quan said a full review of all the police tactics that were employed Tuesday night is under way and the results will be announced next week. 

Quan attempted to address protesters in the plaza Thursday night but they didn't allow her to speak. 

The mayor said she still wants to talk to protesters and "ask that we enter into a dialogue." 

Quan said she also would like the protesters to talk with merchants in downtown Oakland who are concerned that the demonstrations, which began on Oct. 10, are hurting their businesses. 

She said people "are afraid to come downtown" to shop and some businesses are not renewing their leases. 

Quan has had a difficult week because some people have criticized the way she has handled the Occupy Oakland protests and a group launched a petition to have her recalled from office. 

But Quan said she has no plans to resign, saying, "I always said this is a tough job" and "I have a job to do." 



Copyright © 2011 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. 


New: Is Occupy Berkeley on a Collision Course With Berkeley? (News Analysis)

By Ted Friedman
Friday October 28, 2011 - 04:41:00 PM

              Jim Hynes delivering directives, Monday, banning much of what was happening at Occupy Berkeley
Jim Hynes delivering directives, Monday, banning much of what was happening at Occupy Berkeley
Brad, with bullhorn, is reminding members of the general assembly to take an interest in the MLK park tent-city, even though they may not be camping there
Ted Friedman
Brad, with bullhorn, is reminding members of the general assembly to take an interest in the MLK park tent-city, even though they may not be camping there
One of two tent "annexes" in  MLK park, Thursday this one remote from main tent encampment. Occupants say they are with the protest
Ted Friedman
One of two tent "annexes" in MLK park, Thursday this one remote from main tent encampment. Occupants say they are with the protest
Just put your dough here. Only where is the cash slot? If you remove the money slot strip, you might be able to donate. Shades of Excalibur. This Fort Knox replaces a plastic bottle, which invited theft
Ted Friedman
Just put your dough here. Only where is the cash slot? If you remove the money slot strip, you might be able to donate. Shades of Excalibur. This Fort Knox replaces a plastic bottle, which invited theft
Thursday general assembly vigil for Scott Olsen, 24, ex-marine (Iraq Vet), who is undergoing brain surgery from an alleged police canister launched at Occupy Oakland two days ago
Ted Friedman
Thursday general assembly vigil for Scott Olsen, 24, ex-marine (Iraq Vet), who is undergoing brain surgery from an alleged police canister launched at Occupy Oakland two days ago

Is Occupy Berkeley—Berkeley branch of the international anti-Wall Street movement—on a collision course with the city it occupies? 

Yes, and no. 

Bearing a list of "directives" which he delivered, Jim Hynes, an assistant to Berkeley city manager Phil Kamlarz, visited the Occupy Berkeley tent encampment in Martin Luther King Civic Center Park on Monday . The camp has grown to twenty-five tents and now sprawls over much of the park. 

The directives include bans on overnight camping, cooking, alcohol, drugs, and smoking. But the first nettlesome park rule to emerge is the rule that park users must yield to scheduled events. 

According to Hynes, two such events were scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, but Urban Strider, a camp operative, succeeded in getting the previously scheduled events relocated. The relocated events might have required the Occupy encampment to clear out. 

City councilman Kriss Worthington, District 7, breathing a sigh of relief, noted at a Thursday camp meeting that. "if a future scheduled event did not yield" so readily, the encampment would be at odds with the scheduled events directive. 

Worthington said that he has been in regular contact with the city manager, interceding on behalf of the anti-Wall Street encampment. Worthington added that he is also interceding with Michael K. Meehan, Berkeley Chief of Police, whom Worthington characterized as not planning any police actions in the park at present. 

Worthington added that Max Anderson, District 3, and Jesse Arreguín, District 4, also had interceded on behalf of the protest. 

Back from Occupy Oakland, where he had spent the past three days, Russell Bates gave a report from the Berkeley camp's health and safety committee commenting that it was "inevitable" police would crack down. Indybay, an on-line Bay Area radical network, is reporting an expected crackdown in the park. 

In a week that has seen Occupy Oakland erupt in violence, Occupy Berkeley is struggling to keep its protest non-violent. The nightly planning meetings have approved at least three anti-violence proposals. 

Thursday's planning session (a "general assembly") was interrupted by a new arrival, a self-described homeless humorist, with "quibbles." 

Later, Quibbles (likes the name) was pitching his tent in a tent-city annex near Allston Way facing Old City Hall, as what sounded like either a domestic disturbance or rowdy foreplay from a nearby tent caused him to question his decision to join the protest. 

Quibbles said that he had been "evicted" from his last encampment over disagreements with fellow campers. 

When Occupy branched out from Bank America Plaza to Civic Center Park ten days ago, Worthington negotiated the relocation of a homeless contingent discreetly overnighting there. 

According to Worthington, the previous occupants at Civic Center Park feel they've found accommodations they like even better than Civic Center. 

Inconveniencing the homeless at Bank of America Plaza had been a sore point with Occupy Berkeley from its start. From time to time planning session speakers would acknowledge the presence of homeless people. Sister Adriska, a homeless woman in a wheel chair, won the hearts of the protesters; some of the homeless people encamped in BA plaza participated in planning meetings. 

Now Occupy is on the verge of being occupied by homelessness as more homeless people join the tent city in the park. It's difficult to get an accurate count, but with "annexes" of the main encampment spreading in the park, a sizable portion of the encampment is homeless. 

In general, the homeless part of the protest, while not an organized faction, seems to fit in at the encampment in the park. Maxine Ventura, a homeless woman, has participated in general assemblies, and serves on committees managing the encampment. She spoke in the public comments portion of Tuesday's city council meeting, saying she had lost her home to foreclosure and was sleeping at the protest in a tent with her two children. 

One of her kids seemed on Thursday to be none-the-worse for his ordeal. 

Still, incidents of violence in the camp are averaging three per night, according to several sources. A "legal committee," has formed to augment the existing mediation committee to try to deal with disputes within the encampment. 

City of Berkeley police are frequently summoned when mediation fails. According to Larry Silver, a People's Park activist, and a protest functionary (he maintains the camp), a Berkeley patrolman told him that if the assaults continue, police would have to intervene. 

Meanwhile vandalism, assaults, and theft regularly occur. Silver says "we need 24- hour security. 

Perhaps the upcoming "How (Occupy) Berkeley Can You Be?" celebration scheduled for Sunday, from 3-7 p.m. in the park (saved by Urban Strider and Kriss Worthington) will salve some wounds. The event may answer just how Berkeley the international anti-Wall Street movement in Berkeley will ultimately be. 


Ted Friedman misses his South Side sources," whom he fears may have scoops he's missing in his own neighborhood. Michael M. and Urban Strider contributed.

The Oakland Commune and the Planned General Strike (News Analysis)

By Steve Martinot
Thursday October 27, 2011 - 08:02:00 AM

It is 11 pm on Wednesday night, 10/27/2011, and I just got back from the most amazing meeting I have ever been to in my life. It was held at the scene of Monday's carnage in Oakland where the Oakland cops crushed one of the most amazing demonstrations I have ever encountered.

For those of you who didn't get a chance to get down to the OccupyOakland encampment, it was astonishing. The people there had set up a village. There was a kitchen, a restaurant, a café, a library, a first aid station, and an art department, and all of this surrounded by well over 150 tents set up on the grassy area of the plaza. They had water and sanitary facilities (provided by the OEA), a calender, and many really interesting meetings. The cops attacked Monday night around 3 in the morning, and demolished it.

I won't waste my breath trying to explain that there was no reason to do this. The attack is estimated to cost between 3 and 5 million dollars, where a couple of thousand would have maintained sanitation, and provided a few social workers to help smooth over the inevitable conflicts that occur in small spaces across class, across ideology, and across levels of sobriety, especially among people already living on the edge because of their unneutralizable marginalization at the property interests's hands. 

The meeting this evening began at 6 pm. No cops, seven helicopters in the sky, and gradually, over the next hour, the crowd swelling to more than 3000 people. It started with an open mike on the street corner of Bway and 14th, and when the crowd got too big, moved to the amphitheater in front of city hall. By 7:30, the fence erected around Ogawa Plaza had been dismantled unceremoniously, and the helicopters were gone. The meeting turned into a General Assembly that then addressed itself to how to move forward from where they were. It was wall-to-wall people from the city hall doors to the plaza grass, and from 14st to the alley that pretends to be 15th. 

A committee had written a proposal for consideration. And the meeting, all 3000 people, discussed it, considered its various aspects, and voted on it. I would not have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself. 

The proposal was to call a general strike to shut down Oakland on Wednesday, Nov. 2. It was not to be to the exclusion of any other actions; it was not to be mandatory, only solidarist and activist in stopping the 1%; it was to be a positive expression of the people against the hobnailed boot of the 1% that came down on Oakland on Monday night and Tuesday. The call is to stop the corporations, stop the schools and their regimentation, bring the homeless, the unemployed, the blue and white color workers into conjunction, bring the city to a halt, and bring the people to a rally at city hall at 5 that afternoon. Let all unions, organizations, neighborhood associations and asemblies, and all people get involved. 

There is to be a planning meeting tomorrow, Thursday, October 27, at 5 pm, Oscar Grant Plaza (aka Ogawa) to plan the strike. All are invited. 

The proposal to call this general strike was passed by a vote. Discussion on the proposal started around 7:30. First there were questions of clarification. Then there were statements of concern and arguments for and against. Then the 3000 broke up into smaller workshop groups of 20 or 30 to discuss the proposal. Then people lined up to speak on it to the entire meeting. By the time the vote was taken, at 9:30, the meeting had dwindled to 1500. I know that is the size because 1442 votes were cast for the proposal, 34 against, with 73 abstaining. And the crowd was about half the size it had been at 7:30 when the fence came down. 

At one point it was announced that OccupyWallSt in NYC had taken to the streets that same day and marched throughout lower Manhattan in solidarity with Oakland. They chanted "Oakland, Oakland, end police brutality." And they sent $20,000 to OccupyOakland. A message was received that the Egyptians, in their many popular organizations, sent an expression of solidarity with Oakland, and are going to have a march on Tahrir Sq. tomorrow in solidarity with Oakland. The meeting this evening, in which 3000 people continued the creation of a new democracy for themselves, was reported on BBC. 

One things we will have to understand about this is Quan's shift. She supported the occupation encampment up until the police and some councilpeople decided last Friday that it needed to be expunged. The charges against it were about unsamitary conditions and violence. The city could have helped with sanitation at a pittance cost (next to what the cost of bringing police in from three other jurisdictions for the raid will be). And it could have organized encounter group sessions to deal with whatever hostilities came up. The city did actually send in some social workers, but their task was very odd. Their job was to spirit the homeless away from the scene of the action preparatory to the police attack. In other words, it took something like this demonstration/encamplment, and the planning of an attack, for the city to suddenly decide it needed to pay attention to the homeless. Sanitation and violence were not the reasons for Monday's attack. 

As a friend of mine said, when you send riot police in riot gear to where there is no riot, what you have is the hobnailed boot of power, stamping out the people for itself.

Quan "Very Saddened" by Violence at Oakland Protest

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 09:51:00 PM

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said today that she's "very saddened" by "Occupy Oakland" protests Tuesday night that turned violent. 

Speaking at a news conference at City Hall that was packed with reporters, Quan said, "We saw some of the best of the city and some of the worst." 

Quan said most protesters and police officers behaved well but she's asked police Chief Howard Jordan to investigate allegations that some officers used excessive force. 

The mayor said officers "took a lot of abuse" from protesters and Jordan said officers fired tear gas and bean bags after "they were assaulted with bottles, rocks and hazardous materials that were thrown at them" and some people disobeyed multiple orders to disperse. 

Jordan said "we regret" what he described as "an unfortunate incident" in which Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old Daly City man, was critically injured when he was hit in the head with a police projectile. 

According to his friends at Iraq War Veterans Against the War, Olsen is currently sedated at Highland Hospital in Oakland with a skull fracture and is waiting to be examined by a neurosurgeon. 

Jordan said his department is investigating the incident as if it were a level-one incident in which an officer used lethal force against someone. 

"It's at the top of our list and we are gathering footage and investigating whether or not it was justified," Jordan said. 

Jordan said Oakland police officers didn't use rubber bullets or wooden dowels during the protests but it's possible that other officers from other law enforcement agencies who were assisting them might have used such devices. 

Quan said Oakland banned the use of such devices after Oakland police used them in an anti-Iraq War protest in 2003 and other agencies that help the city under mutual aid agreements are supposed to abide by that policy. 

But she said, "We don't know if that happened." 

The massive demonstrations Tuesday night occurred about 12 hours after Oakland police and officers from other agencies removed protesters from the Occupy Oakland encampment that had been located in Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall since Oct. 10. 

Quan said she supported the encampment because it endorses protesters' goals of "getting some justice, some employment and a fair deal for average Americans." 

But she said she and other city leaders decided late last week that the encampment had to be removed because it was becoming unhealthy and dangerous. 

Quan said the city is using chemicals to clean up the encampment, which was littered with feces and debris, but the cleanup is taking longer than expected. 

City Administrator Deanna Santana said part of Frank Ogawa Plaza, which had been completely fenced off Tuesday morning, has been reopened and will remain open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. 

But Santana said, "We request that there be peaceful, non-violent assembly, no camping, no lodging and no fires." 

The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which is representing most of the approximately 115 protesters who were arrested Tuesday, issued a statement saying it "condemns" what it alleged were excessive uses of force and violations of the Oakland Police Department's crowd control policy. 

The lawyers' group said the department's "violent response to last night's peaceful march was unjustified." 

Carlos Villarreal, the group's executive director, said, "The National Lawyers Guild is committed to defending the demonstrators until all are released from custody and cleared of all the charges."

Oakland Fences Down Tonight

By Scott Morris(BCN)
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 09:56:00 PM

The fences are coming down at Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza this evening while a general assembly meeting continues among "Occupy Oakland" protesters. 

At least 500 protesters gathered at the plaza to reclaim the site of their encampment, which was raided by police early Tuesday morning. 

The entire plaza was not barricaded this evening as it had been Tuesday night, but the grass area of the plaza was blocked by a chain-link fence. 

Many of the protesters jeered when a small group tried to take the fences down earlier this evening.  

"I see this as a trap," said a speaker at the meeting, pointing to the fence surrounding the grass area of the plaza. "They're hoping we walk right into this trap." 

At around 7 p.m. around 50 to 100 protesters succeed in tearing down sections of the fence on the opposite side of the plaza from where the meeting is taking place. 

The group entered the grassy area, which city officials earlier today said was in the process of being cleaned using chemicals. 

Tuesday night, police blocked the entire plaza including surrounding streets and kept the protesters from entering using tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke grenades. 

Compared to Tuesday night's demonstration, the police presence this evening is much less prevalent and the gathering has been peaceful.  

This evening, protesters sat in a circle in the amphitheater in front of City Hall to hold their general assembly meeting, as they did every night when the Oakland encampment occupied the plaza. 

Protesters at the meeting tonight announced that "Occupy Wall Street" -- the protest that inspired "Occupy Oakland" -- donated $20,000 to the Oakland demonstration. 

Speakers this evening urged protesters to keep the commitment to nonviolence. 

"The 99 percent should have a monopoly on peace," one speaker said.

Protesters Speak about Injured Veteran, Call for Citywide Strike

By Scott Morris (BCN)
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 05:53:00 PM

Demonstrators at the "Occupy Oakland" general assembly meeting at Frank Ogawa Plaza tonight addressed the critical injury of Scott Olsen, a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq, which occurred during Tuesday night's demonstration. 

Iraq Veterans Against the War, a group Olsen worked with, said Olsen was injured when he was struck by a police projectile and suffered a fractured skill. 

Tuesday night, police blocked the entire plaza including surrounding streets and kept the protesters from entering using tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke grenades. 

In the southeast corner of the plaza tonight, candles surrounded a picture of Olsen after he had been injured. 

"The police did nothing," a speaker at the meeting said. "The police did not have an ambulance at hand." 

Abele Carpenter, a Friends of Olsen's, said earlier today that protesters transported him to the hospital. 

Protesters at tonight's general assembly meeting also addressed how to move forward given the recent events. 

"The whole world is watching Oakland," said the speaker who opened the discussion. 

The group called for a citywide strike on Nov. 2, where workers and students would leave their positions to join a march in downtown Oakland. 

The announcement drew cheers from the gathered crowd. 

Protesters also announced that the first planning meeting for the strike would be held Thursday at 5 p.m., prior to the general assembly at 6 p.m.

Memo Re How Berkeley Police Aided Oakland in Evicting Occupy Oakland

From the Office of the City Manager
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 04:57:00 PM

We have received several inquiries regarding the City of Berkeley's response to the City of Oakland's request for Mutual Aid assistance with recent events in and around Frank Ogawa Plaza. 

The following are responses to the questions we have received. 

Question: Did Oakland ask the City for mutual aid? 

Response: The Oakland Police Department requested mutual aid through the Alameda County Mutual Aid Coordinator, who in turn requested mutual aid from various agencies within the county. The Alameda County Sheriff's Office is the Operational Area Mutual Aid Coordinating entity.

Question: What was the basis for the request? 

Response: Inability to address the situation with internal resources

Question: How many officers responded? 

Response: 1 Squad of 12 Officers, 2 Sergeants, 1 Lieutenant

Question: What was the level of involvement? 

Response: Outer perimeter and traffic control

Question: Were they involved in tear gassing demonstrators or use any other non-lethal force? 

Response: No

Press Release: The City of Berkeley Police Department’s (BPD) Involvement in Occupy Oakland Dispersal

From Sergeant Mary C. Kusmiss, BPD Public Information Officer
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 03:10:00 PM

The Oakland Police Department (OPD) requested mutual aid through the Alameda County Mutual Aid Coordinator, who in turn requested mutual aid from various law enforcement agencies within the county. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) is the Operational Area Mutual Aid Coordinating entity. The basis of the request was that OPD was unable to address and manage the situation safely (and take care of the City of Oakland) with their internal resources. 


On the night of Tuesday, October 25, 2011, BPD sent one (1) squad of 12 BPD officers, 2 sergeants and a Lieutenant. Our level of involvement was minimal. We served as outer perimeter and traffic control. BPD officers were not involved in any use of tear gas or any other form of non-lethal force. 


Press Release: OCCUPY OAKLAND Regroups at 6:00 Tonight

From Kevin Seal
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 03:04:00 PM

Occupy Oakland will reconvene tonight at 6:00 pm Pacific time to conduct its next General Assembly, at the corner of Broadway and 14th. We urge the public to join us tonight and help us build consensus. We are the 99%, and you are too. Please participate in true democracy. 

Occupy Oakland continues to be a movement of non-violent civil disobedience. We are peaceful protesters. Occupy Oakland, as a movement, uses nonviolent means to achieve its goals; the mayor's orders were to use primarily violent means, as demonstrated yesterday. 

During the 5 a.m. raid on the encampment, there were very young children in the camp. The use of such brutal force and chemical weapons in the area in which children were living is inexcusable. 

The hypocrisy of the Oakland city government has been made clear: Destroy the peaceful occupation for "health and safety" reasons, and then on the same day deploy chemical weapons against the peaceful demonstrators. Hungry people starving in the streets is the real health hazard. 

Police used extreme and brutal force: rubber bullets both in the morning and at night, as well as bean-bag bullets and excessive amounts of tear gas. Police are part of the 99%; we urge them to join us. It is important to remember that the police observed using excessive force were not from Oakland Police Department, but were from other jurisdictions, including Pleasanton, Santa Rosa, Palo Alto and San Ramon. Proof of rubber bullets: 

Protesters sustained several injuries at the hands of police, including Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, who was sent to the emergency room after sustaining a head injury, seen here: 

Occupy Oakland is not finished, it has only begun. Our numbers will be larger than ever. 

About Occupy Oakland: Occupy Oakland is an emerging social movement without leaders or spokespeople. It is one of 1,570 occupations currently occurring around the world in solidarity with Occupy Wall St. For more information about the other occupations, see: http://www.occupytogether.org/

Iraq War Veteran Critically Injured by Police Projectile During "Occupy Oakland" Protests

By Scott Morris (BCN)
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 12:45:00 PM

An Iraq War veteran was critically injured during "Occupy Oakland" protests Tuesday night when he was hit in the head with a police projectile, according to the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. 

Scott Olsen, 24, of Daly City, has been active in the "Occupy SF" and "Occupy Oakland" protests over the past several weeks, and attended large protests Tuesday night in response to the police removal of the protesters' encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza. 

Olsen served two tours of duty in Iraq, and has since been involved in Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace, said Dottie Guy, Bay Area chapter president for Iraq Veterans Against the War. 

"Every time I saw him at the Occupy SF movement he's always been extremely pleasant," said Guy, who said she first met Olsen several weeks ago through her organization. 

He was discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2010 and works in Daly City as a systems administrator, according to a news release issued by Iraq Veterans Against the War. 

The release stated that Olsen is currently sedated at Highland Hospital in Oakland with a skull fracture awaiting examination by a neurosurgeon. 

He was injured overnight as law enforcement personnel used tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke grenades attempting to break up an assembly outside Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza at 14th Street and Broadway. 

The protests began with a rally outside the Oakland Public Library at 14th and Madison streets at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Protesters rallied there after police removed their encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza in an early-morning raid Tuesday. 

The group had been occupying the plaza to protest the gap between rich and poor, corporate greed, deadlocked politics, and a number of other issues. 

Protesters have vowed to return to Frank Ogawa Plaza tonight to continue the protest, and have said they intend to protest there every day until they retake the plaza. 


Police Brutality in Oakland-- Berkeley Police Present

Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 12:09:00 PM

Remarkable footage posted by several reporters on YouTube seems to show that some police in Oakland deliberately aimed projectiles at those aiding a wounded Occupy Oakland protester. The eviction was managed by Oakland police, but Berkeley police also took part in the assault on the Occupy protesters. Some of the videos can be seen below: 

Oakland Occupy Teargassed, Evicted

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 11:30:00 AM

Oakland police officers in riot gear used "less-than-lethal" munitions on about 300 protesters Tuesday night after a day of police raids and riots when "Occupy Oakland" campers were evicted from a city plaza, an Oakland police spokeswoman said.

During another protest Tuesday night many officers were assaulted, doused and hit with hazardous materials and hit with large rocks and bottles, police spokeswoman Cynthia Perkins said.

An Oakland police officer said officers in riot gear had bright blue paint thrown on them during the rallies Tuesday evening.

Perkins said this resulted in a declaration of an unlawful assembly and an order to disperse. To enforce dispersal officers used "less-than-lethal force tactics".

The protesters began rallying around 4 p.m. near the main branch of the Oakland Public Library at 14th and Madison streets. 

The rallies followed 79 arrests made Tuesday morning after 4:30 a.m. at the Occupy Oakland encampment when protesters were told to leave the plaza at Broadway and 14th Street during a police raid. 

Earlier Tuesday afternoon and evening tear gas was deployed on roughly a hundred protesters after law enforcement officials continued to issue orders to disperse. 

The "Occupy Oakland" demonstrators announced that they would return to the plaza every night at 6 p.m. to continue the protest. 

As of 5 a.m. this morning the plaza and nearby areas were relatively calm, with law enforcement and a sprinkling of protesters present. 

At a media briefing Tuesday night, interim Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan said there were more than 1,000 protesters at the height of the clashes. He said police action to remove the camp was based on health and public safety concerns. 

Another police media briefing is expected to take place this morning at a time and place that has yet to be announced, Perkins said.

Using Police In Oakland to Clear Out Occupy Was a Mistake (Commentary)

By Don Macleay
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 09:58:00 PM

Using the police to clear out Occupy Oakland was exactly the wrong thing to do. 

Questions: 1. Where was the emergency? 2. Is it better now? 3. Was someone saved by this? 4. Is it somehow the fault of the protestors that there is so little trust in government? 5. Is there going to be better trust in government now? 6. Will the relations between Oakland and our police force improve now? 

What struck me most was the image of the police tearing up the signs and kicking the Occupy tent people’s stuff all over the plaza. I thought that the Police job was to arrest people and let Public Works clean up the encampment, not to do a violent victory dance over the defeat of those whose politics they oppose. 

I stuck my neck out in person, in public and on line telling the protestors to engage, to accept dialog, to back away from any confrontation and to carry ourselves with dignity out of respect for our fellow citizens and out of respect for the righteousness of our cause. 

It seems that the same message was needed inside our city government this week. No wonder that they never returned calls. And in the end, the police wracked more violence in a couple hours, destroyed more property and hurt more people that Occupy Oakland did in two weeks. Keep in mind, there was no riot, no emergency, no move made by the protestors other than to refuse to leave. It was the city of Oakland and the police that initiated the violence and chose its time. 

Many things could have been done instead, especially since there was no urgent problem. For one they could have given our offer to act as a go between a try. No calls returned. How was that any different from the folk at the General Assembly refusing to speak with the city? 

For every protestor arrested this morning, you can figure there are at least 1,000 who supported that cause and at least 100 of their community who will know the person taken away. You can add this number of people to the already existing resentment and distrust. You can add this to the history of bad relations between Oakland Police and Oakland. 

We had cops from the suburbs arresting our protestors, destroying poor people’s property, and relishing tearing up our signs and kicking our stuff around. No good will come of this. Maybe they could burn the books from the library tent and make a full show of it. 

Yesterday I was at the Snow Park part of the encampment and we donated a tarp and a big blue ball to the kid’s tent. My son picked that ball out for those kids from his own toys. This morning I told him what happened and that all people in the tents, the toys and the big blue ball are now gone, to be trashed by the police. He felt sorry for one of the kids for whom those were most of the toys he had. 

A number of the people in both encampments were living there before the protests started. Most of the big problems sited in the city’s memos already existed. Those people will now face jail, inadequate social services and all the situations that made them homeless and living in the Plaza in the first place. Those 6 children who lived in the camp will be badly hurt by all of this in ways that will leave a lasting effect. But in our city, some hippies smoking dope in the park protesting banks is an urgent situation worthy of high spending and violence to quash. The hundreds, maybe thousands of Oakland residents who reside nowhere is obviously not so urgent a problem. Now the two have met the police. 

When my 8 year old overheard adults talking about where the protests go from here he said: “what protests? now it is more like a war” and sure enough we have something of a war on the streets of Oakland tonight, a war provoked by unnecessary police intervention. 

A beautiful thing has been lost. Occupy Oakland had its problems, but it also had its promise. There were workshops, books, a children’s zone and some very good community bridge building going on. The place did not look or feel like a riot, it felt more like a festival. To quote Zennie “it was bone headed to refuse to talk to the city”. Zennie is also right on to say that efforts inside the protest were dealing with the problems that the city was complaining about. All of them, even opening up and inviting the city to come and talk at the General Assembly. Most of the stories in the press were gross exaggerations and half truths. Members of the community were also coming out with everything from port-a-potties, protest marchers and just plane willingness to speak with the protesters and promote solidarity and harmony. Also beautiful and totally justified is the anger expressed towards those who own our economy and the government that serves them and only them. 

A beautiful opportunity has also been lost. This Occupy Wall Street movement is a watershed in American politics. Oakland could have been the place where there could have been harmony and cooperation between our local government and this very justified protest movement. 

We have every reason in the world to be mad with Wall Street, the big Banks and the corrupt system of lobbyist based politics that Occupy Wall Street is pulling back the curtain on. 

Now we have every reason on earth to be mad at our local government. 


Flash: Protesters Back at Oakland Plaza; Ordered to Disperse for Third Time

By ScottMorris/JeffShuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 09:31:00 PM

Police at Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza have issued an order to disperse to hundreds of protesters for the third time tonight.

After police deployed tear gas on protesters earlier tonight, temporarily scattering the crowd of "Occupy Oakland" protesters, the group has reconvened at the plaza and officers have started to use rubber bullets on unruly demonstrators. 

Police said that as of 8 p.m., no injuries had been reported. 

BART closed Oakland's 12th Street station because of tonight's protest. 

Protesters were ordered to leave the City Hall area for the first time at around 6 p.m. this evening and the crowd complied. The group briefly gathered at Snow Park, the smaller of two encampment sites that were broken up by police early this morning, to regroup after officers blocked off Broadway earlier this evening and ordered the protesters to disperse. 

Police presence was less prevalent at the smaller park and after a brief discussion, the group decided to continue the march and return to 14th Street and Broadway. 

Officers at Frank Ogawa Plaza again ordered the crowd to disperse before deploying tear gas and smoke grenades.  

After fleeing briefly, the group gathered near 19th Street and Broadway, before heading back to City Hall. 

Between 400 and 500 "Occupy Oakland" protesters began the march today at the main branch of the Oakland Public Library heading to Frank Ogawa Plaza with the aim of retaking the space they were evicted from early this morning. 

The protesters gathered outside the main branch of the library late this afternoon and vowed that Occupy Oakland protests will continue despite the arrest of a large group of people at an encampment outside City Hall this morning. 

Veteran activist Krystof Lopaur of No Justice No BART told the gathering on the steps of the library, which is located on 14th Street between Oak and Madison streets, that the plan was to start marching to Frank Ogawa Plaza, the site of the encampment.  

At around 5:20 p.m., the crowd began to make its way downtown.  

"We're going to reclaim what was already ours," Lopaur said, drawing loud cheers from the crowd. 

A large group of demonstrators stopped to rally near a police station at Seventh and Washington streets at around 6 p.m. Confrontations broke out between officers and protesters and the police deployed smoke grenades, which caused loud noises and filled the area with smoke. 

Shortly before that confrontation, small skirmishes broke out near Eighth and Washington streets. Some protesters threw paint on the officers and minor altercations occurred. At least two protesters were detained during that confrontation. 

Oakland police, as well as the Santa Clara County and Alameda County sheriff's departments and the California Highway Patrol, are at the scene. 

The Occupy Oakland encampment began on Oct. 10. City Administrator Deanna Santana said the city arrested people starting at 4:30 a.m. today because conditions had deteriorated and the city could no longer maintain public health and safety and crowd control. 

City officials said there were reports of sexual offenses, fighting, public drinking and intoxication and other problems at the encampment. 

Oakland police said 79 arrests were made in the Frank Ogawa Plaza area near 14th Street and Broadway and six additional arrests were made at Snow Park a few blocks away near the corner of 19th and Harrison streets. 

Carlos Villarreal, a spokesman for the National Lawyers Guild, which is representing many of the protesters, said he has been told that more than 100 people were arrested, mostly on misdemeanor charges. 

A speaker at the rally said several people were arrested on more serious felony charges, such as resisting arrest and battery on a police officer. 

Villarreal said two protesters suffered broken hands when they were arrested and one protestor was taken to a hospital with head injuries. 

Law enforcement officials have closed 14th Street between Oak Street and Frank Ogawa Plaza, while protesters march.

Police Arrest at Least 75 Protesters During "Occupy Oakland" Raid

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 01:13:00 PM

Police said at least 75 protesters were arrested when officers wearing riot gear raided the "Occupy Oakland" encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza early this morning.

Speaking at a news conference at City Hall that began around 9:20 a.m., interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said police are still processing those arrested and that the arrest total will likely increase.

The arrests were mostly for misdemeanor offenses, including unlawful assembly and lodging, Jordan said.  

"I'm very pleased with the way things went," he said. "There were no injuries to the public or my officers." 

He said hundreds of officers from the Oakland Police Department and assisting agencies removed about 200 people from the plaza beginning around 4:30 a.m. 

Jordan said that before police moved in, they gave protesters the opportunity to leave on their own, and about 30 campers did.  

As police entered the camp, there were some confrontations and police used tear gas and nonlethal beanbag weapons.  

When asked why police had used tear gas, Jordan said, "We deployed it to effect an arrest because some officers were being pelted with rocks and bottles." 

He said the beanbag weapon was fired after someone threw a garbage can at police.  

Loud blasts were heard while the raid was under way, and Jordan said the noises came from M-80 and M-1000 firecrackers that protesters had hurled at officers.  

Jordan said the use of the tear gas and beanbag weapons will be investigated by the department's internal affairs unit, as is protocol.  

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was not present at the news conference because she is in Washington, D.C., lobbying for federal funding for the Port of Oakland, City Administrator Deanna Santana said.  

Santana, when questioned about the cost of having so many police officers break up a peaceful demonstration when the city's budget is so tight, said there was no choice. 

"I have an obligation to maintain public safety and health, and I couldn't maintain those under these circumstances," she said.  

Jordan said some of the protesters came from all over the U.S. 

Two local men who had been living at the camp at Broadway and 14th Street said they were arrested shortly before 5 a.m. 

Speaking by cellphone from the back of a police van around 6 a.m., Brian Glasscock, a 20-year-old Oakland resident, said he saw people being tear-gassed, and that his tent had been ripped apart. 

The second man, 23-year-old Berkeley resident Davonte Gaskin, said he had been camping with Occupy Oakland for four days, and that police had used batons to dismantle his tent before arresting him for camping in the plaza. 

An Oakland resident who only gave her name as Kristina, 28, said she was tear-gassed and that people around her were hit by what she thought were rubber bullets. 

She said downtown Oakland was shut down this morning, and that protesters at a second Occupy Oakland camp at Snow Park at Lake Merritt expect to be raided by police. 

Police have since dismantled the Snow Park encampment.  

City officials said in a news release sent out this morning that Frank Ogawa Plaza had been "contained" by 5:30 a.m. and a cleanup operation was under way. 

The news release stated that within a week of when the Occupy Oakland camp materialized, the city began receiving reports of fire hazards, sanitation problems, noise and unsafe structures being set up in the plaza. 

By the second week, firefighters, police and paramedics were denied access to the camp and the city received a report that someone had been severely beaten, according to city officials. 

"Sanitation conditions worsened, with frequent instances of public urination and defecation, as well as improper food storage," the news release stated.  

An existing rat problem in the plaza grew worse, and reports of public intoxication, fighting and sexual offenses increased, according to the city. 

The city sent an eviction notice to protesters at Frank Ogawa Plaza last week, but most stayed put.  

City officials said this morning that once the plaza is cleared, "peaceful daytime assembly" will still be allowed between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., but no camping will be permitted. 

The 12th Street BART station was shut down during the raid but had reopened by 6:30 a.m. AC Transit bus service was disrupted in the downtown area and detours were set up. 

Several streets remained closed in the downtown area as of 10 a.m.

Oakland 12th Street BART Re-Opens

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 07:35:00 AM

After police enforced an eviction notice on protesters camped in downtown Oakland as part of "Occupy Oakland" this morning, transit through the area was affected. 

Riot police entered the camp at Frank Ogawa Plaza on Broadway and 14th Street just before 5 a.m. 

The 12th Street BART station had been shut down earlier this morning, but as of 6:30 a.m. the station is open with access only through the 11th Street entrance and exit, a BART official said. 

Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District bus service has been disrupted and there are detours in place throughout the downtown area. AC Transit has listed detoured bus lines on their website at www.actransit.org.

Downtown Oakland Workers Asked to Come Late

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 07:31:00 AM

City officials are advising downtown Oakland employers to consider having employees delay their arrival downtown this morning after police action at the "Occupy Oakland" encampment. 

City spokeswoman Karen Boyd said city employees are also advised to delay their arrival to work this morning after Oakland police officers and other authorities enforced an eviction notice on protesters in Frank Ogawa Plaza at Broadway and 14th Street. 

A number of arrests have been reported after police entered the camp just before 5 a.m. An official number of arrests has not been reported. 

As of 5:20 a.m. the plaza was contained, but authorities are still cleaning the area, Boyd said. 

A BART official said the 12th Street station is closed this morning with trains running through the station. The 19th Street station is open. 

Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District bus service has been disrupted and there are detours in place throughout the downtown area. AC Transit has listed detoured bus lines on their website at www.actransit.org.

Oakland Police Shut Down Occupy Oakland

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 07:31:00 AM

Oakland city officials said this morning police are enforcing a notice of violation issued last week to protesters at the downtown "Occupy Oakland" encampment. 

A livestream of footage from Frank Ogawa Plaza shows many police in riot gear surrounding the camp at Broadway and 14th Street. Other media footage has shown officers moving into the camp and making what appears to be arrests since 5 a.m. 

Footage from the area has also shown officers disassembling tents. 

Oakland City spokeswoman Karen Boyd wrote in a statement this morning that as of 4:30 a.m. the department began enforcing the "notice of violations and demand to cease violations" to people staying overnight in the plaza. A BART official said the 12th Street station is closed as of 5 a.m. with trains running through the station. The 19th Street station is open.

Occupy Berkeley's Growing Tent City Occupied Saturday at Civic Center by Peaceful Bay Area Teachers; But How Long Will Peaceful Vibes Last?

by Ted Friedman
Monday October 24, 2011 - 04:50:00 PM
Occupy Berkeley's encampment meeting Saturday in Civic Center Park before a "grade-in" to support the anti-Wall Street movement. Man seated at end of couch, to right, was hailed a hero for saving Friday's overnight tent occupation from a marauder
Ted Friedman
Occupy Berkeley's encampment meeting Saturday in Civic Center Park before a "grade-in" to support the anti-Wall Street movement. Man seated at end of couch, to right, was hailed a hero for saving Friday's overnight tent occupation from a marauder
Teacher at work at Saturday's teacher "grade-in" in at Civic Center Park to support Occupy Oakland
Ted Friedman
Teacher at work at Saturday's teacher "grade-in" in at Civic Center Park to support Occupy Oakland

A dozen bay area teachers, joining Occupy Berkeley, engaged in a peaceful "grade-in" Saturday at Berkeley's Martin Luther King Civic Center, but a growing tent city in the park could clash with the city if grounds maintenance problems are not solved. 

Occupy's tent city (now 18 tents) is presently blocking the city's lawn watering in the park, according to Russell Bates, a member of the protest's health and safety committee, who conducted a camp meeting prior to the grade-in. 

A defiant Bates refused to move the tent encampment (temporarily, and return) to give the city a chance to water. Saying that the artificial grass could not be protected anyway, Bates proclaimed "we won't move." 

The teacher grade-in was announced as a lawn watering party, as well, but Bates' pleas at general assemblies last week, to "bring your watering cans," was not heeded. 

The question of camping permits was met with a slogan heard often at planning meetings—"we don't need permission to occupy." 

An overnight camper was credited with driving off a marauder, who threatened to destroy the encampment the preceding night. The camp's savior is being hailed as a hero. 

At nearby Occupy Oakland, a camper who reportedly threatened others last week was himself beaten, and driven from the encampment at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, where a clash with police over a city-issued eviction notice looms. 

As of now, the Berkeley chapter of the international anti-Wall-Street protest is one of the Bay Area's most peaceful. To keep it that way, a member of the general assembly, which met for the first time at the park Sunday (6 p.m. nightly), proposed "that a zero tolerance for physical, psychological, or emotional violence be adopted by this assembly for all participants." 

Past general assemblies have endorsed a non-violent philosophy for the Berkeley branch of Occupy, USA. 

Saturday's grade-in was so peaceful, it was difficult to stifle a yawn. Most of the twenty teachers who showed up to grade papers were too busy sharing the suffering of paper grading to address the rape of the economy by Wall-Street. There were no speeches. 

Sponsored by the Oakland Education Association, and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, the grade-in was an opportunity for the public to relive its school days and hang out with some cool teachers. 

Blair Mosner, from Berkeley High School, who organized the event, while expressing her dissatisfaction with corporate greed in the face of public deprivation, complained about education cuts, which threaten our schools. 

But most teachers told me they feel lucky to have the teaching jobs they do. Monica Lee, who has been trying to get a teaching job for four years, told of her frustrations over not getting a job. 

A partial list of teacher-participants follows: Blair Mosner, Berkeley High School; John Tobias, BHS, World History; John Fox, Foothill College, Sociology; Kamau Birago, De Anza College, sociology; Miles Murray—a facilitator at Occupy Berkeley—Castlemont High School, English, and Laura Calligan, Head-Royce Academy, Oakland, Spanish. 

A contingent from the Graduate Theological Union showed up with its own tent. 

Every teacher told stories that revealed a deep devotion to teaching. 


Ted Friedman has been lured downtown (away from People's Park and the Med) by an international protest movement.

1991 Firestorm Remembered At 20th Anniversary Ceremony

By Steven Finacom
Sunday October 23, 2011 - 10:51:00 PM
Oakland Interim Fire Chief Mark Hoffmann spoke at the 20th anniversary memorial for the 1991 Firestorm in the Oakland / Berkeley Hills.
Steven Finacom
Oakland Interim Fire Chief Mark Hoffmann spoke at the 20th anniversary memorial for the 1991 Firestorm in the Oakland / Berkeley Hills.
Mayor Jean Quan sat next to Congresswoman Barbara Lee at the ceremony.
Steven Finacom
Mayor Jean Quan sat next to Congresswoman Barbara Lee at the ceremony.
Firefighters from several jurisdictions attended the ceremony.
Steven Finacom
Firefighters from several jurisdictions attended the ceremony.
Berkeley Fire Chief Deborah Pryor spoke about the events of October 20, 1991, and the need for continued preparedness.
Steven Finacom
Berkeley Fire Chief Deborah Pryor spoke about the events of October 20, 1991, and the need for continued preparedness.
A color guard of Oakland Police and Firemen opened the ceremony.
Steven Finacom
A color guard of Oakland Police and Firemen opened the ceremony.
A ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Berkeley Hills firestorm ended with a procession of fire engines from several jurisdictions.
Steven Finacom
A ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Berkeley Hills firestorm ended with a procession of fire engines from several jurisdictions.
State Senator Loni Hancock arrived for the ceremony with her
              husband, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.
Steven Finacom
State Senator Loni Hancock arrived for the ceremony with her husband, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.
A short distance from the ceremony the fire hazard warning for the day was posted.
Steven Finacom
A short distance from the ceremony the fire hazard warning for the day was posted.
Above, in Hiller Highlands, there’s a matrix of grassland, rebuilt homes, and regrown trees.
Steven Finacom
Above, in Hiller Highlands, there’s a matrix of grassland, rebuilt homes, and regrown trees.
This eye-witness painting expressed the scene as the flames burned down the hill behind the Claremont Hotel.
Private collection
This eye-witness painting expressed the scene as the flames burned down the hill behind the Claremont Hotel.

Southeast Berkeley was full of fear and chaos October 20, 1991. People poured down Tunnel Road, evacuating from the fire above. Emergency vehicles chugged and sirened in the opposite direction. Homes along some of Berkeley’s most charmed streets—Alvarado Road, Vicente Road, Roble Road—were ablaze, along with hundreds of residences in Oakland. For hours, it looked as if the Claremont Hotel would become a gigantic torch. 

Twenty years later, Saturday, October 22, 2011, that affluent edge of Berkeley could not have been more tranquil. Dog walkers, recreational cyclists, and strollers populated the streets in the bright, warm, weather. There was a faint on-shore breeze, but mainly still, balmy, air. 

The brief business block of Domingo Avenue had its usual mid-morning chaos of Rick and Ann’s brunchers, Peetniks, and Bread Garden patrons. Across the street, tennis players practiced on the courts below the Claremont. 

The drivers going fast were presumably late for some petty appointment or excursion, not fleeing a fire.  

A 20th anniversary commemoration was held at the Gateway Emergency preparedness Exhibit Center in Oakland, where Hiller Drive dips down to meet Tunnel Road. It was a short event, heavy with dignitaries and memories, stories told by firefighters, residents, a woman who was just nine in 1991, and civic leaders. 

“That was the day that changed all of our lives and our neighborhoods and our country”, said Betty Ann Bruno, retired KTVU TV reporter, who made the introductions. 

“Everyone…literally has images of that day burned into his or her memory.” “That was the day that changed all of our lives and our neighbors and our community.” 

“This is also a day to mark the journey we have made since then”, she said. “History says that every 20 or 25 years the hills will burn. Well maybe this is the day to say maybe history won’t be repeated here…” 

Mayor Jean Quan 

“All of us have our memories”, said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, the second speaker. “Many of you lost members of your families.” She recalled that she was “a much younger School Board member then”, waiting for news of whether the elementary schools in the fire zone had been destroyed. 

“What came out of that (the Firestorm) was a spirit, and a long series of reforms that we now take for granted”, she emphasized. “The way we buy insurance in California has changed”, FEMA procedures have been updated to include many of the lessons learned from the Firestorm and recovery.  

“How we build our homes in the hills” is different, the rebuilt areas have underground utilities, and “eventually we’re going to be able to take out some eucalyptus”, one of the introduced tree species blamed for the rapid spread of the fire. Oakland has a fire assessment district in the hills, and hazard abatement program. 

“We’re all working to change how we live in our hills”, Quan said. “These reforms, these changes, came out of the sacrifices and sad tragedy of 20 years ago.” “ 

She thanked representatives of several fire departments outside Oakland that had attending, standing in a long, blue, line along one of the walkway approaches to the memorial area. 

“Maybe we can convince Mother Nature not to have a big fire in Central Oakland”, she said.  

But, “we’re a city that has to be vigilant, it’s God’s price for living here” with an enviable climate, setting, scenery, and community threatened by natural disaster. “No, I didn’t arrange to have the little tremors” earlier in the week, she joked. 

In the aftermath of the Fire, “we learned to take care of each other”, Quan concluded. “I’m so proud to be Mayor of this city.” “We stood up and rebuilt.” 

By my count there were perhaps one hundred members of the audience and dignitaries, plus dozens of fire personnel from various departments. Many of the civilian attendees were middle aged or elderly, although there were some children and young adults. 

Behind the massed fire personnel a steep bluff rose, brown with dry grass, dotted over with green shrubbery, and topped by some of the rebuilt condominiums of Hiller Highlands. 

The memorial itself—a platform with a stone entrance, framed overhead in metal beams to resemble a half-built, or half destroyed, house—was surrounded by low plantings, bright with the fall gold of ginkgos, the purple spikes of Mexican bush sage, and the silver green of olives. 

At the base of the bluff, there was a sign announcing the memorial, posted below a slightly tilted, permanent, warning sign. “Fire Danger Today MODERATE. Be Fire Safe!” 

Beyond the speaker podium across the valley was a view of the Rockridge heights that had burned, now lined with vegetation and large, newer, houses and beyond that, the towers of San Francisco and Emeryville, and the Bay. 

It grew considerably warm on the open-air platform, below a bright, almost cloudless, sky. There was haze over the Bay in the distance, but no wind blew down the canyons. The roar of freeway traffic was a constant in the background. 

An intermittent stream of bicyclists passed by; some stopped and curiously watched a few minutes of the ceremony, before peddling off again up or down the steep hill. 

Mayor Tom Bates 

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates spoke next, telling essentially the same story he had recounted at a City Council meeting a few weeks before. Serving in the Legislature at the time of the Fire, he said, “we were all shocked at what we saw.” Fire units came from all over the State, but couldn’t communicate by radio with each other, there was “no command structure” for the whole operation, and “Berkeley firefighters had not trained on wildfires in the hills.” “It was a disaster”.  

“I was so livid I introduced legislation saying ‘we’re going to have one fire department’, and they all freaked out”, Bates recalled. Eventually, reforms included improving communications, getting universal connectors so one department could use another jurisdiction’s hydrants, and formation of on-going coordination bodies like the Hills Emergency Forum that involves several East Bay cities, entities, and districts. 

“They train together, they work together, and they ended up being one of the best firefighting units in the world”, Bates said of the local fire departments. 

“In looking back, I’m just so proud of the progress we made”, he concluded. “Hopefully we won’t have to go through this again, but if we have to, I feel like we’ll be ready.” 

Oakland Fire Chief 

Interim Fire Chief of Oakland, Mark Hoffmann, spoke next, telling the crowd “I know many of you individually and I rarely have a chance to thank you all together.” 

“There will fires in the future in this area” he emphasized. “We have done a lot of training, we have done a lot of preparation.” Personal equipment, hoses, and fire engines have been upgraded. “We are all on the same page” in terms of mutual response, he said. “We have inter-operability.” 

Hoffman recalled his personal experience of the fire twenty years ago. “I was so out of my element as a structure fire fighter”, he said. Now, Oakland regularly sends crews to help fight wildfires in Southern California and the Sierra foothills as part of interagency cooperation and training routine. 

He brought the gathering back to the personal nature of the tragedy. “We’re here because people lost their lives and lost their properties” twenty years ago. “I’d like to personally share my condolences with you.” 

“There WILL be another fire”, he emphasized again. “There will be another earthquake. And preparedness is the key.” 

He concluded by noting that an estimated two thirds of the people now living in the Oakland Hills weren’t residents there twenty years ago. “So please, choir in front of me, help carry the word.” “When the next one happens, and it will, hopefully it will be no where close to what we experienced 20 years ago” because of preparation and awareness. 

Berkeley’s Fire Chief 

“I remember the smell of smoke, and the smoke turning daylight into darkness”, Chief Deborah Prior of the Berkeley Fire Department told the crowd. In 1991 she was on the Berkeley force, but visiting her mother on a day off when the Fire started. 

Returning to Berkeley she joined an engine that was sent to relieve another crew that had been defending houses along Roble Road for hours. The first African-American woman to be Berkeley’s Chief, she said, “as a child, my grandmother was a housekeeper for several houses on Roble Court”, and she knew the area well. 

Since the fire, the local fire departments have worked hard to improve coordination, radio communication, wildland firefighting equipment and training, she said. Mutual aid agreements are in place that lift jurisdictional boundaries, so the nearest fire companies can respond to a wildfire emergency even if it’s across borders. 

“Strong community support” for disaster preparedness has continued, she added. She emphasized four on-going themes: vegetation management; community training and disaster preparedness; improved construction codes; more resources, such as emergency water supplies and specialized engines. Berkeley has, she said, 52 disaster equipment caches distributed through the City, with residents trained to use them. 

“Regardless of our accomplishments”, she concluded, “there is still room for improvement.” Pryor noted the need for one way or restricted parking on narrow streets in hazardous areas—I saw many of the firefighters in the audience nod at that—better regional planning, and further work on building code improvements. 

“We all play a key role in our own personal preparedness, and neighborhood readiness”, she emphasized. 

Fire Survivors 

A trio of 1991 Oakland Hills residents spoke next. 

“Those of us who survived the Fire and rebuilt find ourselves filled with strong surges of emotion”, said David Kessler, who lost his home, and has been active since in both recovery and education efforts. He wore to the ceremony a hat that was one of the few items he and his wife had taken from their home as they evacuated. 

Calling the area, “this beautiful corner of the Earth”, he talked about feelings of sadness, but also the pride survivors had in coping with the losses, pressuring insurance companies for equitable settlements, and rebuilding. We learned that by working together, we could do it”, he said. “And we have retained this lesson.” 

Echoing Hoffman and Pryor, Kessler stressed that “we know that continual vigilance in reducing dangerous fuels” is necessary. “We also know we cannot do it ourselves”, alone. “The good thing the Fire brought us was how good human beings can be”, he said. 

“Berkeley and Oakland have taken so many lessons from this experience to heart.” “Our goal in this conversation is not to dwell on the past but to keep these hills safe for generations to come.” 

“May those events of 1991 be the last time our hills are the scene of such an overwhelming tragedy”, he concluded.  

“This is a day of remembrance,” said Ken Benson, the former chair of the Oakland Wildfire Prevention Assessment District. He said that thirty-seven years ago his father, a fire battalion chief in Southern California, died after injuries in a fire. “Volunteerism and response is the call of a firefighter”, he said. 

Benson recalled a number of Hills residents who were instrumental in disaster recovery and setting up the assessment district. “There will be another fire, and there will always be a need for that activism that draws us to live in Oakland.” 

“It’s because I clear my property, and set an example for my neighborhood, it’s why we’re successful,” he said to illustrate why individual action is necessary. “If you live in the Oakland Hills, make sure you’re involved in the Oakland Hills.” 

The last speaker was Joanne Cuevas Ingram, who was nine years old when her mother told her “it’s time to go, we have to get out”, from their home as the fire approached. The sky was red. She looked for her favorite doll, she said, but couldn’t find it and grabbed a bag of school supplies.  

“As we inched down Hiller Drive, an entire grove of eucalyptus exploded in front of us”, she remembered. The car turned hot inside, despite the air conditioning.  

After they escaped the fire zone and drove west through Berkeley, “we saw people in fear running down Ashby and Telegraph Avenue. Everyone thought the fire would burn to the Bay.” 

“I reflect about community, about compassion and support,” she said, recalling the help her family was offered after the Fire. “The most important thing in your life is the strength of your relationships.” 


State Senator Loni Hancock, who was Mayor of Berkeley during the Fire, told the crowd “what an extraordinary group of people we have this day.” She recalled she was in Yosemite on the day of the Fire and was handed a note, “go home at once, Berkeley burning down.” 

She said this was a “day of realizing that those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.” 

Hancock praised, in particular, then-Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi “who went right to bat” against insurance companies that were dragging fire area policyholders through delays or refusing to pay. She also thanked the fire fighters and presented a resolution from the local legislative delegation. 

She remembered “the people who lost their lives because of our lack of readiness, the chaos.” 

Earlier in the remembrances Bruno had noted a firefighter had once told her, “that day we did not win. The Fire eventually stopped because the wind did, and it turned on itself.” 

To conclude the ceremony, Hancock read the names of those who died in the Firestorm on October 20, 1991. Chief Hoffman then asked Pryor, Kessler, and Ingram to join him next to a silver bell set near the podium.  

The bell ceremony, he said, dates back hundreds of years as a firefighting tradition. Bells used to govern the lives of firefighters, summoning them to work, sending out alarms, ringing on the horse drawn apparatus as they raced to fires. Today, sirens substitute, but the bell is used to remember those who have passed. It’s a “shared experience”, Hoffman said.  

The bell is traditionally rung at memorials for firefighters, but today, Hoffman said, it would be run in the traditional “three times three” cadence in memory of all those who died in the 1991 firestorm, “because of the people in the community who helped to fight the fire.” 

As the ceremony concluded, a procession of fire trucks representing some of the agencies that had fought the Firestorm passed below the Exhibit Center. Led by an engine from Oakland, they included delegations from Berkeley, Emeryville, Alameda County and Fremont. They headed to the afternoon Preparedness Fair at Lake Temescal. 

I drove up Hiller Drive into the hills. I’d periodically gone to meetings there before the Fire, and remembered former residents and their 60s-Modern homes, how replaced on the same sites with 90’s Modern, some of them now beginning to show age and wear. At the Highlands Country Club the flags were flying at full staff.  

It was the middle of a warm fall day. There were no people on the streets and almost no cars moving. Few taller trees stand in the townhouse area. It’s mainly buildings and low plantings, facing the spectacular views, across the crown of the slope and wide streets with the familiar names of the Firestorm—the places where people fled, and some died as the flames, came rapidly over the ridge behind them—Schooner Hill and Windward Hill, Charing Cross Road, Spy Glass Hill, Grand View Drive. 

Higher up the slopes and ridges there are stands of eucalyptus, patchwork grass, and larger private homes. I returned down the other side of Hiller Highlands, passing the Kaiser School, the Bentley School, and the Firestorm Memorial Garden where the road runs into the top of Tunnel Road and the freeway approaches. 

Flowers were in bloom beside a bench and a handcrafted drinking fountain that is a memorial to Chief James M. Riley, Jr., the Oakland firefighter who died in the Firestorm. “Drink and Remember”, the pedestal reads. Not a soul was there.

Press Release: Raid on Occupy Oakland "Highly Probable" Tonight

From Kevin Seal
Monday October 24, 2011 - 04:53:00 PM

An Oakland city official has tipped off the Occupy Oakland protest group that a raid tonight is "highly probable." Such a raid would happen after midnight, and would most likely occur between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. 

Oakland officials have delivered notice to the protesters at Frank Ogawa Plaza and at Snow Park that the protesters are no longer allowed to stay overnight in the public parks. Today's announcement comes on the same day as Occupy Oakland's two-week birthday party, with cake and celebration planned for 5 p.m. tonight at the corner of Broadway and 14th. 

"Our goal is to facilitate individuals to remove their tents, cooking facilities, and belongings, and to leave cooperatively," wrote city administrator Deanna Santana in an update to Oakland city staff earlier today. "We do not anticipate that our efforts to facilitate the departure of overnight protesters will disrupt your work or require changes to your work schedule." 

The Occupy Oakland group has established significant infrastructure in the past 14 days. An occupation-run kitchen feeds the more than 400 protesters staying in the two parks, while workshops and organizational meetings happen throughout each day. A children's village is available for parents and their kids, and a number of structures are in place to serve the full occupation, including a library, a school and a first-aid center. 

About Occupy Oakland: Occupy Oakland is an emerging social movement without leaders or spokespeople. It is one of 1,570 occupations currently occurring around the world in solidarity with Occupy Wall St. For more information about the other occupations, see: http://www.occupytogether.org/

Press Release: Teachers at Berkeley's Realm Charter Schools Join Union

From Cathy Campbell
Monday October 24, 2011 - 09:02:00 AM

Berkeley, CA – The teachers at Realm Middle and High Schools became the first charter schools in Berkeley to receive union recognition last week when they were informed by California’s Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) that their request to join the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT), an affiliate of the California Federation of Teachers, had been granted. 

“We are thrilled!” said Hillary Walker, a sixth grade Humanities teacher at Realm. "Based on its history of advocacy, support and collective bargaining, we felt that the BFT could help us negotiate a strong contract, emphasizing democratic participation that would be a model for other charter schools." 

Realm is a new charter school system that opened its doors in August 2011. Realm certificated staff sought out the BFT for union representation. Last summer the prospective teachers met with the BFT leadership and the California Federation of Teachers Organizing Department to answer questions and discuss options. 

“We are proud to represent teachers at Berkeley’s newest charter schools. We look forward to working together to negotiate a first contract that addresses charter teachers’ unique concerns while also maintaining the best conditions our teachers enjoy in the Berkeley Unified School District,” said Cathy Campbell, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers. 

Josh Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), which represents teachers and staff at several charter schools across the state said: “Forming a union is about democracy, being respected and having your voice heard. We believe charter school teachers deserve the same rights in school decision making as teachers in traditional public schools and we look forward to working with the Realm teachers to obtain good, solid contracts.” 

The CFT represents 120,000 education professionals working at every level of the education system from ECE to the University; while the AFT has more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide, 43 state affiliates, and more than 1.4 million members. 

The California Federation of Teachers is the statewide affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. The CFT represents faculty and other school employees in public and private schools and colleges, from early childhood through higher education. 

For more information please visit www.cft.org.

More Aftershocks Today

By Sasha Lekach (Bay City News Service)
Saturday October 22, 2011 - 07:36:00 PM

Another aftershock with a 2.5 magnitude struck this morning, after two small quakes shook the East Bay this morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. 

The temblor shook 2 miles east-southeast of Berkeley at 12:45 a.m. with a 4.9 depth, according to the survey. 

Earlier this morning, a 2.8-magnitude quake struck at 12:06 a.m. and was followed by a 1.3-magnitude quake minutes later at 12:14 a.m. 

These aftershocks follow an earthquake Thursday at 2:41 p.m., which was recorded at 4.0 magnitude. A small 3.8-magnitude quake followed Thursday evening at 8:16 p.m., the USGS said.  

These earthquakes have been centered around Berkeley. 

Thursday's earthquake was along the Hayward Fault Line, according to the USGS.



The City Council and the School District Play Fast and Loose with Public Funds in Berkeley

By Becky O'Malley
Monday October 24, 2011 - 10:51:00 PM

While no one’s paying much attention, a substantial part of the last remaining open space in flatlands Berkeley is being reconfigured by the Berkeley Unified School District in collusion with bureaucrats working for the City of Berkeley. There has been almost no meaningful public discussion either of the goals of planned lavish and well-funded building projects or of the schedule for carrying them out. 

Our colleagues at the Berkeleyside website have done an excellent job of tracking the inexcusable decision of BUSD to summarily close Berkeley High’s Old Gym because of—this just in—structural problems. This sudden move left a variety of student athletes, including the football team, in the lurch.  

There are a number of related problems with this situation. In the first place, the gym has been transparently subjected to “demolition by neglect”, BUSD’s favorite construction planning strategy. The imminent loss of the warm pool, a lifesaver for many disabled members of the larger community, is simply inexcusable—with any decent planning providing such a facility could be a money-maker for the school district and the city, as is Palo Alto’s warm pool. Needless to say, promised replacements are not materializing—but we’re not surprised, are we? 

That said, the bad condition of the Old Gym is also no surprise to any reader of the Planet or anyone who has had any connection with the high school in the last ten years or so. It would have been possible for a well-run district to arrange beforehand to replace its function with minimal impact on students, but that didn’t happen. Again, all together now, this time in French (which my daughters learned well from Mr. Dillingham at Berkeley High): Quelle surprise! 

Then there are those who might question the major end goal of this whole disruptive project, which is to build a bigger and better football stadium on the Berkeley High campus. Recent studies about traumatic brain injuries suffered by many football players is causing many to question whether sponsoring this dangerous sport through the public education system is appropriate. Of course, like many of us, I do know a young man, a family friend, whose participation in the team was the main reason he stayed in school long enough to graduate. But the question deserves the kind of open and frank public discussion which it hasn’t gotten. 

And this story, bad as it is, pales in comparison to what seems to be going on completely under the radar at the prime BUSD West Campus location. We copped to it accidentally in May, listening to the side chat in a Berkeley City Council budget workshop, and revealed it in an editorial. At the time, one primary concern was that the Maudelle Shirek Old City Hall was participating in the Demolition by Neglect program. Another was whether West Campus, far from the civic center, was the right location for City Council meetings.  

In our May editorial, we said: 

“West Campus is relatively far from the action, and would probably impede rather than facilitate citizen attendance at meetings—but perhaps that’s the rationale behind what appears to be the current plan. At their next meeting on May 17th, the council has the opportunity to start a frank and open discussion of their impending move and the fate of the Maudelle Shirek Building, and they should do so.” 

Oh sure. Again, quelle surprise, nothing happened, at least not in public.  

So last week West Berkeley business owner and activist Kristin Leimkuhler alerted us and her neighbors to what was supposed to be a cozy little conclave to talk about plans for West Campus. Steve Finacom (seemingly the only reporter in attendance) managed to get a full story from comments made by participants representing both civic entities—and it’s a mess. A lotta shuckin’ ‘n’ jivin’ goin’ on, but no answers, and meanwhile Old City Hall seems to have gotten dramatically unsafe.  

And did you notice? Berkeley’s had maybe 8 or 16 earthquakes in the last couple of days, depending on whom you ask. We could lose the whole Berkeley City Council at one fell swoop if the Big One came at the wrong time. On the other hand, the council meets so infrequently these days that the probability is not high that they’d be there when it happened. (But we do need to get BUSD employees, who are now there every day, into a safer office building.) 

Finally, finally, Councilpersons Arreguin and Worthington are asking what’s going on. They’re trying to put an item on the consent calendar for the council’s November 8 meeting asking for a full report in no less than 60 days on whatever plans are contemplated for a new council meeting place. That timing puts the report dangerously close to the group’s long winter holiday (they seem to be on holiday most weeks lately), so don’t expect the report to be presented any time before spring, 

And that’s IF the council approves the item, which they might not. These two councilmembers don’t get much respect from their colleagues, most of whom are much more comfortable with backroom deals than with open public process.  

The school board isn’t any better. Based on Steve’s report, it seems quite likely that someone in what passes for facilities planning in the BUSD hierarchy is counting on the City of Berkeley to contribute close to $1 million of the $2.1 million dollar cost of turning the West Campus cafeteria into a meeting room for both the school board and the council. At least one quoted project manager said that contracts will be let in February or March for construction in March, by which time it’s highly unlikely that the Berkeley City Council will even have gotten their report. 

No school board members bothered to attend the Tuesday night meeting at West Campus. I happened to run into one of them at the Tuesday Farmers’ Market and I asked him if he was planning to go. He intimated that this really wasn’t his issue, and sure enough he wasn’t there.  

A major part of the problem is the grip the bond industry and its clients, developers and construction unions, have gotten on the public process. Berkeley already has a great deal of empty office space which could easily house the BUSD bureaucracy, but it’s new construction which feeds bond companies and the rest of the building industry. The Berkeley City Council could meet in the lovely new Berkeley City College auditorium, or even bargain with UC to use any of its many large halls as a tradeoff for the public service subsidy the city provides for the university. Yes, yes, we know that there are some “jobs” in building projects, but even in a period of unemployment it would be better for public funds to go directly to existing classroom teachers than, in large part, into the pockets of the bond finance corporations. 

We’ve never come out against a bond issue in the nine years we’ve been running editorials in the Planet. We believe strongly that it’s the duty of citizens to pay the tab for government. But when we see such slipshod planning and such complete disregard for public opinion on the part of both of the bodies charged with spending public money in the public interest, we understand why the swimming pool measure failed. 

We predict more voter rejection of similar measures down the line if this situation continues. Berkeley deserves—and should demand—better. 




The Editor's Back Fence

Opera Program Canned by NPR Because of Host's Occupy Participation

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 01:17:00 PM

Here's something which really outrages me, both as an opera lover and as a journalist. Lisa Simeone is the host of the independently produced World of Opera radio series, live broadcasts of opera from around the country which have been distributed by National Public Radio. Evidently, she also took part in an Occupy action somewhere, sometime..

For the sin of having political opinions and acting on them, she (and her program) have been dropped from the NPR lineup, in spite of the fact that the show has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with politics.

And anyway, what if it did? But we won't even bring up that question, because this situation is bad enough. For full details, and to sign a petition to lily-livered NPR, consult the Fairness and Accuracy in Media website.  


Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins: Jack

Dan O'Neill
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 11:37:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

Press Release: Barbara Lee Comments on Occupy Oakland

Thursday October 27, 2011 - 10:15:00 AM

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following statement on Occupy Oakland:

“I shared my outrage and grave concern about the police brutality in Oakland directly with the Mayor. My thoughts go out to the injured and especially Scott Olsen. I strongly support the occupy movement and continue to stand with the peaceful protesters in this struggle for economic justice and equality.”

New: Dealing Sensibly with Occupy Berkeley--Learning from Oakland's Mistakes

John Vinopal,Resident, District 4
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 04:57:00 PM

As a nearby resident of Civic Center Park, I've cast a wary eye on the "Occupy Berkeley" encampment since it metastasized away from the B of A circle. Dated signs ("No Taxes For Star Wars") reinforce my impression that Berkeley has never not been Occupied and this just becomes an excuse to put up tents in the park. I figured the ardor would cool come the rains. Friends who grew up here suggested the sprinklers would put an end to it (as they recalled some of their high-school evenings concluding). All saw a risk of People's Park West and wondered how it might conclude or how bad it might get in the meanwhile. 

Well thank you Oakland for the clear instruction in how not to deal with the situation. An ombudsman kiosk, a line of port-a-potties and a case of rat poison would have been vastly cheaper in dollars and national reputation. What was City Hall thinking? What sort of magical thinking is required to forget the 2009 riots? 

It is profoundly dispiriting to read the official OPD press report of Oct 25 (8:05pm) which states that officers did not use flash-bag grenades. In the video posted on BDP, an officer can clearly be seen throwing one into a crowd of people (attending to an injured person no less). The midnight press release merely states "less than lethal munitions". Residents of Oakland should call for the ousting of Police Chief Batts. Oh right, he quit two weeks ago. Smart guy. 

So what should Berkeley do? My modest proposal is to allow tents in the two westward triangles next to the skate park. Allow no tents in the oval and enforce this with nightly sprinkler use. Expect to service the porta- potty more often. This will be far cheaper than the $100k Berkeley will spend on 50 beds for the Winter Homeless Shelter Program and sleep just as many.

Press Release: NLG Condemns Excessive Force Used by Oakland Police Against Occupy Demonstrators

From Rachel Lederman, Bobbie Stein, Michael Flynn
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 12:14:00 PM

The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (NLGSF) condemns Oakland Police excessive force against Occupy demonstrators and violations of OPD Crowd Control Policy. 

The Oakland Police Department’s violent response to last night’s peaceful march was unjustified and their actions violated OPD’s own Crowd Management / Crowd Control Policy. That Policy, developed in collaboration with NLG and ACLU attorneys, was adopted by the City of Oakland as part of a federal court settlement, arising from the OPD’s 2003 violent clashes with longshoremen and anti-war demonstrators at the Port of Oakland. 

“The police violated just about every provision of their own Crowd Control Policy last night,” said Bobbie Stein, a NLGSF attorney. “Tear gas canisters and flash bang grenades were thrown directly at protesters. A man’s skull was fractured when he was hit by one of these objects. Demonstrators were shot with rubber bullets and shot-filled ‘bean bags’. All of this is prohibited under the Policy that we helped write and under which all OPD officers and commanders are required to be trained." 

The violent police action began at 4:30am yesterday when hundreds of officers moved in on sleeping demonstrators. They tore down the Occupy Oakland encampment and made 115 arrests. 

“The NLG is committed to defending the demonstrators until all are released from custody and cleared of all charges,” said NLGSF Executive Director Carlos Villarreal. 

"The City of Oakland is currently defending a federal civil rights suit filed by Guild attorneys due to their civil rights violations against Oscar Grant demonstrators last year. That litigation asks the court to enforce the Crowd Control Policy, which prohibits OPD from making unlawful mass arrests, from unwarranted use of chemical agents, and from shooting munitions into a crowd, all of which they did yesterday,” explained Rachel Lederman, another Guild attorney. “We are prepared to file additional lawsuits to force OPD to follow the Policy and to respect the people of Oakland’s right to dissent.” 

Occupy encampments are going on all across the country. In Los Angeles for example, demonstrators have had tents set up in front of City Hall for weeks, free of police interference. 

The NLGSF calls on Mayor Jean Quan and Oakland city government to end the police violence against protestors and to uphold free speech in Oakland. 

The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. More information on the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter can be found at www.nlgsf.org. 558 Capp Street | San Francisco, CA 94110 US

Supporting the Occupy Movement

By Victoria Q. Legg
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 10:57:00 AM

For all practical purposes I would be considered one of the 5% and yet I whole heartedly support the actions of the Occupy movement worldwide. My children are highly educated, underemployed and unlikely to ever own their own home unless I pass before becoming infirm or diagnosed with chronic disease. They are not alone.  

If people like myself fail to understand that our ultra comfortable and self centered way of life is unsustainable globally and locally, the world will become increasingly violent while people struggle to feed themselves and their children. There is enough food for everyone on earth but our "great" social experiment in capitalism denies many people food, shelter, education and health care. The gap between those who have and those who don't is spreading. How long will it take before I am one of the hungry? At the rate in which we consume the earth's resources, I am guessing not long. 

I admire the courage of the protestors for their passion in wanting to create a just world. I encourage them to become very determined to keep their vow of nonviolence and reverently hope the majority of Americans and others around the world speak their voice of support for a just society.

Why Were Berkeley Police Involved in Evicting Occupy Oakland?

By Barbara F Barbour
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 10:49:00 AM

To:Tom Bates, Mayor; Laurie Capetelli, Council person; Michael K. Meehan, Chief of Police

Why were police from the City of Berkeley involved in the violence of and by the police of Oakland (and others) on the the people of Occupy Oakland?

I am a tax-paying Berkeley homeowner and am outraged that my tax dollars were used to destroy that encampment-or any others; the more so because an already reduced police force was further diminished to be pulled away from their jobs. But that is not the major issue; it is that of both provocative and violent police actions toward citizens protesting peacefully. 

I hope people are beginning to realize that this was a part of a national government (federally funded, yes?) anti-citizen attack on any protest relating to the the corporate-run government. 

Shame on Berkeley. Shame on Oakland. Shame on all of us that we have allowed this nation to slide so far toward a fascist regime.

Press Release: California Nurses Condemn Mayor Quan's Raid on Occupy Oakland

Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 09:48:00 AM

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United today condemned the early morning police raid on the peaceful Occupy Oakland encampment, and criticized Oakland Mayor Jean Quan for joining the list of mayors employing repression against the occupy movement. 

According to press reports, police stormed the encampment near Oakland's City Hall well before dawn, with billy clubs and shotguns, uprooting tents and making multiple arrests. 

"This unwarranted attack on peaceful protesters places Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in shameful company with mayors like Chicago's Rahm Emanuel and other cities whose response to public expression of protest is repression rather than respect for the rights of free speech and assembly," said CNA Treasurer Martha Kuhl, an Oakland RN. 

CNA called on the city to drop all charges against those arrested in the raid, and encouraged protest calls be made to Mayor Quan at 510-238-3141. 

"Few cities have endured more pain and abandonment from the reckless behavior of Wall Street and the banks than Oakland. Mayor Quan should be supporting the occupy movement, not breaking up demonstrations," Kuhl said. 

California nurses have joined rallies and marches with Occupy Oakland actions, and set up nurses' humanitarian first aid stations in a number of cities, including San Francisco and San Diego, support activity that will continue despite the escalating police attacks on the occupy movement, said Kuhl. 

In Oakland, "we will support efforts of Occupy Oakland to rebuild and continue the protests," Kuhl said.

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 08:13:00 AM

Occupy Advice 

I thoroughly enjoyed Becky O'Malley's coverage of the Occupy sites she visited, and her elegant summation of factions, frictions, and flavors. I've played music at two Occupy sites, and support the energy, creativity, and collective spirit often in evidence. 

But the Occupy movement is not about tents or territory. My hope is that our flexibility, mobility, and creativity, will keep us from "claiming" any particular piece of square footage or descending into typically lopsided battles with police over tents and tarps. We are bigger than that. 

Carol Denney 

* * *

Press Release: NLG Demands Immediate Release of Occupy Oakland Arrestees

Contacts: Rachel Lederman 415-350-6496 Michael Flynn 510-866-4981 Carlos Villarreal 415-377-6961
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 02:09:00 PM

The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (NLGSF) calls for the release of approximately 100 people who were arrested this morning in the police raid on Occupy Oakland. The NLGSF has learned that the arrestees are being illegally booked in Alameda County's Glenn Dyer Detention Facility in downtown Oakland and in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.  

In a letter to Oakland and Alameda County's attorneys (pdf), NLGSF lawyer Rachel Lederman emphasized that the Guild is already suing Oakland and Alameda County over a previous mass arrest one year ago, at a protest over the sentence given Johannes Mehserle. Among other things that ongoing federal civil right class action lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the Oakland Police from making mass arrests without probable cause to believe that each person has committed a crime; and to stop OPD and the Alameda County Sheriff's Department from incarcerating demonstrators for long periods of time in holding areas under inhumane conditions. The Mehserle demonstrators were held for up to 24 hours in holding cells not only lacking beds, but so crowded that everyone could not even sit down at the same time. The arrests last year did not result in any prosecutions. 

The mass arrests, use of excessive force, and prolonged incarceration today, like those in November, 2010, were contrary to law and policy and the NLGSF demands that the arrestees be released immediately.

The Clown with the Broken Leg

By Carol Denney
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 08:08:00 AM

My grandparents came from Pennsylvania to live with us when I was little, dazzling us with schtick from their vaudeville days. Our meals became a riot of quick patter and music hall jokes. “The show must go on”, my grandfather used to say, “is what the ringmaster says to the clown with the broken leg.” 

I think of this when I play street fairs and someone lights up near the band. It’s a smokefree event or we wouldn’t have taken the gig, but the smoker knows he or she can give a blank look to anyone who objects and continue to smoke, exposing everyone. The organizers can’t do much about it, police have other priorities, and any musicians’ cumulative dose of secondhand smoke over the course of the day is considerable. 

The courtesy used to be to ask, “mind if I smoke?” before lighting up before tobacco products were labeled deadly, so expecting this courtesy today would not seem extreme. Those who speak up after the match is struck are consistently mischaracterized as extremists, as killjoys, as aggressive, even as violent, for objecting to something even the tobacco industry acknowledges is deadly. 

And then there’s what I call the tyranny of the green room, with its no laws, no rules implications, where musicians trying to avoid tobacco exposure have to learn not to breathe. 

My bandmates are instituting a protocol for this moment; the music stops. The band quits playing the minute any one of us is aware of secondhand smoke exposure, and will not start again until the it’s addressed. Secondhand smoke does immediate damage, even to healthy adults, and we refuse to become the attractive nuisance we become when smokers smoke near us, exposing everyone. 

If you love live music at a farmer’s market or a street fair, help us by speaking up before a tobacco addict gets as far as the lighter or the matches. Even smokefree venues are at risk from those who are confused, deliberately or otherwise, about the social contract. We want the show to go on, but no gig is worth dying for.


Saturday October 22, 2011 - 08:42:00 PM

Let Us Be the Source of Hope and Help  

The world around us impacts us every day. If we are sensitive to other people's needs, we start thinking of ways to extend our helping hands. The idea is not new that the community becomes our real source of help in difficult times but it takes effort to build this kind of community. If we stick with the selfish motive of acquiring more and more material wealth, we end up ignoring the cries of our suffering neighbors. Reaching out to one or two needy persons in our neighborhood makes a good beginning. Help can be extended through exchange of services or by providing needed groceries or clothing. The weather is changing. Some poor neighbors might need food; some might need sweaters or jackets. People with dire needs are being deleted from the list of significant citizens by policy makers in our states. Let us all, by building community, become a source of hope and sunshine for those who are neglected by our Congress. 

Romila Khanna

Possible New Council Chambers

By Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington
Saturday October 22, 2011 - 09:20:00 PM


November 8, 2011

To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council

From: Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, Councilmember Kriss Worthington

Subject: Possible New Council Chambers – Options and Accessibility


That the City Council request a report back to the Council in no less than 60 days on the proposal suggested to vacate Old City Hall and relocate the City Council Chambers to a new location. The report should analyze feasible alternate locations for a Council Chambers, issues of accessibility for the disabled, proximity to transit, adequate seating for large crowds, and connectivity to technology including television broadcasting. 

The report should also discuss the City’s plans for the future use of Old City Hall, including alternatives to securing and closing Old City Hall. 

The Council also requests that when the report is developed that it be calendared as an Action Item for discussion on a City Council agenda. 


The Berkeley Unified School District has decided to relocate its administrative headquarters from Old City Hall to West Campus, due in part to the fact that Old City Hall is seismically unsafe. There have also been reports that the School District may create a new Council Chambers at West Campus for the School District and City to jointly use and that the City will close Old City Hall and change its meeting location to a new City Council Chambers at West Campus also due to concerns about seismic safety. The idea about relocating our meetings toWest Campus has generated questions and concerns in the community. Where the City Council meets and how accessible the meeting space is, has a direct impact on the public’s access to participating in our government process. 

While funds have been earmarked in the budget, to date the City Council has not voted on whether to fund the construction of a new City Council Chambers or whether to move its meetings from Old City Hall. In order to make the most informed decision, the City Council should evaluate alternatives for potential relocation. This analysis should include (at least) the following issues: 

  • Access for persons with disabilities and wheel-chair users;
  • Access to public transportation;
  • The costs of constructing a new Chambers and/or renting meeting space at each
  • possible location;
  • Adequate seating for large crowds;
  • Connectivity to technology including television broadcasting.
The report should consider possible alternative uses for Old City Hall, if the City decides to move its meetings to a new location. Several non-profit organizations might temporarily use Old City Hall, as has been done with other buildings awaiting seismic retrofits. 

Before any decision is made on changing our meeting location, on spending city funds for theconstruction of a new Council Chambers or in deciding what to do with Old City Hall, the Council should seek public input before any of these decisions are made. 


The City budget already set aside $400,000 for a potential new Council Chambers and 100,000 for dealing with Old City Hall. 


Councilmember Jesse Arreguin 510-981-7170 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington 510-981-7140

Two Haiku for Yemen

By Gar Smith
Saturday October 22, 2011 - 07:43:00 PM

October 14
A coward's way of killing
Murders from afar

Yemen body count:
Saleh's volleys kill 18
US drones kill nine.


Dispatches From The Edge: Pakistan: Reversing The Lens

By Conn Hallinan
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 05:01:00 PM

Terrorism is not a statistic for us.”—Asif Ali Zardari, president of Pakistan

This is a Pakistani truism that few Americans understand. Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, Pakistan has lost more than 35,000 people, the vast bulk of them civilians. While the U.S. has had slightly over 1800 soldiers killed in the past 10 years, Pakistan has lost over 5,000 soldiers and police. The number of suicide bombings in Pakistan has gone from one before 2001, to more than 335 since.

For most Americans, Pakistan is a two-faced “ally” playing a double game in Central Asia, all while siphoning off tens of billions of dollars in aid. For Pakistanis, the spillover from the Afghan war has cost Islamabad approximately of $100 billion. And this is in a country with a yearly GDP of around $175 billion, and whose resources have been deeply strained by two years of catastrophic flooding. 

Washington complains that its $20.7 billion in aid over the past nine years has bought it very little in the way of loyalty from Islamabad, while Pakistan points out that U.S. aid makes up less than 0.3 percent of Pakistan’s yearly GDP, what Zahid Hussain, author of a book on Islamic militants, says comes out to “the price of a six-inch personal-size pizza with no extra toppings from Pizza Hut” for each Pakistani. In any case, much of the civilian aid—the bulk, $14.2 billion, goes to the military—has yet to be disbursed. 

Both countries’ opinions of one another are almost mirror images: According to a U.S. poll, 74 percent of Americans do not consider Pakistan to be an ally, while the Pew Research Center found that six in 10 Pakistanis consider the Americans an “enemy,” and only 12 Percent have a favorable view of the U.S. 

How did this happen? In part the answer is mistakes and misjudgments by both countries that date back to the 1979-89 Russian occupation. But at its heart is an American strategy that not only runs counter to Pakistan’s interests, but will make ending the war in Afghanistan a far more painful procedure than it need be. 

If Pakistan is a victim in the long running war, it is not entirely an innocent one. Pakistan, along with the U.S., was an ally of the anti-Communist, right wing Mujahideen during the 1980s Afghan war. 

Pakistan’s interest in Afghanistan has always been multi-faceted. Islamabad is deeply worried that its traditional enemy, India, will gain a foothold in Afghanistan, thus essentially surrounding Pakistan. This is not exactly paranoid, as Pakistan has fought—and lost—three wars with India, and tensions between the two still remain high. 

Over the past six years, India has conducted 10 major military exercises along the Pakistani border, the latest—Viajyee Bhava (Be Victorious)—involved 20,000 troops and what New Delhi military spokesman S.D. Goswaim called “sustained massed mechanized maneuvers.” Pakistan is the only potential enemy in the region that “massed” armored formations could be aimed at. India has the world’s fourth largest army, Pakistan’s the 15th

By aligning itself with Washington during its Cold War competition with the Soviets in Afghanistan, Islamabad had the inside track to buy high performance American military hardware to help it offset India’s numerical superiority. Indeed, it did manage to purchase some F-16s fighter-bombers. 

But in Central Asia, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. When Pakistan allied itself with the Taliban, India aligned itself with the Northern Alliance composed of Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras, who opposed the Pashtun-dominated Taliban. Pashtuns are a plurality in Afghanistan’s complex mix of ethnicities, and traditionally they dominated the Kabul government. 

Islamabad has always been deeply concerned about the Pashtuns, because the ethnic group makes up some 15 percent of Pakistan’s population, and Pashtuns do not recognize the colonial period border—the so-called Durand Line—that forms the current boundary between the two countries. A long-time fear of Islamabad is that Pakistani Pashtuns could ally themselves to Afghani Pashtuns and form a breakaway country that would fragment Pakistan. 

From Islamabad’s point of view, the American demand that it corral the Taliban and the Haqqani Group that operate from mountainous Northwest Frontier and Federally Administrated Tribal Areas of Pakistan might stir up Pashtun nationalism, one of those things that goes bump in the night for most Pakistanis. In any case, the task would be beyond the capabilities of the Pakistan military. In 2009, the Pakistani Army used two full divisions just to reclaim the Swat Valley from local militants, a battle that cost billions of dollars, generated two million refugees, and inflicted heavy casualties. 

Current U.S. strategy has exacerbated Pakistan’s problem by putting the Northern Alliance in power, excluding the Pashtuns from any meaningful participation, and targeting the ethnic group’s heartland in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan. According to Hussain, this has turned the war into a “Pashtun war,” and meant, “The Pashtuns in Pakistan would become…strongly allied with both al Qaeda and the Taliban.” 

The U.S has also remained silent while India moved aggressively into Afghanistan. On Oct. 4, Kabul and New Delhi inked a “strategic partnership” which, according to the New York Times, “paves the way for India to train and equip Afghan security forces.” The idea of India training Afghan troops is the equivalent of waving a red flag to see if the Pakistani bull will charge. 

One pretext for the agreement was the recent assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of the Afghan High Peace Council, whom the Karzai government claims was killed by the Taliban under the direction of the Pakistani secret service, the ISI. But evidence linking the Taliban or Pakistan to the hit is not persuasive, and the Taliban and Haqqani Group—never shy about taking the credit for killing people—say they had nothing to do with it. 

Pakistan’s ISI certainly maintains a relationship with the Afghan-based Taliban and the Haqqani Group, but former Joint Chiefs of Staff head, Admiral Mike Mullen’s charge that the latter are a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s ISI is simply false. The Haqqanis come from the powerful Zadran Gaum Pushtun tribe based in Paktia and Khost provinces in Afghanistan, and North Wazirstan in Pakistan’s Tribal Area. It was one of the most effective military groupings in the war with the Russians, and is certainly the most dangerous group of fighters in the current war. 

When their interests coincide the Haqqanis find common ground with Islamabad, but the idea that Pakistan can get anyone in that region to jump to attention reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the deeply engrained cultural and ethnic currents that have successfully rebuffed outsiders for thousands of years. And in the border region, the Pakistan Army is as much an outsider as is NATO. 

There a way out of this morass, but it will require a very different strategy than the one the U.S. is currently following, and one far more attuned to the lens through which most Pakistanis view the war in Afghanistan. 

First, the U.S. and its allies must stand down their military offensive—including the drone attacks—against the Taliban and Haqqani Group, and negotiate a ceasefire. 

Second, the U.S. must open immediate talks with the various insurgency groups and declare a plan for the withdrawal of all foreign troops. The Taliban—the Haqqanis say they will follow the organization’s lead—has indicated they will no longer insist on a withdrawal of troops before opening talks, but they do want a timetable. 

Third, recognition that any government in Kabul must reflect the ethnic make-up of the country. 

Fourth, Pakistan’s concerns over Indian influence need to be addressed, including the dangerous issue of Kashmir. President Obama ran on a platform that called for dealing with Kashmir, but subsequently dropped it at the insistence of New Delhi. The issue needs to be put back on the table. The next dust-up between Pakistan and India could go nuclear, which would be a catastrophe of immeasurable proportions. 

Pakistan and the U.S. may have profoundly different views of one another, but at least one issue they agree: slightly over 90 percent of Pakistanis would like U.S. troops to go home, and 62 percent of Americans want an immediate cut in U.S. forces. Common ground in this case seems to be based on a strong dose of common sense. 

Read Conn Hallinan at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com 














Wild Neighbors:The Curse of Drosophila

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 10:51:00 AM
Drosophila melanogaster, lab hero and kitchen pest.
Thomas Wydra (Wikimedia Commons)
Drosophila melanogaster, lab hero and kitchen pest.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I have a fruit fly problem. It’s recent—within the last month or so—and specific to the kitchen. This is a novel experience. We have Argentine ant invasions now and then, and a resident spider population, but never before fruit flies. So far they have me, as my father would say, buffaloed. 

I assume they’re the classic Drosophila melanogaster of genetic fame. I haven’t examined them that closely, though. They’re very small. They pay a lot of attention to fruit, ripe (to the human eye) or not, as well as anything else edible that’s left out on the counter, including such unfruitlike objects as a plate of brownies. 

We’ve gone through several stages of dealing with them, including denial. It didn’t take long before my inner Samuel L. Jackson emerged. Ron found a flyswatter (“The bug stops here,” it says) and that was gratifying for a while. Swatting didn’t make much of a dent in their numbers. Nor did sucking them into the vacuum cleaner, which was an awkward thing to have in the kitchen anyway. 

Ron set up a bunch of traps, with small quantities of vinegar in lab beakers and flasks we’d acquired from a retired chemist. Although the flies seemed interested, there were always more of them. We bought a fruit fly trap at Pastime, our hardware store of last resort: a colorful fruit-shaped plastic container that had to be filled with a special bait that smelled for all the world like vinegar. It seemed to work for a day or two; now they’re ignoring it. 

Preventive measures have been taken. Suspecting they might be breeding in the coffee grounds we saved for use in the garden, we dumped the grounds. We still have flies. I check all the unrefrigerated fruit daily, sequestering anything that’s beginning to ripen. We still have flies. The spiders have been useless; that’s gratitude for you. 

A web site apparently run by the state of California recommends luring the flies into no-exit containers with a piece of banana sprinkled with yeast. We’re willing in principle to try that as soon as we can get hold of a banana. The produce shelves at the soon-to-be-closed University Avenue Andronico’s had been stripped clean as of yesterday. Yes, they had no bananas. 

The fruit fly war has left me in no mood to appreciate D. melanogaster as an organism. Yes, I know that its oversized chromosomes, prolific reproduction, and adaptability to life in the lab have made it the model organism for modern genetics. I know about Morgan and the white-eyed mutant that started it all. I’ve read the books. I still don’t want them in my kitchen. 

What I do have to admire is the creativity that’s gone into the naming of fruit fly genetic mutations over the years. Fly geneticists have been having too much fun. For a sample, check out the fly page at the Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature web site (www.curioustaxonomy.net). Several are named for British baked goods, e.g. clootie dumpling and currant bun. The Methuselah and Indy (for “I’m not dead yet”) mutations prolong life. Lush mediates responses to alcohol. Cleopatra is lethal if asp is also present. Snafu mutants hatch out looking like normal flies but become progressively more abnormal as they develop. Others: armadillo, dachshund, dreadlocks, 18 wheeler, Genghis Khan, glass bottom boat, lame duck, okra, saxophone, shuttle craft, tango, and zipper

I’m also aware that the fruit fly radiation of the Hawai’ian Islands is one of the evolutionary wonders of the world. The founding flies that reached that remote archipelago have given rise to at least 500 species in eight lineages. Some 85 per cent of those are confined to a single island. The males in one group have evolved patterned wings and elaborate courtship displays. Another cluster of species have become parasites of spider eggs. Some Hawaiian Drosophilas are endangered. I wish them well. They’re in Hawai’i. They’re not in my kitchen. 

Maybe I’m approaching this wrong, though. Maybe what I should do is make my peace with the flies, find the microscope that’s somewhere in the storage unit, and watch the damn things mutate. 

My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)

By Dorothy Bryant
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 08:27:00 AM

My politics are those of privacy and intellectual obsession. They look to Dante’s immemorial summons voiced by Ulysses: ”We are not formed to live come bruta, but to follow virtue and knowledge wherever these may lead, at whatever personal and social cost.” It may be that such a conviction is in certain regards pathological and self-indulgent . . . at the same time, (it) seems to me to justify man 

. . . all I hope for from any political regime is that it allows breathing space for such obsessions, breathing space for what may not be utilitarian or socially beneficial.” 

George Steiner (European/American writer, in every genre, in 4 languages) 

Anthropologists tell us that even the most primitive tribes, surviving precariously, manage to designate a story teller, a piper, a singer, a dancer, a rock carver or painter—or just a thinker—whose contemplative contribution exempts her or him from some of the endless, heavy chores necessary for physical survival of the group. I think of the prehistoric cave paintings produced by people who needed to invent the “paint” and to bring light into the cave—before they could begin to use the “breathing space” they had somehow set aside for the creation of images of their reality and their hopes. They obviously considered non-utilitarian art an essential component of their humanity. 

How do our values, with our “advanced” civilization of complexity and abundance, stack up next to theirs? 





(Send the Berkeley Daily Planet a page from your own Commonplace Book)

Eclectic Rant: Visiting Auschwitz

By Ralph E. Stone & Judi Iranyi
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 08:06:00 AM

We just returned from a tour of Central Europe. We visited Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, and Prague. On our drive from Warsaw to Krakow, we stopped at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim, renamed Auschwitz when the town and the surrounding area were incorporated within the Third Reich. 

We have seen newsreels of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps at the end of WW II and a number of movies depicting the horrors of the Holocaust. However, newsreels and movies did not really prepare us for an actual visit to the site of the largest mass murder in history. As many as 1.5 million were murdered at Auschwitz, mainly Polish Jews, but also Soviet prisoners-of-war, Gypsies, Czechs, Yugoslavs, French, Austrians, and Germans. 

First a little background on the beginnings of the Holocaust. In January 1942, a conference was held in the Berlin suburb of Wannesee, chaired by Reinhard Heydrich, acting under the orders of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, to devise a solution to the “Jewish Question.” The result of the conference was Nazi Germany's plan and execution of the systematic murder of European Jews. Heinrich Himmler was the chief architect of the plan, and Adolf Hitler termed it "the final solution of the Jewish question." A surviving copy of the minutes of this meeting was found by the Allies in 1947, too late to serve as evidence during the first Nuremberg Trials. I recommend Conspiracy (TV-2001), a dramatic recreation of the Wannsee Conference, in which actor Kenneth Branaugh played Reinhard Heydrich. 

In 1940, the SS set up a concentration camp at KL Auschwitz because of overcrowding of the existing prisons in Silesia and because further arrests were anticipated. in Silesia and the rest of German-occupied Poland. Why Oswiecim? Because there already existed an abandoned pre-war Polish barracks in the town and the town was an important railway junction.  

IThe camp had 28 buildings housing between 13-16,000 people, reaching 20,000 in 1942.. In 1941, a second camp was built called KL Auschwitz II-Birkenau in the village of Brzezinka about 3 kilometers away. In 1942, KL Auschwitz-III was built iin Monowice near the German chemical plant IG-Farbenindustrie. And in the years 1942-1944 about 40 smaller camps were built in the vicinity of steelworks, mines, and factories, where prisoners were exploited as cheap labour. 

KL Auschwitz I and KL Auschwitz II-Birkennau are now maintained as museums open to the public. The Museums include some barracks, the main entrance gates to the camps, sentry watch towers, barbed wire fences, the remnants of four crematoria, gas chambers, and cremation pits and pyres, the special unloading platform where the deportees were selected to be exterminated or used as slave slave labor. 

Those deemed unfit for labor, including women and children were told they would be allowed to bathe. They undressed in the “shower” room. The doors were locked and Cyclon B was poured from special openings in the ceiling. After gold teeth fillings, rings, other jewelry, and all hair had been removed, the bodies were taken to the incinerators. The human hair was used by tailors for lining for clothes. A room full of human hair and some of the prisoners’ belongings are on display at Auschwitz. The human ashes were used as fertilizer. 

SS physicians conducted experiments of prisoners. Professor C. Clausberg tested women in an attempt to develop sterilization techniques to creat an efficient method for eliminating tfuture ”inferior” persons. Dr. Joseph Mengele experimented on twins and handicapped people. Prisoners were also used as unwilling subjects to test new medical or chemical substances. Toxic substances were rubbed into the skin and painful skin transplants were performed. Hundreds of prisoners died during the experiments or suffered severe physical damage or became permanently disabled. Despite ethical qualms, some of the Nazi research data was used by the Allies and others after the war.  

Above the main gate at Auschwitz where the prisoners passed each day after working 12 hours, was the cynical sign “Arbeit mach frei” (Work brings freedom). Most of the prisoners believed that they were being resettled. That’s why they often brought their most valuable possessions with them. In a small square by the kitchen, the camp orchestra made up of prisoners would play marches, mustering the thousands of prisoners so that they could be counted more efficiently by the SS. 

SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) Rudolf Höss was the first commandant of Auschwitz.. He was hanged in 1947 following his trial at Warsaw. While awaiting execution Höss wrote his autobiography Death Dealer: the Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz. His memoirs became an important document attesting to the Holocaust. 

Höss wrote: “I am completely normal. Even while I was carrying out the task of extermination I led a normal family life and so on.” The commandant’s living quarters were a scant 150 yards away from the barbed wire enclosed concentration camp. We envision Höss, his wife Hedwig and their four children living a “normal” life a short distance from where over a million prisoners were being overworked, starved, and murdered. Just imagine Höss having dinner with his family after a tiring day of supervising the murder of prisoners. We wonder if they celebrated Christmas with a decorated tree and listened to Christmas music. . There has been much written about the banality of evil in connection with those involved in the Holocaust. Hannah Arendt, in a report in The New Yorker, covered the Otto Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem. She wrote, "The deeds were monstrous, but the doer ... was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous." She further observed, "... the only specific characteristic one could detect in his [Eishmann’s] past as well as in his behavior during the trial and the preceding police examination was something entirely negative: it was not stupidity but a curious, quite authentic inability to think." 

On January 27, 1945, the Soviet army entered Auschwitz and liberated more than 7,000 remaining prisoners, who were mostly ill and dying. Poland then traded German occupation for Soviet occupation until 1989. when the independent Republic of Poland was formed. 

As a non-Jews, our visit to Auschwitz was sobering. we cannot imagine what a visit must be for a Jew, especially someone who has lost family members at Auschwitz or at another concentration camp.  

It is estimated that over 100 million people have been the victims of Genocide. As George Santayana wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Perhaps, the Auschwitz museums will help us “remember the past” so “never again” will have meaning. We are hopeful but not optimistic.

The New American Revolution: Occupy Wall Street

By Bob Burnett
Saturday October 22, 2011 - 07:38:00 PM

While the organic Occupy Wall Street movement is similar to the spontaneous Arab Spring uprisings that began last December in Tunisia and Egypt, OWS is eerily reminiscent of the run up to the American revolutionary war.

Three ingredients fueled the original American Revolution. The first was egregious British taxation policy exacerbated by the fact that the colonies had no representation in Parliament. The second was the growth of liberalism and its concepts of natural rights and the social contract. Finally, Americans embraced the values of “republicanism” -- in its original form – which criticized both British corruption and the power of the English aristocracy.
For eighteenth-century American colonists, democracy was a novel idea, whose influence grew from 1763 onward and culminated with the publication of Tom Paine’s Common Sense

For twenty-first-century Americans, democracy is not a novel idea, but rather one that has been dormant since the sixties – when Americans realized that nobody was free until everybody was free. Since then a horrendous series of events –obscene tax cuts for the rich and powerful, a dreadful war with Iraq, and a catastrophic financial meltdown – have shredded the social contract and promoted grinding economic inequality, causing many Americans to wonder if our democracy can survive. That’s the fertile ground the seeds of the Occupy Wall Street, aka “Stand up for the 99 percent,” movement has fallen on: average Americans fear their families are being left behind while the most fortunate 1 percent grow wealthy. 

Thirty years ago during the Reagan presidency, conservative economic ideology began to dominate American political discourse with three malignant notions: helping the rich get richer would help everyone else, “a rising tide lifts all boats;” markets were inherently self correcting and therefore there was no need for government regulation; and the US did not need an economic strategy because that was a natural consequence of the free market. As a consequence of Reaganomics America’s working families were abandoned in favor of the rich. Inequality rose as middle class income and wealth declined. As CEO salaries soared, fewer families earned living wages. 99 percent of Americans were left out.  

At the onset of the revolutionary war, colonists were loyal to King George III. They wished to remain in the British Empire and asked the king to intervene with parliament on their behalf. When he instead declared them to be “in rebellion,” representatives of the original thirteen states adopted the Declaration of Independence. The declaration includes a laundry list of charges against the King: “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.” 

At the onset of Occupy Wall Street, the 99 percent remain loyal to America. They’ve asked Washington to intervene in their behalf but nothing has happened – and some conservatives have declared them to be “in rebellion.” Now Occupy Wall Street has a laundry list of complaints about the government. 

To declare their independence in 1776, colonists had to let go of their belief the King would rescue them. To declare their independence in 2011, Americans have to let go of their belief that the present government will rescue them. And Americans must challenge the notion that democracy can work in an economy run by multinational capitalism – that we can expected fairness and humanity in a country where 1% of the population controls 40 percent of the nation’s wealth and earns 24 percent of total income.  

We must reframe our beliefs. Since the beginning of the United States there have been two competing positive myths. One features the “Triumphant individual…the little guy who works hard, takes risks, believes in himself, and eventually gains wealth, fame, and honor.” The other myth celebrates “The Benevolent Community… neighbors and friends who roll up their sleeves and pitch in for the common good.” 

Over the last thirty years, the “1 percent” usurped the myth of the Triumphant Individual and declared: “We did it on our own.” “We don’t need government, it gets in our way.” “The rest of you (99 percent) are envious; suck it up.” 

Now the “99 percent” must respond with a rousing defense of the Benevolent Community. Recently Massachusetts Senatorial Candidate Elizabeth Warren invoked this powerful imagery during a campaign address: “there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own…You built a factory out there? Good for you… you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.” 

Occupy Wall Street indicates that we’re inching towards revolution. We need a twenty-first century Declaration of Independence that addresses three difficult subjects: the size and power of multinational corporations; the wealth of the 1 percent; and the role of money in the American political process. Daunting challenges but not impossible if the 99 percent operate as a Benevolent Community. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net 

On Mental Illness: Children on Medication

By Jack Bragen
Saturday October 22, 2011 - 07:41:00 PM

Have you seen the television commercial that advertises a new medication for children with hyperactivity and attention deficit? The commercial shows a well-behaved, sedated little kid doing his homework and being an angelic little boy, while at the same time a list of possible side effects is being read over the sound portion of the commercial. If you’re paying any attention to those side effects, it sounds horrific. If you’re paying attention to the portrayal of the child, you ought to be horrified. No child should be that well-behaved; it’s not natural. 

The biological model of mental illness is just fine, if it is limited to the situations in which it is accurate. The drug companies are making huge profits by selling the medication concept to more Americans. If a child really needs medicine, they should have it. However, maybe other solutions could be explored first. 

I believe it is fairly rare for mental illness to have an onset at any age before seventeen or eighteen. The illnesses seem to take effect at that age when the brain makes a critical change into adulthood. The illnesses may also take effect in early twenties, which probably coincides with some other critical change in the maturity of the brain. As a child, I did not know or hear of any mentally ill kids. If they had what today is called ADHD, rather than being medicated, they would be put into a less advanced class, or might be subject to disciplinary actions. I’m not saying this is a great thing either. 

This column contains the opinions of a writer with mental illness. I am not a doctor, nor am I an expert on any subject. My opinion is that it is wrong to medicate every problem in society, and especially wrong to treat all childhood behavior problems with medication. I believe medicating a child ought to be a last resort, after everything else has been tried. (This is other than for a child who is suicidal; in that case I have no opinion except to consult a doctor.) 

When medication is introduced, just as with many substances that change behavior, you are inducing structural changes to the brain. The brain may adapt to the presence of the substance by creating more receptors of a certain type, or by shutting down certain receptors. Thus, if you want to withdraw the medication later, you may not be able to do that without causing the brain to go haywire from the withdrawal. When you begin medicating a person preemptively in childhood, you could be sentencing the child to an entire life of being dependent upon successively increasing amounts and types of medications. 

Mental illness is a real group of diseases affecting the human brain. I believe in treating mental illness with medicine. But before you do that, maybe you should establish that the person is too far gone for use of less drastic forms of intervention. In my case, medication was and is the only thing that could liberate me from a never ending affliction with very severe psychosis, and behavior to match. Medication is not a great thing; it is an evil thing that is often made necessary by some of the worst diseases that afflict humankind. .

Arts & Events

Ira Marlowe's World-Record Halloween Songathon

By Gar Smith
Thursday October 27, 2011 - 10:17:00 AM

Bay Area singer-songwriter Ira Marlowe is within days of pulling off a truly tricky treat. Since the first day of October, Marlowe has been posting a new, original and ghoulishly gleeful song for each and every day leading up to Halloween. Anyone can tune in for free. You just need to "friend" him on Facebook. (http://www.facebook.com/ira.marlowe) If you need another infusion of Marlowe's macabre melodies after this first bite, you're in luck: he's got two live performances scheduled for the next week (see below). 

"Yes, I have that many weird, creepy songs," Marlowe admits. But, in fairness, he has a leg bone up on the competition, having produced not one but two collections of spooky-tunes — Creepy Songs for Courageous Kids (2009) and the newly released Know Your Bones by Marlowe's haunted house-band, The Chills. 

Marlowe's latest ghoulish goulash includes the following frightful mix of devilish ditties: Zombie, A Most Unusual Neighbor, Cemetery, Know Your Bones (Parts 1 & 2), Boogerman’s Back, Green Green Slime, Thunder and Lightning, The Boy with Two Heads, The 17th of May, Mr. Stench, Cemetery Rap and Never Listen to Track 13

The Chills’ proudly claim the title as the reining "kings of haunted rock" with lyrics that conjure the spirits of Edward Gorey and Shel Silverstein (with a dash of Monty Python and a pinch of Tom Waits). 

Marlowe recently headlined the annual Goblin Fundraiser for kids at the Bay Area Discover Museum and is set to do two more local shows to close out the month. You can catch Marlowe in the flesh (signing tunes designed to make your skin crawl) at the following venues. 

Thursday, October 27th from 8-10 PM 

Café Royale, 800 Post St. @ Leavenworth, San Francisco. (415) 441-4099. No cover. (Marlowe's note: "an absolutely great place to perform. Not only is there a top-notch sound system, but they unfurl a red satin backdrop, with LIGHTS, and all of a sudden I feel like I'm performing in the deliciously decadent Berlin of the 1920's. If you live in The City, you should try to make this one!") 

Saturday, October 29th from 7-9:30 PM 

Bazaar Café, 5927 California St, San Francisco. (415) 831-5620. No cover 

KFOG's Peter Finch is hosting "a whole stable of storytellers, (plus one songwriter) to chill and amuse you." Children welcomed! Marlowe has promised to exhume some of his most nightmarish melodies including: "Green, Green Slime," "Look for Me," "Fear of Little Men" and "A Most Unusual Neighbor." 

Here's a sample of Marlowe in a mellower mood, performing his song "Umbrella People." 


Berkeley Symphony Opens On Thursday With Music By Chapela, Brahms, Shostakovich

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 10:00:00 AM

Berkeley Symphony, conducted by Joana Carneiro, opens the new season with music by Enrico Chapela, Brahms and Shostakovich, Thursday at 8, Zellerbach Auditorium. 

A piano tribute to civic leader Harry Weininger, written and performed by Gabriela Lena Frank, will open the program, followed by the Symphony with Chapela's Li Po, after the poem by Mexico's Jose Juan Tablada about the eighth century Chinese poet, for chamber orchestra and electronic soundtrack, Brahms' Third Symphony in F Major and Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1 in E Flat, featuring 2002 Tchaikovsky Competition winner Johannes Moser.  

Chapela, who was born in Mexico City, 1974, premiered his commissioned piece Private Alleles, referring to the genome of Mexican mestizo and American Indian population, here last December. His music's influenced by jazz, rock and Latin popular music, as well as European classical music and contemporary composition and electronic music.  

Called "Brahms' Eroica" by Hans Richter, who conducted its premiere in 1883, the composer's Third Symphony employs his musical motto, F-A Flat-F, "Frei aber froh," Free But Happy, finished by the 50 year old bachelor 30 years after he, Schumann and Dietrich jointly composed a violin sonata following Joseph Joachim's motto, "Frei aber einsam," Free But Lonely. 

Shostakovich's Cello Concerto, from 1959, itself employs a motto, D-S-C-H, and quotes popular song and a lullaby the composer used in other pieces, as well as finding an "impulse" from his admiration for one of the other among the most difficult pieces for cello, Prokofiev's Sinfonia Concerto.  

Last week, Moser premiered Chapela's Magnetar, for electric cello, with the LA Philharmonic, led by Gustavo Dudamel. 

A post-concert dinner for the season's opening will honor Robert Commanday of Oakland, former music critic with the Chronicle and founder of the San Francisco Classical Voice. 

Concert tickets: $20-$60. 841-2800; berkeleysymphony.org

Around & About Music: Kent Nagano Conducts at Gala Celebrating Alden Gilchrist's 60th Anniversary at Calvary Presbyterian

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 09:53:00 AM

In his only West Coast appearance this season, former Berkeley Symphony music director and present emeritus conductor Kent Nagano will conduct the San Francisco Academy Orchestra at a gala concert to celebrate Alden Gilchrist's 60th anniversary as organist and music director at Calvary Presbyterian Church atop Pacific Heights in San Francisco, where Nagano has sung with the Chancel Choir, which will also perform, along with featured soloists, a jazz cycle by the Dave Scott Quartet and the Santa Rosa Children's Chorus, featuring music of Monteverdi, J. S. Bach, Mozart, Dvorak--and Gilchrist, Friday at 6 p. m, with a reception to follow. The community is invited, free of charge, but asked to RSVP: (415) 346-3832 x 60; gilchrist60@calvarypresbyterian.org  

Hoyt Smith of KDFC-fm will interview Gilchrist and Nagano onstage during the gala. 

Gilchrist attended UC Berkeley; a schoolmate was former Chronicle music critic and founder of the SF Classical Voice, Robert Commanday, who Gilchrist credits with getting him his first job as conductor. He was a composition student there of Roger Sessions. Gilchrist also studied with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatory.  

Attending the gala will be Gilchrist's first vocal student and longtime friend from Berkeley, Margot Blum Schevill, now a weaver, author and specialist in folk textiles, and widow of poet James Schevill. Gilchrist's student of many years, Carol Manke, will sing a cycle of four songs by Gilchrist composed last week. 

Nagano praised Gilchrist in the highest terms, speaking of his brilliance and vision, and of what he learned, observing Gilchrist conduct.  

Gilchrist also has led the group "which morphed into" the Berkeley Community Chorus.  

He's created SF CITY (Choral Instrumental Theatrical for Youth), now known as MUST (Music in Schools Today); taught English as a second language through learning song; brought jazz services to Calvary Presbyterian as well as integrating Bach's St. Matthew and St. John Passion into services, rather than performed as concert pieces; won compositional awards (the Prix de Paris as well as the James Phelan awards) and the San Francisco Opera Guild Award; toured the world accompanying tenor James Schwabacher and Europe three times with the Chancel Choir. 

Gilchrist said "I think the most complicated thing a human being can do is pick up a piece of music they've never seen before and sing it ... "

Brain Raves: Exposing The Power of Subliminal Messaging

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 10:53:00 AM
Media critic Noam Chomsky and film director Jeff Warrick.
Media critic Noam Chomsky and film director Jeff Warrick.
Even the movie poster contains three levels of subliminal messaging.
Even the movie poster contains three levels of subliminal messaging.

Programming the Nation opens at the Balboa Theater on October 28.

Jeff Warrick is a genial, affable fellow who looks like he might be a high school football coach but be forewarned: Warrick is a man with an obsession — and a mission. Instead of studying how to score goals against cunning adversaries, Warrick's goal is studying whether advertisers are using hidden, subliminal messages to score in the marketplace. Warrick's game plan is mapped out in a provocative and dazzling new documentary, Programming the Nation. If you have children, you should see this film. If you value democracy, you should see this film and invite your friends and neighbors along for the experience. (You'll have a lot to talk about over coffee afterwards.) 

A former advertising executive, Warrick decided to become a filmmaker and embarked on what turned out to be a seven-year quest to answer the question: "Are subliminal messages fact or folklore?" 

Warrick remains somewhat cagey in his approach to the subject and remains excruciatingly careful not to telegraph his conclusions. On one hand, Programming the Nation debunks one of the most widely cherished fantasies of subliminal folklore (hidden messages in rock music). But then it surges back with a torrent of documentation (ranging from secret memos to film clips) that suggests the dark art of subliminal messaging is more than a hollow urban legend — it continues to be a haloed tool of corporate legerdemain. 

This 105-minute documentary is packed with hundreds of examples of subliminal tricks applied to TV, film and print and it kicks off with a collection of more than 20 mind-tweaking clips culled from TV and movies — from Alfred Hitchcock and William Friedkin to Walt Disney. 

Visually, Warrick's flick is hyper-kinetic, the screen constantly bustling with overlays, "interference patterns" and, yes, subliminal messages. (In an interview with The Planet, Warrick admits to playfully placing scores of "hidden" messages but allowed "most" of them to run at a just-barely-perceptible 1/15th of a second.) 

The use of hidden messages and psychological propaganda is debated by more than 30 experts including Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, Dennis Kucinich and Bay Area ad-maverick and author Jerry Mander. Adding to the film's visual complexity, many of the interviews were filmed against a green screen, which allowed Warrick to superimpose additional images behind the speakers to illustrate their arguments in "reel time." 

Warrick reviews the roots of thought control, drawn from the work of Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud. (The "father of modern advertising," Bernays’ theories were first put into wide practice by Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and Germany's Nazi Party). Bernays identified four primordial triggers that could be used to control people's behavior and influence their purchasing decisions — Fear, Fight, Flight and Fornication. To these, modern advertisers have added a fifth, powerful lure: "More!" 

In order to prepare the ground for effective use of the "Four Fs," advertisers learned to rely on "reverse therapy." As one observer puts it: "You need to make people feel at risk in order to promote sales. Happy people don't buy stuff they don't need." 

"Is the purpose of the TV ad to make you an informed consumer?" Noam Chomsky asks rhetorically. Clearly not. "The purpose of the ad is to delude and deceive you with imagery so you'll be uninformed and make an irrational choice." 

"When you manipulate people," Congrssman Kucknich adds, "it's anti-democratic. What you're really trying to do is control people. People don't need to be controlled." 

Media Watch founder Ann Simonton warns that Madison Avenue "start[s] targeting children at 9 months. They've noted that, by two years old, they can achieve brand loyalty and recognition." [Note: On October 18, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned that children under the age of two should not be exposed to TV, because viewing can lead to sleep problems, developmental disorders and a delayed use of speech.] 

Warrick's film has enough Stunning Revelations to fill two documentaries. A few examples: The FCC has no authority to regulate advertisers; the Pentagon has used "psy-ops" techniques to influence the mass media (in violation of the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act that prohibits using propaganda techniques to target a domestic audience); some of today's most pervasive subliminal ads use images that promote sexual violence; serial killer Ted Bundy insisted that his murderous rampage targeting young women was stoked by TV advertising that he clearly perceived as promoting violence against women. 

My favorite revelation is much more lighthearted. In an interview with Warrick, Mark Mothersbaugh (a founding member of DEVO and a sound engineer who established himself as a "go-to guy" in the world of radio and TV advertising) admits to embedding subliminal messages in ads that he created for several corporate clients. He cites his animated TV ads for Hawaiian Punch. (You may recall the commercial: it featured a cartoon character in a Hawaiian shirt "punching" another character.) Mothersbaugh secretly poisoned the ad by including a sub-audible voice whispering "Sugar Is Bad for You" in the soundtrack. The statute of limitations must have run out by now because Mothersbaugh is shown openly laughing at the memory company executives enthusiastically applauding after the test screening. "They completely missed it!" Mothersbaugh chuckles with undiluted delight. 

In both research surveys and in Warrick's own person-in-the-street interviews, most Americans confess to a belief that subliminal messaging is real and is being used. But the threat is shrugged off as just another minor annoyance of modern life — like traffic jams and other peoples' cellphone conversations. However, if Americans knew specifically how they were being manipulated, the level of concern might be much greater. 

As Programming notes, much of the "news" we are exposed to is actually cleverly disguised corporate advertising and covert government propaganda created by PR firms and distributed to commercial news outlets in the form of Video News Releases. John Stewart and Steven Colbert aren't the only sources of "fake news" on TV: It's just that they are up-front about their antics. 

Thanks to the new technology of the Internet Age (specifically, the "freeze-frame" button on video and computer playback), subliminal messages are easier to spot than ever before. That's how the GOP was caught superimposing a subliminal message in an election ad attacking the Democrats. At the end of the ad, the words "Democrats" and "Bureaucrats" scroll slowing across a dark screen. Invisible to the naked eye, another word was flashed on the screen for 1/30th of a second. The word was "rats." 

When subliminal messages are used in an attempt to sway an election, that's a red flag that Orwell's Big Brother has taken up a permanent seat on the couch in front of your living room TV. 

Viewer advisory: The film includes an interview with James Vance, one of two teenagers who attempted suicide after hearing what they believed to be a message to "Do it!" hidden in a Judas Priest recording. Vance survived the shotgun blast to his head but the self-inflicted wound blew out the middle third of his face, leaving him horrifically maimed. The image may be disturbing to many viewers.

No Sugar-Coating for This Realistic ANNIE at Berkeley Playhouse

By John A. McMullen II
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 11:20:00 AM
Ralph Granich

Berkeley Playhouse, the professional Children’s Musical Theatre at the Julia Morgan on College Ave., opens with ANNIE on October 29.  

It’s not your typical candy-coated Annie.  

Director Mina Morita follows the given circumstances in a realistic, naturalistic take on the play.  

“The writers put in a lot of political issues, child labor issues, and Hoovervilles where people gathered who’d lost their homes,” Ms. Morita said. “It’s about orphanages and a little girl’s search for her lost parents. At the heart it is her relationship with Daddy Warbucks, an industrialist and war-profiteer, who is all-business and has not tended to his humanity till he takes Annie in as a ‘press gimmick.’” 

Director Morita has never seen the play. Or the movie. “There’s a lot of cultural baggage related to the show that I haven’t been influenced by,” she shared in a phone interview. 

“From what I understand, the human issues are often covered up with ‘jokiness.’ The dirty, homeless people are presented as ironic rather than desperate. It seems like surface, shellacked, entitled people doing the show and glossing over the heart of it, when what it’s about is that out of the desperation one girl holds on to hope and that feeling spreads—all the way to the White House where she meets with FDR and gives him the idea for the New Deal.” 

Annie is double-cast and a main character is the famous comic mutt Sandy, who is played by a real canine named Goldie (pictured above). The Playhouse also casts Equity actors. 

“It’s a challenge to work with a dog, but it adds a layer as nothing else possibly could. But, for instance, when we were rehearsing sound cues the other night and introduced the police siren for the first time--Goldie started to howl!” 

To add to the challenges, the play is double-cast. Nandi Drayton and Samantha Martin alternate playing the title role. “Both casts are really talented, and each group has different strengths, so it was my job to get them on the same page. Each show will feel different since they bring their own styles.” 

Ms. Morita lately directed Alan Ayckbourn’s “Round and Round the Garden” at Shotgun Players, the last of the trilogy of “The Norman Conquests.” 

During the day, Ms. Morita is the new artistic associate at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and is involved in planning for future seasons and supporting the artists there, as well as new play creation and development. She grew up in Long Island and Yonkers, graduated from Tisch School of the Arts, studied directing at Playwrights’ Horizons, and came to Berkeley about a decade ago. Ms. Morita is married to writer Adam Tolbert who is a curriculum developer at the Academy of Art 

Annie is based on the Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and the book by Thomas Meehan. It was the first starring role for Sarah Jessica Parker who followed Andrea McArdle. 

ANNIE plays at the Julia Morgan Center for the Performing Arts, 2640 College Ave., in Berkeley through December 4, with musical direction by Jonathan Fadner and choreography by Dane Andres. 

For more info: www.berkeleyplayhouse.org

Don't Miss This Around Halloween

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Monday October 24, 2011 - 03:19:00 PM

With Halloween just a week away, you'd be wise to stock up on candy to hand out to those little Trick or Treaters when they come knocking at your door. You may not know that Pope Gregory III designated Nov. 1 as a time to honor saints and martyrs. The evening before was known as Halloween's Eve and then later Halloween. Obviously this holiday has little religious meaning today. 

If you're of a cowardly nature, you may prefer to turn off your porch lights and sit in the dark, in which case you can study and choose among the many events shown below. 

"4 Lads from Liverpool: A Tribute to the Beattles." John, George, Paul and Ringo return to S.F. Oct. 28 - 31, Marine's Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter Street. (415) 771-6900 

West Edge Opera, Strauss' s "Ariadne", Oct. 30, Nov. 4 and 6, El Cerrito Performing Arts Theatre, 540 Ashby Ave., El Cerrito. (510) 841-1903. 

"Hair". "Thrilling, intense, unadulterated joy" (New York Times). Through Nov. 20. Golden Gate Theatre, (888) 746-1799. 

"Pissaro's People), a new exhibit including nearly 100 pieces of the master's works. S.F. Legion of Honor, Admission $10 - 15. Http:legionofhonor.famsf.org. 

"Dia de los Muertas," Gourmet Ghetto, Shattuck between Rose and Vine. Community affair, Mariachis,Aztec dancers, Wed. Nov. 2. www.gourmetghetto.org. 

"Cirque du Solelil, Totem", March 2, 2012, Taylor Street Bridge in San Jose, (cirdulsolelil.com). 

"Race," David Mamet's shock drama of sex, race, loyalty and betrayal. American Conservatory Theatre (415) 749-2228. 

Golden Gate Theatre of Dublin, Samuel Beckett's "Endgame and Watt" Zellerbach Playhouse, Nov. 17 - 2 0. (510) 642-9988. 

33rd Annual Celebration of Craftswomen, Fort Mason Center, Festival Pavilion, S.F. Nov. 11, 12 and 13. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Oakland East Bay Symphony, Michael Morgan, Conductor, Opening Night, Friday, Nov. 4 8 p.m. (800) 745-3000. 

San Francisco's Jewish Theatre, closing its doors after 34 years, Thursday - Sundays, through Nov. 13 at the Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida Street, S.F. $15 - 35. www.tjt-sf.org. 

The Official Blues Brothers Revue, Firehouse Art Center, 4444 Railroad Avenue, Pleasanton. Nov. 3, 4 and 5. (925) 931-4848. 

"Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of passion and Power," M. H. de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, $10 - 20. (415) 750-3660. 

Well, you can't say that this will be a dull Halloween! For the above information, I think I deserve a candy bar!