We had a good meeting through pounding rain last night thanks to a large tarp over the 2 EZ ups so that rain would not drip in between them.
We always had at least 16 people, at my count 21 people involved throughout the evening, and we got a lot done!
As Occupy Berkeley, we have had a struggle around a couple issues common to other Occupies. First, quite naturally, houseless and street people are attracted to the encampment as a place where day to day they get less harassment from the cops than they usually do. Additionally, they see us as an easy, available source of food and water. Many who have not been camping I think do not grasp how difficult this issue is. Do we just go, “Okay, go ahead and keep stripping the occupation of resources, from food to water to t.p. to bowls and spoons and everything in between such as tents and bedding, tarps and boxcutters, hammers and tape, rope and mallets?” Some say, “Well, we need to share it if we have it.” Sounds great except when you are there, seeing that some of the people coming in to swipe bottles of water are not contributing to the occupation in any way, only using it. There is a lot to be said for our sharing as we can but we have to look at the long picture, not just the moment at hand. If we keep having money stolen, other supplies stolen, people coming in to fill up on food and water donated for the Occupation (there is a water fountain in the park but trying to collect water for the Occupiers from a water fountain for cooking, tea, or coffee is more than tedious), soon there will be no Occupy Berkeley as it was originally developed, only a homeless encampment, but one with no one cooking, cleaning, bringing in supplies, or camping here other than those already without housing. That kind of encampment would be swept away overnight. We all know this is true.
We cannot be all things to all people. Thankfully, in Berkeley, there are many good food sources for those who need food. Perhaps in some other city or town there are not other supports for those without housing. In such cases, the mere act of helping people without homes in this way would be revolutionary, but any irate person on the streets cussing and swearing at any of us not letting them walk off with our supplies does not have my sympathy for these actions. I have worked for almost 27 years, as have so many, to keep People’s Park available for all people, including students, residents, people without houses, and visitors. I worked for years with Food Not Bombs and two Catholic Worker communities cooking and supplying healthy food to people on the streets. And many of us encamped at Loniville in the mid-80′s to protesting by squatting and also encamping at the same park to highlight the city and individuals jointly keeping about 150 houses and other buildings vacant, often for years, lying in wait for developers to buy them all up to do developments like 4th Street developed with the 1% in mind. At least in Berkeley, we have shown solidarity with the houseless with years and years of work and devotion.
This occupation is for everyone who wants to contribute, but is not for those only there to take, like the woman who stole one of our Occupiers’ cancer meds and kept coming in smoking and refusing to leave until I would sit down next to her, sort of crowding her out. An asthmatic with Chemical Sensitivity, I had to endanger myself to get her to leave. No way. That woman surely has problems, but I will not put out the welcome mat for someone who is so strung out and selfish that she will only drag us down.
I am interested in more talk about this issue, but am especially interested in non-campers who are part of Occupies to help weigh in on this, not just from some utopian view of what could be down the line but looking at the lack of material support we have faced as all the attention has been on Oakland, and S.F.
How do we sustain this thing if we have 1) lack of resources; 2) let people who are not part of working for the occupation, whether by thinking together at G.A.’s or picking up the endless trash non-occupiers are strewing about, or cooking, use up our resources, particularly keeping in mind that as hard as life is on the streets, in Berkeley, Oakland, and S.F. many good people such as Food Not Bombs, The Catholic Worker, and other groups, have always supplied food, sometimes healthcare support, clothing and showering support, and help getting into shelters or transitional housing?
To sustain, we have to be honest about what we can do shortterm which we feel will change the landscape of this whole society so that no one will be denied housing or other human needs.