One mother’s statement from 2/1 OO Press Conference

Posted on 02 February 2012 by @kevin_seal

Several Occupy Oakland people read personal statements at the noon press conference held on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012 – the following was written and read by Tess Unger, who is a part of the Children Village Parents and Allies Committee.

As I’m sure many of you hadn’t heard from the recent mainstream media highlights, the Children’s Village and Parents and Allies Caucus of Occupy Oakland marched in solidarity with Move-in Day. There were a good number of parents in attendance who hold a deep belief in a better world for their children, and wanted to participate in the day’s events.

Predicting that police violence was possible, we planned to march with the group to a point, and then peel off to have a picnic in a park at Laney College, across the street from the Kaiser center. The march began in the plaza, with thousands of people, balloons, and colorful banners. A brass orchestra played in front of us, the sun was shining, and children made up their own protest chants. A few blocks in, we noticed a long line of police moving in our direction.

It should be noted that the position of the children’s march at the back of the line was strategic. Everyone figured that, if the police were to respond to us violently, having our most vulnerable members march in the back, with easy exits, was necessary. Also keep in mind that THERE WAS NO REASON FOR THE POLICE TO RESPOND TO US VIOLENTLY. But I digress.

OPD kettled us in, and within minutes, several children were upset. Responding to their concerns, we moved to the sidewalk to check in with families. As we did, the police closed in the kettle, so we had no exit. One officer, after being asked several times to please let the kids through, stepped aside and let people with children out, blocks away from the building destination.

We walked on to our picnic spot on the Laney campus, and for the rest of the day, sang songs and fed ducks and played. All the while, a war zone was unfolding just yards away. Well-intentioned comrades sent texts and let us know that the children should stay away from what was happening in the streets, that the police were firing tear gas and projectiles without restraint. I hoped fervently that the families who stayed with the march were away from chaos, and that the kids were safe.

I’ve seen the news reports and read plenty about J28 in the last few days. People want to focus entirely on the destruction of property as the central issue here. People want to direct everyone’s attention to a burned flag and torn fences and broken windows.

I want it to be known that the first conversation everyone should be having is about the brutality and abuse of power of the OPD on January 28th.

We all need to be studying the livestreams–not the conveniently edited mainstream “news” feeds– and asking ourselves: WHY? Why do we accept this as an expected police reaction? What kind of society are we upholding? Why do we passively enable a military-like response to loud voices and a refusal to back down?

These were unarmed civilians with shields. Shields made to protect themselves, not to destroy the police. We didn’t have weapons, and water bottles and small rocks do not equal tear gas and flash grenades. Especially against drones in riot gear.

And now, I would like to speak directly to the officers in attendance on J28. I would call you the Oakland Police Department, but not many of you live in this beautiful, dynamic and soulful city, so it doesn’t feel quite appropriate. And of course, many of you were called in from outlying cities to help OPD handle the unarmed protesters.

I want to believe that underneath those ridiculous war suits, you are human. I want to believe that can you look at this mess of a system and see flaws, and understand why many of us are doing this. I want to believe that you know that redemption doesn’t happen in lock up and that righteousness is not born from abuse. I want to believe that you have children- that you tuck them into bed and kiss their foreheads and imagine a better world than this one. I want to think that you would never want them to be shot at for using their voices, for standing up for themselves, for their friends, for their families.

A few months ago, I reassured people that you would never attack without warning. I really believed that you checked first, for kids. Before you arrested people and beat them with sticks. Before you fired tear gas into a crowd. I want to believe that you thought about it. Did you check? On Saturday, when those homemade shields appeared to give you license to unload your rage, did you know who was behind them? When you hit Scott Olsen in the head in October, did you know for certain that you wouldn’t be hitting a child? Would it have made a difference?

I am here, unapologetically, in this global effort to balance the scales. Saturday’s events, though traumatizing for many of us, will ultimately strengthen our resolve. We have made mistakes, and I assure you that we will learn from them. But we are growing and evolving, and we are not going anywhere. In just a few months, we have started to build something that will change the course of history, and we will each fight in our own way to protect it.

My loved ones have been plucked up and locked up and beat up with blatant disregard for their god-given right to do just exactly what they are doing. Speaking. Calling it like they see it. Unveiling things that need to stop hiding. Caring for each other. Proving capable of living, breathing democracy.

– by Tess Unger, Feb. 1, 2012