Juneteenth in Oakland, retail social distancing and BLM in a nearby park

Big march in Oakland

In honor of Juneteenth the ILWU has shut down the ports on the West Coast and there is a Black Lives Matter march from the Port of Oakland into central downtown. Thousands of people, as far as I could see. Very much in the spirit of Occupy.

Behind the signs you can just barely see the crowd coming down off the bridge over the freeway.

It’s possible that I should not have jumped out of my car and gone and stood in the middle of the march to take these photos, even though I had my mask on. I was in and out quick, though.

ON my way back into Berkeley I listened to a KPFA interview with people in the new Autonomous Zone around the Capitol in Seattle: after 4 or 5 days of intense police intervention, the police suddenly went away; they have now had two days of a full-scale Occupy, with food, music, medical supplies, meetings, etc. The interviews said that the local merchants are letting people use bathrooms, charging their phones, and putting out tables on the street to serve food. They also mentioned the transmission of experience from Occupy veterans to new young people who were saying, “What do we do next?” And how fast things fell into place.

A good job of retail social distancing

By comparison, here is what it looks like at the entrance to ACE Pastime Hardware on San Pablo Avenue. There is a big guy standing at the front entrance checking to make sure everyone is wearing a mask. He asks you if you know what you are going to buy. You say yes and he asks you what, and he tells you where it is so you can just go straight there — “Aisle 28, then Aisle 42” – and get your item out to the checkout counter. No browsing.

I’m posting this because of my friend in Pennsylvania, where Governor Tom Wolf apparently said that he didn’t think masks really made a difference. They are in the “green phase” or re-opening. My friend works at a big grocery store and has been posted at the door to persuade people coming in to wear masks. She says that about 20% of them refuse and some get angry at her.

BLM in our neighborhood park

Apparently earlier this week a group of young Black girls, belonging to a club where they learn rock climbing, came to the park in our very white neighborhood to train. They were shouted at by a wandering woman and called racist names. This is a park with a big rock and people come from all over the Bay Area to climb it. Someone overheard the woman yelling and sent out a message on various neighborhood lists. The immediate result has been a small vigil which will be followed this afternoon by a neighborhood meeting. In the photos below, the orange tape fence has been up there for 13 weeks now, to prohibit anyway from climbing. It has now been ignored -for the last 4 weeks – except for when someone decides that the wrong people are climbing.

The background issue is the whiteness of the hill neighborhoods, dating back to the redlining of the whole East Bay.


What is really different right now is that it is totally normal for people in our neighborhood to object to someone (even someone who is probably in need of mental health assistance) calling out racist remarks. A month ago that behavior might have been tossed off, with “Oh, she’s just another nutcase.” Now, it causes a neighborhood meeting.

On top of the suggestions for a meeting come suggestions (from Joe) about changing the actual demographics of the neighborhood by building or otherwise creating low-income housing, co-op or halfway housing, etc.

The actual meeting today

There must have been 150 people there. From all over the different neighborhoods around here.

Hard to get a picture because they were social distancing. But this kind of thing has never happened before. “This is something different,” everyone is saying.

Published by helenaworthen

Labor educator, retired from University of Illinois, taught at TDT University in Ho Chi Minh City in the Faculty of Trade Unions and Labor Relations. Co-author with Joe Berry of Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the contingent faculty movement in higher education, forthcoming (August 2021) from Pluto Press.

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