Following the lead of "Occupy Wall Street," demonstrators have rallied and camped outside Oakland City Hall since Oct. 10. The initial protest, attended by 500 people, has been followed by a permanent tent city.

9:30 a.m.: Another long night at Occupy Oakland

It was well past Wednesday's midnight when the shouting match erupted. About two dozen people formed what looked at times like a moving rugby scrimmage, a closed circle at the center of which an angry man was trying, and largely succeeding, in shouting down any voice that tried to challenge him. He said he was from East Oakland, and he derided what he said were the fake protestors at Occupy Oakland.

"This is my city," he screamed, "I've been occupying this city since before any of you were here."

A tall figure wearing a brown helmet, a long grey coat and a carrying a walkie-talkie showed up. He's a familiar face around the encampment, providing security along the perimeter and inside the grounds.

"It's okay," he said, to a few people who seemed concerned that the argument was degenerating into an actual brawl, "It's okay, this is political, this is political."

A quiet, reserved man named Keichi stepped to the side to watch the shouting.

"I'm not against capitalism from an aesthetic point of view," he said, "If it worked, then fine, but it doesn't work, that's the problem. It just goes and goes until it collapses utterly spectacularly."


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The people in the melee weren't arguing about capitalism, really. Or they were, but it was mixed in with a whole mess of other things, too -- the possibility of revolution, the role of the banks, the threat of the police, the relative virtues of different kinds of militant actions.

None of it was coherent, there were too many voices speaking all at once. That was kind of the point, said Keichi. This occupation isn't about coming up with grand designs to solve all of America's problems, at least partly it's about throwing people who may not get a chance or be inclined to talk to eachother in everyday life into a space where they can, and often do.

A young man in a wheelchair and wearing a bright orange fur coat told us "a new world order" was coming, and that soon the whole country would look very similar to the loosely-controlled chaos swarming around us.

A happy-seeming woman suddenly yelled "Free Yoga, Free Yoga!" and then sat on the ground with two other people and began to chant.

Keichi smiled. "You can't really get away from capitalism," he said, "I'm sort of an accelerationist, you have to just keep going until the whole thing collapses on itself."

I ran into the brown-helmeted security guard later, smoking a cigarette and taking what looked like a much-needed break.

"This is by far the most amazing thing I've ever been involved in," he said, "Think about it. We're feeding the homeless, we're clothing them, we're taking care of them, the city of Oakland isn't doing that. What we're doing here is really wonderful, it's really special."

A bike-riding security guard from another quadrant joined him. "I got a report of a robbery on Broadway and 14th," he said.

The two men's radios crackled.

"It's going to be a long night," said brown helmet.

-- Scott Johnson, Oakland Tribune

9:00 p.m October 19

Occupy Oakland is a social experiment. But despite the overtly anarchic impulses sometimes on display, and the repeated and constant calls for a dismantling of the country's financial, legal and regulatory systems, people can't seem to completely do away with what humans have always done, which is make rules and try to obey them. There are committees here for virtually everything — food, health, sanitation, camping, security and administrative details, to name just a few.

Even as many of the occupiers call for radical change to the systems already in place, they are creating simulacrums of those very same systems within the camp, albeit on a much smaller scale. When violent or unruly members of this little society get out of line, the security committee steps up to take the lead in dealing with it, the same way law enforcement institutions do it in the world out there.

When sanitation issues arise, and they do, more meetings are scheduled to deal with them, the way they would be dealt with in any city council meeting in any American city. Should dogs be allowed in the camp? Who will pick up the trash? Is it a good idea to make a site for laundry services? What is the appropriate posture regarding the media? All of these questions get debated, some of them intelligently, others with a great deal of paranoia, anger and fear.

Through it all, however, the human urge to make community, to establish rules to live by, to create some semblance of order in a complex and confusing world, is on display.

What is lacking, however, from this community is the kind of back and forth debate, the arguing, the respect for oppositional viewpoints that you might find in a city council or in the opinion pages of a newspaper. Here, the desire for autonomous expression seems to trump any tolerance for what anyone perceived to be an outsider might have to say. This is unfortunate. But maybe with time comes tolerance.

Heading out for a while. Be back a little later tonight. Stay tuned.

October 18 5:02 p.m. The eb and flow of Occupy Oakland

The occupiers at City Hall like to say that their movement is a work in progress. This is most apparent in how rapidly the make-up of the occupation changes hour by hour, day and night, who may be speaking and what is being said.

The late afternoons and early evenings tend to be the most intellectually diverse times of the day. People from around the city stop by after work, or on their way home, to listen to speakers who may not stay around for the rest of the night. I haven't been here long, but my impression is that the conversations tend to be more issue-oriented, more civil, more responsible.

As night falls, it changes. The focus on what the police may or may not do intensifies. Anarchists bearing signs that say "bring on the chaos" and carrying black flags and masks, seem to increase in number. It starts to feel much more like a rebel camp, an occupied space, a social experiment. Anything could happen.

The morning seems groggy, like a giant camping trip. It seemed to me that large numbers of people with mental health problems were out and about this morning.

Throughout it all, however, there is a fairly steady drumbeat of anti-capitalist, anti-authority and anti-banking sentiment. For all the diversity on display at the protest, there is a disappointing lack of real debate. But maybe that will change.

-- Scott Johnson, Oakland Tribune

October 18 4:47 p.m. Former Black Panther Party leaders speak to protesters

Former heads of the Black Panthers Party are speaking at Occupy Oakland right now in front of an audience of at least a couple of hundred. David Hilliard, former chief of staff of the party, gave a rousing speech about organizing. Former party members will also speak at Laney College tomorrow afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m. to talk about their 10 point organizing principles.

"I bet Huey Newton is smiling on us right now," said a young man who took the microphone, before reading out the ten points, including housing, education, health care for black, poor and oppressed people, an end to police brutality, an end to wars of aggression and several others.

A woman in the crowd stood silently with her fist raised in the classic Black Panther pose.

"I believe us here today is the same reason this country got founded," said the man.

-- Scott Johnson, Oakland Tribune

October 18, 5 p.m. Embedded with Occupy Oakland

Well into its ninth day, the Occupy Oakland camp has attracted a wide range of participants -- self-described radicals, unemployed workers, students and professionals, as well as a large contingent of homeless people who have relied on the free food and shelter.

Organizers have established a schedule of talks, forums, discussion groups and seminars to keep residents and participants occupied during the day. Themes include "capitalism and colonialism" and "the history of the Black Panthers."

Each day begins with a yoga class at 8:30 a.m. A stationary bicycle has been set up near a "media center" tent for anyone to use.

About 100 tents have been placed on nearly every square meter of available greenery. The grass is long dead and won't be revived until the protesters have left. A kitchen serving three meals a day, along with a library, an information center and a "safe space" for conflict resolution also have been added, after fistfights and arguments broke out in recent days.

-- Scott Johnson, Oakland Tribune