Occupy Oakland picks new land for camp

November 19, 2011 12:35:13 AM PST
A tense exchange erupted during a news conference called by Occupy Oakland protesters on Friday: Neighbors in the area of 19th and Telegraph asked pointed questions about the group's plan to set up an encampment on their block.

The news conference by members of Occupy Oakland was intended to make two basic announcements: The first announcement was a planned day of action and march through the downtown area on Saturday.

The second announcement is what crashed into concern from residents of the neighborhood, who worried about plans to set up another camp in the vacant lot across from a school.

The moment the Occupy Oakland news conference started, it was interrupted by a neighbor.

"This is not an appropriate place to have this happen," the neighbor said. "You're going to put together a dirty, filthy tent city right in the middle of where all of us live."

The questions from neighbors continued from there, including questions from parents who point out that the Oakland School for the Arts is directly across the street from the planned encampment.

"They take PE classes in this area," said Neeta Puthanveetil. "Are you going to control who's going to come here? Who's gonna not bring a gun? Who's gonna be doing drugs?"

Interrupting news conferences is nothing new, but it's usually the Occupy group disrupting things.

The idea of setting up camp in the vacant lot at 19th and Telegraph came from an Occupy general assembly meeting on Wednesday.

"This spot is in the Uptown district of Oakland," said protester Tim Simonz. "This is the area of Oakland that the 1 percent of Oakland -- that's the large businesses, the large money interests in Oakland -- are trying to gentrify. They are trying to make a buck off this neighborhood."

A visible police presence remained at the square even after the news conference ended. Residents took that time to debate the protesters.

Some residents did voice support for an encampment at the spot.

"It will be quite inconveniet for us," said Johannes Wallman. "Nobody wants to have a protest in their front yard if they can avoid it, but again, we don't want to buy into the whole (not in my backyard) thing because those people really represent us."

The lot is slated for redevelopment. The agency behind the redevelopment plans put up several signs Friday afternoon warning against trespassing.

The city of Oakland issued a news release yesterday saying the Oakland Police Department has a "strategy in place to prevent the establishment of new encampments."

Officials at City Hall were not available for comment.

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