Open the doors, reclaim the commons. This was an abandoned library, now its a reclaimed one.
Where: 1449 Miller Ave, Oakland CA
More info: Biblioteca Popular Victor Martinez on Facebook | @bibliotecapopul, #peopleslibrary
The building unveiled August 13th as the Victor Martinez Community Library was part of a Carnegie Foundation endowment of four libraries given to the city of Oakland between 1916 and 1918. Oakland’s librarian at the time, Charles S. Greene, believed that the city’s people would benefit most from libraries placed within their communities.
Despite this vision, the building was one of seven branch casualties of budget cuts in the late seventies, severing vital library life-lines in poor and working communities. From the early 70s untill the late 80s, this building was a school created during the Chicano Movement called the Emiliano Zapata Street academy. Since then, the “Latin American Branch” library building located at the corner of Miller and 15th st. has mostly sat empty, despite the fact that the next nearest library is miles away, and increasingly difficult to access in a city like Oakland with an increasingly expensive transit system. With its eroding chain link fence and decaying, armored exterior, the building is much more than an eyesore; the unused, but inaccessible, space creates a life-draining dark vacuum of stability that serves at best as a convenient place for the unscrupulous to dump their old mattresses, couches and assorted garbage.
This morning, a group of activists opened this building again for use as a library. Inside is the modest seed for a library and community center—hundreds of books donated by people who envision the rebirth of local, community-owned libraries and social and political centers throughout Oakland. We’ve named the building after recently deceased author, Victor Martinez, who overcame a young life of hard agricultural work to become a successful writer in the Bay Area. His semi-autobiographical novel, Parrot in the Oven, has become a seminal work of the Latino experience. Martinez died last year at 56 of an illness caused by his work in the fields.
If you live in this community, we only ask that you think about how you can use this building. Name it anything you like. Purpose it to any goal that benefits the community—library, social or political neighborhood center. All we ask is that you consider keeping it out of the hands of a city which will only seal the fence and doors again, turning the space back into an aggregator of the city’s trash and a dark hole in the middle of an embattled community. The doors here are open. And there are many others simply waiting to be.
Update: Occupy Oakland announces a community potluck at 6pm local time and poetry/spoken word reading at 7pm at the Library tonight! Community members are requesting gardening supplies, trash pick-up, and other help. Check their Twitter account for more
Update, 8/14: Late last night, dozens of Oakland police arrived on scene, confiscated donated books, looked the gates with zip-ties, and boarded up the building to make sure it remains a blighted, decaying building. Thanks for keeping the neighborhood safe, OPD! Community members are meeting to discuss future plans.
By Yael Chanoff, San Francisco Bay Guardian
At 6:30, there was a potluck and a poetry reading. Most families had wandered off by 10pm. At 11:30, about a dozen people remained. That’s when 80 police arrived, blocked off the street for two blocks in all directions, and told them that they had 15 minutes to gather their books and exit the building, or risk arrest.
The creators of the Victor Martinez People’s Library did as they were told. But they didn’t go far. The next morning, they set up the library again, this time on the sidewalk outside the now-boarded up building. The kids and families came back. Police did, too, but they stayed in cars on corners around the building, watching.
Now, it’s been a week, and what organizer Jaime Yassin calls “the only 24-hour library in the US” is still here.
“That was on their agenda, at some point, to do this. What the people are doing now,” said Emji Spero, a poet who heard about the action from people invovled in Monday’s poetry reading. “But instead, they’re spending money on police to come shut it down. Someone said to me, I can see the dollar signs floating off the police cars as they run their engines.”
“This is the social reform that the city is supposed to be doing,” said Khalid Shakur, another Oakland resident who was involved in setting up the library.
On Wednesday Yassin, who had been researching the building’s history, sat down with me on a couch by the library. He explained that the clean sidewalk where the couch now sits was an unofficial garbage dump days earlier, covered in old clothes, drug paraphenalia, and other trash.
Yassin showed me a 2005 report from the Urban Ecology 23rd Avenue Working Group. the plan, a result of focus groups and surveys of people in the neighborhood of the People’s Library, includes a plan to “rehabilitate Miller Library” as a top priority for beneficial development in the neighborhood.
“Renovation, however, will be expensive and require the city’s help,” the report reads. “the city-owned library needs seismic reinforcement, repair to flood damage, asbestos removal and handicap accesibility improvements.”
As I spoke with Yassin, a 10-year-old who had been gardening and playing on the sidewalk scooted up. He handed some scissors, just retrieved from his home a block away, to one of the people making signs to organize the library.
“I never saw nobody use it using it since I got here,” he said when I asked him about the building.
“I liked it when you guys came,” he added to Yassin, smiling, before racing off on his scooter.
Juan Delgadillo, who owns Plaza Automotive, a business across the street from the library, said he plans to borrow some books from the People’s Library. “It’s a very good idea,” said Delgadillo. “I support it.”
The group has been holding nightly potlucks, and is planning to host a community barbecue tomorrow (August 18) at 2pm.
A new occupation guide, as a continuation and re-adjustment of the previous DIY occupation guide that emerged during the student movement in the fall of 2009. This guide takes into account the strategy and tactics of the previous student movement in relation to Occupy Oakland and the J28 Move-In Assembly. With various practical how-to’s as well as general strategic and tactical questions, this guide hopes to further the discourse and debate on how to occupy.
this week, ‘occupy london’ activists opened up a new community squatted building in the city, near old street. it is a deserted primary school with loads of beautiful airy classrooms, a small gym, and some pleasant outdoor space. it has lain unused for three years and the owners are awaiting planning permission before demolishing. in the meantime, the hope is to put it to good use for the community. see photos and report and watch video of the new ‘school of ideas’.
From Carrboro Commune
Carrboro/Chapel Hill anarchists occupy vacant building in the heart of downtown Carrboro. Here’s a text released by occupiers:
The end of 2011 saw a blossoming of self-organization and struggle across the US,as the Occupy movement illuminated people’s anger, imagination, and desire. Issues that had been simmering below the surface of political discourse exploded onto the public stage. From Oakland to New York, from Seattle to Chapel Hill, we started to find each other, to find that we are powerful. None of the tensions that catalyzed the movement have dissipated. Bosses, bankers, politicians, and police still hold our communities hostage—no armed evictions, government cover-ups, or election-year sloganeering can hide this. We have occupied this building in the spirit of this growing movement. This is not a temporary protest, but a permanent occupation intended to establish a social center in the heart of Carrboro, instead of the CVS that would have been here.
The proposed CVS has faced near-unanimous local opposition. The building would be out of proportion for the location and a logistical nightmare for nearby neighbors. Local residents have repeatedly expressed that the site should serve some kind of community interest rather than corporate profits.Yet outside the zoning process, where at best we can delay the inevitable, the channels at Town Hall offer no meaningful way for affected community members to determine what should be here. We aim to provide such a venue by occupying this site and holding open assemblies.
This will allow local residents to come together, roll up our sleeves, and share a sense of real ownership over the site. This would be impossible were a corporate drug store to be located here.
This isn’t just about CVS. It’s about an economic system that prioritizes profit over people, a legal system that violently defends it, and a political system that rubber-stamps it. North Carolina is in the midst of a deep recession and budget crisis: education, libraries, healthcare, unemployment benefits, food and housing support, and other services face drastic cuts. Rather than wait for politicians to fix the problems they’ve created, we should be occupying the holdings of corporate profiteers so that people hurt by this crisis can directly decide how to use such resources for community benefit. Corporate and banking interests created this crisis; this occupation is one way of responding while creating something positive at the same time. The space, resources, and activities of our town should benefit everyone. We should have direct decision-making power over the resources of our neighborhoods and workplaces, rather than live at the mercy of speculating absentee landlords, out-of-state drug corporations, or town bureaucrats and politicians.
“Occupy” Squat, Seattle 2011
75 River, Santa Cruz 2011
Rachel Corrie Center, Olympia 2011
The violent eviction of last year’s peaceful Yates Building occupation demonstrates that the governments of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are willing to use potentially lethal armed force to protect the “right” of the wealthy to profit on empty buildings. We are here to show that we are not intimidated by armed police or their bureaucratic defenders. We will not live our lives in fear merely to relieve the political anxieties of a mayor who sips tea and quotes Gandhi while evicting demonstrators at gunpoint.
To that end, we once again encourage residents—in particular service workers, the unemployed and underemployed, the homeless, and those displaced by racist gentrification and outrageous housing prices—to imagine what this “really really free building” could be, free from the stranglehold of rent and the profit motive. A free health clinic? A mutual aid center to help people find work when the economy has failed them?
A community library or media center? A place for free childcare or a free school? Through open assemblies, we can decide together, rather than being forced to accept the decisions of an out-ofstate corporation guided only by profit.
Please join us, not just in supporting this occupation, but in making it your own. We have a world to win, and this is just the beginning. Imagine what this “really really free building” could be, free from the stranglehold of rent and the profit motive:
• A free health clinic?
• A mutual aid center to help people find work when the economy has failed them?
• A community library or media center?
• A place for free childcare or a free school?
Through open assemblies, we can decide together, rather than being forced to accept the decisions of an outof-state corporation guided by profit.
An interview with anti-eviction organizer Steve Meacham of City Life/Vida Urbana in Boston
By Amy Dean, Truthout
Since most of the original Occupy encampments were evicted by wintertime, the question now is, what’s next for activists? One of the most popular suggestions is “Occupy Our Homes,” a campaign in which occupiers around the country would do actions at foreclosed houses or at bailed-out banks that are throwing people out of their homes. A national day of action on December 6 focused on this approach and featured home occupations or solidarity marches in 25 cities, including New York and Chicago.
Occupy Our Homes has three particularly good instincts.
First, it takes the general critique of inequality that the movement has been voicing – something often expressed in abstract charts and tables – and makes the issue concrete.
Since so many people in America are dealing with insecurity about their homes, the shift to doing foreclosure prevention and anti-eviction actions allows new groups of people with a clear sense of their own connection to the struggle to engage with the Occupy movement. Social movements at their best are about helping people take their individual troubles and link them to a public problem and shifting the focus from trying to personally cope to taking collective action.
Second, the campaign connects the Occupy movement with organizing that has been going on for years. Community-based groups have been resisting foreclosures and evictions at least since the bursting of the housing bubble in 2008, if not before. Bringing the energy of Occupy to bear affords these campaigns more visibility and helps scale up local struggles, which can see themselves as part of a national movement.
Third, Occupy Our Homes identifies an arena for concrete change. Thus far, Occupy has been successful in creating enough general unrest to keep issues of inequality from being ignored and to shine a spotlight on the real economic problems affecting the majority of Americans. But as the movement progresses, it will benefit from targeting its discontent. Yes, we need to create a crisis in public consciousness, but the movement also needs to be able to drive specific changes.
As a new frontier for action, Occupy Our Homes raises a variety of difficult questions: How can we make sure that protests at a home or bank are actions that get real results instead of merely momentary occurrences? And how do we scale up so that we are not just addressing the problems of a few homeowners but instead making an impact that can resonate throughout the national economy?
I will be devoting two columns to these pressing questions.
To begin to understand the tactics and prospects of Occupy Our Homes, I spoke with Steve Meacham, organizing coordinator at City Life/Vida Urbana in Boston. City Life is one of the groups that has long been at the forefront of grassroots anti-eviction actions, and I was excited to get Meacham’s insights.
From Squat 2 Own
Adapted from Survival Without Rent
We will go through a step-by-step guide on how to find your building, what to look for, and the cheapest and easiest ways of making it comfortable. Once you are in the building, you will have to deal with the law eventually, so we have included a section covering some basics to keep the police from messing you up. We aim to show methods that you can use to live more comfortably and safely than on the street. We believe that — even if you have no money at all and don’t want to have anything to do with other people — you will still find these ideas useful. It may be less work and in some ways more comfortable to live in a shelter. However, we believe that if you can manage to take an empty building, you will have a home with more self-respect and more independence than just about anyone. You can get off the street or out of the shelter and make a decent home for yourself very simply. If you do, we hope that you will use whatever political, legal, or other means you can to keep the powers that be from making you homeless again.
You can improve a vacant lot without being busted for trespassing — insist on your right to squat on unused PUBLIC property.
From LBC Books
Anarchists in the Occupation Movement 2009-2011
Since the first day that Zuccotti Park was occupied there has been a shadowy figure haunting Occupy Wall Street. The anarchist. Who is this anarchist? What role has she played in the Occupy Movement? What would Occupy be without him?
This is a book where anarchists, in their own words, express how and why they engaged in Occupy, what methods they used, and evaluates the success of Occupy on anarchist terms. It also expresses the flexibilty, energy, and experience that anarchists brought to The Occupy Movement as it moved beyond lower Manhattan onto the docks and streets of Oakland, the town square of Philadelphia, and abandoned buildings around the country.
The anarchists’ way of operating was changing our very idea of what politics could be in the first place. This was exhilarating. Some occupiers told me they wanted to take it home with them, to organize assemblies in their own communities. It’s no accident, therefore, that when occupations spread around the country, the horizontal assemblies spread too.
-From Nathan Schneider in The Nation
Contributors: Antistate STL, Anon, Ben Webster, Cindy Milstein, Crescencia Desafio, Crimethinc, David Graeber, Denver ABC, Dot Matrix, Ignite! Collective, ingirum, John Jacobsen, Phoenix Insurgent, R.R, Serf City Revolt, TEOAN, Tides of Flame, TriAnarchy
250 pages, Digest
From Applied Nonexistence:
There is something to be said about the response of state apparatuses against an escalation in what is being billed as a popular, broad-based movement’s progression of objectives. This afternoon was a rather sobering experience for the activist-left in the East Bay – and it’s probably for the better in terms of the evolution of tactical praxis which will ideally follow today’s events. This afternoon’s action can be read in multiple ways yet we believe that the two most pertinent points are as follows:
The sheer impossibility of Occupy taking and the immediate defense by OPD of the Kaiser convention center, proves that the timbre of Occupy Oakland’s demands moving into the realm of the acquisition of private property (indoor space in particular) is much more confrontational, and by extension more desirable, than the tamer stages of Occupy’s initial forays into the repurposing of the public commons. If the implicit threat of taking an abandoned building was enough to warrant such a response which, tactically at least, completely nullified any potentiality which may or may not have existed in seeing this objective to its fruition, then it is telling that it is precisely along these lines which such energy needs to be propelled and proliferated. In national states which have a much more visible squatter’s culture (The Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Greece for example) the actual laws around the legitimacy of squatter’s rights and the legality of acquiring previously dormant physical spaces are actually much more lax than what we have here in the US. Seen within this context, in the United States the occupation of private property with the aims of creating spaces for a distinct sociopolitical body is at once almost guaranteed to be impossible – but nonetheless desirable precisely because of this impossibility.
Aside from the obvious critiques in terms of errors in the “on-the-ground” tactical maneuvering (i.e. bottlenecks at Laney/bridge-crossings, self-imposed kettling on E. 14th, linear confrontational exchanges in front of the Oakland Museum) we’d still like to make the case (the same redundant shit we here at AN always say) for “exploring” sites on the periphery. While the carnivalesque atmosphere can often fulfill latent psychological manifestations for some individuals it often is not the most tactically sound site for engagement. If anything it creates a veritable vacuum around the locus of contestation itself – and this is not something which has yet been explored in conjunction with high-profile events like today’s (this would look like “X” happens here, while “Y” happens here – where X is the much more high-profile and accessible action which commands ALL the resources of the authorities, and “Y” are a disparate number of smaller yet higher-stakes actions happening far away from the main spectacle). While the locus always has an undeniable magnetism, laden with the desire to participate in narratives of resistance, the periphery is always more vulnerable and higher-stakes during such carnivalesque moments. Explore the periphery.
Solidarity to the friends arrested and hurt. Solidarity to the FUCK THE POLICE 5 march about to pop of right now.
From Oakland with Love,
We call on people to reclaim space in their areas on January 28th in the spirit of the occupy movement, but first and foremost to move past the idea of private property and build communities of resistance.
Groups in multiple cities have already announced plans for building takeovers on this date. We urge people to partake in actions that match their capacity.
Momentum is on our side; resistance is building. The natural next step of the occupy movement is to create a political squatting movement that will be a base of power for the continued struggle against the state and capitalism.
-an affinity group