By Olivia LaRosa, Legal Observer, Occupy Oakland
A friend asked me last night how I felt about the plight of downtown merchants who complained that their trade had dropped off since Occupy Oakland began. I had to think about that for a while, being an ardent patron of small local businesses.
Are they part of the 99%? Heck yes! If you don’t have the time to stay at an Occupation, please consider going out of your way to patronize businesses near Occupations. This would work with small businesses out of range of an Occupation as well, if you do this.
Tell these merchants, “I am here to support you and support the Occupation as well.”
Please don’t worry about your safety! I promise you that Occupiers are pleasant people, fascinating to talk with, and never a danger to you or your family. I have been at scores of marches and rallies with people like them, mainly as a trained and seasoned Legal Observer for the National Lawyers Guild. Some of these gatherings were attended by more than 200,000 people. Families with small children, people in wheelchairs, and great-grandmas will be your company at any one of these events.
Of course, there are always a few who are intent on property destruction, but that would happen with or without the presence of a group of individuals exercising their First Amendment right to peaceably petition the government with their grievances. Oakland should know. It’s a place where riots break out over the outcomes of sporting events.
On the other hand, I have seen lots of unwarranted acts of property destruction and physical violence committed by those who are sworn to protect us. I spent last Sunday night and Monday morning at Occupy Oakland as a Legal Observer, after receiving an alert that the police were going to clear the Occupation again. For the first time, the police did not physically harm any protesters while going about their business. It was refreshing. Acting as a volunteer LO, my payoff is to feel that somehow I protected someone else from harm.