U Stream of BDS proposal at Occupy Oakland, starts at 13:20.
(Video: Spencer Mills/OakFoSho)
Last Wednesday at the amphitheatre in front of Oakland’s city hall, occupiers endorsed Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel in a 135-to-one vote. Oakland’s occupiers have recently experienced chemical dispersants, and a mass arrest, which took place over the weekend. Among those arrested was Noura Khouri, the Palestinian organizer who initiated the BDS proposal.
The general assembly (GA) was electric; Wednesday was the first time those arrested were present for an occupy meeting. Despite the several distractions, including barking dogs and a New York Times reporter snapping photographs, occupiers listened attentively as Khouri and two others discussed the “intimate relationship,” between local law enforcement and the Israeli military. “We are seeing the militarization of our local police forces,” Khouri said, continuing “they are using the same tactics, weapons and laws.”
Khouri, along with co-presenters Basima Sisemore and Deppen Webber, also touched on the use of chemical dispersants by the Oakland Police Department (OPD) and the Israeli military. “The same tear gas that is being used on the streets here against you all is being used in Palestine,” said Sisemore. And, in fact, a portion of the occupiers at GA had experienced tear gas during the weekend’s “move-in day” actions, a failed attempt to occupy a vacant building. Throughout the march the OPD fired tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, flash-booms, and smoke grenades, on protesters, including children and elderly. One producer of these “non-lethal” weapons is Defense Technology, which is also used by the Israeli military.
The presenters then read the proposal text, and a letter of solidarity with the occupy movement from the BDS Nation Committee (BNC):
Our aspirations overlap; our struggles converge. Our oppressors, whether greedy corporations or military occupations, are united in profiting from wars, pillage, environmental destruction, repression and impoverishment. We must unite in our common quest for freedoms, equal rihts, social and economic justice, environmental sanity, and world peace.
However, occupiers did not need much convincing on why BDS should be endorsed. During comments, an occupier named Alessandro said, “I am fully in support of this proposal,” continuing, “U.S. imperialism is the biggest oppression in the entire world and Israel is their number one client.” This was echoed by another who received an ovation for stating “I am indebted to Rachel Corrie for giving me the courage to stand in solidarity with oppressed people.” At this time Webber added “Occupy Oakland has been in solidarity with Egypt,” a reference to a number of occupy-sponsored Egypt events. And, when occupiers were first “kettled,” or surrounded, by police during the weekend’s arrest, they expressed solidarity with the Arab Spring by chanting “Egypt and Oakland are one fist!” Jumping off of the connections vocalized by occupiers, Webber continued, “I don’t think it’s a stretch to extend our solidarity across the Rafah border.”
At that, the assembly laughed, and shortly after the vote was counted. Hugs and smiles were shared, and the group moved on to the next agenda item.
Khouri hopes the occupy movement will continue to press for more material BDS gains.
We hope this is the first step to building support and awareness about these critical issues, and that this proposal will be followed by similar proposals in other GA’s. The process is simple and I would like to encourage those you involved in occupy movements throughout the country, to do the same.
Oakland is the first occupy movement general assembly to endorse BDS against Israel, and by extension, the first to formally endorse the Palestinian cause.