Umbrella Insurrection at Oscar Grant Plaza

Posted on December 15, 2011


Photo by Enrique

When police looked for a code that makes physical presence in OGP illegal, they decided on a novel interpretation of a local ordinance. On three separate occasions police officers claimed that standing still with an umbrella in the plaza makes you a structure and such novel umbrella-human hybrid forms would be subject to citation and de-umbrellafication. Police also threatened vigilers that their property would be confiscated if it was left on the ground for any amount of time. Yes, this is everything you’ve ever heard about discriminatory application of the law.

As protest, occupiers arrived with umbrellas, fully flouting this new code.

Here’s the somewhat biblical sounding code in question:

City of Oakland Municipal Code 9.16.010–Public Grounds

Any person who shall enter upon any of the public squares, waterfront or submerged lands or any other lands, belonging to or held by the city, and dig up the earth, or deposit any earth, rock or other substance thereon, or shall erect or attempt to erect any building, wharf, or structure of any kind, by driving or setting up posts or piles, or in any other manner appropriate or encumber any portion of the real estate belonging to or held by the city, unless such person shall have first obtained property authority so to do, shall be deemed guilty of an infraction.

Its quite clear that this ordinance outlaws any human presence in a public place when it coincides with an inanimate object in any configuration; it seems to go so far as to suggest that occupying any physical public space is grounds for an infraction. The fact that people every day use Frank Ogawa Plaza in numerous ways that both encumber, and in which they accidentally or on purpose fashion their bodies into structures, makes the current application of the law conspicuously discriminatory.