An East Oakland elementary school that was closed down in June has drawn a months-long sit-in protest and occupation, but the school district insists they’ve had enough of all this, claiming one occupier was carrying “what appears to be a firearm.”
You may recall a controversy from the end of the 2021-22 school year, where the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) voted to close or shrink 11 schools amidst budget woes. This brought on the inevitable legal challenges and community blowback, but the district still stuck with the plan. So now here we are at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, so you’d figure the controversy would be blown over by now.
We're here at Parker Elementary School in East Oakland in solidarity with parents, students and teachers who are occupying the building to fight back against racist school closures and demand Parker be reopened pic.twitter.com/gxvYS2XsVI
— Party for Socialism and Liberation – Bay Area (@PSLBayArea) May 26, 2022
Not at one East Oakland elementary school, it hasn’t. The Chronicle reported earlier in the summer, and you can see firsthand evidence of this above, that students, parents, and activists have been occupying one of the closed schools since the end of last school year. They held completely unsanctioned summer school activities all summer, and they are still there, but now the Chronicle reports OUSD is ramping up their efforts to boot the protesters out.
In anticipation of a gathering there Tuesday night, OUSD posted a notice at the school complaining that the occupiers were getting a little out of hand. Per the Chronicle, that notice said the district had observed “at least one individual carrying what appears to be a firearm on campus grounds and in the building,” and that there were others “who may be engaged in unlawful activity.”
hella people here at the Parker Elementary school occupation in Oakland rn, btw… pic.twitter.com/Z2fYGxINPG
— Zack Haber (@ZZZZZZZZZZZack) May 28, 2022
But the occupiers have friends in high places, and even among their ranks. Oakland councilmember Carol Fife was at the Tuesday gathering, in support.
“We are on the precipice of getting a deal done in partnership with the city land trust to purchase the land so that the community programs can continue,” Fife said at the Tuesday gathering. “So it is shocking that this news would come at this time.”
On August 4, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) security guards attempted to end an occupation at Parker Elementary School in Oakland, California, through the use of force, resulting in two activists needing to go to the hospital. pic.twitter.com/0HcxDowiUZ
— Milo Griffith (@GriffithzMilo) August 8, 2022
The occupiers insist they have a set of “Parker Liberation agreements,” by which everyone supposedly abides, barring any alcohol, drugs, smoking, or weapons on the premises. “We have people even take the pepper spray off of their key chains before coming in,” organizer Rebecca Ruiz told the Chronicle.
HAPPENING NOW: Max Orozco was protesting the closure of Parker Elementary School in Oakland last week when he said he was assaulted by a security firm that was hired to clear out the people occupying the school. He tells @abc7newsbayarea he’s going to sue. Story at 11. pic.twitter.com/eRwjKbQWxT
— Tim Johns (@tim_johns_) August 11, 2022
There will probably be no easy solution to this conflict. The school closure is a done deal, and the school year is back in session with Parker Elementary no longer part of the school system. The occupiers insist they’re not going anywhere, and things did get mildly violent in early August when district security tried to remove them.
Fife’s claim of a land trust purchase and community center may come true, but that would likely take months to happen. And in the meantime, a former East Oakland grade school may continue going through the same kind of unrest being seen at People’s Park in Berkeley.
Related: ACLU Joins Fight Against Oakland School Closures, Claiming Racial Discrimination [SFist]
Image: @PSLBayArea via Twitter