Different Occupy Movements in Bay Area

By Ashley Barros

I climb on top of several friends’ shoulders, crawl over an awning and tight-rope walk for 50 feet. I am high above the unforgiving pavement of San Jose’s City Hall plaza. I am here to see Shaun O’Kelly.

Better known as Cracker, O’Kelly is 27 years old. He has been sleeping on top of a wall at City Hall for a week straight as part of the Occupy San Jose protest. Police have left him alone for fear that removing him would be too dangerous.

I’m only here to talk to Cracker. I’ve also brought him a mixtape.

When Cracker sees me, he leaps up from his post. “I have to insist you leave. I’m sorry,” he says. “They’re going to arrest me if anyone gets hurt, and they’ll arrest you as soon as you get down.”

Cracker starts tearing up and pulls me into a power hug.

“I’m sorry. I haven’t cried in such a long time,” he says. “I’m just realizing ... I’m so happy. This is the most important thing I’ve ever done. I’m inspiring people.”

The whole world is keeping tabs on anti-Wall Street protests. On Saturday, the San Francisco occupation marched against police brutality. Four days prior, police arrested more than 100 people in Oakland for camping at City Hall. The militant response by police to protesters angered many, and the iconic takeaway was pictures and video of protester and Iraqi war veteran Scott Olsen lying bloody and dazed, his skull fractured by a tear-gas canister fired by police.

This all happened after San Jose police raided the camp at San Jose’s City Hall plaza on Sunday, Oct. 23, arresting eight occupiers. In response, O’Kelly climbed atop the plaza structure in the dark of night. He now camps on a 5-foot-wide ledge.

While the Bay Area occupations persist, finding continuity between the three movements is difficult.

“I don’t even really understand what it’s about,” says Ben Reha, a San Jose State University photography major who is at San Jose’s protest on Sunday. “I mean, it seems as if they want the country to be run by the people. Is occupying the best thing to do to accomplish that?”

Each regional occupation is self-governed. Infrastructures are patterned after the original Wall Street camp in Manhattan via Twitter, Facebook, blogs and cell phones. Most occupations have formed a communal lifestyle that is uploaded and shared instantly.

Oakland is the current Occupy Wall Street epicenter. San Francisco has been consistently hectic, if less militant from the start. And yet San Jose’s occupation, consisting of five tents and a man on a ledge, continues to lag by comparison.

“It’s not hard for places like San Francisco and Manhattan to organize massive protests like that,” says Frank Door, owner of Element 151 Productions on First Street in San Jose. “Those places have those kind of people. The flaw in regional protests like this—San Jose isn’t exactly booming with activism. They’ll all go to San Francisco. And what they need to be doing is storming the field and occupying the fucking World Series or something. They’re just all on a camping trip. If you don’t have an agenda, it’s a vacation.”

Cracker’s camp in the sky sits alone, outfitted with a blue pup-tent, some pens and a notebook. He has nothing to play my mixtape.

“Some of the people up in Oakland are bringing me a laptop soon, so I can Skype and everything,” he says. “I’ll listen then.” This was Sunday.

Reports suggest Cracker has since renounced the Occupy San Jose movement. But the remaining few who keep their tents at City Hall by day and across the street by night to avoid arrest appear loyal to him and the litany of occupation causes.

Standing next to Cracker on a Sunday afternoon, I can’t tell if he is trapped or liberated—or both—above the occupation at City Hall. But just before addressing fellow occupiers by megaphone at the noon general assembly, he grabs ahold of me and says, “I’m just realizing I’ve never done anything meaningful before.”

14 Comments

  1. Shaun, lad,  Cracker my boy, I have some bad news for you: You are not doing anything meaningful now!

    You are no different from the 1% You get by on someone else’s dime! When you labor and earn and enjoy the fruits of your labor you are doing something meaningful!  When you share your talent – you are doing something meaningful!

    When you climb up a wall and lie down on it 24/7 you are doing nothing! When you rely on someone to bring you food that you have not earned and consume it – you are doing nothing but being a sponge! You even have to rely on someone to carry your waste away how “meaningful?” 

    You are either a deceiver or have been totally deceived!  99 days? then what? Guest appearances at the next drum circle? A-List Celebrity status with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now and elevation to “Political Prisoner” Status when you are arrested for your foolishness? Street Cred to hook up with Julia “butterfly” Hill?  It is a load of marlarky!

    Oh by-the-way… I think yo have missed your window of opportunity for the “industrial hemp grow” you wish to start on the wall. Outdoor season is usually May-August.

  2. Here’s my original quote that was edited by the Metro :

    “It’s not hard for places like SF and Manhattan to organize massive protests like that,” says Frank Door, owner of Element 151 Productions on First Street in San Jose. “Those places have those kind of people. The flaw in regional protests like this—San Jose isn’t exactly booming with activism. They’ll all go to San Francisco. And what they need to be doing is storming the field and occupying the fucking World Series or something. They’re just all on a camping trip. If you don’t have an agenda, it’s a vacation.”

  3. Any Irish-American who calls himself “cracker” has a serious self-esteem problem, and a self-loathing nature.

    “Cracker” is an old derogatory name for the diverse white San Jose people, and illustrates the racially-tainted direction that Occupy San Jose is going in.

    “Cracker” is a label that smothers the diversity of the white San Jose community, strips it of its nationality (American), and dehumanizes the white minority community with a food name.  Try that formula with any other demographic in San Jose, and feel some wrath.

    Early on, I wrote that we should look for the best ideas to emerge from Occupy San Jose, but if it raises a hero self-named “cracker,” then on behalf of the minority white community (a mere 28% of the population), I say a pox on Occupy San Jose.

  4. Ashley

    You missed an very important point – ” Reports suggest Cracker has since renounced the Occupy San Jose movement. ” so his illegal sit-in will not cause legal problems or have city police take action against the Occupy San Jose protest group

    That is a very mature attitude for ” Cracker O’ Kelly ” to think about the consequences that your actions could cause others and the group’s goals

    Overall very weak blog with little information othr that you talked to Cracker – so

    • Hard to believe he “renounced” Occupy San Jose.  The estimable Sharon Noguchi wrote in the Merc about how the occupiers cheered him on just two days ago with “Viva Cracker!” repeated several times.  (Sharon obviously enjoyed airing the old slur.)

      O’Kelly is thoroughly tied to Occupy San Jose, and they have cheered him on, obviously to proclaim an element of the anti-white narrative.

  5. Cracker says: “I’m just realizing I’ve never done anything meaningful before.”

    That is so totally believable.

    Ashley,
    Can you help us out here at SJI?  How do we “down twinkles” or “block” in the blog comments?

    PSA.  For anyone in need of a palate cleanser http://bit.ly/tTPLKU

  6. Ashley:  It is very much in dispute how Olsen was injured.  Most likely he was hit by a brick thrown by Anarchists, especially considering that tear gas in this incident was thrown by hand (as seen in very same video, by very same police).

    In the future, please be a responsible journalist and report facts, not speculation/conjecture.  Cracker has still not done anything meaningful, other than spur you to write this opinion piece.

  7. Everything is going to the cats and dogs.

    It takes two to tango.  The avarice on Wall St. is egregious, but I am dumbfounded that those critical of so-called “fat cats” never bother to look in the mirror.  Most of the so-called little guys want to be “fat cats” themselves.

    If you don’t want to run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.  Don’t whine and yelp like a little rat dog when you can no longer hang with the Great Danes and Bullmastiffs.

    All investment is at risk.  Every dollar you put in the market should be viewed as a dollar you CAN afford to lose.  If you can’t “deal” with that reality, take your pot o’ cash and head to Vegas, where you can at least have more fun being fleeced at the casinos, and by women and men of questionable character.

  8. Such negative comments…

    Cracker says: “I’m just realizing I’ve never done anything meaningful before.”

    Well my friends he doing something now and it’s more than most of us are doing.

    Think about it… do we ever take a stand on anything? 

    … usually no.

    • I believe most of those people would be protesting just as loudly over nearly any other issue as long as there would be a group of them available to do it.  Witness most of the occupy demonstrations and the disparate snivelers who have co-opted the movement.  Anarchists, communists, socialists, anti-government, anti-police, anti-bank, pro-homeless, you name it they all have found a convenient place to gather and whine.  I’d spend every day expressing my views too but unfortunately I have a job to attend to, kids to raise, community events to volunteer at, and taxes to pay even though I guess it’s much less than laying on top of a wall sponging off of other people’s assistance.

  9. The most rational thing I’ve heard Shaun say in the last few weeks is “stay off the wall before someone gets hurt”. Someone will eventually get hurt…maybe Shaun, or maybe one of the followers below that keep climbing the wall to join him…or maybe someone wanting a story…or maybe someone trying to get him down eventually. He’s trapped up there now…thinking he’s “something”. And these ‘stories’ just keep him going. How can he come down now without becoming nothing again? Remember this guy smokes pot all day up there, and the group below is some splinter group of the originals who have long moved on…pretty much Shaun’s tools. We aren’t talking about their message because they don’t really have anything to say. Funny how a guy can smoke pot, hold himself hostage, demand to speak to everyone, but has nothing to say accept he wants an apology. What next? Sue the City for ignoring him?

  10. Hot Dog Man JMOC knows a loser when he sees one.  In the mirror.  Your pickles, JMOC, are small and bitter to the taste.  More of a revealing statement about JMOC than we should know.