By Bob Starrett
Did anybody else see just a touch of fear — and dare I say shame — in the eyes and body language of some of the U.S. Marshals who came to the aid of apparently trapped DEA and IRS agents who were discovered by protesters at the Coffeeshop Blue Sky on Monday?
After they had taken down Oaksterdam University and Richard Lee’s other related businesses, the crowd caught them redhanded. Tedious as it can be, and having watched much of it live, thanks to Oaktown Pirate’s live feed, I reviewed the footage and it seemed to confirm my observations. Now, there were not a lot of protesters there. But there was no doubt that those who were there were serious about their city and their state and their rights.
The Feds are smiling when they are first revealed inside Coffee Shop Blue Sky, but maybe not so much after they felt the necessity to bring in the U.S. Marshals to protect those already inside. The agents inside looked like kids getting caught with a Playboy or stolen candy.
|Protesters encircle law enforcement at Oaksterdam University, 1600 Broadway in Oakland, about 11:15 Monday morning|
“Come on out, we have you surrounded,” someone in the crowd shouted, to the delight and laughter of the others. And since they felt the need to bring in the U.S. Marshals, I don’t expect that those inside knew that they were not, in fact, surrounded.
Congress Park in Denver sits at the edge of one of Denver’s great historic districts. There is a building at the north of the park that houses the Denver Communications Center, the home of Denver’s fire and police dispatch as well as the 911 call center. And years ago, that was where we hung out. Not the dispatch center, of course, but the park.
Most nights the crowd was rather small. We did what a lot of teenagers did. I can’t ever recall a fight there, even any argument that ever amounted to much. We just wanted to hang. We were united on that. On weekends, the crowd would naturally grow, and our plans didn’t include going home at the 11:00 P.M. curfew. So, sooner or later, sometime after curfew, several police cars would roll up.
They would park in the lot next to the pool where we now and again we would take a quick midnight dip; it was an easy fence to scale. And there they would sit with their bullhorns and tell us to “clear the park.”
|Part of Congress Park in Denver, with the Denver Police and Fire Communications Center in the background|
Now, depending on how late it was, our moods and how many people were there, we would either wrap it up and call it a night or we would refuse. The police response to a refusal to disperse was to call more cars and put on a show of force. Sometimes, when there was a good crowd that was not in the mood to end the festivities they would unleash dogs and tear gas. That was a momentary distraction for us; we could scoot south and into the alleys. We knew the alleys, we knew the fences, we knew the yards and it was rare that someone was actually nabbed.
One night, the cars rolled up and we had an especially large crowd. For a reason that I cannot recall the particulars of, other than it was a turbulent time altogether, we were not happy. We were gathered there in our usual spot, leaning against the bike racks, and in came the patrol units, expecting to repeat what seemed like a weekly ritual. But for some reason on this night, on orders to disperse and clear the park, nobody moved. We just stared at them. They stared back. It was feeling explosive.
As they always did, the cops would call a few of us over, one by one, those who they considered to be the “leaders” and ask us to get “our people” out of the park. We refused, as usual, denying any leadership role and explaining that they were not “our people” and we didn’t have control over them, although we could have had some influence. After all, it was the “people’s park,” we would tell them.
So, on this particular night, we were in a staredown and a standoff. I was called over as an ostensible “leader” and said what I always said. It was the people’s park and I had no control.
As I was walking back to the gathering I heard the officer make a call out on his radio. “There are just too goddamn many of them,” he said. Shortly after that the police got back in their cars and left.
We did not claim that park for good. But we had it for that night, and a few other nights that summer. I suppose that you could call it an amicable split, a truce, an understanding. As the summer wore on and fall approached, we scattered off to college and elsewhere.
Had we remained as a group, I don’t know what would have ultimately happened, who would have owned that park and for how long. But it doesn’t appear that Oakland residents are scattering anywhere anytime soon. And I just keep wondering, federal agents with automatic weapons and badge numbers taped over, driving cars without license plates — this is our federal government?
One day, whether in California or Colorado or one of the other medical marijuana states, and I don’t suspect that it is too far away, the Feds are going to have to make that radio call:
“There are just too goddamned many of them.”
Coffee Shop Blue Sky Video
Editor’s note: Bob Starrett, with 22 years of experience with Optical Disc and Drive technology, is co-author of six books on CD and CD-ROM technology, and his published magazine work includes more than 250 articles, reviews and columns on CD-ROM, CD Recordable, DVD-ROM and DVD Recordable technology for publications including PC Magazine, EMedia Magazine, CD-ROM Professional, Digital Video Magazine, Digital Content Creator, One To One, Online, Tape-Disc Business and others. He holds a J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law.