OAKLAND -- Well into its ninth day, the Occupy Oakland camp has attracted a wide range of participants -- self-described radicals, unemployed workers, students and professionals, as well as a large contingent of homeless people who have relied on the free food and shelter.
Organizers have established a schedule of talks, forums, discussion groups and seminars to keep residents and participants occupied during the day. Themes include "capitalism and colonialism" and "the history of the Black Panthers."
Each day begins with a yoga class at 8:30 a.m. A stationary bicycle has been set up near a "media center" tent for anyone to use.
About 100 tents have been placed on nearly every square meter of available greenery. The grass is long dead and won't be revived until the protesters have left. A kitchen serving three meals a day, along with a library, an information center and a "safe space" for conflict resolution also have been added, after fistfights and arguments broke out in recent days.
For many, the tent city has become home.
The moment he stumbled across the Occupy Oakland protests, 20-year old Minnesota native Dustin knew he had "found his people." After months on the road, first with his truck driver father and then by himself, Dustin, who did not want to give his last name, arrived in Oakland earlier this month and has been camping out in the ad hoc tent city in front of City Hall for the past week. He doesn't know where
"Our strength is in our lack of definition," he said. "Ideally, it would be a transition to a system where wealth is shared, but I'd be fine if it wound up as an outright revolution, too."
On Tuesday morning, a group of occupiers assembled near the edge of the camp for an informal discussion about logistical and administrative problems that had arisen.
One young homeless man said he needed to wash his clothes and suggested that a laundry service be built. But Alex Wilcox, 42, an unemployed chef, said a laundry would only muddy up an already filthy camp and attract the attention of police and city officials. Others expressed concerns about public urination, graffiti and small children running amok in the camp.
Few among the participants wanted to act as official censors, however.
"It's pretty obvious we can't control children," said Boomer Frank, an Ohio native who said he has worked at UC Berkeley and taught gifted children. He was acting as discussion leader. "I mean, we're anarchists -- most of us, anyway."
But the business of running a political protest is proving more complicated. After a pit bull nipped a television reporter Monday afternoon, a discussion ensued about whether to allow dogs in the camp at all. Others complained about homeless people, alcoholics and drug addicts who had been living in the camp.
"It's a social experiment," Frank said. "You've got moderate Republican types and anarchists in one spot. Not everyone is going to agree."
What people do seem to agree on is the frustration with corporate America.
"The redistribution of wealth we're talking about doesn't mean we want other people's money," Wilcox said. "What it means is that the corporations that dehumanize us and destroy the environment need to be held responsible."