Before Occupy Oakland came the protesters of Solano Ave.

The Solano protesters gathered on Monday night, as they have done for the past 10 weeks, to call for higher taxes on the rich. Photos: Nancy Rubin

For the past 10 weeks, a group of demonstrators has gathered every Monday at 4:30 pm on Solano Avenue — in front of the shuttered Oaks Theatre and outside the Chase Bank — holding aloft banners that read “Tax the Rich”, “Make the Rich Pay More Taxes”, and “Please Join Us”.

The first group who ventured out was just 10-strong but, according to spokesperson Harry Brill, the numbers have now swollen to around 40. The protesters do not affiliate themselves formally with the Occupy movement, although they share some of the same campaign sentiments. “What we have in common is our indignation that the big corporations and super-rich individuals are not paying their fair share of taxes,” says Brill.

They share, too, with the Occupy movement a commitment to democratic organizing and a lack of hierarchy within the group, who are mostly Berkeley residents. Nobody is in charge and no expert determines what is best. Oftentimes, when the group is done demonstrating, they will repair to a local restaurant to socialize. Community, Brill says, is an important part of the Solano Avenue protesters’ mission.

Whether they choose to demonstrate outside Chase Bank, or the Oaks Theatre, the protesters always gather on Solano Avenue.

“What time we meet, where, and which restaurant to occupy is determined not by a small group of  us, but by asking everybody what they favor,” Brill says. Yesterday evening, for example, around half of the approximately 40 who demonstrated had dinner and conversation together afterwards at Cactus Taquería.


The demonstrators have a flier, entitled “Tax the Rich,” which they hand out to passers-by. In it, they cite Warren Buffett complaining that he pays a lower percent of federal tax than any of the other 20 people in his office, and they list five reasons that the rich and corporate America should have equitable and higher taxes.

Community — and live music — is part of the group’s mission

Brill says they are delighted with the response they are getting.

“A substantial number of people are joining our demos for the first time and many others show in one way or another that they support us. We want to reach out to people who have been inactive and also, by demonstrating within our legal bounds, we are legitimatizing on-the-street, direct action politics,” he says.

And the group is sticking to Solano. “We don’t feel that hopping from one area to another is the best strategy,” says Brill. “Rather, we want to build credibility in north Berkeley, and that requires relating to the public in that area every week. We are hoping that our actions will prompt groups to do the same in other areas of Berkeley.”

[Hat-tip: Nancy Rubin]


Related:
After Oakland eviction, focus shifts to UC Berkeley [11.14.11]
Police use of force at Occupy Cal gets national attention [11.11.11]
Occupy Cal arrests total 40 as protesters plan next moves [11.10.11]
After protests and arrests, calm returns to Cal campus [11.10.11]
Protesters vote to set up Occupy Cal camp at UC Berkeley [11.09.11]
A mom goes to Occupy Oakland with her 7-year-old twins [11.08.11]
Berkeley joins 900 cities to condemn corporate greed [10.16.11]

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