Occupy Oakland: The Oscar Grant / Frank Ogawa Plaza Issue

A friend of mine said something that made me think. While riding on BART, she complained yesterday that she was “sick and tired of protestors using Oscar Grant’s name to justify their actions,” and said that City Hall Plaza should be called Frank Ogawa Plaza – which, by the way, is the current name of the unofficial home of Occupy Oakland.

I understand why some call Frank Ogawa Plaza “Oscar Grant Plaza,” and it’s because some feel that he’s the symbol of the victims of police brutality, which came into clear public focus after last Tuesday’s riot at Oakland’s City Hall Plaza.

But her point is that Oscar Grant’s name is also attached to a lot of negative actions done by others: damaging of public property, skirmishes with police where protestors were found to have thrown bottles before the cops tossed tear gas, and other examples.

She does have a point.

The counter-argument was offered by another woman on BART who’s active in the Occupy SF and Occupy Oakland activities. She said that the use of his name was symbolic with the overall act of occupying Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza.

The problem I have with the name Oscar Grant Plaza, is that it’s used as if Frank Ogama was some bad guy. He was anything but, and Oakland’s first Japanese-American to serve on the Oakland City Council and the first Asian city councilmember.

But what people don’t know is that Councilmember Ogawa suffered the indignity of Japanese internment camps during World War II, yet didn’t come away from that experience with the kind of negative emotions that might blunt success.

Frank was a progressive man. A kind man without a super-large ego (not that there’s anything wrong with that). In fact, as I think about it, were he alive, he might say “Go ahead and change the name to Oscar Grant Plaza. I think it’s a good idea.”

Just saying.

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