A couple weeks ago I woke up at five in the morning to what sounded like a battalion of helicopters overhead. It was not the first time. Whenever there’s been a protest in my downtown/uptown Oakland neighborhood following a new development in the Oscar Grant case, out come the helicopters and police.
I figured it was Occupy Oakland being raided since there had been rumors the police would come early in the morning, and I went outside to look around. The streets were barricaded for blocks, and there was no way to see what was going on inside.
When I returned later, the plaza was still barricaded and guarded by a line of police in riot gear. Occupy Oakland protesters were amassed outside the barricades, some sitting on the sidewalk with backpacks and sleeping bags. I wondered if they were planning to move back in, if they had somewhere else to go, and how they saw the space of the plaza they had inhabited. I went home and came back with some markers and paper, hoping that some protesters would be interested in drawing pictures of Oscar Grant Plaza (the name Occupy Oakland gave to Frank Ogawa Plaza when they moved in) or maybe of Oscar Grant — something to capture the place they had created.
The drawings people did of Oscar Grant Plaza, especially, got me thinking about place and space in the sense that Harrison & Dourish describe in this piece (pdf). In their terms, space is an opportunity or collection of affordances. Place, meanwhile is:
generally a space with something added—social meaning, convention, cultural understandings about role, function and nature and so on. The sense of place transforms the space. (p. 3)
The place Oscar Grant Plaza was before the raid — a space with something added — looked like this to one of the Occupy Oakland protesters, Luka: