Honorable Judge Victoria Kolakowski,
My name is Nicholas McClung. I appeared before you as DOE in the case of Carey & Woods v. Rockridge Properties. I’d like to address you as though we were sitting across from each other at a café. I consider the content here to be “off-the-record”. I have no interest in influencing your verdict over the matter of Carey & Woods v. Rockridge, nor am I interested in putting you on trial in this letter nor merely arousing your empathy. I write this for my own closure, and perhaps to leave you with a greater understanding of why so many individuals have fought to save the properties on the corner of MLK Jr. Way and West Macarthur Blvd. We may never have a chance to meet on any other basis than as actors in the State’s theater of justice, and this is a tragedy in and of its self.
I know that you will continue to issue judgments in favor of Mr. Reeves and Rockridge Properties. I understand fully why you are, and why you have to given the circumstances. Actually I’ve never allowed myself to believe that there was a chance that Mr. Carey and Mr. Woods case would end in a positive outcome for them. As you said at trial (and I paraphrase here), your role is not necessarily to err on the pursuit of justice, but to essentially uphold the laws of the State regardless of their intent.
The property in question was opened as a queer safe space on December of 2010. Hundreds of supporters, many LGBTQ identified, have stayed there and helped it grow into a successful community center. Within that space individuals have organized free weekly community meals, a huge permaculture garden that sustains residents and several co-operative homes with pesticide free vegetables and medicinal herbs, a free thrift “store” filled with donated clothes and amenities and furniture, an event space that hosts fund-raisers and educational workshops, and countless other femifestations that have brought dozens of scenes and communities together in Oakland on the basis of liberating each other from the multitude of converging oppressions faced daily.
In the space individuals have prioritized people of color, women, and transgendered people who are struggling to find work, escape abuse, and secure shelter. In this space individuals can determine their own destiny and change their lives, their genders, and their names without prejudice. Where same sex couples can kiss without fear. Where there is a breaking down of the racist, classist and heteronormative paradigm that exists everywhere and at all hours.
Because too many are getting beat up, raped, incarcerated, are without access to the resources amid constant warfare of daily life, a life where one is attacked for simply being. Where it’s dangerous to walk a path in pursuit of justice. Where “justice” continually assaults us.
Actually, I come out in this house. Some have for the first time had the space enough develop and wake up to their life’s purpose here. Individuals have brought a beautiful and powerful symbol of unity and generosity to this ghettoized neighborhood. I’ve never seen anyone be kicked out because they were too poor or seen anyone turned away for lack of funds. The residents have provided this neighborhood with that which the State, the local and international economy and others could not and would not give. They did it, at times, without a penny between them for months.
Not to be too overdramatic, but some thought they had an ally in you, and yes, I believe you have had the power to give Mr. Carey and Mr. Woods justice from the beginning of their trial. Personally, I’m not interested in holding a grudge against you or seeing you as monster. I respect you for being transgendered and I think it’s a really big fucking deal that you’ve come to have the position and notoriety that you have attained. I know it came from years of hard work and struggle. You’re proving that progress is occurring in the reformist project of transforming capitalist society from within capitalist society. I understand you’ve devoted a large part of your life to that work.
But I am never going to forget that you gave this social center (which contains two years of struggle on the part of dozens of groups who sustain it) to an agent of gentrification and his eviction specialist.
If the State and its laws are corrupt, and you have only the power to enforce them, and people have only as much power as the money they possess to change the laws, then I see no correlation between Justice and what actually takes place in the Judicial System. Honestly, I didn’t before all this anyway.
Your Honor, you perpetuated oppression. I’m not even acting like I don’t share in that, as a queer white cis-socialized-male, I’ve internalized a lot of behavior from my father and our patriarchal society that needs to be addressed and dismantled. But to day after day, put land and shelter into the hands of the Bruce Reeves’ and Peter Consos’ of the world, because “that’s the way things are”, is offensive to me and would actually be illegal in a truly just system.
And I’m really conflicted, because “they” have pitted you and I against each other. And I’ll remember you as someone who helped destroy the most grandiose queer radical project I have ever encountered in my life and had the privilege of creating on a collective basis, rather than remember you as an ally with common goals.
As a group of low to know income queers and transgendered people, as compassionate and radical folks, of all colors and ages, as everyday workers and straight allies, as proud owners of our destiny and collective desires, as several groups that turned a dumpsite-shooting gallery into a thriving community center, as farmers and artists who’s separate and autonomous units have all been lumped into one big eviction, I think it’s safe to assume that I and other residents will continue to be without fear in demanding and doing the impossible regardless of the detruction of this space, and that this project will live on to change this society in all the ways that we see now that you cannot (and will not).