"The second thing is look for exits." She points out several options across the plaza, then heads briskly for the one furthest from the crowd. Before she's gotten across the grass, lines of riot police swell out of the exit she had targeted. She doubles back, heading for another gap between buildings.

A police officer's amplified voice reaches faintly across the plaza. "Did you hear that? It's a dispersal order."

She steps out onto Broadway. The crowd isn't scattering; it's only a matter of time before the police will resort to tear gas.

Peller moves quickly away. While not dressed as black bloc, she is wearing a black windbreaker, which she now strips away, just to be safe.

A few blocks from the mayhem, she paces the sidewalk in front of a bar. She hopes to duck inside in case the cops roll by or the crowd heads in her direction. Her phone rings incessantly — calls from Occupiers asking her to advise safe routes away from the plaza. They begin to arrive on the curb, steadily building to a crowd of 15.

Squad cars arrive as Peller presents her passport to the bouncer.

He won't accept it.

"Please," she asks.

He nods grudgingly, but still won't let her inside. "I need to search your backpack."

Unable to move herself and her fellow Occupiers off the sidewalk, Peller makes a quick decision: Find a more welcoming place. "Walk slowly," she commands, setting out for a second bar.

There, a bouncer recognizes her and waves her inside. To Peller, this is the most important part of organizing — the small interactions that build trust and solidarity with the community in downtown Oakland. She calls it "organizing the class." Although Occupy Oakland is inevitably judged by its most visible evidence of success — the ability to bring crowds into the street for days of action — the real work lies in small, day-to-day organizing among locals. Ritz-Barr agrees; the big rallies, while exciting and sometimes thrilling in their danger, aren't Occupy's first priority, he says: "A one-day action — it's not changing the system." Both are looking forward to getting back to smaller organizing after May Day ends — organizing that will hopefully instigate improvements that don't disappear when the crowd goes home and the black bloc unmasks.

A crowd of Occupiers stands on the sidewalk, smoking, tracking their comrades' actions on Twitter. A cloud of gas billows suddenly from the end of the block like a quick-moving curtain of fog. "Is that tear gas?" someone asks, tasting the air for the familiar tang. The bouncer waves everyone in and locks the door behind them. Peller peers through the window as the air outside turns white.

Music thumps from the speakers as Occupiers, anarchists, and their neighbors order another round and settle in to wait out the night.

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