Google Maps seems to have gotten itself involved in a naming debate that has the company siding with protesters camped out in Oakland's central plaza. Officially named Frank Ogawa Plaza, the open space in front of City Hall appeared as Oscar Grant Plaza on Google Maps for a few hours on Wednesday. That's what protesters call their campsite, after the man shot and killed by a BART police officer on New Year's Day 2009. The local public radio station KQED noticed on Wednesday that the plaza had suddenly started showing up on Google Maps as Oscar Grant Plaza, not Frank Ogawa, even though it's never been officially renamed. It's not the first time Google has suddenly changed place names on its maps, with politically charged results.
The debate over renaming the plaza has been part of the conversation around Occupy Oakland since it started, and not everyone's on the same side. SF Gate blogger Zennie Abraham pointed out on Sunday that Grant's name carried some negative connotations because of the violence of the protests that followed his death. Somebody tweeting under the name Emperor Norton (after the famous San Francisco character) suggested last week that the plaza be renamed after Scott Olsen, the Marine veteran injured in the protests. But Occupy Oakland's own website and Twitter feed both refer to the plaza as Oscar Grant.