Friday, October 28, 2011

Occupy the Oakland Mayor's Time - a Message to the Occupy Oaklanders

Unless you have been living under a media rock for the past month, you should have heard of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread to cities across the nation and the world. While the majority of the demonstrations have been peaceful and met with everything to slight animosity to confusion, there has of course been some violence met along the way.

At 5:00 in the morning of October 25th, Oakland police officers raided the Occupy Oakland camp with reports of flashbang grenades and tear gas arresting at least 70 people. The entire campsite was ousted and city employees began to take down the camps, dispose of private property and "clean up the unsanitary conditions." The next evening, more than 500 protesters gathered in the streets of Oakland to march to take back the campsite with stops along the way at the police station holding the 70 arrested the night before. The march was peaceful yet surrounded by police on all sides as they moved to a barricaded area where the Occupy Oakland movement was camped the night before and raided that morning. By the time the group reached the solid police line they were around 1,000 strong.

Then the tear gas and flash bangs began to be thrown. The response the City of Oakland had for these individuals peaceably assembled and expressing themselves was unacceptable and resulted in massive injury, trauma and the serious injury of a former Marine, Scott Olsen.

Jean Quan, the Mayor of Oakland and the one who is ultimately responsible for this fiasco,
attempted to apologize publicly to Occupy Oakland at their general assembly Thursday night at around 11:00pm. The statement was available online and on her Facebook page. The apology touted her understanding with the movement, begged for Occupy Oakland to speak with the local businesses they were affecting and to no longer camp overnight in Frank Ogawa Plaza overnight or even be in the park outside of the 6:00am - 10:00pm hours when the Plaza is "open for free speech activities." Mayor Quan was quickly booed out of the assembly with chants of "go away," and "get out of here" before she could even make her statement. I am severely disappointed with this.

We are the 99%. We feel, amongst other things, a great injustice exists in the political system. We feel that we have been ousted from the political system by other interests and entities like high finance and major corporations, silencing our voices. What happened at Occupy Oakland last night was tantamount to excluding the Mayor of Oakland from the conversation.

We are all angry. We are all aghast at what happened. We are all shocked and amazed. With all the violence and injustice that occurred both at the Plaza raid and at the march later that night we have a right to be angry but we are better than what happened last night. We are better than just yelling at our opponents and acting like a mob. We are a collection of many different people with many different backgrounds but we should never be a mob. We should be a collection. Last night's treatment of the Mayor was mob mentality. What should have happened was more of a dialogue, more of an exchange.

By booing Mayor Quan and telling her to "get out of here," Occupy Oakland missed a huge opportunity. Oakland's Mayor should have been allowed to speak, she should've been allowed to give her already prepared message that was already available on Facebook, and then she should have been put on the spot. By allowing her the right to say what she had to say and then calling her out on her requests, the actions of her city officials and the ludicrousness of her statement in general the Occupy Oakland movement could have made huge strides in public sentiment by appearing reasonable while still utilizing the already breaking rifts that are forming in Oakland's government.

Imagine her in the spotlight, surrounded by the general assembly, being forced to answer for what happened. Last night she was able to flee from that. And now she has gained political capitol and will make you look bad.

We must not let our anger and frustration at the system and at the reaction of that system to our power come in the way of opportunities like this to engage those are we are frustrated with directly. Good luck with re-tenting and your upcoming strike.