Posted by troublemaker on November 2, 2011
It has been said politicians speak out of both sides of their mouth. In the case of Oakland, CA mayor Jean Quan the statement could be no more accurate. First she orders the police to take action against protesters. Then, after horrific consequences, she makes statements to the press which seem to indicate the police were themselves at fault, assuring the public that the event will not be repeated.
“The pro-99 percent activists — whose cause I support — will have the freedom to get their message across without the conflict that marred last week’s events…” Mayor Jean Quan (1)
What Mayor Quan seems not to anticipate is that many police officers feel they are part of the 99%. On one hand, City Administrator Deanna Santana announced that city employees may take paid leave to participate in November 2nds general strike(1). On the other hand, the city has announced plans to increase police presence. As Oakland police are themselves city employees, this means the city has made sure there is a strong pres sense on both sides of the potential conflict.
On one hand, police were ordered to clear protesters encampment on Tuesday, October 25. That ordered turned into a cloud of tear gas, bean bag rounds fired at protesters, multiple injuries, and the hospitalization of marine veteran Scott Olsen who was protesting peacefully. On Wednesday, October 26, Mayor Quan allowed protesters to return to their encampment just 24 hours.
“What was last Tuesday all about? The mayor is painting us as the bad guys in all of this. We get one order one day and then she flip-flops the next day. We’re going to be seen as the establishment, and it’s not fair to the police, it’s not fair to anyone.” – Sgt. Dom Arotzarena (1)
The day after those ballistic bean bags flew at protesters, many of the barricades around City Hall came down and police presence was drastically reduced. (2) Protesters were assured they could continue to occupy Frank Ogawa Plaza until 10 PM each night. Protesters responded by general assembly where they voted on a call for a general strike for November 2nd in support of the Occupy movement(2).
Mayor Quan announced: “If it remains a peaceful demonstration, we will maintain a minimum police presence.” (2) However, it seems to most that the protest was peaceful until Mayor Quan ordered police to clear the park. Although interim Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan defended the use of tear gas, beanbag rounds, and other less than lethal force used against protesters, one wonders if he might not have forgotten events which took place in his city during the anti-war protests of 2003.
The aftermath of that protest included 52 lawsuits against the city as well as an agreement that the Oakland police department would not use non-lethal weapons to break up crowds of protesters. In that agreement, after attempting to negotiate with protesters to disperse them the police are allowed to drop tear gas at the edges of the crowd only. (3) Photos and video show clearly that this was not what the police did eight years later at the Occupy Oakland protest. Again, city officials rather than police did not keep their word.
According to Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, president of the Oakland police union, the first raid on Occupy Oakland cost the city over one million dollars.(1) Individual lawsuits resulting from similar actions in 2003 were as high as $500,000.00 (4). As those lawsuits were awarded by a jury of the 99%, one has to figure the action against Occupy Oakland will prove itself to have been much more expensive than the million dollars spent to create those potential lawsuit.
It seems the people have spoken against such conduct in 2003 and we are willing to bet they will speak even louder in response to like actions of 2011.
External Links / Foot Notes