Posted by troublemaker on December 26, 2011
The first grievance raised by Occupy Wall Street was that our representative democracy represents big banks (the 1%) rather than the people (the 99%). The December 21st eviction of Occupy Berkeley tells an entirely different story. There, the elected representatives of the people aren’t necessarily doing the bidding of the one percent. Instead, they are simply ignored. As such, the will of the people that those elected officials represent is simply ignored.
On Tuesday December 20, 2011, Occupy Berkeley received its walking papers. Those papers were handed to Occupy Berkeley spokesperson Larry Silver. The papers cited the 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM curfew in the park. According to The Daily Californian, the city of Berkeley previously choose to overlook the park’s curfew and allow Occupy Berkley protesters to camp at Martin Luther King Park in Downtown Berkeley (1). Living in a representative democracy rather than a direct democracy, we assume that when someone says a city made a decision that it was duly elected representatives who made that decision.
With Berkeley city council members completely unaware of the movement by Berkley police to clear the park, we are forced to wonder if elected officials changed their minds or if someone within the city made a rogue decision? The order handed to protesters was not signed by any particular city department head (2). If the city previously decided to withdraw the permission they gave earlier, what was the process to withdraw that permission. Who, if not elected officials, runs the city of Berkeley?
“No one has permission to lodge in this park.” – From the order handed out by police (2)
Just who was it that took that permission away? What is most shocking about this eviction is that even city council members were surprised to learn police had distributed those walking papers.
“We have not received any official word from the city manager or the [police department] regarding the removal of the encampment. I honestly, at this time, cannot support the removal of the camp because I don’t know the reasons why.” – Berkeley City Council Member Jesse Arreguin (1)
Mr. Silver received the notice from a police officer (4), but that order was not at all clear who had decided to evict the park (2). Upon reading the letter, Mr. Silver asked the officer: “This is our Christmas present?” (4). although delivered by a police officer, it continues to be unclear who in the city ordered the eviction. As the police department had itself donated the Christmas tree seen in the encampment (4), it seems unlikely the order originated with the police.
Jesse Arreguin is not just a member of Berkeley city council; he was elected to that position by the people of district 4 where the city had previously permitted Occupy Berkeley to camp at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. (3) Previous to the eviction, he was working with Occupy Berkeley to improve health and safety issues not only in the encampment but in his community. Those efforts included advocacy for homeless people who had turned to Occupy Berkeley for food and shelter as well as orders to keep repeat trouble makers from the park. It was obvious to most that city council member Arreguin was not only responding to the needs of his district but to ensure that in doing so the message behind Occupy Berkeley would continue. Although Mr. Arreguin had provided his plan to interim City Manager Christine Daniel, he had not received a firm response prior to the eviction.
When Mr. Arreguin attempted to contact city officials after hearing of the decision to evict Occupy Berkeley, nobody was available to speak to him. He had hoped to have questions answered before attending Wednesday’s General Assembly where he would once again speak with protesters.
“I wish that as the elected official I had been informed. Other council members are also in the dark about this issue, even though we had requested at council meetings and in private to be informed prior to any plans to remove the camp.” – City Council member Jesse Arreguin. (1)
We to wish Mr. Arreguin had been informed. But more than that, we believe that as a representative of the people of district 4 his opinion should have been considered. As a representative of the people in the distract where Occupy Berkeley was encamped, his opinion would be important in a ‘representative democracy’. Unfortunately, in whatever form of government that is being practiced in Berkeley, Mr. Arreguin is a representative of the people in title only.
We have to ask, if elected officials are not running the city of Berkley, who is and why do the citizens of Berkeley bother to vote?