Occupy Oakland On Notice
There’s a mixed bag of reactions in this article to the city of Oakland’s announcement that they want the tents out of Ogawa Plaza, and everyone out by ten PM.]
Mayor Jean Quan said the group had lost control, particularly in regards to controlling violence.
“We’ve had three days now where we’ve had incidents where people have been hurt,” she said. “We really can’t let the encampment keep going.”
Quan is going to take some flak for all of this, especially so soon after the surprise departure of her police chief. Some people will blame her for letting the situation get out of hand, others for stepping in now.
Khalid Shakur, 43, who has slept in the plaza since the camp was formed Oct. 10, said most of his fellow plaza residents would ignore the city’s eviction notice.
“I’m willing to assume we have less crime in this area than before,” Shakur said. “Plus, we’ve brought food to the people, shelter to the homeless, medicine to those who need it, a library and school in a time when the city is closing them. We’re doing the job for the people the government hasn’t been doing.”
The city of Oakland, I have to say, has been doing all of those things, not perfectly, but probably better than four hundred people in a park. And whether you believe crime is up or down seems to depend on who you are and who you believe. But clearly, Mr. Shakur sees this as positive situation.
Protesters angry at economic inequality have sought to establish a mini-society in the plaza free of government control, and some have spoken of occupying the area for months. They have established perimeter patrols in an effort to keep out police officers, and have not reported crimes to authorities, choosing instead to try to handle problems themselves.
City spokeswoman Karen Boyd said Friday’s order was based in part on reports that a mentally ill homeless man who had been living in the camp assaulted several protesters Tuesday. No one called police. Instead, witnesses said the man had been pepper-sprayed and beaten unconscious before he left the camp.
This was probably bound to happen, given the general tenor of Oakland as regards law enforcement, but you can see Quan’s concerns, also those of the interim police chief.
A participant who only give his first name as Anwar said he expected a mixed response if police moved in to remove tents.
“Just like in the real world,” he said, “some people will leave when the cops say so. Some will stay. Some will protest. Some will get arrested. Some will get hurt.”
This seems probable, although other participants have said they don’t expect violence. I don’t think it’s particularly likely, I think some people will be arrested, refusing to leave, but that’s all I expect.
One of those who left Friday was Ann Wenzell, who had been part of the camp since it formed. She said the mood in the plaza had gradually deteriorated, and the people there were growing increasingly hostile.
“It’s not Oakland residents anymore,” said Wenzell, 33, who lives in the city. “It’s not the 99 percent. It’s a fringe community. … Everybody is angry.”
This is the biggest problem—the Bay Area, especially Oakland, attracts people from outside the community, often people with problematic agendas, or simply a disregard for the community. When things went sour after the Mehserles conviction, a startling number of those arrested were not from Oakland. So it doesn’t strike me as particularly surprising that the same crowd would gravitate in in this situation.
We shall see.