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This is not the way it's supposed to be. How are police provocations related to economic dis-empowerment? What does smashing of even-friendly shop windows have to do with wealth re-distribution? How does setting fire to rubbish bins restore displaced families to their foreclosed homes? Will defacing public buildings, private property, and plaza walls help the unemployed to get a job? I am tired of seeing my city trashed for no reason other than visceral satisfaction of thrill-seeking marauders who have no interest in the betterment of Oakland. I am upset that my town's city hall is viciously violated by unthinking vandals in the name of Occupy Oakland. It is disturbing to witness my city's mayor attempting to respect Occupy's free speech liberties, while at the same time being consistently derided for trying to deal with a situation that Occupy Oakland itself negligently allowed to escalate out of control.
Without question, the brutal police attacks of October 25 — carried out by an interim chief and new city administrator just three weeks into their jobs — were excessive and wrong, and Mayor Jean Quan has accepted responsibility. I, too, have criticized the mayor; however, in view of her expressions of regret, I am willing to look forward. Moreover, I recognize that the mayor — facing a difficult situation for which there is no precedent and being under constant unrelenting pressures from many angry forces she must also represent — is doing the best she can in the face of ongoing destructive antics by an uncontrolled group bent on anarchy with no respect for negotiation or process.
During this, the formative period of the movement, I presume that the supreme mission of Occupy Wall Street is to raise public consciousness of and revulsion to the multitude of evils wrought by the runaway capitalism of the One Percent, and to solidify a national peoples' movement to force radical revisions in how economic, social, and political decisions are made; programs are devised and implemented; and policymakers, corporations, and Wall Street-related institutions are controlled.
In support of the OWS mission, Occupy Oakland has the duty to appeal to, attract, and build the broadest possible contingent of the local 99 Percent. Occupy Oakland must answer the question: Does a program that deliberately destroys property and seeks confrontations with police attract Oakland's populace to join the ranks of the 99 Percent? Or does such divisiveness drive people away? The answer, of course, is obvious.
In the beginning weeks of Occupy Oakland, enthusiasm was palpable. Both local unions and elected officials participated in general assemblies, and some actually spent nights at the encampment. In those optimistic days, it might have been possible to negotiate pacts with the city that would entrust Occupy Oakland to self-monitor its demonstrations, and maybe even an agreement that, should police action be necessary, no riot gear or military weaponry would be in evidence. Unfortunately, those hopeful dreams are now perhaps forever shattered.
The huge mistake made by Occupy Oakland in giving the blank check of "diversity of tactics" with no oversight or accountability to a group long ago proven to have only nefarious intentions must be undone. To fulfill its mission, Occupy Oakland must reach out to, educate, and involve a now-skeptical populace. To even approach its mission, Occupy Oakland must assure the public that involvement with Occupy is peaceful, safe, nonviolent, non-destructive, and has no intent to evoke altercations with law enforcement.
Unless and until it moves immediately and decisively to correct its monumental error, and to become realigned on its noble and intended path, there are serious doubts that Occupy Oakland deserves to exist.
James E. Vann, Oakland
Occupy Is for Occupying
I am opposed to Occupy Oakland's Fuck the Police marches because I think they're counterproductive and a waste of energy, but I marched on Saturday, January 28, because I support the tactic of occupying vacant buildings. Even in failure, attempted occupations focus attention on the huge supply of empty property that exists in our city (and the country) in a time of ever-increasing homelessness. They provide a reminder that society could house the homeless if it wanted to: Studies show there is more than enough empty housing stock in the US to provide a home for everyone in need. Unfortunately, we allow property rights to trump human rights. And while I agree that the Kaiser Center was an ambitious target, the building has been unused for five or six years. The fact that the city owns it makes its disuse even less excusable.
Finally, I find it somewhat patronizing to suggest that Occupy Oakland needs the progressive "grown-ups" to take charge. The movement has been an inspiration for many (including myself) precisely because it is not aligned with either of the major political parties, both of which are unindicted co-conspirators in the economic pillaging of the United States. Until progressives end their abusive relationship with the Democratic Party, the Occupy movement needs to keep them at a safe distance.
John Seal, Oakland
A Collision Course
As usual, this is superb, in-depth reporting. I would, however, quibble with your chronology. In October, Angela Woodall, in writing about one of the first Occupy Oakland meetings in Mosswood Park, noted the presence of the very same folks she had previously seen rioting in the Oscar Grant protests. It was there that some one hundred participants initially adopted a "diversity of tactics" resolution.
The encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza was on a collision course from day one due to the core group's distrust of the police and anyone associated with City Hall. Councilmember Desley Brooks slept in a tent for the first two nights until she saw the handwriting — or, more appropriately, graffiti — on the wall. Now, she's one of Occupy Oakland's harshest critics — along with the overwhelming majority of Oakland's progressive/activist community.
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