At 11:45 today, on the steps of the Oakland City Hall, Mayor Quan and about thirty supporters (plus press and Occupy Oaklanders on the periphery) held a rally against Occupy Oakland.
About twenty five minutes later, the Occupy Oakland anti-repression rally, slated for noon (and scheduled days in advance of Quan's rally) began. There were some two hundred Occupy Oaklander supporters scattered around the amphiteatre in front of City Hall, and the number continued to grow to perhaps three hundred as events unfolded.
The Quan ralliers facing the camera. More ralliers off to the left. The demographics are interesting in a city that is 26% Anglo.
The police, as usual, came in riot gear. About halfway through the rally they gave an order for the sound system Occupy Oakland was using to be turned off, then began positioning themselves to attempt to move in on it and seize it. Occupy Oaklanders immediately formed a mass around the sound system.
The anti-repression rally begins with the rogue sound system. There are perhaps two hundred people seated in the audience and more behind the speakers (I counted them). The police are beginning to mass by the white van. (That's me scratching my head!)
Now I would like for you to picture this situation. There are, a half hour into the rally, three hundred people, perhaps more, in front of City Hall, on the amphitheatre platform or steps, or in the seating area. Some of them are old men and women. There are people who just happen to be walking by; it is a busy walk area around noon. The vast majority, nonetheless, are holding an anti-police-repression rally, obviously with strong anti-police sentiments, but so far completely peaceful.
If you were the Oakland official or the police Lieutenant or Captain in charge, would you order your men into the middle of the amphitheatre, thereby risking the possiblity of a riot, people being trampled, people being knocked down steps, and/or innocent passersby being caught up in some kind of angry mob? All so that you could enforce your order to turn off a sound system?
Or would you wait fifteen minutes until the rally had ended and the people were dispersing to the march to the courthouse, then move in to cite the person who set up the sound system and seize it?
If you chose the latter you are sane. If you chose the former you are officially an inmate of the lunatic asylum known as Oakland City Government.
The police will undoubtedly tell us that what they did was perfect safe -- they had everything under control. And this will be a lie, one of an endless stream. True, as it turned out there were no injuries, at least that I observed. No one was trampled; no innocent bystanders or anyone else was damaged. But in many not-so-unlikely alternate universes that was not the case.
I was there, I watched the whole thing unfold. Believe me when I saw there was a serious possibility of the crowd turning into a mob. Or at the very least innocent people being seriously hurt. There was simply no justification in terms of public safety for the decisions the police made.
There is, however, one good explanation for the police behavior, and I think it is a very simple one. The city adminstration, with the full approval of the police, is intent on provoking violent behavior from Occupy Oakland, regardless of any consideration for the safety of the general public or the fact that people might be injured, or even killed. Thanks to the incredibly slanted coverage of such incidents by the mainstream media, they now view every potential for violent confrontation as a chance for a big PR victory. If it bleeds, it leads, and City Hall applauds.
Lets put it another way. To score "brownie" points, the City of Oakland has made a conscious choice to endanger its citizenry, risking injury and conceivably death to one and all: police, Occupy Oaklanders and happenstance passersby alike. Rather than attempting to defuse such situations and/or use the most minimally threatening, least violent approaches and tactics, again and again we see the police choosing the opposite. The City of Oakland seems to be in as single-minded and destructive pursuit of its goal to hunt down Occupy Oakland as Captain Ahab ever was to kill his white whale -- and equally blind to the potential consequences. This has never been so blatantly and openly illustrated as this afternoon on Frank Ogawa Plaza / Oscar Grant Park.
Strategic decisions such as those made today do not happen somewhere down in the police hierarchy. They happen at the highest levels of City Government. Or perhaps they are decided by the people who control these same government officials -- the one percent -- who are (still) laughing all the way to the bank as they foreclose on our homes, deny health care to the neediest and their own servants, and have city workers laid off.
Photo credits: Alyssa, aka Kossack allie123, aka alyssa011968 on twitter.
"I thought the police did what they had to do," said Marilyn Singleton, a 64-year-old doctor from Oakland who was with the Stand for Oakland group. "They can't let them run amok."
Fortunately, I saw no one running, let alone amok.
6:07 PM PT: Now that I've got your attention:
Please sign this petition, to allow a Berkeley man to live.