This morning, Oakland evicted Occupy Oakland participants from their encampment at 14th and Broadway. In its eviction notice issued over the weekend, the city cited concerns over public safety and sanitation, including public urination, rats, and incidents of violence. Oh my, how shocking! It means that people who work at Oakland City Hall looked out the window. They looked out the windows and noticed the neighborhood around Oakland City Hall–for probably the first time in thirty years.
Until this morning’s eviction, Occupy Oakland was encamped at the corner of 14th and Broadway. This means it is located right smack in front of City Hall, and it is located in the middle of downtown Oakland. So, yes, of course, there were concerns about public urination and incidents of violence. To Oakland City government, welcome to the neighborhood! May I suggest you update your window treatments to soften the view.
I have been in Occupy Oakland’s tent city twice. The first time was on Saturday, October 15th. The march and rally that started at Laney College ended at the Oakland encampment. I went into the encampment for just a few minutes to load up a plate with food for a man in a wheelchair. The openheartedness of folks at Occupy Oakland impressed me. No one doubted my story about the main in the wheelchair. A man at the dishwashing table handed me the plate he’d just washed for himself, and I did not have to wait in line at the food table.
But when I returned to Occupy Oakland this past Sunday, October 23rd, I did feel a bit of hesitation. The intervening week had brought MSM news reports of camp residents who had expressed hostility toward reporters, and the report of one journalist nipped by a dog. Also, the city had issued its eviction notice a day or two before. I worried that if Oakland city government, whose mayor had participated in the October 15th Occupy rally and march, had done such an abrupt about-face in the course of one week, there must be a reason.
As far as I can tell, there was no reason. Or, to be more precise, there was no reason relating to health and safety. I’m sure there are plenty of reasons relating to politics.
On my second visit to the camp, this past Sunday, I was with members of Contra Costa 99%. We were cooking breakfast for Occupy Oakland. Again, I was impressed by the residents of Occupy Oakland. A lot of hungry folks waited very patiently in line over a span of two hours to get fed a home-cooked meal. There were no dogs off leash, not a scrap of litter on the ground. Everybody was friendly and very appreciative of the breakfast and eager to pitch in and help us cook.
So, that leaves the $64,000 question unanswered. What happened in the course of one week to cause Oakland city government to do such an abrupt about-face?
Perhaps moments after noticing that Occupy Oakland’s tents were marring their million-dollar view, city workers threatened to sue the city for reckless endangerment. Indeed, Mayor Jean Quan and Oakland City Council members might rush down the steps of Oakland City Hall in a panic and proclaim, “No one told me Oakland City Hall was located in downtown Oakland! I should’ve been warned!”
Perhaps the city feared the public relations nightmare that might ensue when Geraldo Rivera pulled up with a Fox news van to interview these traumatized city hall folks. Of course, that would’ve gained traction only on the clown news channel just mentioned. Congratulations, Mayor Quan, your panicked and stupid reaction has just created a real PR nightmare.
Oh and by the way, speaking of liability for the city, there is a report that some of the folks at Occupy Oakland were actually arrested after 6 am this morning, during hours that the park was presumably officially open to members of the public. Now that’s a liability issue! And it is a liability issue that you, Mayor Quan, and members of your staff have very foolishly created for the city. That is not a liability issue created by the folks at Occupy Oakland. If I were you, Mayor, I would pick up the phone and call the city attorney. If folks were indeed arrested during hours when the park should have been officially opened to the public, the city’s attorneys are going to be very busy.
When I started writing this blog yesterday, I was going to suggest to the mayor and Oakland city government that they walk down the steps of city hall, cross the street, and visit Occupy Oakland. Walk around, talk to people, see for themselves. Attend Occupy Oakland’s general assembly, sit down, and listen to people to find out the kind of suffering that the Great Recession has created for Oaklanders.
Of course, now it is too late. The community that was beginning to grow just outside of city hall’s door was destroyed this morning. Mayor Quan and Oakland city government lost a priceless opportunity to meet struggling Oaklanders, listen to them, and show that they cared.
Call Oakland Mayor Jean Quan at 510-238-3141.