In a Season of Change– a Plea to Our New Mayor

Reemergence Meeting-Occupy Oakland

In October and early November Oaklanders look forward to warm weather, beautiful sunsets, and-fires and earthquakes. Oh, and election season.

This time last year I was walking the neighborhoods of West Oakland and Lake Merritt, flyering folks coming out of BART, and staying up late at night strategizing with other campaign staff, or the future mayor herself.

What a difference a year makes. Jean Quan, who I have known for many years-sometimes argued (loudly) with, strategized and broken bread many times with, is now mayor of this wonderful little city.

Jean Quan and her family have a long history of fighting for peace, union rights, ethnic studies, and human rights. They come from immigrant stock and Jean developed her skills against the backdrop of a single mom who couldn’t speak English.

The new mayor spent much of her childhood in public libraries and attended a renowned public university. She had to obtain scholarships even to survive her college years; and then almost didn’t get her degree due to being jailed in defense of ethnic studies.

Last year after the Mehserle verdict was handed down, Jean was accused by the police department of preventing them from dispersing the crowd down the block from City Hall. She had stood arm-in-arm with Rebecca Kaplan to separate protestors from the police in an attempt to defuse the situation.

Now, while she is out-of-town, after a morning in which the police department destroyed the village in Frank Ogawa- Oscar Grant Plaza-tearing up posters, pulling down a library, and arts and crafts and first aid tents, while manhandling sleeping protestors- OPD is in control of our city. The chief just held a press conference with his staff and Council Member de la Fuente was the only elected representative present.

After a blue tornado hits Occupy Oakland

Where is the rest of our governing council? Why did the most hands-on mayor we’ve ever seen let this happen while she was out-of-town? Why did she entrust our city’s fate to a department that may soon be in federal receivership for its cavalier attitude toward human rights?

For those of us who’ve long loved this city, who’ve worked here, raised our kids here, even sent them to school here-we can’t stand aside much longer while the police and their union runs roughshod over our citizens- good, bad  and the rest- just-tryin’-to- make-it folks.

Children at play at Occupy Oakland

And for those of us who walked and phoned day after day for the mayor-to-be…. Well, let me back up–I’ll just speak for me. When I was young, I spent a lot of time demonstrating against a president who turns out to have been one of the best of our time. He brought us civil rights-long overdue, Medicare- the first installment of single payer healthcare and other additions to the New Deal first promised by Franklin Roosevelt.

But Lyndon Johnson chose to listen to his hawkish advisers and follow counsel that he seemed to have known in his heart, was wrong. The country went to war at home as well as abroad and Johnson left office in disgrace.

Maybe that is a false historical analogy-I hope it is. But I see a police department that is out-of-control, and tonight I see a city under martial law. Come home Jean, and take charge.

We were able to build a caring community during your grassroots campaign, so it is no surprise to me that people, young and old, came to City Hall to design and build a new way of life. Oakland has always been a center of activism and experimentation. Your administration needs to honor that hope and nurture that change or you will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

10 thoughts on “In a Season of Change– a Plea to Our New Mayor

  1. “Why did the most hands-on mayor we’ve ever seen let this happen while she was out-of-town? Why did she entrust our city’s fate to a department that may soon be in federal receivership for its cavalier attitude toward human rights?” This sounds like you don’t believe Mayor Quan is responsible for what happened because she was out of town. It doesn’t take her physical presence to be the one who decided the police should break up the protest.

  2. I think she deliberately left town for ‘plausible deniability’ reasons – so she could play both sides of the fence. Typical Jean Quan, I think.

  3. Or, how about the protestors follow the law? Leave the plaza after legal time expires; don’t camp there, don’t piss and shit in public, don’t graffiti our city, don’t destroy any chance of any business succeeding in the downtown area. I really can’t see this being all the police’s fault. I don’t want teargas or grenades either, but the protestors are not exactly staying peaceful all the time. They had ample time to dismantle their camp and chose not to. They chose to get violent as well as the police. It’s all escalation from both sides, and yes, I’m very tired of it. Can’t imagine if I happened to live downtown or anywhere near it, what a nightmare. I would love for all the protestors who do not live in Oakland (with a home or without) to go back to their actual own city and protest there. I’m guessing the protest size would drop dramatically. How is Berkeley escaping all this? Go ruin someone else’s town, you’ve done enough damage in Oakland.

    I’m not a business owner, I’m not a government worker, I’m not an “establishment” type. Just really failing to understand what point there is to these protests and why it would be worth destroying Oakland to get it across.

    • Let me get this straight: a population protests the extraction of its wealth by a hegemony of special interests that has helped shaped/removed the laws in order to effect that transfer of wealth, then gets beaten and gassed for exercising its right to assemble by the very law enforcement officers whose salaries it pays with its taxes, on a stage set by an MIA/complicit City Council, and your conclusion is that *the protestors* are doing the damage and destroying Oakland??(!) Is this an attempt at irony? This mob didn’t create itself. It’s here for a reason. You either get that reason or you don’t, agree with it or your don’t, but either way, it’s a bit too late to being crying foul. Wake the fuck up.

      • Why is it too late to be crying foul? I’m all for peaceful protest. It started out that way. Then the situation in the encampment no longer seemed very peaceful, unless every report was wrong and there were no beatings, no sexual assaults, no health hazards, etc. If all that was wrong, then hey, let Occupy Oakland camp till kingdom come and hopefully some good will come from it. But it just didn’t seem to be that way any more.
        And I don’t believe the police caused the situation to degenerate.

        I’m awake, but thanks so much for your advice. So very big of you to bestow some of your wisdom on us.

  4. I think the pressure for the Mayor to leave the police alone and let them do their job is a real one, but we have to hear from the Mayor too. Did she know the police were going to use tear gas, rubber bullets and beanbags? It’s interesting that Councilmember De La Fuentes was standing by Chief Jordan at the news conference about Occupy Oakland, but was City Council President Larry Reid there too? I thought he was, but maybe not. Where were Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan who stood with the Mayor at the Oscar Grant protest before or Desley Brooks who camped out with OO? They weren’t in the limelight this time. I understand that Councilmember De La Fuentes was publicly critical on TV of Mayor Quan while she was away when his interview was used for a story about her recall. I wonder if he is behind the recall along with others who would prefer it was Don Perata in charge? On the City Council, Councilmember De La Fuentes is the most supportive and vocal about strict law enforcement in Oakland.

  5. I agree with a lot of points made here:

    1. The mayor should have been here to stand behind her decision one way or the other. If she could not have been here, she should have communicated with the city of Oakland. Via her newsletter, twitter, facebook, phone call, tv interview, or another official written statement about last night.. SOMETHING. It is ridiculous that we have not heard from her. There is a joke going around twitter asking when she is going to post another picture on Facebook… as funny as that joke is..seriously even a photo explaining where she is at right now would be acceptable.

    2. Things were out of hand last night. Some people, who may or may not have been a part of Occupy Oakland threw bottles/paint or what not. However, there were others asking that they not provoke the police. Occupy Oakland is TRYING to be peaceful..that’s my understanding. However, I do agree that there needs to be better organization of what their purpose is..and some regulation as far as their occupation. I had hoped that the mayor would work with them on this latter concept. She said they were in constant communication with the occupiers..what happened to make their communications fall apart?

    Given all of that..I STILL think the tear gas, the rubber bullets, the bean bags..all of that was so unnecessary, regardless of what the police or De La Fuentes suggest. I am really disappointed in the police and the city for what occurred.

    3. Yes, where ARE the other council members? Seriously..do you think can NOT make some kind of statement after you were so willing to stand by the occupation when times were good?

    ..ok. Sorry for the rant. .. but this was a great post Pamela. 🙂

  6. Pingback: Occupy Oakland raided & dismantled by police this morning « Living in the O

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