Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Occupy Oakland: The Sting Of Betrayal

Just a couple of quick quotes from people in the region about the recent police overreaction in Oakland, California to Occupy Oakland protests there. The first is from California native Dusty from Left Wing Nut Job:
The Colorlines article is a comprehensive look at the decades-long history of violence, murder and brutality committed against it’s citizens under the protection of a Police Badge in Oakland. As a CA resident and native, I am familiar with many of the incidents described in their piece.I only cite, for brevity, half of the article.
The biggest irony? The mayor of Oakland, Jean Quan came out in support of the OPD after they brutalized the occupiers in Oakland, critically injuring the Iraqi War veteran Scott Olson. This [woman] must have a short memory as she too was brutalized by the OPD in a protest after the BART officer murdered Oscar Grant a short few years ago.

Oakland PD has a history of brutality, so why the surprise?
I added that last link, which describes the history of Jean Quan and the Oscar Grant shooting, which is a very recent example of how accountability for police misuse of force generally goes. The other links are from the original.

Meanwhile, former Oakland resident Janet Rhodes describes what it's like to be in the area when the police decide to assert their authoritay:
I’ve gotta hand it to you, Mayor Quan, you wasted no time. As soon as you realized, to your horror, that Oakland’s city hall was located in downtown Oakland (public urination, incidents of violence, people without homes sleeping out of doors), you launched right into redecorating. By the way, love what you’ve done with the Darth Vader look.

My husband and I went to Oakland to attend the rally on Tuesday. We were walking back to our car at 5:30. As we rounded a corner, there they were, the Oakland police in riot gear, standing shoulder to shoulder behind a barricade, completely blocking the street between us and our car.

Caption: Oakland police in riot gear, Oct. 25, 2011

Image credit: Oakland Local/Flickr

And when I say riot gear, I mean head-to-toe: black helmets, body armor, face shields down, and assuming a stance that those training manuals probably refer to as combat-ready. Each officer stood with feet braced wide apart and his baton in both hands.

Oakland: This is what a police state looks like
As someone who spent a good deal of time in Korea back in the day, I know what it feels like to be surrounded by riot police. It's not pleasant, and I only got there after the riots were over. Janet Rhodes' imagery brings back a few unpleasant memories.

If there's anything positive about this situation, it's that Ghandi's notion that peaceful protests being met with brutality seldom works out well for the brutalizers may be true. Zennie Abraham, a local columnist for the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle writes:
This video is of a number of conversations with people who were protesting on Tuesday night and who were on the re-opened Oakland City Hall Plaza on Thursday night. The basic consensus was that Oakland Mayor Jean Quan over-reacted, but that’s old news now.

As for Mayor Quan, a number of people around town are calling for her to resign. The noise calling for that is much louder than even I anticipated it would be.

Saturday, October 29, 2011 Occupy Oakland: Many Views Of A Wild Week
I think it's going to get a lot louder, unless Mayor Quan changes course quickly. She committed a serious political error by blaming this on one of her subordinates, who was neither fired nor disciplined in any noticeable way for those missteps, as Zennie Abraham wrote in an earlier column:
Regardless of what Quan tells you, it’s her call. What’s awful is to hide behind the actions of Chief Administrative Officer Deanna Santana and allow the idea that she was ‘in Washington” and didn’t know about the police action’ to get out is not the truth. But that’s the word – and one person close to Quan claims that Santana kept certain information away from Quan.

But, as another friend rightly said last night, “Do you think Quan would let Santana remain in her job if that was the case? She’s hiding behind Santana.”

All of this points to two words: failed leadership. Quan’s an activist at heart who’s growing into the position of Mayor of Oakland and at the worst time one could possibly select: in the middle of a set of economic disruptions and cultural divisions that have conspired to give rise to all kinds of movements and culture wars in America.

I see no reason to go lightly on Mayor Quan for this. If she is really an activist and someone who is a progressive at heart, what she has done is both wrong-headed and likely to make things worse for all concerned, rather than better. It's worse when your friends betray you, not better.

Plus, as Abraham noted, blaming a subordinate for this problem really does show lack of leadership. Whatever she does next, if she's going to earn anyone's trust outside of the powerful in Oakland, she needs to own up to this being her fault.

If I were a progressive citizen of Oakland right now, I don't think I'd be inclined to cut Mayor Quan any slack for this. She sent the police to brutalize people whose worst crime was trespassing, and then tried to excuse her behavior in a way that does nothing to help her credibility. She needs to own up to her mistakes, and ensure that a full, and effective, investigation is done into the behavior of her police department during these incidents is performed. If she refuses, then recalling her is not just a good idea, it's essential.

She also needs to communicate directly with the Occupy Oakload movement, not send the police to beat them up when they become troublesome.

Betrayal of progressive principles by Democrats can no longer be tolerated. Progressives need to learn to demand that their politicians live by those principles, if they are ever to mean something again in this country.


One Fly said...

Thanks for this Cujo. I'd bet plenty these city mayors around the country receive unsolicited input from our leaders in DC.

Cujo359 said...

If you mean that she probably received some encouragement from the national Democratic Party, yes, I wouldn't be surprised. She needs to know how this is playing out here in the rest of the country, including The Other Washington (tm).

As part of a general trend on the part of Democrats to betray the people who put them into office, it's especially troubling. From her background, it looks as though Jean Quan should have known better than to do this, and yet she did.

Expat said...

As contact with the U.S. is tenuous at best and having no desire to return to some homeland that never existed when I did live there, some things gain clarity and perspective through distance in time and culture.

One is there is no Democratic Party, what masquerades as that political party has become fraudulent, bearing no resemblance to the original FDR coalition. No one claiming to be Democratic, holding office should be returned without complete scrutiny of all their public positions as well as sources of funding, turning all their private rocks to see what will crawl out. No consideration should ever be given any self-styled Republican to hold public office, for forty years they have proven themselves incompetent to open the door for a real politician let alone be one.

Second is the widespread corruption is being protected by the demagogic purveyors of fear; the Department of Homeland security. These are the folks militarizing the police, turning the police into politically compliant borg, tasked with overriding and denying the citizen their constitutional rights through thuggery and infliction of violence. These are the people who need to be removed and held accountable for their policies.

Third is to remove all consent to the economic stranglehold of monopolies, banks, financial institutions and purveyors of merchandise who have drained the economic activity and plundered the public treasury. Those communication conglomerates which have violated the privacy of every citizen without cause should be made to account for each and every transgression otherwise they be terminated with prejudice, their harm brought to an end.

The public needs to regain control of the courts and the legal system. The one in place is corrupted to its core. Cleaning house begins with the Supreme Court, whose present members, in justice, should be taken to a wall and experience a Ceausescu moment. So too should all followers of the Heritage foundation as well. Once infected with their rabid ideology, there is no cure and liquidation offers the only safety to the public.

A decision must be forced, either be a citizen with suffrage, or be religious with protected rights, you don't get both. The founders had the test of rationality incorporated in their requirement of property to exercise political suffrage. The investment of blood in the Civil War broadened that suffrage democratically, ultimately to universality. As long as there were living memories of that crisis, that worked. Once amnesia of historical origins set in through the intentional destruction of the educational system, those generations became plastic to be shaped to the whims of propaganda and marketing. This needs be undone with the utmost urgency.

There is more, but above is long enough.

Cujo359 said...

About the Democratic Party, agreed.

On the matter of DH(i)S, I think the situation is a bit more complicated. Police have been becoming more militarized and isolated from their communities since the 1960s, maybe longer. The first thing that did it was the increased use of patrol cars, as opposed to beat cops who actually visited the neighborhoods they watched. They became more like reserve forces - called in when things were already out of hand. "Tactical" teams, infamous for starting the Detroit riots, thanks to their gross violations of citizens' rights (mainly minorities), were a way of applying even more force to a situation. Tactical teams morphed into SWAT teams, with bigger weapons and more armor. All that happened before DHS.

Police departments are also infamous for protecting their own misbehaving members, rather than firing or prosecuting them when they go too far. That's another thing that's been going on for some time. Just ask Frank Serpico.

Maybe DH(i)S has something to do with all that nowadays, but there has been plenty of motivation over time.

Reducing the economic power of financial institutions is paramount. I think it is one of the prime motivators of the Occupy movements, whether they know it or not. It has distorted politics both here and in Europe. That much is clear from what little attention I've paid to the Eurozone's financial mess.

And yes, there must be a realization that being a citizen trumps having one's religious beliefs "protected", which is to say making the rest of us at least live by them whether we want to or not. If that's what you mean, then yes, all too true.