So remember when you were a kid and learned the longest word in the dictionary? It was antidisestablishmentarianism. I don’t think I ever had a clue what it meant, but I looked it up recently and it had to do with a 19th Century movement to get rid of the Church of England as the official church in England, Ireland and Wales. But now I’ve come up with a longer word that I think is applicable to the Occupy Oakland “movement.” It encompasses so many beliefs and causes that it is basically just unfocused anti-establishment mania, with a lot of totalitarian hypocrisy built in. Like how they’re all “right to free speech,” but then try to restrict their message by forcing the media to “register” at some special tent. And shout down and boo Mayor Quan to prevent her from speaking at their “General Assembly.” And how they’re all for “equality” unless you happen to be a police officer, or a rich person. Then you’re just “pigs” and should just “die.” How they’re all about “peace” and “nonviolence” and then march through the streets chanting, “We are Lovell Mixon” (the rapist who shot and killed four Oakland police officers.). http://oaklandlocal.com/article/occupy-oakland-saturday-night-march-takes-it-%E2%80%98-hood%E2%80%99-mostly-avoids-confrontation-ongoing-ana
Well, these “Occupiers” have really pissed me off, for a whole variety of reasons, and I’ve got a lot to say. As you may know, there is a City Council meeting on Thursday to discuss the whole situation, and I, as well as many others, have no interest in listening to or being around a bunch of (mostly) uninformed, immature anarchists, communists, homeless and/or mentally ill people, cop haters and Alex Supertramps ranting and raving about their “rights” to “decolonize public property,” take over Frank Ogawa Plaza and turn it into their personal garbage dump and litter box. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/10/28/BANB1LNK52.DTL
So instead, here’s my open letter to the Council and other City officials, which I will be forwarding to them. (Note that this is the third email I will have sent them on this topic). I urge all of you who have an opinion on this to do the same. Our current system, riddled with faults as it is, is still better than the Occupiers‘.
Dear Oakland Officials:
As you are aware, from the beginning of the Occupy Oakland encampment, I urged you to act quickly to enforce the law and not allow the campers to remain. I warned you of the clearly dangerous conditions that existed and were increasing at the "camp." I specifically stated that the longer you allowed this to continue, the harder and more dangerous it would be to get these people to leave. Had you taken the approach by many other cities, and prevented the people from staying overnight in the first place, none of this would be happening. I warned you of the inevitable claims of personal injury and police brutality, and negative publicity when enforcement finally arrived. I warned of the escalating costs.
But Mayor Quan delayed, and the campers became more emboldened. And when the City finally did take action, it appeared none of the concerns about lawsuits, injuries, police brutality claims, or negative publicity were taken into consideration. The actions of last Tuesday backfired on the City, its citizens, its business owners and its reputation worse than anyone apparently imagined. I don’t pretend to be an expert on protestor psychology, but surely that should have been taken into consideration before planning the actions, in the same way that psychology is necessary to negotiate with hostage takers and the like. Moreover, if Oakland is legally precluded from using tear gas or non-lethal projectiles, how could it be that other agencies were not informed of these restrictions?
But then to make matters even worse, the Mayor followed up on her poorly orchestrated police action with a complete reversal of strategy, showing an utter lack of leadership. If Mayor Quan, the City Administrator’s Office and the Police Chief felt a massive police presence was required to quell the disturbance and enforce the law, then so be it. That decision needed to be defended both before and after the actions taken. But instead, our wishy-washy Mayor, influenced by an angry mob made up largely of anarchists, communists, non-Oaklanders, homeless and mentally ill people, rather than the actual constituency, decided to let the Occupiers put their tents right back up where they were before, with impunity. So now we have umpteen potential tort claims against the City, a seriously injured veteran, a massively damaged reputation world-wide, local businesses on the brink, and a tab for likely over $1 million, and it was all for NOTHING? Are you kidding me?
By allowing the Occupiers to put back their tents, the City administration entirely lost its credibility. It issued eviction notices and warnings, and cleared them out, and now they’re back, with no consequences. Any parent will tell you that this approach is counterproductive. Just how do you expect to get a handle on the situation now?
So, I guess that’s where I suppose you’re at with this Council meeting. A choice between making them leave again, or doing nothing, and letting them stay. I just want to put in my two cents and reiterate my request that you make them leave. And by leave, I mean, follow all applicable City ordinances. So if they want to protest and exercise their free speech rights during the day, and read the Communist Manifesto non-stop from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., of course they should be able to do that. But no more tents, overnight camping, improvised soup kitchens and all night bongo drum and pot parties. Why? Because that is not protected speech! As the U.S. Supreme Court held in 1984, in Clark v. Community for Non Violence (1984) 468 U.S. 288, camping is not speech. It is not protected by the First Amendment. And had the City administration made this clear to the campers and the press and the community from the outset, perhaps we would not be where we are today. But instead, there was way too much talk about acknowledging “free speech” rights, when this was never even the issue. Particularly given the fact that had the “speech” been to support the Tea Party, the recall of Jean Quan, or some other cause traditionally “progressive” Oakland leaders don’t think kindly of, the protesters would have been cited and removed faster than Sanjiv Handa can say “East Bay News Service.”
The restrictions at issue here, regarding camping, noise, health and safety, were all fully enforceable by the City, and should have been enforced from the get-go. As Willie Brown opined in his column earlier today, when you let one tent stay, it soon becomes two, then five, then 10, and before you know it, it looks like a refugee camp meets Burning Man. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/10/30/BAE41LNOTT.DTL
It becomes an area most people don’t want to come to. It drives away customers for small businesses. It drives away potential business that might want to move in. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/10/28/MN951LNTGB.DTL
It in turn reduces our tax base, and makes the City that much poorer. And that’s not even mentioning the ongoing threats to public health and safety that will only multiply, creating more potential liability and further damaging Oakland’s reputation. In short, it is a terrible, terrible strategy for the long-term welfare of our City.
Moreover, it is an insult and a total slap in the face to all of the law-abiding citizens of Oakland. When we stay an extra minute in a metered parking space, we get slapped with an $80 fine. Which we pay. And as you are undoubtedly aware from the scathing Grand Jury report, when homeowners on the brink of foreclosure leave a few toys strewn in their yard, they get cited for blight and a lien for thousands of dollars is slapped on their house. Is that “fair?” Is that “equality?” No, it is not. The law is the law. You were elected you to enact the laws, and you were elected you to enforce the laws. And those laws need to be enforced regardless of whether the violators are rich or poor, black or white, young or old, Republican or Democrat, from East Oakland or the Hills. Regardless of whether the laws involve parking violations, blight in somebody’s yard, or blight in front of City Hall. If you want to support the value of equality and equal enforcement of the law, the campers must go. How you make that happen, I leave up to you. That’s why you have this job.