Occupy Oakland Protesters Aren't Damaging the City—The Mayor Is
On October 25, the city of Oakland attempted to push out Occupy Oakland protesters from their camp after weeks of peaceful protest. Police struck them with rubber bullets and tear gas. Two prostesters, both veterans of the war in Iraq, were sent to the intensive care unit after altercations with police. But according to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, it's the demonstrators who are the problem.
At an emergency city council meeting late last week, Quan—once considered a progressive hero—cataloged the ways in which Occupy Oakland has hurt the city: businesses near the protest site are closing; jobs have been lost; and the city has been forced to spend money it doesn't have dealing with the logistics of hosting overnight campers outside City Hall. Most speciously, Quan argued that protesters are endangering their fellow residents by diverting police resources, an effort Quan says has already cost the city more than $700,000 in overtime pay.
That sounds like an excellent justification for shutting down or relocating the protests—until you remember that nothing about Occupy Oakland has demanded that costly police presence. Actually, the protests were uneventful until officers showed up in riot gear on October 25. A small group of troublemakers did smash windows and tag walls last week, but they were a tiny fraction of Occupy participants, and protest organizers denounced their actions. Marine Scott Olsen didn't do anything to require an overzealous cop to shoot him with a rubber bullet and fracture his skull. Army Ranger Kayvan Sabeghi didn't want taxpayer money to pay time-and-a-half to the officers who beat him with batons until his spleen burst. The video above makes clear that Scott Campbell wasn't asking to be shot with a projectile while calmly filming footage.
No, citizens protesting gross economic inequity aren't hurting Oakland. Quan's hostility toward nonviolent demonstrations—and the Oakland Police Department's insistence on attacking its own citizens—are doing that all by themselves.