A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Aftermath in Oakland

What a difference a day makes.On Wednesday night, I posted an update on Occupy Oakland, one of the most active of the various Occupy groups in the country. The group had just organized a very successful General Strike and march on the Port of Oakland. At the end of my post, I alluded to the presence of a small group of violent militants bent on property destruction and conflict with the police. I expressed a hope that they would not re-emerge in force later in the evening.Alas, it was not to be. The militants, who are apparently affiliated with a group known as the black bloc, came out in force Wednesday evening. The spark was the effort by a number of Occupy Oakland demonstrators to occupy a vacant office building. The occupation produced a very strong police response, including the use of beanbag rounds and tear gas. The conflict quickly became a street battle between masked militants and police in riot gear. The militants lit fires in trash cans, threw rocks at the police, and left graffiti on a number of surfaces. In the fracas, yet another military veteran, Kayvan Sabeghi, was seriously injured by the police.I was in downtown Oakland for a business meeting the next day and walked by the intersection of 14th and Broadway, the center of the occupation. The intersection looked awful, with many of the building walls now covered in graffiti. Many windows, particularly those of local bank branches, were boarded up. One story making the rounds today was about longtime Oakland resident and developer Paul Tagami, who pointed a loaded shotgun at militants trying to break into his building. Its sort of the universal dont come any farther sign, he told the Contra Costa Times.Many in the Occupy Oakland movement decried the violence and vandalism and a number have even volunteered their time to wash the graffiti off of buildings or to sweep up broken glass. But that has not protected the broader movement from an enormous public backlash. At a city council meeting last night, Mayor Jean Quan and many members of the City Council spoke in favor of the broad aims of the Occupy movement but raised serious concerns about the impact it was having on the city. While police resources have been concentrated downtown, police response times in the rest of the city have grown dramatically. The cost of police overtime is rising rapidly.The private sector is also being affected. Oakland has never been a destination city like New York or San Francisco. The small businesses in downtown often hang on by their fingernails. Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce who attended last nights council meeting claimed that a potential major downtown office tenant had decided not to come to Oakland because of the continued civic unrest there. My own company has had to shut its downtown offices twice over the last year and I can understand why a business not already committed to Oakland might wonder about the risks of locating here.The events of the last weeknot just here but across the nationsuggest the Occupy movement is at a crossroads. It has succeeded in putting economic inequality and the plight of working class Americans back on the nations political agenda. The success of Wednesdays general strike and march to the port suggests the movement has the potential for broadening beyond its current core of supporters. But if the encampments become an end rather than a means and if the movement cannot restrain the violent within its midst, it may ultimately do more harm than good to the cause for which it is ostensibly fighting.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

Agents provocateurs?


It's about time that the 99% of this 99% movement deal with the very few who are wrecking their efforts. If 80-100 out of about 7,000 were the actual vandals, there were more than enough non-vandals around who could have simply overwhelmed the few and shut them off and out.Until and unless the many take responsibility for the few that join them, they will continue to lose respect and support from those whose support is critical.And, yes, the mayor and police have been quite ineffective - in the main., November 4, 2011Tense Meeting Reveals Deep Divisions over Occupy OaklandCrowd boos police chief and business leaders; one City Council member worries about "collateral damage"

@unagidon -- Agents provocateurs? In the sense that the "black bloc" contingent does want to provoke a confrontation with the police, then, Yes. If you're wondering if "the man" is planting people in the crowd to incite them, then, No. If you go to any large protest in the Bay Area, you'll see a fringe of these "anarchists"; it just seems that their numbers here are encouraging them to act out. You can read the article from the San Francisco Chronicle. Despite the fires and the barricades and the vandalism, the police were restrained enough to not start tossing tear gas and flash-bangs until some idiot threw a bottle and hit an officer in the head. I don't see how there can be a good ending for an amorphous group that supposedly doesn't have leaders, doesn't have specific and articulable goals, won't communicate with local government, and can't control those amongst them who are committed to violence.

I was at Occupy Wall Street yesterday. I took my daughters down to see their older brother who was here with the Vermont Workers Center doing a "Teach-In" on health care reform. I think whatever it is that is going on is incredibly interesting. I assume there is a core of activists trying to hammer out an agenda, but there is something else happening that goes well beyond that. The" Big Red Thing" has become a sort of Speakers Corner, like in Hyde Park. In the couple of hours I was there, I saw a march kick off against gun violence, a march against the Fed, a march in support of health care reform, people converging to protest fracking, some random individuals opposed to the King of Thailand, anti-capital punishment and various other issues.A lot of us feel there is no place for our voices to be heard any more. The Occupy Movement is creating that space, giving a voice back to people who wish to have one.

If it's generally left of Atilla the Hun, this woman is agin it:

If you Google "G8 riots" or "G20 riots" you'll see that virtually every year there are violent protests and clashes with law enforcement whenever the economic elites gather. I chalk up whatever is happening in Oakland to more of the same. Former Mayor Giuliani is right. Occupy Wall Street protesters should have been arrested the very first night they violated whatever curfew laws are in place in that jurisdiction. City streets and parks are not domiciles, and occupying them is a violation of the use for which they were intended. Protesters have constitutional protection to gather or march to air their beefs, but they don't have an unlimited right to live in public thoroughfares and parks. I understand that they've turned the neighborhood into a living hell for the residents and small businesses.The contrast with the Tea Party movement is instructive.

"I understand that theyve turned the neighborhood into a living hell for the residents and small businesses."Not in NYC. The park being occupied is very small and there are no residences abutting the park- it is up the street from the WTC site, which makes a great deal more noise than the Occupation does. The residents are split over the occupation- some embrace it, some oppose it. Business and tourism goes on as usual. The filming of "Batman" this weekend was much more disruptive of life than the Occupiers. I would urge people to spend a few hours at the protest before judging it.Former Mayor Giuliani had always been extremely bad at dealing with communities and community groups. I would bet good money that if the City took his advice and arrested all of the protestors, the movement would snowball even more quickly than it is doing now.

Thanks, Irene. Giuliani, in the remarks I heard, also believed that city officials had missed their window of opportunity to follow his program of law enforcement, i.e. mass arrests aren't practical anymore.

Even though the protestors are protesting many things, that doesn't mean they'll have no effect. No doubt when a politician looks at a crowd what he sees are voters, and these voters are hoppn' mad. The polls show that a huge majority of Americans agree that the 99 and 1 percents have got to change, and I'm sure that the occupiers are effectively dramatizing that fact. (There's even an organization of some of the 1 percenters who are pushing for the tax system to be fairer.) So I expect some tax reform, partly because of them.And the occupiers also show that all sorts of people think they have all sorts of reasons to be disgusted with the pols. So the polls are faced with a huge "Shape up or you're out!" message. I daresay a goodly number of them will pay more attention than usual to their own constituents.

I heard talk yesterday of an outbreak of head lice in the Occupy Oakland protestors. Is this true?

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment