To no one’s great shock, the city of Oakland once again finds itself sick of the Occupy protests, after watching them riot through the streets and shut down one of the busiest ports in the nation for several hours. Unfortunately, they may not have many options in doing so, which is probably one reason why the city council deliberations stalled on whether to act:
A majority of the Oakland City Council indicated late Thursday that they would like an end to the Occupy Oakland encampment in front of City Hall, but they did not vote on any proposals.
The statements came at the end of a five-hour meeting during which hundreds of people crammed into the council chambers for an emotionally charged discussion about whether to allow the encampment to remain at Frank Ogawa Plaza with city support. Several times, the rowdy crowd shouted down city officials as they tried to speak.
But after hearing from speakers who support the camp and others who said it hurts the city, Councilwoman Desley Brooks, a strong supporter of the camp, expressed reservations.
“I believe and understand the lack of hope and pain and frustration that people are feeling,” said Brooks, who represents the East Oakland and who had camped with protesters for the first two nights and had been a regular visitor. “But I have been extremely troubled by how far do we allow your rights to go and infringe on other people’s rights.”
Let’s say they decide to clear out Ogawa Plaza again. Who will they call to get the job done? They’ll probably first call the police, who will listen politely — and then likely decline. The police already cleared Ogawa Plaza once, only to have Mayor Jean Quan stab them in the back by endorsing the re-occupation. Don’t expect the police union to cheer when those orders come, and I’d bet more than a few police officers might absent themselves from any re-clearing operation. They’re not going to be anxious to risk their lives and a slew of brutality complaints just to see Quan cheer the return of the mobs once again.
I’d guess that the next clearing operation will require the National Guard. Meanwhile, some of Oakland’s citizens are realizing that they have to be their own guard as the city council fiddles:
Oakland developer Phil Tagami is used to working behind the scenes to broker some of the biggest deals in town. Late Wednesday, he was using different persuasive skills – holding a loaded shotgun to scare away rioters trying to get into a downtown building.
“We had people who were attempted to break into our building,” the landmark Rotunda Building on Frank Ogawa Plaza outside City Hall, Tagami said Thursday. He grabbed a shotgun that he usually keeps at home, went down to the ground floor and “discouraged them,” he said.
“I was standing there and they saw me there, and I lifted it – I didn’t point it – I just held it in my hands,” Tagami said. “And I just racked it, and they ran.”
Although they didn’t get inside the building – Tagami, 46, oversaw its $50 million renovation and has an office there – vandals did scrawl graffiti on the outside walls during the post-midnight riot that broke out after Occupy Oakland’s daylong general strike.
When doing research on a report for my college course in Afro-American Studies — yes, I took that class and got an A — I came across a very similar story from the Watts riots in Los Angeles, reported by the LA Times as part of a retrospective years later. One shop owner, an African-American man who must have been in his 30s at the time, saw the mob marching up the street, setting fires and smashing windows. He went back into his store and got his shotgun. Men burst into his store and told him, “We’re looking for whitey.” The owner racked a shell and told them, “You won’t find him here.” He stood guard for 72 hours without any sleep, and his was one of the few stores left mainly undamaged in the riot. It was a fascinating article, and in fact the entire LA Times retrospective on the Watts riots was excellent (I believe it appeared in 1982), but it impressed upon me at a young age that the police cannot protect all individuals at all times.
In the end, it took the National Guard to contain the riots in Watts. And that was without having the mayor of the city cheering on the mob. Best of luck to you, Oakland, because you’re going to need it.
Meanwhile, Steven Crowder went to the other coast to visit Occupy Wall Street. Guess who he bumped into out there?
I can’t wait to see how this turns out on Monday.