Jean Quan’s Groundhog Day

Her second raid on Occupy Oakland went off peacefully, unlike the first. But will the campers return?

The October 25 raid on Occupy Oakland was a textbook example of what not to do. First, Mayor Jean Quan and city officials gave into intense pressure from those who wanted the City Hall encampment cleared. Then they failed badly to make their case — especially to the city’s progressive community — as to why it needed to happen. Predictably, a massive backlash from the left ensued, and protesters marched on City Hall. City officials and the police department then compounded their mistakes by overreacting and showering the demonstrators with tear gas and other less-than-lethal weaponry.

But in the past few weeks, Quan apparently realized that she would have a Groundhog Day moment with Occupy Oakland, and may have figured out how to get it right the second time around — or at least not make some of the same mistakes twice.

Prior to Monday morning’s peaceful second raid on the encampment, Quan, her staff, city officials, and the mayor’s supporters worked hard to convince Occupy Oaklanders, particularly those inclined to nonviolence, to leave the encampment before police arrived. It worked. The camp gradually thinned out from a high of 185 tents to less than 100, and by the time cops descended on downtown in the early morning hours of November 14, City Hall plaza was basically abandoned.

Then, city crews — unlike after the first raid — worked quickly to clean up the plaza and reopened it the same day. The fast turnaround was key. It allowed Occupy Oakland protesters to come back to the plaza peacefully, and it helped the city to avoid another potentially violent clash with police, because officers didn’t have to worry about guarding the plaza in force.

As a result, there was no repeat of the October 25 melee. No one got shot in the face with a tear gas canister. There were no bottles thrown, and no stores vandalized. And there were no ugly videos of police clashing with protesters going viral on YouTube or making their way onto The Daily Show.

Yet even with the peaceful outcome of Monday’s events, don’t expect the mayor’s critics to give her any credit, especially the law-and-order crowd who harangued her in the past few weeks for not cracking down on the encampment sooner. Indeed, many of them in the past few days have praised City Administrator Deanna Santana and Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan for Monday’s peaceful raid, even though the two also had made serious mistakes on October 25.

And don’t expect Quan to regain her standing with Oakland’s progressive community any time soon, either. Her longtime close friend and legal advisor Dan Siegel made that clear when he resigned prior to Monday’s raid. Many progressives believe that Quan was wrong to clear the encampment again — although they seem less angry this time around.

What remains unclear, however, is whether the Occupy Oaklanders will return in force to the plaza to pitch their tents again. Quan said Monday that police would take tents down if they’re erected. “We’ll keep removing tents … like other cities have done,” she told the Express. “We’ll take them down as soon as we can.”

But if the protesters are insistent, this approach could result in a cat-and-mouse game that might go on for weeks. And if that were to happen, then Monday’s second raid may eventually be viewed as having been a waste of time and money. The raid itself is expected to cost up to $500,000 in outside police help alone, pushing the total costs of the city’s response to Occupy Oakland to more than $2.4 million.

But as of Tuesday, it wasn’t clear how determined the protesters were about reoccupying the plaza. Some demonstrators say they intend to do so. Others have moved to the nearby Snow Park encampment, which has become known for being peaceful. And still others have urged for the occupation of abandoned buildings.

This fracturing of Occupy Oakland seemed to begin when the City Hall encampment refused to condemn violence or expel those who engaged in so-called “Black Bloc” tactics after the massive and mostly peaceful general strike on November 2. In fact, Monday’s peaceful clearing of City Hall may have been an indicator of not just Quan and city officials learning from their mistakes, but of a growing divide within Occupy Oakland in which many protesters want nothing to do with vandalism and violence.

Three-Dot Roundup

In addition to Siegel, Sharon Cornu — one of Quan’s deputy mayors — resigned on Monday, saying she felt she was no longer effective inside City Hall. … UC Berkeley police and officers from other departments beat protesters with batons last week in order to stop them from establishing an Occupy Cal encampment. The over-the-top police response drew immediate outrage, even from police tactics experts, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. … Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, who suffered a fractured skull when police shot a less-than-lethal weapon at him on October 25, was released from the hospital on Monday, the Chronicle reported. … A Sacramento Bee investigation found that a key inspector on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge routinely falsified structural test results. Caltrans fired the inspector and his supervisor, and the agency maintains that the new span will be safe when it opens in 2013. … California cities and counties can ban medical cannabis dispensaries, a state appellate court ruled, the Los Angeles Times reported. … Congress appears to be poised to pass a law that would allow states to force online retailers like to charge sales taxes to their customers throughout the nation, the LA Times reported. … The Obama administration has decided to put off making a final ruling until late 2012 on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring dirty tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. … And BART has transferred embattled spokesman Linton Johnson to a new job within the agency, the Chronicle reported. Johnson came under intense fire after he convinced BART to kill cellphone service in August to disrupt a planned protest.


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