Oakland police broke up the Occupy Oakland encampment Tuesday morning in front of City Hall, arresting protesters, removing their belongings, and erecting barricades. Mayor Jean Quan said that city officials decided to bring the two-week protest to an end because of health and public safety concerns. The raid began just before 5 a.m., and included hundreds of police officers from numerous jurisdictions, many of them in riot gear. The mayor said that City Hall plaza would reopen after it was cleaned up and would be available as a place for protesting, but not for overnight camping.
The decision to clear the camp marked a turnaround for the Quan administration. Early on, it had been generally supportive of the protest, and voiced agreement with the Occupy Movement’s goals of shining a light on income equality nationwide. Occupy camps have sprung up throughout the country. But in many cities, including San Francisco, authorities have repeatedly broke up the encampments, and the occupiers have not been welcomed.
The situation in Oakland took a similar turn last week following reports of violence and sanitation problems at the camp directly in front of City Hall. Right-wing media outlets quickly jumped on Occupy Oakland, contending that it is a poster-child for what is wrong with the Occupy Movement, Mother Jones reported. Right-wing provocateur and noted birther, Andrew Breitbart, led the charge, using local news reports to paint Occupy Oakland as being plagued by “rat-infested squalor with complaints of vandalism, public urination, sexual harassment, and sex in public.” Other conservative outlets portrayed it as “Lord of the Flies.”
By Thursday night, City Administrator Deanna Santana had decided to issue an eviction notice to protesters, citing increasing problems with violence at the sit-in, along with fire hazards, sanitation issues, a growing rat problem, and graffiti. Still, it was unclear when the city was going to enforce the eviction notice. On Saturday, police even decided to assist Occupy Oakland protesters as they marched through city streets for several hours. The march forced the closure of many streets, but was generally peaceful.
Then by Monday, Quan and Santana had decided that the overnight camping needed to stop. “They can certainly exercise their free speech rights from six in the morning to ten at night,” the mayor told KGO-TV. “But at night we had people who were hurt, that we were not allowed to treat and we had, you know, several criminal activities. … And so it was clear that we had to close it down over the weekend.”
However, after the police action and mass arrests, many protesters vowed to return.
Quan Critics Launch Recall
Critics of the mayor, meanwhile, filed a notice on Monday of their intent to try to recall her from office. Signers of the recall petition included several Oakland black leaders who are angry that the mayor did not reappoint Port Commissioner Margaret Gordon, a black progressive from West Oakland. Other signers included residents who contend that Quan hasn’t done enough to fight crime, and are upset that she did not embrace proposals for more gang injunctions and a youth curfew. Interestingly, many of the black leaders who signed the petition oppose the gang injunctions and curfew. The petitioners have 160 days to gather about 20,000 signatures from registered Oakland voters to force a recall election.
Edgerly Loses Suit
Ex-Oakland City Administrator Deborah Edgerly lost her wrongful termination suit against the city when a jury decided on Monday that her claim that she was fired because she is a woman was baseless. The jury took only about forty minutes to decide the case. Ex-Mayor Ron Dellums, who fired Edgerly, testified last week that he terminated her, not because of her gender, but because she reneged on a deal to resign quietly after being caught up in a scandal involving her nephew, who was also a city employee, the San Francisco Chronicle and Oakland Tribune reported.
Rape Charges Dismissed
Judge Thomas T. Hastings dismissed rape charges filed against Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Michael Gressett after the California Attorney General failed to put vital information before the grand jury that indicted Gressett, including that the alleged victim —Holly Harpham — had received a $450,000 settlement from the county.
The case made huge headlines in May 2009 when the DA announced that Gressett had been arrested for the violent rape of a contract deputy DA — Harpham, who has only been referred to as “Jane Doe” in the press. But the case had problems right away. The DA had waited more than four months to begin investigating the charges and the investigation was riddled with conflict of interest issues. Harpham, now a public defender in Florida, repeatedly changed her account of the assault, which involved a gun, an ice pick, ice cubes, and handcuffs. Harpham also did not have any medical evidence that supported her claims of a particularly violent assault. And fifteen minutes after the alleged attack, she went shopping with a co-worker.
The Oakland City Council approved a funding plan that would direct most Measure I funds to the police department if it’s passed by voters during the current mail-in-ballot election, the Chronicle reported. … The Oakland Tribune may not change its name to the East Bay Tribune after all, the Chronicle reported. Company officials said they got plenty of feedback about the planned change, and presumably most of it was negative. However, the Trib‘s parent company, Bay Area News Group, still plans to lay off forty people from its news operations on November 1. …The California Air Resources Board unanimously adopted cap-and-trade regulations, making California the first in the nation to do so. … Gun lovers, toting rifles and shotguns, descended on San Leandro over the weekend to protest a new state law that makes it illegal to carry unloaded handguns in public, the Contra Costa Times reported. … Nonprofit hospitals in the East Bay are doing little to help low-income people even though they get huge tax breaks to care for the poor and uninsured, the CoCo Times reported. … The California Supreme Court will take up Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to kill redevelopment in the state on November 8, the San Jose Mercury News reported. … And rents in the Bay Area are rising sharply because of increased demand as more homeowners continue to lose their houses to foreclosure, the CoCo Times reported.