Frank Ogawa Plaza Is 100 Percent Free of the 99 Percent

Categories: Occupy Bay Area
Erin Sherbert
After the Monday morning raid on Occupy Oakland, the city's downtown plaza is open to all the other taxpayers who want to use it -- finally. Much to the relief of Mayor Jean Quan, who is still facing nonstop criticism and a potential recall, no squatters came back to pitch a tent last night on Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Instead, some 500 or so protesters met peacefully at the plaza for a general assembly last night; they talked about plans for helping to reestablish the Occupy camp in Berkeley as well as another citywide strike on Nov. 19.

That's not to say Oakland isn't still reeling from the effects of the five-week occupation, which resulted in two police raids, declining business, and a shooting death near the camp.

Just looking at Monday's raid alone: Oakland crews reportedly cleared out 27.8 tons of debris and 8.2 tons of green waste from the former camp site. Monday's operation will cost Oakland -- a city that recently laid off part of its police force -- as much as $500,000. City officials say they will have to dip into Oakland's reserves to pay the bill. So while the protesters' demands for the city were unclear, their demands on the city were all too clear.

While Quan is far from blameless, she issued a statement after yesterday's raid that sums up just how ineffective Occupy Oakland had become:

The encampment has been a tremendous drain on our city. During one of the recent demonstrations, we had 179 public safety calls for service that went unanswered because of the demonstrations downtown. We've had increased drug dealing, sexual assaults -- all of this was occurring in a one-square block encampment. For weeks now we've been trying to meet with the organizers of the encampment and there is no clear agenda or demands. We remain one of the only cities that has not had a representative committee to work with. Our community's already strained resources -- our police, our public works and other city services -- have been pulled away from serving Oakland residents who ARE the 99%.
In total, the city has spent $2.4 million responding to Occupy Oakland since the first tent was pitched. What a waste of money for a city that's been a true victim of the financial crisis in which squatters proclaim to be protesting.

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With an Un-Occupied Oakland plaza will the economy suddenly flourish in downtown Oakland? Absolutely not. It has been a ghost town for years and many shop owners have seen business increase with the attention from the Occupy to the area. That is first hand information from store owners themselves that is not shared by the Chamber of Commerce which boasts mostly banks as their membership. Furthermore the violence that occurred this past Thursday (I was there), was unrelated to Occupy Oakland's politics or people. That kind of violence between young black men happens daily in Oakland an does not receive massive attention from the city, the mayor, the police or the news and their helicopters unless its next to a national spotlight. The "Oscar Grant" / Frank Ogawa plaza and the surrounding area at 14th and Broadway in fact was much shadier and more dangerous before the Occupy because there was not many people out there and when you walked thru it at night you felt very unsafe. The only people Occupying it then were goons. As for the budget costs and the police force in general, think about first of all who the Oakland police force is mostly made up of? Mostly men that do not live in Oakland. They only come to work in Oakland as a militarized force and many make fairly large amounts of overtime pay in these situations (100k to 150k in some cases). Also, many of the police force used to confront OO protesters were brought in from other cities (Concord, Belmont, Alameda, Colma, etc). These mercenary styled forces from unfamiliar, outside areas make for an even more dangerous situation and a waste in local and state tax dollars. The city of Oakland shutdown 5 schools to save $2million the same week they spent almost $1million tear gassing its own citizens. These kids will now be absorbed into pre-existing classrooms putting more strain on Oakland teachers that already have a very tough job. Furthermore, if you actually spoke to Oaklanders they would tell you that Jean Quan's decision to confront OO protesters in a militarized fashion with an overwhelming amount of reckless force is just a small taste of how Oaklanders feel every day in other parts of the city like East Oakland. Scott Olsen, the war vet and protester that was almost killed by the OPD experienced this first hand. While I understand people's misunderstanding of what "Occupy" is all about and why their view of the movement is clouded by the mainstream media's cursory coverage of the overall situation, to place blame on Occupiers for Oakland's outrageous and costly response and to portray the removal of the camp as some sort of ray of hope or step in the right direction is very careless and unexamined. This is the same kind of narrow journalism that was practiced during the General Strike when 20,000 people peaceably assembled and shut down the Port of Oakland (which doesn't pay taxes) as a statement of people power and yet the media latched on to a few fringe folks that were not from Oakland that vandalized a few banks. These fringe people that do not speak for the overall Occupy movement were also shouted down and physically confronted by protesters in the march. Moreover the main reason why its dangerous to be dismissive of Occupy in Oakland is its undoubtedly powerful nature in which it has started to bring together community members who want to make positive changes. The people who I have met (dosens if not hundreds) at Occupy Oakland, have been citizens that want to improve/fix Oakland (not just Wall Street) and no longer entrust their city government or police to do so. This is why you are seeing (if you are paying genuine attention) movements/groups/concepts like "Occupy the Hood" and "Occupy the Classroom" sprout from OO. This is only the beginning. People that dismiss it without honest examination will be on the wrong side of History. 


So much for the myth of freedom in America.


In total, the city has spent $2.4 million responding to Occupy Oakland since the first tent was pitched.Mayor Quan could have spent $0.  It was her choice to waste taxpayer dollars to fight off a peaceful protest.  I think the voters will know what to do.

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