In an open letter to the citizens of Oakland issued by the Oakland Police Officer’s Association Tuesday, Oakland police assured the embattled city’s residents that they too are part of “the 99%” of working class Americans, while criticizing Oakland Mayor Jean Quan for sending “mixed messages” to the city.
The letter came just ahead of a general strike to take place in Oakland Wednesday as a means for Oakland police to reach out to the community, express the Oakland Police Officer Association’s solidarity with frustrated working class Americans, and strongly criticize the city’s mayor for allowing protesters to return to Frank Ogawa Plaza the day after ordering Oakland police to forcibly clear out Occupy protesters in what became a globally publicized and widely controversial move.
The Oakland police wrote:
‘On Tuesday, October 25th, we were ordered by Mayor Quan to clear out the encampments at Frank Ogawa Plaza and to keep protesters out of the Plaza. We performed the job that the Mayor’s Administration asked us to do, being fully aware that past protests in Oakland have resulted in rioting, violence and destruction of property.
Then, on Wednesday, October 26th, the Mayor allowed protesters back in – to camp out at the very place they were evacuated from the day before.
To add to the confusion, the Administration issued a memo on Friday, October 28th to all City workers in support of the “Stop Work” strike scheduled for Wednesday, giving all employees, except for police officers, permission to take the day off.’
But this isn’t the first flip-flop from Mayor Quan on the matter of Occupy Oakland and its encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza. For the entire two weeks leading up to the forceful police eviction, Occupy protesters were peacefully camped out on the plaza because the mayor gave them permission to be there, suspending the law that would normally prohibit such a gathering, expressing support for the Occupy movement’s frustration and proclaiming that sometimes “democracy is messy.”
Regardless of one’s personal agreement or disagreement with the politics of the Occupy protesters, it’s hard not to sympathize with a group of people who believed they had legal permission from their city’s mayor to camp out on that plaza, when suddenly in the very early morning hours, they awaken to the sounds of 500 militarized police in full riot gear announcing over loudspeakers that they will be using chemical agents to disperse any protesters who don’t leave immediately.
Then after the chaos and carnage of that day’s eviction– which included a nasty head wound inflicted on an Iraq War veteran by what was likely an intentionally-aimed tear gas canister– the city’s mayor immediately reverted to damage control mode in reaction to all of the negative global publicity and outrage, allowing the protesters to return the following day. To make matters worse, the city is officially endorsing Wednesday’s strike for city employees– except for police, who are forbidden by California law to strike– prompting the Oakland police to ask in their letter:
“Is it the City’s intention to have City employees on both sides of a skirmish line?”
The flip-flopping, the contradictory actions, the mixed-signals, the back-tracking, the ill-conceived policy decisions– they have had seemingly dangerous consequences and might just be making the city of Oakland less, not more safe.