Monday, November 21, 2011

Adios Oakland Chamber of Commerce

To Joseph Haraburda, 

I am very sorry to have to do this, but I cannot justify renewing my membership in the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce (OMCC) this year. It has been a few years now that I have really not seen Chamber Membership as a benefit to my business, but the final decision not to renew is because of Chamber advocacy for police intervention against the Occupy Oakland tents.  

For a small business like mine, the main reason we take part in Chamber events is to either sell our own services, or to find people who offer services we need.  There is also value in advocating for our needs as local business owners and in the discussions and forums held with chamber guest speakers.  

Unfortunately the Chamber has been falling short on all three of these things. 

After the first fiasco of a police crackdown against the Occupy Oakland encampment, the OMCC called for the tents to be urgently removed by police force again.  Calling for a second raid without showing any concern for the excessive force used by the police in the first one is not non-violence.  I am one of the people who speaks from inside the progressive movement and directly to Occupy Oakland General Assembly for non-violence.  I am now speaking as a business owner and Oakland Citizen for non-violence.  The claim was made that Oakland business was suffering and that crime and violence at the encampment urgently needed to be stopped.  The facts do not bear this out.  Most of the problems were caused by those reacting to the protest and not by the protestors themselves or were already there.  Meaningful dialog and peaceful resolution was not credibly attempted by the City Government.  

How was my business represented and served by this second raid? Who will have to pay for it? All the peaceful alternatives would have been better for our city’s image and cost much less.  Something better than a riot squad could have helped the businesses downtown who had legitimate problems.  

The area around City Hall, has been very dangerous for years.  There have been two killings at the newsstand, attacks on people using the ATM, attacks on people patronizing the local nightlife, and homeless people in the plaza, on the streets and throughout the area.

Nothing about clearing out the Occupy camp has decreased these problems and I can expect to find people intoxicated in public, being violent, defecating around our businesses and sleeping in public places, using and selling drugs, as they have been doing for years. Truth is, the place was safer to walk around at night with the Occupy Oakland campsite in it, despite what all the alarmist letters to the business community said.  

One of our biggest problems in Oakland is the feelings of distrust between the police, government, the local businesses and many of our local communities.   These actions have only sharpened the distrust. 

I will continue to work for peace and dialog, including with you and my former Chamber of Commerce members and do whatever I can to help build civic unity.