Sunday, November 6, 2011

Leave the tents where they are

Leave the tents where they are.

Whatever Occupy Oakland and the City have in their future it should not include the removal of the tents from the plaza at City Hall. 

My view is that as important as we in Oakland see ourselves, we are only a small part of a nation wide, world wide event.  Oakland should now just get used to it happening; it is not going to go away because we shoo it off our front lawn.  We can now become the place where the local government was able to get along with the protest and get ourselves off the list of cities where the local police acts like big business Pinkertons. 

Let's start with the City side of the equation.

Our city Administrator has put a one million dollar cost estimate on the table for what Occupy has cost the city. A good 3/4 of that money is really the cost of mishandling the whole thing.  Most of it was the cost to attack an illegal camp site with a riot squad and the aftermath.  

Now that we have spent a million dollars to run in a circle and damage public relations inside of Oakland while damaging our reputation outside of Oakland, do we want to do it again?   All other options cost less and have a better public relations value for this city. 

There are some practical things that need to happen and all the points on the Administrator's list do have to be dealt with, this time with some leadership.  The food kitchen needs to keep meeting fire and health regulations.  We already have had some unions paying for toilets.  With some commitment from the city we could get the Teamsters to bring their food truck back or something like that by someone like that.  We had over 35,000 people out in the street supporting Occupy on Wednesday.  A city that promised to stop tear gassing campers could hit up a lot of those people for support.  Kaiser could be asked to act like the local town company that they are.  So could some of the paramedics and so on.  Other arraignments’ need to be made for fire safety among the tents.  That includes a curb on the electric chords and some place to safely use electricity.  Occupy Oakland has already done a lot to deal with every one of the public safety and sanitation issues and the city can and should continue to help.

In the end, if we deal with Occupy Oakland better than the other cities by showing our civilization, we will make our entire city look good.  That goes for the Mayor and council, the police and includes those who do not agree with the 99% view.  This is what we showed on the day of the General Strike and we can show it on any day.

This is the nature of Oakland.  We are used to a lot of different people here. 

On the Occupy side of the equation.

After the turnout for the general strike it is very clear that Occupy Oakland reflects deep seated views of a major section of our people, especially here in Oakland.  The reason we had over 35,000 people turn out on Wednesday is because they already agreed with the Occupy Wall Street message.  We have to be respectful of this public support.  If we can stay in front of City Hall, if we have toilets, if the supply tents are brimming with sleeping bags and food for the people, it is because this movement has wide popular support.  Occupy stands for many thousands of people who do not make it to the plaza and needs to own up to presenting an honorable face for all of us. 

We are all public relations ambassadors now. 

We are very lucky that the bad reputation for sending the riot squad against our first campsite fell mostly on the backs of the city government and the police.   We then held a peaceful protest of thousands in civil strike action with no police present.  The trick right now is to preserve the good reputation that we have started.

With the duty to act responsibly because we represent so many, also comes to duty to keep acting because we now have the job of keeping the heat of this message alive.  Six weeks ago we were listening to Tea Party and other Republicans stumble over each other to show how pro big business, anti-tax and anti-Mexican they can be.  The side show was running a pool on how much Obama would give them, and how fast. 

Now the public political discourse is talking about the real problems our country has.  The problems of income inequality, tax inequality and bailout inequality are front and center thanks to Occupy movements across the USA. 

We need that tent city to message the people that we are not going away. Those who support us and those who should support us will only be helped by a strong, imaginative and active Occupy movement over this winter.  We need to reach out more, we need to push harder on the things that all people can do to help out, such as move your money away from the banks, and we need to show that we are going to stay put in out tents. 

And the local business community needs to see the light. 

Oakland local businesses did not wreck the world’s economy and we did not have anything to do with a bailout for the banks that did nothing to help the common folk get through the recession.  

I say this as both an Occupy supporter and a local small business owner.  I am not the only small business owner in support of Occupy either.  I am also a member of the local Chamber of Commerce and I am sorry Joe, but I just do not believe your claim that the local businesses are down 40%.  Most of the local businesses are not even in the kind of business that would be affected one way or another by this protest.  

So why not just make money?  There are more people downtown and every store, coffee shop and restaurant should be making some money off of this.  I do not know why Tully’s and some of the others in the plaza do not stay open later and just sell what they always sell.  

Dialog is also key.  If some businesses are disturbed by this protest, go down to the General Assembly and tell people about it.  Maybe we could set up some green tape zone to keep business entryways clear.  Maybe we could make sure people know that you are open and that everyone is welcome. 

But does any business owner thinks life for local Oakland business will get better from a second police crackdown, this time with three times the average size of the protest? 

Oakland business can thrive with Occupy Oakland just like it does with Art and Soul or anything else that brings a crowd downtown.  They will especially be able to thrive if they feel that there is not going to be another battle with the police. 

And this would be best for the police.  

The Oakland Police Department will find that their public relations with people in the plaza will be vastly improved by a promise from the Mayor not to gas and arrest everyone and destroy their tents.  The police can calmly return to providing protection and assistance to everyone in the area, protestors, local businesses and neighboring residents and office workers.  There is no small amount of healing necessary in the relationship between the police and our various local communities.  The best thing to do is start now by providing security for everyone.  

Once we have decided that Occupy Oakland and the local Oakland community and government are going to accommodate one another, our community can be in peace. 

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