This hits home for me. I live in Northern California, my husband's office is a few blocks from Ogawa Plaza park and he could see the helicopters circling overhead as he left for home last night. Oakland, politically and law enforcement-wise is in disarray. Is it surprising that the mayor of Oakland (an office previously held by our current governor, Jerry Brown) is the subject of a recall campaign? In an effort to appear tough on crime, Mayor Quan asked for the resignation of the Police Chief just ten days ago, claiming that he was unable to be an effective head of law enforcement, a charge that he retorted was exactly the kind of hostile environment that made it impossible to be the head of law enforcement in an incredibly diverse city, with a huge range of socio-economic levels living side by side.
So in that super-charged atmosphere, the call came down to tear down the encampments of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, invoking public health as the reasoning. In fairness, there were a fair amount of homeless people joining the protesters and allegations of rats, lice and bedbugs. But there was almost no reports of violence (other than a couple of petty thefts). So the disproportionate response by the police is disconcerting to say the least.
"If #occupyoakland was in Damascus, U.S. State department would be telling Wolf Blitzer how unacceptable it was to teargas peaceful marchers." @techsoc
As two activists who have called Oakland home, we are appalled at the events of our city in the last 36 hours. Last night the country joined us to watch in anguish as the Oakland Police Department, with back up from a dozen law enforcement agencies from around the region, used excessive levels of force against hundreds of mostly peaceful Occupy Oakland protesters. In a city with a long and painful record of police violence, it is especially disturbing to witness scenes of women, children, the elderly, and the disabled under assault by rubber bullets and tear gas.
This kind of crackdown is bad for our democracy, and it's bad for public safety. Mayors and police chiefs at Occupy sites across the country should take note: this is the wrong way to respond to the Occupy movement.
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