The Occupy Oakland encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza was raided overnight, again, but this time the crowd dispersed peacefully.
The camp’s organizational structure knew that the eviction was coming but did little about it beforehand: Last night’s General Assembly began with an “indigenous prayer ceremony honoring the Ohlone people of the East Bay,” and soon moved on to a declaration that their camp would be a safe haven for “all immigrants with or without papers.” They also decided to officially embrace a “diversity of tactics,” refusing to condemn violence or vandalism, on the grounds that doing so would allow the “media” to sow seeds of division within the movement. They filled time between the 11 p.m. meeting and their decampment with a “dance party” called Occupacolypse — the Oakland version of Nero playing the lyre as Rome burned.
As the expected time of the police raid approached, the protesters packed up some of their tents and moved to an empty intersection at 14th Street and Broadway, where several hundred gathered. Police cleared out the tents and arrested 32 remaining protesters. A few eluded the sweep — the San Francisco Chronicle reported that one famous Bay area activist, “Zachary Running Wolf, remained perched on a wooden pallet in a tree on the sidewalk of 14th Street.”
The decamped protesters gathered in the streets dispersed rather quickly, despite an originally orchestrated plan to “separate themselves into two groups — one to defend the tent city, the other to protest as police move in.” According to the Oakland police department, this morning’s raid cost the city between $300,000 and $500,000. The streets within several blocks of the plaza remain closed, as does the local Bay Area Rapid Transit station.
At a press conference this morning, Oakland mayor Jean Quan explained that she had been trying for weeks to support the movement and encourage them to leave the park, based on three priorities: facilitating the right to free speech, protecting public safety, and crowd control — the latter two, which might seem to be a city government’s primary responsibilities, apparently not outweighing the first. When offered the chance to apologize to taxpayers for the cost and inconvenience of the occupation, she refused to do so.
The mayor’s legal adviser, Dan Siegel, resigned today because he believes a “violent takeover is not acceptable.” (As Mayor Quan explained this morning, she has known Siegel “since college”; they both attended Berkeley in the 1960s.) But the police chief and Mayor Quan maintain their paramount commitment to “facilitating peaceful expression.” Quan emphasized above all that she believes in the Occupy movement, and hopes “the movement” can be divided from the “tactic” of illegal occupations. Their first priority seemed to be reopening the plaza by this evening, in order to maintain it as a public space for protests. The police chief claimed that they will “absolutely” not allow any “lodging,” and will maintain a 24/7 police presence, but without a curfew or forcing protesters out after dark — another affirmative commitment to the rights of the protesters over the rights of taxpayers and businesses who will likely continue to be inconvenienced by a “movement” whose core principle seems to be social disruption.
Since last night, the protesters have maintained that they will reconvene en masse in front of the Oakland Public Library, about half a mile from the occupied plaza, at 4 p.m. this afternoon.
Until then, the official Occupy Oakland Twitter feed has suggested: “Bored? Shut down a bank with yr friends.” Occupy Oakland may meet a quiet end, but an appetite for anti-social behavior clearly remains, and last night’s operation has not put a complete end to it.
The one and only.