1,000 at old Occupy Oakland camp to discuss future

Jill Tucker, Demian Bulwa, Kevin Fagan,Matthai Kuruvila, SF Chronicle Staff Writers

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Sean Palmer was among a few protesters who were attempting to occupy the intersection at Broadway and 14th Street. They left after being warned by police.

About 1,000 Occupy Oakland protesters returned Monday night to Frank Ogawa Plaza, 12 hours after police evicted the movement’s tent city, and debated a range of reactions from re-establishing the encampment to refocusing on community organizing.

The city reopened the newly cleared plaza outside City Hall around 5 p.m. and said protesters could gather there around the clock. However, police said they would prevent camping from now on, and as the night went on, there were no tents in evidence.

A few dozen police officers mingled amiably with protesters conducting a peaceful general assembly in the plaza’s amphitheater, where the main topics were denunciations of corporate greed and strategies for the coming days. Most agreed to delay until Wednesday any decision on establishing another encampment.

In the meantime, several suggested branching out beyond downtown to enlist a wider pool of steady supporters. Others promised to join Occupy movement rallies at UC Berkeley this week.

To the next level

“A lot of the people who started the camp want to see this move on to the next level,” said Anthony Owens, a 40-year-old sales consultant from Oakland who has been a key activist.

He said he didn’t see much reason to restart a tent city.

“I’d like to see the tents replaced with booths, community resources, workshops, teach-ins, and maybe even a kitchen still serving the homeless,” Owens said.

Earlier in the day, the tone was more strident.

“If they (police) take over the camp, we’re going to reoccupy,” Ronald “Rasta” Jones, 31, an Oakland resident who had lived in the Occupy Oakland camp since its first day, Oct. 10, said before officers moved in around 5 a.m. to evict people. “Our objective is for them to keep spending money. … We’re not going to stop.”

His emotions were echoed in angry chants at times throughout the day, but those had disappeared by 10 p.m., when amphitheater discussions had ended and the crowd was down to a handful. Police stayed to keep an eye on the plaza throughout the night.

Mayor Jean Quan, who ordered the eviction, said the city was prepared to clear camps no matter how many times it took.

“If you look across the country, we even know that we may have to go and move the encampments again,” Quan said. “This is an international and national movement. This is their tactic.”

Still determined

Boots Riley, a key organizer of Occupy Oakland, said the raids have not dampened the determination of the core protesters.

“Whatever they do, they’re just going to make us keep going,” Riley said of city officials. “They’re in a lose-lose situation. We’re putting out the idea that the working class can organize itself, can withhold its labor and can cause them to have to deal with us. That idea is not going to go away by evicting this camp.”

Hundreds of officers from Oakland and 13 other law enforcement agencies carried out the predawn sweep of the encampment outside City Hall at 14th Street and Broadway, arresting 32 people without incident. The eviction followed three days of city warnings, which cut the size of the encampment from 180 tents to about 60.

Those arrested were booked on suspicion of illegal lodging and remaining at the scene of a riot.

Public Works crews spent the day cleaning the plaza and hauling away 36 tons of debris.

In the afternoon, activists headed to the main Oakland library at 14th and Madison streets for a planning session, and then at about 5:15 p.m. marched back to the plaza.

The crowd included several middle-aged office workers and children – a more diverse mix than the City Hall tent city, which by Sunday consisted largely of longtime homeless people, hard-core activists and anarchists.

One demonstrator at the library, retired construction worker Vincent Suave, urged the crowd not to try to re-establish the tent city. Instead, it should devote energy to other forms of protest that focus more tightly on the Occupy movement’s central complaints about economic inequity and corporate greed, he said.

“There are reasons for people to be frustrated with the system, but the message is not coming out well,” said Suave, 52, who lives in Oakland.

Others at the library and later at the plaza, however, said the act of occupying space was too important to the movement’s methods to abandon. The main question, they said, is whether that should be accomplished with tents, steady demonstrations or in some other form.

At a news conference after the morning raid, Quan said the camp had to be removed because it “began to take a different path from the original movement.”

“It was no longer about the abuses of the financial system, or foreclosures or the unemployed,” said Quan, who allowed the tents to return after police first cleared the camp Oct. 25. “The encampment became a place where we had repeated violence and, this week, a murder. We had to bring the camp to an end before more people were hurt.”
Long month

For Quan, the sweep was the culmination of a month in which she has alienated both political opponents and allies.

Her legal adviser, Dan Siegel, resigned his position Monday, saying Oakland should have tried harder to work with the campers.

Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association, issued a statement in which he thanked interim Police Chief Howard Jordan and City Administrator Deanna Santana for their “leadership in the peaceful removal of the Occupier encampment.” He did not mention Quan, who consistently asked for more time to negotiate with the campers.

Quan’s position became less tenable as drug use and violence increased at the camps. On Thursday, a man was shot and killed just outside the main camp after a fight.

Chronicle staff writers Justin Berton and Henry K. Lee contributed to this report.

Occupy costs

Estimated costs to the city from the Occupy Oakland protests:

Hiring officers from outside agencies to assist Oakland police
$16,000 per day

Hiring Public Works employees to clean up debris and graffiti and assess damage

Replacing the destroyed lawn in Frank Ogawa P

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