Going to sleep every night knowing that your friends may be assaulted at any moment can be nerve wracking. It’s like Nightmare on Elm Street, or rather Nightmare on 14th Street, and instead of Freddy Kruger we have Jean Quan and the OPD. We don’t know when the attack will occur and we cannot stop it from occurring but we also need to get some sleep eventually.
The Oakland Police Department might raid Occupy Oakland at any moment, although that has been true for at least 48 hours. Everybody thought the raid was going to happen last night, either at 8pm or 1am or 4:30am, but none of those predictions (mine was the latter) proved to be true.
Is this game of chicken being played by Quan an example of psychological warfare or political incompetence?
Those of us outside City Hall have no way of knowing for certain. We have to assume the most likely possibility, that a raid continues to be imminent though unpredictable. But there are some other factors that have come to light that we should all be aware of as well.
First, it would seem that the “best” time for a raid is the very early hours of the morning–3am to 5am–on a weeknight, when few people are at the camp and fewer are able to arrive as many will have to go to work. So it would seem they may be holding out for Monday or Tuesday morning–more on that below.
Second, according to Bay Citizen, Oakland is in jeopardy of losing at least some mutual aid from neighboring police departments.
“There are some chiefs and some city councils that I think are upset with having to keep sending officers to Oakland,” Sgt. J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department told told Bay Citizen. “And their point is: ‘Why are we sending people there when their own mayor can’t make a decision on what to do?’”
Many members of local law enforcement are in open revolt–rhetorically, anyway–with the Oakland Police union saying they are “confused” by Quan’s inability to make a decision, and now the City of Berkeley turning down mutual aid with University of California Police. It’s hard to see them getting too excited about sending cops to Oakland.
This is a serious problem for Quan, the City Council and OPD. Actually, many on the City Council relish the fact that Quan is unable to act because they are benefiting from her mismanagement of this issue. But that is beside the point.
Let’s clear up the difficulty here. OPD is perfectly capable of expelling Occupy Oakland from the Plaza during a 4am raid. If they do so again, I suspect they will succeed.
But then they will be responsible for holding down the Plaza for several weeks, not allowing anybody to enter or exit. Setting up fences outside of the perimeter had no effect on keeping us out the last time and it will have no effect this time, either. No, OPD will need to setup a military operation at the Plaza for several weeks, denying entry to everybody.
There are 647 members of the Oakland Police Department. Total. We often have more than that number of people at a General Assembly, not to mention the thousands who showed up after the previous raid and tens of thousands who participated in the General Strike. Is the City of Oakland and OPD prepared to commit 400 riot police, ie 50 along each edge of the Plaza, indefinitely? Would that even work? And would the mutual aid agreements hold up under such a plan?
To carry this out would entail a full-blown military operation. Maintaining order in this situation could require the National Guard, but this is not a national emergency. It’s a fucking camp. Shutting it down will be more chaotic than allowing it to remain, as we have already seen.
This is one of those moments that people talk about that never seem to happen until it finally does and then everybody is taken by surprise. “If everybody just stopped working,” us activists sometimes say, “then capitalism could no longer exploit us.” Still waiting on that one. Or, “if Black people in the South just sat down at those lunch counters, nobody could stop them.” That one actually worked out pretty well. This time it’s, “if people keep coming back, the cops cannot hold the Plaza.” It is not about 50 or 100 “violent” black bloc members confronting the police–they will be dispensed with ruthlessly but swiftly. On the other hand, thousands of militant activists, concerned citizens and supporters would be an unstoppable force.
Everybody who has thought this through realizes this is the case. That is one reason why this is all taking so long. The Chamber of Commerce is up in arms but if Quan were to unleash the hounds then she would likely lose whatever progressive support she still has. Don’t believe the lies–there is still massive support for Occupy Oakland, whatever the official polls reveal. We had two marches in the last two days and the cars stuck in traffic loved us, honking and pumping their fists in support.
Third, and this screws everything up all over again for Quan, UC Berkeley students have called for a strike on Tuesday. Quan does not want to crack down on Tuesday morning because mutual aid for that day may be impossible, even if it were politically feasible. Maybe this makes Monday more likely, but again the police forces are already planning for Tuesday and Monday’s crackdown wold just piss off the kids at Cal even more. And can Quan really wait until Wednesday?
What she really wants is to come to some sort of an agreement in order to avoid a violent expulsion. Word is going around the camp that members of Occupy Oakland who represent nobody but themselves–and are currently nowhere to be seen–are attempting to come to a resolution with the city. I doubt anybody here is going to go for that and at least one of the “eviction” orders states that Jefferson Park and Snow Park are off limits, which would have been the two places that would be recommended. So these guys are wasting everybody’s time and should just stop. They have their seat at the table, but it’s the kids table. Nobody gives a shit about what they have to say in their supposed negotiations, other than Quan who is just trying to keep them in the fold.
Nobody knows what will happen next or when it will happen but it will likely be a chaotic mess and we are likely to either hold the Plaza or regain it within a few days. The only question is how much violence Quan and the OPD are willing to inflict before we continue marching forward.