Let Oakland Protesters Occupy a County Jail Cell


Occupy Oakland is aptly named. When forces occupy a city, they know that occupied turf is not their home. They can maraud, loot, vandalize, abuse the locals, and then leave. They can treat other people’s property as their own.

The occupiers don’t have to clean up after themselves. They don’t have to worry about paying for the workers who clean up after them, either.

Occupiers don’t have to exert self-control. They can freely act upon their rage, while defenders of occupied territory must concentrate on protecting what others want to harm.

Occupiers do not have to fear that they will be punished for the damage they have inflicted on the city of Oakland. About the worst that most occupiers might fear is that if they break the law, they will be arrested, held and released. Most won’t even have to make bail.

Occupy Oakland protesters broke in to City Hall on Saturday, sprayed graffiti, toppled a historical model of City Hall and children’s artwork, stole and then burned an American flag, and otherwise trashed the people’s building. Police arrested some 400 people. Mayor Jean Quan likened the activists’ behavior to “a tantrum” as she complained Occupy activists have been treating the city “like a playground.”

Except that children treat their playgrounds better. And children don’t organize their tantrums. But the playground analogy works when you look at what Occupy posts on the Internet: “The march and the pigs played a game of cat and rat, we, the rats with our tiny sharp teeth bared, they, the dumb slow cats with their fancy technology and weaponry.”

Oakland cannot afford to police and clean up after Occupy activists. City Hall already has had to eliminate jobs to shave $28 million from a $388 million budget. Quan estimates that since tents first went up in Frank Ogawa Plaza in October, the Occupy tab has exceeded $5 million.

It defies all logic that activists, who see themselves as champions of fairness and advocates for the poor, have chosen to become a fiscal drain on the financially strapped city.

Clearly, the protesters didn’t choose Oakland because it is a financial hub or because its downtown is rich and powerful. They chose Oakland because Oakland doesn’t fight back.

Quan finally ordered police to remove the illegal Occupy encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza last fall. When a protester ended up in the hospital, Quan took so much heat that she invited the tents back.

Later, she changed her mind again. Since then, when protesters intermittently have gotten out of control, the police have arrested them for remaining at the scene of a riot or wearing a mask to avoid identification — and sometimes, rarely, for battery or assault. Then what? We don’t know.

When I called Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s office to find out how many Occupy Oakland arrestees have been prosecuted, a spokeswoman told me the DA does not keep track of Occupy cases as a group.

Throwing objects at cops, occupying city space, blocking people on their way to work or vandalizing city property — these might as well be minor crimes in the Bay Area.

I know from covering protests gone bad in San Francisco that police frequently complain that prosecutors do not take activist arrests to court. Prosecutors complain that police fail to supply them with the evidence they need to win a conviction.

Occupy Oakland has been choking City Hall and draining its coffers for months. Are there any consequences? It seems, pun intended, there is no there there.

Email Debra J. Saunders at [email protected]

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