My questions and thoughts on occupy Oakland

To support my family I invest in real estate in my home town of Oakland. 

Over the past 21 years in business, my partners, and our investors have created jobs, increased the tax base, honored labor, removed blight, have volunteered and supported local charities. I do not think it is wrong to attract new businesses and capital to Oakland. I do not think is it wrong to work for a return on investment and to be compensated (my partners and our investors) for the time and risk associated with the development of buildings for our community.  We love our community and we are not Wall Street and we are not the 1%.  

I do not think that any one person has a monopoly on the truth.  I do, however, feel that we can find our voice be authentic and speak the truth (and have the protected right to do so providing we respect the opinions of other and do not interfere with the pursuits and interests of others) and try to listen to others along the way.   

I know that there are many issues facing us as a people today and some that have pushed our friends and neighbors into the occupy movement. Some are angry about betrayal by the financial institutions, others have frustration with a system that many feel is set against them and their dreams, and there are certainly many, many more issues from public safety to pension reform being discussed.  In my opinion, the many divergent agendas all coming together under the Occupy movement standard, could be a good, but have thus far failed to be articulated in a clear list of goals and/or  objectives.     

In the past few weeks I have a somewhat sinking feeling, that the middle class and small business owners are about to be flogged from both sides of the political spectrum. I am angered to see what many of us in Oakland have worked so hard for, our reputation as a safe place to raise a family, a respectful, diverse, and tolerant City, to be torn apart, disparaged on nationally broadcast TV by pundits and comics due to the recent events.  I am further outraged by the toll this action is taking on innocent small business people who are too endangered and rare in our city to be sacrificed and disregarded in the process of this occupy protest.  

We are seeing it play out in the streets and on the social media chats.  A few out-of-town provocateurs (I understand 93 of those arrested that first night of 97 were people from outside of Oakland) and the political calculus of the moment gave rise to a host of events that may cloud and confuse our much-needed advance for years to come and have been allowed to agitate and impact a large segment of the public.  

So I spent an hour this morning to sit and meet with several Occupy Wall Street “Oakland” participants. I wanted to listen and hear their views, and see where they were from, and get their thoughts on attempting a consensus… and then I heard the planning for the recently called general strike.

Apparently, their focus on Wednesday November 2, 2011, is to “forcibly” shut down any business “they” feel should not be operating. From standing out side of their circle the list I heard appears to include any bank, the Port of Oakland, grocery stores, gas stations, transit, etc… by “any” means necessary.  A few folks in the group I spoke with, self corrected to indicate “peaceful” means , after others questioned language of “forcibly” to which they in turn underscored “peacefully” blocking entrances or sitting on the floors and some, still expressed they would do what had to be done.  An awkward silence fell over the group and then “peacefully” blocking entrances or sitting on the floors was repeated by a number of participants basically chanting this refrain as the provocateurs’, a small group of clearly experienced protesters walked to another group of 15-20 planning their strike activities 50 yards away.   Does this action hurt our city more than Wall Street?

Who will keep this peaceful if there are provocateurs’ and who use the peaceful protesters as cover? I further question how the law should be applied, or not applied, to these plans and proposed actions?  

If the protesters tread on the rights of others, at what point should our government mitigate the situation?  What level of breaking the law triggers a consequence under these tense conditons?

Note: At the point of inciting violence, engaging in the intent to  harm others by throwing objects (Rocks, bottles, bags of paint, bags of urine, bags of bleach, M-80’s) at the Law enforcement presence, as I witnessed the other night in Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza. What set of circumstances justify a tactical non lethal response by Law enforcement if the aforementioned does not?

The actions of a few who want mob rule ushered onto our city streets and do not seek real change or reform have brought this trouble to us.  And there has been no evidence yet of a reasonable manner to separate the honorable tradition of protesting from those the hand full of  Anarchist attempting to get us off track by their terrorist acts during the fervor, passion, and chaos of the moment.

What are the probable outcomes of the Occupy movement? 

How does this expression of betrayal and frustration by camping and marching get translated into a set of reforms or structural changes? What is a reasonable time-table?

This movement has, by my account, been subjected to an ever-changing environment and influence from a myriad of causes and agendas. These greater demands have strained any ability to reduce the many issues into a set of principles and ideas to shape a policy or reform platform.

As factions have emerged each has had its apparent leaders, thinkers, and speakers. Are the participants willing to attempt to unite and start looking to identify a consensus and terms for a win. To chart a path to building a way forward instead of lurching back to the barbaric assault on law enforcement, looting, and violence.

We are being presented a series of choices and have demonstrated a series of tendencies and actions that are on a collision course. This must be sorted out soon in direct and concrete terms.  If not, there will certainly be a series of unintended consequences that could ultimately cause more harm than good for some time to come.  

Many of my friends have thrust Mayor Quan into a untenable position. Some urging her to enforce the law others reminding her of her activist roots and both unrelenting in criticism of what ever she has done. The fact that so many are unhappy with her, at the moment, has me thinking maybe what she has done was the right thing since so few have dared take any responsibility for what has happened at all, and from I have read and heard she has, done so alone. Oakland it is time to clean up take stock and move on. Occupy Oakland give us your plan, take some responsibility and respect us, Oaklanders while we respect your freedom of speech.   

 

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2 thoughts on “My questions and thoughts on occupy Oakland

  1. Great write up. But, as reasonable as you are, reason doesn’t always figure into the equation in Oakland. “Leaderless” is fine,especially given that our “leaders” today don’t exactly inspire our young people who are participating in the movement. But, in Oakland, it always seems to turn into mob rule…and I don’t mean just the mob in the streets. Oakland continues to be a source of heart break for me, even from a distance.

  2. Very thoughtful, Phil. Good work. I am deeply concerned for our city and whether our municipal government will be able to deliberate frankly and honestly while tactics of intimidation are clearly being developed. Thursday’s Council Meeting will be the first test; it will not be the last.

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