The morning after Occupy Oakland's midweek violent protests, the take in the Bay Area was that it was a dirty, rotten shame that a few bad-egg anarchists hijacked a mostly peaceful protest and made an otherwise good cause look bad.
That is so delusional.
From the start, troublemakers have advocated violent protest during the group's general assemblies. Guys with masks and ill intent threw rocks and bottles at police before officers used tear gas -- and Iraq vet Scott Olsen, 24, sadly was injured -- to clear Frank Ogawa Plaza on Oct. 25. They were armed with incendiary devices when the sun went down Nov. 2.
Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente is sick of hearing about how peaceful the majority of protesters were. "The reason the minority's here," he sputtered, is "the majority's here."
The majority of Occupy protesters aren't victims; they're enablers.
There was no positive political message. The goal of the general strike was supposed to be to "liberate Oakland and shut down the 1 percent." That's not positive. They want to shut down the city, but they don't want to get anything done. The strike didn't hurt Wall Street bankers or other big shots among the top 1 percent; it cut into the pockets of baristas and truck drivers.
Free speech does not mean free camping.
Councilwoman Nancy Nadel doesn't understand the First Amendment. She authored a resolution that says, "Occupy Oakland demonstrators are asserting their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in order to create public dialogue around corporate control of the political process and public space." The resolution would have put the City Council on record opposing "the use of force to remove the encampment unless absolutely necessary."
Free speech rights do not include a right to trample the rights of others or keep other people from making a living.
Do not think that this general strike only cut into business activities in Oakland for one day. Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce head Joseph Haraburda has seen the lasting damage these actions have inflicted on Oakland's reputation as a place to do business. He counts three commercial tenant cancellations, including one for an operation that would have hired 100 employees.
California Gov. Jerry Brown, a former mayor of Oakland, devoted his tenure to enticing 10,000 new residents to live downtown. Mayor Jean Quan has undone that good work. Who wants to buy a condo in the land of broken windows?
Oakland has thriving, top-rated restaurants. Who wants to dine out in a town littered with too much graffiti and too little police protection?
These demonstrations threaten to starve the goose that pays for precious city services.
Once people start believing that they're part of an oppressed 99 percent, you never know where they'll see the 1 percent. One parent told the Oakland Tribune that members of Oakland's politically correct school board should consider themselves "on notice that they will be evicted from office in the next election for doing the dirty work of the 1 percent."
Quan started last week with the apparent belief that if she could assure activists that she is as liberal as they are, then Occupy Oakland protesters might behave. Thus, as the general strike dawned, Quan issued assurances that the city would "maintain a minimal police presence."
Now, if Oakland were a Wall Street boardroom, then activists would be swept out of sight. But because Oakland is a liberal enclave -- and Quan invited activists back to their encampment after the Oct. 25 police sweep -- the number of tents in front of City Hall, currently 165, has been growing.
Thursday's City Council meeting may signal a turning point. More than 100 people, overwhelmingly in support of the protesters, scolded, lectured or addressed councilors. Most councilors had been friendly toward the protests. But by the end of the night, Nadel conceded that she did not have the votes to pass her resolution.
It would appear warnings issued for weeks by Councilmen De La Fuente and Larry Reid finally have sunk in. As De La Fuente asked earlier, why did Oakland become the center of the Occupy movement? Because City Hall was "obstructing the police from doing their damn job. That's why this is happening."
Quan, Nadel and company made trashing Oakland after dark as easy as mugging an old lady.
"I think people are waking up," Haraburda told me earlier. "I'm getting more and more pointed in my comments because I'm more and more upset."
Waking up is good. Because when Occupy Oakland boasts that it plans to "Occupy Everything," the public is beginning to understand: Anarchists and their enablers don't start with the 1 percent. They cut their teeth on the soft meat.
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