On Tuesday, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan summed up the clean-up operation she launched against Occupy Oakland:
“As a defense against protesters who were throwing items from the encampment’s kitchen at officers, law enforcement officers deployed bean bags and gas canisters. No injuries to protesters or law enforcement officers have been reported.”
As numerous Youtube videos began illustrating the truth: that what has been called a “police riot” in Oakland took place on Tuesday, with injuries perpetrated and ignored by law enforcement directly observing them, Mayor Quan’s credibility began to crater.
Last night, as she attempted to offer an apology to Occupy Oakland General Assembly—however framed with the mayor’s continued demands that Occupy Oakland stop using occupation as a protest tactic—she was reportedly heckled off the stage. In light of continued accusations of police misconduct and overreaction on Tuesday, resulting in a much-publicized severe injury to an Iraq war vet amongst other incidents of police violence, there are now calls for Mayor Quan to resign.
Mayor Quan attempted in her statement to Occupy Oakland to align herself with the 99%, but her actions this week have, in the eyes of the Occupy Movement, put Mayor Quan clearly on the side of the professional class that services the interests of the 1%.
The Mayor’s lack of understanding of the political dynamic, which had rapidly moved beyond her control during the week, was illustrated by her comment: “When there’s violence, there are no winners.” Clearly, that was an expression of a disconnected wish instead of a reality. The rule in the weeks since the Occupy Movement began is that when there is police violence, or the threat of it, the Occupy protesters win.
In New York City for example, the threat of a similar level of police violence being used to clear protesters from Zuccotti Park was only avoided at the last moment, when the city (and the property owners of the park) backed down on their threat to clear out Occupy Wall Street from their base of operation.
So far, government authorities have faced an acute challenge of image and messaging. The Occupy Movement is largely made up of young, unemployed or underemployed, tech-savvy demonstrators who simply do not look like the “rabble” or “mobs” of dangerous extremists they have been accused of being by politicians who hoped Occupy Wall Street would be a fleeting fad.
When the police attack these young people, Youtube videos generally depict the police as the perpetrators of sometimes heinous violence, and often the police display open contempt for the demonstrators that plays very badly in the watching world.
Mayor Quan is just the latest government official to be put on notice that having police “crack heads” is a politically dangerous tactic to employ in responding to the Occupy Movement. Her office faces its next big challenge, dealing with Occupy Oakland’s call for a general strike on November 2nd—on Wednesday.