Residents find little help in city authorities.
The Occupy Oakland protests that degenerated into violent mob action on Wednesday night and early Thursday morning were entirely predictable. The vandalism, the graffiti, and the spasm of violence that resulted in an attack on police who were trying to roust at least 200 demonstrators who had occupied an abandoned building was the result of incitement by the so-called "peaceful" protestors who are now condemning the violence as if they had nothing to do with it.
The worst of the rioting occurred late on Wednesday evening as about 200 protestors occupied the abandoned Traveler's Aid building, claiming it in the name of the people. Police feared that the protestors would set the building on fire so they formed up a few blocks away and began to move toward the protest. Hearing of the impending police action, protestors barricaded the street and then faced off with authorities. They "smashed windows, threw rocks, ignited a 15-foot-high bonfire of garbage and covered downtown storefronts with graffiti," according to the New York Times.
Oakland -- heavily unionized and with a largely liberal population -- paid the price for coddling the Occupy demonstrators, allowing them to shut down the Port of Oakland through intimidation and threats of violence against workers. The port shut down was described as "peaceful" by almost every major media organ in the country. But the reason the port was shut down was not to show solidarity with the demonstrators, but because police and port authorities feared for the lives of workers as a howling mob of 3,000 protestors found some choke points and barricaded the roads that led into the port.
There, they stopped trucks going into the port, intimidated and threatened drivers, set fires to block roads, and began tossing chunks of concrete at police who apparently had orders to let them do what they wanted. Eventually, authorities decided to shut down the port and reopen "when it is safe to do so," a spokesman said in a statement. He added, "allow your fellow 99% to get home safe to their families." That certainly doesn't sound very "peaceful." In fact, it is apparent that those protestors who shut down the port succeeded in intimidating authorities by threatening violence.
Despite promises by some protestors to keep the facility closed indefinitely, by late Wednesday night, most of the demonstrators had gone home and the port was reopened Thursday morning.
Certainly the port authorities knew of the march from downtown where several dozen windows were broken, graffiti was scrawled across store fronts, and both public and private property was defaced and destroyed. Nor could authorities mistake the threatening nature of many of the signs being carried by protestors, including a large banner leading the parade that read "Death to Capitalism" as well as several signs crudely calling for death to the police.
The "General Strike" called by the protestors for Wednesday was an almost complete fizzle, according to the Wall Street Journal. On Tuesday, organizer Tim Simons predicted "tens of thousands" would "turn out for Wednesday's general strike." He was mistaken by several orders of magnitude as police estimated the crowd that marched at around 4,500, with about 3,000 -- many of them bused in by unions -- at the port.
Despite Jean Quan, the Mayor of Oakland, giving permission for city workers to join the protest if they desired, few took her up on the offer. The Longshoremen's union reported little change in the number of members available for work. Teachers appeared to be the largest group joining the strike as 300 out of 2000 union members called in sick or asked for a day off. And almost the entire business community ignored the call to shut down, although many closed early fearing violence. The protestors did not disappoint in that regard.
Quan has been indecisive, veering wildly between using force to shut down the first encampment across from city hall, while expressing her solidarity with the protestors' aims. As University of San Francisco political scientist Corey Cook observed, Quan has alienated both police and protestors at the same time. "She has no friends at this point," he told the Associated Press. Qaun's flip-flopping caused the Oakland Police Association to issue a scathing letter, pointing out Quan's massive inconsistency in asking them to clear the protest encampment one day and then allowing them back in a few days later.
There is something pathetic in Quan's lack of leadership and indecision. As battles between police and protestors were raging on early Thursday morning, the mayor tweeted to the thugs tearing up her city, "Reports that tires are burning and barricades set up on 16th. Protestors need to call my office now." Downtown Oakland is in chaos and all she can think of doing is ask the rioters to call her? Quan made several other tweets, all asking protestors to call her and talk. If it were just about any other city in the United States, the possibility of impeachment would be raised for trying to negotiate with domestic terrorists. In Oakland, however, the losses in private property and massive clean up bill is seen as the price to be paid for "freedom of speech." But even Oakland has its limits. Quan now faces a possible recall as the result of her weakness in the face of violence.
Equally pathetic are the protestations from many protest organizers that they "disavow" the violence. A member of the Occupy Oakland "media committee" protested that the group "does not advocate violence and has no interest in supporting actions that endanger the community and possibilities that it has worked to build."
They may believe that statement, but the reality of the situation points to something far more revealing: they refuse to police the "fringe" characters among them whose blood curdling pronouncements about "death" to bankers and police incite the kinds of incidents that occurred in downtown Oakland late Wednesday evening. The true "leaders" of this protest are those who are using the idealists as useful idiots to give the media a benign, even admirable view of the Occupy Oakland movement.
As witnessed during the riot, the whole point of the marches and demonstrations is to provoke a strong police response where people will be injured (not them), and perhaps even killed. They have made a martyr out of a young Iraq War vet who was accidentally hit in head by a tear gas canister, suffering a serious head injury. The incident has become a rallying point not only in Oakland, but at Occupy protests around the country. Despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that police actually aimed a tear gas gun at the young man, the cry has gone up around the country that his injuries were the result of "police brutality."
Those who claim to eschew violence do precious little to prevent incitement in their own encampment where signage promotes revolution, and death to authorities. And -- perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not -- the publicity that the anarchists and violent revolutionaries bring to the movement as a result of riots and violent confrontations with police, serves the Occupy movement in its efforts to grow and attract a larger following.
Recent polls have been all over the map regarding the acceptance of the Occupy movement. An ORC International poll reported by CNN shows that 37% agree with "the overall positions" of the Occupy movement while 19% are opposed. A plurality -- 44% -- said they weren't sure.
Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac poll reported by National Journal shows that 39% view the Occupy movement unfavorably while only 30% have a favorable opinion. Another 30% have no opinion or aren't sure.
People may hate bailouts and think Wall Street is too greedy, and they may even resent the income disparity in America. Envy is not unknown in this country and it is easy to gin up outrage at "the rich" and "the bankers" simply by appealing to the lowest and basest of our emotions.
But if you ask people directly do they support the "Death of Capitalism," few would say yes. And even fewer would support the Communists, anarchists, nihilists, and thugs who are the real leaders of the Occupy movement around the country, seeking a violent overturning of society and our economic system.
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