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My Vote on the Resolution to Keep the Port Open
My vote on the Resolution to Keep the Port Open, which was heard at the Council meeting this past Tuesday, puzzled some people and angered others.* Here is why I did not support it: If the Resolution had offered anything to assist in stopping the disruptive activities of Occupy Oakland, I would have voted for it. However, the Resolution offered nothing, no new ideas, tools or resources to help the Police or otherwise reduce harm to the community. All there was was a bald statement that the Police should keep the Port open and enforce all existing laws on protest activities. The Police don't need the City Council to tell them to enforce the law. They are already doing everything they can to enforce laws broken by Occupy protesters and anyone else. I thought the Resolution misled the public to think there is a simple solution to a very difficult problem.
I am very much in favor of strong law enforcement against the illegal activities of Occupy Oakland that disrupt the lives and livelihoods of Oakland citizens. I and most of the Council have consistently supported that approach for three months, which is why our Police Department has been devoting enormous resources to enforce the law at the OO marches and demonstrations. On January 28, 150 Oakland Police officers, aided by 350 from outside jurisdictions, stopped the protesters from breaking into the Kaiser Arena and several other buildings, arresting over 400 people in the process. That seems like quite robust enforcement of the law to me.
There are two more reasons why I did not support the Resolution. The author failed to consult the Police Chief and the Port of Oakland before he put the item on the Council agenda. Neither one of these important stakeholders had asked for the resolution, and in fact, both thought it was counter-productive. Instead of helping the Port, this resolution just put a target on its back for another protest. There was no Occupy protest planned for the Port and this Resolution just resuscitated the issue. Lastly, I objected to the resolution because it was micro-managing the Police Chief. We already lost one Police Chief by doing that. The Chief doesn't need the City Council to be giving him ultimatums about how and when to deploy his troops. He knows we need to protect citizens from harm that occurs at protest marches and he should be the one to decide the best tactics for doing it.
I wish that ending the disruptions of Occupy Oakland was as simple as passing a Resolution saying we are going to get tough. But the notion that we as a City Council can simply puff out our chests and tell the Occupy protesters to knock it off, and that they will, is wishful thinking. I think the best policy is twofold: 1) Keep up the current practice of police enforcing the law. This approach, directed by the City Administrator and Police Chief, has caused the numbers of protesters to dwindle substantially since January 28. 2) Encourage members of the broader community to publicly voice what they have been saying in their kitchens and front yards: that they are fed up with this unconstructive nonsense and that it is harming our community. OO is not interested in what anyone in government has to say. Maybe they will be listen to the people they claim to be helping. I welcome further ideas and conversations with both my colleagues on the Council as well as you, the residents of Oakland.
If you would like to hear what I said at the Council meeting last night, you can view the video on the City website, http://oakland.legistar.com/calendar.aspx Council meeting of 2/7/12, Item 10, fast forward to hour 3:29:00. * I abstained on this vote, not because I was afraid to state a position, nor because I was intimidated by the roomful of protesters yelling at us, but to avoid a tie, which would have continued this debate until the next meeting. Otherwise, I would have voted No for the reasons stated above.