The Madeleine Brand Show

The Madeleine Brand Show is a daily, two-hour program that looks at news and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by Madeleine Brand

Occupy Oakland's increasing militancy threatens city's public image

by The Madeleine Brand Show

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An Occupy Oakland protestor shouts at Oakland police officers as they move in to confiscate audio equipment that the protestors were using without a permit in front of Oakland City Hall on Feb. 6, 2012, in Oakland, California. Occupy Oakland protesters are staging a day of action. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While Occupy movements in many cities have faded away, Oakland has remained embroiled in conflict with an active and entrenched Occupy encampment. Last week, over a hundred protesters were arrested in clashes with police as they tried to take over a vacant building. Some protesters pelted officers with bottles and rocks, and officers responded with tear gas and beanbag projectiles.

This week the Oakland City Council is stepping up efforts to reign in the protests by considering a resolution that would allow police to crack down on rallies and public protests lacking permits, as reported by the the San Francisco Chronicle.

And with the fight set to continue, strains of the Oakland Occupy scene have become increasingly militant - continuing a controversial legacy of militant struggles between protest movements and city officials stretching back to the late 1960s.

To Youth Uprising CEO Olis Simmons, the legacy has perpetuated a difficult reputation that Oakland keeps re-earning. “When I’m on a flight, and people say ‘Where are you from,’ and I say that I’m from Oakland, you can feel people slightly ease away from you in their seat,” she said.

Simmons added that the Black Panther movement set the bar for Oakland’s Occupy proceedings.

“I think the tone and the tenor in the occupy Oakland movement really speaks to both the legacy of racial inequity, that frankly the Panther movement grew out of. But it also has this legacy of police brutality.”

Police are still trying to implement reforms after the Riders case nine years ago, when a group of officers were accused of planting evidence and using excessive force. Law enforcement and citizen relations again soured three years ago, when a transit agency police officer killed Oscar Grant, an unarmed man, on a train platform.

Kat Brooks, a key organizer in The Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant said Grant protests lay down the groundwork for Oakland Occupy protesters and their approach to demonstrating.

“Had Oscar Grant not happened, Occupy Oakland would have still happened, but it would not have happened with the efficiency, with the numbers of people, and with the power that it was able to come out of the gate with,” Brooks said.

According to Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan, the movement’s actions are stretching department resources, but police cannot back down.

“This particular Occupy movement has become more combative; we cannot allow them to march through the street, tear up the buildings, cause violence,” he said at a press conference.

There have been no plans for negotiation between law enforcement and protesters. Saturday night is Occupy Oakland’s next march.

With contributions from Andrea Wang

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