Oakland businesses, police slam mayor for weak protest response

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Police and business leaders in the very liberal city of Oakland, Calif., are pushing back against Democratic political leaders who have abandoned efforts to clear rioting protesters from a downtown park.

Roughly 1,600 protesters loosely affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement have announced plans to shut the city’s downtown area and its critical seaport on Wednesday, and accused the police of injuring one protester who is a military veteran.

Hard-line activists “are getting rewarded for their behavior, and the law-abiding folks, the taxpayers, the 53 percent who are trying to run businesses and promoting the community … are being put out of business,” Phil Tagami, a downtown business developer, told The Daily Caller.

The mayor’s inability to curb the protests, he said, “is a serious blow to not only public safety, but also to public confidence [and] our ability to lease our property, to have businesses operate without disruption,” he said.

The protests, he said, are “hurting not Wall Street, but Main Street.”

“Oakland is a town that has worked hard to improve its reputation … [it is] very multicultural, diverse and tolerant,” partly because it has a growing population of homosexual and lesbian parents who have fled San Francisco, he said. “Those who want to have a family move to Oakland,” he said.

City residents are also trying to push back against Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

A group of nearly 100 residents has begun a recall petition charging the mayor with failing to protect the city, and with lacking a “rational solution to mitigate the chaos.”

The mayor has not cleared the downtown camp because some of her advisors are “telling her, ‘You were back in the ’60s, so let’s take down the man,’” Tagami said.

“The mayor has to realize she is the establishment, she is the chief executive of the city,” he said.

Police officers also joined the criticism. The protests are “bleeding a lot of resources and money,” said Dom Arotzarena, a police sergeant and the head of the Oakland Police Officer’s Association.

“This is Oakland,” he told TheDC. “We have may issues — we have a high crime rate, and we need to deal with that.”

Both Tagami and Arotzarena complained that a hard core of liberal protesters are pushing the Oakland protests towards violence.

Last week’s riots began with “occupiers throwing some stuff at the cops,” said Arotzarena. They were “throwing feces, paint, rocks and M-80” large firecrackers, he said. “The only thing that the police department has done poorly is defend themselves” in the media, he said.

“I have friends and neighbors out there,” said Tagami. “I know people are who are out there, who are frustrated and I get that, but the problem is that some of the people who infiltrate the protests are provocateurs and anarchists,” he said.

“I was was there, watching them pelt the police with bottles, rockets, bags of clorox and paint, and throwing M-80s, and the police took it for a long time,” Tagami said.

But the mayor’s subsequent decision to let the protestors remain has left the police and business leaders in the lurch, said Tagami and Arotzarena.

“We were left almost abandoned by the city, even though we’re just doing our jobs… we look like the bad guys,” said Arotzarena.

Because of the riots, “the tents are back [in the park], and the business-owners are telling us they’d like to close their business because they don’t know if this [violence] is coming back,” said Tagami.

The threat to the city was escalated on the weekend, when protestors decided to impose a general strike this Wednesday.

“The Oakland General Strike will demonstrate the wide reaching implications of the Occupy Wall Street movement,” according to a posting at the Occupy Oakland website. “The entire world is fed up with the huge disparity of wealth caused by the present system…The Oakland General Strike is a warning shot to the 1% — their wealth only exists because the 99% creates it for them.”

“Maybe we should send Michael Moore the bill [because] he put gas on the fire,” said Tagami. “Maybe we should hold occupy his front yard.”

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