An Open Letter to Jean Quan, Progressives, and Occupy Oakland



Dear Jean Quan,

Please ignore those who continue to push you to crack down on Occupy Oakland. Their position is irresponsible, dangerous, and completely out of touch. You already tried a crackdown, and it was a disaster.

As you know, you’ve been vilified by liberals and progressives throughout the world for green-lighting the October 25 raid on the encampment in front of City Hall and the over-the-top police action later that night. Another crackdown will not break up the Occupy Movement. The protesters will just keep coming back.

Please also ignore those who contend that if you had only cracked down on the encampment earlier, then Occupy Oakland would have gone away peacefully. Anyone who seriously believes that has no clue about how frustrated people are about our economic and governmental system and the fact that it rewards corporations, banks, and the rich, while punishing everyone else.

The crackdown advocates also are clueless about the city of Oakland. It has a rich history of protest, as you well know, since you participated in many demonstrations over the years. Oakland is also one of the most progressive cities in the nation — as was made abundantly clear on Tuesday when so many of your supporters were shocked at your decision to clamp down on the encampment.

Appeasing the crackdown advocates also will get you nowhere. It not only would likely result in one or more additional ugly confrontations with police, but it’s not going to win you any friends and supporters. As you know, the same people advocating the crackdown strongly opposed your candidacy for mayor, and many of them want you to be recalled. It won’t endear you to them to do what they want. They still won’t like you.

In short, don’t make the same mistakes that President Obama has made repeatedly in the past three years. He has tried to appease Republicans over and over again, giving up on his ideals for some “grand compromise” that was never going to happen. And what did it get him? Conservatives still hate him, no matter how many times he adopted their positions. Indeed, they still opposed him when he did.

Liberals and progressives, meanwhile, are greatly disillusioned with Obama. To many, he has been a weak president, unwilling to stand up and fight for what he believes in — at least until recently. Things have gotten so bad that there’s a very real possibility progressives will sit out next year’s election, opening the door for an empty suit like Mitt Romney to sweep into the White House.

Ms. Quan, you were elected mayor last year in large part because of your progressive credentials. People didn’t put your name on their ballots because they thought you would clamp down on protests, and your big mistake this week has left many of your supporters wondering where is the woman they voted for.

But it’s not too late to regain your footing. Your actions since Tuesday have been measured and thoughtful. But if you’re going to be successful, it will require ignoring the people who are pushing you to make another bad decision. They would love nothing more than to see you fail.

Dear Progressives,
Many of you were disheartened at what Mayor Quan did this past week. But if you believe in the progressive cause of the Occupy Movement — that our system is corrupt and desperately needs to be changed — then it’s your duty to help Occupy Oakland become a protest that people will remember for generations.

Please, get out of your homes and come down to City Hall. Get involved. Join the General Assembly. Help Occupy Oakland avoid the pitfalls of its first two weeks. And most of all: Help block those who want to protest for the sake of protesting and want to turn Occupy Oakland into a demonstration that embraces violence and chaos. If that were to happen, then it will destroy what could be the most important progressive cause of this generation.

Above all: Help Occupy Oakland be a clean and safe encampment. Donate your time and money. Work with Mayor Quan and the occupiers to make the encampment become self-sustainable so that it’s not a drain on precious city funds. Also, if it’s clean and safe, a place that people want to visit, then it will help the small stores and businesses near City Hall that have been impacted over the past few weeks.

Dear Occupiers,
If Occupy Oakland is to be successful, it must be self-sustainable and it must embrace the proven tenets of nonviolent protest. If the encampment grows chaotic and violent and becomes a public health nuisance, the protest will fail. Such a scenario will result in increasing pressure on Mayor Quan to crack down on the encampment again. Indeed, if Occupy Oakland deteriorates badly, then over time many people may conclude that last week’s police action was justified.

It’s heartening to hear that you are working cooperatively so far with the city to operate a clean and safe encampment. And the decision last night to walk away from what might have become a violent confrontation with police was definitely the right move.

But you still have troublemakers in your midst. And like any civilized community, you must find a way to deal with them effectively and nonviolently. Prevent them from hijacking this protest and turning it into anarchy. The Occupy Movement is too important to allow that to happen.