The protestors didn't start the confrontations with the police -- but we need to end them
EDITORIAL This is what civility and compromise looks like:
At a little after 10 P.m. Oct 16, a squadron of San Francisco police equipped with riot gear raided and attempted to shut down the OccupySF protest. It was the second time San Francisco has embarrassed itself, becoming the only major U.S. city to attempt to evict members of the growing Occupation movement — and this time, the cops used a lot more force.
The first crackdown, on Oct. 5, was supposedly driven by concerns that the activists were using an open flame for their communal kitchen without the proper permits. This time around, the alleged lawbreaking was confined to a Park Code section that bans sleeping in city parkland after 10 p.m. And since Justin Herman Plaza, where OccupySF is camped, is technically under the jurisdiction of the Recreation and Park Department, that ordinance could be enforced.
But let's be serious: The encampment endangered nobody, and if any Rec-Park officials had actually complained, the police couldn't provide their names. This was all about rousting a protest against corporate greed and economic injustice. It came with police batons, several beatings and five arrests.
And the mayor of what many call the most liberal city in America hasn't said a word. Mayor Ed Lee was clearly consulted on the raid, clearly approved it — and now becomes unique among the chief executives of big cities across the country, most of whom have worked to find ways to avoid police confrontations.
David Chiu, the president of the Board of Supervisors, issued a ridiculous statement saying that "Both the Occupy SF protesters and the San Francisco Police Department need to redouble their efforts to avoid confrontations like the ones we saw last night." No: The protesters didn't start it, didn't provoke it, didn't want it — and frankly, did their best to avoid it. The crackdown is all about the folks at City Hall trying to get rid of one of the most important political actions in at least a decade — and doing it with riot police.
This is what the civility and compromise so touted by Mayor Lee and Board President Chiu looks like. And it's a disgrace.
In Oakland, where the encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza, renamed Oscar Grant Plaza for the event, has far more people than Occupy SF, city officials approached the activists and offered to issue whatever permits were needed. Mayor Jean Quan visited the general assembly, waited her turn to speak, and then politely asked the group not to damage the somewhat fragile old oak tree on the site. In deference to her wishes, the group surrounded the tree with a fence.
In New York, the private owner of the park where Occupy Wall Street is camped agreed not to evict the demonstrators — or even move some of them to all for a regular park cleaning.
Why is San Francisco acting so hostile? Is this not a city with a reputation for political activism and tolerance? Is it really that big a problem to allow activists to peacefully occupy public space to denounce the greatest corporate thievery in a generation?
San Francisco ought to be supporting the OccupySF movement, not harassing it. Lee should immediately call off the police raids. The Board of Supervisors should have a hearing on this, bring Police Chief Greg Suhr, Mayor Lee and representatives of Rec-Park and the Department of Public Health and work out a solution that doesn't involve repeatedly rousting the protesters in the middle of the night. And if this continues, perhaps OccupySF should move to the plaza in front of City Hall.
Sup. John Avalos is the only person at City Hall who is making an outspoken effort to protect the protest; he needs some support.