Quan’s legal advisor: “Which side are we on?”

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Police turned out in force in the streets of Oakland on Oct. 25
by Rebecca Bowe

The scene in Oakland was calm and peaceful around 9 p.m. last night as some 2,000 occupiers met in the amphitheater outside Oakland City Hall at Frank Ogawa Plaza. In sharp contrast with the war zone-like scene the previous evening, police did not mobilize to try and put a stop to the massive and highly organized general assembly meeting. Protesters have vowed to reconvene at 14th and Broadway at 6 p.m. every single day to continue organizing using a consenus process.

The night before, police in riot formations threatened “serious injury” if protesters did not disperse and assailed them with projectiles and blasts of teargas. But spirits were high as a fence blocking Frank Ogawa Plaza came down and the occupiers regrouped in the square, which they'd renamed Oscar Grant Plaza.

According to some news reports, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan had a change of heart. “Clearly, a decision was made last night not to involve the police,” Attorney Dan Siegel, a legal advisor to Quan, told the Guardian.

“My sense of things is that the city as a whole made a conclusion that it did not want to have another confrontation with Occupy Oakland.” Siegel said that when he was at City Hall in the early evening Oct. 26, before the General Assembly got underway, he was challenged by protesters who were angered by police actions the night before. “I said I didn’t agree with the decision of the police to break up the encampment,” he explained.

“I thought the police overreacted and committed actions of improper violence.”

In the heat of the confrontation, he even said he would think about resigning as Quan’s legal advisor.

But Siegel added that he hoped Quan was coming around. “I’ve been trying to convince her and others that there’s a different paradigm at issue here,” he said.

Instead of focusing on inconveniences and city ordinances about camping overnight in public parks, he said, Oakland could be taking the perspective that “we are really in a situation of crisis in the United States ... and the Occupy movement is a response to that. It is very likely to be a longstanding movement.”

He added that problems could be mitigated without involving police or using force. “As a city and as individuals, which side are we on?” Siegel said.

The Guardian sent messages to Quan’s office a short time ago to find out what the mayor’s intentions are regarding Occupy Oakland, whether instances of police violence are being investigated, and whether the city planned to meet with Occupy Oakland organizers. We haven’t yet heard back.

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