Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Occupy! and negative stereotyping by monopolized media

For 2 days, the "San Francisco Chronicle" engaged in a negative stereotype of "Occupy" coverage. This is the newspaper for an older and wealthier segment of the Bay Area peoples, and "perception management" is easier to do with an audience who are not likely to be exposed to the real eye-witness reports about police brutality and actual views of the participants.
The Chronicle's 2012-01-31 edition contained half-a-dozen articles, opinion pieces and letters to the editors (continuing into the next day) all vilifying specifically the "Occupy Oakland" action of 2012-01-28. The coverage ignores the murderous threats of the police against protesters, and sidesteps the issues which "Occupy Oakland" advocates for, and ALL protesters (many of whom are pretty upstanding people in the community) are depicted as the same, negative, stereo-type of the hyper-violent black-clad Anarchists.

2012-01-31 "Jean Quan plans to call national Occupy leaders" by Carolyn Jones, Demian Bulwa, Henry K. Lee from "San Francisco Chronicle"
Faced with ever-increasing violence between police and Occupy protesters, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is seeking help from a new source: Occupy Wall Street.
Quan plans to ask leaders of the national Occupy movement to convince their Oakland cohorts to shun violence during their protests over economic inequality, officials said Monday.
"This splinter group inside Occupy Oakland - the ones who advocate violence - are not in sync with the rest of the movement," said Sue Piper, Quan's spokeswoman. "People who have been involved with the national movement - and a lot of people who live in Oakland - are really fed up with this splinter group. This is not what Occupy is supposed to be about."
City officials estimated that about 400 people were arrested Saturday night after protesters' attempt to take over the vacant Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center near Lake Merritt. Three police officers and several protesters were injured in a melee that stretched across downtown.

No formal leadership -
Quan was enmeshed in last-minute budget wranglings Monday as the City Council prepares to slice $28 million from its budget at a meeting tonight. She plans to contact national Occupy leaders after a budget passes, Piper said.
She might have a tough time reaching anyone, though. Occupy Wall Street, like all Occupy offshoots, has no formal leadership and little connection with other Occupy groups. Calls and e-mails from The Chronicle to activists within Occupy Wall Street were not returned Monday.
City leaders are looking at other ways to tamp down Occupy protests, the next of which is scheduled for Monday. Quan said she wants to serve more protesters with stay-away orders, preventing them from being within 100 yards of City Hall and Frank Ogawa Plaza.
Criminal court judges have already ordered at least three Occupy Oakland protesters to stay 100 yards away from City Hall.
Lawyers for some of those protesters said the practice of issuing stay-away orders, which began earlier this month, was unfair and unconstitutional, because it kept the protesters from taking part in Occupy Oakland, which is centered outside City Hall, and prevents them from participating in City Council meetings that affect them.
Some city officials think stay-away orders and entreaties to national Occupy leaders don't go far enough. Police should arrest people for blocking roadways, minor vandalism and other infractions that so far police have mostly avoided, said City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente.
"These people are here to provoke and destroy and cause chaos. We have tolerated it for far too long," he said. "We need to use whatever lawful tools that are available to us to stop this."
Most of the arrests have been for remaining at the scene of a riot, burglary, assault and battery of an officer.
Among the most violent incidents that occurred Saturday night was in front of the YMCA at 23rd Street and Broadway. Police corralled protesters in front of the building and several dozen protesters stormed into the Y, apparently to escape from the police, city officials and protesters said.

'Using Y as a human shield' -
Protesters damaged a door and a few fixtures, and frightened those inside the gym working out, said Robert Wilkins, president of the YMCA of the East Bay.
"It was like they were using the Y as a human shield," he said. "The damage appears pretty minimal, but I'll be mad if I have to send one less kid to camp over this."
Omar Yassin, an activist with Occupy Oakland, said the escalating violence is in response to what he called police brutality and inertia at City Hall. For example, the Kaiser Center has sat vacant for several years while the city has made deep cuts in social services.
"Nothing gets done on the city or federal level unless it enriches the 1 percent," he said. "Everything we do in Oakland has a connection to these larger issues."

2012-01-31 "Violence opens a rift in Occupy; Oakland protesters at odds over confrontational tactics" from "San Francisco Chronicle"
 For many Occupy activists outside Oakland and San Francisco, the violent clashes with police and destruction that attended protests in those cities over the past two weeks not only went against the Occupy message - they've started to undercut its essence.
Even within the cities, there is a deepening split between those who accept violence as a tactic and those who oppose it.
The conflict is turning into a wrestling match for the soul of the Occupy movement in the Bay Area. And it's become so pronounced that many who started out calling themselves Occupiers now refer to themselves as "99 percenters" instead.
"When I started to see what was happening Saturday, my heart just broke," Michele Horaney of Alameda, a member of the 99 Percent Solution activist group in the East Bay, said of the Occupy Oakland protest that devolved into an hours-long street battle with police. "There is so much good to be gotten, earned and kept from really solid, sincere efforts to make things change for the better.
"But now," Horaney said, "we've got this group that pretty much just wants to destroy things and make trouble."

Not their fault -
For others, though, it's not a matter of protesters committing violence. Any destruction is in reaction to police repression of their efforts to seek economic equality, they say - and if violence happens, it's not really the protesters' fault.
"In any struggle for social justice, the people have been told to shut up and sit down," said Cat Brooks, an active Oakland Occupier. "I believe in a diversity of tactics. If you are fully aware of the risks, then you have to do what you have to do.
"I'm not condoning violence, and I'm not condemning it," she said. "I'm just saying that 99 percent of the time when violence happens, it's police who start it. And you have to do what you have to do."

Occupy roots -
Occupy began last fall on Wall Street as a crusade against economic inequity, shrinkage of the middle class and what its backers perceived as corporate greed. As tent cities sprouted throughout the country, the leaderless movement gathered adherents from many stripes of protest, and today one of the more vigorous contingents advocates taking over empty buildings and resisting police.
This is particularly true in Oakland, where protesters protecting themselves with shields tried to take over the vacant Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center on Saturday. The confrontation turned into another melee with police firing tear gas, protesters flinging objects and people getting hurt on both sides. Activists eventually broke into City Hall, burned a U.S. flag and trashed parts of the building.
The week before, on Jan. 20, Occupiers broke into the abandoned Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco after a peaceful day of marches in the Financial District, and were ejected after they threw bricks and other items at police.
Occupy San Francisco's General Assembly has voted to oppose violence as a tactic, but in Oakland - where there have been weekly "F- the police" marches - such proposals have fallen short of the consensus vote needed to pass. At protests in both cities, those who commit vandalism and throw rocks and other objects at officers are often opposed by other protesters who try to calm them down.

Other goals -
Outside the two cities, there is little such debate among the 30-plus Occupy organizations from Santa Cruz to Concord and up to Santa Rosa.
There, the tactics have generally settled into marches and rallies to drive home a few central themes that include banking reform, making the rich and corporations pay more taxes and granting foreclosure relief.
Ellis Goldberg, a marketer who has staged Occupy-inspired rallies against banks in Dublin and San Ramon, has become so frustrated he now calls himself a "99 percenter" instead of an Occupier.
"We had 50 people in front of banks in San Ramon two weeks ago, and we have been telling people for months about $156 billion bonuses Wall Street executives got last year on the backs of the rest of us, but do we get press?" Goldberg said. "No. Instead, we turn on our TV and there are pictures of people breaking into City Hall.
"What we are protesting about has been totally obliterated by what is coming out of the television set," he said. "It's not just burning the American flag that is terrible - it's terrible that it's all getting totally off message. Trashing buildings and fighting with police is not what 99 percent of what the 99 percenters are about."

Oakland debate -
At Frank Ogawa Plaza on Sunday evening, members discussed the impact of the repeated clashes with police and considered the movement's future.
Barucha Peller, one of Occupy Oakland's key organizers, said the group was the victim of police brutality and had no intention of reaching an accommodation with law enforcement, ever.
"I think it's impossible," she said. "If someone shot you in the head, beat you and your family, would you negotiate with that person? That's terrorism."
Standing nearby, Mike Rufo, 50, disagreed. "It'd be reconciliation," he told Peller.
Rufo, an energy-efficiency consultant who has helped organize the delivery of portable toilets to the plaza, said the cycle of conflict had not resulted in progress for either side.
"If you're not willing to sit down and try and work through it, I don't see where we can go," he said.
Off message
Rufo said the Occupy Oakland movement, which he has supported since October, had strayed from its core principles - fighting economic inequality - and was distracted by continual run-ins with police. He hoped the group would shift course and authorize members to meet with city representatives.
"Beating up on each other with the city of Oakland, I don't see where that's going," Rufo said. "They don't have deep pockets either."
 Brooks said the goal is more complex than that.
"It helps those who oppose us to portray this movement as a bunch of violent, crazy people, and that's just not the truth," she said. "Occupy didn't invent what's happening now - this has always happened in social justice movements. What we really need to do now is engage more of the masses."

A masked protester joins the march through downtown Oakland before the demonstration turned violent Saturday.
Photo: Michael Macor / SFC

2012-01-31 "Occupy Oakland's assaults endanger public safety" by Chip Johnson from "San Francisco Chronicle"
When Occupy Oakland speakers exhorted a crowd of more than 1,000 protesters last weekend to embrace hatred and engage in class warfare - essentially promoting violence on the streets of Oakland - they took their call to action a step too far.
Oakland demonstrations aren't really at all about Occupy, a legitimate movement over wealth disparity that got its start in New York. Here, it's about anarchy. It's always been about anarchy.
I believe some protesters have an ax to grind, a score to settle with the Oakland Police Department that may have its roots in the Oscar Grant protests of 2009 and 2010, when rioters looted stores and damaged buildings after peaceful demonstrations sparked by the fatal shooting of a passenger by a BART police officer at an train stop in Oakland. Many demonstrators insistently refer to the plaza outside Oakland City Hall as "Oscar Grant Plaza."
"This was a crowd that started out with the intention of provoking and attacking police," Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana said after Saturday's violent clashes between Occupiers and police sparked by Occupy's attempted takeover of the long-shuttered Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. "In e-mails sent to the mayor's office and on Web postings this was their goal. If this is going to continue, we need to explore all options."
Options include asking Gov. Jerry Brown for help from the National Guard if Occupiers make good on their threats to shut down the Oakland International Airport.
Privately, city officials must be praying for this to happen because it would prompt swift intervention from federal authorities and considerably raise the stakes for fair-weather protesters.
Occupy Oakland's continued assaults on public properties create a safety hazard for all Oakland residents, not just the lemmings who follow the so-called leaderless movement leaders like blind mice. Someone is calling the shots, choosing tactics and targets. The group brought an 8-foot metal shield with eight handles for a showdown with police Saturday. It's glaring evidence of both planning and intent.
And what did they accomplish?
They vandalized the center of government and commerce and stormed buildings, including the downtown YMCA. Just so you know, that's the fitness center for the 99 percent. Club One is the other way.
Since Occupy demonstrations began in October, some protesters have vowed to bring Oakland to its knees. They believe the cash-strapped city cannot continue to pay police overtime and costs related to mutual aid requests.
It's true, covering weekly protests is stretching the city's law enforcement resources so thin it cannot provide police coverage for other parts of the city. On Saturday night, there were no police patrols on the streets of East Oakland, said a police officer guarding City Hall.
Not far from City Hall, a homeless man walking along Broadway said he was confused by the protesters' actions. "Man, they're laying all over the street. What's wrong with those people?"
If the city's leadership has any common sense, gumption or genuine concern for the residents who rely on them to maintain civility, it's time to put an end to protests that turn violent.
After what happened last weekend, there is no one who can say with a straight face that the actions of Occupy protesters are being carried out with the goal of helping the 99 percent.

2012-01-31 "Teen charged as adult in slayings" by Henry K. Lee from "San Francisco Chronicle"A15-year-old boy accused of strangling his foster parents in Oakland and stuffing their bodies into a car will be prosecuted as an adult, authorities said Monday.
 Moses Kamin is to be arraigned today in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland, pending the formal filing of charges by prosecutors in the deaths of Robert Kamin, 55, and Susan Poff, 50.
 The boy could face two counts of murder and a special circumstance alleging he committed multiple murders. He could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
 Police were called to the family’s home on Athol Avenue near Lake Merritt on Friday by a co-worker who was concerned when Robert Kamin, a clinical psychologist, did not show up for work at the San Francisco County Jail.
 Officers found the couple’s bodies hidden in the back of their car parked outside their home. The car was charred, as if someone tried to set it on fire, police said.
 The couple had been having arguments with their son, some of them having to do with him spending too much time in the former Occupy Oakland encampment, co-workers said.

2012-01-31 "Let Oakland protesters occupy a county jail cell" by Debra J. Saunders from the "San Francisco Chronicle"
Occupy Oakland is aptly named. When forces occupy a city, they know that occupied turf is not their home. They can maraud, loot, vandalize, abuse the locals, and then leave. They can treat other people's property as their own.
The occupiers don't have to clean up after themselves. They don't have to worry about paying for the workers who clean up after them, either.
Occupiers don't have to exert self-control. They can freely act upon their rage, while defenders of occupied territory must concentrate on protecting what others want to harm.
Occupiers do not have to fear that they will be punished for the damage they have inflicted on the city of Oakland. About the worst that most occupiers might fear is that, if they break the law, they will be arrested, held and released. Most won't even have to make bail.
Occupy Oakland protesters broke into City Hall on Saturday, sprayed graffiti, toppled a historic model of City Hall and children's artwork, stole and then burned an American flag, sprayed graffiti and otherwise trashed the people's building. Police arrested about 400 people. Mayor Jean Quan likened the activists' behavior to "a tantrum," as she complained Occupy activists have been treating the city "like a playground."
Except that children treat their playgrounds better. And children don't organize their tantrums.
But the playground analogy works when you look at what Occupy posts on the Internet: "The march and the pigs played a game of cat and rat, we, the rats with our tiny sharp teeth bared, they, the dumb slow cats with their fancy technology and weaponry."
Oakland cannot afford to police and clean up after Occupy activists. City Hall already has had eliminate jobs to shave $28 million from a $388 million budget. Quan estimates that, since tents first went up in Frank Ogawa Plaza in October, the Occupy tab has exceeded $5 million.
It defies all logic that activists, who see themselves as champions of fairness and advocates for the poor, have chosen to become a fiscal drain on the financially strapped city.
Clearly the protesters didn't choose Oakland because it is a financial hub, or because its downtown is rich and powerful. They chose Oakland because Oakland doesn't fight back.
Quan finally ordered police to remove the illegal Occupy encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza last fall. When a protester ended up in the hospital, Quan took so much heat that she invited the tents back.
Later, she changed her mind again. Since then, when protesters intermittently get out of control, the police arrest them for remaining at the scene of a riot or wearing a mask to avoid identification - and sometimes, rarely, for battery or assault. Then what? We don't know.
When I called Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley's office to find out how many Occupy Oakland arrestees had been prosecuted, a spokeswoman told me the D.A. did not keep track of Occupy cases as a group.
Throwing objects at cops, occupying city space, blocking people on their way to work or vandalizing city property - these might as well be minor crimes in the Bay Area.
I know from covering protests gone bad in San Francisco that police frequently complain that prosecutors do not take arrested activists to court. Prosecutors complain that police fail to supply them with the evidence they need to win a conviction.
Occupy Oakland has been choking City Hall and draining its coffers for months. Are there any consequences? It seems, pun intended, there is no there there.

2012-01-31 Letters to the editor of the "San Francisco Chronicle"  [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/01/30/EDUK1N0EPT.DTL]
A fine message -
John Dillon, San Bruno
I wish to hail the Occupy Oakland movement for striking a blow against the capitalist running dogs by trashing Oakland City Hall ("Police, occupiers clash - 100 held," Jan. 29).
 If tearing up a children's art exhibit doesn't send the strongest possible message that Occupy supports and will fight for the rights of the 99 percent, I don't know what action would.
 I raise my clenched fist, the one not holding a cocktail in support.

A terrible example -
Fred Strauss, Oakland
Mayor Jean Quan acts and speaks as if these Occupy Oakland participants are terrorists.
 There is something wrong in our country. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Everyone, except the very rich, is waiting for someone to make some appropriate changes to American life.
 We need regulation of corporations; we need to stop treating corporations as if they are human.
 This society, which denigrates teachers, has no interest in educating the poor, has no interest in providing opportunity to those at the bottom, goes to any means to protect large corporations and has no sympathy for those who cannot find a job.
 How can you tolerate spending millions and millions to enable police brutality as you take away millions and millions from Oakland schools? The Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, owned by the city of Oakland, has been empty for years. What is so terrible about the disenfranchised of Oakland wanting to put their energy into constructive projects?
 What a terrible example to our young people. If you can't agree with them, beat them, put them in jail. No wonder Oakland's young people are so violent. You do not have to look far to see how our leaders handle difficult situations.

What is accomplished? -
Katherine Moore, Oakland
I am sick that the Occupy Oaklanders broke the building model in City Hall Saturday night.
 It was a neat thing and probably old. What does destroying a piece of art accomplish?

Rhetoric of hate -
Cyndi Spindell Berck, Berkeley
I was astounded at the quote from a retired professor speaking at an Occupy Oakland rally and urging passionate, organized hatred for the rich.
 Hatred leads to violence. At whom should this hatred be aimed: at anyone earning more than the person doing the hating? Should a minimum-wage worker hate the professor because of her higher lifetime earnings? Are the 99 percent supposed to hate Bill Gates, George Soros and Warren Buffett, who have used their billions to work for a better world?
 Substitute whites, blacks, Jews or Muslims for rich, and see how it sounds. This is appalling rhetoric from someone who is supposed to be an educator. What a nice job of giving material to conservatives who have been accusing liberals of class warfare and the bitter politics of envy.

The flag and freedom -
Dan Gracia Sr., Daly City
How dare you burn our flag! I could not believe the photo on the front page on Sunday (Jan. 29).
 The little respect I had for some of the Occupy Oakland protesters just went out the door. Who do these people think they are to show this much disrespect to the flag that gave them the freedom to carry on their protest? We see photos like this from other countries, countries that are jealous of our freedom and the way we live. These protesters that are shown setting fire to our flag are a total disgrace to America.
 My thought is that if they feel this way, they should leave this country and never return to have the freedom we have here in America.
 God bless America.

A woman pleads with protesters not to burn flag in at Oakland City Hall.
Photo: Beck Diefenbach / Associated Press

2012-02-01 Letters to the editor of the "San Francisco Chronicle"
It's up to Oaklanders to end this -
Daniel Auker, Oakland
Occupy Oakland has jumped the shark. Any remaining community support and goodwill evaporated when the "protesters" stormed City Hall, busted up the place and burned the American flag on the steps ("Police, Occupiers clash - 100 held," Jan. 29).
 The problem with a leaderless movement is that it is impossible to control and can easily be hijacked. Clearly, the original coalition of disaffected ordinary citizens has given way to an unruly mob of professional rabble-rousers and thrill seekers.
This is not peaceful protest. This is not civil disobedience. It's time to stop associating what is going on in our city with the Occupy movement and acknowledge it for what it is - anarchy. The violent, property-smashing vandals roaming our streets do not represent the 99 percent, and they most certainly do not have the best interests of the citizens of Oakland in mind.
It's time to end this. The cops and the city can't do it alone - police actions fan the flames. Two things need to happen to stop the chaos:
-- It's up to us - the residents of this city - to make it clear that we will no longer tolerate this behavior.
-- The hard-core troublemakers hide in crowds. Responsible activists must dissociate themselves and refuse to join further protests under the Occupy Oakland banner.

Wall Street's best friends -
James Holmes, Larkspur
The protesters who tore up Oakland last weekend in the name of Occupy Wall Street are actually Wall Street's best friends because they enable the financial elite to portray all who legitimately oppose them as scary anarchists and vandals instead of ordinary Americans cheated out of the American dream.

How to cool it off -
James Sayre, Oakland
The ongoing standoff between Occupy protesters and the Oakland government and police can be cooled off.
 Apparently, there are hundreds of homeless people living in Oakland; apparently, there are hundreds of empty buildings in Oakland. The city government should find a couple of buildings and open them to Occupy movement - one to be used as a home for the homeless, outfitted with beds, showers and a kitchen, and the other as a social and educational site for the Occupy movement.
 The city should allow Occupy volunteers to use their skills and enthusiasm to create a better Oakland. This would defuse much of the anger and outrage in the local Occupy movement.

Next time, try democracy -
Bruce Folck, Oakland
The Tea Party saw a political situation with which they disagreed, banded together and effected political change at all levels of government, without violence or vandalism. The Occupy Oakland movement sees a political situation with which they disagree, and ...?!
Is OO admitting that the Tea Partiers are smarter, more organized, more determined and more dedicated to peaceful process than are they? If the Tea Partiers can effect social and political change, why not Occupy? If you don't like the status quo, put your own candidates up for election. Put members on the City Council and into the state Senate. If you have to resort to violence and the destruction of public property to get your way, you will quickly lose popular support, and your goals are doomed.
There are many ways to effect change - why not try the democratic method?

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