Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Down at the Occupation

Preparing for the Arrest, Sacramento, California, October 8, 2011, Cesar Chavez Plaza
From OccupySacramento Facebook photo page

Tonight was City Council night, and Occupiers were pretty jazzed by it. Some of them, of course, were experienced with the ways of the council and its staff, but most were not. Many had prepared very eloquent pleas to the council to cease the arrests and allow the Occupation to continue in Cesar Chavez Plaza indefinitely. For the most part, it was a beautiful thing, and the council appeared to be impressed with the diversity, the eloquence, the determination, and the objectives of the Occupation.

Of course there was no decision; there couldn't be. The vice mayor and the councilman for the Downtown district explained that due to open meeting laws, they could not take up the matter for a vote but they would direct staff -- here we go -- to study the issue and report back next week when the issue would be an agenda item and they will be able to consider it properly and take a vote.

There was also talk of having the chief of police and the city manager come up with some kind of accommodation for the Occupation in addition to that which they have already supplied: two parking places on the street for a truck to hold the Occupation's equipment overnight. There could be an exception under the anti-camping ordinance for public events -- including protest.

There has been some talk (not official talk by any means) of pushing the issue by claiming the Plaza in any case, regardless of what officials say or don't say, want or don't want, do or don't do. That's actually how #occupywallstreet originated, just taking over a public space (they were kicked out of the first one that was actually on Wall Street; Liberty Plaza is the second occupation site in New York.)

But here, that idea doesn't really seem to be gaining much traction. The general feeling is that they want to stay legal to the extent they can, they want the city's support, and they want to maintain good relations with the police. There is a very wide range of issues to deal with, and the belief is they can deal with them better if they are all on the same side.

There is some informal discussion now about how best to proceed, but more than likely whatever the decision is will be low-keyed for several more days.

The fear of infiltration and take over by a political party or machine is not really justified. I spoke with Karen Bernal's husband about it tonight, and he just laughed. To his mind, there was no likelihood at all that the Occupation would become a TeaBagger-ish branch of the Democratic Party or any branch of the Democratic Party. No. Won't happen! On the other hand, what might easily happen, perhaps too easily, is that the Occupation might become kind of a civic outreach, not necessarily a branch of the city government but something like private counselors identifying and dealing with the most intractable issues the city faces.

Don't laugh. It could happen.

This may be the real co-optation issue for many of the Occupations.

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