Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Hate Politics

The Sacramento City Council meeting at which the issue of OccupySacramento's Occupation of Ceasar Chavez Plaza was discussed at length -- and very articulately argued by numerous OccupySacramento participants and supporters (I've decided most are law students or lawyers, but that's surely not true) -- because the council pulled their usual shit on the citizens. They heard them reasonably respectfully, then they turned the tables.

There would be no vote, the Mayor said. They couldn't vote on the matter, it wasn't an action item on the agenda. There was no way. They could only take testimony. The Mayor smiled broadly at his cleverness. But some of them knew the kind of thing that is typical in their dealing with -- ew-- "citizens." The crowd began to murmur. Then after all the testimony was taken -- and I think there were close to fifty speakers, though only forty were announced at the start of the testimony -- one of the councilmen, the most sympathetic of them, said he thought it might be possible, over time, to work out some kind of compromise that would allow the material and equipment to stay in the Plaza and perhaps a "protester" or two could stay in the Park overnight to make sure it was safe. Then the councilmember for the downtown district decided to claim that the occupation wasn't peaceful because a police officer was bitten by a dog in the Plaza. She was nearly roasted over a spit, and she demanded to be heard. She wanted a flood control levee for her district, but she couldn't get one because of Republican earmark rules, and the Occupation can help in that situation somehow. She had talked to the Occupiers for a while. She knew what they wanted. She would work with her colleagues on crafting a compromise.

The Occupiers demanded loudly that the arrests stop. The Mayor said no. He would spend two or three days at the Plaza in dialogue, and then perhaps something could be worked out, a compromise perhaps, in due time. Perhaps. They must dialog first. The Mayor then designated an Occupier as his point person with whom he would coordinate his visitations of the Plaza; some people were not happy with that arrangement at all. By that time, people were so furious, it hardly mattered.

They were played. This is how this council works, which is something they might have been told in advance by some of those who had been through that wringer (who, me? Well, I have said something, but there's a great unwillingness to believe won't work out for the best.)

The Occupation will not get what it wants. It probably won't get anything except "dialog" -- which could go on literally for years with no resolution, nothing. That's what the Safe Ground people discovered. The city will actually spend hundreds of thousands of dollars commissioning studies and running task forces and hiring people to write reports that will be presented by staff to Council and Council will direct some modest followup study and report and might even get so far as to have staff draft an ordinance or revision, and then it will sit, "dialog will continue" indefinitely. That's the course they've decided on.

Obviously, the Council is taking this episode as a really big deal, because what they are doing is attempting to defuse the protest by co-opting the Occupation through the selection of certain "players" with whom to "dialog." Apart from the fact that the Mayor is sitting down with a representative of the Occupation -- which is a basic splitting tactic -- nothing is happening. Nothing will be done beyond the "dialogue" apart from hiring consultants, who will produce glossy reports that will be ignored --or that may result in the establishment of, say, an "Occupation Commission" which will be an advisory body to Council, possibly even with staff support, though not any time soon. The whole point is to corral the energy of the Occupation and channel it into something productive for the Council. After all, the most supportive of the councilmembers wanted to be sure the Occupiers were shopping and dining at local small businesses. They need the support. As one of them said, "We would, but we can't afford it."

There are preparations under way for arrests tonight, but they are still sorting out volunteers. Cindy Sheehan was back to give moral support and to testify at the council hearing. She said she couldn't stay tonight, but she was planning to come back as soon as she could. OccupySacramento is her "home base" Occupation because it is closest to her home in Vacaville. She and the young folks get along great, by the way.

There is talk of bringing in Cornell West (he was raised here), but I doubt anyone will hold their breath. Meanwhile, word has come that Bay Area Occupations, especially Oakland's, will be sending representatives on visitations.

This is good. This is very good. The more contact between Occupations, the better. And it would be good to send OccupySacramento people to visit as many other Occupations as they can.

What I had been warned would happen (a unanimous negative vote) did not happen, and so the internal split I expected to result from it didn't happen either. Instead, the city is going to try to co-opt the Occupation by splitting it from the outside.

At this point, I doubt it will work, but my Magic 8 Ball has long been on the fritz.

They're packing up now, getting ready for the arrival of the police armadas. The police come in large contingents, 60 or 70 typically; there there according to the Livestream, and it isn't even 10:45. They're taking up positions around the Plaza, paddy wagons at the ready. They've had as many as three dozen patrol cars, two paddy wagons, 70 officers in riot gear, CSI vehicles, etc. etc., making the whole operation way overkill.

I'll watch the Livestream. The tension is rising.

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