By Debra J. Saunders
Occupy Oakland has scheduled a general strike throughout the California city for Wednesday. What does that mean? “No work. No school. Occupy everywhere,” the group’s website explains. “Shut down the city.”
And: “All banks and corporations should close down for the day or we will march on them.”
Occupy Oakland activists have not only free speech rights but also the power to stomp on other people’s rights.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan — a committed left-winger — at first welcomed the protests. But with rats, vigilantism and too much stink, City Hall soured on the ensuing squalor. Too late, Quan discovered that if you give them an inch, they will take Frank Ogawa Plaza. Let them remain downtown and they threaten to trash other parts of the city.
By the time Oakland police and other law enforcement tried to roust campers last week, activists had worked themselves into a lather of indignation. Protesters threw rocks and bottles at officers. Police responded with tear gas. Iraq War vet Scott Olsen, 24, ended up in the hospital — for a cause that activists deliberately refuse to define. It’s as if Olsen was injured in the name of hyperbole.
Who are the self-styled 99 percent? The Occupy Oakland website explains: “We are the unemployed and those burdened by debt. We are losing our homes and we have no future. We have been brutalized by the police and exploited by the rich. We cannot take it any longer.” Some on the left actually think the Occupy protesters help their cause by proclaiming that all but 1 percent of Americans are downtrodden. Everyone’s a victim.
Then there are the grandiose comparisons — such as those who equate Frank Ogawa Plaza with Egypt’s Tahrir Square. A video features Oakland activists defying a police blockade and shouting, “This is what a police state looks like.”
After one man was injured, the hapless Quan undid what law enforcement had accomplished when she invited the campers to re-pitch their tents. She could not endure censure from the likes of MoveOn.org. Last month, the police chief resigned because he felt he didn’t get enough support from City Hall. Meanwhile, the Oakland mayor’s office has authorized employees who want to support the general strike to ask their supervisors for the day off.
And activists call Oakland a police state.
To the contrary, Oakland is a city drowning in social justice. The Oakland teachers union endorsed Wednesday’s strike and is urging members to take a personal day and participate.
Do Oakland teachers care about the city’s tax base? Do they ever ask themselves whether employers might be watching this circus and decide they don’t want to set up shop in Oakland?
On Sunday, City Hall issued an advisory that stated, “We continue to maintain a minimal police presence at the Plaza.” As if that were a good thing.
The mayor’s office released a statement that said, “We are not urging businesses to close on Wednesday. Instead, we advise that you use common sense precautions.”
A mayor ought to be assuring businesses that law enforcement will protect them from people who break the law. Instead, she’s waving a white flag.
Debra J. Saunders is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Her email address is email@example.com.