Occupy Oakland encampment must go, four city council members say

Four Oakland City Council members will call for the immediate removal of the Occupy Oakland encampment today. (AP file photo)Four Oakland City Council members will call for the immediate removal of the Occupy Oakland encampment today. (AP file photo)

Four city council members calling for removal of Occupy Oakland encampment

Four Oakland City Council members will call for the immediate removal of the Occupy Oakland encampment today.

Council President Larry Reid will join council members Ignacio De La Fuente, Desley Brooks and Libby Schaaf at a news conference this afternoon to call for the ongoing Occupy Oakland encampment to be removed from Frank Ogawa Plaza, where the protesters have been camping since Oct. 10.

“To me, immediately means as soon as practical,” Schaaf said today.

She said she would defer to the city administrator to determine the best way to remove the encampment.

“Obviously we all want this resolved peacefully and productively,” she said, “But we are trying to make a strong statement today that the lawlessness will not be tolerated.”

Schaaf said that recent incidents such as a turbulent protest that followed a daylong “general strike” in Oakland on Nov. 2 have hurt downtown businesses with vandalism.

Police forcibly removed the encampment the morning of Oct. 25, but after confrontations with protesters seeking to return to the plaza that night drew international media attention, police presence at the plaza was withdrawn, and protesters returned the next day.

Paul Junge and Joseph Haraburda of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce are also expected to attend today’s news conference, according to Claudia Burgos, a spokeswoman for De La Fuente.

Haraburda and Junge have been increasingly critical of Mayor Jean Quan’s response to the protests since protesters returned to the plaza, saying that the continued encampment is hurting the business community and calling on the mayor to reach a peaceful resolution with protesters quickly.

On Tuesday, Quan issued a statement asking protesters to appoint an spokesperson to negotiate with city officials for the removal of the camp. Quan said several protesters have come forward in recent weeks, but none has been officially chosen by Occupy Oakland to act as a liaison.

Meanwhile, the city administrator’s office released a statement Tuesday outlining continued health and safety issues it said are persistent in the camp. It said that the Oakland Fire Department responded to two fires overnight, and that protesters had been hostile to firefighters trying to enter the camp.

The statement also said graffiti, vandalism and sanitation continue to be problems.

Occupy Oakland protester Kevin Seal said today that he has not heard of any progress toward appointing a spokesperson to negotiate with city officials. He said that because of the nature of the Occupy protests, there are no official representatives.

Seal also disputed the allegations that the encampment is hurting downtown businesses.

“We’re finding the businesses around the encampment are actually doing better business than before we got there,” Seal said.

He added that most businesses that are part of the Chamber of Commerce are not downtown near the encampment.

“I think it’s telling that this press conference today is at the Lake Merritt bandstand and not anywhere near 12th and Broadway,” Seal said.

He also said that a heavy police response could be responsible for any decline in business in the downtown area.

“If people are scared to come to downtown Oakland, they’re scared of being shot at by police,” Seal said.

Seal said protesters are working to improve health and safety conditions at the camp, and that they are taking responsibility for keeping the camp clean and safe.

“It seemed cleaner yesterday than I’ve ever seen it before,” he said.

He added that protesters have been maintaining portable toilets and have added more fire extinguishers to the camp.

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