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Police focus on Occupy misses the point

Occupy Oakland has been blamed for local communities’ inability to provide the public with adequate police supervision and to bring safety measures to the streets most in need.

A murder in the Berkeley hills last week and a lack of progress in Oakland’s Mayor, Jean Quan’s, plan to reduce crime in Oakland’s “100 blocks” both blamed Occupy Oakland for their police forces’ failure to act.

These mishaps emphasize the issues surrounding the city’s utilization of its police force.

Quan’s delayed crime reduction plan would focus city resources on the “100 blocks” where 90 percent of the homicides in Oakland  take place. Sounds like a valid issue for the city to address- a priority even.

Outside of the “100 blocks” – in the nearby Berkeley hills – a resident was slain outside of his home after police didn’t respond to his non-emergency call before it was too late. This happened on the same day, Feb. 18, as an Occupy Oakland march to the San Quentin State Prison. There were “between 600 and 700 demonstrators” who attended the march, according to, which described the gathering as peaceful. No arrests were made at the march. Yet, the police force was given orders only to respond to “high priority calls” outside of the march.

It’s hard to say if this tragedy could have been prevented if the police weren’t so focused on the Occupy march. But it seems possible, and at the march police services went mostly unused.

The city’s priority of watching over this social movement sends a message to its citizens about what’s important. The city must value the surveillance of Occupy Oakland over the prevention of violence.

Quan said “the delays were due to Occupy Oakland and the city budget,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The city budget has strained to provide the police as a resource — one that has been allocated to the Occupy Oakland residents. We don’t think the police should have so many people stationed to watch a group that is generally peaceful.

There are still huge problems left unattended. Unemployment, high school drop out rates, poverty and homicide are problems facing the daily lives of our community members, and us.

Here at Mills we have heard of shootings just outside our gates. And often, sirens drown out professors’ lectures. Our neighborhood needs attention and is in fact hugging the “100 blocks” mentioned by the city. Where do we want our police force to be: downtown?

Some of us feel that the city is using Occupy Oakland as a scapegoat. The blame the mayor placed on Occupy Oakland should really belong to those in charge of allocating resources. The resources diverted to Occupy Oakland could be better used elsewhere, such as preventing violence and cleaning up the city.

Some of us see why Occupy Oakland is easy to blame. The negative coverage they’ve been getting in the media makes it seem like Occupiers are rowdy and in need of policing. The police are then positioned to watch them and cannot react to crime in other areas as quickly.

However, what we are really looking at is a city with poor planning and inefficient distribution of resources. The fact that Occupy Oakland is straining the city is not  a question. But why it is straining the city is a question that needs to be raised.

We need to change our priorities to improve our city. The city needs to be able to multitask: protecting its citizens while protecting our freedom to assemble and protest.

So, how useful are the police to this protest where they are required to spend their time? The violence that has been reported recently includes burning flags, destruction of property, and protestors throwing objects, such as rocks, at the police.  Even when things get “violent” at Occupy, they don’t really compare to the “100 blocks,” where nine homicides have taken place so far this year.

We want our city to take action and improve Oakland and to stop blaming the Occupiers because the city can’t get its act together. It’s time for the city to take the initiative for change that can help prevent more deaths and violence in our neighborhoods. The supervision of Occupy at the current level is unnecessary.