Stung by Bad PR, City Officials Adopting New Tactics to Suppress Occupy Oakland | Occupy Wall Street | AlterNet
Oakland officials have taken a new tack in their suppression of the Occupy movement, one that seems addressed to the city's public relations problems. Gone are the mass arrests, “less-lethal” weaponry and tear gas, replaced with a kind of "lawfare" on the few protesters who remain in the plaza at the foot of Oakland City Hall where the occupation's tent city once stood.
Authorities are no longer routinely claiming that Oakland's occupiers are rioters, arguing instead that they are blocking public access to walkways and possessing unpermitted property -- conduct that may or may not, in fact, be protected under the First Amendment as "expressive" political activities.
Over the last month, the arrests have come in fives and tens, repeatedly targeting some of the same few and most visible activists.
"One of the things the Oakland Police Department is looking at is changing our strategies on how we deal with these protests," says public information officer Johnna Watson. "We want to do something that's more effective. And one of the things we're looking at is when we have repeat offenders, we don't want to just keep arresting them -- we want to implement other tools that the law allows us."
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These new tactics began in mid-December, when Oakland city administrator Deanna Santana told the occupiers at Frank Ogawa plaza outside city hall that they were "creating a threat to public welfare." On December 17, police began issuing citations at the plaza for offenses such as, in one case, leaning a bike against a wall while reading poetry aloud. Tickets handed out to the jovial Interfaith coalition group said only "umbrella." Two people were arrested for refusing to give up blankets, sleeping bags and other property that police alleged was connected with unpermitted lodging.
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