Jean Quan angers Occupy camp’s supporters, rivals

Matthai Kuruvila and Justin Berton
SF Chronicle – November 5, 2011

Mayor Jean Quan told residents and others gathered at a raucous City Council meeting this week that the Occupy Oakland encampment at City Hall is damaging the city.

Hundreds of jobs are being lost, police are being diverted from violent parts of town, some businesses are closing, and others are choosing not to locate in downtown Oakland at all, she said at Thursday’s special City Council meeting.

Yet at the same meeting, three of Quan’s staunchest supporters urged the council to support the Occupy Oakland encampment. One of them, Don Link, told The Chronicle that they spoke at the meeting on behalf of a group that emerged from Quan’s mayoral campaign and is led by Quan’s husband, Floyd Huen.

Quan’s actions during the past two weeks have left both supporters and opponents of the Occupy Oakland camp bewildered and frustrated.

Her mixed messages, whether she delivers them herself or through others, indicate that she is unwilling to make a decision, Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente said.

“Honestly, I think her nature cannot allow her to make a decision. The city is really suffering the consequences of that,” said De La Fuente, who has emerged as the mayor’s most vocal critic on the council since she took office.

After first supporting the camp, forcing it to close and then allowing it to spring back up, Quan now appears to be leaning toward wanting the camp evicted again.

Residents, police angry

Quan has been criticized for flip-flopping on Occupy by business owners, residents and the Oakland police union, which issued an open letter to residents Tuesday saying police were confused and did not know how to respond to protesters because of the mayor’s mixed signals.

At Thursday’s council meeting, Khalid Shakur, 43, who has camped since the first day, said to Quan, “Mayor Quan, I hold you personally responsible” for the poor relationship that has developed between the city and the camp.

The criticism comes from the other side as well.

Oakland resident Phillip Johnson, who wants the camp removed, said, “Somebody has to stand up for this city. Ms. Quan, you’re a good person, but the business community doesn’t like this.”

Meanwhile, Quan has continued trying to work with the campers in Frank Ogawa Plaza outside City Hall, but many are ignoring her and her administration’s requests for cooperation.

The city’s inability to get protesters to cooperate was apparent again Friday when campers who gathered for a morning meeting were met by Arturo Sanchez, assistant to the city administrator. Sanchez reiterated the city’s concerns over a propane tank in the camp’s food tent and the larger structures that have arisen, such as the medic tent, which is staffed by nurses twice a week.

Sanchez told the group that at some point, “those structures will have to come down,” but did not specify when. Sanchez’s warning was not well received.

“As much as you say you respect our position, please respect ours,” said a camper named Dennis, 39, who had just moved from the Occupy Santa Cruz encampment. “No structure will come down without a general assembly vote.”

Fire inspectors who walked through the kitchen Friday afternoon again asked campers to remove the propane tank, which was covered in a black garbage bag.

‘This is going to end up bad’

De La Fuente expressed grave concerns about what he said is Quan’s inability to take a stand.

“This is going to end up bad,” he warned. “If something happens and that encampment blows up because they have propane tanks, everybody is going to say, ‘Wow.’ Then it’s going to be too late.”