Oakland, California, has experienced intermittent unrest these past few weeks, which was likely the reason why it was included in a list of jurisdictions where the president said he might be sending federal law enforcement.
“We’re going to have more federal law enforcement — that I can tell you,” President Donald Trump said Monday. “We’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these [cities] — Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.”
The liberal Democrat running Oakland — Mayor Libby Schaaf — called the threat “racist,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Like pretty much every mayor whose city was called out by Trump, Schaaf seemed, publicly, to indicate everything was under control and this was just an election-year ploy by the president to make it look like law and order had broken down.
She seemed fine with the protests.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning — on the day of a vote to defund Oakland’s police force — Schaaf’s home was the subject of vandalism and the target of projectiles which the mayor’s office said were meant to “terrorize” her family.
— Chuck Clifford (@chuckclifford) July 21, 2020
The phrases “Defund OPD,” “Homes For All” and “Blood On Your Hands” were spray-painted on her property; according to KPIX-TV, the graffiti “appeared to be messages related to the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Witnesses told KGO-TV that roughly 30 to 40 people clad in black and wearing masks converged on Schaaf’s home at 2 a.m. Tuesday, firing projectiles and setting off fireworks. Graffiti was left on the garage door and stone wall of the house, as well as on the sidewalk.
“An attack at the home of a publicly elected official does not advance democracy. Around 2 a.m. vandals shot projectiles at the Mayor’s home, set off fireworks, and graffitied her home with paint,” Schaaf spokesman Justin Berton said in a statement to KNTV. “This attack, designed to intimidate the Mayor and strike fear into her family, will not stop her from advocating for the policies she believes are in the best long-term interests of her beloved hometown. Like all Oaklanders, she supports passionate protest but does not support tactics meant to harm and terrorize others.”
“Last night we sent a wake up call to Libby and a call for action to the whole Bay Area. We left a note on her garage, and treated her to a nice fireworks display and the musical notes of pots and pans and assorted noisemakers,” the statement read.
“Our message to Libby and other elected officials is simple: You have the power to take the boot off our necks — so we have the duty to struggle against you until that boot is lifted. You can’t hide from your responsibility!”
“We are living in hell! While we’re stuck here, politicians should face the heat too. We call on everyone to make real the chant — ‘no justice, no peace!'”
Justice — according to the demands of the communiqué — involves defunding and dismantling the Oakland Police Department, the cancellation of rent, homes for everyone and the dropping of all charges against protesters.
To her credit, Mayor Schaaf cast the tie-breaking vote against a motion to cut funding to the Oakland Police Department later on Tuesday. According to KGO, the defunding initiative took the form of an amendment to the budget proposed by Councilmembers Loren Taylor and Nikki Bas which would “reimagine public safety.”
“Today, Councilmembers Kaplan and Bas are proposing a dangerous and irresponsible amendment to that already-approved budget,” Schaaf said. “Their proposal would further impair emergency response capabilities, as well as make illusory budget cuts that could throw Oakland into even greater fiscal vulnerability.”
In a July 12 opinion piece for the San Jose Mercury News coming out against Kaplan and Bas’ proposed cuts, Barry Donelan noted the case for defunding the police in Oakland was a difficult one, given the city already had a crime problem before the current health crisis and, like so many other cities, has seen a spike in violent crime even as fewer people are out and about.
“Right now, Oakland faces an enormous demand for police service. In 2019, OPD received 748,647 calls for help. That works out to about 2,000 calls per day. Routinely, more than 100 calls are awaiting an officer’s response at any given time. Officers are straining to respond to emergencies,” he wrote.
“Oakland continues to face staggering levels of violent crime. In 2019, crime rose while the number of OPD officers fell. Oakland’s upward violent crime trend continues this year, even amid the coronavirus pandemic. While many cities have seen substantial reductions in violent crime during the shelter-in-place, Oakland has had 236 shootings and homicides, a 24% increase year over year.”
Beyond the fact that Schaaf made a sound policy decision in spite of the intimidation against her, I couldn’t help but notice this quote from the mayor about the events of early Tuesday morning: “An attack at the home of a publicly elected official does not advance democracy.”
What, Mayor Schaaf, led you to believe the forces arrayed against you (and against officialdom of all stripes) are interested in advancing democracy?
This is the paradox at the heart of how liberal and progressive politicians and media organs approach intransigent “protesters” who foment unrest through decidedly non-peaceful means.
While Oakland isn’t the most prominent example of this that Trump could have highlighted, The Mercury News claimed in an editorial that “Oakland continues to have regular protests, but they’re largely peaceful. The primary goal of the demonstrators is to continue focusing attention on the legitimate need for racial justice — something Trump continues to ignore and would better understand if he bothered to learn about longstanding injustices that confront Black Americans.”
Regular protests, yes. Both sides agree upon that.
Largely peaceful, yes — but these words have been said about every protest that’s happened since George Floyd’s death. “Largely peaceful” or “mostly peaceful” lose their meaning when they’re spoken like an incantation over, say, helicopter footage of a Wendy’s burning down.
There’s no amount of good vibes from the vast majority of law-abiding citizens exercising their First Amendment rights that cancels out the problem — which is the part of the equation that isn’t peaceful. That’s the contingent the mayor of Oakland said “terrorize[d]” her family.
And that contingent isn’t merely content “to continue focusing attention on the legitimate need for racial justice.” If we’re to believe the communiqué from those who vandalized Mayor Schaaf’s house on Tuesday morning, they want the police dismantled, free rent and housing for everyone, and amnesty for people like them who’re committing crimes in order to achieve these ends.
This isn’t advancing democracy nor is it about racial justice. It’s not “racist” to say this element of the protests presents an issue, nor is it appropriate to say this is something Oakland (or other jurisdictions) have under control.
If the left wants to pretend that’s the case, they might convince their own. Swing voters, however, won’t be so easily convinced this permissiveness is somehow a road map to law and order.
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