Oakland is bracing for what could be significant civic unrest following the decision of a grand jury in Missouri on whether to charge Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan issued an open letter to the community Tuesday morning, saying the recent events in Fergus “have touched us all” and “regardless of the verdict reached by the Missouri grand jury in the coming days or weeks, demonstrations could occur in Oakland.”
Various groups have called to gather at downtown’s Frank H. Ogawa Plaza beginning at 5:00 p.m. on whatever day the verdict is announced.
“The City of Oakland is committed to facilitating peaceful expressions and demonstrations,” wrote Quan, now a lame-duck mayor after losing her re-election bid to Councilwoman Libby Schaaf earlier this month. “Although we don’t anticipate problems to occur, keeping peace on our streets and protecting the safety of Oakland residents and businesses is our top priority and we will be prepared.”
Quan said the city is providing information “to raise awareness… not to alarm, and so that you may plan ahead.” Traffic likely will be disturbed, she said, advising residents, workers and employers to consult www.511.org or call 511 for up-to-date information.
The city is advising people and businesses to park cars in secure, off-street locations if possible; remove or secure trash cans; ensure businesses are well-lit and closed-circuit TV systems are working; lock and deadbolt all doors, with any gaps covered by steel plates; and leave cash drawers empty and open after business hours.
The city also is arranging for “Healing Centers … as safe alternative venues to engage in productive dialogue and healing around any emotions brought out by the Ferguson verdict,” to be open for two weekdays immediately after the grand jury’s decision. They’ll be at Youth Uprising, 8711 MacArthur Blvd.; the Youth Employment Partnership, 2300 International Blvd.; and at the Health Communities/Healthy Oakland sites at 2580 San Pablo Ave. and 1485 8th St.
Quan said the Oakland Police Department “has significantly improved the ways it handles demonstrations in our city,” with extensive re-training and improved practices since the Occupy unrest of 2011.
“At the same time the department has neared full compliance with our court-ordered reforms, dramatically reduced use-of-force incidents and required officers to wear chest-mounted body cameras on their uniforms,” Quan wrote. “We have successfully facilitated more than 70 demonstrations this year throughout Oakland, and we know that with continued cooperation from our community and the high level of professionalism of our officers, we will continue doing so.
“Our hearts are with Mike Brown’s family and with every Oakland family touched by violence,” Quan wrote. “I am grateful for the work we have done together to make Oakland a safer place and to heal our collective wounds. We still have much to do, but I am confident that we will continue making this important progress with compassion and peaceful determination.”
The statement falls far short of what an “Occupy Oakland Riot Prevention Working Group” demanded of Quan and Schaff. In a news release issued earlier Tuesday, that group had demanded that the mayor and mayor-elect issue the following statement:
The City of Oakland shares in the grief of the family of Michael Brown for his untimely death. We, elected representatives of the people ofOakland, empathize with those who fear that justice will not be served in this case. We know full-well that, without the respect of residents, law enforcement is not effective. And we know that, as leaders of our community, we must do all we can to assure our fellow-residents that the law is color-blind and that we will not shield those who overstep their prerogatives as law enforcement officers from accountability.
Therefore, I insist that the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office do all it can to bring about an indictment of Darren Wilson for the wrongful death of Michael Brown. Further, I call upon the Attorney General of the United States to indict Darren Wilson on federal civil rights charges. The course of justice must not be blocked by official policy that tolerates the use of excessive force against people of color by law enforcement or by a culture of racism infecting government. All those who seek protection in a democratic society must see the agents of justice working transparently and tirelessly to assure that law enforcement is even-handed. Indictments are not convictions. No harm can be the result of a fair trial of Darren Wilson, but, if Wilson is not tried, a tragic miscarriage of justice will have been perpetrated, the ramifications of which could be felt many years into the future for our country.