Sunday morning, Mayor Jean Quan, in cooperation with the Oakland Police Department, hosted a press briefing inside City Hall.
Although the questions and Quan’s statements dealt with the overarching issues posed by the Occupy Oakland movement, the primary focus was on damage that was wreaked on the historic building and its contents when a contingent of protestors invaded the building after their attempt to occupy the equally historic Oakland Auditorium was thwarted by OPD Saturday.
Quan indicated that videos show a demonstrator forcing open the main entrance using a crow bar and that the doors are now chained until a more permanent deterrent can be installed. Although press reports last night showed protestors burning an American flag that they had allegedly removed from the City Council chambers, the damage done inside City Hall was far more extensive.
The mayor pointed to an open access panel under the main stairway and said wiring had been cut and that city electricians had not yet determined the amount of damage.
Just inside the front doorway, a tall display case had been knocked over. It contains what is thought to be the original City Hall scale model, which would date to approximately 1910. The top portion of the model is heavily damaged, but there already is some discussion about privately raising funds for its restoration.
Upstairs, the wall adjacent to the City Administrator’s office still had “wet paint” signs. Mayor Quan said that they had ordered the graffiti painted over before the press briefing because the content was so offensive - echoing the complaints the mayor has made previously about racist and misogynistic messages that have been left on her Facebook page and elsewhere.
Back on the ground floor level, a display case containing a scale model of the more recent Civic Center Plaza restoration was broken, but the contents appear to be intact. Further down the hallway, the glass inset in a door that leads to a meeting room had been shattered and glass still littered the floor.
The press briefing concluded with a presentation by OPD Media Relations Officer Joanna Watson who showcased the large portable shield that had been wielded by protestors leading the march who spearheaded efforts to breech the police lines. Watson also pointed out a variety of potential weapons that had been recovered or confiscated from those who had been arrested.
When questioned by the press corps, Watson estimated that 300-400 people had been arrested and that it represented the largest mass arrest in recent Oakland history. Arrests were made early in the day along the march route; later inside City Hall and later still, inside the YMCA. The overwhelming majority were, however, arrested in the plaza in front of the Y - a process that went late into the night. Many of those arrested have, however, already been released.
Quan made a point of noting that not all Occupies (or occupiers) are the same and that her concern was with the minority of protestors who appear bent on destruction. Regarding the latter, she described them as “using Oakland as their playground.” When one of the media members asked if this wasn’t too frivolous a description, she didn’t back down implying that for them, it was a game and, for the city of Oakland, a very expensive game at that. She later commented that the cost of the damage to date in Frank Ogawa Plaza is in the neighborhood of $2 million, but the city was hopeful that much of this may be covered by insurance.
The mayor noted that only three of the first 23 people arrested yesterday are Oakland residents. She also asserted that the labor union support that had benefitted Occupy Oakland during the General Strike was no longer - as is the case increasingly with Oakland’s Progressive community.
Quan also said that there were similar problems with a minority of Oakland police officers and that they have - or will be - disciplined.
According to Quan, the city is preparing to issue additional “Stay Away” orders focused on those individuals that have been identified as participating in vandalism or any form of violent activities. OPD is reviewing video tape from demonstrations, including the City Hall invasion, to target specific individuals for the stay away orders.
For those convicted for acts vandalism or graffiti, the mayor mused that she’d like to see justice done in the form of sentences requiring a couple of months, on work furlough, removing graffiti in East Oakland.