During the ferocious and swift police action, the city center was cordoned off. BART fumed past its 12th St stop without stopping. Buses detoured and all traffic was redirected to streets north or south of the Plaza. Then under the cover of darkness, in less than 1/2 hour, tents were down, the community kitchen kicked down, the first-aid tent leveled. Unlike those who had carefully organized this tent city, the raiding police had little concern for the environmental concerns of Frank Ogawa Plaza or in preserving food, medical, or housing supplies that might have been donated to various community organizations working in support of the unemployed and homeless. In their ferocious invasion of the encampment, garbage cans were over-turned, food booths crashed, and tear gas released on the peaceable campers who were attempting to gather their belongings.
By 5:15 a.m., this raging herd of police (200+ police were involved in the raid) were stomping about ripping up signs and tossing useful equipment into the street. By 5:30 a.m., the tent city was gone and what remained on the Plaza was a tangle of personal belongings, tents and supplies. By 6, they were blaming the protesters for the release of the tear gas and defending their own rampaging attitudes by insisting that someone had thrown a plate at them as if it were a Frisbee and they were dogs. Is such a thing possible? Do plates fly like Frisbees? Don't know.
Police are public servants. No where in their job description is a sentence reading: Prepare to be mean. Cruelty is not a desired character trait for policemen or soldiers.
Ideally, a policeman should be a compassionate individual who cares both about the community and the laws enacted by that community. Why tear up signs? Why break personal belongings? Such actions are not required or even desirable.
By late morning, the media was reporting that the city intends to hold all personal property for those protesters who wish to come and collect it, but if that is the case why, then, are four city garbage trucks parked behind this morning's barricades and why are there four other large trucks outside the barrier, ready to move in when called upon?
On that day, so long ago, the finches were rising like butterflies because a middle-aged woman with matted hair was sprawling on the steps, legs splayed out, moaning loudly. Within minutes, a patrol car arrived; apparently someone had called 911. The young policeman who approached the woman did not grab her fiercely by her arm. He did not yank her from the sidewalk and hustle her off to the squad car. Instead, he crouched down beside her and spoke in low tones. Soon, her keening slowed to gentle sobbing, and the policeman offered her water. As she drank, he quietly radioed for back-up.
When a second squad car arrived, two female officers approached the woman, not with handcuffs, but with a bucket of clean water, a washcloth, and a hairbrush. One gently sponged the woman's face, removing both dirt and the tracks of her tears, and the other brushed her hair. Then, they helped the woman from the street, settled her into the back seat of their squad car, and were off.
Although I describe this process as if it took hours, I do so only to emphasize the gentleness and the grace of these public servants. In reality, this drama in front of my window was swifter than the erasure of Occupy Oakland, just as real but far more graceful and humane.
UPDATE: In the evening, violence erupted in downtown Oakland with police firing 'non-lethal' beanbags into the crowd while releasing great clouds of teargas. The New York Times has posted videos of peaceful protesters being met by gun-toting police dressed in riot gear. Claims that protesters threw bottles at the the police do not seem to have much merit. Claims that the police fired something (beanbag?) at a protester who was down on the ground can be validated.