After a career spent sparring with police brass and the last month supporting Occupy Oakland protesters, Mayor Jean Quan found herself Wednesday standing up for the police officers who had violently clashed with protesters in front of City Hall Tuesday night.
“We want to thank the police, fire, public works and other employees who worked over the last week to peacefully close the encampment,” Quan wrote on her Facebook page.
The reaction was swift and harsh. Tens of thousands of people commented on her page, many pointing out that it is believed police used excessive force on the protesters, including tear gas and bean bag rounds, and possibly flashbangs and rubber bullets.
Others pointed to the case of Scott Olsen, an Iraq war veteran who was hit with a police projectile during the protest and is now in the hospital with a fractured skull.
How had a liberal mayor who at least once marched with protesters in defiance of police gotten from there to here? How had,as the San Francisco Chronicle points out, “Jean Quan’s Oakland dream turned nightmare”?
The mayor’s communication manager Sue Piper tried in a phone interview Thursday to clarify what happened. Piper told the Post that the Facebook message was written before the mayor had a clear picture of what had happened the night before. “Things are moving fast. It’s an evolving picture,” she said.
Piper also said that Quan had fully supported the movement up until safety became a serious concern.
In one instance, she said, calls were received that a female protesters fell out of a 14-foot-tree, but the protesters’ self-appointed security force wouldn’t let first responders inside to treat her. In another, Piper said, the self-appointed security beat a man with a 2-by-4 as a form of justice.
According to the LA Times, there were 27 calls for paramedics at the camp, and in most instances, organizers blocked access.
“The scale had tipped. If we couldn’t protect people who were injured, that was a serious problem,” Piper says. “The city has a liability to keep people safe.”
But Piper acknowledges there could have been a problem in the way police handled protesters Tuesday night. She says that while Oakland Police do not even have access to flashbangs or rubber bullets, it’s possible other agencies that joined them did.
“We are very sad about what happened. It is not the way we wanted it to go,” she said. “And it’s especially tough for our progressive city and our progressive mayor, who likes lots of dialogue, lots of opinion.”
In a new statement, Quan says she will “personally monitor” investigations of police misconduct, and is “committed to ensuring this does not happen again.” She also told protesters she’d like to meet them “as soon as possible.”