Oakland City Council Addresses Occupy Oakland (WATCH)
On Thursday night, hundreds of people crammed into Oakland City Hall for a heated five-hour meeting about whether to allow the Occupy Oakland encampment to remain at Frank Ogawa Plaza with City support. As expected, the meeting was anything but dull.
More than 100 people, including Occupy Wall Street supporters, Occupy adversaries and downtown Oakland business owners, lined up to speak at the microphone at the public meeting.
One of the hottest topics of the evening was the so-called "black bloc," a small group of anarchists that vandalized downtown late Wednesday night following a generally peaceful Occupy Oakland strike and protest -- a group that many OWS supporters denounce as outsiders causing destruction under the banner of Occupy Oakland. At the meeting, many of the OWS supporters urged the City to disregard the actions of the black bloc in decisions regarding the encampment.
"These brats in black who want to burn everything to the ground should be investigated and arrested because they are damaging other people's rights to free speech," argued one supporter to roaring applause.
"If you've been to an Oakland raiders game, you have seen people engaging in violent acts," said another. "You do not hold everyone at that game responsible for the acts of a few."
While some OWS supporters have argued that the black bloc should be heard, too, most of the occupiers have expressed anger and disappointment at the group for muddying the Occupy message. "We need to speak out en masse against the violence," said supporter Aram Sohigian to The Huffington Post. "Like any grassroots movement there are people that will try to co-opt their message and use it for propaganda. It is not Occupy."
"10,000 people have a peaceful day of protest and civil disobedience. And then the news stories are all about the broken windows and fires," said supporter and photographer Steve Leibel to The Huffington Post. "The vandalism is not only stupid and dangerous, it turns public opinion against the movement."
But some business owners say the entire movement -- not just the black bloc -- is ruining business in downtown Oakland.
"We've had several conversations with businesses that are saying they will consider not renewing their leases unless something is done and done immediately," said Joseph Haraburda of the Oakland Metro Chamber of Commerce. "The damage to the property is unacceptable; the violence is uncalled for," he continued. "The situation we find ourselves in is absolutely unacceptable. We want the Occupy Oakland (camp) closed."
Shortly after, OWS supporter Nikki Bas argued that the goals of the movement are more important than the temporary effect on downtown Oakland. "Occupy Oakland is bigger -- much bigger -- than Oakland," she said. "And we have the opportunity to lead."
The meeting also addressed the events during last Tuesday's violent clash between Occupy Oakland and the police -- a clash that received national attention and sparked outrage throughout the country.
"I am appalled that the City has even considered using our meager tax dollars to harm poor and working-class people," said supporter Molly Bolt. "A million dollars could have moved every single person in that occupation into a studio apartment for the rainy season."
But Police Chief Howard Jordan defended the actions of his department, arguing that officers had little choice as protesters surrounded them, throwing bottles and rocks.
"My officers showed great restraint," he started, but the crowd erupted into boos and jeers in disagreement before he could finish. Another speaker had to be removed by police when he refused to leave the microphone.
Five hours later, the council was unable to reach an agreement regarding a resolution, but councilmembers could announce a decision at the next meeting on November 15.
As of Thursday, only one thing was certain: the Occupy Oakland controversy isn't ending any time soon.
Watch ABC's video about the city council meeting in the clip below: