Oakland, California, home to some of the most violent protests of the Occupy movement this year, is still dealing with occupy protesters at their city council meetings. Last Tuesday the Oakland City Council was shut down as a result of loud disruptions from protests. According to Charles Johnson at the San Francisco Chronicle: (bolding is mine)
The Oakland City Council can no longer control its own meetings. When trouble erupted on Tuesday - at the first council meeting after a six-week recess - there was hardly an attempt to stop it.
“I’m going to have this council chamber cleared in a second,” warned council President Larry Reid, speaking over shouts, jeers and obscenities. “You watch. Watch me. Watch me.” They did watch. They watched Reid adjourn the meeting and walk out. The protesters stayed. This has been coming for some time. Tuesday was just the tipping point, but it sent a clear message to anyone who witnessed it.
The Oakland City Council no longer controls its own house, the mob does. For years, city officials have stretched or bent the rules to accommodate every person who stepped to the podium to the point that the rules no longer have any meaning and the council no authority. It’s the council’s leniency that created the problem.
During the open forum period of council meetings, anyone can fill out a speaker’s card, take the microphone for up to two minutes and discuss any topic - whether it’s city business, citizen complaints or resolutions for world peace.
Activists, groups and individuals familiar with the rules ignore the time limit by rounding up friends and family members who sign speakers’ cards and then cede the time to a single person. In the attempt to accommodate everyone, the council has ceded its authority to any group big enough, loud enough or bold enough to seize control of the microphone.
When Reid attempted to halt a speaker from Uhuru House, a local group that promotes African American self-reliance, he was ignored - and dismissed. “Excuse me sir, you’re time is up,” Reid said politely. “I’m not done yet,” the speaker told Reid.
He went on to promote an event sponsored by the group, one held specifically for white people to attend to show their solidarity with black folks.
There was no city business conducted Tuesday night - no contracts approved, no authorizations to pay city bills, not even approval of a shiny resolution declaring Oakland an International City of Peace.
The Oakland Tribune reported that the Oakland council promised that future meetings will not be taken over by unruly protests:
After being forced to cut short their third meeting in less than a year, council members said Wednesday they will no longer allow boisterous protesters to scuttle city business.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable behavior,” Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente said. “To allow this group of people to prevent the meeting to continue … is just something that we cannot allow to happen.
“The council barely got to start its business Tuesday, which was to include a presentation from Police Chief Howard Jordan on crime reduction strategies.
Supporters of a family whose son was killed by a police officer in May shouted down council members with chants of “Jail Killer Cops, Now” and “No Justice, No Peace” after the city failed to provide the family with a police report on the shooting.
The crowd included many Occupy Oakland supporters, whose loud and often expletive-laden demonstrations forced the council and the council’s Public Safety Committee to cut short debates in December and May.
After Tuesday’s meeting was adjourned around 7:30 p.m., several council members huddled with Jordan and City Administrator Deanna Santana to work out a plan for preventing future disruptions.
Council President Larry Reid said new policies would be in place next week, but he refused to discuss proposed tactics.”Why should we telegraph how we’re going to deal with the group beforehand?” he said.Reid doesn’t expect to significantly
increase police presence at council meetings and said he had no regrets about not sending in officers Tuesday to remove the protesters. “There’s no telling if there would have been pushing or shoving in the council chambers,” he said.