Occupy Oakland has been very good at exposing one local problem — police brutality. The first raids, and the tear gas and rubber bullets that flew afterward — showed the world how poorly trained the Oakland cops are and how unprepared they were for a largely peaceful demonstration.
But overall, the Occupy movement has been about national issues — or rather, The National Issue, which is income inequality. Nothing else going on in the United States compares. On an economic level, I could argue that nothing else matters — until we resolve the wealth and income gap, the recession will never end, the deficit will never improve, the unemployment rate won’t stabilize, the nation will grow weaker and weaker and more and more unstable … basically, we’re doomed.
But while there have been marches on local banks and corporations, not a lot of Occupy attention has gone to local inequality — to what the folks at San Francisco City Hall, and Oakland City Hall are doing to make the one percent in our own backyards pay its fair share for the services that most impact many of our lives. Mayor Jean Quan got booed for calling in the riot cops, but Mayor Ed Lee isn’t getting booed for corporate tax breaks.
The OccupySF people came out in force to a Board of Supervisors hearing to demand that their camp be left alone. But they aren’t out in force to demand, say, a local fee on bank foreclosures.
That’s not a criticism of a movement that continues to inspire me every day; it’s just a statement about tactics and strategy. And it’s one we all ought to be thinking about.
In a brilliant opinion piece this week, Raj Jayadev, director of Silicon Valley Debug, notes:
“In San Jose, the city that used to promote itself as the capitol of Silicon Valley, city budget cuts have either eliminated or dramatically slashed hours for youth sanctuaries like libraries and community centers. … For us, the one percent are just up the street -– the 101 to be precise. Those tech giants exist in the same Silicon Valley that cannot even keep its library doors open. Why have they not given? Why have we not demanded?”