For the last few weeks Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has been pilloried for her inconsistent approach to the Occupy Oakland movement. After letting the tent city grow at City Hall, police ended the encampment in tense raids with campers that involved tear gas and the wounding of an Iraq war veteran. After that the camp grew again. By now the movement has led a peaceful general strike that closed the Port of Oakland last Wednesday, a triumph soon marred by midnight looting by a small band of protesters. Meanwhile some businesspeople are talking about leaving Oakland if the camp continues much longer, inflicting further economic damage on an already struggling city. Quan claims to want the camp to end, but is very reluctant to use police force against the protestors.
In City Councilman Iganacio De La Fuente's view, "[H]er nature cannot allow her to make a decision." I can relate to this, as I too ponder situations from every angle excessively. It's the type of critical thinking that is prized in literature class but not in the real world, in which most people are looking for clear direction that they can either support or reject.
But the truth here is deeper. In her heart Quan sides with the protestors, given her long activist history and frosty relations with the police. In another situation she might be part of the camp; indeed, her husband was part of the group that blockaded the port. But she is the Mayor, responsible for adjudicating the competing claims of all sides. So she's attempting to weave a middle course, and faring poorly. Her calling is in the streets, not at City Hall.