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Oakland Laying Groundwork for Occupy Eviction

by Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross

After an intense day of behind-closed-door meetings Friday, Oakland officials are moving forward with plans to evict Occupy Oakland from Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Acting Sergeant Robert Cooper knocks on the door of a tent to hand out flyers informing residents of the Occupy Oakland campsite that they must leave Frank Ogawa Plaza on Friday, November 11, 2011 in Oakland, Calif. (Photo:/Beck Diefenbach) The eviction, which has the blessing of a majority of the City Council and the reluctant concurrence of Mayor Jean Quan, is likely to come sooner rather than later.

That's the word we're getting from several officials who were in on the meetings Friday, trying to find a way out of the mess surrounding the month-old encampment outside City Hall.

The first move: The notice that police handed out to Occupiers on Friday afternoon, telling them all tents, cooking utensils and the like must go and that anyone sleeping in the plaza overnight "will be subject to arrest."

The order came after an afternoon meeting that included Quan, interim Police Chief Howard Jordan, City Administrator Deanna Santana and City Council President Larry Reid.

According to sources, Quan went into the meeting asking for more time for negotiations with Occupy Oakland, suggesting that its camp be transplanted to nearby Jefferson Park while an unidentified benefactor tries to line up an empty building for the movement.

Time, however, is not something that other officials and public safety workers believe the city can spare. And when the meeting ended, Quan agreed to a police sweep if and when Jordan finds one necessary.

"As soon as we can get the mutual aid set up, we are going to go," said one official, who like others we talked to spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the eviction planning.

Mutual aid means help from surrounding police forces, which was crucial when the city first evicted Occupy Oakland on Oct. 25.

This time, however, securing it won't be as easy.

For starters, the Alameda County Sheriff's Department now wants to be paid, rather than picking up its own costs for deputies' participation.

"It's not an emergency anymore," said sheriff's spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson. "They basically allowed this to happen when the mayor allowed the encampment to come back in" after the Oct. 25 sweep.

"It's changed from an emergency call to a planned event," Nelson said.

Other agencies are also balking. The city of Alameda says it wants to be protected from any possible lawsuits that might result from its officers' actions.

Plus, other demonstrations planned next week at UC Berkeley and Cal State East Bay are likely to tie up UC and Hayward police, along with sheriff's deputies.

"So we will likely need to go sooner rather than later," said another source planning the Oakland eviction.

The decision to move ahead with the eviction began after a closed City Council session this week in which several of the council members said it was time for Occupy Oakland to go.

According to those in the meeting, Quan - who has been hammered by both her supporters and detractors for her handling of the Occupy encampment - appeared disengaged.

"It was like she was on another planet," one council member said.

Then came the fatal shooting Thursday evening near the encampment and news reports of fire violations in the camp.

Friday morning, Santana informed the mayor during a conference call with other city officials that she was ready to make an administrative decision on her own.

Quan's staff did not return calls or e-mails for comment. However, in a statement released late Friday, mayoral spokeswoman Sue Piper said the fatal shooting "has elevated concerns about the safety of the encampment and people who also use the space. The risks are too great, and it is time for the encampment to end."

By now, even some of Quan's closest supporters - fearing she could be recalled over her handling of the encampment - are seeing the writing on the wall.

"The bottom line is that Oakland wants the camp gone; the polls show that," Quan's husband, Floyd Huen, wrote to her supporters in an e-mail Thursday. "Also, concretely and practically, the council is unanimous in wanting that, too.

"So even if the mayor wanted to do so (keep the camp in place), she cannot because she does not set policy for the city," Huen wrote. "The council does."

He added, "If you want Jean recalled, then force her to go the way you are asking."

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