Forty two years ago, Oakland mayor-to-be Jean Quan was a U.C. Berkeley student-activist rallying for a movement dubbed the Third World Liberation Front of 1969. That movement would later give birth to the university's Ethnic Studies Department and influence universities across the country to integrate such a unique discipline. The department studies represent the history and experiences of marginalized people, especially people of color.
Quan went on to become many things: union organizer, Oakland Board of Education member, Oakland City Council member, Chabot Space & Science Center board chair. As she tells on her own website jeanquan.org, in the beginning she started out as a parent fighting to save her children's music and art education.
As mayor-elect of Oakland, in 2010 Jean Quan became the first woman to hold a mayoral position in Oakland and the first Asian-American woman to be mayor of a major U.S. city. To many, she is seen as a symbol of progress--progress for Asian American communities in our country, progress for women of politics in America, progress for minorities in a country where people continue to suffer from oppression, gender and sexual discrimination, and economic poverty. At a time like this, why, then, is Jean Quan appearing to waver on her support for the Occupy movement?
This Tuesday afternoon, the Oakland Police Officers' Association stated in an open letter to the citizens that they are confused by Quan's Administration and its orders. The 645 police officers expressed that Quan's mixed messages are not what they need right now. They need real leaders now who will step up and lead, the Association says.
As recap, Oakland police were initially ordered to shut down Occupy camp sites at Frank Ogawa Plaza on October 25th. On October 26th, however, Mayor Quan asked them to let protestors back in and settle camp again. Thus, police authority explains that City Hall has left them completely unclear about the city's position on the movement. Further confusing Oakland police, the city issued a memo on Friday encouraging city workers in support of Occupy to take the day off. This ultimately leaves citizens and police authority uncertain about what the city wants and, moreover, what will happen on Wednesday's upcoming general strike.
At this point, there is a lot of anger directed at Mayor Quan for how she is handling the Occupy protests. The mayor made a public announcement Tuesday stating that she supports the Occupy cause, but protestors facing police arrests, tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades are thinking otherwise. This movement will very well prove to be a major test of Quan's ability to take charge as a mayor, but so far she has different groups criticizing her for different reasons. As Quan remains on the hot seat--whatever her stance may be--the mayor better act fast and give her people an answer. In this fight against economic inequality, will Jean Quan serve as a symbol for the 99 percent?