An Open Letter to the Oakland Police Department

Dear OPD,

Please allow me to be frank at the outset: I get it. I realize that your bread is pretty much buttered entirely by representatives or interests otherwise linked to the financial institutions that rule this nation. And I realize that “social injustice” is, for you, an abstraction at best. That there may be a connection between rising street crime and the fallout of actions taken by the monied interests you ultimately serve has probably not entered into your thinking. You have a job to do, for which you are paid and average of 64k a year, roughly $9500 dollars more than the median income for a family living in Oakland. This is because you police one of the most violent cities in America, and it is hard to begrudge you your combat pay. And, so long as the ruling class sees fit to continue its rapaciousness, that violent crime is likely to increase, which translates as a steady (and steadily increasing) paycheck for you.

So, sure, I can see why you would go along with an order to disperse a crowd of protesters. It’s not as if they can make an offer that will stand up against the compensation you receive for doing little odd jobs like that. Not to mention the overtime. Besides, it gives you a chance to pull out all those cool, paramilitary toys you’ve been making us pay for.

However, I would urge you to consider two things. First, you seem to have mistaken the Occupy Wall Street movement for another configuration of the same college students and itinerant activists that are the routine attendees at most direct actions. This is not the case. A significant percentage of the people involved in various Occupations are “normal,” middle class individuals. Some, like Scott Olsen, whose skull you fractured Tuesday night, are veterans of wars in which the enemy often shoots back, with roughly equal firepower and numbers. They have spent their lives, and risked their lives, trying to build and defend a better world for the next generation.

Because of your confusion, you have elected to employ tactics more aggressive than even those used to subdue over 40,000 protesters at the Seattle WTO convention in 1999. Tear gas and flash grenades tossed at veterans and women in wheelchairs doesn’t just make you look like a bunch of lowlife, dirty, motherfucking pigs. It makes you look like incompetent and clinically insane lowlife, dirty, motherfucking pigs. Honestly, you surveyed and allegedly checked the sanitation conditions in that encampment for over a week. Didn’t you notice the rather less crunchy than average composition of the crowd? Did anything you saw seriously merit expending more resources than you probably will all year on, say, sex trafficking?

Second, your job is secure now. Guess what, Wakenhut has guys who can do your job, and make money for the “%1” while doing it. Do you think being a bigger asshole will win you points at a negotiations table when the question boils down to their CEO’s bottom line? You are not exempt from trends of the world around you. One day, it will be your job that is downsized. One day, it will be you who loses his pension to corporate malfeasance. One day, your child will be denied access to education because your credit got destroyed by the bursting of some speculative bubble.

You are not part of the ruling class, as much as they may require your services right now. When it becomes in their best interest to eliminate your career, cut your benefits, or foreclose on your home, they will. And when that day comes, you will understand what all those people you tear gassed were on about.

Or maybe it won’t take that sort of clue by four. Maybe you’ll think about it, and realize where your best interests are, and at the very least stand down if not make plans to arrest every bank CEO in the immediate area.

And maybe pigs can fly, even lowlife, dirty, clinically insane and incompetent motherfucking pigs.

James French


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