By Guest Contributor Chris Fan, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine
Last Monday, Oakland’s mayor Jean Quan ordered the forcible eviction of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s Oakland encampment, which had been situated directly outside of her office at City Hall off and on for the past two months.
Wakened in the early morning by an army of police outfitted in riot gear, demonstrators remained peaceful as more than 100 tents were destroyed, and dozens of arrests were made. The action precipitated the resignation of two of Quan’s top staffers, bringing the total resignations in response to her handling of Occupy Oakland to three. It also deepened this writer’s disappointment and embarrassment over the actions of someone who, not too long ago, could have been described as embodying the best of the Asian American movement of the ’60s and ’70s.
As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, Quan was intensely involved with the Third World Liberation Front’s (TWLF) radical efforts to create ethnic studies programs, ultimately spearheading the establishment of the Asian American Studies program there. After graduating, she continued her activism in New York’s Chinatown, and, much later, joined Oakland School Board, and City Council, where she fought for a variety of progressive causes. Last summer, when large-scale demonstrations broke out in protest of a lenient verdict handed down to BART police officer Johannes Mehserle — who was on trial for shooting Oscar Grant while the latter was face-down and restrained — it was hardly a surprise when Jean Quan joined in a human chain to protect demonstrators from riot police. She was just dusting off an old skill set.