Emails Reveal City Officials' Occupy Oakland Conversations - NBC Bay Area

Emails Reveal City Officials' Occupy Oakland Conversations

"The majority of these folks seem nice but some are not. FYI," Sgt. Barry Hoffman of the Oakland Police Department wrote about the protesters in an email.



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    The emails reveal the thought process of city officials, police and lawyers discussing what to do about the Occupy Oakland protests.

    Emails obtained under the Public Records Act reveal what Oakland city officials were really thinking during the Occupy Oakland protests last year.

    More than 1,200 emails (excerpt below) were published by the San Jose Mercury News. The emails reveal the raw thought process of city officials, police, lawyers and public relations people discussing Occupy Oakland, which sprung up after the Occupy Wall Street protests spread to cities across the country.

    What started out as a humble tent city outside City Hall eventually grew into an unsafe, unhealthy environment. The emails show that worried city officials were scratching their heads about what to do before they eventually took action.

    In one email sent on Oct. 19, 2011, Oakland City Councilmember Pat Kernighan wrote, "I think the time has come to end the encampment on the Plaza." She later went on to say, "I am sure that the effort to evict the campers will not be easy and it must be done with great forethought."

    Little did Kernighan know that Oakland would soon be thrown into the international spotlight after violent riots and clashes with police only escalated the conflict.

    Below is one string of emails from October 2011 when Community Services Coordinator Albert Lujan asked about the encampment.


    From: Albert Lujan
    To: Arturo Sanchez, Sharon Cornu, Susan Piper, Karen Boyd, Michelle Taylor-Lloyd, Derin Minor, Richard Cowan, Aliza Gallo
    Sent: Tue 10/11/2011 9:27 AM
    Subject: Occupy Oakland

    Good morning folks,

    Do we have a position or statement regarding the encampment in the plaza? Are we in solidarity? Do they have a right to be there as long as they want? Are there any ordinances that prohibit their actions? We just want to be prepared in case we get calls. We've only received one so far.


    From: Sharon Cornu
    To: Albert Lujan, Arturo Sanchez, Susan Piper, Karen Boyd, Michelle Taylor-Lloyd, Derin Minor, Richard Cowan, Aliza Gallo
    CC: Ellen Dillard
    Sent: Tue 10/11/2011 9:27 AM
    Subject: RE: Occupy Oakland

    The activity is protected and to the best of my knowledge we have not had incidents. I stopped by on the way out last night and we have many friends in the crowd. If people call, you can say:

    - it's happening here like it is in many other cities across the county (NY, DC, LA, Boston)

    - OPD is monitoring it closely but has instructions to respect the First Amendment

    - We checked and the protesters are respecting the historic Plaza Tree

    - Congresswoman Lee has sent a support statement

    - The fastest way to send a comment to Mayor Quan is tovisit her website at


    From: Arturo Sanchez
    To: Deanna Santana, Alexandra Orologas
    CC: Brooke Levin, Jeffrey Israel, Christopher Bolton
    Sent: Wed 10/12/2011 9:04 AM
    Subject: Occupy Wall Street


    I spoke with both Brooke and DC Israel this morning. The Occupy Wallstreet group has no centralized leadership. As a result it will be difficult to communicate with them about policies and rules. Brooke, Derin, and I will be walking the encampment at 9:15. What I recommend is that we issue a flyer advising them of some basic rules. I have prepared a draft flyer which I would like to hand out before 11 am today. I believe it covers the basics and does so in a non-confrontational way. I will proceed on this track unless you believe it not to be appropriate.


    From: Arturo Sanchez
    To: Jeffrey Israel, Derin Minor
    CC: Brooke Levin, Alexandra Orologas
    Sent: Wed 10/12/2011 1:02 PM
    Subject: the finalized finalized flyer


    The flyer will be delivered shortly to information desk. It has a deadline of 4pm for them to take down things tied to light posts and or other city equipment.


    If items are not down can some of your staff take them down? Should untie and leave folded neatly near the area. If they are in process of taking down lets make sure it is down. Thanks.

    DC Israel,

    Can we make sure OPD Officer is there to assure staff safety? Thanks!


    From: Arturo Sanchez
    To: Jeffrey Israel, Derin Minor
    CC: Brooke Levin, Alexandra Orologas, Karen Boyd, Susan Piper
    Sent: Wed 10/12/2011 1:31 PM
    Subject: RE: the finalized finalized flyer


    The individual with the other tarp appears unwilling tot take down their tarp. We may have to cut it down but it will likely lead to confrontation. Open to peoples input as to whether this is track we want to go.


    From: Jeffrey Israel
    To: Arturo Sanchez
    Sent: Wed 10/12/2011 2:54 PM
    Subject: RE: the finalized finalized flyer

    This is a policy decision by the administration. However, if directives are not followed and there are no consequences it is likely seen as an opportunity to do whatever. On the flip side, we have to pick our battles. We could issue a verbal warning. Then come back in a few hours and offer him another opportunity to take it down. We can ensure an officer with a camera records everything.


    From: Barry Hoffman
    To: Serge Babka
    CC: Steven Tull
    Sent: Thu 10/13/2011 8:45 AM
    Subject: 150 Frank Ogawa plaza

    Today, 13 Oct 2011, I visited Frank Ogawa Plaza and walked onto the grassy area of the park. I was chatting with some of the protesters when I was confronted by a small group of participants. The group said that they had establish a "counsel" of their tent city and that I was violating their law. The police were not allowed on the grass area without permission.. When I declined the request to leave the park, they tried to summon their security forces who were apparently still sleeping. The unidentified "counsel member" implied that they would remove officers by force if their new city was invaded and we needed to ask permission to enter the park.

    I mention this as a possible officer safety hazard and that some of the protesters are craving confrontation with the police regardless if any enforcement action is being taken. The majority of these folks seem nice but some are not. FYI


    Read more than 1,200 emails from Oakland city officials at The San Jose Mercury News.