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Fallout from Oakland Massacre - Clinton Killian

Fallout From Oakland Massacre

The Mixon massacre brought out the best and worst in Oakland. Like any other tragedy, peoples’ true character and resolve, or lack thereof, came to the forefront. This tragedy will have repercussions in Oakland for years to come.

First, you have to admire the courage of our police force. They responded immediately to this tragedy, secured the neighborhood, and pointed out, again, the dangers of their jobs.
Other heroes were the Oakland residents in the area impacted by the shootings. Many showed bravery by aiding the officers throughout this tragedy. They risked their lives to comfort the wounded and to stop the killings.

Oakland citizens showed their concern, mourning and gratitude in many ways. They organized a vigil at the scene to honor the fallen officers. The Oakland clergy stepped forward and offered comfort for the city and the families, including the Mixons, who were severely impacted by this senseless tragedy.

The Oakland people showed the world the strength of this city’s character. They came together from all diverse corners to express their sorrow and outrage. They answered the question that the cynical outsiders asked: How would Oakland respond?

They answered it not with violence, but with compassion. They shunned the everyday revolutionaries who tried to make this tragedy into some type of political call to arms. They cared for the injured families and resolve to show it was unacceptable.

There of course, big losers in this tragedy; first and foremost, our Mayor and his office. He and his staff never seemed to grasp the enormity of these events. Time after time, they struck the wrong note and never got a good response to the situation.

The Mayor was a no show for many hours after the tragedy. He compounded this absence by not being the public face for Oakland to the world during this horrific event. Political leadership would have required our Mayor to be front and center. He should have been the first voice heard at every public event and media outlet expressing the city’s horror, grief, and resolve to improve and learn from this tragic situation.

One only has to think back to tragedies throughout our country. Despite how you feel about him, who can forget Rudy Giuliani's public display during the 9/11 attacks. Just this past weekend, as the Red River flooded Fargo, ND, its Mayor Dennis Walaker was seen everywhere, with sand bags, at press conferences, river banks, and shelters throughout his city. He became the public face of the Red River flooding. This past weekend, I got to know more about him and Fargo than I ever knew.

Our Mayor didn’t perform those same kinds of tasks. He appeared at some functions, but was not the visible leader. At the Tuesday memorial at the killing site, he seemed more a bystander, than the leader.

Then his passive response became outright humiliation at the police officers’ funeral on Friday. The city hosted over 10,000 police officers, thousand of citizens, hundreds of city, county, state and federal officials, and media of all types.

In all, over 20,000 people packed the Oracle Arena and thousands others stood outside. This was a time for Oakland’s public leader to step forward and show our face and resolve to this tragedy. Instead, the Mayor did not speak because, as his office stated, some family and police members asked him not to.

This was the time for the mayor to show leadership and be the public face of Oakland’s mourning. This was a time to give hope to our fight with near-out-of- control crime problems, vow to break the cycle of violence, and loosen the drug trade’s grip on our city. It was time for him to say to all, “I am the leader of this city and we will be better for this sacrifice.” Instead of a show of leadership and resolve from the mayor, we got silence and acquiescence.

Mr. Dellums backed down when his political authority was questioned, rather than stand on the principle that he is the political leader of the city. Regardless of your personal feelings toward him, he still holds the office of Mayor, representing all Oakland citizens, and that position must be respected.

While he could have limited his comments in deference to the families, nevertheless he was compelled to speak for the citizens of Oakland, especially since our city hosted so many citizens, dignitaries, and wall to wall media coverage.

I doubt if any other Mayor would have abdicated their legal and political authority in the face of a few complaints. Mr. Dellums’ actions, reactions, and inactions showed that he has lost his political touch and is simply not responsive to the needs of the citizens of Oakland.

For a politician who has been in office for over 35 years, the Mayor withdrew from the political spotlight, just when his presence was needed the most. Watching Mayor Dellums through this Oakland tragedy was similar to seeing Willie Mays in his last days with the New York Mets: a once great player, well known on the national scene; now out of his element and unable to perform in the clutch. Maybe it is time for Mr. Dellums to follow Mr. Mays’ lead.

His no-show philosophy has emboldened his challengers. Don Perata has now announced he is running for Mayor, FBI investigation be damned. Others have called for Mr. Dellums’ immediate resignation so that Vice Mayor Ignacio De La Fuente can bring his energy and commitment to the office. Some council members have spoken of stepping up to fill the void left by the Mayor’s passive withdrawal from the city. It remains to be seen which one, if any, can provide the political leadership that Oakland needs.

One thing for sure is that the 2010 Mayor race has officially begun. It will be a crowded field, as many will step forward to say, “Well, I can do better than Mayor Dellums”. So, look for Ignacio De La Fuente, Jean Quan, John Russo, Nate Miley, Doug Boxer, Jane Brunner and others to become more visible, more defiant of the Mayor’s office as they set out to build a base to run for Mayor in 2010.

Each mayoral candidate brings their perceived strengths and weaknesses into the race and will have to work hard to expand their base. If the field stays as crowded as it currently appears, it will make for a lively political run in 2010.

Clinton Killian is an attorney in downtown Oakland, an Oakland resident, a former Oakland Planning Commissioner. He can be reached at: (510) 625-8823 or email: clintonkillian@yahoo.com.
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