Journalists constantly struggle to go beyond the official spin and report on a deeper level about government actions.

It's a daily fight, one in which we need to be ever diligent against getting snowed by officials and falling into the role of stenographers rather than independent reporters. All of us, me included, can find ourselves regretful when we learn that the bureaucratic rhetoric we reported turns out to be far from reality.

That's why the best reporting tracks government action by document rather than lip service. It's why obtaining government communications is a vital and why I have dedicated my 2012 columns to the obtaining public officials' e-mails and texts.

Today, rather than write this column, I am going to let the bureaucrats write it. What follows are city of Oakland e-mails obtained under the Public Records Act in which top officials discuss Occupy Oakland and the tent city that sprang up last year outside City Hall. City officials' attempts to oust the protesters and the violent response that followed helped turn Oakland into an epicenter of the national Occupy movement. The emails' writers include public relations people, lawyers, and top police officials, including a deputy police chief, Jeffrey Israel, who has since been demoted to captain.

These were the people assigned to decide how to deal with protesters and shape the city's image under an increasingly glaring spotlight. With the help of database producer Daniel J. Willis and as part of our commitment to digital journalism, I begin today a three-part series comprised of emails written by and to Oakland bureaucrats as more and more people poured into Frank H. Ogawa Plaza.


(Hover your cursor over underlined names for the employee's title.)


From: Deanna Santana
To: Karen Boyd, Susan Piper, Alexandra Orologas, Arturo Sanchez, Howard Jordan, Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Wed 10/19/2011 7:16 PM
Subject: Chip Johnson was at Occupy Oakland

Walking around toddy and talking with protestors.
From: Howard Jordan
To: Deanna Santana
CC: Karen Boyd, Susan Piper, Alexandra Orologas, Arturo Sanchez, Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Wed 10/19/2011 7:19 PM
Subject: Re: Chip Johnson was at Occupy Oakland

Hum!!!!
From: Arturo Sanchez
To: Howard Jordan
CC: Deanna Santana, Karen Boyd, Alexandra Orologas, Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Wed 10/19/2011 7:25 PM
Subject: Re: Chip Johnson was at Occupy Oakland

Lol he has the rt temperament always angry
From: Karen Boyd
To: Deanna Santana
CC: Susan Piper, Alexandra Orologas, Arturo Sanchez, Jeffrey Israel, Arturo Sanchez, Howard Jordan
Sent: Wed 10/19/2011 10:06 PM
Subject: Re: Chip Johnson was at Occupy Oakland

Interesting!
From: Howard Jordan
To: Karen Boyd
CC: Deanna Santana, Susan Piper, Alexandra Orologas, Arturo Sanchez, Howard Jordan, Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Wed 10/19/2011 10:09 PM
Subject: Re: Chip Johnson was at Occupy Oakland

No doubt looking for material for his Friday column. I suspect he will blast the city for allowing this to grow.

From: Maisha Everhart
To: Karen Boyd, Susan Piper
Sent: Thu 10/20/2011 10:27 AM
Subject: Corporate Inquiries re: Occupy Oakland

Hi,

I have received inquiries from BofA and Kaiser regarding the City's position on the Occupy Movement.

Do either of you have a statement from the Mayor or City Administrator that I can forward?

It might be a good idea to send something to the Chamber.

Thanks,

-Maisha
From: Karen Boyd
To: Maisha Everhart, Susan Piper
CC: Deanna Santana, Arturo Sanchez
Sent: Thu 10/20/2011 11:00 AM
Subject: RE: Corporate Inquiries re: Occupy Oakland

Thanks for letting me know. I will talk to Arturo and Deanna about a business-focused message. I've been sensing that it's time to communicate our position to a broader audience beyond the media relations we've been doing. I'll get back to you later today. Thanks.

From: Karen Boyd
To: City Council, Mayor's Staff, CAO Managers
Sent: Thu 10/20/2011 7:38 PM
Subject: Latest bulletin to Plaza demonstrators

Dear Mayor Quan, Council President Reid and Members of the City Council,

On behalf of City Administrator Santana, attached please find the most recent notice to Plaza demonstrators communicating the need to vacate the Plaza as result of deteriorating public health and safety conditions. [flyer]
From: Arturo Sanchez
To: Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Thu 10/20/2011 8:05 PM
Subject: Fwd: Latest bulletin to Plaza demonstrators


From: Arturo Sanchez
To: Christopher Bolton
Sent: Thu 10/21/2011 7:57 AM
Subject: Fwd: Latest bulletin to Plaza demonstrators


From: Harry Hamilton
To: Susan Piper, Karen Boyd
Sent: Fri 10/21/2011 9:49 AM
Subject: 10-22 Occupy Oakland Rally & March Facebook Page & FYI blog/YouTube posts

Good morning, Sue and Karen.

I'm guessing OPD intell has seen this but the Occupy Everything! Liberate Oakland! Mass Rally & March slated for tomorrow is scheduled to run from 11am-4pm.

There's a Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=298820706797675

This is an opinion piece in Oakland Local which I would characterize as pro-OO

Occupy Oakland: Society Must Be Defended From Rats (Opinion ...
By zunguzungu
Occupy Oakland photo by rickomatic, http://www.flickr.com/photos/rikomatic/6262520912/in/photostream/. Occupy Oakland is ten days old now, and is beginning to attract a very predictable and more or less uniform kind of media attention. ...
Oakland Local - News & Community Voices

These three all reference the racial slur shouted at the ABC reporter. In general, I would say not supportive of OO.

Admiral Akbar Alert: Occupy Oakland - Datechguy's Blog
By Datechguy
A participant in the protest-who urged his Twitter followers to "punch a banker in the face" and called for the military to join the demonstrators-confirmed that the media had been banned from the Occupy Oakland site, but denied that the ...
Datechguy's Blog

ABC Reporter's Life Threatened at Occupy Oakland, "We Shoot ...
By ZIP
The night before, local CBS affiliate KNTV had reported that one Occupy Oakland activist had set his dog on a reporter in a vicious attack that would have maimed his arm had the reporter not been wearing a suit jacket. Keep reading ...
Weasel Zippers

ABC Reporter's Life Threatened At Occupy Oakland: "We Shoot ...
By Pat Dollard
Early yesterday morning, we received a tip from a reader in the San Francisco East Bay area who informed us that a local reporter's life had been threatened by an activist at the Occupy Oakland demonstration. Our source, who is fearful of ...
Pat Dollard


YouTube posts

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iAGufzQQLA Pro OO explaining dog bite of reporter

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1v7QZQUED1Y repost of a KTVU report from this morning.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpNRuTx19RE repost of a KPIX from 10/20


From: Arturo Sanchez
To: Deanna Santana, Alexandra Orologas
CC: Derin Minor, Howard Jordan, Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Fri 10/21/2011 12:50 PM
Subject: Amplified Sound

Officer Nguyen is on his way to contact folks using amplified sound. They are not plugged into the city they are using generator. It is unknown how they will react and or listen.
From: Derin Minor
To: Arturo Sanchez, Deanna Santana, Alexandra Orologas
CC: Howard Jordan, Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Fri 10/21/2011 12:51 PM
Subject: Re: Amplified Sound

He will need assistance...
From: Arturo Sanchez
To: Derin Minor, Deanna Santana, Alexandra Orologas
CC: Howard Jordan, Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Fri 10/21/2011 12:54 PM
Subject: Re: Amplified Sound

I believe he will not be alone!

There is a person making a statement that one of the local businesses informed them that the city will be evicting them at 3pm today!!
From: Derin Minor
To: Arturo Sanchez, Deanna Santana, Alexandra Orologas
CC: Howard Jordan, Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Fri 10/21/2011 12:54 PM
Subject: Re: Amplified Sound

They are shutting down but they are announcing that OPD is coming to evict them at 3:00pm today.
From: Arturo Sanchez
To: Derin Minor, Deanna Santana, Alexandra Orologas
CC: Howard Jordan, Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Fri 10/21/2011 12:56 PM
Subject: RE: Amplified Sound

No I think they are switching bands!
From: Alexandra Orologas
To: Arturo Sanchez, Derin Minor, Deanna Santana
CC: Howard Jordan, Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Fri 10/21/2011 12:59 PM
Subject: RE: Amplified Sound

We don't know where they got that from. PD, if this is true and they do announce this .do you think we need to lock City Hall at 3?
From: Arturo Sanchez
To: Alexandra Orologas, Derin Minor, Deanna Santana
CC: Howard Jordan, Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Fri 10/21/2011 1:01 PM
Subject: RE: Amplified Sound

It's a lie, but it could also be that they are aware of next notice somehow. Its easy for misinformation to happen.
From: Arturo Sanchez
To: Alexandra Orologas, Derin Minor, Deanna Santana
CC: Howard Jordan, Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Fri 10/21/2011 1:09 PM
Subject: RE: Amplified Sound

Chief and DC Israel:

Thank officer Nguyen for going out and taking care of sound!
From: Howard Jordan
To: Arturo Sanchez
CC: Alexandra Orologas, Derin Minor, Deanna Santana, Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Fri 10/21/2011 1:13 PM
Subject: RE: Amplified Sound

Will do
From: Arturo Sanchez
To: Howard Jordan
CC: Alexandra Orologas, Derin Minor, Deanna Santana, Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Fri 10/21/2011 1:15 PM
Subject: RE: Amplified Sound

Officer Nguyen said the people were very very hostile.

From: Howard Jordan
To: Cynthia Perkins, Johnna Watson, Karen Boyd
CC: Jeffrey Israel
Sent: Fri 10/21/2011 9:25 PM
Subject: Occupy Oakland

Can we start recording all/most of the news reports of this "movement" for the next 7days?
From: Jeffrey Israel
To: Howard Jordan, Cynthia Perkins, Johnna Watson, Karen Boyd
Sent: Fri 10/21/2011 9:46 PM
Subject: Re: Occupy Oakland

Pull reports off of the Internet and save it to a file.

From: Google Alerts
To: Harry Hamilton
Sent: Sat 10/22/2011 11:42 AM
Subject: Google Alert - "occupy oakland"

News 1 new result for "occupy oakland"

Occupy Oakland 10/17 - Proposal to respond to the city
YouTube
The proposed response is read, debated and finally rejected. Unfortunately some of the footage is missing towards the end.
See all stories on this topic ยป
From: Harry Hamilton
To: Susan Piper, Karen Boyd
Sent: Sat 10/22/2011 2:18 PM
Subject: FW: Google Alert - "occupy oakland"

FYI...

While dark, some interesting insight in this video posted to YouTube. 27-minute-long debate on proposed response letter to the City.

From: Google Alerts
To: Harry Hamilton
Sent: Sun 10/23/2011 6:44 AM
Subject: Google Alert - "occupy oakland"

Occupy Oakland March Shuts Down Chase Bank Branch, 10/22/11: video
Bay Area Indymedia
by Dave Id After marching from Oscar Grant Plaza and around Lake Merritt on October 22nd, Occupy Oakland occupiers and supporters stopped in front of the Chase Bank branch on Lakeshore Avenue. Demonstrators began to stream into the bank, ...
From: Harry Hamilton
To: Karen Boyd, Susan Piper
Sent: Sun 10/23/2011 12:00 PM
Sunject: FW: Google Alert - "occupy oakland"

Looks like the Occupy Oakland movement has impacted a business.

I can't click thru to read article as IndyBay.org has been blocked by IT.

From: Arturo Sanchez
To: Sharon Cornu, Deanna Santana, Alexandra Orologas, Howard Jordan, Jeffrey Israel, Mark Hoffmann, Brooke Levin, Derin Minor, Leroy Griffin, Anne Campbell Washington
Sent: Sun 10/23/2011 10:58 AM
Subject: More tents

Lazy Sunday around camp. But lots of people milling about.

Noticed several new tents

Odor around port a potties horrible

More banners blocking kitchen (wonder if it's to prevent observing violations)

Plaza a mess

Garbage cans full.

Crowd mixed but lots of new faces more union signs.
From: Brooke Levin
To: Arturo Sanchez, Sharon Cornu, Deanna Santana, Alexandra Orologas, Howard Jordan, Jeffrey Israel, Mark Hoffmann, Derin Minor, Leroy Griffin, Anne Campbell Washington
Sent: Sun 10/23/2011 1:41 PM
Subject: Re: More tents

How about us doing a team inspection today with City Adminstrators Office, PWA, Fire and anyone else we can get ( County Health).

Then send another notice today?
From: Arturo Sanchez
To: Deanna Santana
CC: Brooke Levin, Sharon Cornu, Alexandra Orologas, Howard Jordan, Jeffrey Israel, Mark Hoffmann, Derin Minor, Leroy Griffin, Anne Campbell Washington
Sent: Sun 10/23/2011 1:47 PM
Subject: Re: More tents

I am not available. I think we would be more likely to get county partners tomorrow, just my thoughts.

From: Harry Hamilton
To: Karen Boyd, Susan Piper
Sent: Mon 10/24/2011 11:51 AM
Subject: Occupy Oakland texts

I saw mention of subscribing to Occupy Oakland texts in this Digital Journal article.

I'm wondering if OPD intell has signed up?

"A police raid of Oscar Grant Plaza is very likely this week," an alert read on the Occupy Oakland web site. "Text bayaction to 41411 to get on the emergency text alert system of #occupyoakland. In the event of an attempted police eviction, please alert all your friends and swarm downtown Oakland asap!"

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/313277#ixzz1bj7H41ci

From: Johnna Watson
To: Christopher Bolton
Sent: Mon 10/24/2011 6:30 PM
Subject:

The Media staging area is as follows:

14th Street (SOUTH curb line, on the side of building 505) between Broadway and Clay Street.

1300 Block of Broadway (EAST Curb line, on the side of DeLauer Super News Stand).

If vehicles are currently parked in and on the Frank Ogawa Plaza, please move your vehicle to the designated Media staging area. Media vehicles that are parked illegally inside the Frank Ogawa Plaza pose a safety concern to the public, officers line of site and impede movement to all.

From: Emergency Public Information Officer
To: City Council
CC: Deanna Santana, Arturo Sanchez, Karen Boyd
Sent: Tue 10/25/2011 4:14 AM
Subject: Message from City Administrator re: Occupy Oakland enforcement this morning

October 25, 2011

Subject: Update on Occupy Oakland

Dear City Council President Reid and Members of the City Council,

This morning at 4 am, the Oakland Police Department will enforce the "Notice of Violations and Demand to Cease Violations" issued on Friday, October 24 to persons staying overnight in Frank Ogawa Plaza and Snow Park related to the Occupy Oakland demonstration.

From the outset of the demonstration which began two weeks ago on Monday, October 10, the City of Oakland has focused on three clear goals: 1) facilitating the protesters' right to free speech and peaceful expression, 2) maintaining public health and safety, and 3) crowd control.

City staff has been communicating with the protesters from the outset of the demonstration, which began as a peaceful demonstration that was supported by many of the City's elected officials, was funded by labor and enjoyed widespread support by many progressive groups and individuals as an outgrowth of the national and international "Occupy Wall Street" movement.

Two days into the demonstration, the City began providing written notices of the ground rules required in order to protect the health and safety of the group and to respect the Plaza, which is a public park.

After the first weekend, the City began getting reports of problems and communicated with the demonstrators about additional health and safety concerns (e.g., fire hazards, sanitation, food storage, unsafe structures built into the Plaza, noise).

Although the demonstrators were initially cooperative and complied with the City's requests, by the second week, conditions began to deteriorate:

  • On Monday, October 17, the City received its first report of a sexual assault and a television reporter was bitten by a protester's dog.
  • On Tuesday, October 18, the dynamics of the group had changed. We began to receive numerous complaints of threatening, intimidating behavior; individuals threatened to riot if OPD facilitated their march through downtown that day; public health and safety requirements were being ignored. The City began collecting surveillance to determine the amount of mutual aid that would be required to address the situation.
  • On Wednesday, October 19, the City sent its fourth notice communicating additional health and safety concerns, including sexual harassment, fighting, public drinking, and intoxication. The County Health Department conducted its first inspection and the Oakland Fire Department conducted a second inspection. The City began putting appropriate plans in place to put an end to overnight camping and cooking in the Plaza and OPD formally requested mutual aid.
  • On Thursday, October 20, the City put the demonstrators on notice that as a result of multiple conditions-including fire hazards, increased levels of violence, denial of access to public safety personnel to assist injured people, mounting sanitation hazards, health hazards, physical damage to the Plaza and lawn, graffiti, and disruption of the Plaza for broader public use-they were required to vacate the Plaza between 10 pm and 6 am.
  • On Friday, the City issued a formal notice of violations and demand to cease overnight camping and cooking operations. In addition, on Friday night and throughout the weekend, the City's homeless services team coordinated with Operation Dignity and Alameda County to arrange for shelter, meals, and service referrals for the homeless population camping on the Plaza.
  • On Monday, October 24, the Fire Department attempted to with the removal of propane tanks and cooking oil to address some of the fire hazards, although demonstrators were not cooperative.
Our goal has been to facilitate individuals to remove their tents, cooking facilities, and belongings, and to leave cooperatively. We partnered with community allies to help facilitate communication with the protesters regarding their departure, and we provided services to assist those with housing and behavioral health needs.

However, the City can no longer assure adequate public health and safety at the Plaza. The Administration and OPD have planned this operation in a manner that is mindful of the various marches and scheduled events that have taken place on the Plaza and downtown over the past two weeks as well as seeking to minimize disruption to the daytime population in downtown Oakland, including City employees, businesses and merchants.

Securing an adequate level of mutual aid has also been a primary goal, especially considering the regional impact that the Occupy demonstrations have had on local law enforcement agencies. We are fortunate that law enforcement agencies have made themselves available over the past days to provide this service, which has been coordinated through the regular measures required by the State and County Sheriff's Office.

The City remains committed to respecting free speech as well as maintaining the City's responsibility to protect public health and safety. Peaceful daytime assembly will continue to be allowed between 6 am and 10 pm daily, but no camping or overnight stays will be permitted. There may be some disruption to the Plaza during the time that it takes to clean it up and ensure that it poses no health and safety hazard from those choosing to protest, however our goal is to clean it up to facilitate free assembly is the Plaza as soon as practical.

I will be providing further information as it becomes available.

Sincerely,
Deanna J. Santana
City Administrator

From: Emergency Public Information Officer
To:
Sent: Tue 10/25/2011 4:37 AM
Subject: Media Advisory: Media Staging Area at Frank Ogawa Plaza

News From: Emergency Operations Center

MEDIA ADVISORY
October 25, 2011

OPD Enforces "Notice of Violations and Demand to Cease Violations" in Ogawa Plaza

Oakland, CA - This morning at 4:30 am, the Oakland Police Department began enforcing the "Notice of Violations and Demand to Cease Violations" issued on Friday, October 21, to persons staying overnight in Frank Ogawa Plaza related to the Occupy Oakland demonstration.

Media Staging:
1300 block of Broadway (EAST curb line, on the side of DeLauer Super News Stand).
Vehicles currently parked in and on Frank Ogawa Plaza must be moved to the Media Staging Area. Media vehicles that are parked illegally inside the Frank Ogawa Plaza pose a safety concern to the public, officers' line of sight and impede movement of all.

From: Emergency Public Information Officer
To: 150 FOP, 250 FOP, City Hall
Sent: Tue 10/25/2011 5:55 AM
Subject: Frank Ogawa Plaza Employees Advised to Delay Arrival to Work this Morning

City of Oakland staff that work in Frank Ogawa Plaza are advised to delay arrival to work this morning until further notice. The Oakland Police Department has begun enforcement of the prohibition against overnight camping in Frank Ogawa Plaza. Stay tuned to your email for updates.

Supervisors please contact your downtown employees.
From: Sharon Cornu
To: Mayor's Staff
Sent: Tue 10/25/2011 6:01 AM
Subject: FW: Frank Ogawa Plaza Employees Advised to Delay Arrival to Work this Morning

Ellen Dillard and I will be at the office as usual at 8am, and ask for assistance with staffing the front phones. Mayor asks for staff to supplement volunteers for what will be a heavy call day. I'll develop a schedule -- please advise as to your availability today and tomorrow.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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