The only question was when, not if, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana were going to pull the trigger.

Over the past few days, it had become clear that the only way city officials were going to get Occupy Oakland protesters to leave Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, where they had been camped out for about two weeks, was to send in the police to forcibly remove them.

Quan's gentle approach clearly was not working.

The progressive mayor from one of the most liberal cities in the country -- she was a student activist at UC Berkeley in the 1960s -- had initially sought to show her solidarity with the protesters. So, too, did Councilwoman Desley Brooks, who pitched a tent at the plaza on the first night of the protest.

But it wasn't long before the situation got out of control. What else do you expect with hundreds of people living crammed together in tents? Sleeping with dogs, cats and children. Even if they'd all been the cleanest of saints, they'd have still needed some place to use the bathroom. A few portable toilets weren't going to cut it.

Santana had issued a notice to vacate the plaza Thursday. It stated that although the city is committed to free speech, it also has a responsibility to ensure public safety. In other words, the city could no longer allow the protesters to violate city safety codes -- at the risk of endangering themselves or others.


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People were cooking in tents. Fairly or not, businesses near City Hall were blaming the Occupy Oakland protesters for filthy conditions that had led to an infestation of rats.

There had also been increasing reports of violence at the camp where hard-core protesters had tried to block the police from entering -- insisting upon dispensing justice themselves.

The protesters insisted that their First Amendment rights entitled them to pitch tents all night and all day in front of City Hall if they chose to do so.

A tense standoff between protesters and City Hall had continued through the weekend.

Then, in the wee hours Tuesday, as many as 400 police officers descended on the plaza.

They broke up tents and arrested at least 85 people who were protesting as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement against economic injustice and corporate greed.

Some of the protesters made the foolish decision to try to hold off the police with firecrackers and kitchen utensils. And get this: the City Hall Christmas wreath. The miracle is no one got hurt or killed.

Santana and interim police Chief Howard Jordan are to be commended for their handling of the first phase. I say "first phase" because this thing is by no means over as evidenced. Hundreds of protesters marched back to the plaza later Tuesday, vowing to take it back.

A few hours after the raid, it looked like a hurricane had swept through the area.

Busted tents, charcoal grills, sleeping bags, shopping carts and black garbage bags littered the grounds in front of City Hall. Crews from public works prepared for a massive cleanup.

Now what?

How do city officials intend to keep the protesters from returning?

What are the Occupy protesters going to do next?

Within hours of the raid, they were threatening to return in even greater numbers. Dozens of riot police barricaded the plaza entrance.

How much do you suppose this is all costing our already-strapped city in police overtime and other costs?

Oakland doesn't have enough officers to patrol the streets during normal times, what with East Oakland an almost perpetual shooting gallery.

The city can hardly afford to keep huge numbers of officers deployed in front of City Hall 24/7. Eventually, they will have to leave.

This suggests that we might be in for a game of cat and mouse.

The situation is, to put it mildly, still fluid.

It's an unfortunate thing that a movement that started out as a worthy cause -- opposing economic inequality and social injustice -- deteriorated into a public nuisance.

What has Occupy Oakland accomplished?

The raid generated publicity to be sure.

People were talking about it all over the Bay Area, online and on the radio. There were hot debates about whether Oakland officials were right to remove the protesters.

I just hope the fact that the encampment became such a public nuisance hasn't detracted from the protesters' larger message -- one that we all need to hear. The absolute worst thing for the cause would be for protesters to turn violent.

Tammerlin Drummond is a columnist for Bay Area News Group. Contact her at tdrummond@bayareanewsgroup.com or Twitter.com/tammerlin.