We in the United States hear a lot from the Occupy movement about the 1 percent (the rich, ruling elite) and the 99 percent (everyone else). Now, with the latest eruption of street violence in Oakland, California, attention is also turning to the 1 percent of the 99 percent. These are the activists - often self-described anarchists - who think that trashing buildings, burning flags and throwing projectiles at police advance the cause of the disenfranchised.
Oakland's tourism authorities recently launched an Oakland Restaurant Week to call attention to the northern California city's varied, affordable, toothsome eateries, but this news was lost amidst the turmoil and international media coverage of the Occupy movement.
Occupiers forced their way into City Hall over this past weekend and, according to local and national media reports, trashed parts of the building. Occupiers blame the heavy hand of the Oakland cops for fomenting trouble, and indeed the U.S. federal government agrees that the Oakland PD used excessive force against city campers and protesters several months ago, when Oakland's version of Occupy Wall Street was just getting started. Since then, there's been plenty of blame to go around.
Occupiers have already twice partly shut down the Port of Oakland, where jobs are generated and exports and imports pass through the San Francisco Bay Area's largest seaport. This past week, they threatened to do it again - along with shutting down Oakland International Airport, an essential part of the blue-collar city's economy and a vital lifeline for business travelers, leisure travelers and cargo shippers. The airport, too, is a job-creator in a city where very many people are unemployed or underemployed.
Embattled Oakland Mayor Jean Quan - criticized by the political Left as a supposed tool of the Establishment and by the political Right for not cracking down hard enough - has rightly characterized her city as a home of the 99 percent. But Oakland is experiencing a home invasion by the 1 percent of the 99 percent who'd rather fight than think.
The other day Quan said "Young people, think about your tactics. Think about who you are hurting. Oakland is not your playground.''
Until the 1 percent of the 99 percent stops - or is stopped - Oakland will continue to be in trouble. And one of the toughest jobs imaginable will continue to be the job of marketing Oakland to travelers and conventioneers. The paycheck for taking that gig just can't be big enough.
In the meantime, travelers will continue to miss out on the parts of Oakland that are worth visiting: Among them, Lake Merritt, the lively Uptown configuration of restaurants, clubs and bars, the California Oakland Museum, the foodie haven of Rockridge and more. It's a pity.