Civil Rights Attorney Dan Siegel appeared on the Rachel Maddow show and Countdown with Kieth Olbermann tonight to speak on his decision to step down as a legal aid to Mayor Jean Quan. If you know Dan, then you know that this was only a matter of time. A lifelong progressive can’t long bear the yoke of being affiliated with someone who is under fire from the activist community. The sad part is that Dan and Jean share a long history of great Oakland community work. Those who are only familiar with recent headlines might assume that Mayor Kwan is a conservative politician with a streak of Bull Connor in her, but this is far from the truth. Mayor Quan is a progressive politician who made a couple bad decisions, and has since been caught in the resulting crossfire.
Siegel’s resignation is not an indictment of the mayor, rather a departure from an administration getting more caught up in politics than the plight of the people. The best thing about Siegel’s appearance on Olbermann and Maddow’s shows is that he didn’t throw Kwan under the bus, he merely stated that he disagreed with the crackdowns on the Occupy movement. Along the way he makes some really cogent points imploring city leadership to get to know the occupiers, rather than stereotyping them as misguided anarchists. This humanizing of the movement could work wonders in locales across the country, because the language of the 99% is more about populism, democracy and majority, than it is communism and fringe extremism.
Critics have associated Occupy’s desire to live in a world of equality, with communism spearheaded by opportunistic heretics. That’s not to say that the Occupy movement doesn’t have some commuter anarchists in it’s ranks, but rather, that the movement isn’t defined by those people. People are protesting for our society’s survival, not for recreational purposes. Dan Siegel understands this and speaks from a very centrist perspective about the importance of recognizing people’s shared humanity and suffering, not just which side of the political spectrum they fall on. Thank you Dan for your perspective, dedication to civil rights and continued service to Oakland.