Pubdate: Tue, 24 Jul 2012
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2012 Hearst Communications Inc.
Authors: Matthai Kuruvila, Jaxon Van Derbeken and Demian Bulwa


On a street corner in Oakland on Monday, one man wore a T-shirt 
bearing the images of President Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. with 
the message "45 years later ... at last." Another man held a sign 
comparing Obama and George W. Bush, with the words "Crimes are 
crimes, no matter who does them."

Obama's fundraising visit to the politically charged city brought out 
the extreme views on his leadership. But the debate was not between 
right and left, but rather left and left, between people who see the 
president as a transformative figure and those who feel betrayed.

Downtown protests were led by several hundred medical marijuana 
advocates angered by the U.S. Justice Department crackdown on 
dispensaries in Oakland and beyond. They were joined by antiwar 
demonstrators and people opposed to drilling in the Arctic.

But outside the Fox Theater, the site of an evening campaign stop, 
excited supporters of the president lined up for hours. Some wore 
Obama T-shirts, or Obama pins on their formal wear, as they dished 
out at least $100 per person, or up to $7,500 a ticket if they wanted 
a photo with the president.

Rally blocks streets

Obama enjoyed great support in Oakland as he won the presidency, but 
his visit underscored that he has alienated some people in a city 
where poverty and crime have cast a larger shadow during the recession.

They saw an opportunity to scold him as he came to a theater that is 
the centerpiece of efforts to revitalize Oakland's downtown. It sits 
on the edge of Oaksterdam, the political center of the medical 
marijuana industry in the state, and on a street where Occupy 
activists have raged against capitalism.

At a medical marijuana rally, supporters waved flags decorated with 
pot leaves and carried glossy signs with slogans like "Fight crime 
not cannabis." After a series of speeches - many by patients who said 
marijuana had helped them - they marched through downtown, blocking streets.

"Obama, please call off the feds," Carl Roos, 54, of Oakland, said to 
the crowd. He said marijuana allowed him to leave behind heavy pain 
narcotics he was prescribed after a series of spinal and neck surgeries.

Stephen DeAngelo, cofounder and executive director of Oakland's 
Harborside Health Center, believed to be the nation's largest 
marijuana dispensary, asked for a freeze on actions against 
dispensaries and said federal authorities should focus on crimes like 
the violence that plagues Oakland. "We are here for every medical 
cannabis patient around the world," DeAngelo said.

The group was later joined by the antiwar protesters and others. As 
dusk fell, some demonstrators wore bandannas over their faces, but 
the scene was peaceful.

Firm supporters

Police reported making two arrests, one of a man who allegedly blew 
an air horn into the ear of an officer in a squad car at 3:3o p.m. on 
the 1900 block of Broadway. In the other case, officers said a man 
violated a court order barring him from the plaza outside City Hall. 
Prosecutors have sought such orders against Occupy protesters charged 
in past cases.

The Fox Theater fundraiser prompted authorities to block off several 
streets near the venue, close some businesses and urge people to use 
public transportation. As protesters sought to get as close as 
possible, they found people who remain firm in their support of Obama.

"His politics and his policies do represent me," said Charlene 
Leathers Sibblis, 57, of Stockton. "He can only do what Congress 
permits him to do."

Deborah Taylor, 55, of Oakland, said, "For me, as an African 
American, he's a symbol of pride and hope that this is a country 
where if you work hard, you can rise to the top."

Obama also appeared at a technology-related event at the Scottish 
Rite Center in Oakland, and at the Piedmont home of real estate 
developer Wayne Jordan, one of his top fundraisers. Both events cost 
$35,800 per person, the legal maximum for a donation.

Crackdown protested

The marijuana rally was organized by advocacy groups and Harborside. 
Earlier this month, federal authorities moved to seize the property 
used by Harborside, with Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney in San 
Francisco, calling the business "a superstore" whose size made it a target.

Harborside was the second Oakland dispensary to be targeted. In 
April, federal authorities shut down a dispensary and other 
properties connected to Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam 
University, an industry training ground. Lee has been the state's 
most active proponent of marijuana legalization.

During his 2008 campaign for the presidency, Obama said he would not 
use "Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws" 
that legalized medical marijuana.

Earlier this year, in an interview with Rolling Stone, he indicated 
he had not changed his stance, but said he "never made a commitment 
that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large scale 
producers and operators of marijuana - and the reason is, because 
it's against federal law."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom