Oakland turns to 1st general strike in 65 years
Today’s events have culminated in a massive march in the Bay Area, which has been one of the goals of the Occupy Oakland General Strike, the first such strike in the city for 65 years. The Port of Oakland is one of the largest shipping hubs of its kind in the country.
The day shift at the port had already been halted earlier due to the protests. Demonstrators are hoping to keep the port closed into the night. Authorities at the port say work will resume only when it is declared safe to do so.
On their way protesters spray-painted "Strike" on a store belonging to Whole Foods Market after reports that the company had threatened to fire workers if they dared to join the strike.
Threats notwithstanding, thousands of workers across Oakland are participating in the general strike today. Teachers and cab drivers have missed work to join the movement and shops have locked their doors in solidarity, posting "We are the 99 per cent" in the windows. Oakland has become an unlikely West Coast hub for the Occupy Wall Street movement nearly 50 days after the protests first started in New York City.
Angela Davis speaking. Photo by Lucy Kafanov
The assault on protester and war veteran Scott Olsen last week by Oakland police officers resonated around the world. A non-lethal projectile fired by the Oakland PD left Olsen unable to speak after he suffered a skull fracture during last week’s demonstration.
While Olsen was still hospitalized preparing for serious surgery, marches and protests in his name took place across the world in support of the new OWS icon.
A week later, and thousands are expressing their support for Olsen and the Occupy movement in Oakland in what is the first general strike the city has seen in more than half a century.
Protesters started the day with a general assembly that was held around 9am. While addressing the crowd of thousands, renowned activist Angela Davis said “Our unity must be complex. It cannot be simplistic and oppressive." When she finished her speech, other organizers took to the microphone. An hour later, protesters marched to a local bank branch, attempting to shut it down.
The optimism of the protesters is in contrast to the confusion shown by Oakland’s mayor, Jean Quan, in her handling of the ongoing movement. Given the differing moods of the involved parties, even the demonstrators themselves were not sure what the day would bring.
Oakland has first general strike in 65 years. Photo by Lucy Kafanov
On November 1, Quan issued a statement saying: "It is my hope that tomorrow's general strike is peaceful and places the issues of the 99 per cent front and center. I am working with the police chief to make sure that the pro-99 per cent activists – whose cause I support – will have the freedom to get their message across without the conflict that marred last week's events."
Though she offers her support today, a week ago she was the one to order that the encampments of protesters in city parks be raided by police. Authorities from 17 different agencies aided in the crackdown, after which Scott Olsen ended up in a critical condition. While the Iraq War veteran has shown remarkable recovery in the days since, what lies ahead for the Occupy movement still seems uncertain.
The mayor’s approach has also failed to impress Paul Junge, the public policy director of Oakland’s Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
"Your lack of clarity is putting our shared future in Oakland at risk," Junge wrote to the mayor in a letter this week. "We want to be clear: should Wednesday's planned protests go awry, someone will need to be held accountable."
An Occupy Oakland protester shows his wounds from the rubber bullets OPD supposedly weren't using during the recent raid. Photo by Lucy Kafanov
Also on November 1, the Oakland Police Officers’ Association issued an open letter in which they admitted that they were not sure what to make of the mayor’s handling of events either.
“As your police officers, we are confused,” reads the letter. It goes on to note that all city workers, except for police officers, were told they could take November 2 off to participate in the general strike. “That’s hundreds of city workers encouraged to take off work to participate in the protest against ‘the establishment',’” the letter goes on. “But aren’t the mayor and her administration part of the establishment that are paying city employees to protest? Is it the city’s intention to have city employees on both sides of a skirmish line?”
“It is all very confusing to us,” the letter concluded.