Monday, November 7, 2011

Occupy Oakland Says: "Shut It Down!"

By Deirdre Griswold
Published Nov 2, 2011 10:26 PM

Nov. 1 — Like a force of nature that astonishes everyone with its power, Occupy Oakland has inspired bold actions by youth and workers across the United States, electrifying the political climate and forcing city officials and police authorities to constantly revise their plans for dealing with this broad-based people’s movement.

Just a week ago, before dawn on Oct. 25, a massive police raid on the encampment in downtown Oakland, Calif., was supposed to put an end to it. The cops arrested more than 100 people, trashing their tents and other belongings in Oscar Grant Plaza. It was meant to send a signal to other occupations all across the United States.

By that evening, however, thousands had gone back downtown to reclaim the plaza. This time the police were even more vicious. Driving armored vehicles and encased in RoboCop riot gear, they fired teargas, stun grenades known as “flashbangs,” and projectiles they euphemistically called “bean bags” at the protesters. A 24-year-old member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Scott Olsen, was hit in the head with one of these projectiles and hospitalized with severe injuries. Others required first aid. Again, there were massive arrests.

An article by Steven Argue on the website pointed out: “Police forces across the country have been carrying out repression against the Occupy protesters with brutality and arrests in New York, Denver, Boston, Chicago, Oakland and elsewhere. Unarmed protesters have been repeatedly beaten, maced, tear-gassed and arrested for exercising their right to free speech. Meanwhile, armed Tea Party protesters who have pushed an extreme right-wing agenda of austerity for the working class have showed up at protests armed, but are not touched by the police.”

Even with this brutal offensive against the movement, the surge of people who have been suffering in a thousand different ways from a capitalist system gone berserk could not be turned back. It grew as those who watched the videos and heard the reports of the Oakland police riot reacted with revulsion and anger.

The next night, under enormous pressure from an inflamed public, the city allowed about 2,000 people to occupy the plaza for a General Assembly. The mood was exuberant. At one point a solidarity statement was read from Cairo saying that Egyptians were marching in support, chanting “We are Oakland!” Loud cheers replied, “We are Tahrir Square!”

It was announced to more cheers that Occupy Wall Street was sending $20,000 to support Occupy Oakland.

‘Strike, strike, strike!’

A proposal was introduced by hip-hop artist Boots Riley that called for a general strike on Nov. 2. In short but succinct language, it said, “Instead of workers going to work and students going to school, the people will converge on downtown Oakland to shut down the city. All banks and corporations should close down for the day or we will march on them.”

The proposal ended with: “The whole world is watching Oakland. Let’s show them what is possible.” The proposal passed with 96.9 percent in favor. At that point, a participant told WW, “The whole crowd erupted in chanting ‘Strike, strike, strike!’”

This bold call for a general strike has energized the labor movement, which had been pronounced moribund by the capitalist media. Support for the Oakland strike has been pouring in from all over. While anti-union laws threaten huge fines and decertification for officially striking, rank-and-file committees are calling on their sisters and brothers to swarm downtown Oakland on Nov. 2.

Some union locals, like Service Employees Local 1021 of Oakland, have publicly called for their members to be there. A statement from the local called on members “to join a day-long ‘Peaceful Day of Action’ in support of Occupy Oakland and against the banking industry and last week’s police brutality against the Occupy Oakland encampment.” The Carpenters’ union issued a similar statement.

The movement intends to march to the Port of Oakland, where longshore workers sympathize with their demands. A statement from Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union read: “Occupy Oakland protesters have called for a General Strike on November 2. Whether this actually means real strike action by workers depends in large part on union participation. Local 10 has always been in the lead in the labor movement and all eyes are on us. As a first step, in defending our union and others against economic and political repression, we need to mobilize our members to participate in the rally and occupation Nov. 2 in Oscar Grant Plaza. Shut it down!”

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