Thousands of demonstrators marched through downtown Oakland on November 2, 2011, chanting and holding signs as part of a general strike organized by Occupy Oakland. The movement is rallying against corporate greed, unemployment and wage inequality.
I had not planned on participating in the strike. Yet as I was sitting at my desk working, I could hear the chants and songs and was drawn to what was happening outside. I decided to attend the rally because I wanted to see for myself what this whole movement was about.
When I walked out of my office, what I witnessed was something very different than the media portrayal of Occupy Oakland. I was surrounded by a diverse group of people at a peaceful gathering. There was a fringe element but that was overshadowed by mothers and their babies, students, the young and the old, people from all walks of life united behind one message. I was among the 99% and I was inspired.
>> Keep reading for original photos and video of the strike
Occupy Oakland is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York on September 17. The General Assembly of the Occupy Oakland movement called for a general strike and day of action in Oakland on November 2.
Their resolution stated:
“We as fellow occupiers of Oscar Grant Plaza propose that on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, we liberate Oakland and shut down the 1 percent.
“We propose a city wide general strike and we propose we invite all students to walk out of school. 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.”
Activists called this the first general strike in Oakland since the 1946. Labor unions, nurses, and teachers’ organizations were amongst the supporters of the strike. Several of the local downtown businesses closed in solidarity, while some closed due to safety concerns.
The general strike came a week after Oakland Police broke up the encampment in the city’s downtown on October 25. The incident resulted in police firing tear gas at the crowd and leaving 24-year-old Scott Olsen, a ex-Marine and Iraqi war veteran, severely injured with a fractured skull.
I attended the November 2 march and, in contrast to media reports of violence, it was inspiring and peaceful. People of all ages, races, and demographic backgrounds came together to support the movement. From small children to retirees and Katrina survivors, creativity abounded, with all kinds of signs expressing the sentiments of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The day coincided with Day of the Dead and there were some memorials and signs devoted to the holiday.
The day’s demonstrations included speakers, music (including a dj outside local clothing store Oaklandish) and marches around the city. Mid-morning the protestors marched downtown to an area where several of the major banks are clustered. They gathered around Wells Fargo, Citibank, and Bank of America to chant, dance, and sing. There was even a march to the local Whole Foods to protest the company’s edict that if any of their employee’s participated in the general Strike they would be fired.
Occupying the port
While the strike was peaceful, there were a group of anarchists who broke local banks’ windows and spray painted the buildings. Members of the movement spoke out against them saying they didn’t condone their acts of vandalism.
In the afternoon, the demonstrators marched to the port of Oakland to shut it down before the 7 pm night shift. Police intervened when the mood turned violent as the protestors overtook a vacant building and started fires. They also tried to block Wednesday’s early morning shift at the port which resulted in several arrests.
In the end, the general strike united people from all walks of life. While the 1% may control the money, the events on November 2 showed that people are coming together and standing for what is right. There can be no change unless we are are all in it together.
>> Scroll down for more photos and video of the general strike.
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