Occupy Oakland General Strike: City Prepares To Be Movement's Epicenter
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Thousands of Wall Street protesters marched in the streets of Oakland and picketed banks on Wednesday as they geared up to disrupt operations at the nation's fifth-busiest port.
The protests marked an escalation from previous demonstrations as they went beyond boisterous rallies at park encampments and took aim at a major hub of commerce - the Port of Oakland. Organizers say they want to halt "the flow of capital" at the port.
The union representing port workers said it cannot ask members to participate in the protests because of clauses in its contract, potentially minimizing any disruptions.
Demonstrators as well as city and business leaders expressed optimism that the widely anticipated "general strike" would be a peaceful event for a city that became a rallying point last week after an Iraq War veteran was injured in clashes between protesters and police.
Embattled Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who has been criticized for her handling of the protests, said in a statement that she supported the goals of the protest movement that began in New York City a month ago and spread to dozens of cities across the country.
"Police Chief (Howard) Jordan and I are dedicated to respecting the right of every demonstrator to peacefully assemble, but it is our duty to prioritize public safety," she said.
Protesters planned to hold rallies across the country in solidarity.
In Philadelphia, police arrested about a dozen protesters who were sitting peacefully inside the lobby of the headquarters of cable giant Comcast. Officers moved in after they refused to leave. The protesters were handcuffed and led into police vans as supporters cheered.
In New York, about 100 military veterans marched in uniform through Manhattan to protest what they called police brutality against the Iraq War veteran injured in Oakland.
Students from colleges in Boston and union workers, for example, were expected to march on local Bank of America offices, the Harvard Club and the statehouse to protest the nation's burgeoning student debt crisis.
They say total student debt in the country exceeds credit card debt, increases by $1 million every six minutes and will reach $1 trillion this year, potentially undermining the economy.
Along with protesting financial institutions that many within the movement blame for high unemployment and the foreclosure crisis, supporters of the Oakland events are expanding their message to include school closures, waning union benefits and cuts to social services.
Nurse, teacher and other worker unions are taking part in the protests, and Oakland is letting city workers use vacation or other paid time to take part in the general strike. About 5 percent of city workers took the day off Wednesday, according to City Administrator Deanna Santana.
About 360 Oakland teachers didn't show up for work, or roughly 18 percent of the district's 2,000 teachers, said Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint. The district has been able to get substitute teachers for most classrooms, and where that wasn't possible children were sent to other classrooms, he said.
The day's events in Oakland began with a rally outside City Hall that by midmorning drew more than 1,000 people who were spilling into the streets and disrupting the downtown commute.
About three dozen adults with toddlers and school-age children formed a "children's brigade, gathering at Oakland Public Library for a stroller march to the protest in downtown Oakland. Demonstrators handed out signs written as if in a children's crayon that read "Generation 99% Occupying Our Future," which the marchers attached to their baby backpacks and strollers.
Some protesters broke off from the main rally near the city hall plaza to picket at nearby banks. All three banks located within blocks of the plaza were closed, though that didn't stop protesters from chanting and waving signs outside.
At a Citibank branch, more than a dozen protesters blocked the entrance, some with fake $100 bills taped across their faces. About 200 people chanted outside a Wells Fargo branch, which had graffiti scrawled on its wall. The messages read, "The 1 percent won't back down" and "Who's robbing who?"
College freshman Alan Yee joined a group of students at the Wells Fargo protest. He said he's marching for several of his classmates who are struggling to pay tuition.
The protests were expected to culminate with a march to the Port of Oakland, where organizers said the goal would be to stop work there for the 7 p.m. shift. Organizers say they want to halt "the flow of capital" at the port.
It is the only West coast port that exports more than it imports, according to port spokesman Issac Kos-Read. About 55 percent of the goods it handles are for export. Much of California's agricultural production flows through to foreign markets, including wines from Napa and Sonoma valleys, fruits and nuts from the Central Valley and rice from farms near Sacramento.
About 70 percent of the port's trade is with Asia. Seventeen percent is domestic and military cargo, 10 percent is European trade. The port imports electronics, apparel and manufacturing equipment, mostly from Asia. The port also handles imported cars and car parts from Asian carmakers such as Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai.
On Wednesday morning, the port was operating as normal and most longshoremen had shown up for work, according to port and union officials.
Craig Merrilees, spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said its members were not being called to strike. The union cannot sanction a strike in support of Occupy Oakland under the terms of its contract, he said.
"The general message is that the ILWU and other unions are supporting the concerns raised by Occupy Oakland and the Occupy movement to speak up for the 99 percent and against the corporate greed that is wrecking America," Merrilees said.
Other demonstrators, some affiliated with established community groups, said they planned to target banks, convene a dancing flash mob, sponsor music and street parties, march with elderly residents and people with disabilities to the California state office building, hold youth teach-ins.
Because of the activities' free-flowing and unpredictable nature, city leaders said they had no idea how many people would take part or how much a disruption they could pose to the daily routines of residents and workers.
City spokeswoman Karen Boyd said the government "will be open for business as usual" and was encouraging businesses to do the same.
The president of the police officers' union said he was worried officers were being scapegoated by Quan and "set to fail" if Wednesday's actions got unruly.
"We're going to be seen as the establishment, and it's not fair to the police, it's not fair to anyone," Oakland Police Officer's Association President Sgt. Dom Arotzarena said.
On Oct. 25, police acting at the request of the city's administrator, who reports to the mayor, were asked to clear the protesters' campsite during an early morning raid. A confrontation with marchers protesting the raid followed that night, and an Iraq War veteran suffered a fractured skull and brain injury when officers moved in with tear gas, flash grenades and beanbag projectiles.
Quan allowed protesters to reclaim the plaza outside City Hall the next day. At least six dozen tents and a kitchen buzzing with donated food have been erected on the spot since then, while the crackdown has galvanized anti-Wall Street events elsewhere and made politicians in other cities think again about interfering with their local encampments.
Occupy LA, a monthlong 475-tent encampment around Los Angeles City Hall, is planning a 5:30 p.m. march and rally through downtown LA's financial district to express solidarity with the Oakland general strike and to protest police brutality.
"It was obvious to the entire world that the acts perpetrated against Oakland occupation were acts of police brutality," said Julia Wallace, spokeswoman for the Committee to End Police Brutality at Occupy LA.
Unions representing city government workers, Oakland's public school teachers, community college instructors, and University of California, Berkeley teaching assistants all have endorsed the daylong work stoppage and encouraged their members to participate.
"It's sort of a realization that a lot of people are having that we've all been fighting our own issues, but really, it's all related, it's all the same issue," Oakland Education Association Secretary Steve Neat said.
The Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce said in a letter to the mayor Tuesday in which President Joseph Haraburda expressed concern for "the mothers and children, and even grandmothers, who plan to come to Oakland to conduct their regular business" and for business owners who "must face a day of uncertainty" if they do not close for the strike.
"We want to be clear, should Wednesday's planned protests go awry, someone will need to be held accountable," Haraburda said.
Associated Press writers Terry Collins in Oakland, Beth Duff-Brown in San Francisco, Mark Pratt in Boston, JoAnn Loviglio in Philadelphia, Jon Fahey and Verena Dobnik in New York and Christina Hoag in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
Watch live video from Occupy Oakland:
Via HuffPost Miami:
When an Occupy Miami member offered evicted protestors vacant apartments in a building he owns in Downtown Miami's Overtown neighborhood, it seemed like the perfect solution: the 'Peace City' space would provide headquarters for the movement and shelter a small faction of the group's most vulnerable members. But it hasn't gone well. Other tenants say the building has become a cesspool of drug use and violence while non-resident Occupy Miami members are trying to distance themselves from the 'radicals' -- all while the two factions are wrestling for control over Occupy Miami's social media sites and future plans.
The feud between the Overtown occupiers and more mainstream members has only gotten worse. The two factions are now battling for control of Occupy Miami's social media sites. The movement's main Twitter account recently announced it had been "hijacked by a small, non-consensus group of radical members." The Occupy Miami Facebook page was also temporarily hacked by someone inside Peace City. Meanwhile, the Overtown occupation is slowly driving away more moderate members.
"This is a black eye on the Occupy movement," says Shannon Reaze, an Overtown community organizer and Occupy Miami supporter who is now helping tenants move out of Paz's building. "The violence and drugs going on here are way outside of what I thought Occupy stood for. This place is destabilized."
...The supposedly hard-core activists here spend their days drinking and getting high. And as Peace City devolves into lawlessness, the most committed occupiers are leaving. Local landowners and politicians want the place shut down, while cops are suspicious. Yet as long as Paz wants the protesters around, nothing short of a demolition order can keep them out.
Via HuffPost DC:
WASHINGTON -- Occupy DC has a new lawsuit involving tents on its hands. But it doesn't involve temporary structures in McPherson Square.
Two protesters arrested during a February action outside Merrill Lynch's offices on 15th Street NW near McPherson Square have filed suit against the Metropolitan Police Department, Legal Times reports. (Read the complaint here.)
The plaintiffs, Samuel Dukore and Kelly Canavan, were part of a "targeted occupation" of Merrill Lynch on Feb. 13 where protesters were raising awareness about Merrill Lynch's reportedly close ties with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa, for his part, claims that the reports of these close ties are "wildly inaccurate."
Full story here.
OWS reports via its website:
After the brutal attack on the attempted re-occupation of Liberty Square by NYPD on the 6-month anniversary of #OWS, a number of Occupiers have relocated their base of occupation to Union Square in midtown Manhattan, a point of convergence for several #OWS protests over the past 6 months.
According to reports on the ground, several dozen people slept in the park after the illegal and violent raid on Liberty Square. Over 70 people remain, now on Day 3. Although tents and tables are still banned, Occupiers have brought blankets and sleeping gear. Many are calling it ¨the new Occupation.¨ In addition to holding General Assemblies, Union Square Occupiers are providing vital jail support for those arrested on #M17 as they are released from NYPD custody. So far, the NYPD has made no attempt to remove Occupiers or prevent them from sleeping in the park.
Occupy Long Beach is defending the mother's home. For more information, click here.
Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street activist once profiled in Rolling Stone, suffered a seizure Saturday night during protest action near Zuccotti Park. Many on-scene reported Ms. McMillan had trouble breathing after she was tackled and handcuffed by law enforcement.
A video uploaded to Youtube late Saturday night purports to show the attack. Two women can be heard commenting, “There’s Cecily,” then there is confusion as the police clearly perform a violent take-down on someone in the crowd.
According to Jeff Sharlet’s November, 2011 article about the Occupy Movement, this may be Ms. McMillan’s second violent encounter with police.
To read the full story, go here.
Cops caught on video about 10 seconds in taking down the woman who had the apparent seizure:
Watch video from inside Zuccotti Park as police moved in late last night:
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The paper reports from last night's chaos at Zuccotti Park:
At one point, a woman who appeared to be suffering from seizures flopped on the ground in handcuffs as bystanders shouted for the police to remove the cuffs and provide medical attention. For several minutes the woman lay on the ground as onlookers made increasingly agonized demands until an ambulance arrived and the woman was placed inside.
By 12:20 a.m., a line of officers pushed against some of the remaining protesters, forcing them south on Broadway, at times swinging batons and shoving people to the ground.
Kobi Skolnick, 30, said that officers pushed him in several directions and that as he tried to walk away, he was struck from behind in the neck. “One of the police ran and hit me with a baton,” he said.
To read the full story, go here.
|@ Greg_Palast : Our photographer ZD Roberts beaten @OWS Zucotti Park by cops. Thrown to ground, hair grabbd, hit with clubs while yelling, I'M PRESS PRESS!|
|@ macfathom : Doubling east on Barclay, and now the ragged front of the march is at City Hall. #OWS|
|@ LuddoftheFuture : girl in the street having a seizure and the cops have her in handcuffs. can this get any worse (live at http://t.co/4pLyy3gP)|
Activists cry out for paramedics. The woman is limp on the ground. "Come on you violent bastards where's the paramedics?"
|@ jeffrae : March is heading north up broadway #ows #occupywallstreet|
|@ macfathom : Dozens of arrests, many cuffed and sitting on broadway waiting for their ride to jail. #OWS|
|@ RDevro : Police are barricading the park. It's cleared. I witnessed countless violent arrests. No way to estimate numbers.|
Cops pulling apart human chains. There are shouts for mic checks. Now, chants start forming. "The NYPD are sweeping through," says Tim on the live stream.
|@ ANIMALNewYork : NYPD just made an announcement that Brookfield has to "clean the park" and Liberty Plaza is officially "closed."|
|@ OccupyWallStNYC : Bagpipers just started marching into the park bringing the party mood with them, NYPD arrested one of them, and things got real heated. #OWS|
|@ JackieHRye : NYPD just "destroyed" the tent in Zuccotti Park, Occupiers call for its re-building. Marching band also going through the park. #OWS|
|@ RDevro : The tent in the middle of the park continues to fill with people planning to stay the night. Lots of energy here.|
Activists ask for more room as the tent is growing, expanding.
"It looks like a floating tent." -- as Tim on his live stream.
|@ OccupyWallStNYC : .@justawall is leading us in a song! "Hit the road, banks! And don't ya come back no more no more no more no more!" #OWS|
Activists have assembled make-shift, cardboard sleeping areas inside Zuccotti Park. The cardboard is joined by a large green tarp.