Occupy Oakland’s call for a general strike across Oakland yesterday(or earlier today on the West Coast) was mostly calm and peaceful, but, as the darkness has fallen, the drama has started.
Earlier in the day, nearly 5,000 protesters were said to have marched from downtown to the Oakland Port (the 5th-busiest port in the country) and succeeded at shutting it down. At it’s peak, the march was said to have reached 7,000 people, and the Mayor said she was happy with the peaceful nature of the Occupy Oakland strike and march. The general strike, which has gotten broad support, including support from the California Nurses Association, teachers, and unions, is the first such strike in Oakland since 1946. About 5% of the city’s workforce is reported to have taken the day off.
Aside from the main march, smaller separate marches followed and there were a number of teach-ins and sit-ins.
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Members of the Alameda Labor Council served food at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, giving away over 4,000 meals in total. Firefighters from the City of Alameda helped man the charcoal grills.
Occupy Oakland Going into the Night
Now that it is getting dark, though, those activities have finished but marches have spread to other areas. Police have apparently declared that marches at 17th Street and Telegraph Avenue constitute ‘unlawful assembly’ and are firing tear gas at the crowd. There are also reports of flash bang grenades.
“Earlier, hundreds of protesters took over the vacant Traveler’s Aid Society building in the 500 block of 16th Street,” the Oakland Tribune reports. “Mayor Jean Quan has said she wants someone in the protest to call her so she can discuss with them a plan to vacate the building. There are several police agencies, including the San Mateo County sheriffs, which brought a bus used for transporting prisoners, on the scene. There are also at least 10 unmarked white vans there.”
While the protests throughout the day, including the shutting down of the Oakland Port at about 5:00pm, were quite peaceful, it seems some protesters may be getting rowdy. A handful of them are said to be throwing rocks and used M80 fireworks to start a barricade fire. Frustration is mounting again, it seems.
The police are reportedly taking photos of the rowdy protesters, seemingly using the protesters’ own tactics. We’ll see if they document what the police claim.
Occupy Oakland History & Vandalism Today
Occupy Oakland is not where the Occupy Wall Street movement got started, of course, but it has grown into perhaps the largest and most-watched spin-off. As reported previously, an event last week in which 1,000 protesters participated resulted in a young marine veteran’s skull being fractured (the veteran, Scott Olsen, is still in the hospital). That instigated worldwide backlash against the harsh methods being used against the protesters in Oakland and the Oakland Mayor, Jean Quan, giving in to some of the protesters requests — letting them camp out in Frank H. Ogawa Plaza (an area police had raided, overturning tents, ripping down signs, and arresting protesters before that incident). But I’m sure many people are still frustrated and disgusted by initial police abuse.
Some vandalism did occur during the strike and march, at major banks (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase Bank, and Citibank) and a Whole Foods Market. But it seems the larger group of protesters got the vandals to stop before it got out of hand.