A 10,000-strong rally has blocked the entrances to the Port of Oakland, which has had to shut down its operations for the day. The port will lose roughly $8,000,000 per day if the ‘blockade’ continues. Yesterday’s events 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 shut down 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 participated in the general strike yesterday. Teachers and cab drivers have missed work to join the movement and shops have locked their doors in solidarity, posting ‘We are the 99%’ 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.
The assault by Oakland police officers on protester and war veteran Scott Olsen last week 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 have taken 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 9 am. 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 organization leaders 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 merging with the confusion shown by Oakland’s mayor, Jean Quan, in her handling of the ongoing movement. Given the contrasting moods of the involved parties, even the demonstrators themselves were not sure what the day would bring.
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% front and center. I am working with the police chief to make sure that the pro-99% 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 seventeen different agencies aided in the crackdown, following 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."
Also on November 1, 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.
This piece was first published at Russia Today.