SF Bay Guardian — As OccupySF Attracts Support, Oakland Gets Ready for a General Strike


OAKLAND – At a rally of some 2,000 activists held in Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza Oct. 26 — the day after a brutal police crackdown left 24-year-old war veteran Scott Olsen in critical condition from a skull fracture inflicted by a police projectile — Occupy Oakland’s general assembly reached a 96 percent consensus agreement to call for a general strike to be held Nov. 2.

“We have the chance to write the next chapter of this worldwide occupation movement,” an activist announced before bringing the idea to the table. Then the official proposal was read: “To liberate Oakland and shut down the one percent with a citywide general strike.” Cheers arose.

Over the next half hour or so, activists approached the group with clarifying questions. “If the national guard comes, what do we do?” someone asked. (This concern could be addressed at one of the general strike planning meetings, the facilitator answered, if the group approved moving forward with the plan.)

Since that evening, plans for a citywide general strike have gained momentum as the Oakland Education Association and other public sector unions have voiced support for the idea.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan wrote in a Twitter update, “It’s my hope that the general strike is peaceful and places the issues of the 99% front and center.” In another post, she wrote, “I am working w/ OPD chief to ensure general strikers get message across w/o conflict that marred last week’s events.”

But the Oakland Police Officers’ Association stated in an open letter that police were “confused” by the mayor’s actions with regard to Occupy Oakland, and by a memo Quan released to city employees granting permission for all but police to take the day off.

An Occupy Oakland press release announced that tomorrow’s demonstrations would converge at three different times: 9 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m. at the intersection of 14th and Broadway, near the entrance of the encampment (and the place where Olsen was struck). Activists have renamed the square Oscar Grant Plaza in memory of a 22-year-old police shooting victim.

At 5 p.m., groups planned to converge at 14th and Broadway for a march to the Port of Oakland to shut it down in advance of the 7 p.m. shift.

“This is being done in order to blockade the flow of capital on the day of the general strike, as well as to show solidarity with the Longshore workers in their struggle against EGT in Longview, Washington,” said Oakland hip-hop artist and community organizer Boots Riley.

The Guardian will attend the day’s events and plans to post updates to Twitter. You can follow city editor Steven T. Jones here, reporter Rebecca Bowe here, and SFBG here.

Meanwhile, momentum surrounding the Occupy movement has remained strong in San Francisco. On Oct. 30, more than 150 residents of Chinatown attended a “We are the 99 Percent” rally at Portsmouth Square oraganized by the Chinese Progressive Association. A group of about 50 marched down Clay Street to Justin Herman Plaza, where the OccupySF encampment continues to grow.

“I used to be a restaurant worker, but because of a work injury, I haven’t been able to work for the past 4 years,” a Chinatown community member who identified herself as Mrs. Rong said about her experience in America. “We rely entirely on my husband’s income. My daughter already graduated from college, and although she already found work, she has to pay students loans every month. We don’t know how long we will be paying those loans. We don’t have anything. We are the 99 percent and we have to work together.”

Stephanie Chan, a high school student whose parents are Chinese immigrants, described her experience in San Francisco.  “My dad works for more than 13 hours a day, and my mom works two jobs, but my family is still low-income. I currently have healthcare, but I will lose it once I turn 18. I can’t help but wonder, what will happen when it is time for me and my little brother to attend college? How will we afford the high price of college tuition? That’s why people are protesting right now, and why we are the 99 percent.”

Rebecca Bowe

SF Bay Guardian

November 1, 2011