The weekend brought confrontations with police in Denver, Portland and a handful of Texas cities -- even a face-off between Chicago police and law enforcement at the Thomson Center -- but nothing as devastating as last week’s full-on riot in Oakland, which has now become the epicenter of the Occupy movement.
Last Wednesday -- the day after the clash -- with more than 90 percent of the vote, Occupy Oakland called for a General Strike to close down the city this Wednesday, November 2nd.
“That day, I drove through the streets in Oakland and saw the cops, heard the helicopters overhead,” said Terry Park, a Phd student at the University of California at Davis who lives in Oakland. “It felt like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie.”
The riot on Tuesday, October 25, had involved 17 law enforcement departments from nearby cities and left a two-tour Iraq war veteran, Scott Olsen, critically injured after getting hit by a police thrown projectile. (He is now listed in fair condition, but unable to speak.)
The thundering of the helicopters continued for several days but by week’s end, Occupy Oakland’s General Assembly had okayed the general strike, the mayor who authorized the use of force was in retreat (and booed off the stage at Oscar Grant Plaza on Friday), Egyptians had marched in solidarity with Oakland , and OccupyMarines were posting a $4,000 reward for the name of the officer who wounded Olsen. Even the White House ended up having to talk about what had happened in Oakland and to toe a careful line.
“The general strike isn’t a call for a full work stoppage,” said Sampada Aranke, another UC-Davis PhD student living in Oakland. “The focus is on the rank and file.”
Park said that, on Wednesday, the General Assembly broke up into working groups of 20 before deciding on the general strike. (The last general work stoppage in the U.S. was in 1946 -- in Oakland.)
“Everything felt very resilient,” he said, “just from the fact that people had gathered at the same spot where they’d been tear-gassed the night before and shot at with rubber bullets.”
“Everybody was there to get something done,” said Aranke, “it was pure joy.”
Since then, the Oakland Education Association, the ILWU (longshoremen), the SEIU (city workers), AFSCME, the Carpenter’s Local, Central Labor Council and various other unions and workers' groups have joined the call for the strike.
“On November 2nd, any modicum of success will be a great success,” said Boots Riley, of the hip hop group The Coup, and one of the most visible figures in the Occupy Oakland movement. “This is a short time table for a General Strike. But the call is important. What we’re doing will set a tone, set a precedent. It’s an important -- a really important -- first step.”