Occupy Oakland: Nov 2 ‘General Strike’

The Occupy movement has certainly arrived in Oakland. After the recent injury of Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, it seems everyone in the city is talking about the encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza, now being called Oscar Grant Plaza.

The announcement of a General Strike and Port Shutdown seemed an ambitious idea. Until yesterday, Oakland had not had a General Strike since 1946. As an Oakland resident, i sincerely wanted the demonstrations to be peaceful. However, recent actions from both protestors and the police seemed to indicate an undercurrent of tension.

Taran and i decided to attend the demonstration, wearing bright blue ‘UN’ helmets he made for us as a bit of political satire. Neither of us advocate violent action, and it also seemed practical to wear some head protection (just in case). We made signs with masking tape and scrap cardboard at Ogawa / Grant Plaza, where Angela Davis was addressing the crowd in the street.

I can’t say i necessarily support what the Occupy movement is doing. I can’t even say i fully understand what the Occupy movement is doing. However, i do feel it is important that citizens feel empowered to peacefully assemble when provoked by relevant issues. I support freedom of speech. In attending the demonstrations downtown, i hoped to be part of the critical mass of well-intentioned people necessary to maintain civility in such a large group. I am generally always open to reasonable dialogue, and i hoped to encounter some articulate and engaging people.

For the most part, i left the protest without much new information, but i gained a firsthand perspective of what it’s like to stand in a group of citizens against a wall of officers (in riot gear, after dark) in Oakland. Whether or not i agreed with anyone else’s reason for being there, intrinsically i felt it was an experience that jolted me from the comforts of my relatively calm daily life. Being there allowed me to more clearly understand the visceral tension surrounding the issues i had previously only examined from an academic perspective.