(Day One of?) The Oakland General Strike
by The Infamous Brad
Nov. 3rd, 2011 at 6:50 AM
If you want a good, detailed, well-sourced account of everything that happened at (day one of) the Oakland General Strike, here's the account that was updated throughout the day by reporters for the Oakland Tribune: "Occupy Oakland Live Blog, 11/02/2011."
It was reported elsewhere that approximately 1/4 of the businesses facing onto the Occupy Oakland site did close down for the strike; I have seen no authoritative estimate of how many businesses throughout the city did so. The protesters had demanded specifically that every national bank branch in Oakland shut down, and said that they would shut them down if they did not comply. None did. So, starting at around 7 am local time, a group that started with somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 marchers left the Occupy site, marched to each bank branch in turn, and peacefully blockaded them until each one locked its doors and sent its employees home. At one location, the Wells Fargo, the crowd wasn't able to act quickly enough to stop a small group, reported to be three teenagers, from breaking the bank's window, but the crowd did stop them from doing any other damage, from entering the building, and from injuring anyone; no arrests have been made in that case yet, but police say they have photographs of the suspects.
As the banks were being shut down, a rumor floated through Twitter that the manager of the Oakland branch of Whole Foods had threatened to fire any of his employees who took the day off to participate in the general strike. (Not in the live blog linked above, but elsewhere, on Twitter: This rumor has since been shown to be false. Several Oakland Whole Foods employees did participate, and their manager arranged for other people to cover their shifts, not merely permitting this, but, according to all witnesses, actively encouraging anybody who wanted to to participate.) As the marchers were passing by the Whole Foods location on their way from one bank to another, a group estimated at between several and several dozen attacked the front of the store, breaking the window and defacing the building with paint. They were swarmed by the rest of the marchers and stopped from doing any further damage, from attempting to injure or interfere with any employee or customer, and from stealing anything; no arrests have been made yet, but police say that (again) they have photographs of people who are wanted for questioning.
Once all the banks were shut down, protesters regrouped at the Occupy site, where someone (it has not yet been reported who) chartered a fleet of buses to take those who couldn't walk that far from downtown to the West Oakland container-shipping port; those who could march, by now estimated at around 7,000, did. Police cleared traffic away from the march, for the most part, but said that if the marchers attempted to violate federal law by entering the port itself, they would be stopped or arrested. After a tense standoff between bicyclists (reported on Twitter as members of Critical Mass) and California Highway Patrol motorcyclists at the port entrance, the police relented and let the protesters through. They set up checkpoints and, by consensus of the Occupy Oakland assembly, only allowed through empty trucks leaving the port, workers leaving the port, and medical personnel going both ways. This lasted from around 7pm to around 3am.
There were no arrests at the port blockade. There were no injuries at the port itself, but during the march there, a couple in a Mercedes either failed to see or ignored police orders to divert around the march. When they attempted to drive through the march, one marcher pounded on the hood of their car; the driver responded by attempting to kill the marcher with his car. Police evacuated the wounded protester (who is expected to make a full recovery, he seems to have only been badly bruised). Police were seen to question the driver, but made no arrest; the chief of police says that the matter is still under investigation.
At about 10:30pm, while the port protest was going on, an organized sub-group of the protesters broke into, seized, and forcibly re-opened the homelessness services center, which had been foreclosed by one of the banks after the City of Oakland cut its funding, in the old Traveler's Aid Society building. They announced their intention to turn the building back over to the previous agency for free; if the previous agency would not accept this free building, they were going to start their own volunteer homeless-aid service there. As police from multiple agencies converged on the building in riot gear, the people occupying the Traveler's Aid Society building set up an improvised barricade; as the raid began around midnight, they set the barricade on fire. By 12:30 am, police had retaken the building and arrested 30 to 40 people, and the fire department had put out the burning barricade.
From there, the Oakland police, who were still in riot gear, marched to the edge of the main Occupy encampment, arriving a little before 1:00 am, and set up a silent police line on one side. While the police were (apparently) still waiting for the "go" order to clear the park yet again, protesters set up a peaceful picket line of their own facing the police. That order apparently never came; the police dispersed from the park a little before 2:00 am.
Reprinted according to the author's copyright