Thursday, November 03, 2011

Occupy Oakland and its general strike

With the eyes of the world on Oakland yesterday, the violent clashes of the night of 11/02 and the early morning of 11/03 will get disproportionate attention: Kristin Bender et al, Occupy Oakland demonstrators clash with police, block Port Oakland Tribune 11/03/2011.

That shouldn't detract from the real accomplishment of Occupy Oakland on Wednesday the 2nd (although it will). Diane Sweet gives a brief report on the day's events in Occupy Oakland Shuts Down City C&L 11/03/2011. Pulling off a one-day general strike really is quite an accomplishment. The members of the ILWU (International Longshoremen's and Warehouse Union) did an informal walkout, though it's a safe guess that the union leadership wasn't bothered by that though technically they didn't endorse the action, probably for legal and contractual reasons.

Cenk Uygur reports on the port shutdown in Occupy Oakland Organizer on Blocking the Oakland Port The Young Turks YouTube date 10/03/2011:

This is a report on the port shutdown from Aljazeera English, Protesters shut down huge Oakland port in US 11/02/2011:

Here is a PBS Newshour report from during the day of 11/02/2011, Occupy Oakland Movement Tries to Flex Muscle With General Strike:

This comment from PBS reporter Spencer Michels is an appropriate observation:

An observation: As controversial as the activities of Occupy Oakland are, very few people, organizations or politicians have spoken out against the principles of this demonstration.

The strike and the encampment have attracted a mixed group of protesters and denizens of the community. Although the group claims it has no leaders, participants gather often for planning meetings, where they work out the logistics of a city hall camp-in.
Local news report video from KTVU TV: OAKLAND: Occupy Oakland protests erupts into violence

This is a segment related to Occupy Oakland from Keith Olbermann's Countdown (apparently from 10/02/2011; YouTube date 11/03/2011), OWS: Joshua Shepherd links vets' issues with larger movement:

C&L has set up a section of their blog devoted to Occupy America.

I'll say several things here, all of which can be true at the same time: the more violent (starting fires) aspect of the protest was not the result or the goal of the main Occupy Oakland protest group - in fact, the latter tried to discourage such actions; the violence does reflect in part the frustration and anger many people feel not only against Wall Street but specifically against the misconduct of Oakland police last week; critics will use the violent aspects to try to discredit the protests more generally; the Bay Area has some actual anarchist types around who look for opportunities to stage dramatic scenes; the authorities at all levels are using spies and provocateurs at a level not seen since the COINTELPRO program and probably on a much greater scale than even that; some of the more violent individuals in Oakland Wednesday night were almost certainly police provocateurs of some kind.

Pure protest movements exist only in the minds of their critics. People who want to understand what they are really about have to look at the whole picture. Grownups can look at the main thrust of the 99% protest of the Occupy movement and see that Ron Paul crackpots and general sleazebags try to glom onto it for one reason or the other. The Occupy movement has to deal with those as part of the efforts of those acting on behalf of the 1% to discredit their movement. Since the Occupy movement is challenging the power of organized money, they can't count on the favorable press or the Koch brothers-type financing that the Tea Party could.

Given all those factors, I'm frankly not worrying personally about the occasional paint-ball splattering a public building or people pounding on ATMs during a large demonstration. The main crowd in the Occupy Oakland protest apparently opposed those actions on Wednesday and that's good thinking on their part. But if you're an outside observer who's too pure to support anything about any movement that has anything like that happening at its demonstrations, then forget about protesting anything substantive. Get yourself a funny Colonial costume and join the Tea Party.

Or, if you really like sounding "left", you can join up with some Trotskyist sect. They are the people who support revolution everywhere except where one is going on. The perfect environment for someone who want to be "left" but doesn't want to do anything that might actually discomfort the most comfortable.

There is an Occupy Oakland website.

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