November 3, 2011

The Beautiful Oakland General Strike of 2011

by Luma Nichol
San Francisco Radical Women and Freedom Socialist Party

On the gloriously sunny day of November 2, the Oakland General Strike looked like a sprawling, giant political festival. By mid-day, people of all ages and all ethnicities flooded a downtown plaza and nearby streets which were reclaimed by Occupy Oakland after a massive police riot had destroyed their camp. The General Strike, called one week later, was the 99 percenters' response to state violence.

It looked like the entire heavily working-class city of Oakland, one of the most racially diverse urban centers in the nation, had poured into the plaza. Clearly ordinary people in the U.S. are fed up with the economy. As one sign said "When the librarians are demonstrating, you know things are messed up."

The heart of the gathering was a large sound truck backed by a gigantic banner spanning a wide downtown street. Its message was clear and loud: "Death to Capitalism."

An array of speakers reflected the crowd's diversity, among them: a man from Occupy London; Erica Huggins, a former Black Panther; and a young African American who said "I have been opposed to capitalism for awhile and now I am looking more and more to socialism."

MCs kept the crowd informed of developments: "The anti-capitalism march is leaving at 2:00pm from Broadway and Telegraph Ave…the Wells Fargo Bank protest is forming at…"

Suddenly, a chant erupted from part of the crowd: the University of California at Berkeley marchers had just arrived! Later a group of young Asian Americans chanted and snaked their way through the throng. On the periphery, silk screen artists printed tortillas with a Day of the Dead graphic using chocolate syrup. A group of black-clad anarchists in bandanas milled near a six-member drum corps. A nearby marching band was ringed by dancers and people swaying to the music.

Unions turned out too. A large contingent of teachers skipped classes to make their voices heard. Two iron workers held their union banner high and smiled for photographers. Janitors for Justice in green shirts and purple-wearing SEIU union members wandered through the crowd.

Our group fanned out to distribute a solidarity statement from Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party and to sell our newspaper. What a wonderful reception we got! Thumbs-up for feminism and avid interest in the Freedom Socialist were everywhere. One woman who didn't want to carry our flyer took a photo with her smart phone to read later. A Radical Women picket sign "Stop budget cuts, stop attacks on women and the poor" was especially popular.

A half block from the epicenter of the demonstration, protesters successfully closed a Citibank branch. A line of young, sign-wielding Occupiers blocked the front door. A giant check was taped to the side door. No one was coming in or out.

Late in the afternoon, the main event kicked off. Over 10,000 marchers streamed onto a freeway overpass and headed toward the Port of Oakland. Children marched behind a banner that said "Children Will Occupy the Future." The goal was to shut down the port in solidarity with the ILWU Local 21 workers battling union-busting in Longview, Washington. And shut it down, we did! BBC World News broadcast this coup globally during the evening news.

What a day! The 2011 Oakland General Strike, the first in this city since 1946, was a completely cosmopolitan affair composed of ordinary working class and poor people of every race, students, retired folk and children who have had enough of being the victims of capitalist neoliberalism, its billionaire architects, corporate proponents, political servants and bankster class. On this very special day, everyone was smiling, proud to be part of a multi-racial, multi-generational act of solidarity buoyed by a global movement to roll back the heartless austerity measures being shoved down our throats from Greece to Greenland…and here at home.

The final image from this unforgettable day is that of a woman who stood quietly with a sign that seemed to capture the day's essence. It read simply "Hope."

For more and bigger General Strikes across our country and the world!


Occupy San Francisco Colleagues,

As you all know by now, the San Francisco Labor Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Occupy Wall Street actions in San Francisco. I am pleased by the support of our many union brothers and sisters who are already part of this movement and am looking forward to working with everyone to sustain and support your actions.

We are exploring ways to give material support and finding organizers to attend and participate in your committee meetings and bring back your needs to our council of 150 unions, as well as to our individual affiliates. Many of our rank and file and leaders, as I already mentioned, are part of this movement already. Some of the unions and members who are present every day include the Teamsters, Nurses, Service Employees, Technical Engineers, Sailors' Union, International Longshore Union, teachers, etc.

We will be building support week by week, and I hope you will distribute and post this on your communication site. We support your presence in San Francisco.

Below is a message from our national office in Washington, D.C. which opposes any arrests or disbanding of Wall Street protesters. People should and will raise their voices to oppose the banks, mortgage houses, corporations and the Republican Congress—all who are dismantling our Democracy and destroying our Jobs!
In peaceful Solidarity!

Tim Paulson
Executive Director
San Francisco Labor Council

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jeff Hauser 202-637-5018

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

On Mass Arrests of Peaceful Occupy Wall Street Protests
October 26, 2011

It is a tremendous dishonor to America when the voices for the powerless are suppressed by the powerful—the top 1%. We are extremely alarmed by the increasing number of arrests of peaceful protestors across the country and call on elected leaders to stop ordering the police to make these arrests. The Occupy Wall Street movement has elevated the national conversation by shining overdue attention on the struggles of the 99% for whom the economy is broken. When people can't raise their voices around pervasive inequality, there is a fundamental problem with how we're functioning as a nation.

Mayor Bloomberg of New York City listened to reason from the community and did not forcibly disband the original Wall Street protestors at Zuccotti Park. We urge all elected leaders across the country to enable peaceful protestors to continue to exercise their most American of rights.