Welcome to the Oakland General Strike
Wednesday, November 2
Dear Bay Area Friends,
As most of you probably know, the police raid and destruction of the Occupy Oakland encampments last Tuesday, followed by the notorious police violence against protesters later the same day, provoked such an immense expression of outrage from thousands of people in the Bay Area and around the world that the Oakland city government was thrown completely on the defensive. The next day police were scarcely to be seen. The fence surrounding Frank Ogawa Plaza was still in place, but the occupiers calmly took it down and began reoccupying the same spot. That evening, by a vote of 1484 to 46 (with 77 abstentions), the general assembly decided to call for a General Strike in Oakland on Wednesday, November 2. You can see their declaration, a press conference, and other information at www.occupyoakland.org.
The fact that they reoccupied the encampment less than 48 hours after it had been demolished is astonishing enough. But that they immediately shifted to the offensive with such a marvelously audacious venture leaves me almost speechless with admiration. I hope that their appeal meets with correspondingly large-minded and supportive responses by people in Oakland and elsewhere in the Bay Area. Occupiers in many other cities have already been venturing outside their encampments for various types of demonstrations (e.g. the marches to banks and CEO residences in New York City), but this general-strike appeal is upping the ante and moving toward a new level of active engagement with people in the whole community. Occupy Oakland people have been fanning out into the city, speaking with workers and small businesses, with teachers and students, with religious groups and all sorts of other community organizations, in order to enlist support for the strike. At this point I don’t think anyone really knows what the response will actually be, but there are a number of promising indications. In addition to support from nurses’ and teachers’ associations and a number of other unions (see www.occupyoakland.org/strike/), the Longshoremen’s Union is collaborating with Occupy Oakland to bring about a shutdown of the Port of Oakland in solidarity with striking workers elsewhere on the West Coast.
In any case, even if a relatively small number of people actually strike, the mere act of putting such a notion on the agenda is already awakening people to new possibilities. The general strike is not intended to be a mere work stoppage, but a day for positive, creative public dialogue. Leading up to it, there are open meetings every day at 5:00 p.m. at Occupy Oakland where people are discussing what they are doing, or what they propose to do, to prepare for the strike (publicity, outreach, coordination). You are welcome to observe any of those meetings, and to participate if you feel so inclined. During the day of the strike, there will be large gatherings at the same location (Frank Ogawa Plaza at 14th & Broadway) at 9:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, and 5:00 p.m. (the latter gathering segueing into a march to the Port of Oakland), as well as the daily general assembly at 7:00 p.m. But there will be countless other public discussions, large and small, planned and spontaneous, in workplaces and on street corners, some of them initiated by people such as yourself. You don’t have to wait for Occupy Oakland or anyone else to take your own initiatives.