'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Oakland Rises by Standing as One 

I believe that people are going to shocked at the turnout for tomorrow's announced general strike in Oakland. Of course, most people will work, and most businesses will remain open. But the extent of public participation is going to be amazing. It is an intensification of a wave of direct action protest that has emerged in the East Bay in recent years.

First, there was rioting in downtown Oakland after it appeared that the Alameda County District Attorney was not going to prosecute BART police officer Johannes Mehserle for the killing of Oscar Grant during the early morning hours of New Year's Day, 2009. Later that year, there was the student occupation at UC Berkeley in November 2009 in response to enormous fee increases, an occupation that avoided being attacked by the UC police because protesters came to their defense. UC student protests erupted across the state again in March 2010, with students and their supporters closing Interstate 580 in . . . where else? . . . Oakland. More recently, participants in No Justice! No BART!, an East Bay organization formed to demand the disbanding of the BART police after the killing of Grant, were involved in protests at San Francisco BART stations in August and September after the subsequent killing of Charles Hill at the Embarcadero station.

Occupy Oakland has built upon these previous efforts, presenting the most significant challenge to authority in the East Bay in decades. While those who advocate a pacifist form of non-violence found it objectionable, those who sought to recover Frank Ogawa Plaza for continued occupation reenergized the movement after an early morning police raid. After the city announced last Wednesday that the plaza was going to be fenced off indefinitely, a group challenged the officers surrounding it during a late afternoon protest and attempted to force their way through. Of course, we know what happened as a result, a police riot that raged on the streets for hours, a riot whereby the officers sought to bludgeon, tear gas and stun grenade Occupy Oakland out of existence.

But Mayor Jean Quan, Police Chief Howard Jordan and the officers called in from 17 jurisdictions failed. On the following day, people returned to occupy the plaza, this time without incident. The people who challenged the police the previous day had exhausted the appetite of the Oakland establishment for continued repression. And, now, the Oakland Police Officers Association has issued this open letter to the residents of Oakland:

We represent the 645 police officers who work hard every day to protect the citizens of Oakland. We, too, are the 99% fighting for better working conditions, fair treatment and the ability to provide a living for our children and families. We are severely understaffed with many City beats remaining unprotected by police during the day and evening hours.

As your police officers, we are confused.

On Tuesday, October 25th, we were ordered by Mayor Quan to clear out the encampments at Frank Ogawa Plaza and to keep protesters out of the Plaza. We performed the job that the Mayor’s Administration asked us to do, being fully aware that past protests in Oakland have resulted in rioting, violence and destruction of property.

Then, on Wednesday, October 26th, the Mayor allowed protesters back in – to camp out at the very place they were evacuated from the day before.

To add to the confusion, the Administration issued a memo on Friday, October 28th to all City workers in support of the Stop Work strike scheduled for Wednesday, giving all employees, except for police officers, permission to take the day off.

That’s hundreds of City workers encouraged to take off work to participate in the protest against the establishment. But aren’t the Mayor and her Administration part of the establishment they are paying City employees to protest? Is it the City’s intention to have City employees on both sides of a skirmish line?

It is all very confusing to us.

Support for the general strike tomorrow is growing. Afterwards, we will perceive opportunities for a radical transformation of society that have been heretofore unimaginable. t over at Pink Scare has reminded us of a quote by Lenin which concisely summarizes the situation: There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen.

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