By Sara Bloomberg and Alex Schmaus
A call for a general strike flooded the streets of Oakland on Nov. 2 when tens of thousands of people from around the Bay Area came together for an inspirational display of defiance.
An estimated 15,000 people marched throughout the day and night from Frank Ogawa Plaza down to the Port of Oakland where International Longshore and Warehouse Union members honored the mass community picket lines by shutting down the fifth largest port in the nation.
Occupy Oakland had called for the general strike hoping to shut down Oakland and gather support for the “99%.” The strike included people from Occupy San Francisco, many labor unions and thousands of individual supporters.
Oakland Unified School District teachers mobilized in large numbers to support the port shutdown.
“I can only compare this to 1970 when I was a student at Carleton College in the Midwest, the first time I was arrested,” said Oakland Education Association President Betty Olson-Jones as she walked the port picket line.
“I got arrested with 68 other students to protest the American bombing of Cambodia and Laos. It was a turning point in my life, an inspiration for a whole generation and I think something similar is happening now.”
Many current students came to the strike with similar feelings, all concerned about the future of education and where the economy is headed.
“It’s not fair what the banks are doing to the people,” said City College of San Francisco literacy student Elmer Rivas, 19, as he walked the picket line at the port. “My parents worked my whole life and they don’t have anything to show for it, that makes me really angry… the people need to be stronger and keep going.”
UC Berkeley Day of Action
A day of action at the University of California, Berkeley, got off to a spirited start last Wednesday when students rallied on campus and began setting up camp at Sproul Plaza in support for the “Occupy” movement, prompting campus police outfitted in riot gear to break-up the camp and arrest protesters.
Most protesters had anticipated a confrontation with campus police because the UC administration had released a “no encampments” policy earlier in the week.
The protest began as a peaceful event as demonstrators began erecting tents in violation of campus policy.
Campus police issued a dispersal order to the crowd at 3:30pm.
An officer informed the group of demonstrators that camping is illegal and they were risking arrest if they remained.
The group wouldn’t budge; instead they linked arms and formed a human barricade.
The police moved in. While no firearms could be seen, officers wielded batons and plastic handcuffs, while sporting shiny black helmets with visors for protection. One officer even carried what appeared to be a rubber bullet gun.
Video of the incident was viewed by tens of thousands on YouTube. http://youtu.be/B_f06VQOkI4
At least two demonstrators were injured, including UC Berkley student Ashley Pinkerton.
“They were just beating us,” Pinkerton said between breaths. She made jabbing motions and said the police were hitting protesters with batons.
In few minutes the police had broken the human barricade and were dismantling and confiscating tents. Six students and one faculty member were arrested.
But “Occupy Cal” supporters wouldn’t leave. Calls were made to “text your friends to get down here!” As the sun began to set, the crowd had swelled by several hundred protesters and more tents popped up.
By 9:30pm, close to a hundred riot police were deployed around the plaza. The police moved in again, but this time with more police, more beatings and more arrests. In the end 39 people were arrested.
In the hours that followed a back and forth between police and protesters ensued. However, the occupation continued to grow, peaking at close to 1,500, when supporters from Occupy Oakland and Occupy San Francisco arrived at midnight.
At this point, the massive crowd sat down and started a general assembly.
Tension eased and the mood became much lighter, even jubilant. The assembly cheered, comically, when somebody began blowing soap bubbles in the air over the crowd.
The next steps were discussed and it was about an hour later when the Occupy Cal camp took a vote to participate in the upcoming strikes.
The UC Berkeley student activists voted in favor of a strike in all sectors of higher education.
“We will strike in opposition to the cuts to public education, university privatization, and the indebting of our generation,” said the proposal.
November 15 was picked as the strike day, because activists want to build momentum for a mass protest planned for the following day at the University of California Board of Regents meeting at the UCSF-Mission Bay campus.
The Nov. 16 protest is being organized by the ReFund California Coalition, a labor-community alliance dedicated to making the banks pay for public education in California.
The UC Berkeley strike call was a crowning point for the Occupy Cal day of action.
Berkeley students were no doubt energized by Occupy Oakland’s huge General Strike day of action the week before, which received international media attention.
Over 1000 students rallied at similar events on campus at UC Santa Cruz, UC Irvine and UC Los Angeles.