Occupy Oakland Strike: How To Close A Bank In 8 Easy Blocks
Written at 9 PM, Wed Eve, the day of the General Strike by Occupy Oakland:
Last night the wind was whipping around Oakland in an ominous way. Doors kept banging around in my apartment, and I fell asleep hoping nature wasn't setting things up for another difficult day here. I woke this morning ready to go to the Occupy Oakland General Strike, and the weather had calmed down, it had become one of those remarkable warm fall days we sometimes get here.
And it was this morning's weather that set the stage for my experience of the day, this beautiful day that I and Oakland needed so much after last weeks troubled times.
I just saw on the news a few regrettable incidents of windows being broken, which made me sad. Not so much about the windows, even though that's not a good thing, but now that the world is watching us, that is the first thing many will see and take note of. I saw film of the vandals at Whole Foods, it looked like a small contingent of anarchists, and there was also film of protestors trying to stop them.
The reporter on local channel 2 said that 99% of the people he saw were mellow, and called the troublemaker anarchists a small element. Mayor Jean Quan said this was a good day for the protestors.
My experience of the day was one of peace, of determined protest, and of many people who conducted themselves with integrity and honor. I don't know if I've ever been in a friendlier crowd, this was Oakland at it's most Oakland-like self.
There was hardly any police presence. After last week, I think the city and it's police force are at a loss of what to do. I'm writing this at 9 at night, so that could change. But the Oakland Police Department has to be very cautious about how it proceeds. I saw a couple of handfuls of motorcycle cops, one possible police helicopter. I would guess there were a lot more somewhere, but I did not see them. No riot police.
I think the crowd estimates I've seen of 4500 people are low. I'm usually lower then the news estimates, but I'm thinking closer to 10,000. Possibly more when you add up all the day's activities. But I'm not a crowd counting expert.
Closing a Bank
I arrived downtown around 10 AM. I followed a march that wandered for awhile, but eventually it came to several banks. Those banks locked the doors and closed up. I met a man who was sitting in front of the ATMS at Citi Bank named Eric. I interviewed him briefly, and then he asked if I wanted to go shut down the Bank Of America farther away near Lake Merritt. For some reason I just said yes, and followed him. Eric told a young woman Cathy about the plan, and she joined in, and got it to be announced where announcements were being made over a megaphone.
Unfortunately not many people were coming over, but Eric marched on a bit anyway. Cathy and I convinced him to wait and let us go find some more people to join in. It took some work, but eventually we gathered about 20 people. So on we marched, probably about 8 blocks. We walked up to the bank, the bank locked it's doors, and really, it shut itself down. There were a few customers inside and they got escorted out a back door.
We stayed about 45 minutes, maybe an hour. Then felt it was time to move on, the statement had been made. I made fast friends with Eric and Cathy, I think all three of us had a great, memorable time. We walked back, hung out for awhile. Then I needed to go home for a break, Cathy needed to go pick her kids up from school. Eric went to close down more banks.
The March on the Port Of Oakland
I went back at 4:30 to join the march to the docks at the Port Of Oakland. Our port is one of the 5 busiest in the country, so this was a big deal. Though the local unions didn't call a strike, they offered their support and blessings to this action.
Along the way I met an awesome woman named Leigh, a member of the Electricians Union. Once again I was given the gift of a quick and nice friendship, and we marched the 2 miles together and then back to the West Oakland Bart station.
At one point we sat down on an overpass and watched the Occupiers walk by. It was endless, it never stopped. Every single person I saw was well behaved and good-natured. When we got to the docks, there was a party atmosphere. A band was playing with amps powered by people on Exercycles. I turned and said hi to a young woman next to me, and we had a nice talk about what a great day this had been.
After what happened to me the week before, I needed today. I ended up sinking this weekend into a rarely seen victim mode, blaming myself for being assaulted and teargassed, feeling ashamed from getting attention for that. It felt good and healing to come out of hiding, and to see the kindness this world can be capable of.
As I write this Oakland is still mostly in a state of peace. I've seen rumors on twitter of police gathering, I'm just seeing a large contingent of police from the suburbs on their way here on the news. The strike and protests will keep going for awhile tonight, possibly reconvening at the docks at 3 AM. Those who know me know my health isn't perfect after 2 major surgeries this past year. My day of striking is done. I need to lay down and get a lot of rest.
I pray I don't wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of a text message alerting me of another police action. I pray there's no more vandalism, I pray that the peaceful spirit I saw all day prevails throughout the night. And that it can prevail for the duration of this protest, this Occupation in my hometown that I love so, this Occupation that I hope endures and steers us onto the road of change we've been afraid to travel for far too long.
UPDATE, 7 AM the next morning:
At 2 AM, the things I feared happened. I woke to a text message alert that police were moving in. There was tear gas, rubber bullets, around 100 arrested. I watched a live feed briefly, I could not stand to watch any longer.
Once again, it was a large coalition of various police forces. According to reports on local news stations the problems were caused by a splinter group, the police acknowledge it was a minority of Occupy Oakland. The first incident I've heard of was a group taking over an abandoned building.
Sometime after that, a splinter group turned violent, throwing things, breaking windows and spraying graffiti all over downtown. The pictures on the TV of the graffiti are extensive. What happened is being called a riot. I'm saddened that this may be what the world will see today. As I write this, there are occupiers out cleaning up what they can.
The camp still stands. There is still a small group keeping the Adeline entrance to the Port Of Oakland closed.
I'm sure I'll learn more throughout the morning. I wish I was healthy enough to go out and document this as it happened. None of this will change the goodness of all the Cathys, Erics and Leighs I've met, the feeling of walking with many thousand of them, the goodness inside most people that I hope can endure these acts of harm, wherever they come from.
I fell back asleep around 3:30 to the sound of helicopters in the distance. More ominous then the wind the night before, more definite and sad.
ADDITIONAL UPDATE, Thurs 3 PM
I went to survey the damage from last night, and to see what was being done. City workers, business owners and Occupiers had been working through the morning to restore things. A lot of progress had been made. I've added the picture below of 2 of the Occupiers getting ready to start painting over graffiti. I heard that the Occupiers are talking about how to deal with this sort of thing in the future, and what can be done to deal with what happened last night.
all content by me.