Oakland made history on Wednesday. Exactly 65 years after the United States last witnessed a general strike — remarkably enough also held in Oakland! — the Californian city of 400.000 came grinding to a halt as tens of thousands of people walked out on their work, school and university to join a massive march on the city’s port.
The strike was a direct response to the violent police eviction of the Occupy Oakland protest camp last week, which nearly claimed the life of 24-year old Iraq Veteran Scott Olsen, who was struck in the head by a police projectile and was hospitalized in critical condition with a fractured skull and severe brain swelling. His condition, luckily, has improved, but the outrage over his critical injuring and the brutality of the police response more generally lingers.
During the strike, protesters occupied a number of buildings. Tim Simons, a local organizer told Al Jazeera that ”after the demonstrations today, people went ahead and took over an abandoned building — a foreclosed bank owned property — and turned it into a social centre. There was no provocation at all, other than occupying a building, which is part of this movement. [It] was a very peaceful, calm, situation until the riot police moved in.”
Once again, police used tear gas and flash grenades to disperse the crowds, arresting over 100 mostly peaceful protesters. A tiny minority of Black Bloc anarchists ran amok destroying shop windows and spray-painting walls, but more importantly, an enormous crowd of peaceful protesters managed to “effectively shut down” the city’s port, one of the largest in the US.