It is 11 pm on Wednesday night, 10/27/2011, and I just got back from the most amazing meeting I have ever been to in my life. It was held at the scene of Monday's carnage in Oakland where the Oakland cops crushed one of the most amazing demonstrations I have ever encountered.
For those of you who didn't get a chance to get down to the OccupyOakland encampment, it was astonishing. The people there had set up a village. There was a kitchen, a restaurant, a café, a library, a first aid station, and an art department, and all of this surrounded by well over 150 tents set up on the grassy area of the plaza. They had water and sanitary facilities (provided by the OEA), a calender, and many really interesting meetings. The cops attacked Monday night around 3 in the morning, and demolished it.
I won't waste my breath trying to explain that there was no reason to do this. The attack is estimated to cost between 3 and 5 million dollars, where a couple of thousand would have maintained sanitation, and provided a few social workers to help smooth over the inevitable conflicts that occur in small spaces across class, across ideology, and across levels of sobriety, especially among people already living on the edge because of their unneutralizable marginalization at the property interests's hands.
The meeting this evening began at 6 pm. No cops, seven helicopters in the sky, and gradually, over the next hour, the crowd swelling to more than 3000 people. It started with an open mike on the street corner of Bway and 14th, and when the crowd got too big, moved to the amphitheater in front of city hall. By 7:30, the fence erected around Ogawa Plaza had been dismantled unceremoniously, and the helicopters were gone. The meeting turned into a General Assembly that then addressed itself to how to move forward from where they were. It was wall-to-wall people from the city hall doors to the plaza grass, and from 14st to the alley that pretends to be 15th.
A committee had written a proposal for consideration. And the meeting, all 3000 people, discussed it, considered its various aspects, and voted on it. I would not have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself.
The proposal was to call a general strike to shut down Oakland on Wednesday, Nov. 2. It was not to be to the exclusion of any other actions; it was not to be mandatory, only solidarist and activist in stopping the 1%; it was to be a positive expression of the people against the hobnailed boot of the 1% that came down on Oakland on Monday night and Tuesday. The call is to stop the corporations, stop the schools and their regimentation, bring the homeless, the unemployed, the blue and white color workers into conjunction, bring the city to a halt, and bring the people to a rally at city hall at 5 that afternoon. Let all unions, organizations, neighborhood associations and asemblies, and all people get involved.
There is to be a planning meeting tomorrow, Thursday, October 27, at 5 pm, Oscar Grant Plaza (aka Ogawa) to plan the strike. All are invited.
The proposal to call this general strike was passed by a vote. Discussion on the proposal started around 7:30. First there were questions of clarification. Then there were statements of concern and arguments for and against. Then the 3000 broke up into smaller workshop groups of 20 or 30 to discuss the proposal. Then people lined up to speak on it to the entire meeting. By the time the vote was taken, at 9:30, the meeting had dwindled to 1500. I know that is the size because 1442 votes were cast for the proposal, 34 against, with 73 abstaining. And the crowd was about half the size it had been at 7:30 when the fence came down.
At one point it was announced that OccupyWallSt in NYC had taken to the streets that same day and marched throughout lower Manhattan in solidarity with Oakland. They chanted "Oakland, Oakland, end police brutality." And they sent $20,000 to OccupyOakland. A message was received that the Egyptians, in their many popular organizations, sent an expression of solidarity with Oakland, and are going to have a march on Tahrir Sq. tomorrow in solidarity with Oakland. The meeting this evening, in which 3000 people continued the creation of a new democracy for themselves, was reported on BBC.
One things we will have to understand about this is Quan's shift. She supported the occupation encampment up until the police and some councilpeople decided last Friday that it needed to be expunged. The charges against it were about unsamitary conditions and violence. The city could have helped with sanitation at a pittance cost (next to what the cost of bringing police in from three other jurisdictions for the raid will be). And it could have organized encounter group sessions to deal with whatever hostilities came up. The city did actually send in some social workers, but their task was very odd. Their job was to spirit the homeless away from the scene of the action preparatory to the police attack. In other words, it took something like this demonstration/encamplment, and the planning of an attack, for the city to suddenly decide it needed to pay attention to the homeless. Sanitation and violence were not the reasons for Monday's attack.
As a friend of mine said, when you send riot police in riot gear to where there is no riot, what you have is the hobnailed boot of power, stamping out the people for itself.