The revived Occupy Oakland movement has called for a citywide general strike Wednesday that has garnered nationwide support from activists and the philosophical backing of labor unions, while triggering growing consternation that the city’s strained economy could suffer further.
The call for businesses to close and residents to demonstrate at banks and later march to the Port of Oakland came after last week’s heavy police response to protesters speaking out against the razing of the movement’s City Hall encampment.
Demonstrations in support of Oakland’s strike are planned in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and elsewhere, and organizers, who were allowed to reestablish their camp, said that letters of solidarity have flooded in from around the world, most notably from Tahrir Square demonstrators in Cairo.
“Tomorrow is going to be a test of what’s possible with this historical movement, how far this will go,” said Tim Simmons, 28, among the encampment’s residents.
The Port of Oakland was chosen as the protest site because the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has a rare contract clause that allows workers to honor certain community picket lines. If workers arriving for a 7 p.m. shift decide not to cross the line, a shutdown could result.
Most unions, in contrast, have “no strike” clauses but are offering general support to the Occupy Oakland action. Some members, including teachers and nurses, plan to skip work and attend the marches.
It remains to be seen how effective and peaceful the strike will be. I’m not making any predictions.
The Oakland Police Officers Association released a statement Tuesday noting that after officers cleared the Occupy Oakland camp early on Oct. 25, Quan allowed the protesters to start returning the next day. The raid was accomplished with the help of 16 outside agencies, and follow-up protests turned violent that night, resulting in serious injury to a military veteran who was demonstrating.
The camp is now larger than it was before the raid, with more than 300 people squatting before City Hall in more than 100 tents.
“As your police officers, we are confused,” the union said.
The city is allowing employees to participate in the strike that Occupy Oakland has called, the union said, while all officers have been ordered to work.
“That’s hundreds of city workers encouraged to take off work to participate in the protest against ‘the establishment,’ ” said the union, which represents 645 officers. “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?”
The union’s president, Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, said, “There is no clear mission here. The mayor is painting this picture that we’re the bad guy. We’re just doing our jobs, carrying out her orders, and we need some big leadership now.”
Asked about the police union’s beef, interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said, “They have a legitimate reason to be concerned.”
Quan released a statement saying she hoped the strike would be peaceful, but she did not address the police criticism.
Sounds like the Mayor likes her bread buttered on both sides.