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General Strike | Occupied Stories - Part 2

Tag Archive | "general strike"

Reportback: Pasadena


PASADENA, CA–About 25 from Occupy Pasadena did our own action at 7:30 am. We marched about 5 blocks, from the busiest freeway overpass in town to a neighborhood with banks on every corner. We had a beautiful new 20-foot banner made by our art group, “United in Beautiful Struggle.”  We marched and chanted for a couple of hours.

Then we carpooled about 10 miles to an industrial area of northern L.A. for a union organizing event: minimum wage garbage separators with poor safety, no training and no benefits are fighting to organize a union.  We were the only Occupy group there, but about 500 people from a dozen or more unions were there.  It was well-organized, with a band, a jumbotron and live video.  Dolores Huerta was among the speakers.  After that it was off to Downtown L.A. to join Occupy movements from every corner of Los Angeles County.

-Bob Nolty-

Check out our other May Day stories here.

 

 

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When the Rain Goes Away


NEW YORK, NY–When my girlfriend and I arrived at Byrant Park it was cold and raining. Mutual Aid was just setting up a table and the kitchen was spreading out food under an umbrella. The turnout was lower than I was hoping for but the spirit was high, especially across the street at the picket in front of Bank of America.

The rain stopped after thirty minutes but a persistent mist hovered over us and hid the tops of the skyscrapers. We met our affinity group and headed uptown to join a picket in front of News Corporation, but the picket had moved on by the time we arrived. Still, it was exciting to get out into the streets of midtown. I had a sign that read “Another world is possible. STRIKE!”and as we walked we crossed other groups of occupiers and pedestrians that raised their fists and cheered. The groups of occupiers heading to the various pickets became more frequent and we stopped to exchange information about where occupiers and police were massing. It slowly began to feel like the city was ours.

The crowd had doubled by the time we returned to Byrant Park but before long a group announced they were marching to reinforce another picket, and we headed out with them. Hundreds came with us. When I ducked in to use the bathroom at Grand Central it seemed the crowd had once more doubled in the few minutes that I was gone.  The sun was really coming out now.

After picketing in front of Capital Grille and Chipotle restaurant we were back in the park where the crowd swelled to a few thousand people. We ate sat down and shared snacks among ourselves and with strangers. In the background Tom Morello and a mass of other guitarists prepared for the Guitarmy march.

After the crowd left the park and turned down 5th avenue I crossed the street to get a better view. I had to run ahead four blocks to catch up to the front and stood in the crosswalk on the other side, waiting for the march to catch up.  Other occupiers gathered at the crosswalk with me and started chanting “Cross the street!” The marches on the other sidewalk, across four lanes of traffic, heard them and gathered at their crosswalk. When the light turned red, both groups crossed, met in the middle, then in unison ran down fifth avenue yelling “Whose streets! Our streets!” It was electric. The crowd poured off of the sidewalk and into the street. The police scurried ahead to set up a blockade of motorcycles two blocks down but we went around and poured into the street again. Two blocks further down we did it again at another police blockade. The energy was amazing.

After we by passed the second blockade the police retreated and ceded the streets to us and we held them all the way to Union Square where all the clouds had receded. And now, all the decentralized actions around New York City are converging at Union Square for a march on Wall Street. May Day may just live up to my wild expectations. A better world is possible. STRIKE!

John Dennehy

Check out all or other May Day stories here.

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May Day Loner


FIVE COLLEGES, MA–This area of Western Massachusetts, usually a hotbed of progressive activity, has no May Day events (other than an evening theater piece) taking place. Maybe so many activists have gone to NYC, Boston, Worcester or Pittsfield that no one was left to organize anything locally. Let’s hope so.

In any case, feeling pretty stupid sitting in front of this keyboard watching Occupy May Day go down elsewhere, I decided instead to dig out some really ancient plaques buried under a decade of crap and put them to good use. Fortuitously, they spelled out in large letters: “May Day! Corporate siege of planet!!” (They were also waterproof.)

I then drove them to an overpass on I-91 where the state had cleverly installed chain link fencing in front of the bridge’s original rails (making an ideal plaque holder!) and installed them for both north and southbound motorists to ponder (did I mention the plaques were day glow yellow?)

OK, OK, so it’s not exactly the Brooklyn Bridge action, right? But, you can do something, even if you’re on your own.

-Anonymous-

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Reportback: Bryant Park and 99 Pickets


NEW YORK, NY–After being at Bryant Park for about four hours, some of my group and I stopped for a minor snack break. In the midst of our meal we watched a stream of other protesters leaving the park, passing by us down 6th avenue, turning eastward on 40th street and up 5th Avenue and towards Grand Central.

We didn’t know exactly where the march was headed—there was so much scheduled to happen, and it was difficult to find pickets we attempted to visit earlier in the morning—but we decided to get in on the action. Overhearing the name “Grand Central” from someone ahead, we initially thought the station was our destination until we passed it; crossing the streets, a line of NYPD officers on their motorbikes attempted to stall the march by threatening (and trying) to ride through us as we crossed. But the march went on, stopping first outside the Capital Grille on 42nd street before 3rd avenue. “One, two, three, four, don’t go through that restaurant door!” we chanted as we circled around, “five, six, seven, eight, until they don’t discriminate!”

We backtracked the path we took to get there—more crossing streams of police on bikes, more crossing of streets—converging at Chipotle across from the New York Public Library’s north side. The march quickly became a picket for farmer and immigrants’  rights as a wall of NYPD officers watched from the parking lane, the public standing across the street with their cellphones. We were welcomed back to Bryant Park, which held a relaxed and celebratory atmosphere—confetti, music and art as the day continued.

-Joe Sutton-

You can check out more of our May Day posts here.

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A Dispatch from OWS Street Medics


Editor’s Note: In the run-up to what promises to be a May Day to remember, we are collecting stories from the people who are pouring their soul into making it happen. Are you involved in planning for May Day in your occupation? Have you been to any of the actions building toward the general strike? Tell us about it! You can find a collection of our May Day stories here.

NEW YORK, NY–Waiting for fellow Occupiers outside of the courthouse at 100 Centre Street in lower Manhattan, Justin Young explained the role of the OWS Street Medics, also known as the Red and Black Cross, and updated us on how they’re preparing for May Day.

Click PLAY to hear Caroline’s interview with OWS Street Medic Justin Young

-Caroline Lewis-

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Spring is Coming!


In the run-up to what promises to be a May Day to remember, we are collecting stories from the people who are pouring their soul into making it happen. Are you involved in planning for May Day in your occupation? Have you been to any of the actions building toward the general strike? Tell us about it at occupiedstories.com/submit

Spread the word! Check out these free, downloadable posters.

And check out these stories we have already received:

Occupy is Everywhere: A Small Town Occupy Shares Their Plans for Spring

Civil Disobedience on Wall Street

A Dispatch from OWS Street Medics

 

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A Day in the Mace and Rain: An Eyewitness Report from the Occupation in Seattle


SEATTLE, WA – Partially silhouetted forms stood beaming, holding glasses of champagne or some other refined beverage. Sometimes they smiled and pointed, sometimes laughed. The mocking jokes, though inaudible, were visible through panes of glass. The backdrop of the expensive lighting fixtures glistened from the high windows of the Sheraton Hotel.

They were pointing at us. The occupiers.

The scene down below was not so refined, nor so polished or comfortable. Not with the sporadic arcs of mace and pepper spray. Not with the cops hitting us with their bicycles, or our people being jumped by undercovers when they reached down to help a fallen comrade. Not with the screams of indignation echoing, the rage permeating everything. Not with the calls to “hold the line!” as we forced cops to give ground, defiance one only hears about in stories or in dreams.

No, not so refined. But with all the dignity of the world.

This was the scene in Seattle on the night of November 2, 2011. It was the day of Oakland’s general strike. Which just so happened to be the day the CEO of JPMorgan Chase was scheduled to speak at that pleasant, refined, “suit” hotel. Perfect.

The day began with uncertainty. Did they know our plans? Would they attack us? Would they use pain tactics? Will we be hospitalized? If something happens, will those I hold dear know how much I love them? Will we be successful? What if we aren’t? Is our movement strong enough to work through such a setback?

These thoughts persisted as three of us approached a Chase Bank branch, only a few blocks away from our occupation.

The half-tinted windows made visible two young women, laughing, writing on what must have been deposit slips. Huge tubes of reflective red, silver and white wrapping paper poked innocently from their large black garbage bag. The clerks and security looked tense, but they didn’t know what we were up to. At least, not yet.

One of our people, a young man with a half-hawk, opened the door. The other two of us walked through.

“Thank you.” The words came out more softly than I had intended.

We walked to the counter, catching the eyes of the women with the wrapping paper. Maybe it was just me but I felt everything in the room get tense. The sterile beauty of the soft florescent lighting forced a sense of normality. People banking. Money exchanged. Tellers shuffling paper, having something to do with the profits of Chase.  Maybe the paper he handled had to do with someone’s mortgage, bankruptcy, or loan. Financialization hard at work. This, the daily reality of plunder and parasitism, of speculation for super-profits at the expense of millions: the spirit of accumulation above everything worth anything, including people, was what we were out to disrupt, even for an instant. It felt like all eyes were on us.  But it was probably just nerves.

The five of us converged at the counter. Our arms dove into the tubes of wrapping paper. A foot of slender steel chains fell from each of our sleeves. Fifteen seconds later carabiner mountaineering clamps clicked shut. Our arms were chained together inside the PVC hidden beneath a layer of colorful Christmas paper.

Photo: Joshua Trujillo/Seattlepi.com

“Mic Check!”

“This bank!”

“Is!”

“OCCUPIED!”

Minutes later I started to hear militant chants as marchers closed in on the bank from a distance. Hundreds of them surrounded the building. And while the bank had tried to continue business before, with us locked together sitting in front of the tellers’ station, now the bank was entirely shut down. Keys went into the doors, turning to lock out the many.

I heard our statement read on each side of the building. A mic check: “The world – Does not – Have to – Be this way!” pierced the glass. “General strike!” roared from the bullhorn.

Damn. I felt incredible. We couldn’t have hoped for such success.

We settled in for a long stay. We played word games and made up an elaborate stories. On one side of the building a dance party broke out to revolutionary hip hop. On the other I heard chanting, mic checks and agitation. All around us excitement, enthusiasm. There was a sense that we were doing it. We are changing the world. It was tangible and almost palpable.

Eventually, some of the friendly faced cops came in and sawed us out of our pipes and cut our chains. It was okay. We knew we were going to be arrested. For more than two hours we kept that bank shut down. Twice what we thought we could pull off. They stood us up in hand cuffs, preparing for our procession outside, but when we got outside it was a whole other scene.

The excitement and enthusiasm was still there. But it wasn’t alone. Someone from the crowd called out, “Mic check! – Hail! – Hail! – Hail the heroes of the revolution!” Everyone took it up. I’m not one for self-aggrandizement, so I don’t know how I feel about “hail the heroes” thing, even if it was spontaneous and heartfelt. But I’ve never felt such love from such wonderful people. These people, the occupiers, are the most selfless, passionate and high minded individuals I’ve encountered. It’s contagious.  And it’s moments like that one where you really understand how important that is. It seems to me that it is a moral code, an ethics – almost a whole culture in embryo. It’s so radically different from how people are taught to think, live, act and love. Yet it exists. Right here. As a fracture, a departure, out of which something new is emerging.

Occupy Seattle protesters link arms. Photo: Cliff Despeaux/Reuters

We were placed in a police van, only to have our fellow occupiers start to push and rock. A spray of clear liquid hit the small windows. The mace was out. We saw someone do a running dive under the van to keep it from leaving with us. We cried out in shock when we thought the van had run over him. He was alright. Even without that sacrifice, what he did, that was heroic.

A small window that looked out the front of the van revealed people laying on the ground linking arms and legs. Occupiers were shoving the bikes back at the cops. I’d never seen anything like this before.

Eventually uniformed enforcers were able to pry enough of our people out of the way to move the van. The last thing I saw peeking through those small windows was the face of one of my comrades, hidden behind a bandana. Our eyes met and his fist launched into the air. The image faded into the distance while we made our coerced journey to the precinct.

I later learned that street skirmishes and shoving matches continued between the hundreds of occupiers and the cops after we left. The police had tried force our people back to our camp. Instead, the rebels pushed the cops off the streets, holding intersections and marching up and down Broadway. Those men (yes, they were all men) in blue and black uniforms, were defeated. The protesters, now left alone, took the streets. That stretch of pavement was, quite literally, for that fleeting moment, theirs. We could win–not sometime in the future, but right here and now.

The day was a blur. The adrenaline, the ecstasy of collective action and power, makes what was hours of travel from handcuffs to processing to jail cell now seem like minutes.

“Those girls are having way too much fun. They’re in there singing. I haven’t seen anything like this since the WTO,” said a tall white man in a nurse’s coat, long brown ponytail swinging behind him.  I smiled to myself.  Back in 1999, when the World Trade Organization had tried to meet in Seattle, it too had been shut down by people putting their bodies on the line.

Photo: Anthony Bolante/Puget Sound Business Journal

The cold cement walls, the uniform sleeveless red shirts and pants, the cheap plastic sandals designed to be impossible to keep on, the smug cops sitting behind counters pushing buttons to lock and unlock doors, the phones that hardly work…They all make you think of this place as an immovable, insurmountable monolith. You ponder your own powerlessness.

I was called out to get fingerprinted. One of the cop’s forensics people asked me, “Did you hear what they’re doing in Oakland?”

“Yah, its fantastic.” Even where I was couldn’t keep me from grinning with excitement.

“No, it’s terrible. I’m concerned about the people of Oakland,” he replied.

“It’s the people of Oakland who are rising up,” I said. “The only way they can change anything is by shutting down the city. How do you think the eight-hour work day was achieved? How about things like breaks? Or revolution?”

“Well what about the baker who just wants to go to work and feed his family?”

Another cop called to him from across the room, “That’s a stupid response!”

Later, while in our holding cell, an older white man walked by. The lines of age and stress told me he must have been in his fifties. He turned his back to us for a moment. When he walked away there was a taped a sign across from us: “Nurses support #OccupyWallstreet.” We saw him raise a fist, looking at us.

There, as deep in the belly of the beast as one can fathom, I witnessed the cracks and potential division, even here, surrounded by our enemies. In the future, there are fractures and schisms that may emerge even within institutions of the State.

With our triumphant spirit, we got our short-term inmates talking about occupation, about the cops, about the general strike. I joked with a couple of older guys, “It’s time we occupy this cell!” It’s probably not very often that the jail’s officers see their prisoners so jovial or hopeful.

“>Occupy Seattle protests JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s speech in Seattle on November 2, 2011. Photo: Stuart Isset/Bloomberg

Four or five hours later, we were released. As soon as the five of us regrouped and hugged it out, we received word: The CEO of Chase’s speech had been disrupted by Occupy Seattle. He had to end it early and Occupiers were trying to block the hotel exits.

We began our sprint through the rain, laughing, hugging, joking about going straight back to jail. None of us, as far as I could tell, could wait to get back to our fellow occupiers and stand with them again.

Back to the Sheraton. Every eye already bleary from the day-long exposure to chemical weapons. New goggles and masks cover many faces. The spirit is different. The anger of being attacked all day, of seeing our friends and loved ones maced or beaten (or both) gave it an edge. All those who once said the cops were on our side now had little to stand on. It was undeniable: There, inside that looming hotel, was Jamie Dimon, the face of one of the most criminal and insidious institutions in the world, and here, in front of us, were the cops defending him against more than a thousand people.

When I arrived, out of breath but relieved, I started greeting people. They were happy to see us, but exhausted and tense. They were on a war footing. Dozens had their arms linked. It was the fallback tactic when facing the cops. All four corners of the intersection outside the main entrance to the hotel were blocked by damp, determined occupiers. The heavy din of honks and shouts from drivers, participants, and supporters alike rang out in the background, coloring everything.

The Chase 5: Sarah Svobodny, Danielle Simmons, Ocelot Stevens, Hudson Williams-Eynon, Liam Wright and Matthew Erickson.

I sprinted to rejoin the line facing off with the cops. There, in the line with me, were all the people I had just gone to jail with. The five of us, now called the“Chase 5” by those who argue for our defense, grinned at each other, knowing we had no choice but to stand there. We could feel the world shifting and we were on the fault line. There was no waywe could walk away.

A half hour passed, with periodic scuffles and mic checks and chants. It was clear the that the towering Sheraton Hotel was now empty of any CEOs or equally criminal people. The remaining occupiers gathered and started to march away from downtown, back toward our camp.

I have been involved in attempts to build a revolutionary movement for a number of years. Never before have I left an action feeling like we won a battle. It had always been left in the realm of the symbolic or moral: “We did good work,” as it goes. But as we marched up the long hill, grinning faces moist with mace and rain the people of this new movement cheered and shouted together, “We are victorious!”

-Liam Wright-

This story was originally published in The Occupied Wall Street Journal

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“It Felt Like a War-Zone:” Police Violence in Oakland


OAKLAND, CA – I think my arm may be broken. It hurts as I type this. I just got home from the Oakland protests tonight, Oct. 25 2011. They started at about 4 p.m. in front of the Oakland Main Library. The rally was a response to the brutal raid early this a.m. at Frank Ogawa Plaza, dubbed “Oscar Grant Plaza” (an innocent young man brutally shot by an OPD officer in the back while he was handcuffed face-down) by Occupy Oakland. Police from agencies all over Alameda Contra-Costa counties, 18 in total, formed an envoy and descended upon the camp with armored vehicles, tear gas, rubber bullets and batons, forcibly arresting sleeping protesters, nearly 100 people, and destroying the encampment. I chatted with one camper earlier who was punched in the face by a cop while she tried to pull her friend out of the raid.

The rally gathered about 400 people, departing at about 5 p.m. and wove through downtown Oakland heading for the Alameda County Courthouse to show solidarity with those incarcerated from the raid. Police in riot gear were stationed in front, and about a block away as we approached a group of 10 or so riot police (previously forming a line across the street, but quickly overwhelmed by the mass) tore through the crowd, flailing batons, and tackled two protesters. The crowd surrounded the officers, who had formed a circle around the arrestees, chanting angrily. There was a stalemate that lasted about 15 minutes, while people threw what looked like colorful paint balls at the cops and some beverages in plastic cups, yelling “LET THEM GO! LET THEM GO!” I watched an officer radio for backup, and a few minutes later, more cops descended upon the group and teargas canisters were discharged. The crowd scattered. I started to run, and saw a couple up against a storefront, banging on the doors while a canister belched gas beside them. The owner opened the door and I ran in with them, and he locked it behind us. They were both in shock, and the girl was clearly having a panic attack. I told her to relax, and had her sit down. Our eyes were watering, the guy said his lungs were burning and he couldn’t breathe. I calmly told them they would be fine (though my adrenaline was pumping), the girl asked anxiously for water and I gave them my canteen. I asked what happened, or something to that effect, and the girl said, “They fired the teargas right AT us!!” The owners had brought some more water, and we thanked them profusely for providing a safe haven. We walked back to the windows and looked out, taking video on our phones. “This is a fucking police state,” was all I could mutter. I told them I had to get back out there, the crowd had cleared a bit and I wanted to be with the main group. The couple thanked me and I told them to stay safe.

The riot cops had started to vacate, apparently the group had c ircled the block and was coming back around, heading east towards Broadway. I reconvened with them, and we made our way down Broadway towards 14th and the plaza. The plaza was still cordoned off and a line of riot cops blocked all of 14th and the entrance to the park behind a barricade, as well as all other approaches to the plaza. As the group started to occupy the intersection, protesters removed the metal barricades between the crowd and line as more officers from the AC sheriff’s department jogged up behind them in full riot garb–including plastic shields and gas masks. Sergeant Banks of the OPD was giving warnings over a loudspeaker, declaring the group was an unlawful assembly, in violation of CA penal code 409, and if it did not disperse in 5 minutes that “chemical agents” and “force” would be used and injury would be possible. The crowd shouted back, chanting various memes, one of which stuck with me “WHO ARE YOU PROTECTING?” The marchers decided to head down Broadway, just as some of us began to sit down in the intersection. The group made its way, directed by none other than Boots Riley of The Coup, down to the intersection of 20th and Harrison amidst a cluster of Mega-Banks. We stayed for 10 minutes before heading 2 blocks east to Snow Park, site of the satellite Occupy camp that was also raided earlier today. Upon seeing how dark the park was, people amassed in the adjacent street underneath lamps for an impromptu General Assembly. After some group negotiations and a whole lot of cheering, it was decided to head back towards the plaza to reclaim it for the people.

Police and news helicopters were constantly circling, with spotlights periodically highlighting the crowd. At this point, the march had grown to over 1,000 strong. We took back up 20th to Broadway, where we made a left and headed back towards Grant Plaza. People were joining left and right, and the crowd had swelled considerably from the modest group gathered in front of the Library earlier. Back at the intersection of 14th/Broadway, Sgt. Banks repeated the same warnings from earlier. No time limit was given. At about 7:45 p.m., flash grenades and teargas canisters were launched into the intersection with a thunderous announcement. The group scattered and started running, and I had brief pangs about a stampede but no one seemed to be getting trampled. Explosions were going off all around us, and it felt like a war-zone. I looked back and pushed people ahead of me, spotting a disabled woman in a wheelchair still in front of the barricade and riot line. A man was behind her trying to push the heavy motorized chair away, and I started back to help him. Gas burned my eyes and lungs as explosions continued to go off around me. I felt a sharp pain on my arm and it took me a few seconds to realize I’d been hit by a projectile. The pain was excruciating and my entire right forearm went numb. I spun around and sprinted away as bullets hit me in my backpack and left heel. It all happened so quickly that none of it had yet registered. As I ran down the street cursing, I looked down and realized I was bleeding. There was a large, round welt on my arm and blood was dripping down my hand. I took my hankerchief and wrapped it around, jogging down 14th towards the marchers.

Though I was a couple blocks away now, the teargas effects somehow got worse, my eyes were watering and I couldn’t keep them open. I sat on a curb briefly, shaking from the intense pain and adrenaline, realizing that I needed to locate a medic. At that point I continued down 14th to Alice, where a group had stopped and someone was talking over a loudspeaker. “Has anyone seen a medic?!” I yelled. “Yes! Right here.” The woman beside me happened to be one. That was easy, I thought. She led me over to the sidewalk where two other gas-masked medics, who’d been present the entire march, assisted in cleaning and dressing my wound. I asked one of them if the bullets could break bones, as I was concerned that I’d suffered a fracture. They said yes, but I was able to move my arm and wrist so it probably wasn’t broken. A small group had gathered and 6 or 8 people were taking photos of my wound. I got up and thanked the brave medics, and we continued following the march. It looked as though they were circling and heading back for downtown. I was at the back, and a few people had stopped after seeing a line of cops one block down to the left. It seemed like they were going to box the crowd in and try to break it with force. We tried calling the group back, but it was too late. Some were in communication with others at the front, and our small group doubled back to circle around and meet up with the march again. I started chatting with a young woman that had just gotten there, and as we approached 14th I decided that I’d had enough excitement for one day. Call me a wussy, but I was not about to charge back into the lion’s den at that point. I walked back to the Library where my bike was locked, and slowly rode home like a defeated sportsman.

My arm is still aching, I can’t move it without pain, and a huge bruise had popped up when I checked it at home to take more pictures. Tomorrow I might get an x-ray, if I can afford it. The last one I got was $800. The helicopters seemed to have stopped circling for now, though I still hear one buzzing about. It’s almost 11 o’clock. I guess tomorrow’s another day.

10/26: I went to work for a couple hours, but my limited dexterity made it difficult. I couldn’t grip or use my wrist without a lot of pain. I went home with intentions of going to the hospital. Lacking medical insurance, I really couldn’t afford to pay for a visit (nor did I feel I should be financially responsible). It wasn’t easy to decide, but after removing the bandages and seeing how swollen my arm was (almost doubled), plus the pain when trying to move my arm muscles, I was convinced that it was the best idea. I went to Highland Hospital, an Alameda County-run community hospital. It was about 2 p.m. and the wait wasn’t too long. A doctor saw me, had me grip her hand and do some exercises and told me it didn’t appear to be broken. She sent me in for the x-ray to be sure. Apparently, the projectile had struck a large nerve, literally, that runs from your shoulder all the way to your thumb. This explained the debilitating pain and numbness I experienced . She explained that the swelling was still pressing on the nerve, which is why it was still numb around the wound. I didn’t find out about Scott Olsen until later, which made my meager flesh wound seem insignificant at best. Looking at footage of the scene, I realized that I was about twenty feet from him when he was hit. I’ve had a hard time reconciling my fortunate fate, and felt very lucky to say the least. The x-ray came back with no fracture. The doctor told me to take some ibuprofen, and I was on my way.

I went home for a bit, then headed back to the plaza around 6, unsure of what scenario I would find there. Traffic was normal as I approached on my bike, a good sign. There were scattered folks around the entrance, the ubiquitous news vans, and a chain-link fence around the grass that people were starting to pull down. Everything had been removed, and the plaza had been power-washed. There were no police anywhere, and combined with the quiet platitude of the plaza, it made for an eerie atmosphere. I kept looking nervously down the streets, expecting a line of riot cops to come marching down, but nothing of the sort happened. Still, I kept my bike helmet on and a scarf wrapped around my face. I made my way over to the rotunda, and couldn’t believe what I saw.

The amphitheater was packed with people. There was hardly any room to move. I stood on top of a wall by the ramp, and watched speakers as they recounted the horrors of the previous night, spoke about injustice, and gave riveting speeches to a very receptive crowd. Families were there, all kinds of folks from young to old, incensed by the violence they either experienced or saw video of. Some estimated the crowd to be about 3,000 in total. It was a deeply moving scene. Suddenly, people wanted to be involved. Sad though it was that it took a capitulating event of brutality to motivate this level of support, it was an amazingly heartwarming sight to see. Perhaps what happened was a blessing. A proposal for a General Strike on Nov. 2 was brought forth and announced. We broke into groups of 20 to discuss. It was so crowded, you couldn’t move. Between the shock of being in such a markedly different, emotional situation, and lack of sleep, I couldn’t contribute much to the discussion. But I did listen. There were a lot of new faces and a lot of new ideas, and it was beautiful. The proposal ended up passing with an overwhelming majority, by many people who were there for the first time.

 

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-BayWolf-

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Oakland General Strike


OAKLAND, CA – The high point of Oakland’s General Strike, was when a huge semi-trailer emblazoned with the word “Teamsters” backed up into the plaza and began unloading a free barbecue lunch provided by the East Bay Labor Council.

I was at Occupy Oakland on Wednesday from just before noon till about 5:00 p.m. It was huge—filled Oscar Grant Plaza and spilled out to fill Broadway, extending for blocks in every direction.

Peaceful, festive, hopeful faces of every age, race, and background. Scents of incense, copal, sage, and ganja—very little of tobacco. Buddhist monks drummed with Native Americans in meditation for peace. A dozen sound systems on bicycles played for that many circles of Rasta and hip-hop.
Last Friday, when Michael Moore spoke to the assembled crowd, I had thought, “I would rather see one longshore worker here, than a hundred Michael Moore’s.”

At the General Strike Wednesday, there were many hundreds of union members from a dozen or more unions—teamsters, mechanics, electrical workers, public employee unions, and others alongside the SEIU, teachers, and nurses who have supported the Occupy movement since it’s beginning.

Teamsters were carrying posters saying, “Stop the War on Workers!”, and set up a sound system, and besides “Solidarity Forever” and “Which Side Are You On?”, they played things like “Times are a’Changing” and “Get up!, Stand up!”

I remembered how the unions had opposed the anti-war movement in the 1960s, and had supported Nixon. Labor has finally returned to the left. If, across the U.S., unions are supporting the Occupy / 99% movement, then not only is the Tea Party dead, but the Republicans will conclusively loose their majority in 2012.

Provocateurs and “Black Faction” vandals can’t bring it down now.

-Rashid Patch-

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