Marine flies in from NJ to take part in Occupy Oakland protest

on November 5, 2011

As protesters trickled out of the Port of Oakland Wednesday night, after Occupy Oakland demonstrations shut down business at the port, scores of them filed into a retrofitted former AC Transit bus that was giving free rides back to the encampments in downtown Oakland.

“Free rides for the 99 percent … Say hi to your bus driver, John, on your way in,” a man shouted from a megaphone, as he directed protesters to the bus.

The bus’ décor was groovy: shag carpet, polka dots and black stripes painted across the wall, comfy foam sofas in place of stiff bus seats, and lights dangling from the ceilings, fastened with fake cloth flowers.

The protesters were celebratory but tired. But mood picked up quickly when a man stood up and made an announcement that there was a special guest on board who was too humble to address the jam-packed bus.

That special guest: Sgt. Jay Gentile, the former marine whose  “Brother” photograph went viral after Cpl. Scott Olsen was severely injured by a projectile when the Oct. 25 Occupy Oakland protests turned violent.

The 29-year-old from Salem, New Jersey posted a picture on Reddit.com of himself, teary-eyed, holding a photograph of Olsen injured from the impact of the projectile and a piece of paper that read, “You did this to my brother.”

Two days later, Gentile, who served two tours in Iraq, posted a letter on the website addressed “My Dearest Occupants,” in which he encouraged demonstrators to protest peacefully and respect the police force.

“Stand your ground, and stand it firmly, but do not turn to violence,” he wrote in the letter. “For every violent act, hurled object, insult, or generalization that is lobbed in one direction or the other, another brick is stacked on the wall that currently separates us.”

Gentile doesn’t know Olsen personally, but he said on RT, a Russian news program, that all Marines regard each other as brothers and sisters.

“I may not personally know Corporal Olsen, but I know his story. I know what he had to eat when he went to Iraq. I know what his walk to work was like. And I know how it feels to have rockets and mortars flying at you, just like Corporal Olsen does.”

Gentile, who sat crossed-legged on the floor the entire ride, flew in from New Jersey to Oakland to be a part of Wednesday’s general strike.

Asked to say a few words, Gentile looked around the bus and said: “I know I’m not a wordsmith…This [Oakland] is the hub of something huge that’s going on right now. Thank you for letting me be a part of this.”

Hasan Dudar is a reporter for Richmond Confidential, a sister publication of Oakland North.

You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here. 

2 Comments

  1. Leonard Raphael on November 5, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Loyal, dedicated to serving their country and protecting their fellow marines under some of the worst conditions of war, but no one ever said jarheads were selected based on smarts or understanding of the big picture.

    I’m sure that Sgt. Gentile knows that in situations such as the one in which Olsen was injured, that even well intentioned cops and marines can unintentionally hurt innocent bystanders.

    He’d surely know that in the confusion of that night, you can’t easily figure out based on a video or any self selected group of witnessess what happened.

    -len raphael, temescal



  2. Lee Dorsey on November 6, 2011 at 10:53 am

    I wonder what he know thinks of the other wounded vet Army Ranger Who was standing with arms crossed talking with a line of riot police when he was attacked, beaten and left to die in van and cell in Oakland for 18 hours!
    Apparently speaking to policemen is now grounds for attacks from them!?!



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