Occupy Oakland activists kick off May Day general strike and protests
on May 1, 2012
Early Tuesday morning Occupy Oakland activists kicked off a May Day general strike and protest to challenge what they see as a destructive capitalist system. May Day, which is often called International Workers’ Day, has a long history as being a day for unions to protest on behalf of employees.
Action began last night in San Francisco, when a group march through the Mission District ended in one arrest and vandalism of businesses and a police station. In a statement released early Tuesday morning, Occupy San Francisco said the vandals were not associated with their group, but the statement was taken down shortly after.
Around 9 this morning Occupiers began gathering at three main sites around Oakland—Snow Park, Frank Ogawa Plaza and in front of Child Protective Services at 4th and Broadway—but many soon dispersed to participate in a number of marches planned for the day. According to a bulletin released by the City Administrator’s Office this morning, some of the rallies and marches planned for today include the March for Dignity and Resistance/ Decolonize Oakland that will begin at 3 pm at Fruitvale Plaza and march to San Antonio Park, a demonstration by the California Nurses Association at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center on Hawthorne Avenue, and several marches that will use Frank Ogawa Plaza as their endpoint throughout the day. As of 10:45 am, several small marches are also ongoing in the downtown area.
Thousands of Bay Area workers are planned to walk off of their jobs today, most notably the Golden Gate ferry workers, who began their strike early Tuesday and left thousands of commuters stranded. (Ferry service is currently scheduled to recommence at 2:15 pm from Larkspur).
But plans by Occupy activists to shut down the Golden Gate Bridge were canceled last night, citing a request by workers in the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition that the shutdown not occur unless the union went on strike. According to a post on Occupythebridge.com “Last night, the Golden Gate Labor Coalition requested the Golden Gate Bridge shut down action be called off. Occupy Oakland called for a bridge shut down on May 1 only if these workers were on strike.”
As protesters began gathering at Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland this morning, one protester, who identified himself only as Andreas, decried the previous night’s events in San Francisco. “What they did last night makes it more dangerous for us out here,” he said. “What do you hope to achieve from destruction?”
“Today is beautiful,” he continued. “I love seeing people in the streets again. I hope today we can make a build a different narrative than 4 months ago, when 400 people were arrested.”
Elyssa Eisenburg, another protestor, said that today is monumental in the labor struggle, not just for Oakland but nationwide. “It’s amazing that we’re reclaiming May Day,” she said. “Today is a coming together of traditional and non-traditional workers.” Eisenburg also said she was hopeful that the day’s actions would remain peaceful in nature.
Down the street in front of the Child Protective Services office on Broadway, a crowd of about 50 or so listened to impassioned speeches who lambasted the organization, claiming that it represses children instead of protecting them. Speakers shared stories of women who became prostitutes to make ends meet, and had their children taken away from them as a result.
The groups began to split off and march in different directions—turning suddenly, and seemed to be using their unpredictable route as a way to throw off police.
At Wells Fargo, a protestor was arrested for spray-painting the front of the bank and was later released. The incident set off a wave of indignation in the crowd–nearby at Broadway and Grand, protestors pounded on the door of the Starbucks, screaming “Shut it down.” Others pounded on the doors of a new chocolate shop called Bittersweet, also yelling “Shut it down!”
As they walked on, they chanted “Violence, chaos, I am never calm.”
One of the group’s members said that the action has just begun. “We’ll be walking all day,” he said.
Text and reporting by Karmah Elmusa, Thomas Kleinveld, and Wendi Jonassen.
Oakland North will continue to follow this story. You can read our complete past coverage of Occupy Oakland here.
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