Sunday, October 16, 2011

Marching, Rallying and Striking in Oakland

The weather was beautiful today, Saturday October 15th, conclusively proving that god is squarely on the right side of this new movement. A few thousand people gathered at Laney college for a 1pm rally where two facilitators introduced singers and speakers, one of whom was Oakland mayor Jean Quan. So for now, with the blessings of mayor and reluctant cooperation of the Oakland Police, the occupation and marching are sanctioned activities.

People were enthusiastic but subdued. I think this was partially due to the fact that the rally began on a low note. The first speaker started it off with an attempt to take a census of the crowd's mood. He asked questions like: "Who here is unemployed? Who is working less hours than they'd like? Who lost their homes to foreclosure? Whose mortgages are underwater? These just weren't the kind of questions that would make people cheer. Even I had trouble responding to this. He could have framed it more like this: Who here is angry? Who thinks the bankers threw us under the bus? Who wants the rich to pay their share? Something more outer directed and unifying.

The rally ran a bit too  long and the group was so antsy to march, the last couple of speakers were interrupted with the chant, "March!, March! and had to give in to their prepared material and lead the march out into the street.

The mood was oddly tranquil. In spite of a marching band that played "The Internationale" as we walked along, most people were fairly quiet. In Chinatown a chant of "We are the 99%," broke out and lasted a while but determined silence was more the order of the day.

The Occupy Oakland encampment in Frank Ogawa (Oscar Grant) Plaza is an amazing sight to behold. There are more than 100 tents spread over the entire park with wooden boards and pallets used as makeshift walkways. There is a large food preparation area where garden burgers, rice and beans and veggies were cooking and good smells wafting everywhere. The ambience was somewhere between a music festival and a refugee camp. The tent city included a library tent, a kids play tent, an arts and craft tent and some other impromptu structures for meetings and socializing. The stage arena area had a huge sign that said, "General Strike" and people were filling the concrete risers.

Although this arena area is used for the occupiers daily 7pm meetings, the rally was held from a truck in the adjoining mall-like space. There was no way that the more mainstream elements were about to allow a sign calling for a General Strike to be the backdrop of their rally.

I say their because the split was evident. There were the occupiers who are attempting to build an alternate society and then there was the cheering section for the Democratic Party that was
focused on making nicey, nicey with politicians attempting to get them to do right by the 99%, those of us reeling from the economic beating administered by the banksters and their friends

The idea of a General Strike is an interesting one. Although I think it's too soon to haul out big guns like that it should always be simmering on the back burner. A strike is the people's nuclear option. It is a bell that cannot be un-rung. This movement is a baby that has just been born. First, let's see whether or not she can thrive. Only time will tell what will happen next.