A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Dispatch from Oakland

Its been a wild and wooly week here in the city of Oakland, which is quickly becoming the epicenter of the worldwide Occupy movement. Last week, city officials decided to forcibly remove Occupy Oakland protesters who had been camping out in Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of city hall since early October. Riot police descended upon the camp early Tuesday morning, arrested a number of people, and removed the tents. The protestors regrouped later that afternoon and marched on the Plaza in the early evening. In the resulting confrontation, the police fired tear gas and non-lethal ammunition into the crowd. Demonstrator Scott Olsen, an Iraq war veteran, was struck in the head by a tear gas canister and seriously injured.Until that evening, I would have said that Occupy Oakland was beginning to lose public sympathy because of ongoing problems in the camp. The show of force by the police, however, seems to have galvanized a city with a history of radical politics (it was the birthplace of the Black Panther Party) and an uneasy relationship with its troubled police department. The next day more than 1,000 people gathered for a peaceful protest and general assembly, at which it was agreed to call for a city-wide General Strike on November 2nd. The demonstrators returned a day later and, facing no police resistance, re-occupied the Plaza.Today, thousands of protestors gathered in downtown Oakland to support the general strike. They marched around town to various bank branches, most of which shut down, as did a number of supportive area businesses (including, interestingly enough, the menswear retailer Mens Wearhouse). The protest had a generally festive atmosphere, with musicians and artists livening things up. Many demonstrators brought their own hand-made signs. The core of youthful protesters was strengthened by a significant presence from organized labor.It was all something of a buildup to the main event, a march to shut down the Port of Oakland, about a two mile walk from downtown. The thousands of demonstrators quickly swelled to 10,000 and continued to grow. Those who walked over the railway overpass joining the port to the rest of downtown could see marchers both ahead and behind them almost as far as the eye could see. By the 7pm shift change, nothing was getting into or out of the port and it was essentially shut down.As I write this, it is unclear how the evening will end. Occupy Oakland has every intention of maintaining its blockade of the port overnight. Police from a number of area departments are on hand, but have not shown a strong presence as yet. Occupy Oakland has had an ongoing problem with a small group of violent demonstrators who favor vandalizing property and provoking the police. To their credit, Occupy Oakland has shown greater success of late in containing these folks, although a number of the banks and one area business were vandalized today. Historically, these militants tend to become more influential late in the evening as the more mainstream demonstrators head home. Hopefully that wont be the case this evening.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

Peter, what is the rationale for closing down the port?

Presumably, these are all people who've lost their homes and their jobs. Their leisure is forced, their only home is the parks. Right?

Like former immigrants, (everybody but the Indians) most people have little sympathy for the occupy protestors. It is the I still have a job mentality and looking out for #1. However, even those who have jobs are in an untenable position as they know there is someone waiting to replace them if their boss so deems. Not unlike the workers in the depression era who parked outside skyscraper scaffolds waiting for someone to fall off the perilous landings so they could have work. When Wall St, the banks and the big companies realize that this is a serious threat something will be done. Hopefully, this will be sooner rather than later. Which is hard to do from an overpriced yacht or being surrounded by willing savants whose wisdom is modified by their greed.An aside. No one is talking about the greedy Catholic publishers who are beside themselves with glee over the money they are making from the publications of the new translations. This is strongly believed in parishes across the country, as a translation driven by the publishers.

@Bill Mazzella (11/03, 8:04 am) "Like former immigrants, (everybody but the Indians) most people have little sympathy for the occupy protesters."Actually, to the extent that pollsters have been able to determine the attitudes of the American public towards the "Occupy" movement, the public is generally supportive: polls by multiple organizations show the same broad pattern:*strong net approval (% approve - % disapprove) for the Occupy movement;*a significant minority of undecideds/neutrals;*by contrast, strong net disapproval for the Tea Party movement.Granted, it's early days for the Occupy folks. They haven't had the chance, or the time, to make too many big mistakes yet. But it seems clear that they've tapped into a deep wellspring of anger as expressed in the 99% v. 1% slogan/idea.Whether they can maintain public support, whether they can make strategic alliances that help build their power, whether they can develop enough leaders and followers to keep growing---all these are open questions at this time. But they're off to a pretty good start.

Oakland: closing the port. The Newshour back here on the other coast featured a union official from the port claiming his workers themselves had shut down the port by not working, and in sympathy with "Occupy." True? False? Somewhere in between? Does remind me that West Coast longshoremen tended to the left of politics. Still true?

"Presumably, these are all people whove lost their homes and their jobs. Their leisure is forced, their only home is the parks"David - is that tongue in cheek? I haven't seen any suggestions that "Occupy (fill in the blank)" are real shantytowns. My understanding is exactly what Peter described: progressives with time on their hands, mostly twenty-somethings, supplemented by union activists. I suppose we could really trace the movement back to the occupation of the Wisconsin State House last spring (or was it summer?)Margaret, I'm not surprised that closing the port was a union thing. Who wouldn't want an afternoon off from work? I'm not sure what statement it is supposed to make about the state of society or the economy, though. It strikes me as a very mixed message. Exports are one of the keys to re-igniting the US economy. But I've never been clear on what message is supposed to be conveyed by Occupy Wall Street. Presumably there are a lot more worker bees working on Wall Street than tycoons. Why don't they go occupy Greenwich instead? At any rate, I guess I'm more of a "we're-all-in-this-together" kind of guy.

More confrontation overnight.In general, Occupy movements have been peaceful though, with some arrests for not folowing police or governemnt orders.That stimulates more protest.But the bottom line is there is more somewhat unfocused anger on income dispartity, polarized politics and smug reaction that Bil M. noted say vs. David to waht is happening not onl yhere (Oakland, US) but beyond.It strikes me that ther ewil be some diminution in the cold of winter in some metropolises; but, if nothing changes of significance, the anger and even more violence is possible.

Peggy:The ILWU contract does not permit wildcat strikes but does permit them to respect a "community picket line." While a few ILWU members did not work yesterday morning, the vast majority reported to work. However, once the 10,000+ demonstrators descended on the port, it was pretty much impossible to move freight in or out, so the union officials said the conditions were unsafe to keep working and the port management agreed.Yes, the ILWU out here still carries something of the spirit of Harry Bridges.Hope that helps,Peter

Thanks Peter. Clears everything up.

Bill,Just to clarify: The publishers who are producing the new Roman Missals and associated books and resources are not driving this thing. They didn't initiate it, and though it may look like a publishing bonanza, it's costs are high for them. They have had a tough time because the text kept changing up to and even after the last minute. The music publishers have had to pull good sellers off the market and retool many of their products, a big investment and risk.The real winners are the holders of the copyright, i.e. the bishops, who have a monopoly and will get their money no matter how many people have had to work overtime to get those books to press and who are competing with other companies for the shrinking dollars of parish budgets. Although I am sure that companies like Midwest Theological Forum (Opus Dei) are hand in glove with the bishops and thrilled by the translation itself, there are plenty of others that realize they are trying to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse and rue their bad luck. The bishops decided on this alone and the publishers have had to go along because it's the only game in town. Yes, they are in business for a profit, and they will try to make one, but they didn't come up with it, nor drive it to its dismal conclusion. That role belongs to Rome, the new ICEL, Vox Clara, and their cheerleaders among the bishops.I'm all for occupying Wall Street, and I hope the Oakland protesters make a point about police brutality as well as economic injustice. Where the situation converges with the woes of the church (and especially the translation saga) is in the unhappy fact that our elite -- the ones making the decisions -- operate in a bubble just as the wealthy do. What happens below them doesn't have an impact on them at all.

Rita-I'm with you on both. I am a member of our parish choir, and we have been working to learn the new sung Mass parts and introduce them to the congregation. The sung parts are not bad, but what I've heard of some of the responses are not great (consubstantial will have people diving for their dictionaries.) The bishops are making a killing, and both clerical and economic elites are securely insulated from what we ordinary folk are enduring.

From Bob N.; More confrontation overnight. In general, Occupy movements have been peaceful though, with some arrests for not following police or government orders. . . .Ah yes, peaceful protests, of course like the Tea Party people who cleaned up the National Mall so nicely and did not get arrested or raise cain all over the place.The difference between this Occupy crowd and the Tea Party people is that while Tea Partiers are the ones paying the bills (they are standard middle-class folks), and while their gatherings were and are law-abiding with due respect shown for the authorities (namely for the police), and while they tidied up before leaving, the Occupy folks are brazen in their disrespect of authority, tend not to be the ones paying the nations bills, and leave a mess wherever they gather.For their moderation, Tea Partiers numbers were minimized and they were slapped with snarky, snide, and off-color sarcasm of Anderson Cooper and his ilk, with unbounded sneering and insinuation.On the other hand, in spite of the Occupy folks obvious lack of moderation and reason, the mainstream media grants them (assumes they have) a depth of thought that they do not have, and hails them as something better, more important than they actually are.This is very interesting and says quite a bit more about the mainstream media than about the Occupy protestors.

Kem. have you ever heard the word"even handed?"You may think the Tea party memebrs are "standard" but that's your opinion.You may also wish to broad brush Occupy participants.But, objectivity is meaningless in the current world of ideologies.YUK!

The Tea Party is the front for a skilfully organized and broadly funded political move by the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove et al to do ANYTHING to ensure that BHO is not re-elected. Besides, most of those attending (with or without guns conspicuously strapped to their 2nd amendment backsides) wouldn't know how to camp out if their lives depended on it.Occupy Whatever is a typical leftist gathering - squabbling, contradictory, disorganized and representing a wide variety of views. If they have a fault it is that they don't ipso facto prevent any point of view from showing up and demonstrating. Can the Tea Party say that? Would their carefully orchestrated "outrage" permit a dissenting or non-on-point of view?Which would you rather have: right-wing manipulation of the few who realize that they know longer control things or a messy, noisy, sometimes disruptive movement that will make lots of mistakes, all of which pale in comparison what the corporatocracy has been allowed to get away with during the last 30 years or so?As for me and my family ----Now, to give some of you tighty-righties something to get all righteous about:

" -- or non-on-point of view -- "s/b or "not-on-point" point of view. But, then, you probably figured that out anyway. "OAKLAND, Calif.Police say they made more than 80 arrests after a massive anti-Wall Street demonstration in downtown Oakland turned violent overnight. No arrests were made during the daytime, when about 7,000 people gathered near City Hall as part of a "general strike" Wednesday. The crowd then marched to the Port of Oakland, where they blocked entrances and forced a shutdown of the nation's fifth-largest port. After most people went home, violence broke out downtown. Police reported protesters vandalizing properties, lighting bonfires in the street and hurling explosives at officers. "

A while back David Frum had some interesting things to say about the Tea Party from his conservative perspective. While I disagree with Frum about a lot of things, I think he is one of the few Republicans whose views are worth checking out. He does seem anxious to see the facts as they are, and he even changes his mind when the facts call for change. Would that the GOP had more like him. They might resurrect their dying party. His blog is here:

Unfortunately, the so-called Black Bloc showed up in Oakland and broke windows and set fires. These cowards only show up whenever the public is mobilized - they wouldn't dare expose themselves otherwise. They are, effectively, agents provocateurs who turn the focus of the event from injustice to vandalism.

Brian 11/03/2011 - 8:40 pmUnfortunately, the so-called Black Bloc showed up in Oakland and broke windows and set fires. These cowards only show up whenever the public is mobilized they wouldnt dare expose themselves otherwise. They are, effectively, agents provocateurs who turn the focus of the event from injustice to vandalism.

Oh, I dunno. It's pretty much the same thing - taking over a park or a square and massively soiling public property, in the one case, and breaking a few windows, in the other. Both groups are damaging property and protesting stuff - kinda hard to tell exactly what, in either case.

David,It's not hard to tell who's the black-clad firebombing anarchist and who's the Occupy Oakland protestor/striker - but willful ignorance is a powerful thing.

To clarify a point for the (hopefully) very limited few who might leap to the wrong conclusion.The Black Bloc has nothing to do with anyone's skin color, but one's choice of cowardly outer attire that hides one's identity.

I view all of this from my little town of Nampa, Idaho. I have been trying to explain to myself the way most of our country quietly went into this black hole without a lot of honest protest until just now. I have tried to educate myself on our economy and have read a few books, including some really interesting stuff from Dollars and Sense, and concluded our passivity stems from our total involvement in the capitalist system. We already have a class system: Those who control--owners and bosses, and the controlled--almost everybody else. With unions gone and jobs very much at risk with not much recourse if you are fired, people simply obey. I would say they have been conditioned by our current capitalist system into the fatalistic silence. Until now.

Late last week I heard they turned out the lights in Detroit's Highland Park suburb. How is that for "change"? Maybe they need a community organizer?Maybe Oakland needs a community organizer?

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment