Anywhere from several hundred to several thousand people from throughout the Bay Area are expected to converge in Downtown Oakland Wednesday for a Day of Action and general strike — the nation’s first since 1946, which also took place in Oakland — that Occupy Movement protesters hope will shut down the city for a day.
The proposal to hold the general strike was approved by a vote of 1,484 to 46 last Wednesday at Occupy Oakland’s general assembly meeting, the night after clashes between police and protesters resulted in the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang bombs on the crowd.
UC Berkeley junior Zak Habash said he was struck by last Tuesday’s police response, prompting him to go to Oakland himself and get involved with the movement. He said he plans to attend Wednesday’s strike after class.
“I see it getting pretty damn big by the end of the night,” Habash said. “You have the unions, the professional workers, the students — we’ll see what happens.”
The strike will begin at 9 a.m., with crowds converging at 14th Street and Broadway in Downtown Oakland, right by Frank Ogawa Plaza — the site of the Oakland Commune reclaimed by protesters after their original encampment was dismantled by police early in the morning on Oct. 25. Later on, protesters plan to march to the Port of Oakland at 5 p.m. to shut it down before the 7 p.m. work shift and stop the flow of capital into the city.
Even though the police presence at the encampment has been limited since last Tuesday’s clash, which sent one Iraq War veteran to the hospital with a fractured skull, UC Berkeley graduate student Leah Jacobs said she expects a large turnout that may demand higher numbers of police.
“In terms of police, I anticipate a heavy presence,” Jacobs said. “But I do think there has been a dramatic shift since the original backlash a week ago.”
Jacobs, who got involved with Occupy Oakland on the second day of the encampment, has been reaching out to social workers in the last week to encourage them to come out for the strike.
Other protesters have made an effort to recruit labor and teachers’ unions, although they have said that those who cannot miss work are welcome to join whenever they get off for the day.
In an email, the Berkeley Federation of Teachers expressed their support for the strike and encouraged teachers to talk to their students about the strike and the Occupy Movement and join the strike after school.
“We are really mobilizing members to support the strike,” said union President Cathy Campbell.
According to their website, Occupy Berkeley protesters plan to meet at the Downtown Berkeley BART station at 4 p.m. tomorrow and head down to the strike together.
Albany resident David Skinner, a programmer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who has been actively involved with Occupy Oakland — the first political movement he has taken part in — said he hopes the strike’s message will lead to actual policy action, rather than just political sentiment.
“The beauty of this movement is that it encapsulates many issues that are important to many people,” Jacobs said. “We all have a place in this movement. I wish more Berkeley students were present. I want to encourage people to get out there.”
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