The General Strike in Oakland on November 2nd was an awe inspiring success built out of collective unity and determination of the thousands of protesters in attendance. However, as night fell on the strike, police presence and violence erupted at the camp. Media channels have failed to cover or have distorted accounts of what occurred on the night of November 2nd and into the early morning hours of November 3d.
The following has been given to me by a protester, who wishes to remain anonymous, recounting the events witnessed that night.
“On the day after the great General Strike of Oakland it appears many people have chosen to focus on the “violence” of property destruction and “Black Bloc” confrontations with the police, instead of the awe inspiring day of worker action, or the actually violent actions of a Mercedes Bens driver who hit and hospitalized two protestors and was let go by police, who themselves, exhibited extreme an unnecessary violent force. To those of you in the movement: this is divisive and counter-productive. We must stand in solidarity while addressing internal divisions over tactics through the General Assembly. That said, those choosing to scapegoat and marginalize the Black Bloc are also adding to the confusion and feeding into the state’s reactionary narrative by posing the police actions as responsive to the “violent antagonism” of the Black Bloc. These Apologist have chosen without any doubt to do the work of the cops, the city of Oakland, and the mainstream media who are all working for the bosses by mischaracterizing what really took place last night.
To shatter the illusions and set the record straight, this is what happened in and around Oscar Grant Plaza on the Nov. 2nd as night fell on the General Strike. Starting around 10:30/11:00pm youths in and around the plaza decided to rise up, and occupy the vacant Traveler’s Aid Society building on 16th street. Banners were raised, speakers and music were setup and a block party was in full effect. 16th street was the site of a beautiful party making the best use of our space and talents. Unfortunately, being the haters of fun, and defenders of capital that they are, the cops made it clear that this injustice would not stand and that they would violently force us back into the plaza. In preparation some people began to erect barricades and others began to discus what to do when the cops came (the advice was to simply lock arms and hold the lines without getting into skirmishes with the cops). The cops soon marched in, spreading out across 17th street, covering all three major streets on which protestors had amassed – Broadway, Telegraph and Frank Ogawa Plaza. The cops were making inaudible announcements, apparently to direct the crowd, and then finally a tear gas canister was fired on Broadway and the cops started marching on the demonstrators. It was at this time that the barricade on 16th and Telegraph was set on fire – it should be noted that there was not a single mind among the protestors on this issue and it was in fact the protestors who put the fire out. After a period of time the cops using extreme force pushed protestors from Broadway, Telegraph, 16th street, and out of the TAS building back into the plaza. Even though we had been told that the camp would not be evicted, the cops amassed once more and occupiers were warned by someone (in plain clothes) with a mega phone who was walking around the camp that the cops were going to raid and evict everyone in the next five minutes. And as I said the police speaker was inaudible even at the frontlines at the north of the park. At this point, none of us knew what the cops were going to do, their continued presence and threatening posture resulted in high amount of tension and anxiety within the camp. Many had awoken to tear gas spilling into the plaza from 16th, Broadway and Telegraph. For about an hour there was a standoff between the police and protestors. The cops then raided the plaza shooting numerous protestors with bean bags/ rubber bullets and tear gas dispersing the crowd and arresting over 80 people. It was during this stand off and raid that the destruction took place in the plaza itself.
The cops did nothing all day – they didn’t direct traffic, they didn’t respond to the “violent” anti-capitalism march which destroyed property, they did nothing in response to the hit and run that hospitalized two protestors. It wasn’t until night fell and the scrutiny left that the cops came out looking for a fight. It was the cops who were violent, who escalated the situation by being unclear and failing to communicate with or just lying to us. It was the cops who antagonized the occupiers by setting up “sniper” cover in an adjacent parking structure, and by taking peoples pictures, flashing blinding lights into peoples eyes and refusing to stand down after we had fallen back into the plaza. Without the cops amassing around the camp threatening people with arrest and violent attack – there would have only been a block party – but the violent police state showed up to smash our party – to foreclose our occupation of the TAS building– they came to reclaim the property of the lenders from the people – which is to say they came to take it from everyone to give it back to no-one. The TAS building is again the voided dead space of capital that is the threat of what will become of all of us if we step out of line or are simply determined to be no longer useful to capital.
This is what the youth of Oakland took a stand against last night. We tried to reclaim the TAS building in all of it’s use-value as vibrant community center, a warm shelter from the elements, a place for parties, education and creating another world where we all have a say and an opportunity to participate in it’s creation. It was the youth of Oakland who came out into the streets and reclaimed the TAS building, who came out and said loud and clear “I am Somebody.” It was the youth of Oakland who stepped out to seize and occupy their futures. This is what was smashed last night, this is what was burned, and not by our brothers and sisters in the black bloc, but by the cops. They smashed another attempt by the youth of this city to reclaim their future and the city according to their needs. We stand in solidarity with the youth of this community in ALL of their diversity. This is the narrative of the general strike that we will defend. This is the lesson we have learned.
The General Strike has been a historic success the character of which we will not forget. The diverse people of Oakland rose up, shutdown, and occupied the city of Oakland, our hearts, our imaginations and the way forward. From here we must pick up the pieces and continue on as a unified front. The General Strike for all of its shortcomings and limitations was a success. Now lets keep going.”