Reports from Occupy: 10/25

The Occupy movement has spread from a small protest encampment in the financial district of Manhattan to a mass movement across the U.S.--and now the world--with supporters in over 1,000 cities, towns, campuses and more. Here, SocialistWorker.org is publishing reports we receive from activists around the country, describing the actions they're organizing and the discussions they're a part of. If you want to contribute a report, use this "Contact Us" page.

Hella Occupy Oakland marches through the city streets to Grand Lake (Indybay.org)Hella Occupy Oakland marches through the city streets to Grand Lake (Indybay.org)

Oakland, Calif.

By Adam Balogh

THE WEATHER has been gracious to protesters during the now two-week-long occupation of Oscar Grant (formerly Frank Ogawa) Plaza in Oakland, Calif.

October 22 was no different, as the city's Occupy movement began to mobilize for a major march and rally at midday. Around 700 occupants and supporters congregated in the amphitheatre in front of City Hall.

The day's events were kicked off by members of various union locals, including the Oakland Education Association, the International Longshore Workers Union, the University of California-Berkeley graduate employees' branch of the United Auto Workers and others. Well-received speeches from organized labor were the day's first, but not last, showings of solidarity between the occupation and the community's many other struggles.

The speeches also had a precedent in earlier support of the occupation from unions in the area. The Oakland Education Association, for example, donated port-a-potties within the first few days of the occupation and Teamsters Joint Council 7 donated bathroom tissue, bottled water and bales of hay just prior to the march and rally.

SocialistWorker.org is regularly rounding up reports sent to us from around the country, describing the actions of the Occupy movement and the political discussions activists are having.
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Many labor unions and councils in the area have officially endorsed the occupation. One Teamster organizer said, "There is a natural intersection between the two struggles." Another Teamster at the rally held a sign that read: "Stop the war on workers!" Other protesters from throughout Oakland and nearby cities also found common cause with the "99 percent," including students, workers, community members and activists of all varieties.

After the rally, protesters began a four-mile, unpermitted march through downtown Oakland and around Lake Merritt. The march was festive and confident, with drumming and songs of solidarity blaring from the trumpets of a protest marching band. But this was no parade. Protesters were clear about their anger at corporations, especially the big banks, and the banks' loyal stooges in the government.

The weekend calm was interrupted by chants like: "The banks got bailed out, we got sold out" "Chop from the top" and "We are the 99%." The message of the march to those who run the economy and the government was simple: You have us cleaning up your mess. And we won't stand for it any longer.

Protesters made good on that promise, shutting down countless intersections, as well as branches of both a Chase and Wells Fargo bank.

The day's events were a huge step forward for the movement. Not only were the march and rally the first political protests officially endorsed by the Occupy Oakland General Assembly, but real steps were also taken to link up with local struggles and broaden support for the occupation.

Occupiers likewise saw the importance and significance of using the movement as a way to further the other struggles of the community.

Toward the end of the march, on the way back to occupied Oscar Grant Plaza, protesters made a pit stop at the main branch of the Oakland Public Library. The public library system in the city has been threatened many times with funding cuts and branch closures, and the area's residents and activists have a strong recent history of defending it. The protesters continued this tradition outside of the main library branch, shouting, "Shut down the OPD [Oakland Police Department], not this public library!"

In the previous several days, the city government had issued several dispersal notices to the Occupy encampment, which has gathered around 50 tents. No deadline for dispersal has been given, but many protesters and occupiers know that, like at almost every other Occupy location across the country and the world, eviction and police repression may be imminent.

So far, Mayor Jean Quan has been reluctant to repress the encampment. She, like other Democratic Party mayors, wants to pretend she's on the side of the 99 percent, but she's also undoubtedly still unsure of how to handle the occupation without severe public outcry. Regardless, the question is not "if" but "when" authorities will attempt to move against the encampment. Already, the General Assembly has made an emergency plan to defend the camp in the case of a police raid.

Occupy Oakland has benefited from the recent anti-racism and anti-police brutality movement around resisting gang injunctions and fighting for justice for Oscar Grant, an African-American Oaklander murdered by Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle in early 2009. The California anti-cuts student movement of a year ago also gave activists some prior experience with the practical application of the occupation as a tactic.

The most important factors in protecting the occupation are the number of people who identify with its message and the number who can be mobilized to defend it. These factors depend on outreach to the community and, most importantly, building strong ties of solidarity with other struggles.

From the support shown for public library workers and supporters to the solidarity with unions, Occupy Oakland is headed in the right direction for strengthening the movement. On the night of October 22, the General Assembly voted to approve its second officially endorsed political action: a march from a local park to an Oakland public school board meeting to protest mass school closings and the privatization of the education system.

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Albany, N.Y.

By Marc LaFleche

ROUGHLY 400 protesters peacefully assembled on October 21 to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. We organized into groups to deal with logistics such as health care, child care and food--areas where our government comes up short, thereby sparking this movement.

We held a General Assembly where our mission statement was created using the democratic process. During this time, people were beginning to feel empowered by democracy, something that has been absent in the U.S. for a long time. Certainly, in this country we have the right to vote, but our options in political scope are quite narrow.

After the GA, protesters played musical instruments, chanted, marched and engaged in political and economic discussions. During one discussion, a protester mentioned the importance of running for office ourselves since the Democrats and Republicans are essentially one party that leaves us no other choice. Running on a $200 budget and with three weeks' time, he was able to garner 10 percent of the vote in a local election.

Many protesters plan to stay overnight, despite threats of police intervention due to an 11 p.m. "curfew." One protester pointed out that our constitutional rights do not have curfews. The next general assembly was scheduled for 5 p.m. the following day.

Similar protests in Troy, Saratoga Springs, and Glens Falls, N.Y., have been scheduled. When people want to see democracy in action, they should not look to the "free market" corporatists or their stooges in government office. Instead, they should recognize grassroots movements and take part.

The Occupy Movement is teaching people more about democracy than a textbook ever could. Perhaps this could spark changes that we so desperately need.