The Occupy Wall Street protests began in New York City, but the real heart now lies in Oakland, California.
Police and protesters clashed once again in Oakland, California, where about 5,000 Occupy Wall Street activists staged the Occupy Oakland general strike to successfully shut down that city’s bustling port by blocking exits and crowding into the port’s work areas, all part of an effort to stem “the flow of capital.”
Aside from some isolated, unsanctioned vandalism, the event was mostly peaceful. In fact, port officials offered no resistance, and simply asked the protesters to let employees — “your fellow 99%” — to leave without incident. And many of the port’s workers clearly support the cause.
“[We] are supporting the concerns raised by Occupy Oakland and the Occupy movement to speak up for the 99 percent and against the corporate greed that is wrecking America,” said Craig Merrilees, spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
But tensions flared anew after night fell, after one protester was hit by a car and protesters returned to their base camp near Oakland’s City Hall.
About 200 police mobilized as the crowd lit a bonfire and then, after warnings to disperse were ignored, again turned to tear gas and “flash” grenades to clear them out. This will only feed into the movement’s exponential growth — both in Oakland and beyond.
As the Oakland strike took shape, activists elsewhere in the nation, including New York and Philadelphia, held solidarity protests to show their support, a clear indication of how Oakland has become the focal point, the epicenter of our nation’s ongoing upheaval — an unintended consequence of a police crackdown.
Oakland police last week thought launching tear gas and arresting a hundred protesters would hamper the Occupy movement there. They were clearly wrong, because — as predicted — their actions only reinvigorated the Occupy. Had they paid more attention to physics — or philosophy — they would have seen this coming.
In his seminal book ‘The History of Sexuality,’ Michel Foucault famously noted that repression brings about an equally powerful push back. Efforts to suppress and hide sex and sexuality only led to the proliferation of new terms, classifications and curiosities. The same is true in politics.
Barack Obama’s historic presidential win resulted in a ravenous counter-movement, the Tea Party. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, which is precisely what we’re seeing in Oakland, a city where robust police repression has spawned a far stronger movement that has captured the nation’s attention and, in some cases, its heart.
Thanks to the Oakland Police Department, the heart of Occupy Wall Street has moved west, and turned the world’s attention to their Northern California town. And there it will remain — until, of course, there’s another crackdown elsewhere in the nation. But regardless of the movement’s hub’s location, police and other authority figures should see that their repression and squashing of rights will not end this movement; it will only make it stronger.
You know that old saying, “what doesn’t kill us…”
Image via Anthony San Francisco’s Flickr.