#Occupy Oakland: Too Big to Fail
This is a love letter to Occupy Oakland, to my comrades. For the last month or so, we’ve been taking a Cointelpro-style beating from all sides. Our enemies and even our friends had just about written us off. The angry Empress Quan thinks the “ruling class is probably laughing” at us. But it turns out that the news of our death has been greatly exaggerated. Not only are we are alive and well; we can still kick capitalist ass all over the West Coast and around the world. Occupy will never die! Evict us and we multiply!
The morning began with the omnipresent Occupy Oakland soundtrack: the whirr of helicopters hovering overhead. And sufficient police presence to ward off the Chinese army. When my husband and I got to the West Oakland BART at 5:30 AM, we were delighted (and relieved) to find that several hundred of our comrades were already on the march through a gauntlet of squad cars to shut down the Port of Oakland. I’ve never seen such a festive crowd in the pre-dawn hours of a cold, damp December morning.
Once we arrived at the port, we were dispatched to block various gates, where we walked in circular picket lines for a couple of hours. There was a lot to take in under the harsh yellow glare of the port’s halogen lights: kids on colorful Oakland scraper bikes zipping in and out of the crowd; a life-size cutout of Pepper Spray Pig with a hole to put your face in; a little girl with a giant cardboard box full of oatmeal raisin cookies; a DJ playing Michael Jackson songs; Feminists and Queers and Teamsters and Workers of the World; a row of stoic riot cops protecting the property of the one percent. And focaccia.
The ILWU members refused to cross the picket lines. After a few hours, the union arbitrator came and declared the situation unsafe and sent the longshoremen home, effectively closing down the port for the 7 AM shift. (This is the way it’s done these days, since the union members are contractually prohibited from actually striking.)
Our morning mission accomplished, most of us gathered at Oscar Grant Plaza for a rally to get us hyped up to close down the port once again for the evening shift. It was packed, just like it used to be when we had our encampment. We saw dozens of familiar faces, people we hadn’t seen since the raid. Everything was all beautiful again and it made me cry.
The entertainment included a rousing sermon from the Reverend Billy of the Church of No Shopping, who said he prays to the 99%, since the 1% is the devil. He counseled us to continue being subversive by taking care of each other in the new world that we are creating. Amen! Praise Be! Can I get a Revolujah!
A variety of speakers, musicians and spoken-word artists came onstage to give us words of encouragement and moral support, including Scott Olsen, who was showered with love from the crowd. Boots Riley introduced the final speaker: “I’m not going to do a good job introducing this person because her real story is actually way better than her legend and her legend is fucking ridiculous. This is Angela Davis.” (Squee! Just in case the day wasn’t amazing enough already.) Angela said she had just received a text from Barbara Becnel, the attorney who represented Stanley “Tookie” Williams. Barbara wants occupy movements all over the country to declare a national day in solidarity with the 2.5 million prisoners and the 3,500 on death row in the US and to have mobilizations at every major prison. Angela went on to remind us of ILWU’s “radical solidarity” and its actions over the years against apartheid in South Africa, its refusal to unload an Israeli ship because of Palestine apartheid, and its solidarity with Mumia and with Oscar Grant. She said she recently visited Occupy Berlin, where everybody wanted to know first, how Scott Olsen is and secondly, how OO has built a movement that is anti-capitalist, anti-racist, feminist, that has stood up against police violence, trans-violence, homophobia and in favor of environmentalism and the abolition of the prison industrial complex. The clip below of Scott and Angela is long but well worth listening to.
In between the speeches, the DJ played James Brown and P-Funk. I dare anyone to stand still while Flashlight is playing. You will shake your groove thang, just like my Occupy Oakland comrades did. These people do not fly their freak flags at half mast; they’re kind of like colorful snowflakes, each one perfect and unique. (Excuse my choppy video work; I am just learning to use the iPhone that a friend gave me. Horizontal would be good; not covering up the mic would be good. Next time.)
After this big euphoric endorphin boost, we were all ready to march again. Scott Olsen and other veterans led the way and we headed down 14th Street for the 3.5-mile trek back to the port. There were many thousands of us this time. Before we even got to the entrance of the port, we stopped for a mic check and were informed that we had already succeeded in shutting down the evening shift. Apparently they realized that in spite of their attempts to undermine and dismiss us, we had amassed too much support. We proved that Occupy Oakland is still Too Big to Fail. Whose Port? Our Port!
As we headed up the bridge over the freeway to celebrate with a GA at the port, my husband and I turned around and looked behind us at a huge, magnificent crowd that stretched as far as the eye could see. For some odd reason, it smelled like cake. And victory. After walking for 90 minutes towards the distant west edge of the port, exhausted but exhilarated, we decided to turn around and head back home. We were thrilled to see another wave of marchers coming over the bridge. Our comrades kept coming and coming and coming, in groups both large and small, almost all the way back to Oscar Grant Plaza. The final straggler was a man in a tuxedo riding a unicycle, with a mannequin in a bridal gown strapped on behind him. Just another member of the 99%.