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Cross-Post: Mother Jones on Occupy Oakland


Imagine 2050 Staff • Nov 05, 2011

Originally posted by Mother Jones on November 1st, 2011.

When the acrid fog of flash-bang grenades and tear gas cleared on last week’s violent clash between protesters and police in Oakland, the city emerged as a new focal point of the worldwide Occupy movement. On Wednesday, thousands are expected to flood downtown and march on the Port of Oakland—the country’s fifth-largest—in a massive daylong protest and general strike. It’s an impressive escalation from a patchy idea first tossed out just days ago at a General Assembly meeting in Frank Ogawa Plaza, the scene of last week’s showdown. This is collective action on speed, and while most (not all) Occupy protesters are calling for a peaceful protest, city officials are preparing for trouble, just in case.

So can you really organize a citywide general strike in one week? Local Occupiers like to point out that Oakland hosted a general strike in 1946, and are using the city’s claim to history as a rallying cry. So what worked then, and what would it take to pull it off again?

Fred Glass, a professor of labor history at City College of San Francisco, recently went on local public radio show KQED to discuss optimal conditions for brewing up a general strike. His recipe calls for four conditions: widespread anger among the working class, a “spark” to kick things off, someone willing to stick their neck out and call for a general strike, and an organizing structure. In Oakland today, the first is largely a given and Occupy Oakland has provided the latter two. If school teachers and port workers don’t show up for work en masse on Wednesday, the injury suffered by Iraq vet-turned-activist Scott Olsen last week could be credited as the spark that drew mainstream sympathy to the local Occupy movement.

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