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Occupy, strike, resist

Peter Hogarth

November 20, 2011

In a year that began with revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and that has seen general strikes rock Chile and much of Europe; an occupation of the Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin; hunger strikes by prisoners in California; and mass mobilizations that stopped the construction of the Kestone XL Tar Sands pipeline; 2011 is already a historic year of resistance. Building on the wave of revolt sweeping across the globe, the Occupy movement continues to grow.

What started out as a few young activists squatting in a park has become a focal point of resistance the world over. The unifying anger over inequality, unemployment, underemployment, debt, homelessness, police brutality and attacks on jobs, pensions and living standards has been effectively summarized by the slogan “we are the 99%.”

The call, which has been taken up by over 1,000 cities worldwide, is a response to the mad drive for austerity coming from the ruling class, which claims we all have to tighten our belts while bombs continue to fall, the climate keeps changing and executive compensation goes up and up.

It is in this context that the Mayor and Oakland Police Department decided to clamp down on the Occupy Oakland encampment. For two weeks, Occupy Oakland protestors had been camped out at Oscar Grant Plaza (renamed in honour of police murder victim Oscar Grant). On October 25, police officers organized a pre-dawn raid on the site, complete with teargas, beanbag shotgun rounds and rubber bullets.

Protestors refused to cede the park and, in the ensuing police attack, more than 100 were arrested. Scott Olsen, an Iraq Veteran Against the War, was critically wounded after being struck in the head by a tear gas canister fired by police.

The response was incredible. More than 50,000 took part in a day of action that saw schools closed and solidarity by carpenters, hotel workers, nurses, dockworkers and families and groups of all kinds, all culminating in a shut-down of the city’s greatest economic asset, the Port of Oakland, the fifth largest port in America.

This is a sign of the times. Millions around the world are radicalizing as they refuse to bail out the 1%. The general strike in Oakland was a success because thousands of workers connected the sentiment of resistance in Oscar Grant Plaza to the very sharp attacks on their living and working conditions.

Now the radicalism of the Occupy movement needs to go out of the camps and into the workplaces, schools and communities, to really fight back. Teachers in Los Angeles have occupied the school board to protest budget cuts. Parents, teachers and students used the “people’s mic” to take over a Department of Education meeting in New York to demand adequate funding. The mood for resistance is growing as people around the world continue a march that started in Tunisia last December.

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