Welcome to the Oakland General Strike

Anonyme, Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - 10:11

[NOTE: This invitation is addressed primarily to friends and contacts in the San Francisco Bay Area (approx. 1000 people and groups), but I am also sending it to some 3000 other friends and contacts across the country and around the world, as well as posting it at my website, because I believe that many other people will be interested in hearing about what has been going on here. --KK]

Dear Bay Area Friends,

As most of you probably know, the police raid and destruction of the Occupy
Oakland encampments last Tuesday, followed by the notorious police violence
against protesters later the same day, provoked such an immense expression
of outrage from thousands of people in the Bay Area and around the world
that the Oakland city government was thrown completely on the defensive. The
next day police were scarcely to be seen. The fence surrounding Frank Ogawa
Plaza was still in place, but the occupiers calmly took it down and began
reoccupying the same spot. That evening, by a vote of 1484 to 46 (with 77
abstentions), the general assembly decided to call for a General Strike in
Oakland on Wednesday, November 2. You can see their declaration and other
information at

The fact that they reoccupied the encampment less than 48 hours after it had
been demolished is astonishing enough. But that they immediately shifted to
the offensive with such a marvelously audacious venture leaves me almost
speechless with admiration. I hope that their appeal meets with
correspondingly large-minded and supportive responses by people in Oakland
and elsewhere in the Bay Area. Occupiers in many other cities have already
been venturing outside their encampments for various types of demonstrations
(e.g. the marches to banks and CEO residences in New York City), but this
general-strike appeal is upping the ante and moving toward a new level of
active engagement with people in the whole community. Occupy Oakland people
have been fanning out into the city, speaking with workers and small
businesses, with teachers and students, with religious groups and all sorts
of other community organizations, in order to enlist support for the strike.
At this point I don't think anyone really knows what the response will
actually be, but there are a number of promising indications. In addition to
support from nurses' and teachers' associations and a number of other unions
(see, the Longshoremen's Union is
collaborating with Occupy Oakland to bring about a shutdown of the Port of
Oakland in solidarity with striking workers elsewhere on the West Coast.

In any case, even if a relatively small number of people actually strike,
the mere act of putting such a notion on the agenda is already awakening
people to new possibilities. The general strike is not intended to be a mere
work stoppage, but a day for positive, creative public dialogue. Leading up
to it, there are open meetings every day at 5:00 p.m. at Occupy Oakland
where people are discussing what they are doing, or what they propose to do,
to prepare for the strike (publicity, outreach, coordination). You are
welcome to observe any of those meetings, and to participate if you feel so
inclined. During the day of the strike, there will be large gatherings at
the same location (Frank Ogawa Plaza at 14th & Broadway) at 9:00 a.m., 12:00
noon, and 5:00 p.m. (the latter gathering segueing into a march to the Port
of Oakland), as well as the daily general assembly at 7:00 p.m. But there
will be countless other public discussions, large and small, planned and
spontaneous, in workplaces and on street corners, some of them initiated by
people such as yourself. YOU DON'T HAVE TO WAIT FOR OCCUPY OAKLAND

A delightfully mischievous example of such an independent initiative is the
fake Mayor's Apology perpetrated by a good friend of mine. Using the
situationist tactic of détournement, he has taken a currently potent image
in the spectacle and turned its fetish-power against itself in order to
break through what is seen as "possible" or "realistic" and encourage a more
imaginative and uninhibited collective brainstorming.

The fake apology is at
The perpetrator's motives are explained at

If you decide to strike, note that Occupy Oakland has declared: "If an
employer fires or disciplines a worker for taking the day off, we will
picket that business." However, the Occupy Oakland people realize that many
people may not be able or willing strike, especially on such short notice
and when many people are still under misimpressions they have derived from
the mainstream media. They welcome every form of engagement, suggesting
that, if nothing else, you take this opportunity to talk about these issues
with your friends and neighbors and fellow workers, as well as to visit
Occupy Oakland and get a little sense of what's going on, whether at the
scheduled gatherings at 9:00, 12:00 and 5:00, or at other times simply to
roam around the encampment, meet people and get a little feel of the

For those of you who may be worried about "children missing school":
Children will learn more about community and society and democracy and
history in this one day than they will in a month of ordinary schooling.
Reports are that practically every Oakland teacher supports the aims of the
strike, but that they are not sure whether to actually go on strike, or if
so, in what manner. My suggestion is that teachers engage in an active,
"teach-in" strike, not just staying home, but going to their classes and
opening the entire day up to discussion of these issues: "What have you
heard about the Occupy movement, children? Why do you think people are doing
it? Do you know what a strike is? Did you know that many of the things we
take for granted were achieved because people in your parents' or you
grandparents' generation engaged in strikes? Did you know that the last
general strike in America took place right here in Oakland in 1946?" Perhaps
followed by a field trip to visit Occupy Oakland. Whether or not the
teachers do this, I am sure that many conscientious parents will make a
special point of taking their children to some of the gatherings and events,
and that this will be one of the most rich and memorable days in their

For those who may worry about the risk to themselves: RELAX. The people
taking the risks are the people who occupy public spaces and refuse to
leave, knowing that they may be arrested, or who intentionally remain in the
streets when told to disperse. As long as you don't do either of those
things, about the only risk you run in visiting an occupation or attending
one of the mass gatherings is that you might find yourself questioning your
previous priorities in life.

I also encourage you to stop being distracted by the never-ending string of
silly objections, most of which are not true and most of which would not be
any big deal even if they were true (an occupation failed to get a permit,
or it is violating some city sanitary code, or some participant used hostile
language against the police, etc.). This is an all-embracing movement and,
among other challenges, it's bringing together people of all walks of life,
including homeless people and others who have suffered far more than you and
I and who may bear some psychological scars from their sufferings. In such
circumstances there will naturally be some problems to work out; and they
are being worked out as the occupiers find that they need to deal with them.
The people doing the on-the-ground occupying and who are being beaten and
arrested by the thousands in cities all over the country are true heroes and
they deserve the same kind of support as the civil rights workers did fifty
years ago. (For just one example of the sick brutality the Occupy Oakland
arrestees have been enduring, see this account by a 43-year-old disabled
woman: )
Yet they, and all of us who are with them in our hearts, are also
filled with a joy that most people in this society are missing, because
after a long period of social idiocy and despair we are finally waking up
together, and we can see that the momentum of history is on our side. This
is not just a protest, or even a series of protests, it's an international
social movement. It's not about passing this or that new law, much less
about electing this or that politician; it's about people coming together
all over the world to reassess the entire social order and to figure out how
best to change it.

Whether we ultimately win or not, this movement is not going away any time
soon. You'll have plenty of other opportunities to take part during the
coming months. Nevertheless, in the future, when your children or
grandchildren ask you what you were doing when these historic events were
just beginning, right in your own cities, don't you think you'll feel a
little funny having to say that you didn't even bother to go take a look?

As a final note, I would like to remind you that, while the current focus is
on Occupy Oakland, there are also occupations in San Francisco and Berkeley
and over a dozen other Bay Area cities, as well as in hundreds of other
locations all over the country. (See ) Each
of them is independent; some are large, some are small; they have various
modes of organization and various styles, ranging from mild to militant. But
they all deserve your support and input. Check out the ones near you. Even
if you don't wish to join the actual occupation, you are welcome to take
part in their general assemblies, and there are many other ways to support
them. Above all, if your local politicians and police are harassing them,
tell them in no uncertain terms to stop doing so.

October 31, 2011

For some background on the Oakland events, see

For a general overview of the Occupy movement, see

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