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Occupy Oakland: Police repression intensifies

Published Feb 11, 2012 10:28 AM

The brutal attack on Occupy Oakland on Jan. 28 by the Oakland Police Department is part of a nationally coordinated attack against the Occupy movement, which includes the Feb. 4 eviction of Occupy DC from McPherson Square in the U.S. capital by riot-clad cops. The OPD is under threat of federal receivership, possibly as soon as March, due to reports by an independent monitor which highly criticized the OPD for its handling of previous Occupy Oakland protests.

The Jan. 28 march was an attempt to take over an abandoned public building and convert it into a community center, a place to feed and shelter the homeless, and an operations center for general assemblies and other meetings and activities. Occupy Oakland has faced increasing police harassment at Oscar Grant Plaza, where it continues a 24/7 vigil ever since the last encampment was broken up.

According to the National Lawyers Guild, at least 284 people were arrested Jan. 28, with many reports of assaults on protesters by the OPD. This included one person who had their teeth knocked out from a strike to the face by a police baton, others thrown through a glass door and down a flight of stairs, and the clubbing of a videographer by the OPD. Once in Alameda County Sheriff’s custody, the brutality continued.

Significantly, Occupy Oakland has been intensively engaged in building solidarity with workers’ struggles, demands and issues. It inspired activists around the U.S. with the Nov. 2 general strike and port shutdown, organized in just one week, after the Oct. 25 vicious police raid on their camp.

In addition to shutting down downtown Oakland and focusing on the banks, which have destroyed the economy and stolen peoples’ homes, Occupy Oakland, with the support of the ranks of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, shut down Oakland’s ports. They raised demands to support ILWU Local 21 in Longview, Wash., which was engaged in a militant struggle against international grain cartel EGT.

Then, Occupy Oakland led other Occupy groups in organizing an entire West Coast port shutdown on Dec. 12, with the major demands being support for the ILWU Local 21 struggle in Longview and support for port truckers in Los Angeles fighting to get union recognition. Occupy Oakland was exemplary for its fightback response to the nationally coordinated attacks against the Occupy movement. Ports were shut down in Oakland; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; and Longview, Wash., with port slowdowns and solidarity actions in other cities.

Occupy Oakland then took on a campaign to organize a caravan to Longview to blockade the loading of scab grain onto a ship in response to a call by Occupy Longview and the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum County [Wash.] Central Labor Council. Support was organized up and down the coast and EGT was forced back to the bargaining table under threat of thousands of protesters descending on the small town.

The government wants to discredit these organizers and keep them from being able to continue building solidarity between the community and labor. “Stay away” injunctions have been issued to at least 12 of the Jan. 28 arrestees, who are not allowed to go near Oscar Grant Plaza. Felony burglary charges were leveled against at least 50 people who ran into the open YMCA to get away from the police. The district attorney is not pursuing these charges now, but has threatened to renew the charge for anyone arrested again in the next year.

The Oakland City Council is pursuing a resolution on Feb. 7 to basically use any “legal” means at their disposal to prevent any future shutdowns at the port of Oakland. The resolution was originally raised as an emergency resolution after the Dec. 12 port shutdown. Occupiers filled the council chambers in protest. The resolution was denied emergency status, but now will be voted on.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has offered up the National Guard to aid the OPD in the event of another port shutdown attempt. Meanwhile, hundreds of port truckers have walked off the job in Seattle, in protest of inhumane and unsafe conditions, effectively shutting the port of Seattle for days.

At the same time that the city of Oakland has spent millions of dollars repressing Occupy Oakland, they are planning major layoffs of city workers and related service cutbacks to the community. When the council planned a vote in January on the proposed layoffs, 100 Occupiers marched right into the council chambers in support of the Service Employees union, disrupting the meeting with chants against the layoffs and demanding that payments to the banks be withheld instead.

Despite the repression, Occupy Oakland plans to support a march on Feb. 17 by immigrant workers, 200 of whom were fired by Pacific Steel in Berkeley, Calif., after a “soft” raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.