This post has been updated.
The Occupy movement heated up around the country Wednesday, as Occupy Oakland executed a city-wide strike, Occupy Sacramento moved the battle to court, and Occupy Tulsa protesters were pepper-sprayed for failing to keep off the grass.
While police use of pepper spray and lawsuits against cities over free speech and assembly violations have been common in the Occupy movement’s protests, Occupy Oakland’s city-wide strike marks the first time a critical mass of the labor force would join in.
CBS reports that protesters have been joined by organized labor and advocacy groups whose grievances “range from school closures and waning union benefits to home foreclosures and cuts to libraries and services for the disabled.” For days, it had been believed the strike could spread nationwide, though most of it remained concentrated in Oakland Wednesday.
The strike included marches and pickets outside banks:
The strikers are also expected to attempt a shutdown of the Port of Oakland by evening.
The unions in support of today’s strike include those representing Oakland’s public school teachers, community college instructors, city government workers, University of California-Berkeley teaching assistants, and even the police.
In an open letter Tuesday, the city’s police union bashed Mayor Jean Quan’s decision to have a strong police presence at strike-related events, while simultaneously allowing city workers to participate in the strike.
“Is it the city's intention to have city employees on both sides of a skirmish line?” the letter read.
The letter comes just a week after police clashed with protesters in downtown Oakland as they tried to evict demonstrators from the plaza. The raid led to 100 arrests, left one Iraq war veteran with a fractured skull, and many others with injuries from police-fired bean bag rounds and possibly rubber bullets.
The mayor initially thanked the police for their efforts that evening, but later flip-flopped to say she was “saddened” by the clashes, and allowed the protesters to reclaim the plaza.
Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, president of the Oakland police union, told the Associated Press police are confused about Quan's stance for the strike Wednesday.
“What was last Tuesday all about? The mayor is painting us as the bad guys in all of this,” Arotzarena said. “We get one order one day and then she flip-flops the next day. We're going to be seen as the establishment, and it's not fair to the police, it's not fair to anyone... We’re set to fail on this.”
As for Quan, she defended her so-called flip-flop in a statement Tuesday, saying, “Although getting the balance right is never an easy task, in Oakland we are committed to honoring free speech and protecting public safety.”
By afternoon, the strike saw retail stores shut their doors:
Along with a cinema:
Two elementary schools and a high school have also closed, and at some 200 school district employees have been replaced by substitutes. City officials allowed “nonessential” government workers take vacation, if they asked for it, and some city workers left early. UCSF nursing students attended the protests to be on hand for those in need of medical attention. An Oakland based musician said a group of “indigenous Ohlone and Miwok elders and Buddhist monks” hiked to Occupy Oakland from 225 miles away.
By mid-afternoon, there were no reports of violence.
Watch live video of the protest, via the anticorporate Canadian magazine Adbusters, below:
Below, follow along for live updates from the strike: