In Oakland, militarized police harassed occupiers at the Frank Ogawa Plaza for months to break up an encampment. But multiple evictions, tear gas, flash bang grenades, and sound cannons only served to anger and radicalize occupiers. The near-killing of Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen by cops put Occupy Oakland in the spotlight and garnered international solidarity.
Then in late January, over 400 people were arrested when Occupy Oakland tried to take over a vacant convention center for use as an organizing headquarters. Riot-clad cops brutally put down the action and prevented protesters from peacefully dispersing. Media painted the protesters as violent, hoping to typecast the movement and scare people away. Instead, Occupy Oakland continues to draw new recruits.
The same is true nationally. Despite attacks, Occupy shows no signs of going away. In early March, unionists and college students from across California descended on Sacramento for an “Occupy the Capitol” to defend public education from budget cuts. In Chicago, threatened protests of the G-8 summit forced President Obama to move the meeting to his Camp David compound.
Coming up, Occupiers are vowing to protest the capitalist parties’ national conventions. And already, everywhere the parties’ candidates go, angry demonstrators gather outside their events. In turn, riot police stand guard with batons, tasers, and rubber bullets.
For the ruling class, the most worrisome aspect of the Occupy movement is its instinct to connect with organized labor. Moisés Montoya, an organizer in the Labor Solidarity Committee of Occupy Oakland, said the government crackdown is “a reflection of their fear that this movement resonates with so many millions of people.
“When the Occupy movement and others work together in a coordinated fashion with labor, it’s a winning combination.” Occupy Oakland’s leadership in the shutdown of West Coast ports, with its expressed support for embattled ILWU 21 in Longview (see Longview story here) and short-haul truckers, was an inspiring example.
Emboldened by that action, Occupy is now organizing for a national mass day of action, which is being called a “general strike,” to be held May 1, 2012. Key to its success is reaching out to the grass roots of the union movement around anti-capitalist, pro-labor demands. History proves that has power and works!