Oakland Braces for a 'General Strike'

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A week after Oakland police ousted residents of a downtown protest encampment, sparking a clash with demonstrators that turned violent, the city braces on Wednesday for another massive protest that Occupy Oakland calls a general strike. Of course, it's not really a general strike -- that would require unions approving work-stoppages, which most are prohibited from doing under no-strike clauses -- but the planned rally and march through the city to the port will still likely disrupt business there, and it's got a lot of union members (including police) carrying out their own political actions. Meanwhile, a lot of the city's small businesses are taking the day off in solidarity with the protesters.

Photos of the marquee at the Grand Lake movie theater above have been making the rounds on Twitter Wednesday morning, as has this shot of the downtown Men's Warehouse (via Matt O'Brien):

The Los Angeles Times spoke with a few more businesses, including the owner of Oaklandish, who said they would shut down in solidarity with the demonstrators. And while unions haven't officially called for a work stoppage, KCBS reporter Doug Sovern noted on Twitter that 268 teachers in the Peralta Federation of Teachers have taken the day off. The union has about 900 members.

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One of the strangest things to come out in the run-up to Wednesday's massive protest is this statement from the Oakland Police Officer's Association, saying the police were "confused" by the city's ostensible support of the protests, which came as Mayor Jean Quan ordered all 645 Oakland police officers to work on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, October 25th, we were ordered by Mayor Quan to clear out the encampments at Frank Ogawa Plaza and to keep protesters out of the Plaza. We performed the job that the Mayor’s Administration asked us to do, being fully aware that past protests in Oakland have resulted in rioting, violence and destruction of property.

Then, on Wednesday, October 26th, the Mayor allowed protesters back in – to camp out at the very place they were evacuated from the day before.

To add to the confusion, the Administration issued a memo on Friday, October 28th to all City workers in support of the “Stop Work” strike scheduled for Wednesday, giving all employees, except for police officers, permission to take the day off.

That’s hundreds of City workers encouraged to take off work to participate in the protest against “the establishment.” But aren’t the Mayor and her Administration part of the establishment they are paying City employees to protest? Is it the City’s intention to have City employees on both sides of a skirmish line?

It is all very confusing to us.

On the other side of the law, some of the language coming from the protesters has been sounding pretty confrontational. Boots Riley, the rapper and activist who has been serving as sort of spokesman for the Occupy Oakland movement, told SF Weekly Wednesday's protest was a warning, "like us flashing our guns and saying, 'This is the power that we have.' " And a gross-sounding missive that refers to protesters holding "the cock of the American empire" in their "supple hands" has been circulating, calling for pacifists to abandon their non-violent ways. Though Susie Cagle reports via Twitter that some protesters refused to pass it along when it was distributed.

As the city girds for a day of demonstrations, one labor leader reminded us the Occupy Oakland movement doesn't have the authority to formally call for a general strike under traditional organized labor rules. "They don’t have the representational authority. They don’t represent the workers who would be going on strike in any way. The unions do, and they have to pay attention to legal niceties," said Fred Glass, the communications director for the California Federation of Teachers and a labor studies professor at San Francisco City College, during a phone conversation on Friday. But unions have come out widely in support of the protest, with the Alameda Labor Council "encouraging noontime worksite actions and joining the 5 p.m. PDT mobilization at Oakland City hall," according to the AFL-CIO blog and planning to provide a cookout for protesters.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.