Outside New York's Zuccotti Park, the Occupy Wall Street movement's most high profile locale was Oakland, California, where protesters battled police and then shut down the city's port with just a few days' notice. Just why the faded, mid-sized industrial city became such a hot-spot is the subject of a lengthy New York Times Magazine story by Jonathan Mahler this week. If it didn't occur to you to wonder why Oakland should be the vibrant capital of a new revolutionary front, that's probably because you're used to hearing about it as just that. The city was the birthplace to the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, the nation's last general strike in 1946, and countless protest actions before and after. With a bit of help from The Coup's Boots Riley, who acting as a sort of tour guide, Mahler explores why, as he put it, "Occupy Oakland was the show that wouldn’t close." He found a fraut, 99-percent-vs.-1-percent relationship already set up for conflict:
In a sense, Oakland is the last place you would expect to find the most stubbornly active outpost of the Occupy movement. It’s a city almost entirely devoid of financial or corporate institutions, a city that “capital” fled decades ago. The shimmering skyscrapers of downtown San Francisco, packed with Pacific Heights investment bankers and venture capitalists, are all of 12 minutes away. Silicon Valley, bursting at the seams with dot-com millionaires, isn’t much farther. Why not take the fight there, to a more plausible surrogate for Wall Street?
Maybe because Occupy Oakland, whether its leaders have articulated it or not, isn’t a protest against what Oakland is, but rather what it’s in danger of becoming. Oakland may be broke, but all of the wealth being generated in its immediate vicinity needs someplace to go, and some of that wealth is already beginning to find its way to Oakland, to a place that has long been the catch basin of America’s radical energies and personalities.
Read the rest of Mahler's piece in its entirety at The New York Times Magazine.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.