One of the largest protests in decades took place one year ago today in Oakland, California. Enraged by the the near-murder of Scott Olsen and fired up by a new message of hope that ninety nine percent of the people could defeat one percent, somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 protesters made their way to Oakland City Center and/or the Port of Oakland sometime between 9:00 AM and late into the evening.
The Oakland police were conspicuously absent. And by absent I mean completely invisible. I saw not a single uniformed officer that day. Yet tens of thousands of people marched up, down and around the streets of Oakland all morning and early afternoon, none the worse except for wear. No better illustration could there have been of the principle that it is the police who start riots.
After the day time rallies and performances, starting about four in the afternoon, wave after wave of marchers were sent on their way to the Port of Oakland, some two miles from Oscar Grant Plaza. As one group set off, thousands more gathered (likely coming off work, or if they had taken the day off anyway due to the General Strike call, coming down after seeing reports of what was happening) and another wave moved towards the Bay.
Just a few thousand of the tens of thousands...
By evening tens of thousands of people had crossed over the I880 causeway and into the port, blocking any number of gates and causing the Port to shut down. The flow of capital had been stopped, at least for a day, again without a single incident or disturbance of any note.
There is no doubt in my mind that by 9:00 PM on November 2nd the powers-that-be were terrified. A revolution against the one percent, it seemed, might just be possible, radiating out from Oakland across the country. And while guillotines might not fall, it would not be pretty for those of the yachting class.
Footage I had not seen before today, from a friend, of the crowd approaching the first Port of Oakland gate.
Empire One Percent Strike Back.
I've no need to recount to you what happened next in detail. I've written about it before, and you've lived it all yourselves. Pictures of scary people in black lighting fires. Orchestrated denunciations by the main stream media followed by the screeds of politicians and demonizations of anyone who dared question authority. Police crackdowns, infiltration by Federal agents, followed by those same agents' instigation of people suseptible to notions to bomb bridges and more.
We can see the success of that campaign, the one that started late that night of November 2nd after most of us had gone to bed. We can see it by looking at where things stand now.
Does the Presidential election turn on whether we should be jailing banksters, or instead on whether we should even continue to regulate them? Does it turn on whether we should be helping people in foreclosure due to bank fraud, or instead on whether we should impose even more austerity on the nation? Is it a campaign issue whether health care should be extended to everyone without question, or whether the scraps that some of us will get in another year are better killed than implemented?
Did you hear mention of the homeless in the debates, or only of whether the rich deserve even more tax breaks? Was their talk of spending less on a bloated military, or only on how much more we should spend? Was their a single mention of extending unemployment benefits, or only hypocritical criticism of the unemployment rate? Did any candidate mention raising the minimum wage or protecting the right to form a union? Was their a single mention of civil liberties?
Were the New Testament's admonitions to aid the sick, help the poor, feed the hungry and take pity on those less fortunate resonating amongst the swing states, or was the Gospel of Ayn Rand the reference of honor?
You know the answer.
For a few shining hours on November 2nd, 2011 there was hope that the ninety-nine percent might have a say in the economics and the social justice policies of this country.
Not any more.