From MSNBC Occupy Oakland protesters target port; in Seattle, bank boss
Occupy Oakland protesters target port; in Seattle, bank boss
Labor unions join call to action as anti-Wall Street movement spreads
Eric Thayer / Getty Images
OAKLAND, California — Thousands of anti-Wall Street protesters marched in the streets of Oakland on Wednesday as they geared up with labor unions to picket banks, take over foreclosed homes and vacant buildings and disrupt operations at the nation’s fifth-busiest port.
Demonstrators in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia said they planned to hold solidarity actions Wednesday. In Seattle, protesters planned to descend on a speech scheduled Wednesday evening by Chase Bank‘s chief executive officer.
In Oakland, demonstrators, elected officials and business leaders expressed optimism that the widely anticipated “general strike” would be a peaceful event for a city that last week became a rallying point after police used tear gas to clear an encampment outside City Hall and then clashed with protesters in the street. An Iraq War veteran was injured in the melee.
A morning march of 1,000 people down Broadway to the State Building was loud but peaceful, according to NBC station KNTV. Police presence was minimal, officials said.
Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said he expected about 5,000 people to march to the Port of Oakland at 5 p.m. and he said his officers would help them get there safely.
Along with protesting financial institutions that many within the Occupy Wall Street movement blame for high unemployment and the foreclosure crisis, supporters of the Oakland events are expanding their message to focus on local school closures, waning union benefits and cuts to social services.
Nurse, teacher and longshoremen unions are taking part in the protests, and Oakland is letting city workers use vacation or other paid time off to take part in the general strike.
However, “About 40” workers did not show up for assignment Wednesday morning at the union hall, Merrilees told KNTV. Unlike traditional jobs, port workers are free to decline work at any time. Each day the port fills roughly 325 jobs with whichever qualified union workers wish to work.
“We’ve always supported the goals of the 99-percent” Merrilees said, referring to the Occupy movement’s slogan.
About 360 Oakland teachers didn’t show up for work, or roughly 18 percent of the district’s 2,000 teachers, said Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint. The district has been able to get substitute teachers for most classrooms, and where that wasn’t possible children were sent to other classrooms, he said.
Embattled Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who has been criticized for her handling of the protests, said in a statement that she supported the goals of the protest movement that began in New York City a month ago and spread to dozens of cities across the country.
“Police Chief Jordan and I are dedicated to respecting the right of every demonstrator to peacefully assemble, but it is our duty to prioritize public safety,” she said.
Occupy Oakland organizers said they want to halt “the flow of capital” at the Oakland port, a major point of entry for Chinese exports to the U.S.
On Oct. 25, Oakland police acting at the request of the city’s administrator, who reports to the mayor, were asked to clear the protesters’ campsite during an early morning raid. A confrontation with marchers protesting the raid followed that night, and an Iraq War veteran suffered a fractured skull and brain injury when officers moved in with tear gas, flash grenades and beanbag projectiles.
Quan allowed protesters to reclaim the plaza outside City Hall the next day. At least six dozen tents and a kitchen buzzing with donated food have been erected on the spot since then, while the crackdown has galvanized anti-Wall Street events elsewhere and made politicians in other cities think again about interfering with their local encampments.
Occupy Seattle protesters were targeting big banks on Wednesday, KING reported.
Protesters camped outside Seattle Central Community College planned to attend a 6 p.m. rally at Westlake Park, then march to the downtown Sheraton hotel where Chase Bank CEO Jamie Dimon was scheduled to address at a University of Washington Business School event.
One protester said Dimon should hear why demonstrators are frustrated.
“You should be thankful that the taxpayers bailed you out, kept you afloat while you figured out what was going on internally, and you thank us with more fees,” said the protester, who gave only one name, David.
- In Philadelphia, police arrested about a dozen protesters who were sitting peacefully inside the lobby of the headquarters of cable giant Comcast. Officers moved in after they refused to leave. The protesters were handcuffed and led into police vans as supporters cheered.
- In Boston, college students and union workers were expected to march on local Bank of America offices, the Harvard Club and the statehouse to protest the nation’s burgeoning student debt crisis.
- Occupy LA, a monthlong 475-tent encampment around Los Angeles City Hall, is planning a march and rally through downtown LA’s financial district to express solidarity with the Oakland general strike and to protest police brutality.
- In New York, about 100 military veterans marched in uniform through Manhattan to protest what they called police brutality against the Iraq War veteran injured in Oakland.
- In Tulsa, Police Chief Chuck Jordan defended the overnight arrest of 10 protesters who refused to leave a city park about two hours after curfew early Wednesday morning. About 50 officers were involved in clearing out the park. Occupy Oklahoma City moderator Beth Isbell said in a news release that police used pepper spray while arresting protesters sitting on the ground in the park about 2:30 a.m.
In London, the leader of the world’s Anglican Christians is backing a so-called Robin Hood tax on financial transactions as one response to the global financial crisis.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in a commentary published Wednesday in the Financial Times, said “it was time we tried to be more specific” in finding answers to the vague demands represented by anti-capitalist protests outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, a demonstration inspired by New York’s Occupy Wall Street movement.
Occupy Wall Street began on Sept. 17 as an anti-corporate greed protest in the privately owned block-long Zuccotti Park, near Wall Street, and has morphed and spread over six weeks into a multinational series of protests.
NBC station KING in Seattle and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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