As I write this, the Occupy Oakland movement has reoccupied Frank Ogawa Plaza downtown and shut down the port of Oakland. A handful of anarchists in the Plaza area have stirred up confrontations with police, mostly over petty -- but aggravating -- vandalism, such as garbage fires, graffiti, and broken windows. This sort of thing mounts up, and eventually the police will have to shut it down, citing safety concerns.
The port presents a similar problem with a similar outcome. Some trucker or longshoreman is going to get hurt -- there's already a confrontation between a Mercedes driver and the crowd on the street, leading to two injured pedestrians -- and the police will step in. There was a bad scene at the port back in 2003 that injured a number of protestors and led to a number of payouts totaling millions, so the police are going to tread carefully. But that doesn't mean there isn't a chance this will end badly. I hope it doesn't.
In the aftermath, there will be a lot of analysis of what went wrong. There may be some opportunity to say that the Occupiers got their message out, and the movement had valid complaints, frustrations, etc. We'll see.
But what's important for me is that I remind the Occupy movement, the 99%ers, or whatever we're going to call it, that there are key issues and goals we can all agree on:
- Ending the Bush tax cuts exemplifies the positive outcomes that this movement should aspire to. Read James Kwak's view about this in the Atlantic.
- Go for positive change by building bridges with labor. Shutting down the port of Oakland is a step in the right direction in terms of old-style labor actions. A new, more positive action would be to fight for the card check bill (by reading the Chamber's screed against it, you can see why it's good!). It's currently dead, but could be revived. Or we could target the oppressive 1%ers like Wal-Mart. Organize Wal-Mart workers!
- Support a coherent Move-Your-Money movement, away from big banks to credit unions and regional or local banks. Make a statement with your bank statement.
- Support public-sector employment. It's a huge source of job loss in the nation over the last year. Write/email your congresspersons in support of Obama's jobs bills, especially the one that targeted teachers, firemen, and police.
- Bring back estate taxes and capital gains taxes. This is where the 1% produce their wealth. Also, tax stock options and hedge-fund loopholes. That's where the CEOs and fund managers escape taxation.
One thing I try to remember: income inequality was very high just before the Great Depression. It's very high now, leading up to the Great Recession. We lessened in greatly over a half-century. We can do it again in much the same way. Occupy your mind with that, and get to work.
Update. Oakland police did start moving in to disperse the troublemakers in masks and bandanas in the early morning hours. Fortunately the police have made a distinction between the anarchists downtown and the peaceful protestors down at the port. For now, that's good thing. Still, it's hard to see how this winds down peacefully.
|Peaceful marchers head to the Port of Oakland|
Update 3: Occupy Oakland is inspiring?