Monday, November 14, 2011

The General Strike

Yes, it's been awhile!  I've gotta be honest, my blog took a back seat in the last days before Halloween.  There was so much to do!  We had to finish cleaning the house, make a definitive plan for the feast menu, clean more, work a million hours in Berkeley, and did I mention that I had a midterm on the 31st? A MIDTERM. Because my professors don't know a holiday when they see it.  Had I not had a midterm, I would've most certainly skipped class and celebrated the hell out of Halloween, but alas, I had massive cramming to do that morning in preparation for the exam from Hell.

So yes, All Hallows Eve was a success, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself despite the academic setbacks.  It was a great Monday.

And then on Wednesday, I spent eight hours in downtown Oakland, protesting and marching for the General Strike for Occupy Oakland. I had meant to post this immediately following the strike, but I was bombarded with essays and homework, and so I saved it as a draft until now.  Many things have transpired since I wrote this (November 5th), so keep that in mind as you read it. Here it is:

I don't mean to brag, but I may or may not have been a part of history.  Say what you will about the Occupy Movement; if you were there you would understand the immense feeling of solidarity and togetherness I felt as I marched down the streets of Oakland on November 2nd for the General Strike.  I started out marching with my school, banners and posters held high, chanting "We! Are! The 99%!" and "Who's Streets? Our Streets!".  Thousands of people-- THOUSANDS-- marched together, attempting to shut down Oakland's major banks in relatively peaceful protest. When people got rowdy, we calmed them down.  It was a day for peace and resistance.  It was such an amazing feeling, being surrounded by all of those people, all protesting for different things, but prostesting together-- protesting bank foreclosures, bail-outs, the shrinking middle class and the increasing disparity between the upper class and the lower/working class, socio-economic inequality; you name it, we had a sign for it.

Kourtney met me in Downtown in time for the noon march, and we walked hand in hand as we chanted with my Mills classmates, stopping at Chase and Bank of America to protest, stopping traffic with huge masses of people, taking up 20th and Broadway, the energy bouncing of the walls of buildings and back into the crowd, gaining momentum as we continued to march on and on and on, inspired by our own spirit.  It was my first protest.  It was magical.

Five hours later, and we were marching yet again, to the Port of Oakland-- me, Kourtney, and my mom. We watched the sun set as we stopped traffic and effectively shut down the port.  We took pictures, and there was music and dancing and celebration.  As the sun dropped in the sky, I felt like I was part of something big, something beyond myself, bigger than all of the protesters combined. It felt good. I felt like I was making a difference, that I was making my presence known, and that I was finally a part of the change I wanted to see in the world. So it really grinds my gears to read about the midnight rioting and violent aftermath that took place by those who believe that the destruction of property and mindless violence are a means for getting what we want in this movement. I was so angry that my whole day there, and the day for thousands of other Oakland protesters, was overshadowed by those who saw it fit to light fires, throw objects at police, and cause general chaos in the name of the Movement.  It's counterproductive-- instead of gaining support from the general public, the Movement is seen as mindless anarchists trying to destroy our cities, and it reinforces the stereotype that the people of Oakland are all violent, shameless criminals.

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