On Wednesday, November 2, over twenty thousand people came to Oscar Grant Plaza in front of Oakland City Hall. People began arriving at 9:00 AM and some stayed into the night. The crowd included people of all ages, all races and ethnicities, old and young, parents with their children. It seemed like everyone was there. There were nurses, teachers, carpenters, city workers, healthcare workers, transit workers, retirees and students, veterans, unemployed, small business owners, and the homeless.
It was a warm, sunny day and all of us were happy to be outside and to be together. Everyone was friendly whether they knew each other or not. People talked to each other on BART and the buses on the way there, walking together, or standing at the plaza. People talked about the problems we face and what to do about them.
It was a public assembly of tens of thousands, discussing together, eating together, sharing their lives and experiences. It seemed so natural, so right, so good! It felt like a celebration. And it was. For one day in Oakland ordinary people, those who are a part of the 99 percent, stood together in solidarity. People felt excited and overwhelmed. Everyone kept saying they couldn’t believe the number of people who had turned out to participate in this day of action.
The reasons that brought us there were many – cut wages, lay offs, unemployment, worsening working conditions, cuts to health care and other benefits, cuts to education, loss of parks and libraries and recreation centers, cuts to public transportation, foreclosures, police brutality and homelessness. It was in response to the assault that the one percent has made on our lives. People came together to stand up against those attacks and reclaim our lives and our humanity.
At 4:00 PM a group of thousands headed to the Oakland Port, the 5th largest port in the U.S., with the idea of shutting it down. Thousands more joined in at 5:00 PM and more than 20,000 demonstrated there while thousands more still remained at the plaza. The protestors were greeted by truckers, and longshore workers, who supported the day of action and were ready not to go to work. They too, are part of the 99 percent.
The shutting down of the Port could point a way forward for future actions. It is the workers of Oakland, the Bay Area, the US and around the world that do the work to make society run, produce the goods, run the communication and transportation, health and other services. And we have the power, if we organize, to shut it all down.
November 2 was a big success. Thousands of people came to a protest for the first time. It gave us a way to focus our anger and come together. It gave us a way to see that we are not isolated and alone. We felt connected that day to thousands of other people we didn’t know. November 2 gave us the chance, at least for one day, to see what a different society could be like.
Now it is up to us to decide what to do next. We all know that a one-day action is not enough. But it showed us the possibilities that we have. We are connected to our families, friends, co-workers, students at our schools and our neighbors. We can take the experience of November 2 back to our workplaces, our neighborhoods our schools, back to the thousands who didn’t participate. If thousands who came on November 2 become organizers we could build a movement that has the power not only to fight the attacks of the one percent, but to push aside their control over society for good.
With the energy, intelligence, skills and creativity of the 99 percent, we could begin the work of creating a new society. Then every day could feel like November 2 felt, for those of us who were part of the protest and celebration in Oakland!
If you would like to see how you could be involved, contact us at: ContactSpeakOut@gmail.com