Protesters prepare Wednesday's general strike

November 2, 2011 1:28:14 AM PDT
The police union in Oakland goes on the attack. In an open letter to all residents they blasted the mayor for how she's handled the "Occupy" protests.

At Frank Ogawa Plaza demonstrators are preparing and making signs for Wednesday's general strike. In the meantime, there is a fair amount of hand-wringing among both business leaders and the police of the city's handling of Wednesday's event.

"We need some leadership, that's the bottom line," said president of the Oakland Police Officers Association Dom Arotzarena.

Arotzarena sent out a message ahead of Wednesday's called general strike by "Occupy Oakland." The police officer's union is directing much of its angst toward Mayor Jean Quan. They contend her flip-flop on allowing campers to re-occupy Frank Ogawa Plaza and encouraging city workers to participate in Wednesday's general strike has put officers in a terrible position.

"Our own city is villainizing the police department. That's what I see. I see us being made out to be the bad guy again. Remember this, we're just taking orders from the mayor's office," said Arotzarena.

Meanwhile, the Occupy protesters have announced they plan to march on banks and big corporations Wednesday. Quan has already said city workers can take the day off to participate, the school district is allowing teachers to take a paid personal day, the ultimate goal -- according to protesters -- is to shut down the port of Oakland.

"There's been talks of that and I think that's a high possibility, but I have no planning on the schedule of where we're going to march, but I'm pretty sure that there's a lot of people that would like to do that," protester Shake Anderson.

"We've considered this a major threat," said Joe Haraburda from the Oakland chamber of Commerce.

Meantime, the Oakland Chamber Of Commerce considers Wednesday's planned demonstrations an all-out assault on local businesses, big and small.

"We've got to have business as usual. We cannot allow ourselves to kowtow to an organization that doesn't have a clear set of objectives, from what we've seen, other than to say they want to shut down corporations and banks. That's dead wrong," said Haraburda.

BART and AC Transit are making plans to divert their normally scheduled service, if events warrant.

"We plan to offer service as close to normal as we can. Of course given the uncertainty of what may occur, we're going to play it by ear," said Clarence Johnson from AC Transit.

City officials maintain their goal is to make sure the general strike is as peaceful as possible.

When asked if things are going to be peaceful on Wednesday, Oakland interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said, "I hope so." But when asked what his officers will do if they are confronted, he said, "I can't tell you that."

Quan has not made herself available to reporters for two days, but late Tuesday afternoon released a statement that said, "I am working with the police chief to make sure that the pro-99 percent activists - whose cause I support - will have the freedom to get their message across without the conflict that marred last week's events."

All Oakland police officers have been called in from their days off for Wednesday's general strike. Jordan told ABC7 other police agencies from the Bay Area have not been asked to come to Oakland.

There is a regular city council meeting that started at 5:30 p.m. where Occupy Oakland is not on the agenda, but everyone inside City Hall expects that it will come up during the public comments portion of the meeting.

BART is warning riders of the possibility of service problems on Wednesday. The protesters have not publicized any sort of plan to disrupt BART, but if crowds near the stations get too large there could be station shutdowns or other service disruptions. BART is advising riders who use the Downtown Oakland and San Francisco stations to be particularly aware.

Teachers, labor unions prepare for citywide strike

People in Oakland are preparing to cope with whatever happens during the strike. The plans include a march on the Port of Oakland in an effort to shut down one of America's busiest cargo facilities.

One of the groups that will be feeling the effects of the strike are teachers in the Oakland Unified School District as hundreds of them are preparing to be out of the classroom.

"Tomorrow will not be a normal day, there will be a lot of excitement," said Troy Flint, the Oakland Unified School District spokesman.

And that could be an understatement. The city of Oakland is gearing up for Wednesday's call to action by "Occupy Oakland" demonstrators. Protesters are asking city employees to take the day off and merchants to close their doors in support. Among that group are Oakland teachers. The protest means dozens of educators will not be in their classrooms for the day.

"I'm a substitute teacher for pre-school," said Lai Phan, a substitute teacher.

Taking their place, will be substitute teachers like Phan. She is just one of many part-time instructors who'll be filling-in the gap. Each request for a replacement teacher is filed at the district offices. On a normal Wednesday, there are usually 20-26 substitute requests, but for this Wednesday, there already are 268.

"We are working to make sure that all the teachers that are leaving to participate in the protest file for personal leave," said Flint.

"We are part of the workers who are struggling to take care of themselves," said Josie Camacho from the Alameda Labor Council.

Alameda County labor unions support the day of action, but are suggesting that their members participate in a way that does not jeopardize their current employment status. Isa Chu, a city employee, says that as a healthcare worker, she is part of the 99 percent, serving the 99 percent and a shutdown of the city, makes her job extremely difficult to perform.

"I don't have a car, so they let me take the city car to do the home visits and I can't make it out there because I can't get to my car," said Chu.

But demonstrators don't plan to confine their protest to downtown. The occupy Oakland movement is planning to march on the port of Oakland at 5 p.m. in hopes of shutting it down before the 7 p.m. night shift. It is the fifth busiest container port in the U.S. and protestors hope to disrupt the flow of goods.

A statement from the longshoreman's union says they plan to report for work on Wednesday as usual, but they will support the protesters before and after work and during breaks, port officials, for their part, say that they welcome peaceful demonstrations, but stress that they will not allow any action that threatens workers or safety.

"Obviously in a fluid situation like this, we have to emphasize everybody's safety and security first and foremost," said Isaac Kos-Read from the Port Of Oakland.

In a bit of irony, the longshoreman's union is planning a barbeque at 5 p.m. at Frank Ogawa Plaza for the Occupy Oakland protesters.


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