martedì 1 maggio 2012
Occupy May Day
Read on for a primer or jump to the latest updates.
Occupy Wall Street may have been written off by many Americans, but it's hoping to get a huge stimulus today from the 99 Percent. Organizers are expecting tens of thousands of middle-class workers to take to the streets for May Day, the international worker holiday on which the Occupy movement has pinned its hopes for a resurgence. Occupy groups and their allies in the labor, immigrants' rights, and environmental movements are planning coordinated protests in more than 100 American cities. "May Day will be the big kickoff of Phase 2 of Occupy," says Marissa Holmes, an early OWS organizer. "I think we will see a lot of people in the streets taking more militant actions than they had in the past."
May Day organizers have called for a general strike, urging sympathizers to skip work to attend marches and demonstrations. The biggest ones will likely be in Manhattan, where organizers say turnout will eclipse anything from last fall. (Here is a complete list of events). Activities include a pop-up occupation at Bryant Park; 99 Pickets at corporate targets around Midtown; a "free university" at Madison Square Park; and a 1,000-musician "Guitarmy" march to Union Square, where there will be a concert by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine. Later in the day, the occupiers will join forces with labor and immigrants' rights allies in a massive "Solidarity March" from Union Square to "the heart of corporate corruption on Wall Street." Though organizers want May Day to demonstrate Occupy's alliances with other movements, some occupy affinity groups are planning more confrontational protests. One anonymous New York-based group, for instance, has vowed to blockade a bridge or tunnel leading into Manhattan.
In California, the International Longshoremen's Union will shut down the Port of Oakland and some 4,500 members of the California Nurses Association are expected to skip work. Occupy Oakland scuttled a plan for what might have been the most controversial May Day action, ashutdown of the Golden Gate Bridge, after a coalition of striking bridge worker unions backed out. Still, California protesters plan to unveil a squat in San Francisco, hold three simultaneous marches in Oakland, and gum up traffic in Los Angeles with a Critical Mass-style protest on bicycles. Smaller Occupy groups, of course, are also planning protests in cities from Anchorage to Tucson, and any one of them could become a flashpoint.
Among Occupy's main targets will be the five largest banks, which control a greater share of the economy today than they did on the eve of the financial crisis. With dozens of bank occupations likely to happen, May Day illustrates how the movement has become better organized. But so have the banks. In New York and Chicago, they've pooled resources to gather intelligence on protesters. One security consultant likened the cooperation to elks circling against a pack of wolves.
"If the banks anticipate outrage from everyday citizens, it's revealing of their own guilt," Shane Patrick, a member of the Occupy Wall Street press team, told Bloomberg News. "If they hadn't been participating in maneuvers that sent the economy into the ditch, we wouldn't even be having this conversation."
Check back here throughout the day as events unfold. Our correspondents will be adding photos, video, and dispatches from protests on both coasts.
12:00 AM PST: It didn't take long for Occupy protestors to get out of hand in San Francisco:
Reports of property damage to cars and local businesses in the Mission district wereimmediately denounced by OccupySF, which also claimed that the perpetrators were "outside provocateurs sent in to tarnish the image of Occupy prior to the May Day actions."
8:24 AM PST: Josh Harkinson (@JoshHarkinson) tweets us the following inflatable protest toy pic from the Bay Area's Larkspur Landing ferry terminal, where striking workers have shut down the ferry system:
9:20 AM PST: At Larkspur Landing, Josh met Kerry Davis (below), a 31-year union mechanic who works on the Golden Gate Brige span. "That's my jungle gym," says Davis, who managed a few bugle calls (Charge!) for us, though he's really a tuba player. He told Josh that the Bridge District asked its workers for $800,000 in contract concessions. The union offered $2 million but wanted cap on healthcare costs, a deal breaker. "They call it premium sharing," Davis says, "but it's actually going to land on us, especially those who have families." Still, Davis was not in favor of the scuttled plan to shut down the bridge this morning. "I don't see how hurting the public is going to help our cause," he explains.
10:00 AM PST: Gavin Aronsen (@garonsen) is in Downtown Oakland covering Occupy's anticapitalist march as it goes picketing from bank to bank—Wells Fargo shut its doors temporarily, and cops in riot helmets are standing by. He ran into Scott Olsen, the former Marine who suffered a brain injury last October, when Oakland Police fired a beanbag projectile at close range, striking him in the head. It was two and a half weeks before he could speak at all, and about a month "before I was comfortable speaking," he says. Olsen, an Iraq veteran, says he's now out of formal therapy and has been focused on activities involving Iraq Veterans Against The War. He has filed a claim against the City of Oakland, which, is "already playing games," he says. "The police department is blatantly at fault." He is optimistic, he adds, because "I have the support of the people."
So, is he okay? "I'm not alright," he replies. "I'm good enough to do stuff like this." He still has PTSD from Iraq, and still has brain injury from the OPD incident. But he wasn't about to miss the May Day action. "I think today is going to be a real testing day for Occupy," he told Gavin. "I don't think people have given up on it. They're afraid to come out for several reasons." Namely, the police presence. Olsen says he's seeing fewer and fewer children on marches since start of Occupy Oakland. But, he says, "I think we're emulating the society we want to create, and I think that's the main element of Occupy."