Sweet Freedom at Occupy Oakland, General Strike


In “Gattaca” director Andrew Niccol’s new movie “In Time,” time is literally money. Somehow, humans live time free until they turn 25 and then they are literally on the clock until they die. Given a year to live, they must work, beg, borrow, and steal time to get ahead in the rat race of their time zone ghetto of Dayton. Charity exists where the poor can form a time line in hopes that the free time is not out of time.

I know I know, these puns bring a chuckle. But what if a hero emerged from the 99%? A lucky bastard that tried to help a rich fellow out, and was given a century’s worth of time for his troubles? And what if he falls in love with the richest of the 1%’s daughter? The time banker holds all the time from the manicured zone called New Greenwich. He also has a cadre of bumbling guards that try to protect his family and their ridiculous piles of minutes.

What would happen if this sharply dressed, sci-fi Bonnie and Clyde started to steal time from the man and give it to the poor in Dayton? Convinced that their dystopian society, where the masses work for the puffy few, is foolproof, the total lack of any effective security allows these futuristic heroes to do the unimaginable. “How can you steal what is already stolen?” they ask each other as they rob from the 1% and give it to the 99%? How indeed!

The No. is 4, 11/2/11

Sitting in the food court under San Francisco’s Westfield Mall, I am not sure if this reality feels safer than the one I just left. I am here now, sipping a yerba mate and waiting for a class to start up on the sixth floor. After I leave protests, the ironies of culture and style always hit me hard. No one in this food court seems to know or care about what is going on in Oakland at the moment. I can safely say that the General Strike in front of Oakland’s City Hall was hella more creative than the shoppers, students, and tourists who sit around me now and masticate their meals.

Other than being directly in front of City Hall, this action was by far the most inspirational I have ever seen. The costumes, cardboard signs, clothing styles, music, and vibe was all about making a new world possible. So cool, and oddly trendy, Occupy Oakland holds a rainbow of people and their celebratory uniqueness.

I had great conversations, danced, met strangers, and hugged old friends. I laughed, got angry, acted goofy, and got grounded by touching the earth with my hand – just like Buddha did 2500 years ago. I saw children holding signs, adults wearing clown noses, radicals hiding behind bandannas, and praying monks. I listened to James Brown, local hip hop, and random rappers, speakers, and singers. I saw the Coup’s Boots Riley instigate a huge march departure towards the Port of Oakland (where they successfully shut the whole port down). After blowing a whistle for a woman that had a sign saying “Blow the Whistle on the Fed,” two vans pulled up and started unloading grilling equipment for making dinner.

Me and David Morley and Star were told that a food line was open just past the semi-trailer with “TEAMSTERS” on the side. We walked past the trailer and saw dozens of union workers unloading food supplies by hand. They also had two well-designed posters that they were handing out. One said “This is our city and we can shut it down.” I grabbed that one and got in line for food. Fifteen minutes later I had a plate of food served by rubber gloved volunteers: bean salad, carrot salad, bread, crackers, peanut butter, dips, apples, and fruit water. Tracy Tree aptly proclaimed “the Revolution will be catered!”

Looking back on my brief visit to what a huge banner called the “Oakland Commune” (with the flipside being a gasp-inducing “Death to Capitalism”), I can’t quite get over one simple fact. It is the number four. As I exited the BART station to head up to Oscar Grant Plaza, I saw four bored BART cops. And for the rest of the day I didn’t see any more! The police were incredibly absent from the celebration. I was told that the 9am march went to banks and a bit of “smashy smashy” happened on a few widows. I asked this witness if there were any cops around that march. “None,” was his reply. I think I saw more police in San Francisco while biking to Powell Street BART than I did the whole time at Occupy Oakland. What an amazing, bold world we lived in in the Oakland Commune!


Media and the social networking shark frenzy loves the riot porn. While we frolicked in a General Strike utopia all day, the riot police geared up in some faraway location. And the “black bloc” got their destructive tactics in order. By nightfall, graffiti, smashy smashy, dumpster fires, and building occupations were in progress. Always a direct provocation for the police, the OPD and other agencies answered in kind with tear gas, rubber bullets, bangy bangy, and bean bag blasts. The PG-rated family celebrations had swung over to the darker side of the revolution. Whether or not you agree about the actions and tactics is beside the point. The second side of the coin almost always comes about out of the softer nonviolent container. Videos show the two sides in confrontation over the more destructive tactics. There will always be both, and the dialog about tactics will always continue……