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Vol. 75/No. 43      November 28, 2011

Cops move to evict Oakland,
other ‘Occupy’ encampments
(front page)
OAKLAND, Calif.—In the early morning of November 14, hundreds of cops in riot gear descended on the Occupy Oakland campers, destroying their tents and removing them from the park in front of City Hall where many have been for over a month. Unlike an earlier raid on October 25, no injuries were reported.

Cops have moved to shut down Occupy encampments in a number of cities, including New York; Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City and Denver. Similar moves are being pursued in more than a dozen other cities, including London.

In all of these places, city officials have used issues like crime, cleanliness and safety as a pretext for the removals. In Los Angeles, police spokespeople warned they will shut down the camp on City Hall grounds because “they’ve destroyed the lawn” and are “becoming detrimental to the trees.”

Over the past few weeks, mayors and other officials from dozens of cities have conferred on how to move against Occupy encampments in national conference calls organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Police Executive Research Forum.

Three days before the Oakland raid, the city’s Police Officers Association issued an open letter to participants in Occupy Oakland, urging them to leave the camp for their own health and safety, citing a fatal shooting near the camp that the occupiers have explained they had nothing to do with.

After the predawn raid on the camp October 25, when protesters attempted to reoccupy the area, police fired tear gas, bean bag rounds and flash-bang grenades, critically wounding Scott Olsen, a Marine veteran of the Iraq war and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Outrage spread when video footage was released showing the cops tossing a projectile directly at those who came to the aid of Olsen.

Under pressure of the widespread opposition to the attack, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan withdrew the heavy police presence from the immediate area of the camp and the tents were allowed to return.

Then on November 9 cops at the University of California, Berkeley campus attacked students with clubs as they tried to defend the tents they had set up as part of “Occupy Cal.”

Videos showing the cops advancing on a peaceful line of students with arms linked led to condemnation of the cops, including by the student government.

“A lot of the students had never seen anything like that before,” Jessica Vott, a Latin American studies major who witnessed the beatings, told the Militant. “They saw what can happen if you question society.”

The cop attack came the same day as a demonstration of hundreds on campus protesting a threatened increase in tuition. A “Strike and Day of Action” has been called for college and university students on November 15 to continue the fight against the rising cost of education and cutbacks, as well as to protest police brutality.

In Oakland, in response to the October 25 attack, many thousands turned out for a day of protest November 2. Dubbed a “general strike” by the organizers, the protest attracted youth, workers and middle class people hard hit by the economic crisis from throughout the Bay Area and beyond.

Rallies were organized throughout the day, as well as marches on downtown banks. More than 10,000 marched at nightfall on the Port of Oakland, shutting it down.

Among the largely young crowd that marched to the port was Jacob Davis, 24, a veteran of the Iraq war. He told the Militant he opposed the war and was marching “because of what happened to Scott Olsen.”

Many longshore workers did not show up for work. Others left when they saw the marchers. The Militant spoke with port drivers whose trucks were surrounded by the demonstration. Most of the drivers supported the action.

After nightfall on November 2, a small grouping of individuals built fires in the street, broke windows and spray painted stores in the downtown area near the Occupy Oakland camp. The next day participants in Occupy Oakland decided to dissociate their movement from the vandalism, with some pitching in to help in the cleanup. During one of the protests, demonstrators physically forced other marchers to stop trashing a Whole Foods store.

Andrina Huxey, who was present October 25 when the cops attacked, told the Militant that before seeing the police brutality she had been thinking of using her eight years in the Navy as experience to help her get a job as a cop. “Now I know I don’t want to be part of that,” she said.

Socialist Workers Party members and supporters joined the discussions during the day of protest, stressing the need for working people to organize independently of the two parties that represent the propertied rulers, whose government is organizing assaults on working people to make them pay for the crisis of the capitalist system.

Articles in the Militant sparked discussion of how the cops are used by the bosses against workers in union struggles, as has been the case with longshore workers fighting union-busting in the port of Longview, Washington.

Annie, an unemployed construction worker who did not want to give her last name, was one of those who turned out November 13, the night before the raid, to show support for the camp. When learning that the Militant builds solidarity with union struggles, she bought a copy and said, “Union busting has to stop! That’s a quote to put in the paper.”

The November 15 move by New York police to clear our Zuccotti Park, the site of Occupy Wall Street, was described by the New York Times as a “minutely planned, almost military-style operation.” Practice runs were conducted, based on “disorder training” and counterterrorism plans, and honed over weeks.

The raid began at 1 a.m., when the fewest people were present. Arrests were made with a minimum of violence, unlike earlier assaults on protests with pepper spray and physical attacks, showing cop violence can be turned on and off when needed.

Complaints of abuse came from reporters, who were systematically barred from the park. “I’m press,” Rosie Gray, a writer for the Village Voice, told a cop who blocked her from covering the operation. He responded, “not tonight,” she said.

Adbusters, the Canadian anarchist magazine that originally proposed the encampments, said November 14 that protesters should “declare victory” and head indoors. Others said they were considering supporting “like-minded” political candidates. Eric Simpson contributed to this article.
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The dictatorship of capital  
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