How Iraq Veteran Scott Olsen, Beaten by Oakland Police, Became a Symbol of the Occupy Movement

Yesterday, in Oakland, campaigners from the “Occupy Oakland” protest movement — part of the global “Occupy” movement inspired by “Occupy Wall Street” — staged a general strike, after calling for “no work and no school on November 2,” and “asking that all workers go on strike, call in sick, take a vacation day or simply walk off the job with their co-workers,” and that “all students walk out of school and join workers and community members in downtown Oakland.” The “Occupy” camp also said, “All banks and large corporations must close down for the day or demonstrators will march on them.”

This is how “Occupy Oakland” described the day’s events on its website:

Huge, enthusiastic, crowds swarmed through downtown Oakland with half a dozen major marches on banks and corporations that shut down Wells Fargo, Chase, Citibank, Bank of America and many others. Police stayed clear of the strikers who ranged freely, from Broadway to Grand Avenue and around the Lake. By late afternoon the crowds had swelled to over 10,000. Waves of feeder marches continued to pour into the Oscar Grant Plaza, including 800 children, parents, and teachers who had gathered at the Oakland Main Library.

The evening march to the Port stretched from downtown to the freeway overcrossing in West Oakland and thousands more protestors kept arriving as the third convergence of the day reached its peak. Over 20,000 people joined the march which made its way to the main entrance of the port and shut it down completely. Port officials confirmed that the workforce was sent home.

Although there was violence late last night between police and a minority of protestors, focusing on this misses the whole point about yesterday’s strike action, which came about as a response to violence, and not as an excuse for it — and, specifically, the violent suppression last week of the “Occupy Oakland” camp, when the police used tear gas, and fired what Reuters referred to as “crowd-control projectiles,” severely injuring one particular protestor, Iraq veteran Scott Olsen, a former member of the Marine Corps, who remains seriously ill in hospital. As Reuters explained, “Doctors and family members have declined to comment on his condition, saying last week that he was awake and communicative, though not able to speak.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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