"It's not just hippies, hipsters & homeless," a minister in the Occupy Oakland camp said to me on the night of the general strike this past Wednesday. And no doubt it's true. Every time I've been down to the Occupation, I've met people from all walks of life, from lawyers to activists to teachers to florists. On Wednesday, we all marched together in solidarity with the 99% in a mass day of
action that included the first general strike since 1946 and all-day rallies in the city center.
November 2, 2011 was one of the single most beautiful days of my life. It was like a major national holiday with marches and speeches instead of parades and potlucks, but no less jubilation. I spent the day drifting among friends, meeting people, exchanging information, giving quarters to strangers - who were of course not strange at all but friendly and grateful - and accepting snacks and water from others, collecting literature (the Occupied Oakland Tribune and Oscar Grant Plaza Gazette, to name two) and feeling the mass charge of energy that accumulated in moments around the drumline marching to and through the port as we shut it down in an eerie quiet marked by minimal police presence.
I was surprised by how little noise there could be in the depths of a crowd of twenty thousand, but I think the quiet of the march to stop the flow of capital is a testimony to the power of collective assembly as well as the ecstasy of being one molecule in a mass all tuned in to the same thing and listening.
I'm frustrated that almost all of the mainstream press has focused on
the vandalism against capitalism as enacted on Bank of America and Whole
Foods and on the violence that ensued after a faction of occupiers took over a building to turn into a library/dormitory
(which of course there was a swift and violent police
response to) when 99% of the day was a totally peaceful
exhibit of true community.
Now, nearly a week later, the
things resonating with me most are 1. the amazing power of
claiming and using public space for common good and 2. a collective
sense of belonging, sharing and mutual care. The effects of collective action are not isolated. More
than ever before, I am signing petitions, talking to people, supporting
my local artists and small businesses, and finally I have re-registered
to vote. For the first time in my
life, I feel like an engaged citizen, like I belong to something.