Occupy Oakland‘s call for a ‘General Strike’ drew thousands of activists to the city’s downtown Wednesday. The protests were largely peaceful throughout the day, but as evening approached some incidents of vandalism and violence among a group of anarchists were reported.
Earlier in the day, a group broke off from a main rally near the city hall plaza to picket at nearby banks during a day where activists called for a general strike.
All three banks located within blocks of the plaza were closed Wednesday, though that didn’t stop protesters from chanting and waving signs outside. Some graffiti and other vandalism was seen but no major incidents were reported.
At a Citibank branch, more than a dozen protesters blocked the entrance, some with fake $100 bills taped across their faces.
About 200 people chanted outside a Wells Fargo Bank branch at 12th and Broadway, which did not open Wednesday because of its proximity to the Occupy demonstrators downtown. Hours after the original gathering, protesters broke out some of the bank’s windows.
The branch had graffiti scrawled on its wall. The messages read, “The 1 percent won’t back down” and “Who’s robbing who?”
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Holly Rockwood said the company was open to discussing issues with Occupy Oakland leaders in the community.
A group of protesters heading toward Oakland’s Lake Merritt Wednesday vandalized a Whole Foods store at 230 Bay Place, off of Grand Avenue.
Windows were smashed, objects were tossed at the store and the word “strike” was painted in large letters across the store’s front windows shortly before 3 p.m..
Rumors had circulated on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere that Whole Foods employees risked termination if they participated in Wednesday’s general strike, but Whole Foods Oakland posted a statement on its Facebook page denying the rumors.
Police have kept a relatively low profile, as Occupy Oakland protesters began a number of marches and rallies Wednesday morning as part of the planned general strike.
Organizers had called on city residents and shop owners to skip work and shut down businesses along with the Port of Oakland in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement Wednesday – as part of a city-wide general strike.
KCBS Team Coverage Of Occupy Oakland General Strike:
Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said Wednesday afternoon that the general strike organized by Occupy Oakland has been peaceful so far, and that there have not been any arrests.
Jordan estimated that about 1,000 people were participating in rallies Wednesday in downtown Oakland, in the area of 14th Street and Broadway.
He said there is a small group of people he thinks is looking to have a confrontation with police. But he said police will try to avoid such confrontations so that they can “prevent a hostile crowd reaction.”
Mayor Jean Quan said Wednesday afternoon, “I want to thank the citizens of Oakland and the demonstrators for keeping it peaceful and orderly.”
Jordan said it was estimated that some 5,000 people will march on the port later Wednesday and that police will facilitate the march to help the group get to their destination safely.
Some Occupy Oakland protesters have vowed to shut down the port Wednesday night, but Kos-Read declined to say what action would be taken to prevent that.
“We’ll deal with that situation if it comes up,” he said.
In an open letter to the community of Oakland issued on Tuesday, port officials stressed that workers at the port are also part of the 99 percent, and that the port is interested in contributing to the civic dialogue initiated by the Occupy Oakland movement.
Earlier, parents and their kids are formed a”children’s brigade” as part of the march in downtown Oakland. About three dozen adults with toddlers and school-age children gathered Wednesday around noon in front of the Oakland Public Library for a stroller march that was to join the main protest.
Troy Flint, spokesman for the Oakland Unified School District, said Tuesday that 268 teachers requested leave in order to participate in Wednesday’s march and rallies.
The Oakland Education Association endorsed the Occupy Oakland general strike and urged members to attend the protest and hold teach-ins on the history of general strikes, OEA president Betty Olson-Jones said.
Another large group which included Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin marched Wednesday morning along San Pablo Ave. to meet up with Oakland’s gathering.
Chief Jordan said the department would ask for mutual aid from other law enforcement agencies if it becomes necessary, and that Oakland police “are prepared to protect people and property if the need arises.”
Occupy protesters started blocking traffic at 14th and Broadway, the heart of Oakland’s downtown, shortly before 9 a.m., and there was at least one confrontation between a motorist and a demonstrator.
An estimated 200 demonstrators marched to the University of California president Mark Yudof’s office in downtown Oakland Wednesday, but university police prevented them from entering the building.
Protesters instead chanted outside, saying rising tuition at California’s public universities was hurting students and that the Board of Regents is comprised of wealthy individuals who don’t represent their interests.
AC Transit had to redirect a number of its buses because of the number of protesters participating in Wednesday’s general strike downtown.
Organizers of the group No Justice No BART canceled planned actions at the 12th Street and 19th Street stations over concerns that they might prevent people from using BART to participate Occupy Oakland events.
Oakland became a national focal point of the Occupy Movement after police raided an encampment on the plaza and later clashed with demonstrators last week.
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