“The people are too big to fail”: my very favorite sign from Oakland’s General Strike Wednesday — our first since 1946, which Code Pink told me was started by strikes from women retail clerks at Oakland department stores. A few of you have asked me what our November 2, 2011, General Strike was like (and i know a bunch of you were there, others are participating wherever you are). I was there for 14 hours, and it was one of the most magnificent days I’ve experienced in 42 years of activism. So many people in every direction – 20,000? 40,000? So representative of Oakland, every age and color and appearance. A stage for speakers right in the middle of the huge 14th & Broadway intersection – from 9am all day. Another nearby stage, at the ampitheatre in front of City Hall, for music, spoken word – all day. Free food and drink and t-shirts, a play area for kids, groups meditating, public art and silk-screening, a Jewish tent. Seeing colleagues and friends from 30 years ago. People with their kids, teachers taking the day off, high schoolers, union members, architects (they told us with their signs). Especially, a mood and spirit not just supremely upbeat but incredibly thoughtful, respectful, and generous. Conversations, wide smiles. And not a cop in sight. Plus the goddess was smiling on us, with weather in the 70’s, sunny and glorious. I spent much of the day with my Jewish Voice for Peace gang, carrying a sign “Occupy Oakland, not Palestine: Jewish Voice for Peace” (see attached) on one side — and “From Tahrir Square to Tel Aviv, from Oakland to Palestine: Jewish Voice for Peace supports people’s movements for justice” on the other. I pinned a smaller sign to my shirt, the words of June Jordan: “We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For.” Many folks took my photo, thanked me (and yes, a few argued about the Palestine part, showing the diversity of who was there.) I’m so thankful to the brave and bold young people in Tunisia and Cairo for what they started, risking (and some losing) their lives. A moment I’ll never forget was while marching several miles to the Oakland dock, to shut it down, the fifth largest dock in the country – a symbolic action to stop the flow of capitalism (the C word!). Approaching the docks, we climbed the freeway uphill, marching/chanting/drumming/singing/laughing, the late afternoon air sparkling and soft. At the top of the hill, a huge exultant roar rose from the crowd, and I turned around and looked back – to see an overwhelming stream of people spilling through the streets, for blocks and miles, the folks of Oakland. Taking back the streets, taking back our lives. Empowerment and sheer joy. This is what democracy looks like. I’m sure there will be setbacks, disappointments, mistakes. I was just reminded that the Civil Rights movement took ten years from the first actions until the final legislation. But I feel like this is what I’ve been working for my whole life. The people are too big to fail.
PS: If you haven’t already, please join us, even for an hour once in a while, at whatever Occupy event is near you. Talk to folks, and If you can, go to a General Assembly meeting – I bet it will blow your mind. Also, please send food, clothing and shelter to movements around the country by visiting Occupy Supply, http://firedoglake.com/2011/11/03/occupysupply-launches-first-shipment/