Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
The “Occupy” movement was born out of frustration with lies, gridlock, and a federal political agenda that had nothing to do with healing the economy and putting people back to work. Oakland has been the focus because the collateral violence there justifies the Right media’s bias, and their attempt to silence the 99% in the mainstream media.
There have been handfuls of comparisons to this movement and the Tea Party movement of the last three years. Usually, the media implies that the movements are not the same, are not born of the same frustrations with the system and are generally not people looking for handouts.
The Occupy Movement is not in search of any handouts. It is not particularly interested in re-distribution of wealth. It is about taking back what was taken from us: Equality and our shot at the American Dream.
The American tax payers bailed out the banks and the economy still tumbled and fell apart. The banks now refuse to do their part; they are still foreclosing on homes using deceptive business practices, they are trying to levy ridiculous fees against us and blame laws that stop them from hiding the fees.
These affronts may have been taken in stride if we were employed and not struggling to feed our families. But a great deal of the 99% are doing just that: struggling.
Many thought that the Republican/Tea Party promise of “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” during the 2010 mid-term elections might give us a path to lift us out of this economic muck. There was a great deal of fighting about austerity measures that generally had no new revenue attached. Republicans said that we needed austerity, slashing government to pay for the trillions in bills that they already rung up during the George W. Bush administration, or as a response to the financial catastrophe that Right-wing regulatory reform brought to Main Street from Wall Street.
The GOP spent weeks proposing many new laws, most aimed at lessening personal freedoms, particularly for women, with which the far Right did not agree. The remainder were attempts to roll back regulations and restrictions on the special interests which paid big money in 2010 to get Tea Party congressmen elected.
Did the new Republican majority in the House fight for jobs, though? No, they did not.
President Obama proposed the American Jobs Act on September 8th in a Joint Session with Congress. It is now early November. Still no jobs have been created.
Why not, one might ask? Because the plan will cost $447B. Any spending, any increase in the size of government, is a non-starter for Republicans. This is especially true of many Tea Party congressmen and senators who recognize that they may only be there one term, but they are determined to bring their vision of hobbling government into oblivion to pass.
Yet Mr. Obama promised that the $447B used for projects like repairing our crumbling bridges, fixing schools across the country, repairing roads and putting teachers and first responders back to work would be revenue neutral.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office,CBO, estimates that the plan as originally proposed would cause the deficit to decrease by $6 Billion over the period of 2012-2021. If the plan is adopted as modified by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, adding the “Millionaires Tax”, it would increase revenues by $453B over the period of 2012-2021.
It is an investment in the very infrastructure of our country that corporations and their wealthy managers use daily to make money to which they cannot and do not contribute normally.
According to the Washington Post, the Millionaire’s Tax is a 5% tax on the gross adjusted income of households making more than $1 million combined or $500,000 for married couples filing separately.
The vote in the Senate went down party lines. Two Democrats voted with the GOP. No one was really surprised, although many who were already angry became furious. Nearly two months after the plan was first announced, people were beginning to revolt against the 1%’s well-bought Teflon suit that keeps them from shouldering their weight as American citizens.
The Occupy Movement was born.
On September 17, 2011 the Occupy Wall Street protest began in Zucotti Park. This movement began with people dissatisfied with politics as a whole, angry that we bailed out the banks and are still losing our homes and jobs.
Over the last six weeks the Occupy Movement has spread out to cities across the world. The movements have had clashes with the police that have resulted in hundreds of arrests.
There is one Occupy group that the whole country is watching with keen interest at the moment: Occupy Oakland.
On the other side of the San Francisco Bay in California, Oakland is famous for protests where violence erupts, and police routinely either incite or escalate.
Occupy Oakland has had a series of explosive clashes with police where the recorded video of the incidents resembled the Arab Spring occurring in the Middle East more than the West Coast of the United States.
After having a dispute about the times that the protesters could occupy Frank Ogawa Plaza, a curfew was attempted by the City Government. Protestors were awakened at 5 am and forcefully ejected from the park. Police fired rubber bullets and bean bags into the crowd, injuring Iraq War Veteran Scott Olson with some sort of gas canister projectile that struck him in the head. Mr. Olsen was sent to the hospital with a fractured skull after the incident where he remained in critical condition with impairment to his ability to function normally. 
Oakland activism has had its difficulties with the police, and perhaps this movement was the spark that re-ignited a long-standing tension between the community and its police.
A Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer shot Oscar Grant on New Years Day 2009 at the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland. Grant was unarmed and restrained. The officer, Johannes Mehserle, was only convicted of involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced 2 years in prison, and then released after serving only one year. BART authorities agreed to 127 changes in transit police policy and retraining on crisis management for all officers as a result.
In 2011, though, on the other side of the bay, San Francisco had a similar incident with a BART police officer. In July, two BART Officers shot and killed Charles Hill, a homeless African-American man in possession of a bottle of alcohol and two knives, one of which was in his hand at the Civic Center Station in San Francisco. Questions as to why police, who were not named, did not use a Taser or other less lethal weapon on Mr. Hill were not resolved.
The Oakland police department has been plagued with questionable officer-involved shootings, killings, and corruption scandals. Oakland’s Mayor, Jean Quan, was herself a victim of police violence, and became the first Asian-American mayor of that city largely on a campaign to reform the Oakland P.D. The interim Chief of Police, Howard Jordan, is in place because of the myriad incidents of violent discriminatory practice that rocked the Oakland community.
This is the stage upon which Occupy Oakland is playing. The mistrust, disdain and wariness for the police had already been growing in the area. The raid on Frank Ogawa Plaza to eject the protestors forcibly was the spark that lit the flame.
On November 2, 2011, the Occupy Movement conducted a “General Strike” of Oakland. The aim was to shut down the city and one of the country’s largest ports.
The mission was accomplished. There are many estimates for the number of participants in the General Strike, with some reporting seems to vary between 3000 and 5000. However large the group was, they closed the port for that day.
There was even support from Oakland’s Mayor Jean Quan, in the wake of calls for her to resign in the wake of the Scott Olsen police attack, to allow city employees to join the strike as well. 
After about twelve hours of peaceful protest, the event was infiltrated by an anarchist group. They broke windows, and spray painted graffiti on stores and banks.
Occupy Oakland disavowed a connection with the group and many protestors tried to stop the damage while it was happening. They linked arms to keep the anarchists away from some buildings. They also returned to clean up the mess left by the splinter group.
There are those who would try to make this sound as though it were unsuccessful. There are many that wish this movement would simply go away, and that all of its for income and political equality would go away with it.
One would suspect that those who disagreed with the movement would tend to be older, well to do, suburban Caucasians, since many who dislike the movement believe that it is simply young and minorities who just want a hand out.
Occupy Oakland, with its largely poor population and recent skirmishes with law enforcement already struggling with its handling of race and poverty, may not be the best example of how diverse the Occupy movement really is.
Let’s look at a nearby community, still in the Bay Area, about 15 minutes outside of Oakland.
Walnut Creek California has a population that is 82% Caucasian. 95% of the population, 25 years old and above, have high school diplomas and 56% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The median household income is $76,522.
This is a city that is home to a Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and a Tiffany & Co. In this area, where I also happen to live, I saw the most wonderful sight that I’ve seen in some time.
Less than 100 white, middle-aged protesters, a lot for the area, protesting in front of the Tiffany’s and Neiman Marcus about being part of the 99%.
This movement has gained steam. It is not going away. It has brought people together who never would have been together. They are a reaction to our politicians and the special interest groups controlling them who are destroying the American Dream for the majority of our citizens and stepping on our civil rights.
Whether you believe it or not, you too are likely one of the 99%… Embrace it. Returning the government of this country to the people is change we all can, and should, believe in.