The Occupy Oakland protests that degenerated into violent mob action on Wednesday night and early Thursday morning were entirely predictable. The vandalism, the graffiti, and the spasm of violence that resulted in an attack on police who were trying to roust at least 200 demonstrators who had occupied an abandoned building was the result of incitement by the so-called “peaceful” protestors who are now condemning the violence as if they had nothing to do with it.
The worst of the rioting occurred late on Wednesday evening as about 200 protestors occupied the abandoned Traveler’s Aid building, claiming it in the name of the people. Police feared that the protestors would set the building on fire so they formed up a few blocks away and began to move toward the protest. Hearing of the impending police action, protestors barricaded the street and then faced off with authorities. They “smashed windows, threw rocks, ignited a 15-foot-high bonfire of garbage and covered downtown storefronts with graffiti,” according to the New York Times.
Oakland — heavily unionized and with a largely liberal population — paid the price for coddling the Occupy demonstrators, allowing them to shut down the Port of Oakland through intimidation and threats of violence against workers. The port shut down was described as “peaceful” by almost every major media organ in the country. But the reason the port was shut down was not to show solidarity with the demonstrators, but because police and port authorities feared for the lives of workers as a howling mob of 3,000 protestors found some choke points and barricaded the roads that led into the port.
There, they stopped trucks going into the port, intimidated and threatened drivers, set fires to block roads, and began tossing chunks of concrete at police who apparently had orders to let them do what they wanted. Eventually, authorities decided to shut down the port and reopen “when it is safe to do so,” a spokesman said in a statement. He added, “allow your fellow 99% to get home safe to their families.” That certainly doesn’t sound very “peaceful.” In fact, it is apparent that those protestors who shut down the port succeeded in intimidating authorities by threatening violence.
Despite promises by some protestors to keep the facility closed indefinitely, by late Wednesday night, most of the demonstrators had gone home and the port was reopened Thursday morning.
Certainly the port authorities knew of the march from downtown where several dozen windows were broken, graffiti was scrawled across store fronts, and both public and private property was defaced and destroyed. Nor could authorities mistake the threatening nature of many of the signs being carried by protestors, including a large banner leading the parade that read “Death to Capitalism” as well as several signs crudely calling for death to the police.
The “General Strike” called by the protestors for Wednesday was an almost complete fizzle, according to the Wall Street Journal. On Tuesday, organizer Tim Simons predicted “tens of thousands” would “turn out for Wednesday’s general strike.” He was mistaken by several orders of magnitude as police estimated the crowd that marched at around 4,500, with about 3,000 — many of them bused in by unions — at the port.
Despite Jean Quan, the Mayor of Oakland, giving permission for city workers to join the protest if they desired, few took her up on the offer. The Longshoremen’s union reported little change in the number of members available for work. Teachers appeared to be the largest group joining the strike as 300 out of 2000 union members called in sick or asked for a day off. And almost the entire business community ignored the call to shut down, although many closed early fearing violence. The protestors did not disappoint in that regard.
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