Yesterday in Oakland, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to speak up for their rights and to participate in a general strike. Marches and actions took place all around the world in solidarity with the activists. I joined Occupy Austin again for their march, and then attended my first general assembly that night.
It is inspiring to watch this movement grow and spread around the world. As police (and the Department of Homeland Security, by some reports) try to shut us down, it seems like each police raid and wave of arrests only makes us bolder. The Port of Oakland, one of the top ports in the US, shut down for a full 24 hours along with major downtown Oakland branches of banks like Bank of America, Chase and Citibank.
My friend Gyesika joined me at this march, and it was immediately clear that something was different from Sunday — there was a spirit there, a sense that we could take on the world. The Spirit of Oakland was in us, undoubtedly. For the first half of the march, we were orderly and obedient protesters, staying to the sidewalks and mostly waiting for lights to change.
We marched again to the County Jail, to remind the government of our presence and because this is a place where all of our activists can gather. Despite reassurances from the city, all our arrested activists are still banned from City Hall, where our occupation is taking place. These political prisoners must gather on a traffic island across the street which has a curfew of 10pm because it is technically a park.
As we gathered at the jail, we heard from one of those prisoners who talked about what he’d realized while in prison:
And called for acts of resistance if the police come for us again. “We must link arms and not let them take us away!” he told us:
A veteran got up and told the story of Scott Olsen, a ritual that is becoming almost a sacrament to the movement. We heard from a few more speakers while I enjoyed the vibe of the crowd in the plaza. My favorite new addition to our protest is a huge banner which reads “Occupy Awesome, Texas!” It speaks to the unique flavor of our city, and our occupation so well.
When it was time to return to City Hall, one of our number got on the human mic — where the crowd repeats what one person says so all can hear. He reminded us that the first amendment is our permit and demanded that we no longer march on the sidewalk, but take to the streets. The crowd erupted into cheers.
And that’s just what we did on the return trip. We marched down the center of Guadalupe while cars backed up behind us and turned off to take alternate routes. We took the entire street, and when a cop car pulled up behind us and began to flash its lights, we were not moved. The streets belonged to the people, and we chanted: “Whose Streets? Our Streets!” and “APD! APD! Keep Your Hands Off Me!”
We returned unmolested to City Hall where it was time for dinner as angry cops glowered from around the plaza. Then we gathered for the General Assembly, back on the tiny traffic island where we agreed in consensus that the city’s offer of a “review process” was unacceptable — we would demand that all charges be dropped and the unconstitutional ban on city hall be removed:
It got cold and windy as the meeting ended, and I knew I’d have to leave.
In my last post, a friend who works for the city commented that she hates hearing the complaints of fellow workers about the occupation. Here’s the thing: Free speech is not always convenient. We’ve bought into the lie that it should be for far too long — that’s how we’ve ended up in this world of free speech zones, curfews, and permits to speak our minds. This movement comes from a people who are angry at decades of increasing injustice and decreasing rights. We will keep speaking, and I hope the world will listen.
Keep an eye on Occupy Austin for details on a planned November 5 Bank Action. Also, occupiers plan a secret action for Friday night — they’ve asked activists to attend the General Assembly at 7pm dressed all in black to participate. Follow @FlashOccupyATX on Twitter for more information.
This blog was first published on Approximately 8,000 Words. Visit the original post for a photo gallery.