OAKLAND, Calif. — The trouble at Oakland’s General Strike on Wednesday started almost immediately.
The General Strike was called by the Occupy Oakland general assembly a week earlier, following a violent police eviction of protestors, in which an Iraq War veteran was critically injured.
Window smashing and graffiti followed the course of protestors around the downtown area. As I arrived at 3 p.m., black bloc anarchists were defacing the front of a Whole Foods, smashing a window and tearing up the fence and cafe area in front. Other protestors stepped in to defend the store, with one man in motorcycle leathers and a bright yellow motorcycle helmet taking on a group of the black bloc-styled vanguard of the protest single-handedly at one point.
Eventually drowned out by cries of “Peaceful Protest!” and pushed by the crowd, the black-clad marchers pushed on towards the lake, and some of the people behind them slowed near the ruined front of Whole Foods to pick up and return chairs and tables. The black-bloc faction smashed the fronts of banks and tagged much of Downtown Oakland with graffiti, while other protestors yelled and fought them.
The march returned to the plaza for a scheduled action at the Port of Oakland, where the mood became lighter and calmer. The black bloc was diluted in a sea of families, union workers, teachers and the supporters of the Oakland Occupation. The plan was to shut down the the port with a march to the port starting at 5 p.m., augmented by eight or nine charter buses arranged for those choosing not to or unable to walk there.
The march to the port was overwhelming, and from the ground, impossible to count. Estimates from the police and Occupy Oakland supporters ranged from 7,000 on the probably-too-small-side to 40,000 on the definitely-too-big-side. More block party than protest, the march was punctuated with dancing and singing, children and pets running underfoot, and even a marching band playing in front of one of the port’s major entrances.