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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sign in Smashed Oakland Bank Window: "We Are Better Than This"

Posted By on Thu, Nov 3, 2011 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge KATE CONGER
  • Kate Conger

We've seen many moving, inspiring, and upsetting images from yesterday's general strike in Oakland, but none that seems to capture it all as well as this shot from Kate Conger, SF Weekly's street-fashion maven and all-around good egg. Below are more of Conger's photos, as well as her report of a day that started so promisingly -- and a night that ended so sadly.

  • Kate Conger

Yesterday, Occupy Oakland held a General Strike, calling on all workers and students to

walk out, "to help shut down the city." Crowds gathered at the Occupy Oakland campsite

in Frank Ogawa Plaza (renamed Oscar Grant Plaza by its occupiers) throughout the

day to hear speeches, listen to music, eat the free food being doled out, and explore the


Over the course of the day, five separate marches departed from the plaza; one around

10:00 AM, one at noon, one at 2:00 PM, one at 4:00 PM, and a final one at 5:00 PM.

The destinations varied, but included most major banks in the area, as well as the State

Offices on Clay Street, the Whole Foods on Harrison, and the University of California

Offices on Franklin Street.

The first two marches were accompanied by a bicycle escort, who rode slightly ahead

of the protesters, stopping traffic so that they could march through the intersections.

No police presence was observed and the marches remained peaceful.

Over the course of both marches, the downtown offices of Wells Fargo and Citibank and the Lake Merritt offices of Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America were temporarily closed by protestors who sat down in front of doors to prevent anyone from entering. At 20th and Webster, two demonstrators scaled light posts to hang a banner reading "Occupy the Banks."

The third march, at 2:00 PM, was slated as the Anti-Capitalist march. As the day wore

on, many labeled these marchers as "anarchists" and blamed them for inciting the police

later in the evening, when the tear gassing began. This march was the only one during

which we observed acts of vandalism, graffiti and window breaking. Unlike the other

marches, the majority of these protestors wore black scarves and bandanas over their

faces and carried makeshift black flags.

This march visited Chase, City National Bank, Whole Foods, Bank of America, the University of California offices, and the downtown Wells Fargo, smashing windows, hurling paint balloons, and spray painting. Windows were also broken at Dryclean Time, a small business housed in the City National Bank building. Violence broke out within the group as some members rushed buildings and others tried to prevent them.

The scene at Whole Foods:


When the march reached the University of California Offices, a standoff occurred between protestors. Two unmasked men stood in front of the doors, one of them holding up his hands in peace signs, as a group of roughly 30 masked protestors hurled paint on them and threatened them. Inside the building, a group of police officers was visible, taking cell phone footage of the crowd.

The defenders:

  • Kate Conger

Next: An interview with the protesters who defended the building

We spoke with one of the paint-spattered men who defended the building afterwards, Mike Chase. He said, "I got in front of some people who were threatening violence against one of the buildings. They wanted to break the windows, and when I got in front and put up the peace sign, they said, 'You wanna get out of the way 'cause you're gonna get hurt.' I said, 'I'm not afraid.' It's a peaceful protest. I really don't care what building it is, I don't think breaking windows is helping. I think it just hurts the 99% movement."

We also spoke with a girl who marched with the protestors and defended their actions.

She said, "I don't see that as a violent act. I see what the banks are doing as violent acts."

She said that breaking the windows "sends a basic message of 'fuck the banks,' which is also the message everyone else is sending. There doesn't need to be this level of discord between one tactical strategy and another. Part of the beauty of social movements is that diversity of tactics and people being accepting and united in solidarity against the police, against the state, against the corporations, against the banks, against the 1%. That's the basic messaging and if we lose sight of that, we have fights that break out between so-called peace police and black blockers."

Other protesters from the day:

  • Kate Conger

  • Kate Conger

Next: The port and an interview with a cargo supervisor


  • Kate Conger

The final two marches of the day went from the plaza to the Port of Oakland. Crowds were estimated to be as high as 7,000 as they streamed into the port, climbing on top of 18-wheelers and blocking the gates into the port to prevent longshoremen from entering for the night shift.

  • Kate Conger

These marches were largely peaceful, although some vandalism did occur within the port. By 8:00 PM, the crowd had thinned, but people were encouraged to stay until 9:00 to make sure the port remained closed.

We spoke with a cargo supervisor who was patrolling the grounds about his opinion of the protest.

"I think it's multi-faceted," he said. "I can understand the frustration with the banks. In 2008, I lost about half of my 401k in three or four days. I feel for people. To me it's evident that when I ask people what kind of degrees they got in college, a lot of degrees they got are not necessarily employable: communications, psychology, sociology, arts. I have a degree in business and economics. It's not something I wanted to study in college, but I knew it would get me a job. I was worried about paying off my college loans, so I picked something where I knew it would be easy to pay back. But I understand the frustrations."

He asked to be identified by his middle name only, Cameron. "I've never seen anything like this and I'm glad everyone's keeping it peaceful. I can understand the frustration with the banks. In 2008, I lost about half of my 401k in three or four days. I feel for people."

Protestors slowly trickled out of the port and made their way back to the plaza. Around midnight, the police arrived, using tear gas and rubber bullets. Several arrests were made after more windows were smashed.


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About The Author

Kate Conger

Kate Conger has written for SF Weekly since 2011.


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