Being at the Oakland General Strike/Day of Action for most of the day, you would think that you would be completely exhausted, but surprisingly, when 4 o’ clock rolled around to begin the march to the Port of Oakland the energy was high.

A large group had just returned from the march on the banks where the crowd had shut down the Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. Crowds of people had gathered in front of banks singing, dancing and forming chains to prevent people from coming in, thus successfully shutting down the banks for the day.

We had all returned to the corner of 14th and Broadway to cheers, chants, music and excitement as we embarked on the nearly 3 mile march to the Port of Oakland to shut it down.

We all looked around and saw the diversity of the crowd from students, babies in strollers, teachers, union members, and even an 88 year old man with a cane named EJ who had traveled from San Francisco to march in solidarity. Walking side by side with this whole group you started to feel really connected with the strangers around you who were there for a common cause — to show that people power is a strong force to make positive change.

As we kept marching, we turned a corner to cross the bridge toward the port and as we did, there was a collective gasp from everyone turning that corner as we saw the amount of people that were there. As we continued to walk up the slope of the bridge, we kept looking forward and looking back at the crowd that we were part of and it was breathtaking. Throngs and throngs of people kept streaming in with no end. It was hard to tell where it all began or ended. As we looked forward toward those famous Oakland cranes, the sun was setting and everyone was soaking in the feeling of the dawn of something new. There were embraces, smiles, excited chattering and chills running through peoples bodies as we really began to grasp the strength of our numbers.

“The change is finally here.” “We’ve made this happen.” “This is a beautiful thing, and I’m really happy to be sharing this with you.”

People were standing on top of rigs and scaffolding waving flags, cheering, singing and dancing. There were some truck drivers in their halted big rigs honking their horns in solidarity. There were drum circles, encouraging speeches being given and general joy throughout the crowd as the people shut down the Port of Oakland — the 5th largest port in the nation.

Darkness continued to set, and as 8PM approached, an announcement came through the crowd trying to mobilize more people to get to the end of the port to block the shift change. As the call came in, more people marched to the end of the port and successfully blocked the shift change and officially shut down the port that day. Success in mobilization.

As we returned to the Ogawa/Grant plaza, the energy was still high and people were reflecting on the events of the day. We all thought back on the crowds of people, the creativity of the movement and how well we all worked together to get our voices heard around the world in a peaceful manner.

Global Exchange had an amazing time connecting with our Oakland community and beyond to share in the common struggle for peace, social justice and economic equality. We are still trying to look through our loads of photos and videos and will be sharing them with you as we compile it all.

In the meantime, you can look back at all our blogs updates and read our twitter livestream as it happened.

Thank you #OccupyOakland and everyone who made this possible. A new beginning is near.

Grandpas and construction workers and students and musicians and dancers and teachers and reporters and celebrities and spiritual leaders and veterans and postal workers and mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers. (But not one cop.)

All in Oakland Calfornia. All with a purpose. They are the 99%. We are the 99%.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in Oakland today, but it did not disappoint.

I met some inspiring people:

Oakland High School Students

~Three high school students, all taking, as they described it, “a sick day.” Two of them attend public school in Oakland and claimed that most of the students from their school were taking to the streets for the general strike/day of action. The other student attends private school in Oakland. He was the only one of his friends from his school who took a “sick day.” Go figure.

~A young woman (pictured in red sweatshirt) who has been camped out in downtown Oakland for weeks now, minus the multi-day stint she spent incarcerated following the police raid. Her friends collected her bail money dollar by dollar from the occupy community.

~A mother/daughter duo on BART heading to the action. Her burp clothe said “AN OWIE TO ONE IS AN OWIE TO ALL.”

~and crowds of people chanting together: “Oakland, Oakland represent. We are the 99%!”

What do all of these people have in common? They are the 99%, and they want to be heard.

We’ll be using our website, blog, twitter account and facebook as a hub of information and live updates, so check in throughout the day. The good folks at Movement Generation have a great list of events posted here.

On November 2, 2011, Global Exchange will stand in solidarity with the Occupy Oakland (#OO) movement and the broader Occupy Wall Street (#OWS) movement to participate in the General Strike/Day of Action.

Join us on the streets (or online) tomorrow and unite with thousands to demand an end to corporate greed, bank bailouts, the gross income disparity destroying this planet and a shift to new alternatives for a peaceful and just society. We are the 99% who say enough is enough.

We know the facts, but seeing them together is staggering:

  • Unemployment is firmly mired in the double digits and growing, while the rich remain sheltered from paying their fair share of tax on earnings and capital gains;
  • The climate crisis remains unaddressed by global leaders and the U.S. Congress while President Obama contemplates whether or not to green-light the devastating Keystone XL pipeline;
  • We are heading into the 10th year of war spending (at $3 billion a week!);
  • Corporations fought hard and won Citizens United and the ‘right’ to spend unlimited funds to get candidates into office;
  • The wealthy (such as the Koch brothers) encourage corrupt Governors to end worker protections;
  • Banks and Wall Street continue getting huge bonuses (Wall Street bonuses were on average above $125,000 per person for 2010) and bailouts while the rest of us get sold out;
  • Free Trade agreements, like NAFTA, have cost the U.S. manufacturing it’s base and good jobs while in Mexico millions have lost their livelihoods. Millions of Mexicans have migrated north, while thousands of economically desperate youth back home have become victims of violence in the drug war run by the drug cartels;
  • Fewer and fewer students can afford to attend college (public university costs have risen over 8% in the last year alone), and those that do, face skyrocketing debts that would have seemed unimaginable just 15 years ago; upon graduation when they don’t see any openings in their field they head straight for a “McJob” or the unemployment line.

Enough is enough.
We support our local community.
We resist injustice everywhere.
We are the 99%.

On Wednesday, our staffed office in San Francisco will take to the streets in Oakland as thousands did during the General Strike of December 3, 1946. Our Fair Trade stores in Berkeley, San Francisco and DC will be open to support artisans in the majority world and 9.9% of store income for the day will be donated to #occupyoakland and #occupydc.

Keep up to date: We’ll be using our website, blog, twitter account and facebook as a hub of information and live updates, so check them throughout the day. The good folks at Movement Generation have a great list of events posted here.

Join us as we stand in solidarity with the 99% and demand justice, people power NOT corporate power and true democracy.

Show your support – “I AM 99%” stickers are now available. Click here to order sheets of 6, calling for: Public Health, Jobs & Justice, Tax the Billionaires, End the Wars, Public Schools and Green Jobs Now.

Catch up on movement news: At Global Exchange, we’ve been posting our observations as this movement grows, as well as blogging about our participation in various marches, rallies and our recent experience in New York at #OWS.

Here’s a list of our Occupy blog posts:

Get Occupy Updates Sent Direct to You: Subscribe to our People to People Blog here.

Just Added! Check out our photos from the Occupy Oakland General Strike/Day of Action!

Shannon Biggs directs the Community Rights program at Global Exchange.

By 5:00 am on October 25, as I was boarding a NYC-bound plane, reports of police forces raiding Occupy Oakland were beginning to filter through the local news, Twitter and Facebook. By the time I arrived at the Liberty Plaza/Zucotti Park headquarters of OWS, events in Oakland were already a main topic of conversation.

As one-day visitors to Occupy Wall Street, my fellow organizer Ben Price from CELDF and I were asked to speak and share stories from the frontlines of the grassroots movement enacting local laws that place the rights of communities and nature above corporate interests. But within me was also a keen desire to be a part of the conversation happening on Wall Street that has inspired Occupy Everywhere: Will history remember Zuccotti Park as a landmark location and this as the defining moment we took an evolutionary step forward for democracy and system change?

Indian activist Premilla Dixit, on whose invitation we had come, greeted us Wednesday morning, and walked us through the encampment, answering our countless questions and introducing us to the Zucotti Park community. Throughout the long day of activities we learned of her journey to occupy both Wall Street and Hudson Valley, NY over the last several weeks, and how she connects to the rights-based framework. Click here to meet Premilla Dixit.

Shannon Biggs and Premilla Dixit

By 10:00 am, a drizzling rain ensured many tents remained up, and the number of people walking around remained down.  Still, this is a busy place: information booths in different languages, a considerable library, sidewalk cleaning teams, press tents, and no shortage of drop-in conversations and committees already at work. Click here to see a video clip of the Occupy Wall Street site the morning we arrived. As a tourist, this would be your experience – the earnestness engagement and diversity of those gathered.  But Premilla also pointed us to the deeper human experience of life inside this crowded instant-village.

There is the occasional sign of social strain. We heard that the kitchen workers were on a bit of a mid-morning strike, feeling the pressure of a 24-hour a day operation. And we walked the corner claimed by newly released Riker’s Island inmates, whose presence has raised some security concerns among occupiers (reportedly they are directed there by prison officials).  But equally invisible to passers by, is the direct-democracy experiment at work, coursing through the community like blood to vital organs, to address concerns, meet new and ongoing needs, and organize countless working and moving parts.

By 11:30 we had met with dozens of activists, occupiers and visitors from every walk of life.  Standing at the top of the Plaza steps on the Wall Street sidewalk, surrounded by a crowd of tourists, Wall Street workers, city dwellers and occupiers I took my first words at the People’s Mic in the the staccato cadence it has become famous for. The 360 degree crowd repeats and amplifies your words to the surrounding neighborhood, drawing the curious in for a closer look. Please click here for a blog transcript and video of our presentation.

The rest of the day moved at a blurring pace faster than a New York minute — and our group was growing.  Reinette Senum, former mayor of Nevada City CA and a longtime supporter of rights-based organizing  and Democracy School, was being filmed as a visiting occupier.  She and her videographer joined us for much of the day, as well as new friends met during the presentation.  Click here to see a video clip of Reinette talking about Democracy School. We met an Egyptian student, Shimaa Helmy, who was involved in the democratic uprising in her own country, and was in the US to tell her story in hopes of strengthening efforts in Egypt and in the US. Click here to meet Shimaa. Conversations had to be kept on the move, as we walked to the next activity, and the next. Premilla took us to WBAI radio station to set up interviews, instructed us to grab a pizza slice from a truck and keep walking.

OWS organizing meeting

We were asked to give our speeches again on camera for the OWS web and suddenly it was 6 pm, time to observe and participate in the daily General Assembly meeting, in a formerly empty office directly across the street from OWS, piled with boxes, and a makeshift supermarket of dry goods and a wall rack full of winter gear.  After being on the street all day, the roomy space was quiet by comparison. The meeting itself is informal, run by consensus and a rotating facilitator  and a well organized committee structure to address each item and provide report back.  We linked up with those on the organizing team, about potential next steps.

The day ended with a solidarity march for Oakland, and I vowed to bring the spirit and stories of OWS home with me to the Bay Area.  Whatever you may think about the Occupy Movement, its full of people moving the first conversation about structural change to the spotlight in decades.  This is the most necessary conversation we could be having in our hometowns, and for the sake of system change, we need to have it peacefully, free from excessive force or violence.

Global Exchange is organizing our participation in Oakland tomorrow as part of Occupiers’ call for a citywide general strike/day of action, and if you live in the Bay Area, consider participating for a day, or part of a day or taking action in your community.  Here are some resources:

Shannon Biggs directs the Community Rights program at Global Exchange.

On October 26 I spent a chilly and drizzly day on Wall Street along with my fellow community-rights organizer, Ben Price from CELDF. We had been asked to share our experiences with those occupying Liberty Plaza. Together we spoke on the steps in the now-famous style of ‘the People’s Mic’, an altogether exhilarating experience. Below is a portion of my talk.

Liberty Street - OWS

Greetings from Global Exchange, Occupy Wall Street West, San Francisco and Oakland California, and the land of the Ohlone tribe. I am deeply honored to be here at the US epicenter of the most important thing happening in the world right now — a budding revolution for real democracy.

We the 99% are naturally diverse.
We’re young, we’re old, we cross the political spectrum, we’re urban, we’re rural, we’re the overworked, the underpaid and the unemployed. What unifies us is not just our outrage against the handful of global rule-makers who occupy OUR streets, but a common goal to change the rules.

We the 99% seek more than the illusion of democracy.
We want government in the hands of the people. We want more than the opportunity to elect the next politician to carry out the corporate agenda.

As I boarded the plane yesterday before dawn, hundreds of police forces swarmed our comrades Occupying Oakland, CA. Tear gas, rubber bullets, flash bang grenades and excessive force resulted in dozens of injuries and arrests throughout the day and into the night. I hold them in my heart as I stand here with you all today and ask you to do the same.

Other cities are also being forcibly swept, and as the cold of winter approaches, pundits question the resolve of those holding open this public space. Politicians who initially disregarded us, now desperately seek to curry our favor in an election year, hoping to move our cause from structural change to a few policy concessions to business as usual.

Some say we’re leaderless. But our truth is we’re all leaders.
The power of this moment lies in our refusal to be divided by partisan politics and to stay focused on dismantling corporate rule by taking control of our own structures of government. Rule by the people. If we can remain united in this, it is we — the 99% — that are too big to fail.

Occupiers, you have shifted the conversation – a feat that can’t be overstated. You have woken up millions of the disillusioned, and inspired them to find their own voice, their own power. We have the opportunity now to shift more than just politicians but the political and economic paradigm that places corporate interests above our shared values of justice, equality, good jobs, healthy resilient vibrant communities and ecosystems. This is our time.

Shannon Biggs speaking at OWS

Our communities are ground zero for the corporate-friendly policies of current law. Everything from the destructive Tar Sands pipeline, to GMOs and pesticides on the supermarket shelves, to big box stores, to unemployment, occurs in a real place on the map, and is experienced by real people living in a community. We are all being denied the right to determine our own quality of life and have become sacrifice zones to corporate plans of one kind or another. But that is changing.

My colleague, Ben Price of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, and I are here today to share our experiences from the front lines of the movement for community and nature’s rights. Over 125 communities (and growing) are taking control of their local government and stripping corporations of their constitutional protections. More than 600,000 people are living under these rights-based laws (and growing) in order to ban unwanted corporate activity in their midst, or to legalize and practice sustainability.

These communities have begun to understand that the specific issues that affect them cannot be solved without dismantling a structure of law, government, and culture that guarantees that corporate minorities will continue to make decisions on energy, agriculture, and environmental extraction.

This movement for community and nature’s rights isn’t about electing the “right” people – it is about exercising our fundamental right to local self-governing authority. As rights-based community organizers we assist citizens to pass local laws that assert their right to decide what happens in their community on issues of local concern, recognize rights of nature, and strip corporate so-called “rights.”

We stand on the shoulders of past peoples movements.
These movements sought to force cultural transformation, social transformation, political and economic transformation. These were movements for RIGHTS.

The Occupied Wall Street Journal

Abolitionists did not seek to regulate slave owners to be kinder to slaves. They fought for equality and to drive the rights of African Americans into law. Suffragettes did not wait for permission, they asserted their rights and broke the law to cast their ballots, as was their right. And while the lunch counter sit-ins are historically remembered in Greensboro, people in over 700 cities asserted their rights in this way, in some places for over two years. These are the defining moments of movements for rights that change unjust laws.

Rights come from creation. By virtue of being born we are all equal, Rights cannot be granted to corporations because corporations are in fact property, a legal fiction on paper, a mechanism for conducting business. Property cannot hold rights.
JUST laws are instituted to protect and uphold rights. When the law denies rights of people and nature, we can and must change the laws – they are OUR laws.

This is a defining moment.
If we truly seek change, we must become the new civil rights movement of our time. Together we can occupy Wall Street, occupy Main Street, occupy City Hall and our local governments — not just today, but everyday.
Thank you, OWS.

We were asked to give our entire 1 hour presentations again indoors for the OWS web network. It is available here in its entirety. (Its worth saying that the speeches, prepared for the format of the People’s Mic, did not feel  the same during taping, and after a few minutes quickly abandoned written text for more conversational discussion.)

Speaking in the spirit of the 99% since 1776, here are a few voices from America’s Long Revolution:

“I hope we shall crush… in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.

Thomas Jefferson, Founder and third President of the United States

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

Fredrick Douglass

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864 (7 months after the Civil War ended)

The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands – the ownership and control of their livelihoods – are set at naught, we can have neither men’s rights nor women’s rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.

Helen Keller, 1911

Now as through this world I ramble,  I see lots of funny men,  Some rob you with a six gun,  And some with a fountain pen.

Woody Guthrie in “Pretty Boy Floyd”

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism—ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, U.S. President in April 29, 1938 message to Congress.

The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.

Martin Luther King

“Daddy, what I still don’t understand is how the rich people get so rich.  They have to steal it from somebody else, right?”

Ziggy Kinoshita, seven years old in Nov, 2011

“Congress shall make no law …. abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
United States Constitution

“And Jesus  went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers.

King James Bible, Matthew 21:12