Thursday, November 03, 2011

Occupy Oakland Closes Port and Clash With Police

Some of us remember the 1960's and the rebellion against a social status that demeaned and marginalized large portions of the American public, including but not limited to non-whites and non-heterosexuals. Marginalization extended not only to the denial of legal rights but also to economic marginalization through employment policies and outright segregation in the South. Fifty years later we are witnessing a new kind of marginalization where the entire political and economic system of the country increasingly looks to be operated to benefit a tiny portion of the overall population and where the USA is plunging in terms of opportunity for social mobility compared to other nations and the middle class finds itself sliding rapidly in some cases to lower class status. It's easy to tell people to "get a job," but with five applicants for most openings, that's easier said than done. Moreover, older members of the unemployed ranks find a severe prejudice against older workers who are labeled as "over qualified" or given some other reason for being passed over. I experienced it myself in the aftermath of being forced from a law firm for being gay - hundreds of resumes and applications got me nowhere because younger hires were seen as more cost effective. I feel for those in the "Occupy" movement because we are losing our country in many ways. Here are highlights from the Washington Post on events yesterday in Oakland, California:

Occupy Wall Street protesters declared victory after thousands of demonstrators shut down one of the nation’s busiest shipping ports late Wednesday, escalating a movement whose tactics had largely been limited to marches, rallies and tent encampments since it began in September.

As a voice over a bullhorn said “The night is not over, yet,” protest organizers told demonstrators to head back to the downtown plaza where the Oakland movement has been based for more than a month.

At the Occupy encampment across the street from City Hall, which also was the scene of intense clashes with authorities last week, the protesters started a large bonfire in the middle of a street, leading to a confrontation with the police.

Dozens of police in riot gear moved in on hundreds of protesters as the flames leapt more than 15 feet in the air from several large metal and plastic trash bins that had been pushed together. Police warned protesters to clear out before firing several rounds of tear gas and “flash bang” grenades to clear the area.

In the aftermath of the police actions, protesters with cloth wrapped around their faces to protect them from the stench of the gas marched through the area chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets.” Some marchers wore gas masks.

The nearly 5-hour protest at the port the nation’s fifth-busiest shipping port, was intended to highlight a daylong “general strike” in the city, which prompted solidarity rallies in New York, Los Angeles and other cities across the nation. The demonstrations at the port were largely peaceful and police said there were no arrests.

The Oakland protests became a rallying point for the far-flung movement last week when an Iraq War veteran was injured in clashes with police in riot gear that included multiple volleys of tear gas, reports of “flash bang” grenades and rubber bullets.

Military veterans marched in uniform in New York, angry at their dim job prospects. And parents and their kids, some in strollers, joined the Oakland rallies by forming a “children’s brigade.” “There’s absolutely something wrong with the system,” said Jessica Medina, a single mother who attends school part time and works at an Oakland cafĂ©. “We need to change that.”

“There are so many students that are trying to get jobs and go on with their lives,” said Sarvenaz Asasy of Boston, who joined the march after recently graduating with a master’s degree and $60,000 in loan debt. “They’ve educated themselves and there are no jobs and we’re paying tons of student loans. For what?”

We are not living in the America of my youth where parents could anticipate their children having better and more prosperous lives than their own. I often doubt that my own children will ever be able to come anywhere near close to the lifestyle and level of financial security my parents enjoyed. Something is indeed wrong with the system not to mention the Hampton Roads area from which educated young people are fleeing.

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