OAKLAND -- Thousands of people are expected on downtown streets Wednesday in the Occupy Oakland's planned general strike and mass day of action, prompting a flurry of planning by police, transit agencies, labor unions and, of course, the Occupy organizers themselves.
Organizers say to expect music and art performances, marches, bike rides and street parties throughout downtown in celebration of the "99 percent, " the proportion of the U.S. population they say lives under the financial thumb of the richest 1 percent.
Oakland rapper and Occupy organizer Boots Riley said Monday he sees the strike as "a warning shot to the 1 percent, " and that one of the goals is "to show them that we are capable of taking power back, ""by shutting down even briefly the economic system he believes is hurting countless people."
The Oakland Police Department is seeking mutual aid from law enforcement agencies in the area, just as it did for its raid on the Occupy Oakland's first camp outside Oakland City Hall on Oct. 25, said Officer Johnna Watson. a department spokeswoman.
Protesters say their plans include a march from 14th Street and Broadway to the Port of Oakland, beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Watson said OPD is coordinating with port officials to ensure public safety at that demonstration, while also "facilitating the freedom of speech and freedom to protest" that are the demonstrators' rights.
Organizers said Monday that they have not been communicating
"If you look at the level of police violence that happened to this group last Tuesday, despite that, the discipline and restraint of the crowd shows that's not why we're here,-- said Occupy Oakland organizer Tim Simons. "Right now people feel like they're winning. This is a celebration of Oakland's power. It's going to be festive and calm."
Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, who was badly hurt in the October 25 protest, continued Monday to make what doctors predict could be a full recovery. An investigation into police use of force at that protest is ongoing, and it has not yet been determined how Olsen was hurt or by whom, Watson said. The San Francisco Sheriff's Department, one of 17 agencies that lend aid to OPD at that protest, said an Internet post identifying one of its deputies as having shot Olsen with a tear-gas canister is groundless.
BART and AC Transit plan to offer regular service Wednesday, but both agencies will be monitoring events in downtown Oakland should political rallies or police actions lead to disruptions in public transit services.
"We hope the protesters will respect the other 99 percenters who use our transit system to get around," said BART spokeswoman Luna Salaver.
AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson said his agency is prepared to reroute buses that day if events make it impractical for the vehicles to travel through certain areas.
Numerous labor unions have offered informal commitment to participate in the strike, including the umbrella organization called the Alameda Labor Council as well as unions representing longshoremen, teachers, nurses and the city's civilian workers.
The board of the Oakland teachers union has endorsed the effort, encouraging its members to hold teach-ins Wednesday on the history of general strikes or to take personal leave to join the protesters. Betty Olson-Jones, the union president, said she didn't know how many people don't plan to teach on Wednesda, but based on responses she received from an email blast about the general strike, "It could be up to several hundred."
Many of the participating teachers are expected to arrange for substitutes. Olson-Jones said the district has a pool of at least 300 subs, which could potentially stretch to about 500.
Pat Kaplan, who teaches at Bridges Academy at Melrose, an elementary school in East Oakland, said she and her colleagues will not be teaching on Wednesday. They are inviting parents to march with them to the protest, she said.
On the surface the Occupy Oakland camp appeared calm Monday.
City workers and employees from nearby companies, including several who were dressed in Halloween costumes, enjoyed the warm weather and ate outside.
Occupy Oakland organizers sat in a circle under the shade of an oak tree and made plans for Wednesday's action while camp medics organized bags of medical supplies returned by the city Monday morning.
The supplies, seized in last Tuesday's raid along with other camp belongings, were returned after a letter purported to be from the camp's medical team said it would occupy the mayor's office until the supplies were returned.
Sue Piper, spokeswoman for Mayor Jean Quan, said fire inspectors visited the camp over the weekend and found no problems. Police and city officials have taken a hands-off approach to the camp since it was reestablished Wednesday.
And although the Mayor, Police Chief Howard Jordan and City Administrator Deanna Santana are publicly putting on a unified front, all is not well at City Hall.
Rumors are circulating that Santana was ready to quit because of the mayor's meddling in policing and about-face on the Occupy Oakland camp, said a source who declined to be named. The mayor was in Washington, D.C. for meetings when the protests went awry last week. She has since apologized for the police response to the protesters and allowed that some mistakes might have been made on both sides.
The city is investigating whether police violated its own crowd control rules when it fired tear gas and bean bag rounds into the crowds of protesters Tuesday night.
In 2003, more than 40 people were injured when Oakland police used less than lethal ammunition on crowds of anti-war protesters at the port. After that incident the city adopted new crowd control rules that define when and what types of less than lethal ammunition may be used. Rubber bullets are not allowed.
Although Jordan has said that Oakland police did not use rubber bullets during Tuesday night's protests, other law enforcement agencies called in to provide mutual aid may have used the less lethal ammunition even though they were supposed to follow Oakland's rules. Occupy Oakland's Facebook page identified the officer who shot the canister that hit Olsen and said he was with the San Francisco Sheriff's Department. Sheriff Mike Hennessey said 32 deputies were sent to Oakland and were assigned to 14th Street, but that they did not have the type of weaponry used during the protests.
"We were assigned to create a human barrier and hold the line, and not let people pass, "" said Hennessy, adding a deputy did bump a protester with a shield.
As far as concussion grenades, tear gas or rubber bullets, Hennessey said, "We didn't even have those weapons."
Piper said Monday that Quan continues to support Jordan and Santana, and she was focused on making sure the city was prepared for Wednesday's general strike, which some estimates have said could involve 10,000 people, including members of the SEIU, the city's largest labor union, as well as several other labor groups.
The city is going to remain open for business but employees who want to participate can use their work furlough time, not sick leave, and they have to get approval from their supervisor, " Piper said.
The protesters also plan to disrupt the night shift at the Port of Oakland. Isaac Kos-Read, director of external affairs at the port, said they are taking nothing for granted.
"Our priority is ensuring that any expression of First Amendment rights is peaceful and that everyone's safety and security is No. 1,-- said Kos-Read, adding that the port would try to engage the Occupy Oakland organizers in advance of Wednesday's strike. As far as he knows the marine terminals will not close down Wednesday night, and at least four terminals are scheduled to have container activity on Wednesday's night shift.
"The whole security equation (at the port) is complex," he said. "e'll have Oakland police outside the gates, but if the protesters come inside, it becomes an issue for the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Homeland Security. It becomes a much more severe situation."
Kos-Read said he didn't know how many port employees will join Wednesday's strike, but he figures there will be some.
"We do know that one of the four port unions, SEIU, has been actively encouraging members to participate, ""he said.
Contact Cecily Burt at 510 208-6441. Follow her on Twitter.com/csburt.