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Occupy May Day: What To Look For Today

Occupy Oakland 2  

The idea of a general strike has a lot of resonance in the Occupy Movement. Last November, thousands of activists converged on Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland for a localized strike that eventually shut down the Port of Oakland. For many, it was the most iconic moment of the movement thus far. When occupiers again shut the Port down on December 12 in a coordinated West Coast action, the idea of a May Day strike was born. Since then, Occupy groups in more than 100 cities have signed on, and each with a unique set of tactics and goals. So far, those tactics have been surprisingly diverse, from anti-foreclosure occupations to marches and sit-ins, to strikes.

So what exactly is gonna go down today? It’s hard to say. Though Occupy groups in more than 100 cities have all signed on to the May Day strike, each one has a different set of goals and tactics. Some plans have been disparate and freewheeling, and some much more coordinated.

As in the fall, the two most dramatic focal points will likely be New York City and the Bay Area. In New York, plans are nothing if not ambitious. Occupiers have scheduled dozens of simultaneous picket lines in Manhattan and Brooklyn, many led by local unions like the Teamsters and the UAW. Activists also plan to occupy Manhattan’s Bryant Park throughout the day, and hold working groups, assemblies, and rallies throughout the city—some legally permitted, some not. Aptly named teach-ins like “How to Keep Your Cool and Occupy: Understanding Aggression” will also take place. Amid so many diverse actions, the eyes of a lot of media outlets and police will be on a march from Brooklyn to Union Square, and then on to Wall Street beginning at 10:30 ET.

Likewise, activists in the Bay Area have quite a lot planned. And unlike the November 2 strike, this time around, organized labor is playing a big part. Although bridge workers in San Francisco have scrapped their proposal to shut down the Golden Gate Bridge, they have no plans to return to work. Having seen negotiations with management fall apart, they plan to shutdown buses and ferries in the city as part of a larger strike. Some say blocking the bridge is altogether off the table, reports Truth Out. Likewise, unions that stopped short of endorsing the November 2 strike are calling on workers to participate. More than 4,000 members of the California Nurses Association will walk out. SEIU workers plan to occupy city hall. On the East Bay, longshoremen will shut down the Port of Oakland for the third time in six months.

In San Francisco, Occupy events will also include rallies at Delores Park in the Mission, and beginning nearby, a “Bike Cavalry” critical mass ride to the Golden Gate Bridge. On the East Bay, rallies are planned throughout Oakland, culminating in a March for Dignity and Resistance, from the Fruitvale BART station in East Oakland to Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Elsewhere, actions may be less visible on national media outlets, but no less significant. In Chicago, immigrants plan to play a major role, mirroring 2006’s extraordinary Day Without Immigrants, which also occurred on May Day. In Los Angeles, occupiers have organized a series of four bike and car caravans to the financial district from places as far flung as Santa Monica and South Central. Eventually, they hope to make downtown inaccessible. Occupy DC organizers are planning a daylong festival with teach-ins and performances to highlight the history of American labor.

Many of these actions have happened before, at various times throughout Occupy’s brief history. It’s hard to know how big tomorrow’s events will be, and yet, as Nathan Schneider of Yes! Magazine argues, there’s a good chance it’ll be something entirely new. Last October, demonstrators in over 900 cities around the world participated in actions in support of Occupy. But even then, Occupy was less than a month old, and activists hadn’t had the benefit of months of training and planning—or such extensive support from organized labor. What sets today apart is a level of coordination and planning that Occupy hasn’t seen before.

If, like us, you’re away from the coasts and other Occupy hubs but still want to follow the action, check back at Utne.com for the latest rumors, links, and second-hand commentary.

Image by Brian Sims, licensed under Creative Commons 

Sources: Occupy Wall Street, Truth Out, Decolonize Oakland, Chicago Spring, Occupy May 1st, Occupy DC, Yes!, Huffington.