Thousands of demonstrators marched in Oakland on Wednesday in support of Occupy Oakland. During the day enthusiastic crowds forced a number of banks to close, and as evening fell their numbers swelled to an estimated ten thousand as they effectively shut down the city’s maritime port. The minimal police presence at the marches confirmed the occupiers’ political victory over the police and local administration, who are now pointing fingers at each other over the fallout from their militaristic attack on the encampment at the weekend.
The New York Times report makes clear the mass support the occupiers enjoyed: “Throughout the day, the mood at the protest remained largely jovial. Ice cream vendors pushing carts joined marchers as temperatures climbed into the mid-70s. Police officials said no arrests had been made as of Wednesday afternoon. In addition to the many hundreds of city residents who joined the strike, people drove in from across the state to participate.”
Another victory for the Occupy movement took place in Albany, where New York governor Cuomo had threatened to enforce an 11 p.m. curfew on the occupiers. Albany police officials refused to go along with this arbitrarily-decided regulation, a reflection of popular pressure in support of the movement. Cuomo is particularly rankled by the comparatively small occupation because they have taken up the issue of renewing the New York millionaires’ tax, which Cuomo is determined to allow to expire in December.
The Times Union of Albany pointed out that: “What is particularly problematic about this otherwise unimposing Occupy splinter-movement is the apparent lack of political leverage the governor has been able to exercise over it, and the backlash he now faces for trying. In what one police official described as an ‘egregious abuse of power,’ Cuomo’s top aide Larry Schwartz ‘coordinated’ with Albany police officials to have an 11 p.m. curfew enforced at the demonstration, in Academy Park, which is controlled in part by the state and partially by the city.”
The New York Times gives more details of the climbdown: “Albany’s police chief, stirred by the presence of hundreds of demonstrators, including parents, young children and the elderly, had second thoughts. At the same time, Albany County’s district attorney, P. David Soares, informed the police chief and the mayor that he would decline to prosecute anyone arrested. ‘I expressed the view that if we engage, with all the colleges nearby, we could see the population triple, quadruple in a matter of hours,’ Mr. Soares said. ‘It would be a mistake to pre-emptively strike’.”
In Manhattan, angry veterans marched to protest the injury of Scott Olsen by the police raid in Oakland and asserting the right of the Occupy movement to protest under the constitution. Joseph Carter, a two-time Iraq war veteran spoke at the demonstration. “For ten years we’ve been engaged in wars that have enriched the wealthiest one percent, decimated our economy and left our nation with a generation of traumatized and wounded veterans that will require care for years to come.”
These victories are signs of the rapid growth of support for the Occupy movement; the state remains determined to stifle it, however, trying out different tactics. Insofar as the NYPD cannot contain Occupy Wall Street by force, they are attempting to subvert the political composition of the occupation by directing disturbed homeless people, drug addicts, and released convicts to Zuccotti Park.
“In These Times” writer Patrick Glennon points out that “protesters are aware of unaffiliated individuals taking advantage of some Occupy camps’ amenities. The encampment in lower Manhattan is seeking ways to distinguish between uncommitted freeloaders and legitimate participants when it comes to food distribution, opening debate on the movement’s structure and policies.”
State attempts at infiltration and the oncoming winter pose major challenges for the occupiers, and they will need as much practical support from the public as possible. Whatever else happens in the next few weeks, the developing crisis of the euro and the looming decision of the undemocratic Gang of Six to make cuts in federal entitlements are certain to inflame public opinion against government appeasement of arrogant bank CEOs. Obama intends to run for reelection on the platform of the lesser evil to the Republicans, but the pluralist movement being built by OWS against the plutocratic stranglehold on power has gone way beyond him. Issues of popular sovereignty are coming to the fore, as in Greece where a plebiscite may yet reject the draconian austerity conditions demanded by European bankers.