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November 4, 2011 - Stephen Browne
The Occupy Oakland protests have turned a tad violent the news media reports. The country's fifth largest port has been closed by demonstrators.
Some of the reports coming out of Oakland include:
After a rumor spread that the Whole Foods store had threatened to fire employees who participated in the protest, Regional President David Lannon announced on Facebook: “We totally support our Team Members participating in the General Strike today -- rumors are false!”
It didn't do him any good. Demonstrators wearing Guy Fawkes masks from the movie "V for Vendetta" trashed one Whole Foods store, breaking windows and spraypainting walls. Another Whole Foods that distributed water bottles to passersby was also attacked by masked demonstrators and forced to close.
(For those who haven't seen it, "V for Vendetta" is about a lone "freedom-fighter" battling a tyrannical Christian theocracy that has somehow established itself in England. After rescuing a young woman from the secret police the masked hero shows his moral superiority to the regime by imprisoning and brainwashing her to get her to see the awfulness of the regime, before he succeeds where the original Guy Fawkes failed and blows up the Houses of Parliament and presumably a number of bystanders.)
A Men's Wearhouse in Oakland put up a huge poster saying, “We Stand With The 99%” and announced they’d be closed that day.
Demonstrators smashed their windows.
Demonstrators also vandalized ATMs and sprayed "F***" on Christ the Light Cathedral.
The Oakland city council responded by considering a resolution in support of “Occupy Oakland” and calling on the city administration to “collaborate with protesters”.
Full disclosure, I am no stranger to massive demonstrations. For about three months in 1997 I participated in the nightly street demonstrations in Belgrade, Yugoslavia protesting the Milosevic regime's stealing of local government elections.
"Participate" might be a bit misleading. Since I returned to my apartment at night I had not choice other than to participate. Approximately 17 percent of the city's population were on the streets every night, marching, singing, and making noise with pots and pans and a variety of home-made noisemakers during "pandemonium half-hour" when the official government news was broadcast.
I used to say I just took the first demonstration going home after work. Every night we'd march past an estimated 10,000 armed paramilitaries recruited mostly from Bosnian Serbs, because they had no connection with the city's population. It was known Milosevic's wife Mira "the Red Queen" wanted the paramilitaries to fire on the demonstrators.
Apparently they couldn't find anyone willing to give the order. It was kicked downstairs as far as it could go, to a vice-chief of police, who flat refused, even after government goons gave his son a beating. So I may owe my life to a Serbian cop.
A week or so after the regime had to capitulate to the demonstrators, that cop was machine-gunned in a pizza place near my work.
During months of nightly demonstrations I didn't see any property vandalized, no windows broken, and I can't recall much spraypainting of walls.
There were however some really great posters made by art students at the university. My favorite was Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator on a Harley holding up a red card, and below the words, "Hasta la vista Communista!"
The more I see of these Occupy whatever demonstrations, the more I miss Belgrade.
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