Ben Margot, Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. — Oakland prepared Wednesday to again become the epicenter of Occupy Wall Street movement as local organizers aided by labor unions and advocacy groups finalized plans for a broad-based call to action that was expected to include marches, pickets outside banks, school shutdowns and an attempt to close the nation's fifth-busiest port.
Occupy Oakland participants, elected officials and business leaders expressed optimism that the widely anticipated "general strike" would be a peaceful and even unifying event for a city that last week became a rallying point after police used tear gas to clear an encampment outside City Hall and then clashed with protesters in the street.
"We are expecting the marches and demonstrations to remain peaceful, and the police department's and the city's role is to facilitate that process," city spokesman Karen Boyd said. "We have done that many times in the past. We've seen many, many instances of peaceful protests, peaceful expressions."
Along with protesting financial institutions that many within the broader Occupy Wall Street movement blame for high unemployment and the foreclosure crisis, supporters of the Oakland events are convening around grievances such as local school closures, waning union benefits and cuts to social services.
Demonstrators in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia said they planned to hold solidarity actions Wednesday.
The day's events in Oakland are expected to begin at 9 a.m., when the first of three rallies scheduled by strike organizers is supposed to kick off downtown. The activities are expected to culminate with a march to the Port of Oakland, where local protesters said the goal would be to stop work there in time for the 7 p.m. evening shift.
In between, other demonstrators, some affiliated with established community groups, said they planned to target banks that do not close for the day, convene a dancing flash mob, sponsor music and street parties, march with elderly residents and people with disabilities to the California state office building, hold youth teach-ins and takeover foreclosed homes and vacant city buildings.
Because of the activities' free-flowing and therefore unpredictable nature, city leaders said they had no idea how many people would take part or how much a disruption they could pose to residents' and workers' daily routines. Boyd said the government "will be open for business as usual" and was encouraging businesses to do the same.
But the president of the police officers' union said he was worried officers were being scapegoated by Mayor Jean Quan and "set to fail" if Wednesday's actions got unruly. "We're going to be seen as the establishment, and it's not fair to the police, it's not fair to anyone," Oakland Police Officer's Association President Sgt. Dom Arotzarena told The Associated Press.
On Oct. 25, police acting at the request of the city's administrator, who reports to the mayor, were asked to clear the protesters' camp site during an early morning raid. A confrontation with marchers protesting the raid followed that night, and an Iraq War veteran suffered a fractured skull and brain injury when officers moved in with tear gas, flash grenades and bean bag projectiles.
Quan allowed protesters to reclaim the plaza outside City Hall the next day. At least six dozen tents and a kitchen buzzing with donated food have been erected on the spot since then, while the crackdown has galvanized anti-Wall Street events elsewhere and made politicians in other cities think again about interfering with their local encampments.
Occupy LA, a month-long 475-tent encampment around Los Angeles City Hall, is planning a 5:30 p.m. march and rally through downtown LA's financial district to express solidarity with the Oakland general strike and to protest police brutality.
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