MEDIA ROOTS — Media Roots contributor Chris Musgrave documented and edited inspiring and moving footage in the Downtown and Fruitvale areas of Oakland to capture the festive and optimistic spirit of engaged citizenry petitioning their government for a redress of grievances on May Day, May 1, 2012, under the universal banner of the Occupy Movement and in solidarity with immigrant and non-immigrant workers—under-, unemployed, employed, organised, or otherwise—and their need for improved wages and working conditions. The decision was, apparently, made by regional Occupy General Assemblies to stand in support with labour picket lines, rather than attempt to shut down the Golden Gate Bridge, reflecting an increasing working-class consciousness among the northern California Occupy Movement.
While the event was mostly peaceful, the isolated instances of property damage were magnified by most media outlets, including public media. Also, standards of criminalising demonstrators seemed to be worsening, as even chalk writing, an activity children on my street engage in everyday, was being criminalised. And, of course, once the sun set and many were unable to continue demonstrating, Oakland police, alongside multiple police agencies began firing tear gas and taking other repressive measures to stamp out remaining demonstrators.
UPDATE (4 MAY 2012 17:55 PDT):
KPFA/PACIFICA RADIO — “Again, May Day actions have begun around the world, around the nation, and in California [today May, 1, 2012]. And in a little bit we’ll be checking in to Los Angeles. But, of course, all eyes were also, today, on San Francisco and what was gonna happen with the Golden Gate Bridge. There were previous reports about trying to shut the bridge down over the weekend. The unions said they did not want that to happen. The union is in contract dispute and trying to get contract for their workers with the Golden Gate employers. But they said, at the last moment, not to shut down the Bridge, but instead to hold a major picket.
“[Brass Liberation Orchestra plays] As the Brass Liberation Orchestra provided a soundtrack, about a hundred striking Golden Gate Ferry workers and their supporters picketed at San Francisco’s iconic Ferry Building this morning [May, 2012]. Notably, absent was the usual hustle and bustle at the Ferry terminal where boats operated by the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.
“[Sounds of Demonstrators’ Call and Response Chanting] Get back! (Get Back!) Go away! (Go Away!) Fight Back! (Fight Back!)”
(c. 13:10) “All service on the Ferries, which normally shuttle thousands of commuters and tourists from Larkspur and Sausalito to and from San Francisco, has been shut down until 2:15 this afternoon [May 1, 2012] in response to the strike.
Michael Villeggiante (c. 13:30): “They’re on strike. They’re trying to negotiate their healthcare plan. And they’re not negotiating in good faith. The deal that they have on the table is outrageously high for the working-class persons. They’ve already given concessions. And that they’re in the middle of trying to get what they need. And this is just a show of solidarity with the workers that they need to come to the table and bargain and make the deal.”
John Hamilton (c. 13:57): “[Demonstrators and Picketers Chanting] The Inlandboatmen’s Union is just one of several unions comprising the Golden Gate Labor Coalition, whose workers have gone since July without a contract. The Golden Gate Bridge District wants to force workers to pay up to 8% of their salary to cover health benefits, which are now provided free of charge. Robert Irminger is Strike Captain of today’s picket line in San Francisco.”
Robert Irminger (c. 14:23): “The workers, that are on strike today are the terminal assistants who work in these terminals, they’re jobs are up for elimination. The Bridge District last year eliminated Ticket Sellers, which has created mass confusion for, particularly, tourists trying to buy tickets from machines. And now they’re trying to do the same with the people in the terminal, who help maintain the terminal and also answer the questions for the tourists. So, that is the immediate reason we have a strike. And, of course, when those brothers put up a picket line, the other bargaining units on the Ferry boats as well as the captains belong to the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association wouldn’t cross those picket lines.”
John Hamilton (c. 15:05): “The IBU and its sister unions had initially planned an informational picket this May Day at the Golden Gate Bridge, but shifted the pickets to Ferry terminals with today’s strike. The Golden Gate Labor Coalition convinced members of the Occupy Movement to call off plans to shut down the Golden Gate Bridge and to, instead, join picket lines. Clarence Thomas is a Member and former Officer with ILWU Local 10, representing longshore and warehouse workers in the [S.F.] Bay Area. He’s also active in the Occupy Oakland Movement.”
Clarence Thomas (c. 15:34): “It’s very, very important that we take these actions today, International Workers’ Day, because this is the day, that celebrates the struggle for the eight-hour workday in this country. It’s also a day, that celebrates worker independence. Workers need to be independent. They need to be able to organise, mobilise in their own name. And they need to be able to use direct action and general strike in order to gain victory.”
John Hamilton (c. 16:00): “Now, the Occupy Movement, which you’ve been a part of in the Bay Area, had initially called to shut down the Golden Gate Bridge today. And then it changed its plans to join an informational picket when requested by the union coalition representing all the Golden Gate Bridge workers. And then that call was since changed to here.
“I do know that there was some frustration within the Occupy Movement that the large signature action was no longer going to occur today. Your thoughts on that dynamic.”
Clarence Thomas (c. 16:25): “Well, I’m like you. I just found out that there was not going to be an action on the Golden Gate Bridge last night. I don’t want to speculate, as to why that happened. But I do want to say this: The whole idea for reclaiming the history and tradition of May Day has not come from the labour bureaucracy. It’s come from the rank and file. And I would imagine that the rank and file was really the segment of the union that was really interested in taking this direct action at the Golden Gate Bridge. I would not imagine that the labour bureaucracy would have been in favour of that. And I say that because historically there’s been a great deal of influence of the Democrat Party over labour. And I believe that when we talk about taking this kind of action, this kind of direct action, it’s coming from the rank and file because the rank and file is getting pretty tired of what’s going on with labour.
(c. 17:20) “Labour in the private sector is only represented by 7% of the workforce. That’s the lowest since 1900. So, the rank and file wants to see much more direct action. The rank and file wants to see strikes when appropriate. And, as a matter of fact, that is the reason the California Nurse’s Association are going out [to strike]—4,500 nurses at nine different Sutter hospitals are going out on strike. And they will be out on strike for five days.
“So, I think that sort of like gives you some indication of what’s going on in the labour movement, in my opinion. I’m not speaking for the [ILWU] Local . These are my own thoughts.”
John Hamilton (c. 18:03): “Meanwhile, there are May Day actions across San Francisco today, including a 10am immigrants’ rights march underway in the Mission District and plans for a march to Occupy the Financial District and public sector workers, with SEIU Local 1021, plan a rally against downtown greed inside City Hall today until quote ‘they kick us out.’
“Reporting from Downtown San Francisco, I’m John Hamilton, Pacifica Radio, KPFA.”
Transcript by Felipe Messina for Media Roots and KPFA/Pacifica Radio
Photo by Abby Martin, Founder of Media Roots