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Demonstrators carry out Oakland strike as protests continue

By Augie Martin and Michael Martinez
updated 8:44 PM EDT, Wed November 2, 2011
Occupy protesters gather Wednesday in Oakland as they plan for a general strike.
Occupy protesters gather Wednesday in Oakland as they plan for a general strike.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Occupy Oakland strikes appears successful as most businesses are closed
  • Organizer Tim Simons calls the planned strike a "warning shot to the 1%"
  • Occupy Philadelphia is planning a 99-minute strike
  • Protesters in Cincinnati say they are also considering striking

Oakland, California (CNN) -- Demonstrators in Oakland, California, appeared to carry out a successful strike of downtown businesses Wednesday, as most merchants and retailers shuttered their doors during a largely peaceful protest.

Unlike prior protests in downtown Oakland, no uniformed police officers were visible during the demonstrations as of Wednesday afternoon. Oakland gained national attention during a recent clash between protesters and police, who fired tear gas upon the demonstrators after they allegedly threw objects at officers, police said.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan apologized for authorities' confrontations with demonstrators. The clashes led to the hospitalization of an Iraq war veteran.

Prior to Wednesday's demonstrations, Quan stated she hoped the general strike would be peaceful. "The protestors are raising important issues that we must confront. Oakland is a city struggling with high levels of unemployment, underemployment, foreclosure and budget cuts. We all have to work together to solve these problems," she said in a statement.

Despite the absence of police officers, the department pledged to protect life and property "in the event the demonstration becomes unlawful, threatens public safety or incites vandalism or property damage," according to a statement.

About the only businesses active in downtown Oakland Wednesday were street vendors selling food.

During the protest, the air was occasionally heavy with the smell of marijuana, speakers addressed the crowd from a flatbed truck, and protesters scribbled slogans in chalk on the closed-off downtown streets.

Prior to the strike's kickoff, organizer Tim Simons called the move a "warning shot to the 1%."

The 1% is a reference to the nation's wealthiest, who demonstrators say hold inordinate sway over the remaining 99% of the population.

"Today, we're going to take that back," Simons told CNN, explaining that the group is mostly angry at the "big banks."

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Simons said Wednesday's demonstration was intended to give protesters ways to make their voices heard.

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"We can take this into the streets and into the work places," he said.

The General Assembly of Occupy Oakland, a loosely defined governing body of the protesters -- voted 1,484 to 46 last week to call the general strike, though it was unclear what the group's demands were.

"(W)e invite all students to walk out of school. Instead of workers going to work and students going to school, the people will converge on downtown Oakland to shut down the city," the group's manifesto read. "We liberate Oakland and shut down the 1%."

Occupy Oakland's strike followed a crackdown on protesters October 25, when police fired tear gas, and Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen suffered a fractured skull after being struck in the head by what protesters say was a tear-gas canister.

Occupy groups in other cities held solidarity actions to coincide with Oakland's strike.

In Seattle, five adults participating in an Occupy Seattle protest were arrested on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespassing, Seattle Police Department public information officer Det. Renee Witt told CNN.

Occupy Philadelphia was planning a 99-minute strike from noon to 1:39 p.m. Wednesday, the duration intended to symbolize demonstrators' claims to represent "the 99%."

Demonstrators gathered Wednesday in New York City's Zuccotti Park -- considered a home base for the movement -- for a 47th consecutive day.

New York City Police reported Wednesday they charged a 26-year-old Brooklyn man with sexual abuse for allegedly inappropriately touching an 18-year-old woman Tuesday evening in Zuccotti Park.

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Last week, hundreds of protesters marched in the financial district on the offices of five major banks and financial services firms, including Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase.

CNN's Augie Martin reported from Oakland. Jason Kessler, Zohreen Adamjee, and Rob Frehse also contributed to this report, written by Michael Martinez in Los Angeles.

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