California, Free Speech, Wall Street

Oakland Goes on Strike, Except for the Lawyers

The crowd was not as extreme as the massive banner suggests.

There was more excitement in Oakland yesterday, as several thousand people enacted a citywide “general strike” and marched across town and “took over” the Port of Oakland. No one is exactly sure what those quoted phrases were supposed to mean, specifically, even though crowd estimates ranged from 3,000 to 40,000.

But one thing was for sure: the Occupy Oakland crowd wanted to make a ruckus. They wanted to disrupt the city’s business as usual. And they did. Lots of businesses closed for the day, including one of my favorite coffee shops. Embattled Oakland Mayor Jean Quan recommended city employees take the day off (excluding police, who did not appreciate the snub).

At least one Oakland law firm tried to keep its motor running, although building management locked the building down like a private tiger collection.

Let’s take a look at the official memo, courtesy of an anonymous tipster….

Our tipster associate writes:

Occupy Oakland is situated in downtown Oakland (also known as City Center), where there are numerous firms and state and federal government buildings, including the federal courthouse… [W]hile my firm is not shutting down, it does seem like our building management is planning for the worst…

The associate asked that we not name the firm, because it’s a small office. But it is in the building, along with several other law offices and the federal public defenders. It’s just a block from the protest epicenter at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. The building was “on a psuedo-lockdown. There [was] only one entrance open to the lobby. And there [were] more security guards than the usual one or two.”

As the building-wide email shows, management was definitely feeling jumpy:

We are providing you with information herein that may help guide your planning efforts. All CBRE-managed buildings located in Oakland City Center will remain open with restricted access. Your employees can anticipate possible delays entering and exiting the buildings and garages. Each building will have one accessible entry point manned by a building security officer and admission into the buildings will require one of the following forms of identification that must be carried at all times while in and around the building:

Building access card;
Driver’s License;
Business Card.
Elevators will remain operational, although access will be affected should there be a need to shelter in place. All other transportation systems may be affected by the protests including BART, AC Transit, street closures and garage access. Expect delays entering and exiting the Oakland City Center streets and garages. We also encourage the use of alternate corporate office locations for all tenants (if available to you.) Should conditions deteriorate during the day, we advise all tenants to remain in the building and shelter in place.

All retailers should remove and store all portable exterior furniture/fixtures.

I love the phrases “shelter in place” and “should conditions deteriorate.” It sounds like they were preparing for a Russian invasion, not the surprisingly laid-back crowd, which contained a mix of students, union workers, older people, babies, and pregnant women:

That said, it turns out the concern wasn’t entirely unwarranted. A few bad apples — a.k.a. alleged anarchists — in the crowd broke bank windows and tagged “STRIKE” across the local Whole Foods. (Nooooooooooo!) Later in the evening, protestors were climbing on semi-trucks at the Port. Protestors almost made it through the day without tear gas. But police did launch it around midnight, after most folks had gone home.

In any case, our tipster reported defeat earlier in the afternoon: the firm’s office closed at 3:30. So I guess shutting down law offices, cafés, docks, and city bureaucrats is a victory for the protestors, though like Elie, I can’t figure out exactly what the goal is. I asked my roommate if he knew. He said, after a few cocktails, “Everyone was celebrating my mom’s birthday.”

Works for me.

Christopher Danzig is a writer in Oakland, California. He previously covered legal technology for InsideCounsel magazine. Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisdanzig or email him at You can read more of his work at

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