Scott Olsen, a two-tour veteran of the Iraq war, suffered a cracked skull during a police crackdown on Oakland Occupy protesters Tuesday. Now, demonstrators are taking that up as a central rallying point, mulling over calling for a Nov. 2 general strike.
An Occupy protester in Oakland carried a sign saying, "Ask Scott Olsen What He Thinks about Homeland Security". The 24-year old Olsen was critically injured Tuesday night when he was hit in the head with a projectile either thrown or shot by police using tear gas to clear protesters. He suffered a fractured skull in the incident.
And although the New York Times reports that Mr. Olsen’s condition is improving, his injury and the symbolism of a Marine who faced enemy fire unscathed only to be attacked at home is resulting in a surge of sympathy, as well as calls for solidarity among the scores of Occupy encampments everywhere. The Iraq Veterans Against the War, of which Olsen is a member, say that Thursday night, camps in some major cities including New York, Chicago and Philadelphia are going to participate in a vigil for Mr. Olsen. The groups director says,
“I think people would have been outraged even had this been a civilian, but the fact that he survived two tours of duty and then to have this happen to him, people are really upset about that.”
Mr. Olsen's friends, who work with him in computer systems at a Bay Area technology company say he was eager to join the Occupy movement and headed to the San Francisco camp after work, sleeping on the streets in solidarity with the campers there. He moved to Oakland on Tuesday to take part in the demonstration there.
Jason Matherne is a fellow Iraq war veteran who met up with Scott a few months ago,
“He was loving it. I think he believed that corporate greed needs to end, and I think he felt the war economy was part of that.”
Since the skirmish in which Scott was injured, and where more than 100 people were arrested, several liberal groups including Amnesty International have condemned the use of tear gas as well as the actions of Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland, who has made it clear that she supports the how the police reacted because the protesters threw rocks at them. Ms. Quan on Wednesday announced that Oakland is a "very progressive city" that supports the goals of Occupy Wall Street.
But when the next night, some 3,000 protesters gathered in Oakland, to talk about calling a general strike next week, which was followed by a march through downtown, the police looked on, without acting.
Near City Hall, a makeshift tribute to Mr. Olsen has been put up around a flagpole, with the words “Pray 4 Scott” written in chalk on the pavement.
Forbes reports that the news about Oakland traveled around the world this week, and now some within the movement are of the belief that it provides them with a reason to escalate the protest into attempting a general strike next week, something that has not been tried in the U.S. for many years.
The last general strike in U.S. history took place in 1946 in Oakland, of all places, when 100,000 workers from 142 unions walked off their jobs. The general strike lasted until city and labor leaders settled on a compromise agreement, returning workers to their jobs a few days later.