Occupy Oakland General Strike and the Whole Foods Incident

| November 3, 2011 | 22 Comments
  • 22 Comments

I was taking photos to cover the Occupy movement’s General Strike in Oakland for KQED News on 11/2/11. I followed a few smaller contingents to document their marches including the education protest at the University of California and the Anti-Capitalist March. Here is my perspective on the situation that occurred at the Oakland Whole Foods during the Anti-Capitalist March. I have also included a couple of graphic videos by others to reveal some of the activities that took place.

STRIKE spray painted on Oakland Whole Foods window  during General Strike demonstrations
“STRIKE” spray painted on Oakland Whole Foods window during General Strike demonstrations

The Anti-Capitalist March that started from the main area surrounding Frank Ogawa Plaza as part of the General Strike ended up including Oakland Whole Foods along their route. Why Whole Foods? I don’t know if Whole Foods was originally planned as a protest destination along with financial institutions, but I got the impression that the marchers were following up on information shared by a speaker addressing the crowd at the General Strike in Frank Ogawa Plaza. The speaker told the crowd that a Whole Foods employee was told by management that his/her employment status would be jeopardized if he/she chose not to work to attend the General Strike. This information was circulating on Twitter (12:43pm) as well.

Tweet about Whole Foods Market and General Strike

[Update 11/5/11: whole foods oakland @wfm_oakland tweeted rumors are false at 2:07pm] Whole Foods Market Northern California dispelled this information as rumor on their Twitter feed (2:29pm) and Facebook page (at 2:28pm). I believe the protesters got to Whole Foods at approximately 2:40pm shortly after this information went out via social media.

Whole Foods NorCal tweet dispelling rumor about saying they would fire an employee for not working and attending General Strike

Anti-Capitalist march -- The Hunger Games
The Anti-Capitalist March before leaving the main protest area surrounding Frank Ogawa Plaza. Note food reference: The Hunger Games.

The Vegan Police
The Anti-Capitalist March en route. Note food reference: The Vegan Police.

When the marchers got to Whole Foods one protester immediately started spray painting the window of Whole Foods with the word “STRIKE.” Another protester attempted to break the window using the long pole with the black flag he/she was carrying. Conflict ensued as a protestor tried to physically stop the protester who had been trying to break the window. Andrew Stelzer reporting for KQED News shot video of this incident (see below). I moved to the periphery of the scene and took photos as a number of protesters in the contingent began to throw chairs and tables into the street, broke a window and spray painted the exterior of the building. Numerous other protesters mobilized and eventually got the protesters who were vandalizing Whole Foods to stop their activities (see TomVeeTV video below). During this incident I did not see any police in the area. This conflict was resolved within the group. The protesters regrouped, and the march moved on.

Oakland Whole Foods - Spray painting window
Protestor from the Anti-Capitalist March spray painting window at Oakland Whole Foods


Video shot by Andrew Stelzer of the incident at Oakland Whole Foods

Oakland Whole Food -- protesters throwing chairs, tables, spray painting, attempting to break windows
Oakland Whole Food — protesters throwing chairs, tables, attempting to break windows, spray painting

The massive crowd of protesters at Whole Food in Oakland during the General Strike
The massive crowd of protesters at Whole Food in Oakland — some protesters vandalized store property


TomVeeTV‘s video is quite graphic and shows the conflict between the protesters. Whole Foods incident starts right after 2:25 minutes into video

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Category: bay area, events, KQED, local food businesses, politics, activism, food safety, radio

About the Author ()

I am the Senior Interactive Producer for KQED's online Food properties. I have designed and produced food-related websites and blogs for KQED including Bay Area Bites; Check, Please! Bay Area; Jacques Pepin's websites; Weir Cooking in the City and KQED.org's Food portal. When I am not creating and managing food websites I am taking photos of Bay Area Life and designing online navigation systems. My professional education and training includes: clinical psychology, photography, commercial cooking, web design, information architecture and UX . You can find me engaged in social media on Twitter @bayareabites and on Facebook at Bay Area Bites. I can also be found photoblogging at look2remember.
  • Ben

    Even if they were mad at Whole Foods, to be violent while shoppers were inside and sitting outside enjoying their lunches, that’s just not right. They say they’re peaceful but this says so much the opposite. 99% is a big group of people. Stop picking on the innocent bystanders.

  • C Decker

    This vandalism makes me angry. So the group “resolved the problem” after the vandalism had occurred? They should have turned the vandals into the police. This Whole Foods Market makes an enormous contribution to our neighborhood. They are part of the community. WF isn’t creating the economic inequality plaguing the country, but they are supporting organic farmers, local farmers and employ a number of people in the area.

    I support the general ethos of the Occupy Movement, but do not in any way support the anarchist contingent trying to use the movement to its own end. The police should have been moving around with the protesters.

  • eclecticdeb

    I’d recommend referring to the vandals as just that — VANDALS (i.e. not protestors).

    Example: “Conflict ensued as a protestor tried to physically stop the protester who had been trying to break the window.”

    would be changed to

    “Conflict ensued as a protestor tried to physically stop the VANDAL who had been trying to break the window.”

    I may be one of the few who has issues with the “Anti-Capitalism” focus of these protests. It’s not perfect, but it allows the most personal freedom and provides opportunity for everyone.

  • hailstate

    Nice use of the N-word there after the black guy takes one of the anarchist’s flags. Hell of movement you got there, kiddies.

  • rodpeters

    time for something a little stronger than tear gas. these people serve no purpose to the advancement of mankind.

  • sherirozie

    Who are the guys in black hoods, it’s like they came just to cause problems, along with their flags. They seemed to have another agenda then most of the other protesters. And so much Cursing in your marching chant! Shameful!

  • http://freedomandlinux.wordpress.com Darth Chaos

    The black guys in hoods are most like OPD officers posing as agents provocateurs.

  • http://freedomandlinux.wordpress.com Darth Chaos

    I meant to say “The black guys in hoods are most like OPD officers posing as agents provocateurs.”

  • cath

    they need to be very careful of provocateurs …who encourage others to do “whatever” – police were no doubt WITH the march…make no mistake about it.

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  • Francis

    There is a huge misconception in this article. These people covering their faces and dressed in all back are anarchist who were NOT part of the general strike and peaceful march. They are a SEPARATE group of people who have their own agenda.

    It’s so sad to see that this article only focuses on the handful of the people who were aggression instead of the thousands of productive occupiers who were joyful, peaceful, playing music, cleaning up after vandalizes.

  • http://www.kqed.org Wendy Goodfriend

    Francis-
    The focus of this post was to share my perspective of the incident that occurred at Whole Foods and raise a few questions about why Whole Foods was a destination for the Anti-Capitalist March. The questions I hoped to raise were: Was Whole Foods originally planned as a destination for the Anti-Capitalist March? Or did the marchers go to Whole Foods based on the information heard at the main protest stage earlier — that a Whole Foods Manager told an employee they would jeopardize their job if they did not work and attended the General Strike. Did misinformation fuel this protest? How does misinformation and the ability for rumors to spread rapidly via social media affect the protest efforts? Who actually started this rumor? Have any Whole Foods employees come forward to verify this story? Was this rumor misinformation or disinformation?

    This post also focused on the divisions amongst the marchers and the struggle that ensued between them. I think both the text and the videos reveal that there were numerous protesters in this march who were attempting to preserve a peaceful protest as well as those who chose to protest through vandalizing property.

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  • http://www.stephencataldo.name Stephen

    * The OPD have done a good job of teargassing peaceful people trying to do what democracy movements in Tahrir or Tienanmen aimed to do, and an absolutely terrible job of arresting actual vandals.

    * The tear gas is the biggest recruiting victory possible for the black block — it happened this way at the WTO protests in Seattle too, where everyone remembers broken windows that happened *after* tear gas interferes with the efforts of the peace-oriented vast majority. If the police teargassed a politics-free baseball game, there’d probably be an angry reaction and broken windows the next day, too.

    * From another angle, as a friend pointed out, it makes me wonder how racist the Tea Party is, or whether 99% of them wish their wackos would go away but can’t figure out how to ban them either.

  • V L W

    You just lost my support. Vandalizing Whole Foods crosses the line. Whole Foods is a supportive organization that has done wonderful things for many communities and this was not good. This reflects on your attitudes and I don’t want any part of it. Enjoy your rioting. May you get arrested.

  • http://www.stephencataldo.name Stephen

    Dear V L W –

    I have the same feelings, but I have to ask, who just lost your support? I don’t really like slogans but “this is what democracy looks like” — and just like at the national level the vast majority of people who believe in peace and decency need to hold it together and keep speaking up in the face of disgusting behavior.

    Come to the General Assemblies and tell these white boys (that’s all I saw in the videos of the destruction) to go home. Participate in the democracy as well as the marches.

    And yes, it’s very very hard now to know what to do when protecting the Tiananmen/Tahrir style “peacefully holding our place in a city square” protest from police violence, without accidentally being transformed into protectors of people who I’d call the police on if I thought we had a sane police system. Come to the General Assembly, walk up to the people in the masks and ask them to tell their stories and try to talk them down just like we try to talk down angry police.

    There will always be provocateurs (there are many voices that think these idiots are being led by paid provocateurs for exactly what’s happening here: we need you, and you’re giving up. Neither the banks nor the movement care about a few windows. Paid provocateurs have been found at many similar events… I’m not ready to accuse OPD of doing this, but I am ready to accuse the masked boys of being indistinguishable from paid agents of the banks) I’m sure there were 20 jerks at Tiananmen, at Tahrir, at every city in the American Revolution. Speak truth to power and the abuse of power wherever you see it!

  • Howard Williams

    On November 2 we showed ourselves and the world the great power we have. After resisting eviction attempts by SFPD & OPD, we closed banks and the nation’s 5th busiest port. But with power comes responsibility. A major and urgent responsibility is to educate each other about representing our movement : You can’t represent if you hide your face.

  • C Decker

    This movement seems to be happening in the wrong place. The LAST thing downtown Oakland needs is a temporary encampment of people and sporadic violence. I feel like my whole community was attacked when Whole Foods was attacked and then more violence later the same evening.

    There are numerous small business owners who are working hard to offer an interesting and vital neighborhood for all of us to enjoy and to enrich the quality of everyone’s life here. This movement is not helping them. This movement should be in Walnut Creek or Danville where many of the 1% live. The occupy movement is not helping Oakland.

    The Oakland community deserves better.

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  • http://www.marcyswordpress.com Marcy Sheiner

    Well, I’m sure happy that I was out of the country and not at this melee. The Occupy movement looks very scary here. It’s no way to do it, they’re only going to alienate people.

  • Larry form Canada

    It would nice to see someone ripe the black hoods off some of those ….. that want to hide their identy.