Occupy Oakland may have begun as a fringe movement, but the growing crowd of supporters is now threatening to occupy a large swath of the California city, shuttering businesses and threatening a city-wide work stoppage.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, the general strike “will be the first of its kind in Oakland since 1946.”
“My voice isn’t being heard because money has silenced our speech,” one demonstrator with money taped over his mouth told ABC News.
Protesters locked arms in front of Citibank’s flagship downtown branch, trying to keep people out.
“It’s our intention not to let anyone into the bank today to do business,” said one woman.
Hundreds of teachers skipped school and joined the occupy movement today for the first time, leaving too few substitutes to keep some classes running.
The spark that ignited such widespread discontent occurred a little more than a week ago when violence erupted after police tried to clear protesters from the plaza outside City Hall.
The attempt backfired, tear gas was used and Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen was left hospitalized with a skull fracture.
Today, fellow veterans have picked up the cause and outrage in Oakland and as far as New York, where the movement began.
“I was sworn to protect the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic,” said one veteran. “And I think we have a domestic enemy right now. … I believe it’s a lot of the corporations.”
There is now a rift between Oakland police and the city’s mayor, Jean Quan.
After ordering officers to clear protesters last week, Quan now supports the movement and gave city workers other than police the day off to join the work stoppage.
In a open letter from the police union, officers accused her of sending mixed messages.
“As your police officers, we are confused,” the letter read. “Is it the city’s intention to have city employees on both sides of a skirmish line?”
The day of protests is expected to culminate with a march to the Port of Oakland, the nation’s fifth-busiest port, at 7 p.m. local time.
Protesters hope to stop “the flow of capital” at the port. Stan Woods, a spokesman for the longshoremen’s union in Oakland, said union members could view the march as a picket line and not cross it.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.