Three weeks ago, I marched with the 99 percent movement in San Francisco. I have been to marches before, but this time I went explicitly representing my new profession. I went to the protest wearing my white coat with a group of about 5 classmates. Here’s some of us with our signs on the SFist blog:
Just as the 99 percent/Occupy Together movement is broad, each of us medical students probably came to this movement from different backgrounds and with different political perspectives. However, we were united by our commitment to stand with the 99%, many of whom will be our patients, as they struggle for a U.S. and a world with a more equitable distribution of health, with access to healthy food, quality education, dignified work that pays fairly, and well-being for all. My classmate also posted about the march on her blog Immodest Witness. Before the march, we discussed whether or not to wear our white coats. There were mixed feelings in the group. In many ways, the white coat can be a symbol of power that separates physicians from our patients and the rest of humanity. However, in the context of a social movement for justice, the white coats can also a powerful symbol of our profession standing with the people who we serve. After the march, we starting reaching out to other classmates and organizing support for the movement amongst our fellow medical students. We encountered a very positive reaction and quickly grew to an informal grouping of about 35 students. People started stopping us in the hall to talk about the movement and how they could get involved.
Last week, as I prepared for a final exam, I watched from afar as the Occupy Oakland camp was raided and attacked by police. Being from Oakland, I was saddened and angered to see my friends and neighbors gassed and beaten by the police while peaceably assembling. I was especially angered to see this attack carried out under a pretext of protecting public health and safety. I was all too ready to sign this pledge by public health workers and students to support the Occupy movement. I was also deeply proud of my city that day and the next, when 3000 people nonviolently retook the plaza they had been driven from the night before. That same night, hundreds of people prevented a police raid of the OccupySF camp. Maria Del Pueblo (director of Causta Justa :: Just Cause) summed up the events of that evening: “Last night, after inspiring nonviolent street protest, and with advocacy by labor & community to the mayor, Occupy Oakland took the plaza back. Last night, after forming a human barricade of campers, community organizers, and labor leaders, Occupy SF prevented a police raid. Last night we got a taste of what it’s like to be part of a movement that is too big to fail.” I knew that I had to prioritize studying for the exam, but my heart was with the people in Oakland and San Francisco.
All of these events led up to the General Strike and port shutdown in Oakland yesterday.
The strike was called by the General Assembly of Occupy Oakland in response to the police attacks, but also as a bold strategic move to further the goals of the 99% movement. I participated in the General Strike with over 15 of my fellow medical students. Many more expressed support for our actions. This time, instead of wearing white coats, we decided to join the street medic team. This was great way for us to offer a concrete skill in service to the larger movement.
November 2nd, 2011 will go down in the history books as a victory for this mass people’s uprising. There was participation from teachers, students, labor unions, tenant organizations, immigrant justice organizations, people who are unemployed, parents, children, and so many more. I saw thousands of people in the streets of Oakland shutting down banks, distributing food, speaking out against an unjust system, and envisioning the world we want to create. In the evening an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 people marched on the Port of Oakland to shutdown that hub of global capital and to stand in solidarity with the dockworkers.
After participating in this historic moment, I am excited for what the future holds and filled with love for the capacity of this movement to imagine a better world. I plan to continue organizing future physicians to join this movement, both in our own self-interest and in solidarity with our patients and the communities we work in. Returning to school today, many people expressed interest in and support for the General Strike. I am also thrilled to hear the buzz about where this movement will go next. I have heard talk about occupying foreclosed houses to return residents to the homes they have lost to the banks. And on that note, I’ll leave you with another quote from Maria Del Pueblo:
“We had 50,000 people in the streets yesterday demanding the redistribution of wealth. If the media is so intent on reporting on broken windows instead, I’d like to take them to some streets in East Oakland, where there are rows of empty houses that Black and Latino people were foreclosed out of, with dozens of broken windows and rats living where families used to thrive.”