On Friday, October 28, 2011, a letter from the mayor of Oakland was circulated that apologized for police repression of Occupy Oakland and declared support for the upcoming general strike. And much more. A website that was an exact replica of the official Oakland city site went up and had the prank as the top story. This website has now been forced down, so the text of the prank is provided below.
This prank was done to provide a strong focus on the most important questions about the general strike, and about this movement of the 99%. It used the tactics of the Yes Men, and the ideas of the Surrealists and Situationists. The latter had the most lucid take on what it means to overturn this system – a system that is clearly not working for us – on a grand historical scale. But also on what that means in terms of our everyday lives, on the deepest levels of our mental and physical habits, including the unshackling of our imaginations.
If we continue to have enough imagination to see that we could not need the police to protect us, that we can abolish politics and economics as we know them, that we can restore vast areas to wild nature, make reparations to indigenous peoples, and create a life of ease, gaiety and pleasure for all, we will soon have a revolutionary situation on our hands. These are not “realistic demands.” They do not compute in terms of this outmoded and failing system, and its ideological framework that lives within us.
This was the point of this prank: to give a jolt of vital courage to the imagination, to break the spell of consensus reality.
The prank invites you to continue to imagine that we can not ONLY shut this city down, but take it over and run it in a wholly new way. These ideas are in the air now. Let’s take a deep breath. All power to the imagination!
Here’s the text of the original prank letter:
Honorable Mayor of Oakland
To the Citizens of Oakland
As mayor of Oakland it is my great relief to make this announcement to the public. First of all, I offer my sincere apology for ordering the
violent repression of the Occupy Oakland encampment in front of city hall
in the morning of Tuesday, October 25, 2011. It reached the height of
absurdity to use the rationale of public health and safety to justify
this, and I have had a change of heart.
The Occupy Oakland general assembly has called for a general strike on
Wednesday, November 2, 2011, and I heartily endorse this call. The Occupy
Oakland encampment was just the kind of experiment in mutual aid and
direct democracy that is needed. And a general strike could bring this to
a new level. In fact, I want to up the ante to show I’m on the right side
of history again.
Oakland was the last city in the U.S. to have a general strike, in 1946,
and it was known as a “work holiday.” This harks back to the first call
for a general strike in 1832: William Benbow’s pamphlet, “Grand National
Holiday,” in which he called a month-long strike. I propose we do that!
Now, I know a common objection to the strike call is, “who can afford to
take a day off work in these days?” Well, sometimes to be realistic you
have to demand the impossible. 90% of the work done in this society is
useless toil. We can do away with that, and turn most of the work that
really needs to be done into playful past-times. And there’s plenty of
wealth to go around. We just have to share it.
Many of you may be asking, “what is the point of a general strike?”
“Shouldn’t we focus on getting the banks regulated?” “How can we have a
strike without demands?” Well, I’ve been won over by the Occupy
Movement’s bold insistence on not making demands of authoritarian power
structures. All our problems are so inseparable. The system needs a
total overhaul. We need an unprecedented adventure in social
experimentation that will banish authoritarian power structures
altogether. I say ban the banks and abolish money. The people are
breaking out of their acquiescence. They can make decisions over their
own lives. The Occupy Oakland encampment prefigured a way of life that
makes the status quo obsolete. Instead of an exploitative system based on
the buying and selling of things and our time, let us create a life of
ease, gaeity and pleasure for all, as William Benbow originally suggested.
Let us not only shut the city down. Let us take it over and run it in a
wholly new way. Together we can make every day a holiday.
Jean Quan, Honorable Mayor of Oakland