The Occupy movement doesn't have a leader, but Oakland activist-rapper Boots Riley is serving as one sort of de facto spokesman for his hometown's defiant occupation, lending the collective grievances a high-profile voice.
Inspired by public gatherings in Greece and Spain, the self-described “outspoken Communist” visited Occupy Wall Street in September, went to Occupy Oakland on its first day, and performed there on the protest's fourth day. Last week, when crowds marched to retake Oscar Grant plaza after being kicked out, Riley was there with them. And today, as the Occupy movement attempts to shut down Oakland in a rare “general strike,” Boots Riley will be out marching again.
“This is just a warning,” he says of the strike, “like us flashing our guns and saying, 'This is the power that we have.' We're going to shut the city down, we're going to close the port, and from there, we're moving on.”