Draft proposal to be submitted re: Diversity of Tactics (feedback welcome!)

Categories: Announcements, Open Mic, Reflections

After attending the GA this evening and watching Friday’s on the livestream, following and contributing to the various discussions on the question of whether this is (or should remain) a nonviolent movement, and seeing a lot of strong feelings being voiced but not anything being done about it in a formal way, I decided to draft this proposal. It’s largely a rip-off of a really excellent Greenpeace blog post at http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/Blog/choosing-a-diversity-of-nonviolent-tactics/blog/12093/, which contains a lot of great additional information for those who are interested.

What I think is important is getting a GA vote on the record ASAP so that (a) we all know whether future #OO events are someplace we feel safe being or not, and (b) what role #OO is going to play going forward vis-a-vis the broader Occupy movement….basically, are we going to rise to the occasion here, or aren’t we?

I realize this is long for the typical GA proposal. I also think this topic is significantly more complex than any we’ve dealt with as a community to date, and the majority of the crowd that isn’t up on the terminology deserves a bit of context. That said, I’d love feedback on cuts that you think still convey the key message here and don’t confuse people unnecessarily.

One last thing: yes, it’s going to be hard to pass ANYTHING addressing nonviolence (on the upside I think it would be even more difficult for people pushing Diversity of Tactics as an official position of #OO to get that approved) because of our modified consensus process that requires 90%+ approval. I don’t think the people who support Diversity of Tactics are even 1% of all the people who consider themselves part of #OO, but unfortunately on any given night they’re a good chunk of the crowd at the GA. SO, that means I want to make sure I have a really solid proposal text, and I also need to organize to get bodies out there to vote on it. Your help would be GREATLY appreciated with either or both of these pieces. Please get in touch at nonviolent99percent@gmail.com to share your ideas 🙂


This proposal addresses the question of Diversity of Tactics. While any successful social movement relies on a variety of tactics, the phrase “Diversity of Tactics” is often used as a byword for condoning acts of violence.

Violence relies on intimidation of the opponent, with a clear threat of destruction. It is rooted in the belief that opponents change only when they fear for themselves and their possessions. A key feature of many high-profile protests has been the government use of paid undercover agents to foment and carry out acts of violent provocation. Supporters of Diversity of Tactics consistently fail to address this question: If throwing rocks and smashing property are such powerful threats to capitalism, why does the State pay people to do it? The answer is that security forces recognize how much such tactics help them do their job: controlling and repressing protests, while justifying their enormous budgets with dramatic media images.

Nonviolent tactics are rooted in the belief that opponents can be forced to concede and change through organized mass noncooperation. This is about People Power becoming strong enough to challenge and change corporate and governmental power structures. A radical, nonviolent mass movement can impose far greater political costs on the system than a few smashed store windows. A movement that condones violence is easy to discredit, derail, and repress.

This proposal is a call for specific answers to three basic questions regarding Occupy Oakland’s potential official recognition and acceptance of Diversity of Tactics:

1. What tactics are going to be explicitly excluded? (For instance, will throwing projectiles, molotov cocktails, setting fires, etc. be rejected?)

2. How will we actually prevent the rejected tactics and behaviors from happening?

3. If rejected tactics happen anyway, how should we distance ourselves from them?

Until such time as these questions are answered by a General Assembly vote (or series of votes), in the interests of the success of the Occupy movement and physical safety of all its participants, this proposal further calls for Occupy Oakland to reject Diversity of Tactics.


102 Responses to “Draft proposal to be submitted re: Diversity of Tactics (feedback welcome!)”

  1. mizpat

    I really question whether you can actually call yourself Occupy and allow any kind of destruction or violence. This movement has been clear from the beginning in New York City that it is a nonviolent movement. Everything on howtooccupy.org is about nonviolent tactics and strategies. Everything. I would argue that the individual camps do not have the authority to “vote” for anything else and still call themselves Occupy.

  2. Tom Joad

    I knew Godwin’s Law would show up sooner or later in this debate, I just didn’t think it would come in the form of Ghandi vs. the KKK. That’s pretty laughable considering the people you’re equating with the KKK are radical leftists meaning they oppose everything the KKK stands for (white supremacy, homophobia, sexism, antisemitism, etc).

    It’s also interesting that you bring up Ghandi and MLK. See, in the end, even Dr. King characterized the VietCong as “freedom fighters” and Ghandi was so whacked out about pacifism that he opposed the tactic of striking workers blockading their job sites in order to prevent scabs entering seeing that as a form of violence. I only mention these things because if you’re going to support or oppose someone or something, you ought to know what and what it is your either supporting or opposing.

    At the end of the day, though, while I do see the logic in disavowing wanton property destruction as it is counterproductive if nothing else, I have to wonder how it will be enforced. I have personally witnessed physical assaults on people at these demonstrations in the supposed name of non-violence. It’s been so bad that a friend of mine who was banging on a trashcan lid was threatened with an “ass kicking” by a self-purported martial artist because my friend was “being violent.” Further, I’ve seen threats on this forum to the effect of, “Tackle anyone you see in black. If you see someone with a bandana on, tear it of their face. Turn these people in to the police.” Does anyone besides me see the danger in this? I mean, I want to practice non-violence as well as the next guy… But the reason I wear a bandana over my face at these demonstrations is not because I plan on smashing a window or setting something on fire, it’s so that I can soak it in vinegar in order to counter the effects of teargas… And now I have to fear for my personal safety at a supposedly non-violent demonstration because some lunatic thinks I’m in a black bloc? This is all without saying anything about the fact that not only has the GA ratified a position of non-cooperation with law enforcement.

  3. Tlahtolli


    This is what many people don’t seem to understand. As soon as people understand this, we can move past the divisive politics.

  4. Teri Pettit

    Has anyone considered just abandoning the model of having such a thing as “an official position of Occupy Oakland” for policy resolutions?

    Having a required consensus level is necessary for planning events and other group actions to take under the OccupyOakland banner, since they either happen or they don’t happen. There is no in between.

    But for non-actionable position statements, whether positions about public policy or positions about individual activities that nobody has any power to enforce anyway, any consensus level is arbitrary. If the consensus level is 80%, then 20% will feel that the resolution does not speak for them. If it is 95%, then 5% will feel that it does not speak for them. The minority, whatever it is, is always likely to feel misrepresented. And you can’t really control what individuals do even if a resolution passes at 99%.

    A public voice is necessary, but setting a cutoff for what that voice can say is an artificial constraint that may be causing unneeded strife. A less divisive, more inclusive and more transparent approach might be to post ALL the resolutions that come to a full GA vote, with an estimate of the crowd size that night and an estimate of the vote split. That way anyone interested will know what degree of support any position statement has (even the ones that fail to get 30% !!).

  5. felixx

    People are prone to getting bogged down by the semantics around the word “violence”. How about we make some clear statements specifically about property damage?

    There are some very important questions to ask and thoughtful critiques to make about property damage in specific as it relates to this movement:

    1) Is property damage an appropriate/useful tactic for this time and place? Many voices, including voices of people who believe this tactic has an appropriate place and time, have been critical about using it here and now. What purpose does it serve here in Oakland? Is it moving us toward a common goal? Is it moving us away from common goals?

    2) Who is suffering economic harm from the property damage that has happened so far? It seems to me this includes places like Citibank but also places like small, local, immigrant-owned businesses and local franchises where local managers must absorb the cost of damage. If we don’t want this consequence, then we have to think about different strategies.

    3) Who is afraid because of property damage? Small business owners? People who would want to come to OO but do not want to be near that kind of activity? Do we want to accept the consequence of a climate of fear?

    4) Does property damage put people who do not want to participate in it at greater risk? Some say the police will have disproportionate response no matter what we do. This may be true, but it seems reasonable to say that the police are especially likely to act in extreme ways when extreme property damage is taking place. So who then gets hurt? Who is at greatest risk of being arrested? How does this property damage support or endanger the encampment?

    Pretending that there is a neutral “diversity of tactics” where all tactics are working toward the same goal without the potential to harm each other is just dishonest. Some tactics drown out other voices or make their actions impossible. Some tactics are explicitly advancing different goals from other tactics.

    Hoping this gets an honest discussion tonight and that folks who support black bloc style actions can come with open ears about the ways that these actions can cause real, not just theoretical harm to those we aim to be in solidarity with and to each other.

    It’s also important to recognize that the majority does not seem to be in favor of breaking windows at protests or tagging buildings downtown. That doesn’t mean the majority should automatically overrule the minority who do want to do these actions, but it does mean that if the minority just goes ahead and does it anyway, that minority voice is drowning out the greater number of people who are opposed to it.

  6. Teri Pettit

    I agree with Susan George and Brian Sims that it is critical to “focus on what is effective and not effective for the growth and strength of this movement”, and that vandalism, even minor vandalism such as tagging the banks, is counter-effective. A small minority is giving Occupy Oakland an image as the black sheep of all the Occupations, in contrast to other cities like Occupy Portland. Many people on this page have made the same point well, so I don’t intend to belabor it.

    What seems to be somewhat missing in the discussion is a recognition that, in the minds of the “aggressive tactics” bloc, they do not perceive their tactics as BEING counter-productive. They do not share a GOAL of reaching the hearts and minds of the 99% who are currently or potentially in sympathy with the movement, because they believe most of the 99% are so wrapped in their cocoons of apathy and indoctrination by the machine that oppresses them that they will never wake up.

    If one believes a goal of mass public support to be inherently unattainable, then arguments about what actions turn off the silent majority are, to them, like arguing about how to best get a whale on land.

    They see the injustices that Occupy is about fighting, but they think ultimately, the only way that the injustice will ever end is to remove the oppressors by force.

    The only way you will ever have hopes of arguing WITH them is to debate on which perception of the achievable corresponds to reality. Arguments that start with the assumption that overthrowing a power elite by non-violent means is possible won’t work with someone starting from the stance that it is not.

    In the meantime, better to work on getting that 90% presence in the GA.

  7. Clevelumbus

    The thing people have to ask them self when it comes to property damage/vandalism – is the psychological violence that is being committed against those who are not expecting it. The people inside of Whole Foods for instance, had to be completely freaked out not knowing what was going on – especially children.

    I am not a pacifist by a long shot, but when you damage property/vandalize you have to think of who it is directly affecting, as opposed to who you want it to indirectly affect (the large corporations and banks).

    I think monkey-wrenching needs to be supported more, as well as the creative vandalism of billboards. It is not yet time for breaking windows and setting fires – we will all know when that time is, and it’s a natural part of a revolution, but we need to be getting the good police, city, and everyone else in the community on the side of the 99% first. We need organization and patience in some tactics to get the most out of it.

    What I keep hearing over and over is that Wednesday night/Thursday morning was the time to attack and go ape shit, and that we might not get another chance. That is so wrong and short sighted. This movement is here to stay, for months if not years. Start organizing these tactics for next summer, now is simply not the time.

  8. Brian Sims

    It’s not “violent” to take over a city park unless you do it by using violence. It’s not “violent” to deprive a bank of possession of a foreclosed home, unless you do it by violence. You can do each of these things violently, or you can do them nonviolently. Passive resistance, linking arms and sitting down in front of a home, is not violent. Throwing rocks and bottles at sheriffs who arrive to evict the tenant is violent.

    Imo we shouldn’t get sidetracked trying to enlighten people over whether the system perpetrates violence against the people when the immediate problem is that the movement is being ruined by a few who are destroying our popular support by throwing things, breaking windows, and setting fires. “Violence” in the immediate context is just a working term for vandalism and physical attacks against persons.

  9. think!

    All eyes are on NEGATIVELY on us. What purpose does that serve if we are trying to change this country?

    As long as public perception of Occupy Oakland is negative, no one will listen to us. We will loose all credibility. So what’s the point?

  10. Nemo

    Oh, I don’t think that we’re the only ones who should be putting careful thought into the definition of violence (or the deleterious impact it has on the movement).

    Nor do I think we should shy away from condemning ill conceived acts of violence or vandalism as they occur.

    However, at the moment we are the ones calling for a change in policy and we are the ones who will need to decide how to respond (and what we’d be prepared to surrender) in order to enforce such a policy.

    At the very least, requiring all actions to go through the GA will result in a massive drain on initiative. If every teach in, speak out, march, picket, guerrilla performance, etc. requires prior approval we’re either going to have devilishly long GAs, fewer actions, or more people ignoring the GA altogether.

  11. mizpat

    exactly to the point on the counterproductive argument. and i like the idea someone had of forming a blockade, though i would form it to keep them inside the crowd, rather than prevent them from rejoining the crowd, to try to prevent their damage in the first place. a construction friend said the “power paint sprayer” the guy used to paint “STRIKE” on the Whole Foods building “looked like a 2 1/2 gallon stainless steel pressurized water fire extinguisher filled with thinned white enamel paint,” not a graffiti sprayer at all. that’s why he was able to paint 12-foot letters in seconds. who are these people?

  12. Nemo


    I get your point, but I respectfully disagree.

    If it’s “violent” to take over a city park, we should all pack up and go home because a non-violent occupation would be impossible.

    If it’s “violent” to deprive a bank or collection agency of its property, we might as well give up on foreclosure and eviction prevention actions.

    If non-violence is critical to building public support (and I agree that it is), then it’s essential for us to understand where “violence” begins (both in our own minds and in society at large).

  13. Nemo

    Agreed. But there are ways we can distance ourselves from ineffective acts of violence (and vandalism) without permanently binding our hands.

    I’m not prepared to condemn guerrilla art (vandalism) just because someone broke a window (also vandalism).

    I would probably support a statement that includes the following elements:

    1) The identities of the groups (not their members) that were involved in breaking windows.
    2) Ownership of the OO goals that these groups of vandals were probably trying to advance.
    3) A condemnation of the specific acts of storefront damage – highlighting that these acts did not serve to further OO’s goals (reiterate goals of OO)
    4) A reminder that these groups operate autonomously from the OO GA.
    5) A thank you to those members of the occupation who helped clean up the damage.
    6) A call to action for anyone wishing to ensure that OO continue to employ non-violent actions that they take steps to initiate these actions themselves (perhaps with a link to where guidelines for submitting a proposal or announcing an action are outlined).

  14. David Heatherly

    That’s pretty much it. It’s starting to be hard to vocally support Occupy Oakland in my workplace or even among my close friends. Instead of them slowly joining up, they are turning more and more against it and I don’t blame them. The lack of accountability or responsibility for the vandalism and our inability to condemn vandalism/violence is making it easy for people to turn the other way and ignore us.

  15. Brian Sims

    Your questions are irrelevant. We all know that our oppressors use violence. And we all know that it may be morally justifiable to use violence to defend against oppression. So what? They have overwhelming force on their side. You aren’t going to overthrow them by chucking rocks at police or by breaking windows. Meanwhile we know that when we stand our ground the face of police brutality unleashed on NONviolent protest, we get 10X more turnout at the NEXT demonstration.

    The issue isn’t “what counts as ‘violence.'” The issue isn’t whether or not “violence” against the system is morally justifiable. The issue is that violence and vandalism hurt our ability to achieve critical mass because they alienate most people.

    Are we in this to achieve change through a mass movement, or are we in it to see if our legs get wet when we piss into the wind? That’s the relevant question.

  16. Brian Sims

    Personally, I’m not against use of violence against our oppressors out of a moral belief that violence is always wrong. I’m against it because use of violence, including vandalism, is counterproductive.

    Occupy# must become a mass movement in order to win lasting change. Use of violence alienates most people. Vandalism also alienates most people, particularly when directed at public institutions, and persons or businesses perceived as innocent. Occupy# will NOT become a mass movement, and we will NOT achieve lasting change, if violence and vandalism are tolerated. It is really that simple.

    The flip side is this: our oppressors WANT people in the Occupy movement to break windows and light fires and throw rocks, because they know that violence and vandalism will be played up by the corporate media to discredit the movement, and because it gives the cops cover to get away with brutalizing movement participants–shooting peaceful protesters, destroying our camps, bugging our phones, and all the other illegal tactics the police state has at its disposal.

    Because I’m not a pacifist, I unequivocally support those who physically intervene to prevent violence and vandalism at Occupy protests. Those who would hurt the movement by use of violence and vandalism have no business complaining when people committed to the movement use force to protect the movement from the actions of the violent minority.

    History shows that lasting change can be achieved, even in the face of overwhelming force, by use of non-violent demonstrations and civil disobedience. A lot of us are in this movement in order to actually win lasting change. Those who are NOT in it to win, who are in it only to vent their rage against the machine, should go their own way.

  17. kimlehmkuhl

    I am going to ask you to try to flip your argument on your head. Why must the people who renounce violence be the ones to beat our heads against a brick wall trying to come up with an ironclad definition of what that means in practice, in all possible theoretical future circumstances? If you believe that “anyone who wants to eschew ‘violence’ [must] put in the thought necessary to refine their position into something consistent, actionable, and ideally backed by tactical consideration,” I would ask us all to consider why we are NOT requiring such intellectual rigor and ironclad operational definitions from the people who are touting so-called “autonomous action” and “diversity of tactics.” The people who are actually *doing* the dirt (and want a blank check for all future dirt they might think up, regardless of who they target it with) need to be the ones to justify themselves, not the other way around. This is precisely why my draft text would require “diversity of tactics” proponents to put their money where their mouth is and get GA approval for what that term really, practically, operationally means. Failing that, the GA would be required to reject “diversity of tactics” and deprive these guys of the cover story that they are somehow working “with” us, on our behalf, or somehow — incredibly — in our “defense.” Right?!? Time to flip the script!

  18. Nemo

    “People are making every attempt to keep the camp clean and organize.”

    So what about a proposal that builds upon that dividing line? Something along the lines of…

    “We request that all autonomous actions taken in support of Occupy Oakland and its goals be executed in a manner that minimize collateral damage to the neighborhood, its businesses, and the public perception of the Occupy movement.”

  19. Susan George

    I agree wholeheartedly and I think it would be worthwhile to put more attention on foreclosed properties, displaced individuals and families, growing income disparity and increased levels of poverty. The question is: what is the best “theater” in which to do this. It does have to be well thought out and personally I’m not attached to whether it is legal or not–because if arrests are made that serve to bring greater awareness and attention to these issues locally and nationally, then so much the better. I am convinced, though, that it is not only unnecessary but counter-productive to smash things and break in the process. It muddles the message!

  20. think!

    Aligning ourselves with violent tactics is bad PR.

    The media, however much we don’t like it, is a key to our success. We need to use mass media to “advertise” the movement in order for it to grow.

    Of course none of us like that our society is controlled by the media. That is one of the things we would like to change. But we have to deal with the reality…

    Media coverage of Occupy events will directly determine whether or not we grow. Media coverage will determine whether we succeed or fail. Unfortunately, we can not afford to ignore how we are covered in the media… for now, that is.

  21. think!

    The Occupy Movement should have one main focus right now- SUCCESS. Aligning ourselves with violent tactics will ensure the opposite.

    Of course none of us like that our society is controlled by the media. That is one of the things we would like to change. But we have to deal with the reality… media coverage of Occupy events will directly determine whether or not we grow this movement. Media coverage will determine whether we succeed or fail. Unfortunately, we can not afford to ignore how we are covered in the media… for now, that is.

  22. jimmyrunsdeep

    “the natural byproducts of maintaining a camp can be construed to be acts of vandalism”

    I think you know the difference. People are making every attempt to keep the camp clean and organize. That’s far different than making an attempt to break the window of Oakollective and looting because you personally see it as gentrification. It’s a store that supported the movement, supports local artists, and sells cruelty free products. Do you realize how many people are going to be outraged by that?

    Breaking the windows at Whole Foods and the banks made us look stupid enough but Oakollective, Men’s Wearhouse, and Tully’s took it to another level. Not to mention the sheer idiocy of tagging everything around the plaza.

    I’ve about lost my patience with this not being dealt with in any meaningful way and hearing some people go so far as try and justify Oakollective because of gentrification or because they personally view all businesses as bad.

    If people are determined to keep vandalism as a accepted tactic I think it’s ridiculous. Hopefully we can at least agree that any future actions involving property damage must be approved by the GA.

  23. Nemo

    So when is vandalism petty, and when is it simply a byproduct of necessary action?

    Many city administrations are cracking down on their respective Occupies because the natural byproducts of maintaining a camp can be construed to be acts of vandalism – so clearly there is some level of property destruction that is acceptable in service of the message of the 99%.

    And as a counterpoint, is it any less violent to kill a movement important to so many people because you disagree with the actions taken by a minority within the group?

    To me, both this question and the one you posed are symptoms of partisanship – the very thing which has Washington tied up in a complete gridlock.

    I’m not happy with the people who broke bank and chain store windows because it did nothing to further public discourse on social inequity, and because they forgot that franchisees can be described to the public as small business owners.

    I would hope that a simple castigation would and look at the outcome would be sufficient to make it clear that now is not the time for such shenanigans. However, the more cries there are to ban such strategies or throw them out of the movement, the more they (and their allies) will feel the need to stand by their strategies and defend them in principle even if they acknowledge that they have failed in practice.

  24. Nemo

    I agree. Part of why I have asked people to parse and define violence is because it is problematic to do so, and I’d like anyone who wants to eschew “violence” to put in the thought necessary to refine their position into something consistent, actionable, and ideally backed by tactical considerations (such as how the act will be portrayed & whether or not it deflects attention as you and AbouBenAdhem have mentioned).

    I personally think that the window-breaking was counter-productive and would not endorse it. Of course, the less we talk about the motives behind the act, the less productive it becomes.

    Likewise, I would consider it counter-productive to single out those involved in breaking windows and abandoning them to the tender mercies of the legal code which helped foster an environment of inequality.

    I think your argument of effective vs. ineffective is an important one. The recent attempt to take over the Traveler’s Aid building certainly was ineffective, but Homes not Jails in SF has shown that the tactic itself can be effective.

    In the case of vacant property seizure, the question then becomes: what are differences between the approach taken by Homes not Jails and the approach taken after the General Strike on 11/2? What could Occupy Oakland do to keep the narative on income disparities while helping those most disadvantaged by them? That’s how we can get at what’s effective – not by throwing out a strategy just because it misfired once.

  25. jimmyrunsdeep

    “Many of the people at Occupy Oakland are really stressed out about the behavior of certain dogmatically pacifist personalities”

    Listen, the community of Oakland is really stressed out about the behavior of certain vandal personalities. They are killing support for Occupy. Mnay people who used to support the movement no longer do and many people that were about to join us have turned away.

    Keep smashing things and instead of the thousands we saw for the strike if you’re lucky you’ll have a couple hundred vandals bitching with nobody listening.

  26. ghostoftherobot

    That is a great idea, David. Those that want to see OO move toward nonviolence and something more strategic and functional should start to organize. It seems that a minority in OO feel like the public want whats happening at 14th and Broadway to become something combative and separate from the other Occupy movements. We need to show that this is not the case.

    The people intent on turning Oakland into a laughing stock (or a pile of ash) should take responsibilities for their actions and label themselves under a different name. Bellow Indigo0 has something planned for getting the nonviolent block mobilized. Anyone else?

  27. AbouBenAdhem

    How about this as a compromise that avoids the issues of the precise definitions of violence or justifiable self-defense:

    Avoid any tactic that, if taken out of context by the media or the police, can be used to instill fear of the movement in the public.

    Or in other words, limit threatening or damaging tactics to those which, by their nature, cannot be used against members of the public, their homes, or their small businesses.

    Examples of tactics that would not pass this criterion:

    Smashing windows; defacing businesses with incomprehensible graffiti; breaking into buildings in the middle of the night. (It doesn’t matter if the business was targeted for a specific reason, or if you’ve written a flyer justifying your actions—the media will not inform anyone of that. The only message received by the public will be: They could do this to you.)

    Examples of tactics that would pass this criterion:

    Most traditional “non-violent” mass action; resisting arrest; throwing tear gas canisters at riot police; entering banks and destroying deposit slips; creatively defacing billboards.

    Not all tactics that meet this criterion would be good tactics; but any that fail to meet it will inevitably frighten potential supporters, and will be used to justify police actions against Occupy Oakland in the name of protecting the public.

  28. David Heatherly

    I agree with you. I think we may need support from OWS and other Occcupy movements to let OO know how serious the situation is. We could also do a petition of supporters so that we can show our strength of numbers who want a vote one way or the other for or against violence and vandalism.

  29. Susan George

    Rather than parsing the meaning of violence and non-violence–which I believe is impossible–why don’t we focus instead on what is effective and not effective for the growth and strength of this movement? Tactics such as breaking things and destroying property are weak in that they divert attention away from the real issues at hand and help to undermine the success of this movement locally and nationally. Also, these tactics DO put others at risk of bodily harm. If we engage in them we deflect attention away from the real perpetrators of economic and physical brutality by big money interests and the police state. This isn’t about being a pacifist, an anarchist or any other kind of “ist”. It is about putting your own egoistic preferences aside for the greater strength of this glorious movement.

  30. jimmyrunsdeep

    Is it violent to kill a movement important to so many people with petty vandalism that turns the community and the nation against us?

  31. yagz

    1. Let’s be clear: It is absolutely OK to insist on behavior norms.
    Occupy may be a DIY movement — but it also stands for very specific ideas and principles. Central among these is: We are here to reassert the common good. And we have a LOT of work to do. Being open and accepting does not mean that we’re obligated to accept behavior that damages our ability to achieve our goals. It also means that we have a perfect right to insist that people sharing our spaces either act in ways that further those goals, or go somewhere else until they’re able to meet that standard.

    2. It is OK to draw boundaries between those who are clearly working toward our goals, and those who are clearly not.

    Or, as an earlier generation of change agents put it: You’re either on the bus, or off the bus. Are you here to change the way this country operates, and willing to sacrifice some of your almighty personal freedom to do that? Great. You’re with us, and you’re welcome here. Are you here on your own trip and expecting the rest of us to put up with you? In that case, you are emphatically NOT on our side, and you are not welcome in our space.

    Anybody who feels the need to put their own personal crap ahead of the health and future of the movement is (at least for that moment) an a**hole, and does not belong in Occupied space. Period. This can be a very hard idea for people in an inclusive movement to accept — we really want to have all voices heard. But the principles Occupy stands for must always take precedence over any individual’s divine right to be an a**hole, or the a**holes will take over. Which brings me to….

    3. The consensus model has a fatal flaw, which is this: It’s very easy for power to devolve to the people who are willing to throw the biggest tantrums.
    When some a drama king or queen starts holding the process hostage for their own reasons, congratulations! You’ve got a new a**hole! (See #2.) You must guard against this constantly, or consensus government becomes completely impossible.

    4. Once you’ve accepted the right of the group to set boundaries around people’s behavior, and exclude those who put their personal rights ahead of the group’s mission and goals, the next question becomes: How do we deal with chronic a**holes?

    This is the problem Occupy’s leaders are very visibly struggling with now. I’ve been a part of a**hole-infested groups in the long-ago past that had very good luck with a whole-group restorative justice process. In this process, the full group (or some very large subset of it that’s been empowered to speak for the whole) confronts the troublemaker directly. The object is not to shame or blame. Instead, it’s like an intervention. You simply point out what you have seen and how it affects you. The person is given a clear choice: make some very specific changes in their behavior, or else leave.

    This requires some pre-organization. You need three to five spokespeople to moderate the session (usually as a tag team) and do most of the talking. Everybody else simply stands in a circle around the offender, watching silently, looking strong and determined. The spokespeople make factual we statements that reflect the observations of the group. We have seen you using drugs inside Occupied space. We are concerned that this hurts our movement. We are asking you to either stop, or leave.

    When the person tries to make excuses (and one of the most annoying attributes of chronic a**holes is they’re usually skilled excuse-makers as well), then other members of the group can speak up — always with I messages. I saw you smoking a joint with X and Y under tree Z this morning. We’re all worried about the cops here, and we think you’re putting our movement in danger. We are asking you to leave. Every statement needs to end with that demand — We are asking you to either stop, or else leave and not come back. No matter what the troublemaker says, the response must always be brought back to this bottom line.

    These interventions can go on for a LONG time. You have to be committed to stay in the process, possibly for a few hours until the offender needs a restroom break or gets hungry. But eventually, if everybody stays put, the person will have no option but to accept that a very large group of people do not want him or her there. Even truly committed a**holes will get the message that they’ve crossed the line into unacceptable behavior when they’re faced with several dozen determined people confronting them all at once.

    Given the time this takes, it’s tempting to cut corners by confronting several people all at once. Don’t do it. Confronting more than two people at a time creates a diffusion-of-responsibility effect: the troublemakers tell themselves that they just got caught up in a dragnet; the problem is those other people, not me. The one who talks the most will get most of the heat; the others will tend to slip by (though the experience may cause them to reconsider their behavior or leave as well).

    This process also leaves open the hope that the person will really, truly get that their behavior is Not okay, and agree to change it. When this happens, be sure to negotiate specific changes, boundaries, rules, and consequences (if we see you using drugs here again, we will call the police. There will be no second warning), and then reach a consensus agreement that allows them to stay. On the other hand: if the person turns violent and gets out of control, then the question is settled, and their choice is made. You now have a legitimate reason to call the cops to haul them away. And the cops will likely respect you more for maintaining law and order.

    Clearing out a huge number of these folks can be a massive time suck, at least for the few days it will take to weed out the worst ones and get good at it. It might make sense to create a large committee whose job it is to gather information, build cases against offenders, and conduct these meetings.

    And finally:

    5. It is not wrong for you to set boundaries this way.
    You will get sh-t for this. But…but…it looks a whole lot like a Maoist purge unit! No. There is nothing totalitarian about asking people who join your revolution to act in ways that support the goals of that revolution. And the Constitution guarantees your right of free association — which includes the right to exclude people who aren’t on the bus, and who are wasting the group’s limited time and energy rather than maximizing it. After all: you’re not sending these people to re-education camps, or doing anything else that damages them. You’re just getting them out of the park, and out of your hair. You’re eliminating distractions, which in turn effectively amplifies the voices and efforts of everyone else around you. And, in the process, you’re also modeling a new kind of justice that sanctions people’s behavior without sanctioning their being — while also carving out safe space in which the true potential of Occupy can flourish.

  32. Koko338

    Sorry I can’t be there in person, but spiritually I’m with 100%.

    Here’s an idea. Since the Oakland PD (and their DHS handlers) seem hellbent on using terrorism tactics against OO, take a page from the protests at the G20 international monetary forum last weekend in Nice, France. Because of incredible int’l. ARMED security, the Occupy protesters could not get anywhere near the G20 meetings.

    So, they CREATED THEIR OWN media event in Monte Carlo (tax-haven for the world’s super-rich) by having protestors dress up like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Sarkozy, who acted out giving trillions of dollars to dastardly BANKSTERS. Got lots of media coverage and didn’t put the protestors in harm’s way of police brutality. Press loved it, as it was funny and creative, while hammering home the central message of inequality and bank-owned governments. Who wants to play your Mayor? How about the Council members who refuse to allow Occupy in their Districts? Lots of volunteers to be bully-club-weilding police (play acting, of course).

    Additionally, this morning I posted in “Announcements” a protest to the DHS/local police tactics of terrorizing U.S. Citizens exercising their constitutional rights of free speech and peaceful assembly. Please check this out and pass it to all your friends, family, fellow protestors — as U.S. Citizens, we don’t have to tolerate this tyranny anymore and we’re not going to take it! We ARE the U.S. government — the politicians making these decisions serve at our pleasure and we can recall/indict them at any time for their criminality.

  33. ghostoftherobot

    You still don’t get it do you? The 20,000 other people that backed this movement on Nov 2nd and closed the docks are jumping ship on this thing ASAP. Yes, over a thing like graffiti, and property destruction, because they see that it will quickly escalate out of control. What are you going to do when someone brings a gun while you are smashing windows and shoots a bank security guard. I mean, get real. You need to think about this stuff. An eye for an eye will only blind the world.

    The people that marched on Nov 2nd support OWS and its tactics, not a rogue splinter group of militants.
    I think that if the GA will not pass a commitment towards nonviolence than the supporters of this movement should spend there time doing something more productive. Furthermore, the occupy movements in other cities should distance themselves from Occupy Oakland, and cut off all support.

    In order for this thing to be successful, it has to get organized, nonviolent, strategic, and coordinated with the efforts in other cities. We can’t be spending 2 1/2 hours of a GA talking about issues that are irrelevant to the movement as a whole.

  34. Nemo

    It seems that there is a disagreement here over what constitutes violence.

    I think that we are all in agreement that it is violent to attack someone. Furthermore, I hope everyone realizes that even though it is legal to employ self-defense measures when resisting illegal arrest, Occupy Oakland does not currently have the media infrastructure to get this story out before the OPD, which has a dedicated Media Relations Officer spinning the story to the newspapers and TV stations in press releases they send out as they are employing violence against the protestors. Therefore, even if it is legal to fight back against such uses of force, it is unwise.

    Beyond that we need to consider what else we are willing to put under the umbrella of “violence.”

    Is it violent to take over a city park?

    Is it violent to take over a vacant lot?
    … that is privately owned?
    … but has not seen recent use?

    Is it violent to light the contents of a dumpster on fire?
    … if nobody is hurt by the action?
    … if doing so will mitigate the effect of tear gas?

    Is it violent to inhabit a vacant building that is no longer used?
    … if you first have to pick a lock?
    … if you first have to break down a door or window?

    Is it violent to enter a building which is empty but sees regular use?
    … if you first have to pick a lock?
    … if you first have to break down a door or window?
    … if you break a door or window, but do not enter.
    … does it make a difference if the building is used by an independent business owner or a nationwide chain?

    Is it violent to turn someone out of their house in winter?
    … even if they don’t technically own the deed?
    … even if they owe more than the value of the property?

    Is it violent to force someone to stay outdoors in winter?
    … even when there are sheltering spaces nearby that aren’t seeing use?

    Is it violent to disrupt millions of dollars of trade?

    Does violence become acceptable when used to stop someone from committing an act of violence?
    … does that also extend to acts of vandalism?
    … does that also extend to institutions?
    … to what degree?

    Is it violent to imprison someone?
    … to turn them over to someone else for imprisonment?
    … to turn them over for imprisonment by someone who has physically assaulted them before?

    In answering these questions, perhaps you will also answer kimlehmkuhl’s question as well.

  35. kimlehmkuhl

    These proposals, goals, and successes are all great. We’re all in favor of all of them. We’re all radical in our politics, even the most recently radicalized among us. Your characterization of *why* “all eyes are on us,” however, is truly delusional. All eyes are on us because Oakland has become a tragic asterisk in the inspiring and inclusive story of the 99% movement. We can and should make #OO distinct from #OWS and other local Occupy groups on the basis of the issues particular to Oakland that we focus our attention on. Distinguishing ourselves from everybody else on the basis of how much we fuck up our own town in the process — which is in fact what has happened; precisely zero other cities are going, wow, Oakland is really getting it right — is not what we should be striving for.

  36. kimlehmkuhl

    Thanks for weighing in on this point, I think it’s an important one. I know that there have been no proposals put forward on this topic in the last three GAs (I attended tonight [Monday] and last night [Sunday] and listened to the livestream Friday); my impression from talking to other folks was that discussion on Thursday (I was exhausted and sick as shit from being at the port until 11am so missed it) did not include formal proposals that were subjected to votes. I could be wrong on this, of course, because records of what goes on at GAs are hella spotty. On that note! There was an announcement by the facilitator tonight that the facilitation committee will have up-to-date GA minutes and records of proposals made and their vote totals, and it sounds like even maybe a prospective published agenda re: proposals on the table for any particular GA, up on this website within the next few days. This is very exciting news vis-a-vis potential for organizing massive turnout in support of a nonviolence principle/proposal.

    In the meantime, I’ve been contacted by and otherwise put in touch with several people/groups that have alternative NV proposals/plans in the works. I agree it is of CRITICAL importance to be smart and strategic about how we proceed, and that means working in collaboration with the goal in mind of putting forth the most broadly popular text at the most opportune moment in order to have the greatest chance of passage. I am working to put together a substantive update on the upshot of all these diverse efforts, which seem like they have a good chance at combining into an effective collaborative effort, within 24 hours. I will be sending out email updates from nonviolent99percent@gmail.com if you would like to be in the loop on this (just shoot me an email confirming you’d like me to add you to any announcements). As far as mobilizing turnout on whatever particular evening the proposal will be presented, I have some ideas about reaching out to local bloggers, community organizations, etc. that I am also happy to share; please get in touch to let me know if you have any contacts that you think could/would be useful to this effort. I am also very interested in connecting with sympathetic people working on various #OO committees, caucuses, and working groups (I think a multi-committee supported proposal could be very powerful), so again please get in touch if you are or know anyone that you think would be down that is already connected to any of these groups.

    You guys are awesome and super inspiring, thanks for all the fantastic feedback here and keep up the good work!


  37. maxr

    I’m not trying to be a bully but diplomatic. I want to point out that it seems manipulative to flood the G.A. and to pass a certain position that isn’t part of the culture of the occupation at Oakland or what most of the participants want. Many of the people at Occupy Oakland are really stressed out about the behavior of certain dogmatically pacifist personalities who have been actually threatening violence on people they perceive are affiliated with the black bloc or anarchist tendency. During several protests there have been people who have been threatening to expose protesters to the police or to stop them because they have done something that doesn’t seem appropriate, be it an illegal act or something else. the thing is, there is no difference in my mind between doing an illegal act that is non-violent and doing property destruction. What is it about the broken window or graffiti that is so horrifying? In my opinion what really sets us apart and draws so many in, is our departure from OWS in certain ways. Such as how we are connecting to the local Oakland issues and how this is an extension of pre-existing radical struggles and communities that have already been organizing around student occupations,police brutality, glenn cove, gang injunctions, and youth curfews. The large anarchist community of Oakland that works on all of these issues in coalition with other community groups are actually a main ingredient of the occupation and anarchists by and large accept diversity of tactics because autonomy and free association and free choice with how one participates are at the core of it’s ideas. This departure from other occupations in a more anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian direction are what makes it cutting edge for the OWS movement and why all eyes are on us. I really want people to think about all of the different proposals we have passed, the different things we have done: such as two radical queer marches, two police brutality marches, two anti-capitalist marches, two giant marches that shut down banks and the port of oakland. All of these attempting to bring radical politics to the forefront of Oakland. Advocates of non-violence are part of our community for sure, and making it accessible for everyone is part of our focus too, but I am also aware of how to be truly inclusive there is a need for flexibility and tolerance around the issue of how to facilitate direct action and include radical communities who have their own opinions about how to struggle.

  38. David Heatherly

    I am with you, “ghost of the robot.” I was also disappointed with the way the collage of images was set up to include some of those scenes of vandalism, but I don’t know if the administrators really meant it as a message to support those actions or not. It could be seen that way, for sure.

    Truly, the GA needs to make it clear if the movement here in Oakland is pro-violence or against violence. We cannot sit on the fence about something like that. It’s offensive to me every day that the situation continues.

  39. David Heatherly

    Yeah, I agree, and there’s a lot of presumption anyway in talking about people who are involved the most or the longest. I could brag about how long I’ve been involved, but that’s trivial. Anybody who listens to KPFA has known about it since day one in New York, and your level of involvement is your own deal. Some can give more, some less. Some can give tarps and meals and cigarettes, some can give more time and energy. But I remain less than 100% committed, only because of the issues of vandalism and violence that remain unaddressed in the main Oakland camp.

  40. David Heatherly

    It’s not a power struggle or a message struggle, it’s a moral decision that needs to be made. Please don’t trivialize it. There are grown-ups here trying to do serious work for America.

  41. David Heatherly

    I went down to Frank Ogawa Plaza and had a long conversation with several dozen people on the evening of the 27th of October, and met several who openly espoused violent resistance. I really tried to explain to them that most of America is not desperate enough (yet) to break out in violent protest. They accused me of trying to speak for other people. Truly, these are intelligent and beautiful and well-meaning brothers and sisters, and I want them with us on this leg of the long strange trip, but they seriously told me they don’t care how the media portrays them or anything like that, and the idea that growing the movement was dependent on positive images seemed like an alien concept to them, a repulsive concept. So I wish them well on the journey but we really do need to part ways. We can’t just ignore that issue.

  42. David Heatherly

    There has to be a way to save it still. Tactics need to be clear. If the people who support vandalism and/or violence are wiling to make their intentions clear, then I have no problem with supporting their place in the movement any more than I would have a problem with them voicing their opinions in the public square in the USA. That’s their right. But it’s not fair to ask pacifists like myself to march with them and to provide them with cover. Too much blood is already spilled in Oakland. Enough is enough. I have seen more ugliness and hate from my “fellow” protestors who have indeed called me a “snitch” to my face — not because I pointed out someone to the cops, but because I pointed them out to the rest of the crowd — than I have even from the cops. And I never saw any of those idiots at any actual Occupy event or at any GA, but I saw people who were supportive enough of their ideology to allow the whole movement to go down rather than distance us from their violence.

  43. David Heatherly

    Right on! I’m with you 100%. Not even 99%. I want every body to keep in mind the larger enemy we are all facing. It is not any evil leader or person, it is a system that makes good people do evil things. Call it fascism or whatever, I mean we all have our solutions whether it’s anarchism or communism or some sort of radical reform to capitalism, but we all have the same enemy. If we’re not all using the same tactics, we are going to fail. Most of us are not down with violent tactics. Therefore, we need to abandon violent tactics. Not too hard to compute.

  44. ghostoftherobot

    Just so everyone is aware, there was no proposal put fourth during tonights GA about adopting the ‘Saint Paul Principals’ (in other words endorsing violence). But it was disheartening to hear (as I found out in the above reply) that the two proposals committing to non violence have been voted down since the general strike.

    This movement with not succeed unless we move toward nonviolence and something that functions better. We should not be spending two hours of a GA listening to announcements before we even discuss a proposal. There should be a list of what proposals are up for a vote on OO’s website, and announced at the beginning of the GA. On top of that, the GA’s need to be inspiring, informative, and full of steps each one of us can take that will move us towards change. We should be spending time vision casting and planning, not wasting it on irrelevant in house issues.

    Its hard for me to imagine the civil rights movement (or any social movement) succeeding the way that it did if its meetings were conducted anything like ours. Time is valuable. It should be used wisely.

    We need to realize that the bulk of this movement is made up of people living outside the camps. Getting them involved is going to mean talking about the issues.

  45. David Heatherly

    LOL, if that guy has the balls to get up and propose to the GA that we turn all violent people over to the police, I’d like to shake his hand just for the bravado of it. But obviously we need something that everybody can more or less agree on. I don’t have a problem personally with a resolution that allows people to use violence in self-defense. But as long as Occupy Oakland is going to march on businesses and on police stations while having no official stance on violence, despite the events that we’ve all witnessed with our own fucking eyes, I can’t really march with you except as a peaceful counter-protestor maybe. We can’t provoke the police and expect to still have 1st Amendment rights. It says “peaceful assembly”, right? Those guys are setting us up so that we have no defense in the eyes of the law or our countrymen.

  46. David Heatherly

    I agree with you that it would have more traction, but within the structure of the GA and the way I’ve observed our marches (and I’ve been on the big 3 marches in Oakland, 5/22, 5/25 and 7/2), we don’t have a structure to be able to assess what is or what is not a safe or unsafe situation in which to begin some kind of vandalism that might qualify as creative or inspiring versus something that just seems random and egotistical. And the “black bloc” which apparently is supposed to defend us in extreme circumstances is instead hiding behind our numbers and just using us as human shields. I’m angry at them just as I am at the police. This is my town, I don’t like seeing some asshole kicking in the window of a small business any more than the people who read about it the next morning like to hear about it. It makes it extremely hard for those of us who live and work in Oakland to openly support the Occupy movement as long as this kind of thing is going on.

  47. David Heatherly

    I was there tonight for most of the GA, but there wasn’t any whiff of it… I didn’t catch the Open Forum though. I’d like to see more of what happened after I left. If the pro-violence crowd is insistent on shutting down consensus, then Occupy Oakland is killing itself. This issue is really hurting us, not just with the “chattering masses” but among all the people in the community who voice support.

  48. David Heatherly

    But if you notice, it’s all that most of us want to talk about here, and it’s becoming very distracting from the larger issues that we’re all united to fight. And that’s adding to the inability to pass any resolution, because some are now seeing the issue as divisive in and of itself. I think you’re right. I would like for the everyone in the movement to understand that for those of us who are pacifists, we NEED a resolution on this before we can have any other big actions. You cannot expect us to march again if the movement can’t even declare itself a non-violent movement. It’s not right for anyone to expect us to march with people who have the same values as those we are marching against.

  49. IndigoO

    There have been two votes on non-violence within the last 4 GAs. Both votes lost. I understand that weeks before there were also vote on non-violence which lost. I think we need to regroup and rethink before bringing forward another into the same organizational structure and expecting a different outcome. I would like us to step away from this “sense of urgency” and instead be deliberate in our efforts.

    We need to fully mobilize the nonviolent community, both within OO and those waiting to join until it becomes NV. I am planning a meeting among a list of almost 1000 folks for a week from Sat. I hope some of you will message me to connect. We are going to look at structural strategies that may allow a NV vote to finally succeed. We are also looking at next steps in educating within OO about what non-violent protest is and how you keep a protest NV. These are just some of our topics we want to take on under the banner of NV. We believe we can bring OO into alignment with other Occupy groups on this issue, but not by just doing what we’ve been doing.

    My hope is that there isn’t another rushed NV vote that loses, because honestly, people are only going to tolerate the same topic coming up for vote night after night for but so long. I

  50. lonestar

    And the infighting has started…LMAO …And it is only going to get better..:)

  51. IndigoVII

    Maxr I have a direct response to this particular part of your above statement, “…why not believe in the people who are involved the most.” WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU SAYING!!!!! Hello!?!?! That describes the system we are trying to over-throw. That is NOT what Occupy movements are about. Do you even know how the General Assembly was started? Who started it here in this country at OWS? Do you even know anything at all about the process? I don’t care how long you’ve been there it’s too long. It’s gone to your head or something.

  52. jason hoopes

    “Finally, I did trust “the people who are doing the majority of the organizing and building the character of this thing”…up until Wednesday night. I clearly made a mistake in doing so — that trust has been broken. This is a movement of the 99%, not of just you and your friends, and it really doesn’t matter who’s been here from the beginning (thanks for the wrong assumption on that, by the way) and who showed up five minutes ago.”

    Thank you.

  53. Bill Bank

    Suggested wording for a proposal to the General Assembly:

    “Occupy Oakland is committed to protesting in non-violent ways.”

    I think keeping it simple and positive is the best way to reach consensus among ourselves and to communicate that to a broader audience.

  54. keithnakatani

    I’m glad to see in today’s posts so many who are opposed to destructive behavior. But if as someone said a vote will be taken at tonight’s GA on adopting “diversity of tactics,” then we need to be there defeat this proposal. If that happens, I’m willing to work with others on proposing OO not support such behavior and addressing how to minimize it. Because, although an official OO position is the first step, destructive behavior will still happen at OO actions and we need to have a strategy to address that.

  55. kimlehmkuhl

    Yes, you’re exactly right, that St. Paul principles proposal (http://www.occupyoakland.org/2011/11/proposal-to-adopt-and-abide-by-the-st-paul-principles/) is theoretically on the agenda for tonight, and yes, it is exactly the opposite of what I’m proposing: a blank check and binding ourselves to “non-criticism” of any tactics we may at any point in the future ever possibly disagree with, no matter how strongly, versus an attempt to define what “diversity of tactics” actually means in practical terms IF we decide that direction makes sense for #OO and the success of the broader movement. Please come to the GA tonight (and every night you can) to vote (and speak) against blank checks like this.

  56. think!

    This is a very good point.

    If we won’t allow Occupy to be co-opted by other groups or individuals, why would we allow ourselves to be co-opted by OLF and affiliates?

    To rigidly cling to the concept of being inclusive of people undermining our cause does not make sense.

    I thought everyone understood that FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION. We need to think as a whole, what’s best for the success of the movement? How do we ensure success? What’s more important… rigidly holding on to concepts, or the survival of the people?

  57. think!

    You have to wonder…

    Why would true believers in this movement want to do something that everyone knows will make us loose credibility?

    Does anyone really think legitimizing vandalism is going to lead us anywhere but to our own demise?

    You have to wonder… who are these people, and ARE THEY PURPOSELY TRYING TO UNDERMINE THE MOVEMENT.

  58. zuchinno

    This is a topic I’d like to definitely break into the small groups and discuss at the next GA. I would vote for the pursuit of these answers, as I do not yet have an acceptable solution to violence yet, myself and I’d like to see if someone smarter than me might have something.

    In my world, things are not split up into violent or nonviolent actions, but safe and unsafe situations, and effective and ineffective actions. I think this might be an approach that would gain more headway than violence and nonviolence, as safety is more tangible.

    I have more points of discussion in my debrief of the Tactics open Mic:

  59. Marion.Mills

    Non violent & legal. Tell everyone you can to move their money out of the banks.

  60. jason hoopes

    “Rather than try to flood the g.a. with people who are not doing the majority of the organizing and building the character of this thing, why not believe in the people who are involved the most.”

    This statement sickens me to the core! Why don’t you just come out and tell the public “this is MY movement, not yours, and if you don’t agree with my tactics then get out”?! You obviously don’t respect the People’s voice and think everyone should not come to the GA and just trust you. I don’t even know what to say to this.

    maxr, your views are dangerously detrimental to solidarity. You do what you want, ignoring and disrespecting the majority’s non-violent voice, even going so far as to brand us as disloyal and accusing us of causing in-fighting when we call for non-volent solutions and voice our disagreement with such destructive tactics. The above statement alone exposes your perspective that this is your movement and not the movement of The People.

    I volunteer. I clean. I cook. I donate. I march. I field donations. I vote in the GA. I, and people who share this non-destructive / non-violent perspective, are part of this thing whether you like it or not. You’re obviously high on yourself, living in a romanticized insurgent fantasy.

    “Remember that the people preventing protesters from being free to express their rage at police attack or at insitutions that participate in violence on a grand scale, are actually being physically confrontational, and making people unsafe.”

    This is absolute rubbish. Calling for wisdom and intelligence when planning and employing resistance tactics isn’t preventing anyone from expressing anything. You’re trying to brand the pacifist voices in the movement as un-loyal and causing in-fighting. We all want the collapse of these institutions. Your ideas about the effectiveness of destructive tactics are fantasy and fiction. Facts are facts: popular opinion supports non-violent tactics.

    If you and others wish to engage in destructive tactics then organize yourselves and stand autonomously apart from peaceful groups. Publicly claim these actions as your own group. Call yourselves what ever you want – Black Bloc, Brick Brigade, I don’t care. It’s the least you can do when the majority is calling for a change in tactics.

    You are not respecting a majority opinion that is ultimately on your side. If anyone is losing sight of the goal it is you. We shouldn’t be arguing the legitimacy of non-violence. It is YOU who also needs to come forward and propose your ideas to the GA for approval. Or maybe you’re afraid to because you know they will be roundly rejected.

    “The real practioners of violence and provocateurs are the “peace police.””

    Are you fucking kidding me?! You’re branding anyone who actively and non-violently tries to squelch destructive tactics as “practitioners of violence”?!?! Is anyone else reading this person’s opinions?!?!

    Maxr is way out of touch and egotistical. I fully support this proposal, whole heartedly.

  61. jimmyrunsdeep

    Well according to post a couple down from yours somebody is proposing adopting the St, Paul principles tonight. Sort of the opposite of what you’re proposing where we accept diversity of tactics and legitimize vandalism.

  62. zuchinno

    Do you exist in real life? Or are you a bot somebody made to say the same thing over again on the forums? I asked before if you were going to propose this at the GA, but you never replied.

  63. Mbluesky

    I agree, I feel that same. I need a commitment to nonviolent resistance / civil disobedience.

  64. David Heatherly

    I am going to voice the same support that many have so far done. I will support this resolution and any other resolution that condemns violence and vandalism. I do not believe we will be any weaker if those people leave the movement. We will be much weaker if we are unable to attract mainstream Americans due to the extreme tactics used by black bloc.

    It is time, past time, for the Oakland GA to pass a resolution such as this one. I have been supportive, and I am even ready to move in and start occupying, but I have been in a “holding pattern” since last Wednesday while little news trickles out of the GA. I plan to attend tonight and hope I get a chance to vote or voice my disapproval of the Occupy Oakland GA’s apathy on this issue.

  65. David Heatherly

    Right on Jimmy — I feel the same way. So far I’ve been proud to support Occupy Oakland, as a member of this community who has lived here for 13 years and who works here in Oakland. But if the GA is going to endorse vandalism and/or violence then I will leave. And I believe I should have that opportunity. We need resolution on this now, or actually, last week.

  66. kimlehmkuhl

    Oh, sorry, just to clarify: this PARTICULAR proposal is NOT on the GA agenda for tonight (though please come to every GA you can make it to in order to ensure your voice is heard). I am in the process of gathering feedback on the text and timing of the above proposal. If you would like to share YOUR feedback on what YOU think would make sense (for either or both of those two items), please email me at nonviolent99percent@gmail.com. While I do think that time is of the essence in responding clearly and unequivocally to the events of Nov. 2nd/3rd, I also think it’s critical that such a response is effective, and thus a little reflection and strategizing is in order 🙂

  67. kimlehmkuhl

    OK but dudes, you have to at least come to the GA to vote!!

  68. MattHawk

    Report all violence to the police. Violence can not be allowed.

  69. think!

    You will undermine our own cause if you continue the violence.

    We have a real chance here for this movement to grow. Please don’t kill it in order to prove a point.

    We need to think strategically… what is the BEST position for this movement to create real change? The majority agrees that destructive acting out will destroy our own cause.

  70. Brian Sims

    I believe that those who commit violence, or who advocate violence either openly or by the disingenuous strategy of seeking approval for “diversity of tactics,” are committed to the failure of the Occupy movement, whether they realize it or not.

    And yes, I am including “property destruction” in the term “violence.” I recognize there is a big distinction between property distruction and violence to persons, but a movement that wants to represent the 99% has to be mature enough to realize that the 99% has trouble telling the difference when they are sitting in front of the TV news and see a 10 second image of fires and people throwing things with the words “Occupy Oakland” superimposed.

    Thus, the property destruction and pelting of the police with various objects on the same night of our successful Strike and shutdown of the Port insured that the media coverage the next day was dominated with images of fire and teargas rather than images of 40,000 ordinary people closing down the Port. That is a big problem for a movement that wants to convince the 99% to stand up for itself against the 1%.

    This problem won’t now go away just by the proposed adoption of St. Paul’s rules and then differentiating between events at which the protest is to remain entirely peaceful, and events at which the protest will include violence. We have already seen how the media covers these events: violence draws viewers, so it gets top billing. The proposed differentiation of tactics by event will just ensure that the big coverage will go to the violent events, and the nonviolent events will only garner a passing mention, if that. The result will be the Occupy Oakland, and to a degree, the Occupy Movement itself, will become characterized as a movement of violent extremists, rather than a movement for the 99%.

    It’s not that I don’t believe that Citibank or any of a number of other representatives of the 1% don’t deserve to get a few windows broken. They surely deserve that, and more. The problem with doing it is that the public sides with those they perceive to have been wronged. It’s a natural, human reaction. When Scott Olsen was shot the media coverage made it pretty clear who shot him and what he was doing at the time, and the result was a massive outpouring of support both locally and across the world, an outpouring that had a lot to do with the success of the Strike and Port Closure. But that support will dry up faster than a desert rain shower when the coverage becomes “Occupy Oakland trashes the businesses that support them,” or even “Occupy Oakland showers cops with rocks and bottles, gets teargassed in response.”

    Besides, we can still get the big media coverage for violence just by continuing to demonstrate. The Oakland PD will react violently towards us whether we are violent or not. In fact, they will be more than happy to keep handing the Occupy movement public relations victories, as long as we stand fast to nonviolent principles.

    It takes more courage to stand up to violence with non-violence than it does to use a mass movement as a front for vandalism, even vandalism directed at our oppressors. And history has shown that those who possess the moral courage to stand fast to nonviolence in the face of overwhelming force can overcome that force. Gandhi, M.L. King, the Orange Revolution, Tunisia, and Tahrir Square, all these examples prove that it can be done. Hell, our successful Strike and closure of the Port show that it can be done. But use of force against overwhelming force does nothing but guarantee failure. Those of you who believe the movement can succeed by use of force are deluding themselves. I urge you to reconsider. And those of you who possess the courage to actually see this movement through to success, I urge to stand up to those who would destroy it by violence.

  71. think!

    Yes!! Agreed! The public will not support unprovoked acts of violence and property destruction.

  72. think!

    I agree. I will not participate in any #OO actions until #OO GA makes an official statement committing to nonviolent resistance/civil disobedience.

    Why? Because I do not want to participate in something that will be undermined by the minority who are unwilling to sacrifice their self-interested needs for violent acting out at the expense of the success of the movement.

  73. SusanH

    I’m very happy to see this proposal. I’ve been distressed since last week when I witnessed the people breaking windows and destroying property. In my opinion that is unnecessary and counterproductive. Like someone else said, the news these last few days is mostly about those acts of violence and vandalism, not about the really important things that the Occupy movement stands for. I still believe in our democracy (call me naive 😉 and that if we have enough people working together to change things, that we can be successful. I think we have a long way to go before I would give up on that idea. I support your proposal and I thank you for writing it.

  74. jimmyrunsdeep

    Either get vandalism approved in the GA or don’t do it. That’s it.

    Then if you do somehow get it approved I and most others will leave the movement to your little band of vandals. Effectively ending Occupy Oakland.

    Either way I will do whatever I can to stop you from screwing up my city and killing the movement.

  75. Susan George

    I appreciate all you are saying and attempting to accomplish and I would like to add a few comments. We can have a diversity of bold and subversive tactics that starkly display and challenge the corrupt policies and systems of the 1% without resorting to actions that weaken our movement. The General Strike on Nov. 2 to shut down the port was just this–a strong, cohesive and powerful action. So was the action of 16 people from OWS marching to Goldman Sachs to perform a citizen’s arrest. These people were all arrested and it made headlines all over the internet! The recent action in Chicago of people attending a breakfast where Gov. Scott (take away Union bargaining rights) Walker was speaking and these courageous infiltrators loudly exclaiming “mic check” and then giving important facts about Walker’s crimes against teachers and other workers was so powerful. Walker didn’t even get to speak and this video humiliating him went viral on YouTube. These are all a variety of tactics–creative and effective! However, if a small number of people insist on performing actions (breaking windows, vandalizing, grafitti’ing) where they will always corral the media attention their way and away from the real issues at hand, their actions will only serve to weaken not only Occupy Oakland but the Occupy movement nationally as well. I feel strongly that if these petty and ineffective actions continue, thousands of people will stop participating because it will not be worth it anymore. Oakland is not an island in the Occupy movement. I believe we need to take a strong stand against ineffective, distracting tactics and stay focused on those that will strengthen and grow this great movement. This isn’t about being a pacifist or any kind of an “ist” for that matter. It is honestly asking what is going to be most effective and this will be the real strength of our movement. Thank you!

  76. victronix

    >>If throwing rocks and smashing property are such powerful threats to capitalism, why does the State pay people to do it?

    This is great point. A lot of excellent points made here.

  77. victronix

    >>There is something ironic in someone arguing for militant resistance against unwanted and pervasive violence having an issue with the “peace police,” who are resisting militant violence with further militant violence.

    Yes. In other groups I’ve been in, when we would start to engage in any internal critique we were quickly labeled “the cred cops” by those who wished to push nonsense claims to the public as being representative of our group. Over time, organizers realized that labeling others was wrong and those who were doing it were blocked from posting.

    Overall in the communications on here, Indybay, FB, etc., I see a lot of ultimatums rather than proposals, threats of “if it’s not this way, it’s over”, etc., often I see verbal aggression rather than passionate negotiation and compassion.

    The problem is that the stakes are so high, so emotions run high and we’re all human so this is inevitable. It requires work to sort through this kind of thing, to see it and change it if we can, but in the long run, it can really help.

    Here’s an example:

    >>If you’re not okay with that, and can’t deal with the fact that in pushing for a blank check on “diversity of tactics” you are in the very small minority of all the people who consider themselves part of the Occupy movement . .

    So “if you’re not okay with that” then “you are in a very small minority”.

    kimlehmkuhl did an excellent first post — thanks! — and most of the comment they make is great, and then they got emotional and starting drawing a line in the sand — ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against the majority’. This is perfectly natural, but it would be great if we can work to keep dialog compassionate.

    How? When you find yourself making ultimatums or defining ‘us’ and ‘them’ for the reader/listener, pause and reconsider. The more compassion we can all show toward each other, the more we will gently protect and recognize it, seek it, etc.

    I use kimlehmkuhl’s statement as an example — and their post, again, is mostly excellent — but such examples are all over these boards and we all do it. There’s nothing wrong with them but they will ultimately escalate the emotion and slow the discussion down.

    Just my 2c. Again, I appreciate the work everyone is putting in — it is amazing to be a part of.

  78. mizpat

    I fully support this proposal, and will add my own personal decision: Until #OO GA approves and makes public a statement clearly and consistently committing to nonviolent, passive resistance (“civil disobedience” such as sit-ins, etc.), I will not participate in any #OO marches or sit-ins or any other actions, no matter how much I believe in the cause.

  79. Mbluesky

    I agree completely with your sentiments. This discussion that is going on about splitting the movement if we don’t have solidarity with DOT methods I think is a misnomer. If you don’t have solidarity with nonviolence you lose more support then if you abandon DOT. The real question is do you have a movement with only supporters of DOT? no, you don’t, not really. DO you have a movement with only supports of nonviolence? yes you do. It’s sad if the people whom helped create the structure would feel left behind, but how can they advocate for direct democracy, and then go against a 90% vote, if the 90% want the violence/ property destruction to be abandoned.

  80. books

    It is clear that the majority of us who demonstrated angrily, but in a way as to not make others afraid for their safety, were cynically used as the human shield by those who wanted to “set shit on fire.”

    If we as a community condone the usage of our encampment, our march, our movement, as a human shield for those who are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions, then we will have forfeited everything that we have gained as an inspiration to movements everywhere.

    The 99% is the human shield for wars of agression; the 99% is human fodder for the capitalist machine. Must we also be the human shield for those who claim to espouse our ideals by want only destruction, regardless of collateral damage? Must we also be human fodder to legitimate further police campaigns to “clean up” the encampments?

    We were used by the OLF and affiliates, co-opted to legitimate their ill-concieved agenda meant to divide the movement.
    I hope we will stand firm in our resolution AGAINST co-optation.

  81. bobobo


    I respect that you want to keep the window open in case there’s a fire, but I need to point out a few flaws in your reasoning.

    People who support Black Bloc strategies are not the core of the organization. Some people who support it have been there since the beginning, and it would definitely be sad to see them go over a discussion about actions that (if you’ll excuse my bias) have so far brought us nothing but grief, but by no means are they the key holders.

    “Diversity of tactics” was approved in the context of a peaceful, non-violent movement, not the other way around. We can argue the semantics of violence, but I’d like to preface that argument with myprior responses to the issue.

    There is something ironic in someone arguing for militant resistance against unwanted and pervasive violence having an issue with the “peace police,” who are resisting militant violence with further militant violence.

    As far as:
    “Ideas are being thrown around that can allow for this kind of diversity of tactics to really take place, that doesn’t take away an individuals choice to either participate in a march that explicitly is keeping in mind the safety of it’s participants and has the more militant group in a defensive position, or a march that allows for other tactics such as propaganda by break glass and graffiti, that would not be for people who don’t want to participate that way.”

    The reasoning behind this is near-sighted and skews the Black Bloc’s activity thus far. It has not taken a defensive position; or rather it has, which was right behind a mass of people who didn’t support or agree with its activities. What’s the utility of me allowing a group of people to use me as a human shield, particularly when they use me as cover for actions that I oppose?

    Because a Black Bloc relies on having a mass of people to operate from, agreeing to include it in a “diversity of tactics” effectively enables and supports it, tacitly giving my approval of their actions.

    And the problem isn’t just that people don’t want to participate in that way, it’s that they vehemently disagree with those actions and don’t want to support them in any way.

  82. Rachel

    I live in a co-housing community that has a lot of experience using consensus as a process with groups with very different points of view about certain things views. Our community has honed our process over a period of many years, and may be able to offer some support in a process that looks to be inclusive. However consensus can take some time, and there is some urgency to a statement of some kind, even one that you describe above. That might be a place to start, with an agreement to sort out the more specific details over time. I would be willing to work on that with others.

  83. kimlehmkuhl

    Um, nope. The real practitioners of violence and provocateurs are the small band of anonymous people who opportunistically exploit the huge numbers of nonviolent protesters — who are turned out by the national and international Occupy movement’s inclusive message of collective struggle for economic and social justice that has a place for moms, kids, workers, the unemployed and underemployed, populists, liberals, communists, socialists, anarchists, Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Independents, the elderly, the homeless, veterans, pacifists, militants, radicals of all stripes — as human shields.

    This proposal is not about excluding anyone from Occupy Oakland. This proposal is about ensuring that unless/until we as a community can agree upon some basic rules of engagement/behavior norms that allow and encourage EVERYONE, including the most vulnerable and historically marginalized among us, to participate — rather than speeding this inspiring and powerful collective movement’s devolution into a Lord of the Flies scenario where only the fittest survive (or even stick around) — the community does not formally give carte blanche to the use of tactics that are currently being wielded in an anti-democratic, repressive manner.

    Everyone’s right to participate is balanced by a responsibility to others in the community. An individual’s right to free speech is NOT absolute, but is balanced by the responsibility not to infringe on others’ right to life (which includes physical safety). It is beyond the wildest stretch of imagination to suggest that the most fundamental of human needs and rights — the right to one’s own bodily integrity — can be equated with “violence.”

    The “choice” to act as an unwitting human shield in my theoretically “fellow” protesters’ wholly-undirected “rage” (last I checked, the small businesses owned by and employing primarily immigrants and other people of color in downtown Oakland are not “institutions that participate in violence on a grand scale” or in any way an appropriate target of the Occupy movement) is clearly no choice at all. Occupy participants can and should challenge such false narratives and demand the same accountability for violent acts from our theoretical comrades that we do from the financial institutions and other agents of repression.

    Finally, I did trust “the people who are doing the majority of the organizing and building the character of this thing”…up until Wednesday night. I clearly made a mistake in doing so — that trust has been broken. This is a movement of the 99%, not of just you and your friends, and it really doesn’t matter who’s been here from the beginning (thanks for the wrong assumption on that, by the way) and who showed up five minutes ago. This movement is about ALL OF US. If you’re not okay with that, and can’t deal with the fact that in pushing for a blank check on “diversity of tactics” you are in the very small minority of all the people who consider themselves part of the Occupy movement, you’re welcome to rage against a paramilitary police force that is only too happy to oblige in bashing your skulls in, small businesses that are trying to PROVIDE economic opportunity rather than destroy it, and other wholly unstrategic targets ON YOUR OWN.

  84. a_small_voice

    one thing i think we all agree upon, no matter our beliefs on tactics, is that local small businesses who have supported the movement SHOULD NOT be aggressed upon in any manner.

    i think we would also agree that local small businesses that are not active supporters SHOULD NOT be aggressed upon.

    i think it’s reasonable to have most people agree to disavow aggression that occurs during GA sanctioned actions (destruction of property, bodily harm, fires, etc) toward small businesses in oakland.

  85. a_small_voice

    many of the folks who are vocal and who began organizing this movement in oakland since day 1 respect “diversity of tactics,” regardless of whether or not they are anarchists (or may not be anarchist) or support violence and destruction for worthy causes.

    you noticed last night there were many cheers for stamping out “snitches” and using aggression in a tactical manner (not just wily nily). while these are both critiques of wednesday’s actions and reactions, it’s still not “pacifist” and may still go against the newer, more liberal folks’ proclivities not to engage in aggression.

    i sat on the facilitator’s working group on sunday and seconded someone else’s suggestion about discussion this topic in forum. after talking about it a bit, we thought that a discussion might not be productive. i still agree with that for the most part, but still, it came up last night during the spontaneous open mic session at the end of GA.

    people want to talk about it and resolve it. what is the best way of having all voices heard and meshed? i do not know. i think a proposal is a great idea but the assembly will probably be contentious and will not be ready to pass something that encompasses all of what we believe and will tolerate.

  86. Rachel

    I think it is imperative to define what “#OO” is and isn’t in regards to tactics. This is required, in order for the movement to grow, and for people to feel safe in participating. If #OO cannot distance itself from vandalism on retail establishments, it will die or be crushed by the police. Watch Jon Stewart if you want to see how people view this type of behavior. http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-november-3-2011/parks-and-demonstration—business-vandalism

    The general public doesn’t get this type of action, and will not support a movement that condones this type of thing. Without the support of the general public, this movement will die and we might as well all go home. Do you really not understand that?

  87. maxr

    Other ideas are on the ground regarding this question. Rather than try to flood the g.a. with people who are not doing the majority of the organizing and building the character of this thing, why not believe in the people who are involved the most. It is clear that people want to participate in different ways. Ideas are being thrown around that can allow for this kind of diversity of tactics to really take place, that doesn’t take away an individuals choice to either participate in a march that explicitly is keeping in mind the safety of it’s participants and has the more militant group in a defensive position, or a march that allows for other tactics such as propaganda by break glass and graffiti, that would not be for people who don’t want to participate that way. Rather than preclude the options for people and their participation, trust that there are ways that everyone can be satisfied. If you try to restrict participation you will just create a wedge that can’t be fixed. Remember that the people preventing protesters from being free to express their rage at police attack or at insitutions that participate in violence on a grand scale, are actually being physically confrontational, and making people unsafe. The real practioners of violence and provocateurs are the “peace police.”

  88. terrytunes

    I like what you have to say here and totally agree with you …

  89. ghostoftherobot

    I fully agree. Last night I commented on the videos dwelling on Occupy Oakland’s homepage (under the banner: we are winning!) I logged on this morning to find that the option to comment on this post is no longer available. Anyway here’s what I had to say. I’m glad to see that other people thinking the same sort of things and are moving towards nonviolence.
    It’s incredibly disappointing to watch the administrators of this website openly praise and validate violence as a legitimate means of change. This group of videos (posted on Occupy Oakland’s homepage) asserts that peaceful disobedience and violent actions are equally valid tactics. That is irresponsible. Violence takes all the attention away from the issues. And it divides the movement. No one in Oakland is talking about why we marched on Nov 2nd (not even those who took part). They’re not talking about the injustice of the system. The fact that millions of people in America are living without healthcare, affordable education, or a suitable means to making more than $10 an hour.

    They’re talking about what was left by a handful of anarchists.

    Broken windows. Trash. Smoldering dumpsters.

    The 20th century witnessed the dawn of something beautiful: nonviolent disobedience, and it has been proven to be effective. People follow leaders like Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, people who have something to say and that stand for something, not a bunch of masked idiots breaking windows and lighting shit on fire. Nor will people follow those that condone them.

    I do not support tactics employed by the KKK. Neither does mainstream America. We have to decide what we are going to be going forward; a group of conscious citizens committed to making the world a better place, or a nihilistic cult.

    We had our chance, and unless the GA votes to make a radical shift, I fear that we have lost it.