Race, Violence and Occupy Oakland

Categories: Reflections

In the wake of the failed building takeover, there has been a lot of discussion about violence, self defense and the police response. The discussion about violence vs nonviolence has been going on since the beginning of Occupy Oakland. I’ve struggled to find a way to express my thoughts on this subject, and a friend of mine had already encouraged me to express them. The conversations I had today with people down at the plaza have allowed me to solidify my thoughts on this issue.

There are several things to discuss. The racial angle in how people discuss violence is one that has been on my mind for quite a while. Another is how people in the movement mistake a discussion of whether violence is “justified” for an actual tactical or strategic discussion. Finally, the reactions people have to violence by the police exposes exactly why Occupy should be a nonviolent movement.

Discussions about violence in Occupy have a heavily racialized angle. Often, people are more ready to hear out discussions about the role of violence from white or black males. I often see or hear black male violence fetishized as “authentic” by Occupiers. Furthermore, it is often very clear to me that my voice as an Asian male is routinely dismissed, not sought or ignored by people of a variety of ethnic backgrounds, and this includes people of color. To the extent that my comments on this issue have not been dismissed, it is only because I have forcefully injected them into the discourse.

In this way , Occupy is a mirror of the wider American society, where as a friend of mine says, only white people are viewed to be people with a variety of characteristics. Latinos are coded as “emotional”, blacks as violent, and Asians as passive. I find this hilariously inaccurate, actually, since in the twentieth century alone, Asia witnessed numerous wars and revolutions wherein armies slaughtered each other on the battlefield by the hundreds of thousands. For example, in 1978 China and Vietnam fought for less than a month, with more than 50,000 people dying as a result. In China during the late 1960s, factions of high school and college students fought pitched street battles with edged and blunt weapons. I don’t expect people to know this history, but really, no one should have to know this history if they actually saw someone as a person, and not as a stereotype.
I have noticed that some of those who most loudly proclaim their militancy are the ones who basically ignore me unless I approach them first.

And speaking of militancy, today I heard more than a few people talking about police violence who were unable to articulate the difference between whether police violence was “justified,” and whether a particular action taken by Occupy Oakland was tactically or strategically sound.

Those are two different discussions, and whether anyone was “justified” has nothing to do with failing to take Kaiser Auditorium in the face of police action. The operation to take the building failed, and it failed because there were not enough people in the street to deter the police from acting against the crowd. Think back to the first day of action to close the port, the General Strike. Probably 20,000 people marched that day, and there was no way to stop them from moving to the port, short of the police opening up with real bullets. Therefore, the march happened, and Occupy was able to shut down the port.

The fact is, 20,000 people did not march on J28. They did not march because the organizers and instigators of the march were unable to attract a large enough crowd. You have to expect that the police will try to kettle protesters, and make them stop. Failing to plan to take that into account, and failing to develop an operational plan to do that is irresponsible. I saw the ABC7 helicopter livestream of people marching into Laney College, which slowed down the march and dispersed people. While people were walking through Laney, the livestream showed a group of riot police sprinting to cut off the march at the exits to the college, and successfully doing so. Whoever came up with the idea of marching through Laney was foolish, and should have expected the outcome.

And there is a reason that 20,000 people did not show up on J28, and did not show up during the second port strike. It is the reason that very few people show up for the “Fuck The Police” marches, and fewer and fewer people want to show up to Occupy events. And that is the belligerent and unrealistic rhetoric that comes out of people’s mouths, threatening the city with “indefinitely” shutting down the airport, port, etc. Boots Riley has already discussed that in some detail. After seeing the poor turnout for J28, it is unrealistic to expect that Occupy could even carry out those actions, which just makes everyone involved look stupid and foolish– there is nothing worse than making idle threats that everyone knows you can’t pull off. Actions we take should draw in the undecided, and connect us more strongly with the community, and not drive people away. The reason is that movements can easily become echo chambers, where the numbers shrink only to the “hard core.” The “hard core” does things which build in-group solidarity, so that the members feel they are ever more correct, while at the same time alienating the public. In those situations, you don’t end up with a mass movement, you have a cult, like the Japanese Red Army Faction. They ran around for years with a tiny group of people, pulling operations and killing people (and their own group members). The crazier they got, the more they felt justified (there’s that word again) but the more they were alienated from Japanese society. The Baader-Meinhoff group in Germany was similar. It is almost as if people get so hung up on action that they stop thinking about whether it serves any other goal besides the rush. Therefore, to avoid those kinds of self-destructive scenarios, we always have to think about how to draw in the uncommitted with our actions.

Before taking action, people have to think very hard about whether the risks and costs of the operation are worth it, and whether we can succeed before we mount an operation. We don’t have infinite resources, and I’m not just talking about money. I’m talking about time and people’s lives. Mass arrests mean that many people are going to be sucked into the justice system and the time they spend dealing with that, is time they can’t spend doing anything else, like serving food or organizing in the community. I’ve heard people talk about “wearing down” the police– this is silly, as the police and law enforcement have tremendous resources, that outstrip what a few hundred people can bring to bear. I have talked with people who say that there were plenty of people who knew the action was going to fail, but it was important to do it anyway, just to do it. People may not realize it , but that callous attitude towards wasting operational resources mirrors the rhetoric and actions of World War 1 generals, who repeatedly threw their men into losing operations, “just because.” Only, it wasn’t “just because,” it came out of a sense of entitlement to people’s lives, and a refusal to avoid head to head battles by finding smarter ways to engage their opponents.

Sound familiar?

I find it ironic that people who so often claim to be against the mfilitary industrial complex so often mirror the military at its worst.

And speaking of foolish and stupid, the entire shield wall, Black Bloc stuff is pretty ridiculous. Again, I hear discussions of justification, legalistic arguments about self defense, and people quoting Frantz Fannon. Frankly, there is no such thing as self defense, there is only survival. Self defense is a legal concept that has to do with when the state or society views a particular action as permissible. But out on the street, it’s just two people, or two groups struggling to prevail and take a space. So you’re either violent, or you’re not. Getting caught in between, just means getting a beating, because by waiting there with shields it’s reactive, and waiting for the police to make the first move. If people are going to pick the path of violence in their confrontations with the police, then they are always going to lose because the police have more training, better equipment and are used to working as a unit. Person for person, you aren’t beating the cops. You can only prevail when you have massive overwhelming numbers on your side, because at that point there isn’t much the police can do to stop you. And if you really must talk about justification, with tens of thousands of people on your side, you can really say that you are standing up with and for the people. Seeing tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people in the street is the kind of thing that will make a significant number of police and military ask themselves if they really want to continue strapping on a weapon for a government and system that lacks the support of the governed.

And it is the discussions about justification, and the outcries of police brutality that really demonstrate to me why Occupy Oakland should be a nonviolent movement. Frankly, what I saw in the livestreams was a fairly restrained OPD. Most cops were delivering hits on protesters’ torsos, arms or legs. For healthy young people, this isn’t a very big deal, since those kinds of bruises will heal in a couple of days. Yes, getting shot in the face by a bean bag, or taking any kind of head trauma, or permanent crippling injury are serious. But the other stuff? Not really. It’s not more rough than what you see in a typical full contact sparring session. And if people find that shocking and “brutal” then they sure as hell aren’t ready for all-out-violent-war in-the-streets-revolution.
In those situations,elaborate justifications go out the window. It’s about survival, and ensuring that you and your own survive no matter what. That is terrifically ugly, and in those situations, it sure isn’t horizontal democracy that informs the situation. When governments fall, the people absolutely turn to those who can provide protection to them and their interests, and it is historically, the hierarchal organizations that provide said security. It is the former soldiers and cops, and the organized crime groups that rise to the fore. I guarantee you that those kinds of people aren’t going to give a shit about temp checks and consensus.

You don’t have to take my word for it — you can look at what happened when the USSR collapsed in the 1990s, and when the Chinese empire collapsed in 1911. It’s not pretty. Men like that are not going to want to listen to people screaming about police brutality– they’ll just send over a squad of armed men, with kill-on-sight orders. All the talk about justification is just excuses, it’s the stuff that people tell themselves so they can feel better about what they are doing, because they know in their hearts that what they are doing clashes with their temperament. And in this way, the rhetoric that I hear at Occupy Oakland sometimes is ironically not all that different from the kinds of lies that our society tells young men before it sends them off to do battle in a foreign land. People talk about “serving the country” and “fighting for freedom” and “just war,” as a way to assuage their guilt over killing people who have not done a damn thing to us, simply so a defense contractor can make a buck, a careerist military officer can get a promotion, and a politician can rake in contributions.

Occupy Oakland should stay a nonviolent movement because most of the people involved, do not really want a violent revolution, nor are they prepared for it. Because otherwise, then they wouldn’t be as bothered by OPD’s relatively measured response. There are a lot of people at Occupy Oakland who clearly value things like horizontal democratic meetings and organizing, and they show this by the way that they organize. And, I don’t hear people trying to justify these things, because they don’t really need any justification, they are things that are self-evidently positive, empowering, and life affirming. This is why I say that the movement should be one that is nonviolent, because those values, and the people that hold them, mostly would not survive a violent revolution. Hierarchal command structures are used by every successful fighting force because those are what work best in the chaos of battle. And those things are the antithesis of the best things about Occupy.

Violent revolution isn’t what I want. It has always been my hope that Occupy would speak truth to power and, with the voices of tens of millions of Americans, compel those with power in our society to concede peacefully. I’m not looking for some kind of utopia where everyone lives free of existential crises. Rather, I would be happy if we had a social democratic society where people had food to eat, roofs over their head, medical care when they get sick and a place to retire when they get old. In fact, if we look at the history of humanity, those are extremely radical demands, since for most of the time people suffered from routine starvation, epidemic diseases and brutal absolute monarchies. In contrast, a life of quiet desperation isn’t quite so terrible.

I got involved with Occupy because I saw it as the first nationwide movement with the potential to challenge our corrupt and terribly incompetent system. I have seen some really beautiful things in this movement– seen people struggle to overcome racial barriers to work together to build a better world, seen us feed the hungry and house the homeless, and learned a lot about how hard it is to build democratic organizations. I would hate to see those things destroyed by the very people who I know treasure those ideals the most.


53 Responses to “Race, Violence and Occupy Oakland”

  1. Aaron Parr

    There are a great number of counterproductive and divisive statements in this thread. The gist is that some are dissatisfied with the direction OO seems to be taking. Given that this is a movement with a horizontal structure not a hierarchy it is absurd and childish to make these complaints. The movement belongs to all of us.

    Organize your own actions, and build up momentum. Train people in ways to deal with those that foolishly pursue black bloc tactics. They are a cancer which must be expelled by non-violent means.

    But the focus needs to be useful actions – AND sustainability of our communities. Real sustainability that organizes to ensure long time sources of food, shelter, clothing, education, sanitation etc… for the movement and oakland communities. Start small with food crating liasons with sympathetic farmers. Then figure out what you can provide to the farmers so that that relationship can be sustained. Etc…. this is a revolution that is going to require decades of work. We need to be abloe to survive long term and create a real counter culture – as cliche as that term has been made by dead-beat drug addled hippies sitting on their asses. But nevertheless the idea is solid and the only way you are going to deal with an oppressive economic system.

    That is what the non-violent folks should be working on. Leave the idiots to their meaningless displays of anger. The rest of us need to create alternatives to the economic collapse and the totalitarian state that is filling in for our once vibrant economy. We won’t be able to move on the entrenched corruption in DC if we can’t sustain ourselves. Its that simple.

    Violence on the other hand will justify the actions of the state and more importantly the “military contractors” that the ultra rich have the resources to use on you. You need to be clearly the good guys and have the population on your side whenever the state or the private armies are used on you. The only thing we have against that power is numbers. And the only way to get that is moral persuasion.

    Violence does not persuade.

  2. fellow worker

    This is an excerpt from Anarchist Anthropologist David Graeber’s essay “ON THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF GIANT PUPPETS: broken windows, imaginary jars of urine, and the cosmological role of the police in American culture.”
    In this excerpt Graeber, who was on the move-in day march, writes about the role of the festival and carnivalesque nature of resistance in anti-capitalist convergences and actions. I’m posting this because it seams like there is an deep lack of understanding of the various antecedents that have given rise to the kinds of actions that where typical of the alter/anti-globalization movement or global social justice movement and that have informed much of the actions undertaken by the Occupy/Decolonize Movement.

    Instead of researching and analyzing the politics and movements that inform Occupy/Decolonize, people keep trotting out old tired Marxist and Old-New Left arguments as if the only options are the violent overthrow the state or Gandhian nonviolent civil disobedience.

    I see a lot of examples like Kwangju, WWI, and Collapse of the Chinese Empire, and a small part of the civil rights movement (ie MLK), with little to no reference to SNCC, or the Clamshell Alliance, or the New Society Movement, or the Abalone Alliance, or of the uprising of the EZLN/Zapatistas in 1994, the emergence of Peoples Global Action in August of 1997, or J18 – ie june 18th 1999 Known as the “Global Day of Action Against Financial Centers” or the “Carnival Against Capitalism” N30 – the Battle of Seattle in 1999, the 2000 RNC, the 2000 DNC, S26 – the Prauge IMF/World Bank meetings in September 2000 where both the Pink Bloc and the White Overalls emerged on the international scene, the Summit of the Americas in Quebec April 2001, the G8 meeting in Genoa July of 2001 where Carlo Giuliani was murdered by the police who freaked out in response to 300,000 protestors, and the FTAA in Miami – November 2003 this massive police action combining overwhelming force, preemptive mass arrests, indiscriminate violence, etc. later became known as the Miami Model and has become the new normal. And this only brushes the surface of what is actually informing the actions and tactics of the occupy movement nevertheless it is far more applicable than some deluded revolutionary ideal of storming the armory and liberating a bounded territorial space. look at what is actually going on instead of trying to dictate to other people how to act like proper revolutionaries – when by enlarge that is not the terms or means of struggle that is currently being waged.

    One could even say that in a sense, the Black Bloc appear to be the latest avatars of an artistic/revolutionary tradition which runs at least through the Dadaists, Surrealists and Situationists (the latter by far the most popular theorists in American anarchist bookshops): one which tries to play off the contradictions of capitalism by turning its own destructive, leveling forces against it. Capitalist societies—and America in particular—are, in essence, potlatch societies. That is, they are built around the spectacular destruction of consumer goods.25 They are societies that imagine themselves as built on something they call “the economy” which, in turn is imagined as a nexus between “production” and “consumption”, endlessly spitting out products and then destroying them again. Since it is all based on the principle of infinite expansion of industrial production—the very principle which the Black Bloc anarchists, mostly being highly ecologically conscious anti-capitalists, most vehemently oppose—all that stuff has to be constantly destroyed to make way for new products. But this, in turn, means inculcating a certain passion for or delight in the smashing and destruction of property that can very easily slip into a delight in the shattering of those structures of relation which make capitalism possible. It is a system that can only renew itself by cultivating a hidden pleasure at the prospect of its own destruction.26
    Actually, one could well argue that there have been two strains in twentieth century artistic/revolutionary thought, and that both have been entangled in the—endlessly ambivalent—image of the potlatch. In the 1930s, for example, George Bataille became fascinated by Marcel Mauss’ description of the spectacular destruction of property in Kwakiutl potlatches; it ultimately became the basis for his famous theory of “expenditure”, of the creation of meaning through destruction, that he felt was ultimately lacking under modern capitalism. There are endless ironies here. First of all, what Bataille and subsequent authors seized on was not, in fact, “the potlatch” at all, but a small number of very unusual potlatches held around the turn of the century, at a time marked both by a rapid decline in Kwakiutl population, and a minor economic boom had left the region awash in an unprecedented number of consumer goods. Ordinary potlatches did not normally involve the destruction of property at all; they were simply occasions for aristocrats to lavish wealth on the community. If the image of Indians setting fire to thousands of blankets or other consumer goods proved captivating, in other words, it was not because it represented some fundamental truth about human society that consumer capitalism had forgotten, but rather because it reflected the ultimate truth of consumer capitalism itself. In 1937, Bataille teamed up with Roger Callois to found a reading group called “The College of Sociology”, that expanded his insights into a general theory of the revolutionary festival: arguing that it was only by reclaiming the principle of the sacred, and the power of myth embodied in popular festivals that effective revolutionary action would be possible. Similar ideas were developed in the ‘50s by Henri Lefebvre, and within the Lettrist International, whose journal, edited by Guy Debord, was, significantly, entitled “Potlatch.”27 Here there is of course a direct line from the Situationists, with their promulgation of art as a form of revolutionary direct action, to the punk movement and contemporary anarchism.
    If Black Blocs embody one side of this tradition—capitalism’s encouragement of a kind of fascination with consumerist destruction that can, ultimately, be turned back against capitalism itself— the Puppets surely represent the other one, the recuperation of the sacred and unalienated experience in the collective festival. Radical puppeteers tend to be keenly aware that their art harkens back to the wickerwork giants and dragons, Gargantuas and Pantagruels of Medieval festivals. Even those who have not themselves read Rabelais or Bakhtin are likely to be familiar with the notion of the carnivalesque.28 Convergences are regularly framed as “carnivals against capitalism” or “festivals of resistance.” The base-line reference seems to be the late Medieval world immediately before the emergence of capitalism, particularly, the period after the Black Death when the sudden decline in population had the effect of putting unprecedented amounts of money into the hands of the laboring classes. Most of it ended up being poured into popular festivals of one sort or another, which themselves began to multiply until they took up large parts of the calendar year; what nowadays might be called events of “collective consumption”, celebrations of carnality and rowdy pleasures and—if Bakhtin is to be believed—tacit attacks on the very principle of hierarchy. One might say that the first wave of capitalism, the Puritan Moment as it’s sometimes called, had to begin with a concerted assault on this world, which was condemned by improving landlords and nascent capitalists as pagan, immoral, and utterly unconducive to the maintenance of labor discipline. Of course a movement to abolish all moments of public festivity could not last forever; Cromwell’s reign in England is reviled to this day on the grounds that he outlawed Christmas. More importantly, once moments of festive, collective consumption were eliminated, the nascent capitalism would be left with the obvious problem of how to sell its products, particularly in light of the need to constantly expand production. The end result was what I like to call a process of the privatization of desire; the creation of endless individual, familial, or semi-furtive forms of consumption; none of which, as we are so often reminded, could really be fully satisfying or else the whole logic of endless expansion wouldn’t work. While one should hardly imagine that police strategists are fully cognizant of all this, the very existence of police is tied to a political cosmology which sees such forms of collective consumption as inherently disorderly, and (much like a Medieval carnival) always brimming with the possibility of violent insurrection. “Order” means that citizens should go home and watch TV.29
    For police, then, what revolutionaries see as an eruption of the sacred through a recreation of the popular festival is a “disorderly assembly”—and exactly the sort of thing they exist to disperse. However, since this sense of festival as threatening does not appear to resonate with large sectors of the TV audience, the police were forced to, as it were, change the script [see poll info at the end of the footnotes]. What we’ve seen is a very calculated campaign of symbolic warfare, an attempt to eliminate images of colorful floats and puppets, and substitute images of bombs and hydrochloric acid—the very substances that, in police fantasies, are likely to actually lurk beneath the papier-mâché façade.

    25 Probably the destruction of productive capacity as well, which must be endlessly renewed.
    26 It might be significant here that the United States’ main exports to the rest of the world consist of (a) Hollywood action movies and (b) personal computers. If you think about it, they form a kind of complementary pair to the brick-through-window/giant puppet set I’ve been describing—or rather, the brick/puppet set might be considered a kind of subversive, desublimated reflection of them—the first involving paeans to property destruction, the second, the endless ability to create new, but ephemeral, insubstantial imagery in the place of older, more permanent forms.
    27 Some of this history is retold, and the story brought forward to Reclaim the Streets and the current carnivals against capitalism, in an essay by Gavin Grindon called “The Breath of the Possible”, to appear in Constituent Imagination: Militant Investigation, Collective Research” (David Graeber and Stevphen Shukaitis, editors), AK Press, 2006.
    28 For one good example of such reflections, see “History of Radical Puppetry”, by the Wise Fool Puppet Collective (www.zeitgeist.net/wfca/radpup.htm). Wise Fool traces their art more back to Medieval mystery plays than festivals but it provides a nice historical perspective.
    29 Where they will normally turn on shows which take the perspective of the same police in charge of getting them off the streets to begin with; more on this later.
    poll: 1,004 adults, 32.9% said they were proud of the protesters, while another 31.2% said they were wary. Another 13.2% said they were sympathetic and 15.7% irritated and 6.9% said they were unsure.” Considering the almost uniform hostility of the coverage, the fact that a third of the audience were nonetheless “proud”, and that less than one in six were sure their reaction was negative, is quite remarkable.

  3. fellow worker

    this is for anyone who is preaching non-violent civil disobedience but was not at J28.

    A Call To Oakland’s Non-Violent Movement: We Must Lead By Example
    by Neil Frazier
    Thursday Feb 2nd, 2012 12:56 PM
    As a non-violent activist committed to social justice, I question where these advocates of brave, non-violent disobedience were when the police began shooting people with rubber bullets, tear gassing them, and shooting exploding concussion bombs into the crowd that was attempting to occupy the Kaiser building? Where were these voices, who now rise up to condemn the violence of the protesters in article after article, when they needed to be on the front line providing an example of a disciplined, resolute, and courageous non-violent response to the police attacks on protesters?
    After the recent attempt by Occupy Oakland to occupy an abandoned building to create a community center like the one the city repeatedly destroyed at Oscar Grant Plaza, some non-violent activists have taken to the internet to denounce those who chose to throw objects at the police.

    As a non-violent activist committed to social justice, I question where these advocates of brave, non-violent disobedience were when the police began shooting people with rubber bullets, tear gassing them, and shooting exploding concussion bombs into the crowd that was attempting to occupy the Kaiser building? Where were these voices, who now rise up to condemn the violence of the protesters in article after article, when they needed to be on the front line providing an example of a disciplined, resolute, and courageous non-violent response to the police attacks on protesters?

    In video after video of the days events, you do not see anyone acting in the classic non-violent methods of disobedient response to the brutality of the police. Without a doubt, it is much harder to do so today, when police forces no longer have only the helmets and truncheons of the civil rights era with which to attack people face to face, but can now shoot activists from 500 yards away with incredibly painful weaponry while hiding behind enough riot gear to make them look like robo-cops incapable of any type of humanizing interaction with those who would choose the moral power of a non-violent response to their violence. But, this change of condition is no excuse for those who come out condemning violent protesters after the fact to only criticize while not providing any leadership or example. Dr. King was arrested at least 34 times during his struggle for civil rights and justice. That is what true leadership looks like.

    Those who would condemn the actions of activist’s violent responses to police brutality must show by example what a powerful non-violent response would look like. We must be there, on the front line, willing to sit down and refuse to move when tear gas, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades are going off all around us and injuring us. That is when the courage of our conviction to non-violence is tested and proven. That is when we prove the power of non-violence to oppose injustice.

    Until we, the advocates of a non-violent response, can show the power of our convictions through our actions, we have no room to condemn violent protesters, especially when we do so while not also condemning the violent actions of the police in the same breath. We have no moral ground to stand on in this regard. We must build a moral high ground through the sacrifices of struggle. It is not automatically afforded to us without proving our commitment to non-violent resistance when it is tested the most.

    Non-violence can be an incredibly powerful response to violence by institutions because it can clearly show who the violent side is and which side is fighting a moral struggle, rather than a military one. I envision the next time Occupy Oakland is attacked by the police a group of activists committed to non-violence refusing to move or turn our focus onto those activists throwing objects when the police attack, and using the moral power of our refusal to move to expose the violence that keeps buildings empty while the homeless sleep on the streets. Only then can our plea for a non-violent struggle be taken seriously.

    In the civil rights era, non-violent activists were beaten, bloodied, jailed, and even murdered while retaining a fierce commitment to non-violence. If we use their struggle as an example for the Occupy movement to emulate, we must be willing to make those same sacrifices. If we aren’t, our words will continue to ring hollow, and the youth, seeing no other viable alternative in practice, will continue to defend themselves from the modern-day long range police assaults on the streets with their own long-range responses of rocks, bottles, and other violent means that take away our moral power to shame the system into ending it’s policy of defending abandoned buildings and the rule of the 1% with vicious violence.

    We must be the change we wish to see within the movement, even more so than in the world at large, and we must provide an example, not of the condemnation of violent activists — which is an argument all too easy for those opposing the movement against economic inequality to use to their own advantage — but, rather, of a path forward for those in the struggle beside us. A non-violent path that overwhelms the guns and chemical weapons of the modern riot police with a refusal to be moved and a refusal to stop demanding social justice.

    Only when we begin to lead by example will people once again come to understand the meaning of “we shall not be moved” and “we shall overcome.” And if we can find the courage of our convictions, we surely will overcome their morally bankrupt violence and achieve Dr. King’s dream of equality.

    my own remarks…i agree w/ this article; all of the internet strategist, ethicist, moralist, and wanna-be King Gandhi Jr’s need to step up and act, otherwise you give non-violent activism a bad name by smugly preaching commitment and sacrifice while criticizing those who demonstrate both behind the safety and comfort of your computer monitors and live stream up links. this “reflection” on an event that the author wasn’t present at is an epic fail and won’t produce any change in OO. actually following through on the rhetoric of sacrifice and commitment w/ actions that demonstrates both might however have some effect.

  4. tomcat

    I’m at least as old as you are I imagine. I don’t consider myself idealistic, I consider myself realistic but like all of us limited in my education and understanding. However, the right wing backlash could have been predicted by the loss of the Vietnam war. Our situation is both better and worse now. International capitalism has collapsed and I don’t think it can be fixed by anything other than a WW so that they can then rebuild. Another WW (beyond what we’re already in) will not be won by us, if it can be won by anyone. I think more and more people understand this, if not consciously then viscerally. We have many of the base material necessities for profound change. Certainly the rulers know this, hence the increasing militarization everywhere, not only here. But, it will be the youth who really do it, not us. What I would like to know (if it’s at all possible to have a fair assessment) what the youth think about these things. I still as I said before think that at this point we should be non-violent.

  5. accudoc

    If you live in Albuquerque than why are you so involved with comment on OO’s activities. Have you been standing out in the cold at Oscar Grant plaza? the issue of colonization runs deep even in the indigenous people of this continent. The Aztecs have been ripping the hearts out of there enemies before the spaniards came here. Cortez was supported by the subjagated enemies of the Aztecs as was Pizzaro with the Inca empire.
    The native peoples of the northeast were fighting one another for territory for years before the whites came. The idealic view of the natives is a bit distorted. That being said the colonization of the americas was a brutal genocidal affair and all whites here bear responsibility for the history of what happened. . The 1% are ripping everyone off some for a longer time than others and more painful than others. In an equitable world a balance and mutual respect would reign. Hopefully in the future that will happen, how will that happen is anyones guess at this point.

  6. kdub

    Fighting the police? Burning flags? Sounds like a failed movement already. When will people learn. The 1% would LOVE for you to violent. If you see someone pick up a rock, or vandalize property, I say call them out for what they are, a massive detriment to a productive activism. Chanting peaceful protest has helped me shut down one bullhorn toter who was saying we should take up arms. Violence is the ultimate trap for good activism. The bait is YOUR cynicism. Will you bite?

  7. gmh8899

    I admire your idealism and I suspect you are young (nothing wrong with that). When I was young, in the 60’s, we believed all the activism would lead to a revolution in the U.S. where there would be an end to many forms or repression and greater equality for all. We didn’t get the revolution we expected, but some things, over time, did change, at least for awhile. The Vietnam War came to an end, we entered a period of social consciousness where the social safety net was strengthened, there were attempts to attain prison reform, greater consciousness of minority and women’s issues emerged. All this took place at a time when our economy was doing pretty well and there was more good will towards others because there was money available. Now, I think it is more difficult, due to an economy that has been devastated by the greed of those who have taken advantage of deregulation and the predominance of money in our political system. Social change will take a long time and a sustained commitment, as others have said. We need participation across as many segments of society as possible. While we need the idealism and energy of younger folks, it should be balanced with the wisdom and experience of those who have been there and done that. I think there is a naivete in the thinking of many in the OO movement. Events featuring clashes with the police in the street, vandalism and hateful slogans will not take us any closer to creating a society that meets the needs of the poor and middle class.

  8. tomcat

    I owe you an apology, I shouldn’t have said that about commitment. And, I am upset if there were antisemitic statements made.

  9. tomcat

    I should not have said stupid. I should have said ineffective.

  10. tomcat

    Mass rallies are stupid, yes. But, mass rallies that shut down a bank or a port are not stupid. That is not the same as violence. We’re all frustrated and feel like the situation is urgent. Because the situation is urgent. But, we have to be smart about the way we do things.

  11. tomcat

    It’s restrained when you talk about police firing live ammunition as the National Guard did at Kent State, or really beating the hell out of people, which has also happened here. If we want to win, and I want to win, we are going to need a mass movement. These are very early days. I don’t know. What you definitely do not want to do is create a situation where police can easily escalate their tactics and we won’t see outrage. He’s not saying he likes the police. But, the state will use the repression that they think they can get away with, don’t doubt it. We want to keep that to a minimum.

  12. tomcat

    It’s hard for me to believe how sincere your commitment is to change things when you become so irate over this. There is nothing morally wrong with what these kids are doing. It’s just not good strategy at this point, in my opinion.

  13. tomcat

    Do not expect the MSM to help. That will never happen.

  14. gmh8899

    Neither is yelling “F* the cops,” vandalizing property or burning flags. I do agree we need a social movement, in addition to helping people in the community.
    So the question is, what is a social movement and how do you stop Monsanto? You would need huge numbers of people in order to make any form of social activism work. Occupy Oakland will never have huge numbers if it is concentrated in the direction of violent, confrontational and destructive activities. I would like to see large, nonviolent demonstrations close down banks and major corporations. Demonstrations that children and old people will become involved in. Lately, however, OO numbers are dwindling because of the tactics that are being used.

  15. tomcat

    I agree that it is premature to make this a movement who’s main activity is fighting the police. But, at the same time I think that occupying public space is important as well as the fact that the Occupy movement has cared better for the homeless, right in the middle of their intense political participation, than the system ever did. I guess this is all telling us that fighting this system will be hard and take some serious thought about how to reach our goals.

  16. tomcat

    I don’t think they need to publicly disavow it or violence. That makes it into a typical reformist movement. They just need to stop for now unless it’s directly in self defense. And, that seems to be what has happened with FTP. They have stopped vandalizing and the J21 march was non-violent. You don’t seem to be following very closely. Maybe Fuck the Police is a little in your face but that chant “No justice, no peace, Fuck the Police,” made me laugh. I love the OO slogans (I don’t live here but I may move because OO is my favorite). “This system has got to die, hello, hello, occupy.” “Occupy Wall Street, occupy Oakland, occupy everything, and never give it back.” That last one I love the most. I bet that makes the 1% quake a bit.

  17. tomcat

    I don’t want this to become 100% social work. I want to change the world and it needs to change and social work is not going to do it. Social work is not going to stop Monsanto.

  18. tomcat

    This was actually in response to Simcha’s statement.

  19. tomcat

    It is sad as Summerspeaker says, I was wondering if it was true. However I cannot believe it is indicative of the movement. I am sure that most are sympathetic to the Palestinians but that is not the same thing as being antisemetic. Many Jews are sympathetic to the Palestinians. Now that needs to be addressed at the GA. If you have been active as you say, you should come to address that. I know there are many Jewish people involved intensely in the Occupy movement.

  20. gmh8899

    Enjoying reading this discussion. I am not able to articulate political and social history in the way some of the writers here are able to. However, one thing I do know for sure: If OO continues with a frontline of cop-baiting and a backline of vandalism and hate speech, it will continue to lose potential participants (Oakland residents like me!). Remember when protesters used to say “You are the 99%” to the cops and even “We love you”? Now we have “Fuck the pigs.” Shades of the 60’s. I want to participate in a movement that engages in non-histrionic and mostly non-confrontational community activities like having small centers in neighborhoods to provide food, clothing, street theater (like the Mine Troup does), etc. I liked one writer’s idea about getting communities involved in providing services in these centers. The headline grabbing tactics that demonize and bait cops while justifying the actions of all protesters, no matter what destruction they wreak in community spaces, really turns me off. (And lots of folks I have talked to, incidentally). I’m writing this because I hate to see OO become marginalized, but I know you are losing alot of potential activists with your recent tactics. Incidentally, I am no fan of OPD or Alameda Sheriff’s Dept. I believe our protests should be more thoughtful and not simply pitting the “bad” against the “good.” I even read one comment by a protester who said we need more hate in our activism–hatred of the rich. Yeah, that will really be effective!

  21. Summerspeaker

    Decolonization meanings undoing the countless methods of subjugating and exploiting Indigenous people. It’s not about sending people of European descent back to Europe – though in some cases that might be worthwhile. It’s about creating new and egalitarian relationships between Native and non-Native people. Why such defensiveness on your part, particularly if you claim Cherokee ancestry? As far as antisemitism goes, I was saddened when I heard about that nasty line in the pledge one person apparently recited while the flag burned.

  22. Summerspeaker

    As I said, it’s good to be clear about our differences. To you extent that you wish to continue the horrors of capitalism and the nation-state, you can expect sustained opposition. Many of us wish to prevent this movement from becoming yet another co-opted failure. Good luck.

  23. tomcat

    I agree with you. Non violence is the only way now. It’s not moral, it’s strategic.

  24. Simcha

    Define “decolonize.” I dare you. That term is meaningless and no one seems to want to actually define it. No one who was born here or who came here is leaving. So what else does “decolonization” mean? This land is mine as much as it is yours. I was born here. I few up here. I’m completely mixed with Cherokee. Should I pick one of the many European countries from which my European ancestors fled? Which one should I pick? Should I move to the Southeastern US to help take back the “true” Cherokee homeland? Or should I just simply get out because I’m a Jew. If that’s the reason I should leave then should I go to Israel? Oh, that’s right. You guys don’t like Jews, Israelis, or Israel. You know what? There is an ugly term for that which I’m sure you won’t own. No one in the current OO wants to dare challenge the rampant anti-semitism I’ve experienced in Occupy Oakland. Hatred is hatred. How can you claim to be enlightened and still refuse to examine the hatred in your own hearts?

  25. Simcha

    No, we the 99% are not on the same page as you. We want to change the current system into something more inclusive and equitable. We aren’t interested in your idea of revolution to replace our government. We want to take our government back. The rich 1% have perverted our system and way of life. They have stolen all of the resources from us. Why? Because too many of the 99% have sat on the sidelines for too long by not voting or getting involved in politics. We haven’t used our political power through the process of voting and political action to force our government to actually follow our constitution. We aren’t in this for your pet causes of “decolonization” or “violent revolution” anarchist style. The more you 1% radicals of the 99% take over the Occupy movement, the more you alienate the majority of the 99%. If you don’t like this country then participate in the government and change it. There is a system for redress of grievances. Too long have poeple ignored it and have allowed the wealthy 1% to usurp the system.

    Oh you are right. We the 99% aren’t on the same page as you. It seems like we aren’t even in the same book as you.

    Go ahead. Keep burning flags, picking fights with police, engagng in property destruction, talking about violent revolution to destroy the USA and our government, and squabbling about what should be the most politically correct name for the movement. You will continue to see your numbers dwindle and your section of the movement will continue to be abandoned by most people in the 99%, especially in Oakland. Good luck with that.

    I’m still interested in starting another Occupy Oakland movement based on the principles of non-violence that will fight for the 99% in bringing about a more equitable distribution of resources and a restoration of the political power of the 99%. I won’t be involved with the current OO movement that is run by the most radical of anarchists and Black Bloc people who continue to use violence, destruction, and provocation while ignoring the true needs of the people who actually live in Oakland like me.

    Let’s create a separate Occupy Oakland that will appeal to and work for and with the 99% while leaving the radical anarchists in the other OO behind. Let’s embrace a new Occupy Oakland that commits to non-violence and that will rejoin the rest of the Occupy movements.

  26. Michael Terry

    Saturday was great! Despite some dis coordination and a poor route to our objective 2000 people marched together to take a building for community use. When we were confronted by police we stayed together. Our stand against the police with the shields by the Oakland Museum was seen all over the world and inspired solidarity actions in multiple US cities. We were more unified on tactics than we have been at any prior action. Now that we are stronger and more unified than we have been in months, its time to turn our attention to organizing our community, not just convening our friends, for the May 1st general strike.

  27. Summerspeaker

    The Constitution and Bill of Rights are documents of the colonizers. They’ve little if any place in a struggle for social justice. Folks like you and folks like me have incompatible political objectives. I may have been misguided to participate in the OWS movement to begin with, but we’ve got a wonderful group here locally in Albuquerque that rejects goals based on normative whiteness and settler colonialism.

  28. Summerspeaker

    You assume things are tolerable now. For many of us, they aren’t. Making revolution doesn’t mean following failed models of the past, but merely pushing for U.S.-style democracy and reformed capitalism allows the existing horrors to continue.

  29. twistedchick

    You are a voice of reason I just wish people at the GA would listen.

  30. accudoc

    I dont know what movement your talking about. OWS is not about advocating lawlessness and revolution its about bringing lawfullness back to this country. Remember we have a constitution and a bill of rights. The 1% have hijacked this and the constitution and the bill of rights are being shredded by the 1% who are truly unlawful. Its about taking back our country from the banksters and corporate elites. I dont remember where OWS is calling for the overthrow of the democracy of this country. I remember they want to kick out the 1% who have hijacked our democracy and return the government back to being truly represented by the people. that is not a revolution it is revitalization of the democarcy.

  31. accudoc

    Do you even know what revolution means. There are some many people at OO expressing so much brevado. If you want revolution are you willing to die for it. Are you willing to let your friends lovers and compatriots get raped, tortured, imprisioned, beaten and disappeared for it. Are you willing to see thousands upon thousands of people starving during the revolution when the infrastructure starts to crumble and there is not food around. Are you ready for a civil war. Do you know how to fire a gun because if you want to start a revolution then you better learn. Remember the power elites in this country have so much blood on there hands from there crimes against humanity that knocking off a few self inflated individuals spouting revolution is childs play for them. All this talk of revolution, decolonization is so much empty words for the most part. Revolutions are very messy take years and years. If you think arab spring, remember they were really oppressed for 30 to 40 years and the struggle is still going on there in Egypt, Bahrain, Syria. Libya was hijacked by the elites, and Algeria and Morocco it never got anywhere. If you want armed struggle then you will alienate most people in this country who wont turn on there coporate masters but you. It is usually shoot the messanger first for a long time. So if revolution is what you want then I suggest you write your will and make sure people know how to contact your next of kin.
    Talk of revolution as this point in the struggle is just plain stupid and alienates most people who want to see real democracy and wealth equality in this country. It is clear with comments like yours that this movement has been hijacked by a bunch brainless teenagers.
    Also regarding the leaders of this movement who support vandalism and get off sticking there face in the cops knowing full well that they are going to get the shit kicked out of them and bring along a whole bunch of well meaning individuals who got catught up in the OPD abuse I say let them stay in jail so they spend some time meditating on a better way of going about making change with this movement. I will support the movement but I am not going to support stupidity and ill conceived and naive actions that have been going on recently.

  32. Summerspeaker

    The flag-burning has inspired lots of us across the world. If destroying the symbol of the horrific U.S. nation-state offends you, you’re not on the same page as those of us advocating revolution and decolonization. It’s good to be open out our political differences so we can figure out how to coexist. But if U.S. nationalists gain control of the OWS movement, I’ll take my leave. You make solid point about commitment and organization, but those need not come at the expense of others in the struggle. (Though, as mentioned above, we’re not necessarily all on the same side.)

  33. Summerspeaker

    Lawfulness and U.S. nationalism will doom the OWS movement to becoming an oppressive force. The empire’s crumbling, folks. It’s long past time for decolonization and autonomy.

  34. Palmarino

    Hey Timothy. I am one your allies/homies from facebook and OO. I am glad to see you mixing it up in discussion in addition to writing the article. Occupy Oakland can really benefit from voices like your if people choose to listen. It always bugs me as a lifelong left winger, how so many people only selectively learn history that supports their world view, and ignore so many important stories and the lessons they can teach us. The truth is on our side. We should be open to as much information, and as many different voices as we can get. The sad thing about racism in the US, is that it meakes it hard for some people to imagine POC, as complex, and ue as individuals, with smething to offer, and a bigger dream to fulfill than what has been imagined. Often it is white people who underestimate POCV, but sadly we do it to ourselves as well. I have shown up to work at schools as a teacher, and had the black female secretary assume i was the janitor ( not that there is anything wrong with janitorial work) or even an intruder because they assume that a black man isn’t educated enough to teach. Anyhow, i don’t agree with everything you or anyone else writes, but I learn things and can see that you have a lot to offer. I have been frustrated at the unwillingness of OO to even discuss how to bring in more Asian folks. It is wrong, and smacks of the kind of exclusion and segregation that has marked much of the long history of struuggle that Asian have faced here in the US, and also abroad due to our foreign policy. keep up the good work.Both you and I have strategic minds, and could help make some of these ill conceived action work. I am thinking that the POC?Occupy the Hood folks need to take sharge of any future “takeovers”.. Z

  35. TimothyYFong

    The flag burning pissed me off too. I’m sure someone will go off about their right to burn the flag, and then give me a lecture about the first amendment. “Rights” aren’t the issue, the issue is what draws people to the cause. I have a right to walk down the street and say “fuck you, stupid white people” to every white person I see with a Chrome bag. But that would be stupid, hateful, counterproductive and alienating– so why would I want to do that? Just because it’s my right? Uh, no, because that would be stupid.

    It’s pretty appropriate that you mention Korea. I spent a month in the birthplace of Korean democracy, Kwangju. I got to meet a lot of people who had been involved in the uprising against the military government. You can read more about it here.
    A lot of people died actually, fighting in the streets against the dictatorship, in a protest that started at a university and escalated to soldiers clubbing and bayonetting people to death. That led to the entire town rising up against the government, raiding the armory, and, as is inevitable in these situations, ended in a massacre by government forces. The people I was with insisted on taking me to the memorial cemetery.

    To be honest I had never really related to a lot of the protester types I had seen while a student at Berkeley in the 1990s. They seemed obsessed with playing games and doing it for its own sake, and it was just a kind of theater. There was also a sort of carnival atmosphere that never sat right with me.

    It was in Korea that I first really talked with people who stood against the system, yet understood the meaning of commitment, group solidarity and seriousness in the face of mortal danger. It really impressed me and made me think hard about the role of social movements in the modern world.

    Understand that in Korea people really throw down against the police. It’s a full on fight, with organized student groups etc. I remember a friend of mine saying how weird it was to at one time be on the student side, and at another, as a soldier fighting students. I don’t think this was uncommon, because I knew another guy who had been in an elite unit and fought protesters…and then later had long hair and been in what he called “street fighting situations.”

    What I’m driving at is that it is difficult for me to take people seriously who talk about revolution and then think that this is just some kind of goddamn party, a chance to get high, fuck and talk trash. Those things are lots of fun, make no mistake, but it’s kind of a different thing from taking on the most entrenched institutions in the world.

    There are a lot of lessons we can learn from the struggles for freedom in Asia, but they are lessons that many people in OO seem intent on not learning.

  36. accudoc

    What was unfortunate was that a lot of people got uneccesarily caught up in this debacle because OO lured people into to thinking that we were going merrily waltz right in an take over a building illegally. They did by making this a festival and thinking because of good intentions that they were going to get away with it. They never thought they were leading people into a war zone. .

  37. accudoc

    BTW: I think something new will hopefully come out of the people who will giveup on OO as viable movement for social change and go elsewhere to put there resources and expertise to make change in this country. OO is like a teenager. Good ideas, lots of energy, great idealism, passion, self righteousness, no wisdom, you get the picture if you are over 40. Unfortunately a large part of the 99% are not teenages any more and the power structure is very old and very wise in there ability to get what they want. OO needs to grow up and stop the people who are into vandalism and breaking the law. OO has to disavow vandalism and we need to corner the people who doing this a get them some therapy. Also we all have to recognize there is a lot justification and anger out in Oakland because Oakland has a lot of inequality on many levels and they have been unattended for years.
    We have to know the cops are going the beat the shit ou\t of OO every chance they get. Well we dont need to fuel there fire we need to turn there aggression to our advantage by knowing that they are that way and us being not that way.


  38. accudoc

    I wrote on this site 2 days after the GA voted on this action back in mid Dec. I said the city was not going to let this happen and it a bad idea and it would end badly. Well it was a no brainer.
    Bottom line: Occupy Oakland is not drawing in more people it is losing people by this nonsense of justifying vandalism. The worst thing that happened was that some yahoo decided to get a hold of the american flag and burn it after trashing the city hall.
    Most people even people who are hurting financially are law abiding citizens and abhor violent and vandalis activity. The GA meeting on Sunday was joke. People crying about how the police were so violent. Yes that was to be expected. I think alot of occupy people are living in some pollania world if they didnt expect to get the shit kicked out of them. What was unfortunate was OO did not use this to there advantage by being totally non violent. I was watching mainstream news and OOC is being painted like some form of riotous mob. OO will continue to lose more and more and become smaller and impotent. This is exactly what the power wants and OO is falling right into this trap. OO is doing exactly what they want. Then when the people have lost interest they will come in an legally or illegally crush the leadership and alot of them will end up in jail for a very long time as lost voices of political prisioners. It is time to stop letting this movement in Oakland be hijacked by a small of group of people under 30 who for the most part dont have kids, dont have jobs and are under some form of delusions of granduer and self righteousness. I talked with an older asian guy on Sunday and he said it took 10 years of struggle in Korea to turn the government around. A lot of students dropped out of school to be engaged in the movement. Buildings were occupied for 500 days and battles with the police were always going on. I wonder how much stomach do our young leaders have for that kind of struggle. There is no thought to how to bring new people in. The sympathy for the movement is going away because the PR in this movement is getting worse. OO needs to adjust its tactics if it wants to get more people.

  39. toffee

    Thanks for this. I am a woman of color and oakland resident, and the racial dynamics you mention, especially the creepy fetishization of black male anger, is one of the reasons I have stopped participating in occupy.

  40. basharr

    Upholding the laws and obligations of citizens of this city, state and country would be a start. Perhaps patriotism is out of the question? It only takes on person to set the standard, sadly OO has let the mob rule the day and forever taint it as lawless.

  41. TimothyYFong

    Just to make this absolutely clear, I’m perfectly willing to use violence to protect myself and people I care about. What I’m not willing to do is run to my death.

  42. trevor

    condescending… i read it and was not impressed. i don’t have time to go through all my criticisms but i have a little bit of a rant. be fore warned. i felt this article/post made a number of completely flawed and even silly analogies. OO is like the RAF. really!?! i don’t think they operated like OO and they certainly were not several thousand strong at any point – get real. WWI generals really!?! And reports are coming in that OO sent thousands to die in the trenches on j29, OO reports all is quite is on the western front. Silliness. the author makes the same error repetition he criticizes by arguing that OO folks are militarist (which is probably true of some) but then paints a picture of existence that any Realist international relations scholar or US politician would gladly cite as “justification” for why we need a big well armed state and military industrial complex to support it and why we just can’t find the funding for all that social democracy bullshit. Worst of all however is the way police violence is represented and here the author speaks worst for himself “Frankly, what I saw in the livestreams was a fairly restrained OPD.” and “Yes, getting shot in the face by a bean bag, or taking any kind of head trauma, or permanent crippling injury are serious. But the other stuff? Not really.” this is my biggest problem with “non-violence” advocates, its clear that they only like to see people brutally injured so they can make a big PR campaign out of other peoples pain. Scott Olsen was shot on a march w/ about the same number of people only thing is this one had shields and when the cops attacked it looked like most people were protected by the shields and thus not shot in the face – which is a bummer i guess because nothing builds a mass movement like getting shot in the face. Finally the author talks a lot about revolution as if anyone is thinking in terms of some Marxist overthrow and wielding of state power by the oppressed and toiling masses (or some Fanonian act of cathartic decolonizing violence). That’s not what yesterday was about. The flyers all talked about taking a community center to fill the vacuum left by the withering neoliberal state that is leaving people subject to exploitive market dynamics that can’t possibly fill in for the loss of community and solidarity that has been undermined by depersonalized bureaucratic and market based social relations at the heart of the state and capitalism. Essentially no-one wanted to start the rev. in the streets of Oakland on j29, the hyperbole of the article is again another form of error repetition, instead folks wanted to create the kind of social democracy Mr. Fong claims to desire, but apparently it’s not worth fighting for, instead it’s easier to sit behind a computer and criticize others. In the end this article makes an okay argument against revolutionary leftist insurrection, and a bad one for liberal social democracy backed by justified state violence – even if the violence that he ends up justifying is brutal assaults and chemical warfare used by a police state resisting peoples efforts to bring about the vary kind of social democracy he claims to support, but whatev’s. On final note he is totally correct that the march route was terribly planned and the fact that it got kettled as often and as easy as it was speaks to serious problems in OO. The fact that cops were stationed in advance at both locations, but were ill prepared for those that went back to the plaza means they had advanced knowledge that many in the march did not have. And somebody involved in the planning is likely a cop/informant. That’s why I’ve stayed away from all planning and to the periphery. And this leads me to what i think is a far better criticism of J29 – the cops clearly knew what was going while people in the march didn’t this means the secret planning committee shit is bunk and dangerous and people should be weary of entrapment. peace im out.

  43. TQ

    This article is incoherent and pure liberal fantasy. Repeating mayoral talking points and comparing people participating in Move-in Day to WWI generals, the Japanese Red Army Faction? And bringing in the USSR in the 1990s and China in 1911?

    “Frankly, what I saw in the livestreams was a fairly restrained OPD. Most cops were delivering hits on protesters’ torsos, arms or legs. For healthy young people, this isn’t a very big deal, since those kinds of bruises will heal in a couple of days.”

    You’ve got to be kidding me. For another take on this that doesn’t apologize for the OPD: http://hellaoccupyoakland.org/opd-then-and-now-seriously-fuck-the-pigs/

    We’ve had decades of mass rallies which have done absolutely nothing. People have been looking for ways to do things differently.

    And “speaking truth to power”? As though power didn’t know what it was doing… Go back to the Democratic Party. It’s an election year and they need you.

  44. Aaron Parr

    You could have cut half this piece to make a stronger point, but I managed to read through it and am with you.

    The truth is that the level of violence that can be inflicted on us is far greater than we are prepared for. We need a bigger movement and since the movement is still too small, we should be focused on building it. So yes, I agree, non-violence is the only way forward.

    As to OO being unable to manage occupation of the Kaiser building due to its size? That is an absurd statement, and not the problem. The problem was lack of numbers to take and hold the building, especially a building with as high of a profile as that one.

    Nevertheless occupation of buildings is the right step. Thus far taking over foreclosed homes has put forward the right message, and helped build support for the movement. OO is ready for the next step up. But the next step up should be a natural step. Perhaps helping local communities to set up there own GAs to manage a community center them self. Dunno, time to start smaller projects, experiment, and see what sticks. What is the best way to get Oakland residents back in these abandoned buildings not just as residents of those spaces, but as service providers? And how do you sustain that? You certainly can’t sustain it if you depend on violence to get in the door.

  45. Simcha

    It’s not realistic to believe that Occupy Oakland could manage such a huge space as the Henry J. Kaiser building. Why not focus on a realistic plan? How about finding someone who is willing to donate or rent for very little a warehouse that Occupy Oakland could call its own? That way the authorities couldn’t remove Occupy Oakland from the space and it would be much more manageable to run and maintain the physical space and the potential services offered there. Why start with a giant albatross of a building that OO couldn’t possibly maintain?

  46. radicalrealist

    Point of fact the building has been shut down for 6 years as a result of Jerry Brown’s real estate shennigans. THe city recently offered it to realtors via the redevelopment agency after a sham sale from the city to the soon to be defunct Redevelopment Agency.

    That said, the tactics that were used to take the bilding were clearly insufficient to the situation and another taret (the supposed plan B) should have been implemented immediately (or actually prior to setting the march route but certainly no later than were the police were spotted.) 2000 people was not an insignificant turn out for a mass civil disobedience and if the 300-400 arrests had been arranged by the protestors to take place in a situation of meaningful protest they could have significantly shifted the outcome.

    The crime of Oakland letting so many huge public structures mold away, the vast real estate holdings of the Port and it’s many insider deals can also be exposed. But the current constellation of tactics is not working effectively. One upside are the solidarity responses from other Occupy sites but we need to step up our ability to analyze what occupy is doing and not doing well or our ability to influence the national movement and engage Oakland and the Bay Area will dwindle.

    The target and intentions of this action were good but the field of physical combat is not where our movement will prevail. The wider public is still in dire need of education about how capitalism is failing, why it is failing and what sorts of alternatives and bases of power we can build to change course.

  47. Simcha

    Amazing post! Thank you for giving voice to why non-violence is absolutely necessary.

  48. margaret

    Amen to every word here, TimothyYFong! The militant posturing has sickened me for all the above reasons and a few more. Like so many other older local activIsts, I’ve had to stay away from occupy events because these people (who often have no local roots or track record) send my provocateur radar to possible heart attack level. At best they are an embarrassing security hazard, at worst they mean real harm.

  49. russd

    I don’t know your personally man, but you are in my top ten favorite occupiers for saying this shit, and saying it here, not on some facebloop page.
    I am not necessarily a non-violent activist. I think non violence is an appropriate tactic sometimes. But I will also put myself in harms way in certain situations. I believe direct action is necessary. However DOT has turned into dismissing non-violence out of hand. Glorifying riots and fighting with the police. Yeah it is a giddy feeling when you push back at the cops…and get away with it. But I would hope that we all aren’t in this for cheap thrills. I am down for working on the real shit. Deconstructing the race/gender/class barriers. Opposing injustice. Speaking truth to power at every opportunity.
    I think it is awesome that you called out the J28 action for the grandiose pile of shit planning that it was. Anyone, look at Henry J Kaiser on a map. How the fuck are you going to attack and retreat from that place? All the roads adjacent to it only run east/west. And even the neighborhood around there is a snarl of dead ends and twisted streets. If that was a real military conflict it would have been a blood bath.
    The choice of targets is laughable. Are the move in committee folks even from around here? That is not an abandoned building. It was active right up until a short while before they started doing construction. That construction is covering up that Henry J Kaiser wasnt staying booked. It also obscures that elements of the Perata machine wanted to give that land to developers. (Part of the motivation behind that “move the library” measure a while back too). There is no way they would have let us step one foot in there. We would have a better chance of Occupying Yoshi’s. Utterly foolish choice. I could think of at least 10 better locations. And if I had attended any of the move in meetings I would have thrown up a block at that silly ultimatum letter you guys sent. What the fuck? You seriously killed a lot of support for the move in with that letter. I know a dozen people that stayed away simply on that alone. If the weather had been worse there would have been dozens, not hundreds.
    Like the above statement said.
    We dont have unlimited resources.
    We cant all afford to be arrested multiple times.
    And even if we could what is the POINT of getting arrested?
    We need to seek ways to achieve our aims without needing to engage the cops.