as the grad student with the talkback/”that OWS innocent” reported below, i have to say *I* am a bit overdescribed here, in this recollection of a recent event in which i argued with someone about the problems overrepresentation in #occupy, but here it is: Benj Demott writes up his thoughts in First of the Month after attending some open seminars in my Critical Theory program.
I’m wary of having too much fun when I’m on the side that’s won so I cut out from tv festivities on Inauguration Day to attend a Serious Times seminar on Occupy Wall Street. While the timing of that OWS meet seemed to underscore a snarky point made by Thomas Frank in a review of books about Occupiers – “Measured in terms of words published per political results…OWS may be the most over-described historical event of all time” – one grad student’s talkback at the conclave lifted me as much as Obama’s oration earlier in the day. It was bracing when this young woman – a former participant in Oakland’s OWS who’s currently committed to Occupy Sandy’s exercises in mutual aid – expressed astonished contempt for the gross cynicism of a political theorist named Jodi Dean.
Professor Dean had used her time at Serious Times to go live with a Call for a new Communist Party. (Got dead if you want it at Amazon which is selling Ms. Dean’s new book, The Communist Horizon [Alternate Title: Blue Skies in the Gulag].) Dean’s song of Leninism (and Ooh-Mao-Mao) had me humming “Springtime for Hitler” under my breath. And sure enough winter roared in once that student had the temerity to tell Dean lying might not be a good way to build a political movement. The prof got icy when the OWS vet recalled how opportunists with only a virtual connection to the local movement in Oakland rankled actual Occupiers there by promoting unsanctioned actions. What really bugged Oakland OWSers were attendant false reports in social media that wildly inflated numbers of souls at side-shows. Professor Dean claimed not to grasp why any OWSer would have issues with shadowy outliers hyping sect (or solo) actions. She accused the OWS vet of cultivating pathos and talked up a politics of “rising expectations.”
Given that Dean is a wannabe Communist Party cadre, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when she copped to her ease with the prospect of outside factions conflating their agendas with that of a consensual local movement. Still, for an American, it’s sort of a stunner to run into an unapologetically undemocratic politico. And I’m glad that OWS innocent’s voice (and face) registered her shock at the Prof’s s’all good trashing of truth.
from my POV: the major point of contention with Dean was over this: ”who will come to your next event if you truthfully say only 4 people came to your last one? you have to tell them 100 came!” she said [paraphrased]. i said lying to build up your movement only causes mistrust, and delegitimizes both your representatives and representations. she disagreed.
i’m still not clear on whether i was right or wrong in my challenge to her – on this issue of whether overrepresentation of your capacity/momentum is necessary to build a movement – but this promotion of false representation – which to me reeks of propaganda – provoked me to retort, especially, as Benj noted, after having witnessed so many instances of false/over-representation about numbers/actions in Occupy Oakland that eventually led me to mistrust everyone reporting the movement, inside or out.
in fighting shadowy, abstract-yet-real oppression, is transparency not necessary? is truth not the only weapon in a fight against lies?Filed in CTA SVA, politics and news | Tagged with #occupy, #occupyoakand, #ows | Comment (0)
on the discussion of whether “black bloc” tactics are useful to social movements:
We’re continuing our discussion of wanting to take the influence of money out of politics with Author and Truthout columnist Chris Hedges. Overturning Citizens United is just one step, but for those that have been monitoring the Occupy movement for over the last four months, they know that it’s about much more. But where does public opinion stand on Occupy now that the majority of the camps have been evicted? Now that we’ve seen in some cities, violence come into play, in what’s meant to be a peaceful movement. Hedges pin points the black bloc anarchists, and calls them the cancer within Occupy. And says that if their confrontational tactics begin to shape public opinion, and allow local governments to justify draconian forms of control, the Occupy movement is finished.
UPDATE 2/8/12: REBUTTAL TO HEDGES ET.AL.: THOSE WHO ARE AGAINST BLACK BLOC TACTICS DON’T UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
Chris Hedges’ “Black Bloc” takedown is only the most recent in a series of critiques bashing anarchists and “diversity of tactics” within the national Occupy movement since January 28th’s fog of tear gas has dissipated. While previous criticisms came from the right or center of the political spectrum, these perspectives are arising from the left and mainly from journalists who have not been in the field to witness these tactics in action and within context…
…Some in Occupy Oakland call a consistent pacifist protest approach a “position of privilege” – a position taken by those who have not been in a situation where they have needed to defend themselves against violence, be it economic, physical or otherwise. –Susie Cagle, Truthout
and to add a counterpoint to that, there is the Anonymous statement:
“This issue has been discussed many times during the past several months, and there appears to be a popular consensus that your tactics of chilling and intimidating the citizen press, breaking the windows of small businesses, terrorizing innocent employees and bystanders, and sometimes outright assaulting occupy protesters are unacceptable. You are at best misguided, harmful, and idiotic in your actions.”
the debate goes on and on.
“The dominant, almost general, idea of revolution–particularly the Socialist idea-is that revolution is a violent change of social conditions through which one social class, the working class, becomes dominant over another class, the capitalist class. It is the conception of a purely physical change, and as such it involves only political scene shifting and institutional rearrangements….
There is no greater fallacy than the belief that aims and purposes are one thing, while methods and tactics are another. This fallacy is a potent menace to social regeneration. All human experience teaches that methods and means cannot be separated from the ultimate aim. The means employed become, through individual habit and social practice, part and parcel of the final purpose; they influence it, modify it, and presently the aims and means become identical…
…Applied in practice it means that the period of the actual revolution must be the introduction, the prelude to the new social conditions. It is the threshold to the new life, the new house of humanity. As such it must be of the same spirit as the new life it wishes to achieve, harmonious with the construction of the new edifice.
Today is the parent of tomorrow. The present casts its shadow far into the future. That is the law of life, individual and social. Revolution that divests itself of ethical values thereby lays the foundation of injustice, deceit, and oppression for the future society. The means used to prepare the future become its cornerstone.
It cannot be sufficiently emphasized that revolution is in vain unless inspired by its ultimate ideal. Revolutionary methods must be in tune with revolutionary aims. The means used to further the revolution must harmonize with its purposes. In short, the ethical values which the revolution is to establish in the new society must be initiated by the revolutionary activities. The latter can only serve as a real and dependable bridge to the better life if they are built of the same material as the life to be achieved. Revolution is the mirror of the coming day; it is the child that is to be the human of tomorrow.
i am still all for the Occupy movement and its goals as a whole and support the factions that i think are doing Good, and many groups are! they are being organized, functional, systematic, collaborative! so this is in NO WAY an indictment of those who have been working hard to put nonviolent principles into place for this movement. but particularly in Oakland, many still feel that black bloc is part of the “diversity of tactics” needed (that is: without some violent pushback, the pacifists will just get walked on).
even though that Susie Cagle update above is a most excellent rebuttal showing the complexity of this issue of “diversity of tactics”, which i was very glad to read and you should too, I’m with Anonymous and Goldman, and the black bloc tactics of the OccupyOakland movement (not all, but some, and enough) is not being the change i wish to see (and YES I KNOW THE MEDIA IS SKEWING IT HARD). there is enough violence in oakland that most residents would like it if the “black bloc” would rethink before they provoke an all out riot again. i mean: THERE ARE PROTESTERS PROTESTING THE PROTEST (which i think was AWESOME and IMPORTANT). we don’t need self-appointed pseudo-anarchists making it worse, trying to “prove a point” against the OPD. (+please note that in post #11 i did advocate that the police leave protesters alone, that they are only making it worse and are certainly a huge part of the problem.) we all know how the OPD is. they’ve shown themselves repeatedly. the only point being proven now is that violence begets violence.
3. not to get all hippie on it but didn’t John Lennon teach us anything?
Filed in culture and random linkage, politics and news, QOTD | Tagged with #occupyoakand, #ows, capitalism, goldman, lennon, marxisms, pacifism | Comment (0)
“We’re trying to sell peace, like a product, you know, and sell it like people sell soap or soft drinks. And it’s the only way to get people aware that peace is possible, and it isn’t just inevitable to have violence. Not just war — all forms of violence. People just accept it and think ‘Oh, they did it, or Harold Wilson did it, or Nixon did it,’ they’re always scapegoating people. And it isn’t Nixon’s fault. We’re all responsible for everything that goes on, you know, we’re all responsible for Biafra and Hitler and everything. So we’re just saying “SELL PEACE” — anybody interested in peace just stick it in the window. It’s simple but it lets somebody else know that you want peace too, because you feel alone if you’re the only one thinking ‘wouldn’t it be nice if there was peace and nobody was getting killed.’ So advertise yourself that you’re for peace if you believe in it.”
last night at the salon, a nice older woman sitting next to me asked, “so what happened with the Occupy? why did it all go so bad? it makes me so sad, i watch the news and i want to cry. i wanted good things to happen.”
“You know what you don’t see much of these days? Those moist-eyed bloggers’ odes to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Gosh, remember the columns telling us these people had a noble political agenda? Seems like just yesterday the lefty bloggers were picking through polls, telling us the American people embraced the OWS gang. But then protest turned to filth, and high-mindedness turned out to be just plain-old stench.
To write such loving tributes to OWS took extraordinary discipline, I suppose. Not to actually look (or smell) and determine who the real Occupiers (as opposed to the Occupiers refashioned for the readers of the New York Times and the Nation) were must have taken real will-power, especially since the encampments in major cities (as in the District) were only a few blocks from the journalists’ offices. Had they taken a peek or inhaled on the way to work they would have discovered the real Occupy movement.
Zack Munson reports: “There are lots of bearded folks (male and female), lots of dirty tents, some college students, the unemployed, the career homeless, some white people dancing out of rhythm to rock music played over a loudspeaker. The ‘movement’ itself is still a jumble of anti-capitalist/police/
government rhetoric and pointless noise and pungent smells.” Oh, well, who wants to write about that?”
it’s true. i haven’t wrttien about OWS/OccupyOakland in over a month, but it is not because i think the shine wore off to reveal a bunch of dirty hippies. in fact, the opposite is true. i think once the new smell and initial popculture interest wore off, who was left was a bunch of super invested people who have since then been heads-down entrenched in making things happen, not out there in the camps but in smaller working groups, in meetings, behind closed doors. see: the Alternative Banking Working Group, for example.
and despite all the negatives, the movement has been effective — causing democratic change on issues local and global, from healthcare to home evictions to school funding, not only in the higher-profile cities like New York and D.C. but also in small towns across the U.S. …. not to mentioned having kicked the door open for a lot of other progressive non-Occupy NGOs and social and cultural groups to take a stand. The Media, of course, chooses to only focus on the the bad apples. this is true for nearly every single aspect of society, not just OWS, and everybody knows it. so why don’t people question what they see on the news more often?
i told the woman at the salon to try to look up other places to read about Occupy, and that while i am not actively involved much personally, i know many amazing, hardworking people who are and i know, without any question or doubt, that they are doing good things with the right intentions.
“The breadth of this movement is one thing, its depth another. It has rejected not just the particulars of our economic system, but the whole set of moral and emotional assumptions on which it’s based. Take the pair shown in a photograph from Occupy Austin in Texas. The amiable-looking elderly woman is holding a sign whose computer-printed words say, “Money has stolen our vote.” The older man next to her with the baseball cap is holding a sign handwritten on cardboard that states, “We are our brothers’ keeper.”
The photo of the two of them offers just a peek into a single moment in the remarkable period we’re living through and the astonishing movement that’s drawn in… well, if not 99% of us, then a striking enough percentage: everyone from teen pop superstar Miley Cyrus with her Occupy-homage video to Alaska Yup’ik elder Esther Green ice-fishing and holding a sign that says “Yirqa Kuik” in big letters, with the translation — “occupy the river” — in little ones below.” – Compassion Is Our New Currency
last weekend in Oakland there was another Occupy vs. OPD clash when Occupy tried to take over an empty building. before you keep reading, WATCH THIS VIDEO.
the press and City Hall reported that the Occupiers were breaking into buildings and harrassing police and that, 6 months into the movement, all this is is a temper tantrum on the part of entitled youth and rabblerousers who should find better uses for their time and stop being a public nuisance. but here is the perspective from Occupy:
“In Oakland, thousands of active community members chose to engage in true democracy by supporting the real and pressing needs of the people. The state, which supposedly represents these people, exercised extreme police brutality and violence to protect the 1%’s vacant assets. The explicit goal of the action was to build community—to open a desperately needed community center with a library, medical care, free education and emergency housing in a city that has suffered massive budget cuts, high unemployment rates and ravaged public schools. In response, the city government poured hundreds of thousands of dollars, bullets and canisters of tear gas into declaring open war on these parents, students, workers, artists, teachers, children and veterans. These people’s only offense was to believe so deeply in the American tradition of democracy, self-sufficiency, and sacrifice for the next generation that they were willing to put their bodies on the line to make this nation the empowering democracy that we know it can be.”
And here is a journalist’s first hand account of the situation, and being unlawfully arrested: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/01/journalists-arrested-occupy-oakland
so yeah, there are obvious issues with people taking over public buildings and setting up DIY healthcare units etc. not up to code, health violations, blah blah blah. but what i don’t understand is why the City can’t just,……let them try? see what happens? wouldn’t that cost FEWER CITY DOLLARS AND RESOURCES than hiring an outside army of police to shoot rubber bullets at citizens, people trying to create for their communities what the government has neglected to protect or provide?
which leads me back to reiterate that the main success of this movement has been to get people to WAKE UP. maybe they’re waking up to an American Dream Turned Nightmare, but if that’s the case then if Occupy stands for anything it’s this: STAND UP AND FIGHT. OCCUPY EVERYTHING that matters to you.
The Ultimate Culture Jam
“We awoke one morning to the dark realization that humanity is being dragged into a black hole of ecological, financial and spiritual catastrophe … that our democracy has been seized by a corporatocracy … that every day two hundred species of plant, insect, bird and mammal become forever extinct … that a deluge of advertising is sleepwalking our civilization to the brink of insanity … and that unless we fight back in the most visceral and creative way possible all will be lost.
And yet, what sets our struggle apart in 2012 is that we are not fighting to save a distant future. We are not trying to prevent some terrible event that is still to come. This is not about our unborn grandchildren. Instead, many of us sense that the threshold has already been crossed; the tipping point has already happened and what we are fighting for is our present. We are living in that tragic moment of eerie stillness where the fatal damage has been done, widening cracks can be seen, yet the edifice still stands and business as usual continues … but for how much longer?
Our days may be shadowed by this dark realization, but there is reason to be deeply optimistic for “where danger is, grows the saving power also.” Never before has the tantalizing possibility of a Global Spring, a worldwide people’s insurgency for democracy, seemed as close. For perhaps the first time in human history, we just might be on the edge of an everywhere-at-once revolution against the financial fraudsters, corporate lackeys and the ideology of consumerism that has brought the Earth to the precipice of collapse.
In this, the era of the total and transcendent indignato swarm, we look to each other, not to the masters above, to find out what it will take to pull off the ultimate culture jam: spiritual insurrection.”
this post is to be continued, in the vein of CULTURAL TRANSFIGURATION: OCCUPY ART.Filed in culture and random linkage, politics and news, things you can do | Tagged with #occupyoakand, #occupywallstreet, #ows, adbusters, capitalism, oakland | Comment (0)
1. i urge you to watch this video of the retired Philadelphia policeman who was arrested at #OWS, talking about the problems he sees with how the police are interacting with this movement.
he is super respectful of the police, but notes that from his experienced perspective, there seems to be no link between leadership and the police on the ground. the mayor says she doesn’t know why it happened. the chancellor says she doesn’t know why it happened. everyone’s apologizing after the fact. but what about preventing this from the top down?
also on this point, this article “Militarising the police from Oakland to NYC ” talks about the fact that since 9/11, our police forces have been increasingly militarized (through funding from DHS) in order to be able to respond to terrorist threats. this causes a mental shift in how police respond to things. they have been given different tools, different directives. and now they are being used against peacful American citizens, treating demonstrators like terrorists. as the cop in the video above says, police are people too, and subject to emotions and situations. so they respond according to what they’ve been taught and the tools they’ve been given. as someone said, when you’re dressed in riot gear, everything starts to look like a riot….
All over the country, police switched out their traditional uniforms for Battle Dress Uniforms, dubbed by one retired policeman in the Washington Post as “commando-chic” regalia. It wouldn’t be surprising to find that swaggering around armed to the teeth and dressed like RoboCop might lead some cops to adopt a more militaristic attitude.
Former San Jose chief of police Joseph McNamara raised these alarms as early as 2006 in the wake of the Sean Bell shooting in New York. He pointed out that the effects of the drug war and 9/11 had led to “an emphasis on ‘officer safety’ [where] paramilitary training pervades today’s policing, in contrast to the older culture, which held that cops didn’t shoot until they were about to be shot or stabbed”.
Likewise, in the name of “officer safety”, the Taser became a common tool in everyday policing, deployed with little knowledge of the effects, and a tendency to Taser first and ask questions later. But over the course of the past decade, the body count grew as it became more and more obvious that tasers were sometimes as deadly as the guns they purported to replace.”
2. in addition to illustrating how militant our “Keep the Peace” police forces have become with few checks and balances, the Occupy movement has shown that our politicians are much more willing to talk strongly about supporting democratic uprisings in other countries, even sending in troops to fight multi-billion dollar wars for others’ freedom, while keeping their mouths shut on our own domestic affairs. Sec. Clinton and Pres. Obama have been on TV since Arab Spring supporting democratic uprisings and movements around the world, but mostly silent about our own.
i realize it’s a pre-election year and they don’t want to too-closely align themselves with what some see as a “leftist” movement (which it isn’t, it’s more of a populist movement), but i dare say they’re losing precious votes and active supporters by more or less staying silent on not only the bank situation (slight nods to “protecting the American Dream” don’t count), but taking a stand for 1st Amendment rights and against police brutality issues. the fact that Obama has made no (or so few) public statements about the rights of Americans in the Occupy movement makes me angrier every day that goes by.
[update] rereading this again, i think it sounds really strident, or, propaganda–y, and i am not wanting to be naive in thinking it’s easy to change an entire way of life, and perhaps Obama “expressing solidarity” with the Occupy movement is all that is really pragmatic at this point. let the movement lead itself.Filed in politics and news | Tagged with #occupyoakand, #occupywallstreet, #ows, capitalism, NaBloPoMo, obama | Comment (0)
the news of various occupations keeps tumbling in (#OO forcibly dismantled again yesterday, #OWS forcibly dismantled this morning, but now back), and the longer this goes on the more it seems that the value in the movement is less about getting big banks to change (it’s still unclear to me whether the big banks give two shakes about #OWS) and more about 1. fighting City Hall and showing how much they fail to protect your civil liberties when push comes to shove (particularly for Oakland, where this has been a problem forever) and 2. the revival of participatory democracy. both of these things are important, and despite the hiccups and ugly media, i think no matter how you cut it progress has been made, at least for those who have cared enough to be involved, in whatever way. but now i am just repeating myself.
last night after work we walked from home to City Hall (1.5 miles each way through West Oakland) and took in some of the General Assembly that was happening following the early morning raid/deconstruction of the encampment. as we approached, the streets were calm and people coming from that direction seemed enlivened and animated in a good way.
we arrived as the final proposal for whether to support Community Assemblies was up for vote. one of the Qs during open Q&A, presented by a young woman who self-identified as Mexican, was how #OO was going to avoid this being patronizing to these communities, coming in there and telling them how to participate. the response was that they didn’t mean for it to seem like it was any kind of “weird top-down thing”, where #OO would tell the assemblies what to do, it was just to support the creation of the assemblies, so that people in the various cultural neighborhoods could have their own space to talk about how they, as communities, wanted participate in the movement/solve their own problems, and maybe get support from others.
this sounded like a great idea to me – looking around i noted that the large majority of people at the GA where white. and the GA is in English. which does not represent large parts of Oakland. if communities can get support from #OO to have GAs in their own languages about how to participate in their own ways i thought that would be GREAT, so i voted thumbs up/yes. but apparently some people didn’t like this idea for reasons i don’t understand (the patronizing angle? unclear) and voted No. it passed with 86% in favor.
and then there were some announcements and the next item on the agenda was to discuss whether or not to try to camp in the plaza again. and even before the discussion groups were established someone got on the mic and said “Why do we need to talk about this more? There are too many intellectual conversations about this stuff. We are all here. Why can’t we just vote? Are we gonna do this or not??” to which there were some cheers. While I was interested in the conversation about whether or not to physically re-occupy with tent city (instead of just meeting there every day, or whatever, to hold public discussions and demonstrations, as the city has said again will be allowed), it was also cold and damp and it seemed that this conversation could take a long time and we decided to walk away. right now, i can’t find anything about what was decided as a group (anyone?)
as i stood there on the lawn – now downtrodden but clean, and watched the large group of people circled in the ampitheatre in front of city hall, discussing things in a peaceful way, i thought how nice it would be if this kept on – public forums on the steps of city hall in a safe, welcoming space. every day, every week, whenever. it seemed so provincial and positively democratic and pleasantly productive to me. i feel like the issues with the camp, and constant fights over it, detract from this vision.
Occupy Oakland, November 14, 2011
(via In Focus, which has 40 amazing photos from recent Occupy activities across the globe)
i still can’t sort out how i feel about the “right to camp”. to me, i don’t see that as part of the 1st amendment. i just don’t. obviously some people disagree and feel that the physical occupation and the tent city is a) a 1st amendment right and b) important to sustaining the movement and c) important because more revolutionary things without too many “intellectual conversations” need to happen otherwise the whole thing just ends up embroiled in bureaucracy like everything else. it’s been interesting, sorting my feelings on this out amongst my peers, who have proven to be much more radical and revolutionary than i, some of whom are out in the streets in the middle of the night fighting for the right to camp. i am perhaps too pacifist. i keep having to remind myself of the Red Ink story.Filed in politics and news | Tagged with #occupyoakand, #occupywallstreet, #ows, capitalism, NaBloPoMo | Comment (0)
this is #occupy post #4.
(previous post from 10/26 for reference: http://www.amyleblanc.com/2011/10/occupyoakland)
let me preface this with a few caveats:
1. this is totally my subjective opinion and a place for me to dump my thoughts and i don’t claim to be either fair or balanced,
2. i do welcome feedback/debate (many thanks to everyone who has written/said to me that they’ve appreciated my input/POV, but i also welcome people to constructively respond to anything they feel i’ve misrepresented),
3. this post was written over several days since last Tuesday and my mind is a bit overwhelmed by this and things keep happening/changing so bear with me if it seems fragmented or inconsistent, and, finally,
4. some personal context for those who don’t know where i work: since 2000 (11+ years), i have worked in the field of collaborative public policy as a neutral. this means that i am steeped in the methods of consensual dialogue, trained to try to take a neutral point of view in order to hear and respect all sides, and have witnessed and documented dozens and dozens of highly contentious public policy and community disputes. i note this not to say that i know more than others about what should be done in this situation but because i think some people think i am being contrarian just to be contrarian. i am speaking from a point of view of having seen many dialogues and efforts fail because stakeholders refused to work with government, and so yes, maybe i am being overly cautiously pragmatic. i do not want to see this fail.
someone i don’t know posted a comment to my last blog on facebook that said:
“at school, there was this sort of ongoing joke. there were feminist studies majors and there were community studies majors. generally speaking, both majors = super leftist if not radical in beliefs, but you could generally count on a feminist studies major to prefer sitting around all day and theorizing on the most strategic and thoughtful possible actions you can take for resistance… the jargon was “what are the conditions of possibility for ______ situation?”/usually not ending up doing much but talk, read and discuss and you could generally count on a community studies major to be like “WE HAVE TO ACT! TAKE IT TO THE STREETS! THIS IS MY OVERSIMPLISTIC SLOGAN AND COPS ARE PIGS!” and spend less time wondering if it’s the best way and just going for it. Pros and cons in either place. I think it’s just an eternal thing probably says more about personality types than whatever the ‘right’ way to peace is.”
so first, let me say that that is totally true, and i will always agree that there are many paths and methods for achieving change, and if i don’t feel like taking to the streets, i should be thankful that someone else will and support their right to do so. that said, i am not inclined to cheerlead for actions that i don’t agree with just to continually support the movement. this is where we get into trouble and lose legitimacy, and the key to any successful grassroots movement is LEGITIMACY.
i have been a part of organized community efforts where 48 out of 50 people representing very divergent views/interests were working collaboratively to resolve a problem, and the 2 people who decided they didn’t like the “process” or thought they wouldn’t be getting what they wanted via the process tried to use more direct action/activist methods. and you know what happens? then no on gets what they want, nearly every time, because the whole thing was delegitamized and everyone has to go back to the drawing board. i know some people would point to this example as a sign of the failures of bureaucracy, and some of the anarchists/zero-government people will never agree that working with the government is necessary. but i hope they are also resigned to a long battle on the fringe.
Jon Stewart’s segment on the daily show Wednesday night aka “What the Fuck Happened in Oakland?”, showed peaceful Occupy protests in other cities, and then the tear gas/riot situation from Tuesday night in Oakland. to me, What the Fuck Happened in Oakland isn’t just about the police. it’s about how the Occupy community is interacting with the police and City Hall.
last week the #occupyoakland General Assembly booed Mayor Jean Quan and would not let her speak. someone responded to my query about this that she “didn’t wait her turn” and that if she wants to speak she needs to follow the rules like the rest of the Assembly. (news article says she was “standing in line”, #occupyoaklanders say otherwise).
i have been to/been following both SF and Oakland GAs, and i hear a lot more “fuck the police” and “tear down the walls” vocalized out of oakland and talk of plans of continuing to do/say/post antagonistic and agitative things. PROVOKING VIOLENCE is nearly as bad as committing it, IMO, and pushing to see how hard someone shoves back is not in my pacifist repertoire. so yes, the OPD and City Hall mismanaged that situation Big Time. but i think you can also need to look at how this group of Occupiers is functioning compared to others.
friday night i went to a halloween/birthday party where a lot of the attendees (aged approx 25 y.o, as it was a 25th bday party) had been arrested on Tuesday morning or night. one of the Occupiers stood and talked at us for a good 10-15 minutes about working together, community building, etc. i liked what she was saying. so then i asked, “where you there when the Mayor tried to speak?” and suddenly her tone totally shifted. she responded “yeah i was RIGHT THERE. and i wanted to PUNCH THAT BITCH.” and i just looked at her in disbelief for a second and then i said “do you really think that kind of thing is helping?” and she started to rant about how “we don’t need centralized government services, we can build our own schools and grow our own food and have our own libraries, and the MAYOR IS IRRELEVANT. we don’t need the mayor. we are trying to make the GOVERNMENT IRRELEVANT.” and then she huffily walked away and never talked me to again at the party.
this was the mood of the Arrested Occupiers for the evening, and while i find their romantic utopian self-sufficient decentralized fantasy charming if you live somewhere other than a large metropolitan area, i think the idea that can be true for 7 Billion human beings (the 7 billionth will be born today!) living mostly in huge cities is, frankly, ignorant. i am not defending huge government, but NO government? what are we trying to do, roll back to the beginning of time? the government structures of civilization exist and you cannot you can just wish them to disappear. if you want to build yourself a parallel universe and go live on a farm or like a gypsy somewhere, GO RIGHT AHEAD. people do it all the time! but to suggest this should be true and will work for everyone is ridiculous. if you want to live in a dense urban area that is safe and provides everything necessary for everyone living there, i’m pretty sure some sort of centralized government is necessary. having a 4 hour GA meeting every other night to decide everything where any one person can block probably wouldn’t work out when your numbers exceed a few hundred.
“As it is, the Occupiers’ brand of romantic participatory democracy can too easily render their decision-making vulnerable to a truculent few. In the most notorious example, Representative John Lewis, the revered civil-rights hero, was prevented from speaking at Occupy Atlanta—not because the crowd didn’t want to hear from him (the great majority did, as they signalled, in the movement’s semaphore language, with raised hands and wiggling fingers) but because one man clenched his fists and crossed his forearms, thereby exercising a consensus-breaking “block.”
“Unlike the Tea Party, which was born when the alien/socialist enemy held all three of Washington’s elected redoubts, Occupy Wall Street inhabits a different political world, one whose most prominent figure, the President, has fallen short of not only many Occupiers’ hopes but also his own—in large part because of the Republicans’ conscienceless exploitation of the perverse veto points of the congressional machine. Yes, O.W.S. has “changed the conversation.” But talk, however necessary, is cheap. Ultimately, inevitably, the route to real change has to run through politics—the politics of America’s broken, god-awful, immutably two-party electoral system, the only one we have. The Tea Partiers know that. Do the Occupiers?” –Hertzberg – “Occupational Hazards” – New Yorker 11/7/2011
at this point i will not publicly support the General Strike* but i am opening to hearing more about it as a thoughtful strategy (and will read through the comments on the OO website ASAP). you can say what you want about how oppressive/violent the American system is, but this is not taking out a single leader (e.g. Egypt) and i am frankly offended by the drawing of parallels to other world uprisings. the problem here is systemic (and most Occupiers more a part of it than they want to admit), and will take a systemic approach to resolve, and i am hoping that is where the Occupy movement evolves – to Occupying public meetings and government posts and leadership positions.
a lot of people seem to think there is only other Apathy or Anarchy wrt their feelings about organized government in the U.S. the point here is that
we need to take the government away from the 1% and make it EXTREMELY RELEVANT, not make it even more “irrelevant”.
look, i know it sounds like i am being a hater but i am not. i am for #OccupyEverything. i agree with i am taking the long-view here. I WANT THIS MOVEMENT TO SUCCEED. if OccupyOakland wants strong, broad-based community support (including the vast minority communities of oakland which are barely representing/represented), especially for the proposed General Strike on November 2, they are going to get much further approaching this with civic-minded intentions instead of a loosely-organized rebellion, which, as we’ve seen, does not go well.
*p.s. General Strikes have a super long history (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_strike#Notable_general_strikes) .
the last Oakland General Strike was in 1946 and one of the largest ever, which is where this idea came from:
“Oakland was the center of a general strike during the first week of December 1946, one of six cities across the country that experienced such a strike after World War II. It was one of the largest strike movements in American history, as workers were determined not to let management repeat the union busting that followed the first World War. Oakland, which had been racially harmonious and prosperous before the war, by the late 1950s found itself with a population that was becoming progressively poor and racially divided.” –wikipediaFiled in politics and news | Tagged with #occupyoakand, #ows, capitalism, oakland | Comment (0)
And that used to be what the American Dream was all about, right? You could be anyone from anywhere, but, if you were willing to work hard, then you too could improve your lot in life. Well, not any more. And the people I saw tonight, these decent, well-meaning Americans, they know it, they are acutely aware of this fact now, and they are bloody well pissed off about it. And they’re right to be pissed off. What’s a little tear gas, in face of crushing debt, burdensome college loans, medical bills that can’t be paid, foreclosure, a declining standard of living, and not much hope for the future otherwise?
Tonight, Oakland, you have a right to be proud of your citizens. And America, yes, and Planet Earth: You have a right to be proud of the people of Oakland. They stood up for you tonight, for all of you. For the idea that you — and everyone else — all have a right to lead a decent, dignified life, free of poverty and hunger and debt.
as i rode my bike home around 5:00pm i could see all the helicopters hovering over downtown, 1.5 miles from my home in west oakland. i knew that the #occupyoakland was preparing for a face-off, because at 5am on Tuesday morning their formerly-allowed encampment outside city hall had been forcefully raided. and i did, for a minute, think of turning my bike around and heading down there. but i had been downtown by accident during the Oscar Grant riots in 2009, and the memory of that, of seeing the riot police approach, of watching people run, of getting locked inside a downtown restaurant with my friend Sahar as the crowd smashed my car, was too strong. i didn’t want to go down there. and so i sat on the couch last night from 5:00-11:30pm watching this unfurl via the live streams and twitter.
THANK GOD FOR TWITTER, as the news kept cutting their feeds to “refuel” their helicopters at seemingly strategic times – like right before the first dose of tear gas went into the crowd. either the news didn’t want to show the footage live so that they could save it for their 8/9/10pm TV news reports (control of access to their footage), or they were cooperating with police to not show the moments of action in case something they didn’t want televised happened. some said it was the other way around – the police had radios that and knew when the TV choppers would go back to refuel, and timed their actions then. either way, Twitter was the only way to get actual real-time reports last night (see #occupyoakland in real time).
for those of you in my audience out there who might have been annoyed by my numerous tweets in that time period – i have this to say: as noted, twitter was how info was being disseminated. as someone NOT PRESENT, i felt like it was just as important to be spreading the info as it was to be there. participating in live, real-time twitter conversation is community-building. people do this during the Superbowl, the Oscars, earthquakes and tons of other collective experiences and i think it’s even more important during things like what happened last night.
so back to why i wasn’t in the streets, despite my strong support for the movement: i feel much the same way about this as i did about the oscar grant riots/protests: i support the movement, i feel the anger and frustration, but i do not support all of the actions. i polled a couple of friends after the 2nd or 3rd round of teargas had hit the crowd and @occupyoakland continued to call for more protesters and more pushback as to whether continuing to regroup and re-engage was the best strategy. perhaps it was me projecting my own personal fear of confrontation, but my gut feeling was that there must be a better way. most people answered that continuing to stand up was a show of resistance that was necessary, not only to show the resistance, but perhaps more importantly to show the world what the police and government were willing to do in response. and show the world they did.
but still, this morning, even after seeing that aftermath and all of the support from around the world, i am still unsettled about the path the protesters chose to take. during the middle of it all, the OPD tweeted their PR statement, and i have to say, taken at face value, i can’t disagree with much. i am not sure how much i agree that people should be able to build 24/7 tent cities on the city hall lawn that don’t have proper facilities or organization to be safe. if you want to show up there, every single morning and stay all day long, i believe that is your right. and yes, the OPD used excessive force to remove the people who refused to leave at 5am yesterday morning, slashing through their camp with no respect or regard and i know people are ANGRY. but i just kept imagining a different scenario, where instead of showing up at night with the objective to “take back the plaza”, the Occupiers had returned to city hall and cleaned up the mess the police had left, and agreed to regroup peacefully every single day from 6am to 10pm, fostering a civic mentality where families and children would feel welcome (see: Occupy Portland as an example) and leaving the plaza clean and empty every night. a scenario where the Occupiers were strategic, and not just reactionary.
perhaps that is ridiculous, but when the Occupiers in New York were told to vacate their space because of health concerns, what did they do? they cleaned it up and agreed to try to follow the rules, and the city has since (mostly) let them be. in contrast, in oakland, and someone please correct me if i’m wrong, there was no organized response to the City Hall decision on October 21 that the protesters had to leave at night because the park was unsafe. instead tensions brewed for 4 days until police action was taken.
i guess my point is that i’m not convinced it needed to be escalated the way that it was on the part of the protesters and that a more organized response would have been a better route. this is not a detraction – i agree with the above quoted piece that people should be proud and still support #occupyoakland, and yeah, i’m not down there in the middle of it and so maybe i have no room to talk. but i think that if the people down there in Ogawa plaza (and everywhere else in the U.S. that is being occupied) really want to have longstanding peaceful protests that are widely supported and not seen as riotous, there could have been ways to get the space back that didn’t involve physical resistance that might have been more successful and involved less tear gas.
i’m sure this is an unpopular opinion, and most will argue it was the Mayor and the OPD who were the instigators. yes, the police could have done like they did in Albany, NY and said “no” to spending their police resources hassling nonviolent protestors, or just stood there all night, in riot gear, without firing a shot or doing anything. they could’ve just held the line (despite reports things were being thrown at them. you have on riot gear – small projectiles shouldn’t be a problem.) and, as stated, standing up to them shows how far the Police are willing to go, highlighting one of the main problems in oakland that people are standing up against – excessive use of force. but that is not what the OPD did – and what that OPD did was, sadly, expected.
i am hoping that for the sake of the longevity of the movement and also to promote and model peaceful conflict resolution, more creative ways to resolve conflict around things like Use of Public Space can be found – for the Occupy movements to take the higher ground and really try to find peaceful, organized responses, working WITH our city governments and elected officials to get what we want. not fighting against.
people are regrouping down there again this evening, and i know people are angry. i just really hope that anger can be directed into something better, not worse, than what happened yesterday.
Filed in politics and news | Tagged with #occupyoakand, #occupywallstreet, #ows, capitalism, fuck oakland, oakland, oscar grant riots, twitter | Comment (1)