Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Occupy Is Not An Armed Conflict

The San Francisco Chronicle published an article today about a deepening split in the Occupy movement in Oakland and San Francisco.  The dispute is over whether violent tactics, street battles with police and destruction of property are unacceptable and have the potential to undermine the movement or are justified responses to police repression.  The article, which reported that the debate was "turning into a wrestling match for the soul of the Occupy movement in the Bay Area," failed to note that those advocating or accepting of violence were a very small minority.   And that, of course, illustrates the problem:  it does not take many people to hijack the movement and the message.

Tina Dupuy, award-winning writer, investigative journalist and managing editor of Crooks and Liars has been following Occupy closely from Day One.  She has been to eight Occupy camps in two countries: "One raid. One near-arrest. One march on the U.S. Consulate. A couple of barricaded streets. I was at the largest GA the movement has had thus far (Cal Berkeley) and at the first ever national one (in DC)."  In short, she knows what she is talking about.

Dupuy has written an important piece for Alternet, "Why #OWS Needs to Denounce Violent Tactics on Display at Occupy Oakland" on how the movement is on the brink of being marginalized.  

The Occupy Movement, “the 99 percent,” has, ironically, been hijacked by a small minority within its ranks. I speak of a small percentage of Occupiers who are okay with property destruction. As we saw in Oakland over the weekend: They’re okay with breaking windows, trashing city buildings and throwing bottles at the police. In short: They are not nonviolent. They are willing to commit petty criminal acts masked as a political statement.

These are Black Bloc tactics and they're historically ineffective at spurring change. The now Gingrich-vilified Saul Alinsky in 1970 said the Weather Underground (the terrorist wing of the anti-war movement) should be on the Establishment’s payroll. “Because they are strengthening the Establishment,” said the “professional radical” Alinsky. Nothing kneecapped the call for the war to end quicker than buildings being bombed in solidarity with pacifist sentiments.

Here’s the key point: Occupy is not an armed conflict – it’s a PR war. Nonviolent struggle is a PR war. Gandhi had embedded journalists on his Salt March. He wasn’t a saint. That was a consciously cultivated media image. He used the press and its power to gain sympathy for his cause. What he didn’t do is say he was nonviolent “unless the cops are d*cks,” a sentiment voiced at Occupy. Nonviolent struggle has nothing to do with how the cops react. In actual nonviolent movements they welcome police overreaction because it helps the cause they’re fighting for.

At some General Assemblies this issue is referred to as “diversity of tactics.” It means basically if you’re not okay with property damage, but if someone else is, you’re not going to stand in the way. To a liberal ear it sounds like affirmative action or tolerance. It sounds like diversity of opinion – it’s not. It’s 3,000 people peacefully marching and two *ssholes breaking windows; which becomes 3,000 people breaking some windows in news reports.

Violent tactics taint everyone involved evenly – consenting or not.
Read the whole piece here.


parisblues said...

Some have suggested that this small minority of violent agitators consists mainly of FBI plants. Stay tuned. More will be revealed....

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