She argues that it’s wrong to show solidarity with people on the receiving end of police violence in Oakland, declaring that “destroying property destroys moral authority.”
Josh Cook responded on his blog Deep Green Awakening, arguing that years of massive, systemic violence has set the stage for confrontation, even if violence is entirely avoidable.
“OWS is nothing if not a shift toward direct democracy through direct action, in both the sociopolitical and economic realms. Obviously, our super-wealthy rulers do not like this idea and will stop at nothing to squelch it. This shouldn’t be surprising. These are the same people who have no problem murdering Iraqi civilians, for example, to obtain oil and control of strategic land. They, too, are victims of a system whose logic is akin to that of the sociopath.”
We’ve reprinted Dupuy’s and Cook’s articles below. After the jump are videos of aerial shots of Oakland “property destruction” in context, plus a profile of Think Tank, an Occupy Wall Street working group, which includes interviews from occupiers at Liberty Square in New York and McPherson Square in D.C.
Who do you agree with: Dupuy or Cook? Tell us in the comments, which we’ll include in a future post.
Why #OWS Needs to Denounce Violent Tactics On Display at Occupy Oakland by Tina Dupuy
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.
Property destruction is not only a bad PR move (it costs taxpayers and small business owners money) it’s not constitutionally protected Free Speech. It’s also not what democracy looks like. The First Amendment specifically states the right to peaceably assemble to redress grievances.
Moreover the destruction of property is exactly what Occupy is protesting against; it’s what the banks took from us. Occupy has pointed out the criminality of the banks and the seeming collusion with government to take wealth and property away from working people and give it to the wealthy. So protest property crimes, by committing crimes against property? It’s nonsensical.
Destroying property destroys moral authority. You can’t rail against Bankaneers while trashing a City Hall. You can but you lose. Then the cops look justified in their show of force. Being quiet is seen as consent and being in solidarity with Oakland is standing with their well-documented embrace of “diversity of tactics.”
Occupy should denounce violence and property damage. There should be a statement that Oakland doesn’t speak for the movement as a whole. Holding solidarity marches against Oakland police brutality is exactly what that sounds like. It sends the message that Occupy is happy to cost the Oakland taxpayers millions in damages. If Occupy is to succeed it has to purge the extreme (read: ineffective waste) elements now commandeering the movement.
Some have emailed me and asked if the people who autonomously did these acts of vandalism and violence were “undercovers” or extreme anarchists. My response has been their goal is the same and their tactics are the same, so why does it matter? If they’re undercovers trying to undermine the movement then disavow them. If they’re anarchists who believe they are a part of Occupy, disavow them. The distinction means little if the endgame and the solution are the same.
It’s not true that no one speaks for Occupy. Those using violence are speaking far louder than the “people’s mic.” They need to be purged, or the the entire movement will be marginalized.
Tina is an award-winning writer, investigative journalist, and managing editor of Crooks and Liars. Tina appears frequently on MSNBC, Current TV, RT and BBC and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s To The Point, The Stephanie Miller Show, The Block Radio and The Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Fast Company, LA Weekly and Newsday among many others.
Occupy Oakland: Should OWS denounce “the violence”? by Josh Cook
While I sympathize with this article on why the Occupy movement should denounce the “violence” in Oakland, I have some friendly critiques. Speaking first and foremost as a humanist and advocate of nonviolence, I condemn the use of violence as ultimately unproductive and unethical in efforts for genuine social change in the direction of justice, peace, and healthy democracy.
But I am not a naive Utopian. When you have large numbers of oppressed people suffering under the burden of massive systemic violence, outbreaks of interpersonal violence are inevitable. There is a touch of (doubtless unintentional) classism and racism in the labeling of the less-than-pretty events in Oakland (and elsewhere) as “petty criminal acts.” Many of these folks are poor and uneducated, have been for generations, and are trapped in places where opportunity has been made scarce by the ruthless capitalist system.
We should also recognize that this was collective self-defense rather than offensive aggression. Compare the “property damage” (and the whole issue of property and what sort of damage constitutes violence is another discussion altogether) with the long-term harm done to the People of Oakland, especially minority groups, activists, and Occupiers. It should dawn on rational, empathic people that such intense moments of conflict are practically unavoidable in the face of so brutal a system, and rather than waste time judging people, we ought to cry out louder for an end to the rule of the 1% and their system, the true root cause of social unrest and violence.
Furthermore, at this point, it is silly to talk about Constitutional rights. We in the US live in a Police State. We have no such rights — most recently and dramatically demonstrated by the passing of the NDAA. For moral force, I suggest speaking of human rights, as this has the added benefit of keeping us connected to the international dimension of this movement. Solidarity with all people struggling for democracy and justice is of utmost importance .
We need to ask: When does the time come to literally, physically dismantle the power structures which are continuously inflicting violence upon us? How long will we, for example, tolerate the rape of the Earth, begging our so-called “representatives” to reform away the latest problem? Eventually, we must, if we are to remain intellectually honest, realize that the pipelines and hydrofracking and mountaintop exploding will not stop until The People rise up and end it themselves. We must face facts: We are out of time, the planet is out of time, and surely the children, born and yet-to-be-born, are out of time. This deadly system must be brought to an end, and from its ashes, a truer democracy must be born, complete with an economic order that is just as democratic and cooperative as the political order is supposed to be. I believe this can be accomplished through nonviolent revolution. OWS is nothing if not a shift toward direct democracy through direct action, in both the sociopolitical and economic realms. Obviously, our super-wealthy rulers do not like this idea and will stop at nothing to squelch it. This shouldn’t be surprising. These are the same people who have no problem murdering Iraqi civilians, for example, to obtain oil and control of strategic land. They, too, are victims of a system whose logic is akin to that of the sociopath.
Revolution is not a dirty word. It is Fierce Love. It need not be violent. But it absolutely must be full of conflict, for “power concedes nothing without a demand.”