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November 2, 2011

Self-Policing: Another Part of the Occupy Story We’re Not Getting

Yes, there was a group of black-shirts in Oakland yesterday that vandalized a Whole Foods and smashed a bank window. We’ll have to see what the media does with that. The overall story, however, given the fact that the city largely removed its police from the action, is that the march and general strike was not only impressive in scale, but overwhelmingly peaceful.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I had the chance to spend some time in Zuccotti Park yesterday talking to members of the community there. One of the protesters spoke to me at length about camp rules, rule enforcement and self-policing, also pointing out people detailed to security who were otherwise regular “camp citizens.”

Not that you would notice it right off, but video from Oakland yesterday provides a good example of how the movement is employing peace-keeping and security as part of its very complex agenda.

Yes, there is Oakland Trib video showing the black-shirts apparently overcoming an Occupy security guy (yellow helmet), then wreaking their havoc. But then, there is also this video where the screen grabs above came from. What happens in this clip is that a group of protesters approach a Bank of America where they begin to violently bang on the window. The aggression is too much for the first Occupy security guy to handle, but very quickly and sure-handedly, a second Occupy security guy (the one with the green hat) steps in and takes control. In a second, these two guys, along with a woman, apparently affiliated with a local union, are calmly protecting the bank, the situation de-escalating so fast that, in the next instant, we see a girl standing where the rabble-rousers were eating a popscicle as the demonstrators rejoin the march.

I’m not saying there aren’t going to be incidents of violence as OWS tries to contain and control a growing movement, one which is attracting all types of disenfranchised people, including the 1% of bad actors looking for trouble. At the same time, I’m assuming Occupy — which is proving itself remarkably savvy at organization and “self-government” — will continue to improve their self-policing. Something that remains to be seen, however, is whether traditional media picks up on the fact.

(Video from Oakland Tribune article: Occupy Oakland Live Blog: Quan estimates crowd was 7,000.)

  • http://reciprocity-failure.blogspot.com Stan B.

    There literally wasn’t a cop to be seen in downtown Oakland on 11/02 with all the thousands of people protesting there, and yet, except for the Whole Foods and Wells Fargo incidents (quite minor, relatively speaking), the mood was rather festive, cooperative- organized. They could have torched the entire place if they had so chosen. Instead, they set out about getting their message across quite admirably with a variety of actions including speeches, several marches and other organizational events attended by all ages (parents could be seen smiling with toddlers in tow), races, and union representation very much in view.

    It should also be noted that the the black hooded “anarchists” are not “indigenous” to the Occupy movement, they have been present in the Bay area for years, lurking in the sidelines at many a protest waiting for the opportunity to strike, destroy, cause havoc- which seems to be there sole objective.

    • psychohistorian

      Nice to hear.  Thanks for the report.

      Now we need those numbers to reach the millions in multiple places…..peacefully.

  • daniel

    why are occupy people protecting a bank? breaking windows is not violent. it’s committing the big no-no of us political culture, destroying property, but it’s not harming anything living. you don’t have to agree, but don’t slander it with an inaccurate term. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d say foreclosing on tens of thousands of families homes is violent.

    anarchist are indigenous to ows: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/david-graeber-the-antileader-of-occupy-wall-street-10262011.html

    • http://profiles.google.com/alphasimian Tom Canham

      First, pragmatism:  nothing is going to lose the support of OWS in the minds of the common folk (the REAL 99%) faster than vandalism and petty crime.  If they (we) believe that OWS has a real message and is really committed to it and isn’t just out for a night of fun smashing and burning and looting, there is a chance at popular support.

      Second, realistically, terrorizing bank branches does nothing to address the problem; the bank managers and bank tellers inside are part of the 99% too; do you think the Jamie Dimons of the world almost ever actually set FOOT inside a Chase branch?  No.  It’s working class schlubs like you and me, working 9-5 for a near-minimum wage salary, who you are hurting.

      Bottom line is that the vandals and rabble rousers are doing FAR more to hurt the OWS movement than to help it.  There is a time and place for violence, but this is not it.  You do not win hearts and minds through vandalism, and that — more than anything else — is what OWS needs to do right now.

    • http://profiles.google.com/alphasimian Tom Canham

      First, pragmatism:  nothing is going to lose the support of OWS in the minds of the common folk (the REAL 99%) faster than vandalism and petty crime.  If they (we) believe that OWS has a real message and is really committed to it and isn’t just out for a night of fun smashing and burning and looting, there is a chance at popular support.

      Second, realistically, terrorizing bank branches does nothing to address the problem; the bank managers and bank tellers inside are part of the 99% too; do you think the Jamie Dimons of the world almost ever actually set FOOT inside a Chase branch?  No.  It’s working class schlubs like you and me, working 9-5 for a near-minimum wage salary, who you are hurting.

      Bottom line is that the vandals and rabble rousers are doing FAR more to hurt the OWS movement than to help it.  There is a time and place for violence, but this is not it.  You do not win hearts and minds through vandalism, and that — more than anything else — is what OWS needs to do right now.

  • BooksAlive

    Occupy Minneapolis’s website is well-organized and informative. I spent last weekend in the city and rode the rapid transit from the airport, getting off at the plaza where the OccupyMpls events are held. Only a few people were there, but a generator was running.  The organizers maintain the location with established rules (no signs on or tents fastened to light poles) and meet daily with the Sheriff’s department. (See Google calendar.) Even the online presence is at risk: their website was hacked and down for awhile. http://www.occupympls.org/ 

  • http://profiles.google.com/thomasgokey Thomas Gokey

    Self-policing is one of the most difficult aspects to a movement like this. Gandhi spent decades of his life dreaming about his Shanti Sena (a non-violent police force, specifically meant to quell riots). Although he put a tremendous amount of thought into the idea, it never really materialized.

    I don’t think it’s right to use the same word, “violence,” to describe minor property damage and injury to persons. One of the things that we learned in Oakland yesterday is that when you remove the police, things get dramatically more peaceful. I’d much rather deal with the cleanup of a few broken windows than brain surgery for an unarmed vet who was shot by the police. We need different vocabulary to describe these two things. Calling both violence blurs how vastly different they are.

    One good step would be for OWS to clean up and fix the minor damage. But we always have to be careful about setting a precedent that saboteurs can use to shut down the movement. OWS is a non-violent movement if it is anything at all, and those who show up to cause trouble have removed themselves from OWS and should be treated as trouble makers, not representatives of OWS.

  • Towner

    1. Violence. As has been noted, property damage is not violence. But it appears that a purposeful hit and run was committed, injuring two demonstrators. 

    I’m interested in your take of the series of photos at the Oakland Tribune online, starting at number 4 but particularly number 7 showing the driver. http://www.insidebayarea.com/occupy-oakland/ci_192470172. In the same photo set above, there are several images of celebratory protesters atop vehicles reminiscent of common mainstream photos of (our) rebel fighters in the ME. See numbers 14 and 17. 

    3. I’ve long held ignorant assumptions about Black Bloc “black hooded anarchists.” I finally spent several superficial hours today reading up about it, starting with the Wiki entry and working from there. From the perspective of anarchist/autonomist tactics and strategies many of those actions look a lot more rational to me. Interestingly, it seemed that many “regularly” dressed protesters took similar actions, both collectively and individually, just on smaller, less economically costly scales.  For example, the guy defacing an ATM machine with a black marker writing, “1%” in small letters. Or much less permanent, the hand written signs simply taped over the ATM machines.

    4. Has any major US media lead with any of the images of massive crowds (10k?), like the shots of the march on the freeway overpass towards the port?

  • Towner

    1. Violence. As has been noted, property damage is not violence. But it appears that a purposeful hit and run was committed, injuring two demonstrators. 

    I’m interested in your take of the series of photos at the Oakland Tribune online, starting at number 4 but particularly number 7 showing the driver. http://www.insidebayarea.com/occupy-oakland/ci_192470172. In the same photo set above, there are several images of celebratory protesters atop vehicles reminiscent of common mainstream photos of (our) rebel fighters in the ME. See numbers 14 and 17. 

    3. I’ve long held ignorant assumptions about Black Bloc “black hooded anarchists.” I finally spent several superficial hours today reading up about it, starting with the Wiki entry and working from there. From the perspective of anarchist/autonomist tactics and strategies many of those actions look a lot more rational to me. Interestingly, it seemed that many “regularly” dressed protesters took similar actions, both collectively and individually, just on smaller, less economically costly scales.  For example, the guy defacing an ATM machine with a black marker writing, “1%” in small letters. Or much less permanent, the hand written signs simply taped over the ATM machines.

    4. Has any major US media lead with any of the images of massive crowds (10k?), like the shots of the march on the freeway overpass towards the port?

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  • Niteris_2000

    I am the guy in the yellow helmet.

    I did a Q & A here:
    http://www.reddit.com/r/occupywallstreet/comments/lzdar/iama_oakland_general_strike_protester_that_fought/

    It also has additional video at the whole foods incident, which is quite startling.

  • Jon Good

    While it doesn’t do us any favors in the media, a few broken store windows are a joke compared to the violence and destruction waged upon families, communities, and nations by wall street and its stooges in the name of corporate profits.

  • http://twitter.com/Screaming_Head The Screaming Head

    I am actually surprised at this. The only reason that I don’t go more Libertarian with my own beliefs is that I don’t believe that people can police themselves without government. I am being proven wrong here, definitely.

    The Political Blog of Win

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