We The People
by Rebel D
People, your voices hold force blast [Mother of all Bombs]
your bellies are lightweight assault rifles
your lips —trigger-locked, hands on weapon
your thoughts protrude over the Patriot Act
your bodies frozen in Syrian raids
your mouths are tireless in wheels of homegrown terror
your teeth bite-off rage on streets of Denver
whose words burst cluster bombs over police batons
your tongues taste dirt cakes of Haiti
we the people, whose rib bones hang over Sudan
whose torsos held stools for Greensboro lunch counters
with spines climbing through The things they carried
whose genders chained logic to voting rights
whose pigment popped seeds in fields of short handled-hoe
our wrists handcuffed with economic razor blades
with hope buried in dirt –the blood-soil of Indian nations
worming into the cracks of capitalism’s countless occupations
we, the people whose knees are weary of grime
whose guts soothe pock-mark of USian interest
rests for heads weeping / support for hearts rejoicing
the empire is falling
your finger-tops tap whirlwinds into pacifists
renaming your streets / reclaiming walls with graffiti bombs
your eyes are Iraq war vet silent in Oakland’s hospital bed
smokey blanket of sound grenades, pillow of rubber bullets
the people whose eyelids burn with Tunisia’s vegetable peddler
blocking roads / laying down lives in Cairo
whose bones are Libyan rebels taking back Martyr’s Square
with our furrowed brows we wrench gears of systematic turning
your skins protect dried out skin walking the Sonoran desert
your knuckle-force wrapped around rifled minutemen
round racist vigilante border control / round Mexican mother’s unrest
with your minds exploding Titans on USian streets
your retinas absorb Wall Street mercenaries
your stomachs digest gay marriage’s discontent
your excrement destructs Keystone pipeline horrors
your feet hold ankles marching across Brooklyn’s bridge
your lungs release kites above Palestine
your words hot in the fires of resistance
you play on fields of a monitored existence
segregation stole my father’s ability to sound out words
yet, I stand here, with his feet
using his hands to wield this wand of language
don’t tell me this doesn’t make a difference
don’t tell me we have to passively vote for change
We the people will work an uprising into muscles
We the people whose shadows move money
across bankster barricades into palms of revolution
We are the agents of insurrection
From Tahrir Square to Liberty Plaza
Milwaukee to Oscar Grant Plaza
North Dakota to Dewey Square
Across Roman streets
from Denmark to Greece
standing on Portland’s Steel Bridge
Over one thousand cities liberating
We the people right here
We the people of the world
We the people
We the people
We the people
We the people
Josh Healey: “Last night [Nov. 15], I was out on Sproul Plaza at UC-Berkeley, with over 10,000 people reclaiming the space for OccupyCal. I was there to receive the Mario Savio Young Activist Award, which had been scheduled for the same night across the plaza inside Pauley Ballroom. But with thousands of people outside demanding free speech and equal education on the very same steps that Mario Savio had once stood himself, the two events were beautifully combined, and I was able to give my poem outside with the people, right where it belonged.]
When Hope Comes Back
(A Poem for the 99%)
when Hope comes back
he will be more than a campaign slogan
and a face on a poster faded red, white, and blue
… (continued) …
For video of the reading on November 15 and transcript of the poem, see Josh Healey’s blog.
“I’ve been fighting to keep this building for the community,” Blakely said. “But I’m an old lady. I had no man-power.”
So she said she went down to Zuccotti Park, home base for the Occupy Wall Street protests, and recruited activists.
“I saw all of these young children that had real skill and ability,” she said. “I said to them, ‘We’re done with all the massaging and intellectualizing. What’s next? If you really want to see what’s really going on, [follow me],'” she recalled telling the protesters at a General Assembly. “It’s time for action.”
The November 2nd General Strike in Oakland was a remarkable success. Although not all Unions officially adhered to the strike and not all workers were able to take off the entire day, Occupy Oakland (1) successfully organized the largest turn out for a day of action during the Occupy Movement in the US to date with dozens of thousands throughout the entire day, (2) successfully shut down the port of Oakland causing massive economic damage to the 1% and leading the Occupy Movement by example towards broader actions with the involvement of broader sectors of our communities, and (3) successfully escalated the mobilization to the occupation of foreclosed buildings in which social services used to be provided (in this case, 520 16th St.), taking the occupations from public squares to our communities. The November 2nd general strike was a warning shot to the ruling class that Occupy has become a full-blown social and political movement, and raised the bar for the other cities in terms of mobilization strategy.
Yet, in the aftermath of the General Strike the people of Oakland and the Bay Area are having to seriously consider the tactics typically associated with “anarchists” and “black blocs”, namely destruction of property during marches, graffiti on small businesses who supported the general strike, the particular way in which a building was occupied the night of the general strike and the reaction to the deployment of hundreds of police in riot gear.
Occupy Oakland made time and space for the discussion of these and other issues with tactics and strategy – which has been a very important way for these issues to be constructively discussed – and several others have shared their own insights on the topic through various other forms, including blogs and other online social media. This disposition to open dialogue and debate stands in glaring contrast to the highly conflictual and self-destructive turn of events we here in Oakland hear are taking place in places like Los Angeles and Denver. It is not for us to intervene and “take sides” in the disputes unfortunately tearing apart our communities in places like LA and Denver, but rather to express our deepest commitment to a unifying movement of all people who are suffering exploitation and oppression under the status quo. This means that ALL sides in the disputes we hear about in places like LA and Denver must “stop, children (whats that sound) everybody look whats going down”!
The most fucked up thing anyone in our movement could do is to get others among us arrested. The Denver “peace police” seem to be guilty of this to the fullest, and there are no excuses for the persecution they have unleashed. They are the “right wing” of the Occupy movement, which is willing to turn against people in our own movement for the sake of protecting THEIR class and race privilege in sustaining a “nonviolent” movement that encourages police violence against others in our own movement. On the other extreme, the LA “people’s forum” are guilty of unnecessarily raising the risks of police raids through their unwillingness to organize collective self-discipline regarding the consumption of intoxicants, which seems to be only one aspect of deeper issues with this group that imagines itself to be somehow “outside society” rather than in a social struggle. In both cases, these people seem to make the occupations an end in itself – which is clearly a misguided idea and mistaken strategy. THE OCCUPATION IS NOT AN END IN ITSELF! Rather it is a platform on which to democratically organize a mass movement through increasingly more powerful and increasingly more inclusive political struggles. That’s why we here in Oakland organized a general strike in which all could participate, and THERE lies our power! (Note, our power does not come from the nonviolence of Scott Olsen or the militancy of our anarchists alone, but in our attempt at collective organization, self-discipline and cultivation of a mass movement).
That being said, those people who have suffered at the hands of these misguided “peace police” and “born again hippies” might also benefit from paying careful attention to the fine line which we must tread if we are to mend these self-destructive splits, continue to grow our movement and escalate our political mobilization. For this purpose, we reproduce here two commentaries on tactics during Occupy Oakland’s general strike.
That being said, I have a huge problem with what I witnessed last night at 16th and Telegraph between about 11:30pm and 3:30 am.
My problem last night was not with the specific police/protester interactions. In fact, watching two hundred black bloc-ers marching on the riot cops as they staged was amazing and powerful. That sort of act I fully support, and it is part of why I medic, as I want those who are willing to undertake that sort of action to know that I have their back in a tangible way. I want people to understand that half the power the cops have over us is our own internalized fear of them, and that sort of behavior begins to dismantle that fear in a powerful way, and I fully support it. This I feel is very, very important.
My concern was with the ill-conceived tactics used to occupy the building, in that it looked like an anarchist glamorshot instead of a committed and revolutionary act to actually acquire and hold that space. I am tired of direct actions being done in a way that turns them into photo-ops and nothing else. I am tired of watching barricades be built only to be abandoned the minute the cops open fire. In addition, the crowd on 16th around the occupied building was terrifying far before the cops ever showed up. As a woman and queer person I wanted to get the fuck out of there almost immediately as it felt wildly unsafe on multiple levels, and I feel like whoever orchestrated the take-over made choices that specifically facilitated the overall crazy atmosphere. There were fistfights, screaming matches, fires, and just a general vibe that people were out to fuck shit up, and absolutely no attempt on the part of anyone to shut that sort of in-group violence down.
The setting on fire of the barricades was totally unnecessary, and may make it necessary for the city to call for the camp to be cleared; the breaking of windows and vandalizing of businesses which supported the strike was utterly stupid and counterproductive; and watching black bloc-ers run from the cops and not protect the camp their actions had endangered, an action which ultimately left behind many mentally ill people, sick people, street kids, and homeless folks to defend themselves against the police onslaught was disturbing and disgusting in ways I can’t even articulate because I am still so angry at the empty bravado and cowardice that I witnessed.
I want people to march on the police. I want them to engage in significant and strategic property destruction, I want them to march on the police station, I want them to show the riot cops that they are not afraid, but I do not want them to do these things and more at the expense of the truly marginalized. That is what I saw happen last night, and it has made me incandescent with rage.
I want to win. I want our building occupations to last. I do not want them to be cleared within hours because a bunch of wild, fucked-up, selfish and wantonly destructive people, not all of whom identify as anarchist or black bloc, need to burn a bunch of shit to get an adrenaline rush by fighting with the cops.
Some of our own, including a fellow medic and friend, are in jail today because of their actions, and while I blame the arrests squarely on the cops, I want the black bloc to acknowledge that they created the conditions for that sort of thing to happen.
I want better tactics, and I want accountability to the communities that may be impacted by our behavior, and I saw none of that last night.
I saw black bloc kids running from the camp while it was under police assault, and as someone who spent about two hours negotiating and assisting in the care of an ostensibly homeless man from the camp, hit by a rubber bullet in the camp, while black bloc kids ran away to their safe homes and made comments like “at least we crushed the place” and “we’ll just take it back,” I want those kids to be held accountable to the damage that they did, damage made possible by their class and race privilege.
This letter was born out of anger and disgust at what I saw, but it also comes from a place of wanting to engage on these issues. I think that there is a place for these sorts of tactics in our movement, but they must not be guided by grandiose notions of anarchist glory, mob rule, and unfocused rage.
A longtime street medic
Yet another anarchist commentary on the Black Bloc
The Black Bloc of Wednesday Nov 2 that was active before and after the shutdown of the Port of Oakland was a Black Bloc in name only.
That Bloc did nothing but act out their spectacular and ritualized window-breaking. Precisely because it has become a ritual it has no meaning, no strategic purpose. Precisely because it is a predictable spectacle it has no tranvaluative value. We need to say clearly that we are not like those cretins who lament the destruction of a few windows and the lighting of a bonfire by immediately labeling it the work of “provocateurs” or “infiltrators”; we know that the grinding alienation of post-industrial capitalism breeds authentic opposition. But we are also savvy enough to understand that making vandalism acceptable is like improvisational comedy: a question of timing and the ability to read a crowd.
The mood and tone of the anti-capitalist march and the buildup to shut down the Port was joyous, inclusive, even festive. The mood and tone of the Black Bloc was aggressive, exclusive, and alienating. The reaction of the Peace Police was as predictable as the reaction of the proper police. Even if OO were the proper context to incite a rupture with the capitalist and statist foundation of modern American society, it certainly wouldn’t come at the behest of a self-selected vanguard of a hundred skinny masked white kids who disappear when a phalanx of riot cops shows up.
We have an enemy in our midst. We, who have been so willing to exhaust our time, energy, and resources, have been undermined by militant pacifists. We compromised, and continue to compromise, our homes and our jobs and our bodies for the sake of revolutionary possibilities, only to find those who belong to the cult of “nonviolence” ironically leading us to the guillotine. We have come to find out that the revolution will be televised, will be spun, will be manipulated, and will be spoon-fed to the very powers that we purport to be against. The treasonous and faceless laptop activists from Occupy Denver, also known as the PR/Media team, have taken it upon themselves to identify “violent” protestors from the events that transpired on October 29th of this year.
This day began with absolute beauty. We protested through the streets together, we danced together and we sang together. We saw old friends, met new friends, and together we momentarily shifted the power back to the people through our words and our love and our sick ass dance moves. Upon our return to Civic Center Park, we attempted to expand this “public space” by pitching tents together, when the violent arm of the state reared its ghastly head at all of us. Cops in riot gear stormed in with no notice, tearing our tents down. We reacted. We resisted. And for a very brief period, our words and our voices overpowered the 10 or so cops that we had engulfed in a circle of bodies.
But the predictable aggression that arose from the police soon interrupted our chants. They used chemical weapons on us, in the form of pepper balls and pepper spray, and shoved us with batons. They forcibly manhandled and arrested 20 people, some of whom were subject to excessive police violence. They destroyed the remaining tents, greatly depreciated our Thunderdome kitchen, and attempted to destroy our spirits, but of course acts of egregious police suppression only serve to inspire greater resistance.
The most damning attacks, however, have come from within the central bowels of Occupy Denver. The laptop activists on the PR/Media team, a majority of whom were not present during the events of O29, have condemned the actions taken by protestors they deem to be a “violent” fringe group. This “violent” fringe group was essentially a couple of kids who reacted to the extreme violence initiated by armed cops dressed as storm troopers. These kids, after witnessing the police infringe upon our attempt to create a liberatory space and use chemical weaponry upon an unarmed citizenry, threw water bottles towards the police from 20 feet away. This “violence” was of special concern to the laptop activists who, again, were not present. An early draft of a press release statement addressing that day’s events entirely omitted the brutal actions taken by police, and instead vilified this fringe group. A member of the PR/Media caught the draft before it was released, and added a statement about the excessive police force.
Unfortunately, the concerns over water bottles did not end with the statements in the press release. The laptop activists began to excavate every photograph and video from the protests of O29 found online in an attempt to identify the “violent” instigators. Convinced that these kids were going to taint the nonviolent (read compliant) reputation of Occupy Denver, the laptop activists embarked upon a witch-hunt. It was clear that these so-called students of Ghandi were thirsty for blood. They even made a special appearance at a general assembly to announce that protestors should take photographs of instigators at future events. They told protestors that if a photo could not be taken, the instigators’ faces should be memorized and relayed to the PR/Media team. The laptop activists announced that they were collaborating with a sketch artist, and no instigator would leave undetected.
When the laptop activists were asked why they should seek to identify “violent” instigators from the events of O29, they responded with the need to detect and shun provocateurs. Their methodology, however, was faulty. How would one who is not intimately connected with on-the-ground realities determine the identity of someone captured on a photo or video taken from a shaky phone camera several yards away? How would one who was not present for the O29 protests be so convinced that these were the actions taken by trained agitators? Why would someone not take other, more proactive and productive routes to ensure the safety of the populous? The laptop activists met these questions with silence.
We have come to find out that one day after this internal “investigation,” an arrest warrant has been issued for an Occupy Denver protester for the O29 events. The timing of this warrant is no coincidence. It is clear that, again, we have an enemy (or several) in our midst. The PR/Media team clearly has no conflict with cooperating with law enforcement. They have shunned St. Paul’s principles, a set of expectations voted on and adopted by the general assembly of Occupy Denver. The 4th principle clearly lays the boundaries for a security culture, whereby cooperation with law enforcement is prohibited for the sake of keeping all who are involved with the movement safe. The PR/Media team has established itself as the fringe group, and continues to alienate multiple person(s) and community(ies) by creating an unsafe environment. The PR/Media team is promoting a snitch culture.
It is clear to many of us that the actions taken by the PR/Media team are extremely dangerous, and no social movement can be sustained when driven by a horde of headless chickens. The PR/Media team of Occupy Denver is losing credibility and we will allow them to self-destruct. We, the people with passionate hearts and fiery souls, will not stop driving and progressing forward. We are an inventive and creative bunch. We are an organized and rational bunch. The work that we do is attractive to the dreamers of the world, the movers and shakers of the world. We will continue on and no one will stop us. We will continue on and no one will stop us. Join us.
I sit here at my computer on Thursday, five full days after the Denver Police Department riot and I am still shaken up. I am shocked by the viciousness displayed by the DPD, but I am even more shocked by the ignorance and exclusiveness of Occupy Denver.
Although there have been dozens of reports concerning what happened on Saturday afternoon, I have seen only one written by someone who was actually at the event in question. I think it is important for the truth surrounding this incident to be brought to light and this can only be done by eye-witness testimony. I happen to be one of those people and this is my statement.
I took the bus to Denver on Saturday to have dance party with some friends. Occupy Denver has been too serious, and as Emma Goldman famously said, “A revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having.” Due to ugly rumors spread by OD, many people stay away from people they consider anarchists, so the dance party was mostly marginalized. This did not stop a group of about 20 of us from having a great time while still, in my opinion, getting our point across.
Towards the end of the march, as has been happening every week since the beginning of the Occupy Denver movement, we headed up to the capitol building. Normally, people fill the steps and surrounding area and in the center, the OD leaders give speeches. This week, however, we were met with a gang of State Police in riot gear, preventing us from going on the steps. A number of people began chanting, “we want the steps”, “this is what a police state looks like”, and “Oakland”, others tried to make friends with the masked men and women blocking us from standing on the steps that our tax dollars pay for. After much bickering, most people decided that their time could be better spent, and headed back down to Civic Center park to put up some tents, because the weather has been extremely cold at night.
Once in Civic Center Park, some of us danced while others helped Occupy Denver erect tents. A tarp had been tied to one tree and as the other end was being attached we noticed a group of about fifteen DPD riot cops, moving in on us fast, with no warning and blood lust in their eyes. Without telling us to take the tent down or advising us to move out of the area, they began pushing people out of the way with their batons and tearing the tent down. The police quickly tore the attached end from the tree branch. The other end, however, had been in the process of being tied to the tree by a woman. Unfortunately for this woman, the rope had gotten wrapped around her wrist. Noticing the gang of felonious riot starters headed in her direction, she immediately tried to break free. It was too late, the police began to pull. Reacting like the animals they are, the police took her helplessness as resistance and within milliseconds threw her to the ground, wrapped the tent around her, shoved her face into the dirt, and began beating her. As most human beings would do when seeing a close friend getting beat up by people armed to the teeth, a mighty attempt was made to rescue her. A scuffle ensued and in the end pepper spray and rubber bullets were indiscriminately dispersed and batons blindly swung around a small crowd of people. After being pepper sprayed directly in both eyes, I decided it was time to leave.
The battle between the people and the police lasted for a few more hours resulting in 20 arrests and a hospitalization (a motorcycle cop purposely drove over an unconscious individual). Less than twenty four hours after this event, the leaders of OD – most of whom were not even present at the incident – immediately began attempting to distance themselves from the people who were beat up; calling them everything from provocateurs to “marginalized at best”. They began harping on the fact that they were nonviolent and ignorantly quoting Gandhi and King, while ruminating over how to “get rid” of the problem people. I have two major problems with this.
My first problem lies in the everlasting love for police. I believe that change will indeed come if the puppets of the rich – the police, the military, and most of the citizenry – realize that what they are doing is wrong, and refuse to follow orders. If a police officer were to take off her or his uniform, quit the police force, apologize and ask to join us, I would welcome them with open arms. However, there is a huge difference between this and blindly supporting all police as part of the 99%. At this point in time, from the point of view of the people being pushed out by OD (AKA the majority of activists residing in Denver) is as follows: the police, even after beating, macing, shooting, raping and torturing innocent human beings, are part of the 99% and should be shown the utmost respect and admiration. After all, they are just doing their jobs. However, the people who have been dedicating their lives to struggle flip their middle finger at a cop or try to unarrest a loved one, and suddenly they are not part of the 99% anymore. This logic truly baffles me and makes me sick to my stomach every time I hear the chant, “we are the 99%”.
Secondly, the use of Gandhi and King to rationalize wanting to throw us out of their “movement” is like using the thorns of a rose to cut someone’s throat. A very common example right now is the Salt March, led by Gandhi, in which 1,000’s of people were beaten by police without fighting back. “If they can do it,” so these pacifists say, “so can we.” What they fail to consider are the facts that a) Gandhi and other organizers planned this action for months. They went through all possible scenarios, they practiced getting beat up without responding, and they were all on the same page. We couldn’t have developed a plan even if we wanted to, as we were unexpectedly attacked. Occupy Denver continues to ignore the wealth of organizers with Direct Action experience living in direct proximity of the Occupy site. b) Gandhi chose the ground of his battle, while we did not and c) each and every person beaten in India volunteered to undergo this treatment, while the woman getting beaten with a baton was not asked for her consent. Furthermore, I believe that anyone with a true understanding of nonviolence would have done the same things that we did, had they been in the same situation. The problem is that most of the people yelling about nonviolence are yelling it from their computers in their nice suburban houses –probably somewhere in Boulder.
I leave you with these questions- Is pointing a fellow protestor out to the police as a trouble maker, knowing how the police are trained to react, not violent? How can members of OD say, with a straight face, that they are going to kick people out of their movement, when they just got involved. What about the people they are trying to kick out? Are they not the folks who have made this whole thing possible? How brainwashed are those who continue to blame the victims in cases of police violence? Are these the same people who blame scantily clad women for getting raped? Finally, what now? Because, in the end, we will not have total revolution until we can find a way to work together.
Some of you may have seen that little pink flyer titled “Why anti-capitalist?” floating around the Occupy Denver protest on October 29th. I was happy to receive one of these because I was there to learn, share in ideas, and support a worthy, ever-growing, and multi-faceted movement. As I read it however, I was discouraged and disheartened by its message and I hope nobody takes it to be a
message of good and effective activism, but out of concern that people do get reeled in by its message, I thought I’d write a little critique.
There are three main points with which I found concern: 1) The author of this flyer makes no distinction between types of capitalism, 2) They make the claim that because banks and Wall Street are symptoms of a larger problem, that OWS is somehow off track by focusing on them, and 3) the language of this flyer incites hate and demonization, rather than unification in the face of problems
which dearly need unity to overcome.
Firstly, it’s easy enough to understand its basic message, “Capitalism is the crisis,” not Wall Street and banks, these are just symptoms. I think most at the march would agree that capitalism is, at least, worth critiquing very heavily. However, this little flyer made no real thoughtful critique of capitalism. Whether this was because there was not enough room on that little piece of paper, or because the author actually does confuse various forms of capitalism is not clear. Due to it’s lack of clarity, it unfortunately throws the baby out with the bathwater. If someone wants to look just below the surface, they might begin to wonder about the various forms of and enterprises within capitalism that actually work without exploitation. For instance, what about penny capitalism and cooperatives? At the top of the flyer it says, as if offering a definition, “Capitalism: You wash the dishes, the one’s who own them profit. Anti-capitalism: We all share in the dishwashing.” Actually, this second phrase that is supposed to represent “anti-capitalism” is nice. It actually starts to describe worker-cooperatives where the workers not only reap the profits of the business to which all of them belong, but the workers are also the collective owners.
Now, let’s talk about corporate capitalism. Though sometimes vague, it gets closer to the mark. Corporate capitalism, generally defined and understood, is a term used to describe a capitalist marketplace dominated by hierarchical, heavily bureaucratic, large corporations, that have profit seeking as there number one goal and often (if not always) do damage to the environment, to cultures, and to society at large, in their pursuit of profit. Also, they nearly always do so with impunity and even while being praised. This is obviously a HUGE problem. Let’s compare this now with penny capitalism which is when a small-scale producer, most often a farmer, sells her or his surplus produce to a
neighbor, to a friend, or a community member (sort of sounds like a farmers’ market). Surely this flyer isn’t suggesting that this farmer is the problem, nor is it suggesting that a cooperatively run childcare service or cooperatively run internet-hosting business, which are necessarily decentralized and locally owned and run, are the problem.
Obviously, I’m not getting into the nitty-gritty of these and other alternative forms of economic structures, but I think I scratch the surface and get my point across. When I read that little pink flyer I was disheartened by what seemed to be an oversimplification, but I was also excited to add a bit to an essential conversation. I hope the conversation about alternative economics continues and gets more rich and sophisticated among the movement. It’s certainly a conversation that predates OWS, and is certainly a conversation that needs to continually be strongly, deliberately, and intelligently interjected
into OWS or any other struggle for economic, social, and environmental justice by any other name.
Secondly, this flyer suggests that OWS is off the mark by focusing so much on banks and Wall Street. Well, let’s see, since they are just symptoms of a larger problem we shouldn’t really be focusing on them, right? Wrong. This time it’s the authors logic that I question. Of course we need to look deeply at root causes and effect change at that level. But, to infer that a focus on banks and Wall Street is not efficacious because they are mere symptoms is simply not accurate. Remember back to the African American freedom struggle? Let’s think for a second, what was the struggle all about anyways? Lunch?
No, and yes. Busses? No, and yes. Classrooms? No, and yes. Segregation? Yes. But still that’s not the root cause. What is then? Hatred, ignorance, and greed in the form of racism. Okay then, so according to that insidious little flyer, the African American struggle did it wrong. They shouldn’t have paid so much attention to symptoms like desegregating the lunch counters, or the busses, or the classrooms, because after all those places weren’t the root cause. Now, of course, I’m being a bit facetious. One of the many lessons we can learn from past struggles is the importance of focusing on concrete problems
to effect major, root issues. Sure, the African American freedom struggle was about overcoming hatred and racism, but the way they worked for change was through a deliberate and concerted confrontation of racism as it manifested in concrete forms, there at the lunch counter, on the busses, and in the
I think it’s safe to say that this movement is about a lot of things, big investment banks, the conflation of commercial banking and investment banking, corporate capitalism in general, and these are only a few concrete issues we could focus on to transform root issues like economic inequity and
greed. Thirdly, the language of this flyer while flashy and energetic, unfortunately was also subtly hateful and demonizing. Name calling, for instance, calling the police “the army of the rich” is really not helpful. Corporate greed and police brutality, are problems which dearly needs unity to be overcome, not further division. Violent language provokes further violence by segregating us from one another. That is not to say we shouldn’t call a spade a spade. Police brutality is inexcusable, heinous, and criminal. But, provoking violence either through speech or actions is not helpful. Take for instance what happened on October 29th in Denver when a man tipped over a police motor cycle while the police officer was still on it. This is not the kind of action that exposes police brutality for what it is, but rather
vindicates police force in the public eye. There is a real difference between planned and deliberate actions the aim of which is to expose police brutality and this kind of impulsive, reactionary violence that discredits the movement. In this same vain, let’s stop demonizing police officers by calling them the army of the rich. It’s not accurate. It’s a huge sweeping stereotype. Those police officers are people, who, though perhaps not friends, may eventually be converted to a more critical stance on the issues of state and corporate capitalism. Even if they aren’t, other citizens, seeing their brutality, will be moved to support and work with the protestors, but only if the
police are not met with violent retaliation or provocation. If they are met with violence, their violence looks justified in the public eye and the protestors are frowned upon. This is a terrible bind to work through, but unfortunately is a real one. Deliberately refraining from retaliating against police brutality
is not about remaining pure by not stooping to violence, but rather is of strategic importance in garnering more public support for a diverse array of issues, not least of which is police brutality in the face of protestors exercising their first amendment right. Who knows, perhaps some of these police officers already feel that corporate capitalism and the corporatocracy are real problems, but just need some pressure to be more critical of the state and of their actions. Public outcry at police brutality may be just such pressure. One day, when they are laid-off, or cannot sleep at night because of the brutality
doled out by them or their compatriots, they will wake up, take off their uniforms and ask to be accepted. Hopefully we will be smart enough, humble enough, and open-hearted enough to forgive and to take them in as friends in a struggle, the wrong side of which, they had been on for far too long.
Weather you are looking at corporate capitalism, greed in general or police brutality, let’s be more deliberate and intelligent in how we confront these issues. We need to stick together and garner mainstream support through appealing to the public’s common sense of decency and by focusing our
energy on clear concrete goals.
Eight days ago, at Occupy Denver, the Denver Police Department showed up and demanded the removal of a four foot high, three walled, art project/shield from bad weather built out of cardboard. While around a dozen people sat down and risked arrest in order to save this structure, many leaders of the leaderless Occupy Denver attempted to do the job of the police and tear the structure down for them. Others (myself included) got involved; demanding that these liberals stop taking the side of the police and blaming the victims. When Sunday afternoon’s brutal raid of a squat was brought up, the general response was “well, if they weren’t breaking the law, they wouldn’t have gotten in trouble” and “we can’t support that. We don’t break laws; we are a nonviolent movement.” Any attempt to point out the hypocrisy in these statements was met with blank stares and constant repetition of the same message. I was involved in many arguments and debates during the hour or so that the police were present, and one thing stands out the most in my mind.
When I pointed out to one of the leaders that the people risking arrest have the right to risk arrest, that no vote can change what they want to do and that they should be respected and supported, the rebuttal of “it doesn’t accomplish anything” was thrown in my face. I chose not to bring up the thousands of examples throughout history where symbolic arrests did actually accomplish things, and instead focused on the events of two weekends ago. On the morning of Friday October 14th 24 people were arrested. The next day (Saturday) around 4,000 people showed up for the weekly march, a number higher than all previous marches combined. That evening, another 24 people (some of whom had just gotten out of jail) were arrested for trying to defend the rebuilt kitchen and some who sat down the road, blocking traffic. The next day, we had a general assembly at 3pm. There are usually between 10 and 20 people at the 3pm general assembly, but this particular Sunday saw almost 300 people. We were able to agree on the fact that the numbers increased on the days after the arrests, but then came the split.
The next Saturday (the 22nd), a very small amount of people showed up for the march and rally and the energy was the lowest I have seen at any Occupy Denver event. Why? The leaders claim that people were scared to come because of the fear of crazy anarchists who talk people into getting arrested, but I demand to differ. I think the momentum of Friday carried over into the march on Saturday. The momentum of the march, combined with the arrests carried over to Sunday. Then, on Monday, nothing happened. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday featured much of the same. Nothing was done to harvest the momentum, so that by the time the next big event rolled around, people had lost interest.
I’m not advocating for symbolic action and the arrest of 24 people every day, but I am saying that something should be happening every day. Denver has a rich history of activism, with a plethora of priceless resources available; free school, the American Indian Movement, members of the Ruckus Society, Denver ABC, and a long list of others. In other cities with as rich of a history – New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Oakland, Chicago, etc – there are events happening every day. In Boston, speakers are on-site almost every day! In Oakland there are trainings happening every day. In Denver, free school does not feel comfortable enough to operate consistently.
Sure, people who previously had no activism experience and are now participating in something weekly is great, but how do we harness the momentum and carry it throughout the week? For starters, not everyone works Monday through Friday 9-5; many people work on Saturdays, but have off on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Also, how many of the people only come on Saturdays simply because there isn’t anything exciting going on during the week? Marching to the Federal Reserve is great, but wouldn’t the impact be felt more if the building were actually open? Yelling at closed banks as we happily stroll by makes us feel good, but wouldn’t going inside during business hours actually have an effect? How do we strategize for direct action if breaking the law is deemed violent.
The leaders are claiming to have started a movement. I’ll ignore the fact that the movement has been happening before the liberals showed up, and will continue long after they are gone. Instead, I’d like to focus on how this is not a movement. What has the potential to be created at Occupy Denver – and what is actually happening at many other Occupies – is a change in consciousness: A place where we depend on each other instead of police, instead of CEO’s, and in the place of politicians. We are creating an area where not only we can get free food and medicine, but also choose from dozens of conversations and debates. Where we can attend a free class or teach a class on anything and everything under the sun. A place where we are judged on the content of our character rather than how much money we make or how much stuff we own. This doesn’t just happen from weekly marches. This happens through building community. A community cannot be built if there is an obvious hierarchy and the masses are ignored. A community cannot be created if people who have priceless resources to share are pushed out or made to feel uncomfortable. A community cannot be created if the leaders constantly blame the victims and side with the oppressors.
I don’t like to complain while offering no solutions, and admittedly I have been very burned out with the Occupation and consequently have not been there as much as I used to. However, it’s not out of laziness, it’s out of fear. The leaders of this movement have shown time and time again that they have no problem throwing people to the wolves if it helps their political aspirations. Each has proven that they care more about public image – what people think about them – than including actual community members with valuable resources to offer.
Despite my extreme pessimism, I don’t think it’s too late. There are enough people on the fringes, enough people who are sick of following leaders who can change things before it’s too late. Winter is coming, and with the harsher weather there will sure be harsher police treatment. Unless we band together as a community, and that means respecting a diversity of opinions and tactics, this so-called movement will fall apart before Christmas.