PART 2: Why Resistance? Protect the Person to Your Left, Occupy Oakland, #J28
The goal was to occupy an abandoned building to create a community center. The police chose to escalate, derail and repress such peaceful intentions. They used violence because our action threatened to redefine local government's ownership of what is 'public' and their control of our resources. We are autonomous individuals, we want to revive our communities and in the most basic of traditions, we desire to be free. And they cannot tolerate it. This is what we should take away from #J28. Occupy Oaklands's plans for Move-In day can be reviewed here: http://hellaoccupyoakland.org/j28-movein-day-weekend-action-occupy-oakland-building-takeover/ As well as statement from the Move-In Assembly following the criticisms of J28: http://occupyoaklandmoveinday.org/content/statement-occupy-oaklands-move-assembly-0 (extremely important that you read at some point.)
As for the black bloc, people ask why they have shields.. why they have barricades.. and the answer is.. because of Scott Olson. Occupy Oakland in particular has experienced blatant police violence in response to their organizing. So why shields? Because police brutality is acceptable when it comes to squashing the occupy movement. And someone needs to defend our right to protest peacefully, to stand up and say it is NOT acceptable. Do you hear our representatives saying anything? Do you hear our supposed leftwing president saying anything about our civil liberties? After all, how do you get out of a kettle other than to break an unjust line? How do you get out of an unlawful declaration of unlawful assembly? Do you just comply? Do you permit them to abuse your fellow protesters, those who are peaceful, who did not come prepared to defend themselves and be in the line of fire? All things running through my head as I look for ways out of the first kettle for myself and my new 300 friends. But one thing is for sure, we have power in numbers. And for some the answer is yes by the way- we are peaceful, always. Even in the face of utter fascism.. even to the point of the black boot of state repression stepping on people's faces. But i am not Gandhi. For some, non-violence is not that simple. Some of us believe in non violent resistance. Some of us will acknowledge that confrontation is ingrained in this struggle, we cannot evade it, we can only grapple with it in as nonviolent a way as we can. We cannot be pacifists in this world and we acknowledge that the new world may not be for us. Some of us, still, believe in throwing tear gas canisters back.
BB is not a group, it's a tactic employed by any anonymous person engaged in resistance. There is no stated or specific, or long enduring goal of the black bloc other than defending the people's right to march and take space depending on whatever action they are deployed at. There is no head or tail, it is made up of autonomous beings and the only understanding is solidarity. This does not mean, however, that there is no strategy. Tactics i've seen used are barricades, holding lines against police, creating escape routes, tactical units to protect others. They are not a color, they are an idea. The color is just to protect their identities.. not only because some of their actions may be illegal but because the state will come for them first. And they know this. In terms of the occupy movement, I hope that as with everything else we are unlearning/deconstructing/redefining.. these ideas are being challenged and analyzed to see how we can create hybrid tactics evolving to meet our needs today and going forward. Whatever color bloc- clown, plaid, black etc.. I truly hope you respect the election of anonymity and recognize it's importance.
To say shields somehow 'ask' for a more violent police response is an unacceptable excuse to fire on peaceful activists. Carlos Villarreal, NLGSF Executive director said, “It is appalling that the OPD continues to violate the law and its own policies. The police instigated the confrontation by immediately attacking the march with chemical agents, flashbang bombs, and a volley of rifle or shotgun-fired projectiles.” But of course, this is not what was presented by the media. Instead, they would like you to believe that the militant activists initiated the violence. This is the line of thinking the police will use to lead you down their rabbit hole. Will you say that those who disobey, those who speak truth to power, who lecture cops in righteous anger, bring upon violence onto themselves? How can you provoke violence with words? How can your prompt violence with shields? The two are not very different. Will you equate thrown water bottles, fruit and the like with tear gas, rubber bullets and flash grenades? We have to consider that they will use every little thing- from the grass to a thrown water bottle- to justify their reasoning for brutalizing us, and then one day, murdering us on the streets. The idea that our 'appearance' is reason enough to intervene violently is the very same line of thinking that leads to the victim blaming we hear in the media and from our peers in the matrix.For another example of this line of reasoning please read: http://oaklandlocal.com/posts/2012/01/outside-trying-look-occupy-oakland%E2%80%99s-j28-community-voices
As for the argument that such diverse tactics hurt the movement in terms of PR:
The elite know that if they if they can make scapegoats out of those willing to be on the front line, if they can paint us as the threat, our own comrades will use the language of the oppressor to perpetuate the corrupt media narrative shaped by the 1%. The MSM peddles an illusion; it's very role is to uphold the status quo and keep people divided and distracted so we remain 'manageable' by our government. And it is our duty to reach beyond that and refuse to label more militant activists as obstructionists or reduce their actions as simply seeking destruction. This can only serve to make us complicit in their fear mongering and will do more to harm to this movement than any revolutionary with a stick. The police use 'crowd control tactics' to incite panic and fear, to create a riot-like situation, so they can justify their violent intervention.
The police and the mainstream narrative work together to create the story that those who engage in resistance are somehow responsible for the inevitable media slander and police brutality. The very argument that has been used time and time again to silence and marginalize radical dissent, repressing radical action and ensuring that our political energy can be easily absorbed into the liberal agenda of electoral politics. This is the real obstruction. If this is truly about liberation, then let us liberate ourselves from the chains of these corrupt institutions and build our own narrative as we critique the oppressive one imposed upon us today.
If you truly want to reclaim our mortgaged future, then let's move this dialogue while we have it. Our irrepressibility is key. You are not just fighting a PR war, you are not just fighting for people's hearts and minds, you are fighting for them to challenge their own perceptions of what it takes to truly create change in a no longer democratic state. Out of fear of intimidating the wary, we act as though building resistance is somehow going to accomplish less than building constituency because it appears more confrontational. But this is not about politics 'as usual'.. it has failed us. This is not about the police. This is about our lives, the power of collective will. And a political process that is corrupt, hierarchical and depends upon the willful compliance of activists whose 'grassroots' efforts are funneled into rigid ritualistic activism that demands conformity instead of organic involvement. It's about our so called representatives really being politicians for the 1% and the need to take up our own representation on the streets.
Do not facilitate the lie that somehow our actions will slow down the movement by hurting the efforts of more careful organizers who tell the street children, "you are not revolutionary!".. as if you can use the word academically and somehow own it. We are here to smash the constructs and paradigms that have ordered us politically, to get off of the sidewalk and realign our realities. There are many people who see what we see. Who are aware of struggle, corruption, the elite and the powers that want to crush us. They are waiting to see vigor, to see persistence. To see that we are not afraid. We can only hope to act outside of the permitted processes made available to us in the pursuit of justice ourselves, through noncompliance, noncooperation, and speaking truth to power through word and deed. If this means that to protect our actions and ideas we have to explore organized defensive resistance, it is important for us not to silence this ever-developing discussion.
In Oakland it was clear that the bloc leads the way through the streets or stays on the sidelines in case of emergency. The police.. are just the orcs that carry out the orders... they intimidate.. they hide behind the constructs of legality and proprietry expecting you to uphold those constructs yourselves. To vilify those who stand in a line and demean occupiers as somehow less than human. Somehow.. less deserving of rights. Somehow, deserving of police repression. Meanwhile, when the police kettle us, escalate the situation, and when people begin to panic and run through the streets, the bloc reminds people to "stay calm".
We will never agree on tactics and we will never have a centralized body or authority to enforce such agreements. This means we must move forward towards our goals acknowledging that we are diverse individuals with different experiences and will employ different tactics to achieve our goals. Disavow or dissociate yourself from their actions if you must, but remember that their actions are political before they are criminal. Keep in mind that actions like gathering evidence (e.g. purposefully via livestreaming) to turn in against a comrade breaks solidarity and subjects that person to terrorism from the police and the coercive violence-monopoly of the state. They are right when they say there were kids on the front lines- and even if you disagree with the idea of varying tactics and militant aka organized strategic defense- these people should be protected by you when they are not on the streets. Take what you will. Disagree with what you will. But please remember that those willing to engage in defensive strategy on the front lines do not do so for their own health or themselves. In the age of facial recognition, monitored political dissent and the 'absolute' authority of the state we can only ever hope to be organized, defensive and in solidarity with one another.
I challenge you to reconsider your constructs- the narrative imposed upon us by the status quo and the hesitation that we shouldn't push 'too hard', 'too fast' or color outside of the lines. That we shouldn't reinvent the wheel... that we should instead do exactly what has been done before even though the state LEARNED from the power of the people shown during the civil rights era and took measures to ensure that our power would be less effective moving forward(through permitting, which is why we take streets). I challenge you to value both experience and perspective, and to reevaluate any assumptions that these actions are somehow belligerent, angsty and not carefully deliberate. I challenge you to build a new narrative out of the ashes of the old and instead of talking about how the media will portray us unjustly, portray us yourselves! I challenge you to act deliberately in the face of utter fascism, and together we will inspire random acts of defiance that will shake this system at it's very core.
October 1st, 2011
My parents love and support me. They understand that I've been waiting for a movement like this much of my very short life. They don't understand why it has to come at the expense of my 'normal' life. Why can't it be a hobby? Why not join a nonprofit? Why not become a part of the system and do my best to help from the inside? They don't understand that my mind, talents and skills were made for this fight. That my soul has been waiting for this. And they most definitely do not understand why, out of everyone involved, I have to be on the front lines. Because even though they see the United States as the land of the oppressed and silent, teaching consumerism and compartmentalizing bravery, the very belly of the beast that is global capitalism.. they are afraid. They know that at the end of the day.. this is a post 911 regime, a bipartisan dictatorship, a ruthless state apparatus that thrives off of illusion and imperialism. They know that it will take more than petitions, canvassing, elections and permitted protesting to wrestle power from special interests and restore it to the people. But they remember hearing stories of times past, they remember people being blacklisted for speaking out and they have learned to keep their heads down and their nose clean.