Here is the deal.
Following a day of pretty much non violent direct action which, I must say, from afar seemed pretty successful on all fronts (much more so than i expected) and in which the cops were essentially out of sight, came a night with some other stuff entirely.
A group, some will say provacateurs, some will say black bloc,violent anacrhists, some will say this and some will say that, I'm just saying some group of folks took over a abandoned building, procalimed it occupied space, built barricades out front. They proceeded to party over the occupation and went on about their buisness.
The authorities were none too happy with this turn of events, showed up in force, said "get the hell out of there, those barricades were set ablaze, and you know what ensued.
What to make of this?
I am going to print now a statement purportedly from some of the buiilding occupiers. Who knows who exactly but it does provide some background and some rational for what this was about. I got the statement off of East Bay Indymedia.
Okay, that is one point of view.---Last night, after one of the most remarkable days of resistance in recent history, some of us within Occupy Oakland took an important next step: we extended the occupation to an unused building near Oscar Grant Plaza. We did this, first off, in order to secure the shelter and space from which to continue organizing during the coming winter months. But we also hoped to use the national spotlight on Oakland to encourage other occupations in colder, more northern climates to consider claiming spaces and moving indoors in order to resist the repressive force of the weather, after so bravely resisting the police and the political establishment. We want this movement to be here next Spring, and claiming unused space is, in our view, the most plausible way forward for us at this point. We had plans to start using this space today as a library, a place for classes and workshops, as well as a dormitory for those with health conditions. We had already begun to move in books from the library.
The building we chose was perfect: not only was it a mere block from Oscar Grant Plaza, but it formerly housed the Traveler's Aid Society, a not-for-profit organization that provided services to the homeless but, due to cuts in government funding, lost its lease Given that Occupy Oakland feeds hundreds of people every day, provides them with places to sleep and equipment for doing so, involves them in the maintenance of the camp (if they so choose), we believe this makes us the ideal tenants of this space, despite our unwillingness to pay for it. None of this should be that surprising, in any case, as talk of such an action has percolated through the movement for months now, and the Oakland GA recently voted to support such occupations materially and otherwise.Business Insider discussed this decision in an article entitled “The Inevitable Has Happened.”
We are well aware that such an action is illegal, just as it is illegal to camp, cook, and live in Oscar Grant Plaza as we have done. We are aware that property law means that what we did last night counts as trespassing, if not burglary. Still, the ferocity of the police response surprised us. Once again, they mobilized hundreds of police officers, armed to the hilt with bean bag guns, tear gas and flashbang grenades, despite the fact that these so-called “less-than-lethal” weapons nearly killed someone last week. The city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect one landlord's right to earn a few thousand every month. Why is this? Whereas the blockade of the port – an action which caused millions of dollars of losses – met with no resistance, the attempt to take one single building, a building that was unused, met with the most brutal and swift response.
The answer: they fear this logical next step from the movement more than anything else. They fear it because they know how much appeal it will have. All across the US thousands upon thousands of commercial and residential spaces sit empty while more and more people are forced to sleep in the streets, or driven deep into poverty while trying to pay their rent despite unemployment or poverty wages. We understand that capitalism is a system that has no care for human needs. It is a system which produces hundreds of thousands of empty houses at the same time as it produces hundreds of thousands of homeless people. The police are the line between these people and these houses. They say: you can stay in your rat-infested park. You can camp out here as long as we want. But the moment that you threaten property rights, we will come at you with everything we have.
It is no longer clear who calls the shots in Oakland anymore. At the same time as OPD and the Alameda County Sheriffs were suiting up and getting ready to smash heads and gas people on 16th St, Mayor Quan was issuing a statement that she wished to speak to us about returning the building to the Traverler's Aid Society. It is clear that the enmity between the Mayor and the Police has grown so intense that the police force is now an autonomous force, making its own decisions, irrespective of City Hall. This gives us even less reason to listen to them or respect the authority now.
We understand that much of the conversation about last night will revolve around the question of violence (though mostly they mean violence to “property,” which is somehow strangely equated with harming human beings). We know that there are many perspectives on these questions, and we should make the space for talking about them. But let us say this to the cops and to the mayor: things got “violent” after the police came. The riot cops marched down Telegraph and then the barricades were lit on fire. The riots cops marched down Telegraph and then bottles got thrown and windows smashed. The riot cops marched down Telegraph and graffiti appeared everywhere.
The point here is obvious: if the police don't want violence, they should stay the hell away.
Another, emphasized to me by my email friend, says hold on a minute. He raised some good questions which I think have merit. He thinks those who seized that building essentially stole the day from all those who were in the streets all day making a very strong statement which no one could overlook.
Remember I am not one who goes calling out anarchists, black bloc folks, etc as provacateurs or insande idiots at the drop of a hat. Others do that. I don't. I am not a pacifist.
Following this very succesful day of action which which was seen by many in a very postive light, was it really necessary to seize a building that night knowing, if you had any smarts, that it was unlikely the police were going to take such a seizure lightly? Did anyone really think barricades, burning barricades were going to not set off the cop?.
Personally, I actually think occupying vacant buildings, squats, and the like are not an unreasonable idea for many reasons. I think that sort of occupation does make a much stronger statement then camping out in the park. The part of the statement above that to me speaks so loudly is this:
they fear this logical next step from the movement more than anything else. They fear it because they know how much appeal it will have. All across the US thousands upon thousands of commercial and residential spaces sit empty while more and more people are forced to sleep in the streets, or driven deep into poverty while trying to pay their rent despite unemployment or poverty wages. We understand that capitalism is a system that has no care for human needs. It is a system which produces hundreds of thousands of empty houses at the same time as it produces hundreds of thousands of homeless people. The police are the line between these people and these houses. They say: you can stay in your rat-infested park. You can camp out here as long as we want. But the moment that you threaten property rights, we will come at you with everything we have.However, last night was not the time this move had to happen. It was the wrong moment.
The building occupiers had to know what would happen, had to know the "violence" would become the news story overshadowing everything else that occured. Again, was this building occupation at this time a tactical blunder. The building wasn't going anywhere. Hell, it could have been occupied today, or tomorrow and still "this logical nextstep" would have occured. There is a history of such building occupations, a long history and again it does make sense. Just not last night.
As to the reaction of the cops. Again, way overblown. Afterall those occupying the building were not threatening anyone or anything. The authorities had all sorts of options. The building was abandoned. They chose, the police chose, to do what they do (and I can't believe anyone was really surprised), and attacked with tear gas. The Guardian reports:
So don't go telling me, the cops are blameless either. We are talking vacant building here. There was no immediate threat. There did not have to be a violent confrontation last night.
The occupiers did not opt for non violence resistrance. The cops should have been no more surpised by this then the occupiers should have been surprised by the cops.
I would add that these are the same cops who brutally attacked Occupy Oakland earlier without any "excuse." These are the same police who make a habit of brutality against black people in the streets. This is the same city where you can get shot by BART police for being black. So lets not pretend the cops are just a swell bunch of people out to protect and serve.
It is a dangerous game.
People associated with Occupy Oakland say they are pissed off at those who took the building and they say provoked the violence. According to Peopleunlikeus links,
Leaders of the self-described leaderless Occupy Wall Street Movement in Oakland, California, have told NBC Bay Area that “anarchists” not associated with the group are responsible for last night’s violence. Black-clad troublemakers attacked banks and also trashed a Whole Foods Store.Maddie Rudd captured what many of those who are upset with the building occupers at Occupy Oakland think with her tweet,
"More tear gas in Oakland last night. Some agitators lit a barricade on fire. A few destructive people are giving #occupyoakland a bad name,"
At the Unrepentent Marxist blog we find a reader commenting,
I was at the general strike yesterday and while you may call them black-bloc, they were not agent provocateurs in my opinion. While I would not be surprised to find out that some are employed by the State apparatus, I talked to many and found them to be merely what might be called vulgar Marxists. I’m not sure the black bloc is much more than self-styled anarchists influenced more by Crass, than Marx or Bakunin. That said, the police were more than happy to let things accelerate in order to justify more heavy-handed tactics and got what they wanted by 1am when the contingent took the Traveler’s Aid building. Considering the the march to the ports had well over 15,000 participants in my estimation, the small number of protesters seeking violent exchanges were actually much less than I expected after last Tuesday. In the end, they are more muddled-headed thrill seekers more than anything.Most every Occupy Site in the country has people arguing about this today. Many opinions are being expressed. Keep in mind that the whole Occupy Movement is one big populist shindig. It may vary from place to place,but the "Occupations" are full of people from all over the polticial spectrum. Some see this "broadness" as a really good thing. Some, like me, question it. Combine a so called leaderless movement with no common political oreintation and what do you get? Who is to say, who represents what, who is to do what, what tactic is correct, which slogan to shout, what sign to hold up? At some point the Occupy movement has to decide what it wants to be and whose interest it wants to represent...or it will implode. For how long can you have anarchists, Marxists, Ron Paul supporters, right wing libertarians, dogmatic pacifists, liberals, feel good people, angry people, people who intend to defend themselves and more, capitalists, petty bourgois, workers, unemployed. business owners, professionals, anti racists, racists, and all that and more in an "ain't we got fun" atmosphere?
How can you expect to enforce discipline while pretending not to enforce discipline? How can you honestly complain about some group or another "using" and "abusing" your "movement, when you invite every one in and make decisions in General Assemblies that change from day to day?
You want a really broad based movement? You got one. You want to say it isn't about this set of politics, it isn't right or left? You got it. You want the 99 %, well you got em.
And you got all that comes with it.
It is time for a real anti-capitalist movement to come forward with an actual class analysis
Note: I ought to tell you where I am coming from. In addition to a grounding in Marxism, I have a continued belief in the theory that capitalism is upheld as a result of an ideology of white skin privilege. Further I am now influenced by the writings of Antonio Negri, and am also a fierce supporter of and influenced by a militant struggle to SAVE THE EARTH from environmental destruction, maybe best exemplified by a Marxian interpretation of the deep green resistance movement.
Finally, I have to qualify all of this all of this with two big facts:
- I am not in Oakland and have never even been to Oakland, so all of my comments are based on mly personal experience over the last 45 years in the movement, what I have read on the internet (from the mainstream press, the anarchist media, the Occupy Oakland facebook site, the alternative media, and from friends.
- I put all this out quickly. More facts may come to light that change some of the specics related to last night in Oakland.
NOVEMBER 5, NOTE: A friend sent me the following email.
My thoughts, if the facts as he states them are correct, then he is absolutely correct in conclusions (although I am not sure I was use the term "vandals" as he does). It also proves the point of number one and two just above.i was thinking abt this while reading an SFC piece on the occupy aftermath; it seems to me that the vast vast majority of vandals (for lack of a better word) are white. many, who come from other places, are coming into a nearly majority black city. that they do their violence & retreat into their whiteness, leaving black folks behind to pay the price. that paradigm feeds into yr oft-repeated comments abt whites running the movement, & the need for black leadership, etc. it doesnt seem that the mayhem-doers are paying any attention at all to occupy leaders, many of whom are black.your thoughts.