Well, I've been sitting here thinking about the events on Saturday Jan 28th and I can't help but see how there may have been a perception shift within Occupy Oakland and the BlackBloc tactics that have been so controversial in the past. Before we can get into the shift, lets first talk about the original perception.
From what I gather talking with Occupiers and sitting at some general assembilies, there were mixed emotions. Some people were adamantly against the blackbloc tactics while others thought it was a little cool even though they wouldn't do it themselves and of course there were the outright supporters. After the start of FTP (Fuck the Police march held every Saturday night)in response to the violence the Oakland Police Department has subjected the Occupy supporters to during the course of the almost 6 month old protest; the divide in opinions about blackbloc tactics deepened. This happened because of the bottle throwing that made many marchers be kettles by police and then chased several blocks by riot police. I think this divide is organically dissipating.
On Saturday many peaceful protesters who were not necessarily supporters of the blackbloc tactics seem to be more grateful for the shields, vinegar, malox and other defensive supplies that come from the blackbloc tactics as well. I saw the march to move in turn into a FTP march because of the violence that the protesters encountered. I almost think it helped merge the people who were previously split because now some people who have been against some tactics are aware of the fact that they are not against them all. Here may be the organic beginning of a warmer embrace to the diversity of tactics :)
Not that I'm for violence. I'm not, but I'm not a pacifist I do think I have the right to defend myself in the event of severe violence. Especially if it is unjust, like I didn't commit a violent crime deserving of a violent response. I'm sure most feel that exact same way, and the way the march turned into FTP hours before it was scheduled because of what was happening was pretty telling in my opinion. I think this push into acceptance will allow for more a more open minded approach to the decisions made within the movement from this point on.
A good example of preemptive decision making, it seems equally fortunate that the General Assembly decided to move to 19th & Telegraph because there was a statement that almost 100 protesters that were arrested on Saturday are also under a threat of a stay away order. Well. Unfortunately the stay away could be from the entire area of Downtown Oakland. That s a new blog post altogether though so I'm going to move on.
The point that I wanted to make with this blog is that Occupy is a truly inclusive movement. There is room for all types of different autonomous action as long as it has the same goal. When the militarization of the police department is successfully dealt with Occupy Oakland is going to probably look more like Occupy Wall Street, but may be forced to approach it differently than other occupations. There needs to be a discussion about what property damage is, what violence is, and what self defense is.
Once these different conversations get started, I can imagine that many people would start to see how their viewpoints may actually be more similar than they all believe. Making it to where the infighting about FTP and blackbloc tactics will quiet down. They might quiet down because the understanding that self defense is necessary will be understood. Those who are more responsible will understand that there isn't much that you can do about people who want to throw bottles and fruit randomly after being tear gassed or having smoke grenades thrown at them. People will start to understand that the political movement that has corporate greed as a target, might break a window at Bently or Starbucks. Spray paint the City Hall where abusive orders come out of from the Mayors office with obscene messages that are sure to be seen since the heartfelt cries of concerned citizens & Occupiers are ignored at City Council meetings, and through the form of emails and complaints to representatives and the Internal Affairs department of the Oakland Police Department.
Although I understand these tactics, I don't partake in them. I just can understand and without criminalizing those who feel strongly enough for that to be their desired way of protesting. I can understand that some may also feel as if picket signs get ignored because the world is so well adjusted to injustice. Maybe that is a part of the "imagine a new world" scenario. The one in which instead of sitting there like sheep, people are fighting back in any way they can to secure economic justice. To address police misconduct all the way to the abusive department policies and the way rights are infringed upon while protesting against governmental corruption and corporate greed.