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REAL WORLD EVENT DISCUSSIONS
The "Black Bloc", and where do we go from here?
Friday, November 11, 2011 8:55 AM
Gettin' old, but still a hippie at heart...
Quote:Since last week, the conventional wisdom among progressives has been that Occupy Oakland needs to condemn and expel the black-clad vandals who seek out violent clashes with police. The morning after last week's general strike turned into a night of chaos, many liberals showed up at Occupy Oakland urging demonstrators to embrace nonviolence, and some protesters responded in kind, by helping clean up debris and graffiti in downtown Oakland.
But over the past week, the Occupy Oakland General Assembly has stopped short of denouncing violence, even though many occupiers have distanced themselves from what happened last Thursday morning. At times, calls for peace have been shouted down by the more militant members of the movement. In fact, since last week's events, there appears to be a contingent at Occupy Oakland that is openly embracing violent tactics.
Oft called "The Black Bloc," or "the anarchist wing" of Occupy Oakland (even though many anarchists scorn them), the small group who turned last week's protest into chaos uses a methodology that gained currency after the 1999 World Trade Organization demonstrations in Seattle. They dress in black and obscure their faces with ski masks or bandanas, both to conceal individual identities, promote "solidarity" (i.e., the group looks like one autonomous bloc), and make it difficult for police to apprehend the protesters who throw rocks or light trash cans on fire.
Not all Black Bloc protesters are violent; some merely wear the uniform as a fashion statement, or to show sympathy for their counterparts. One occupier said the black dress helped prevent mass arrests and persecution of individuals. He emphasized that Black Bloc protesters don't subscribe to any uniform political ideology — meaning that not all believe in violent revolution.
But prior to last week, the Black Bloc didn't seem to play a strong part in Occupy Oakland. When a group called the Oakland Liberation Front distributed "anti-peace brigade" fliers a couple days before the general strike, its members were largely denounced. When angry protesters advanced toward a line of cops during the October 29 march against police brutality, peaceful demonstrators intervened. In fact, the Black Bloc was a very small minority on the morning of the general strike. Wednesday's peaceful protest was dominated by union members and progressives who had not been camping out at City Hall.
Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) had marching orders to help direct traffic, diffuse conflicts, and keep the peace as large groups of people disrupted service at each of the big banks downtown. For the most part, the peace-keepers were successful. Even after a group of Black Bloc rogues broke off from the main protest to vandalize Whole Foods, the strike remained largely nonviolent. At 4 p.m., a giant group of strikers marched through West Oakland, en route to shut down the port. A couple people in front wheeled a life-size Gandhi float. People held signs that criticized bank bailouts and reframed the protest in economic terms. For a time, it looked as if the general strike would be wildly successful.
But then as the evening wore on, the Black Bloc grabbed control. A group of thirty to fifty such protesters converged on an abandoned, foreclosed building that had formerly been home to a homeless services center. They broke in, and "occupied" the space. They handed out a prepared statement. It read: "The Oakland branch of the Traveler's Aid Society was a government-funded non-profit that provided aid to houseless people in our area. After the government cut funding to the program the Oakland branch faced foreclosure at the hands of their private lender." The protesters' plan? Reclaim the building. Turn it into a library and workshop center. "We are the 99 %," the statement ended. "This is our future."
By itself, the takeover seemed to be in line with the Occupy Oakland's apparent new emphasis on direct action, rather than mere protest. More and more, protesters at Occupy Oakland have begun calling for appropriation and reclamation of space. Several speakers at the General Assembly meetings late last week called for "strategic occupations of empty buildings." Some argued that such "occupations" should occur by any means necessary, even if the occupiers had to build barricades, or light fires, or throw rocks at police in order to defend their territory. One woman who spoke at Thursday's meeting presented her view in stark, us-versus-the-system terms. "The amount of violence necessary to overthrow this monster is beyond what we currently have," she said. "So we have to be tactical, and outsmart those who outnumber us."
It wasn't clear whether the protesters who took over Traveler's Aid intended violence. But shortly after midnight, when word came that police were headed over to shut down the protest, the demonstrators took action. They began building massive barricades at both the San Pablo and Telegraph intersections of 16th Street, using anything they could find — Dumpsters, recycle bins, pallets from the Occupied Oakland encampments, city-issued garbage cans. A black man who appeared to be there with his family (and who may or may not have been part of the occupation) attempted to take one of the barricades down. He said he lived in the neighborhood and that he, too, was part of the 99 percent, but he didn't approve of vandalism. A group of protesters surrounded him, yelling obscenities. Some accused him of being an agent provocateur. Vastly overwhelmed, the man finally left. One person observing the scene said it looked as though they'd been trained to intimidate intruders, or that it could have been "a mob mentality."
Then the group of Black Bloc demonstrators set fires. Their exact motivation for doing so wasn't clear. When Occupy medic Douglas Connor arrived shortly after 1 a.m. and asked what the fire was for, he got a matter-of-fact response from one of the protesters standing guard. "Fires help dissipate tear gas," the protester said. Apparently, they'd all read it somewhere in a protest manual.
By then, the scene had devolved into chaos. Police closed in on the crowd gathered at and around Frank Ogawa Plaza and issued a dispersal order that few people could hear over the clamor. A fire truck arrived to put out the fire. Police fired tear gas and bean bags, hit protesters with batons, and made about one hundred arrests — including Connor, who was standing by in his military fatigues (he'd served two years at Walter Reed and one in Iraq) with red crosses taped on the sleeves, waiting to see if anyone needed medical attention. In fact, several medics were arrested that night, along with members of the National Lawyers Guild, bloggers, people visiting from the Occupy encampments in Sacramento and Los Angeles, students fretting about term papers they had to write the following day, and members of a group who huddled on the ground in front of City Hall, holding up peace signs. Most people were charged with failure to disperse; a few got hit with vandalism charges. It's still unclear whether anyone who was arrested that night was part of the original building takeover.
"I don't think anyone who was wearing all black [got arrested]," Connor said. "The Black Bloc is very wily. They do stuff to instigate, and then when it gets hot, they leave."
The next morning, Occupy Oakland experienced a major crisis of faith. Liberals and progressives immediately called for nonviolence, dismayed that the public's perception of the movement had changed overnight. Local anarchist Jason Hoopes even wrote a vituperative "open letter" to the Black Bloc: "As an anarchist, I am deeply disappointed in you," Hoopes wrote. "I am angry at you. I am saddened by you. I feel let down by you. I feel nearly irreparably misrepresented by you."
But even in the face of criticism, members of the Black Bloc contingent were emboldened. Some of them reframed the incident in terms of self-defense rather than police provocation, arguing that building seizures were a logical next step for the Occupy movement, and that they needed a burning barricade to defend their new encampment. Occupy Oakland had started out populist and has become increasingly tribal and territorial. And within its new discourse, the self-defense argument has been striking a chord.
Black Bloc violence is highly organized, and it relies on a familiar set of tropes: arson, rock-throwing, barricade-building, and public-street seizures. Whereas the larger group had previously disparaged such tactics, it seemed that many now condone them — or at least refuse to condemn them. Now, speakers at the assembly meetings routinely advocate for violent retaliation against the police. When a man who introduced himself as an "Indian nonviolence trainer" stood before the crowd at Thursday's meeting and admonished that Black Bloc tactics had tarnished the reputation of Occupy Oakland at large, he was jeered. A social worker stood up shortly thereafter, and preached the opposite message: "The overthrow of capitalism isn't going to happen nonviolently," she said. The crowd erupted. A speaker on Friday even argued that there actually isn't a hard dividing line between "violent" and "nonviolent" factions at Occupy Oakland. He accused "the bourgeoisie media" of purposefully creating schisms in order to undermine the movement at large. "They want us to eat each other alive," the man insisted.
But for all his protestations, it seems clear that Occupy Oakland is currently at cross-purposes with itself. And it's not only divided into "violent" and "nonviolent" camps; it actually has at least five different strata. There are the ideologues who think that violence is the only way to properly overthrow a system. They tend to be highly ideological, and even academic — or at least very well-versed in protest-speak. There are the non-ideologues, who enjoy wreaking havoc-for-havoc's sake. They're the ones who graffiti storefronts and curse at the police, but usually act in an irrational, disorganized way. Then, there are the people who don't commit violence, but sympathize with others who do. They dress in all black at protests to create uniformity and help vandals get away — incidentally, there's a huge "anti-snitch" culture at Occupy Oakland. "I don't think we should do the police's work for them," said an occupier who called himself Louis Michel.
On the other side are the nonviolent protesters, but they also vary. Some believe in radical change and endorse building seizures or appropriation of public space, but say it should happen without recourse to vandalism. Others adhere to the values of Occupy Wall Street, but disassociate themselves, wherever possible, from the radical, tactical methods of the Black Bloc. That last school includes all the mainstream labor advocates and union members who participated in Wednesday's general strike, left happily at 10 p.m., and were appalled to wake up Thursday morning and find the narrative had completely changed. SEIU spokesman Carlos Rivera said the delineation between "occupiers" and agitators needs to be a lot sharper: "We were so happy that people came together for the right cause," he said, referring to the general strike and port shutdown. "And then bandits stole it away from us."
It's unclear what the future bodes for Occupy Oakland as the weather gets colder, the General Assembly meetings get bigger, and the Black Bloc appears to gain traction. Still, it's hard to see Occupy Oakland generating any kind of sustainable protest movement, unless it eschews violence. It's axiomatic that change is hard, and long, and boring, and full of interminable negations, and it's much easier to just start a riot. A student activist named Gustavo Oliveira drew that conclusion last week: "If we're not gonna have riots, we have to work even harder [at] community organizing to get the job done," he said. "Otherwise we leave it to people who see no other option than to fuck shit up." http://www.eastbayexpress.com/gyrobase/how-the-black-bloc-occupied-oakland/Content?oid=3036670&showFullText=true
Friday, November 11, 2011 8:58 AM
Quote: Shortly after 5 p.m. on Thursday, a man was shot and killed at Frank Ogawa Plaza, feet away from the Occupy Oakland encampment. Almost immediately after the shooting, the protesters tweeted, "This was unrelated to the occupation."
Members of Occupy Oakland may have been concerned that the shooting could precipitate a police raid, something they have been bracing for, as City Council members have demanded the immediate closure of the camp. Even Mayor Jean Quan, who allowed protesters to set up another encampment soon after authorizing a raid on the encampment last month, is calling for protesters to leave peacefully.
"Tonight’s incident underscores the reason why the encampment must end. The risks are too great," the mayor said in a statement Thursday night.
Oakland police have begun to plan another eviction operation, but it appears that this time, they may not be able to rely on other law enforcement agencies. Quan's indecisiveness has frustrated many agencies that provided mutual aid during the eviction and two subsequent demonstrations. Some of the agencies say they cannot afford to send more police to Oakland, when their own departments are understaffed.
“There are some chiefs and some city councils that I think are upset with having to keep sending officers to Oakland,” said Sgt. J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. “And their point is: ‘Why are we sending people there when their own mayor can’t make a decision on what to do?’”
The Sheriff’s Department told Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan Wednesday they will charge $1,000 per deputy for a 12-hour shift. Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern said his deputies would only come in for free if the situation prompted an emergency.
“After we assisted Oakland in removing the occupiers who were unlawfully camping in Frank Ogawa Plaza, the government officials allowed them back into the plaza and allowed them to resume camping,” said Ahern. “They're trying to allow people the right to free speech and it's a very difficult line that we're dealing with here. But once they allow it, then they have to understand . . . it’s no longer an emergency.”
Oakland police officers say they understand why other departments are reluctant to help. During a confrontation Nov. 3, demonstrators dressed in black clothing, wearing masks and bandanas, set fire to homemade barricades, threw firecrackers at police and smashed the windows of downtown businesses.
"No one wants to come back," said one police supervisor. "They sustained injuries, they spent all this money on overtime. We used them for nothing."
Oakland police officers, unsure of which agencies they can rely on, are bracing for what they believe will be an inevitable showdown with protesters, who are preparing for a fight.
“We’re going to defend the camp,” said protester Brooke Anderson, who was arrested during an Oct. 25 confrontation with police.
As the encampment enters its second month and the city's costs rise, Quan is facing more pressure to take action.
On Wednesday, City Council President Larry Reid and four other council members, along with business and religious leaders, attempted to stage a news conference at Lake Merritt to call for the immediate closure of the tent city. A swarm of protesters chanting, "We are the 99 percent" interrupted the event. The council members yelled back, "Occupy Oakland must go."
On Thursday, Reid said some council members wanted to schedule a "no confidence vote" in the mayor, but it's unclear whether such a vote, which has no legal impact, will make it onto the council's agenda.
Quan has also lost key support staff. Nathan Ballard, a democratic strategist and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's onetime chief of communications, decided to end his $20,000 contract as a consultant to the mayor's office after Quan allowed the Occupy protesters back in the plaza. Ballard is not billing the city for any of the work he had done, including an Oct. 21 meeting during which Quan, City Administrator Deanna Santana, police Chief Howard Jordan and other police officials discussed the imminent police action. City Hall sources said Ballard grew frustrated when Quan would not listen to his advice.
Ballard told The Bay Citizen on Thursday, "Nobody cares as much about the city of Oakland as Jean Quan. And her intentions are good, and I wish her well."
But he said that Quan needed to do a better job of communicating during the protests. Quan was in Washington, D.C., the day of the eviction and flew back to Oakland that night as the marches were beginning. When she landed, she called reporters to find out what was happening.
"It’s important to have regular communication with your constituents when you’re in a crisis. Daily briefings are important. Press releases are important. Bulletins are important," Ballard said. "Your constituents deserve real-time information when there’s violence on the streets."
On Thursday, Quan canceled her weekly media briefing, because City Hall offices were closed due to budget cuts.
After police first evicted the encampment early in the morning of Oct. 25, protesters regrouped and began marching in the street later that day. During those demonstrations, there were several tense confrontations between protesters and police. Television cameras captured officers firing what appeared to be flash-bang grenades and rubber bullets into the crowd. Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen suffered a fractured skull during the clashes. The incident, which is still under investigation, drew worldwide scrutiny of the Oakland Police Department's tactics.
That has made other departments think twice about sending police to Oakland.
“We’re not authorizing people to do that kind of stuff. Not in our name,” said Maxwell Anderson, a Berkeley City Council member, during a Tuesday night City Council meeting about the mutual aid agreement.
The allegations of excessive police force have raised questions about how the mutual aid system works.
Many of the 17 agencies that responded to the department’s calls for aid that day and night agreed to help on the condition that they be allowed to follow their own policies on the use of force, which may have involved nonlethal munitions that are not in OPD’s repertoire: flash-bang grenades and rubber bullets. It is still not clear which agencies were responsible for using those devices.
Furthermore, while some agencies received a copy of the department’s use of force policy, none of the agencies interviewed by The Bay Citizen received a copy of the department’s operations plan for the night or the department’s crowd-control policy, which strictly forbids the use of rubber bullets, stun guns and stinger grenades, among others.
Defense lawyers, including the mayor's own personal attorney, Dan Siegel, said they are likely to pursue litigation against the city for excessive use of force. So far, no protester has filed a lawsuit against the city, but an indemnity clause in the countywide mutual aid agreement releases the Oakland Police Department, or the agency requesting help, from liability during a police operation, and dictates that individual agencies are responsible for their own use of force, placing less of a burden on the department to answer for other agencies that may be using excessive force.
“What that does is creates an incentive unfortunately for the OPD not to be scrupulous,” said Linda Lye, a staff attorney for the the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, who has petitioned the department for access to public records related to the use of force investigation. “The indemnification clause removes the incentive one would want to see in place to encourage OPD to ensure that everyone present in a major enforcement action is abiding by gold standard rules.”
Oakland council member Libby Schaaf said she understood why many outside agencies are “wondering if their resources are well spent.”
While Santana, the Oakland city administrator, says the state will reimburse outside agencies for their expenses, state officials say Oakland has not taken the appropriate steps to ensure that.
“There have been very few conversations, if any, with the city,” said Jordan Scott, a spokesman for the California Emergency Management Agency.
In order to be considered for reimbursement from the state, Scott explained, the city must first declare a local emergency, then petition the governor to declare a state of emergency.
“They would then be eligible for a certain level of reimbursement,” Scott said. “But at this point, none of that has come through. We’re not going to get involved.” http://www.baycitizen.org/occupy-movement/story/occupy-oakland-police/ don't even begin to know what the answer IS...or answers are...but something's happening, and I'm not sure where it goes...
Friday, November 11, 2011 9:36 AM
Friday, November 11, 2011 9:52 AM
Friday, November 11, 2011 9:53 AM
Friday, November 11, 2011 9:59 AM
Friday, November 11, 2011 11:33 AM
Saturday, November 12, 2011 4:47 AM
Quote:Originally posted by 1kiki:
So, what if OWS was able to call for a genuine nationwide general strike? Of some significant time frame, like 3 days. There is nothing like power in numbers.
Saturday, November 12, 2011 5:06 AM
Freedom is Important because People are Important
Quote:Originally posted by NewOldBrownCoat:
Anyone who needs to wear a mask to exercise his right of free speech is a coward, probably an agent provocateur (in the employ of whom I won't predict.) and possibly a terrorist. You will note that terrorist cowards in the IRA and Hamas always wear masks. And the KKK wore hoods.
No excuse. NONE.
Dunno how they could be removed-- if by the cops, it does come very close to infringing on the right of free speech. The Occupy movement itself is too disorganized, too leaderless, not strong enough to do it. Maybe those Occupy Marines from the other thread could step up and do it.
But it needs to be done.
Saturday, November 12, 2011 5:15 AM
Quote:Poll: Occupy Wall Street Is More Popular Than Wall Street Or Washington | A new poll released today by Knowledge Networks finds that protesters on Wall Street are winning over the public more than two of their chief targets: Wall Street and Washington. Thirty-five percent of respondents “had a favorable impression of the protest movement that began in New York City and gained support worldwide,” while the government in Washington, DC netted 21 percent. Only 16 percent of respondents had a favorable impression of Wall Street. http://thinkprogress.org/special/2011/11/07/362842/poll-occupy-wall-street-is-more-popular-than-wall-street-or-washington/ say much, of course, given how people feel about the Tea Party and Wall Street, and the source is ThinkProgress, so will be immediately dismissed. Nonetheless, last week:Quote:Support for the tea party has cooled while Occupy Wall Street is showing an early burst of popularity in Pennsylvania, a Daily News/Franklin & Marshall College Poll released Thursday shows. http://www.philly.com/philly/news/133128223.html, I'm sure we're losing support on the news of violence...in the past week or so. But that's right NOW, and as we know, immediacy in polling changes by the day.
There's no doubt people don't like violence. I don't either. But that doesn't mean it's over...by a long shot.
Quote:Support for the tea party has cooled while Occupy Wall Street is showing an early burst of popularity in Pennsylvania, a Daily News/Franklin & Marshall College Poll released Thursday shows. http://www.philly.com/philly/news/133128223.html, I'm sure we're losing support on the news of violence...in the past week or so. But that's right NOW, and as we know, immediacy in polling changes by the day.
There's no doubt people don't like violence. I don't either. But that doesn't mean it's over...by a long shot.
Saturday, November 12, 2011 6:15 AM
Saturday, November 12, 2011 7:59 AM
Saturday, November 12, 2011 9:01 AM
Quote:Originally posted by Niki2:
I'm amazed; this is the second time someone's claimed the OWS movement is down in the polls...why is that?
The Occupy Wall Street movement may be starting to lose its luster with the American public, with four in ten now saying they have an unfavorable view of the protests, a new nationwide UMass Lowell/Boston Herald poll shows.
The online poll of 1,005 American adults reveals that 35 percent still have a positive impression of the Occupy movement, but 40 percent now say they have an unfavorable opinion. About one quarter of the poll respondents had no opinion or were unsure.
The UMass Lowell/Herald poll, conducted Oct. 28 through Nov. 1, is the first to show negative sentiment tilting against the Occupy movement, which has now spread to hundreds of cities, including Boston. Several other comparable national polls conducted earlier in October showed slightly more positive than negative views of the protests.
Saturday, November 12, 2011 4:58 PM
Sunday, November 13, 2011 8:44 AM
Quote:Originally posted by Niki2:
(Smile)Let's see: 40% negative, 35% positive, 25% neither. I'm shaking in my boots.
Then there's "the first to show negative sentiments". Not terribly impressive. But please, DO enjoy your beliefs, we understand the need.
Sunday, November 13, 2011 8:50 AM
Quote:Originally posted by AnthonyT:
It is important to remember that all of us here on Fireflyfans (and much of the internet) exercise our Free Speech while wearing a Mask.
Sunday, November 13, 2011 7:34 PM
Quote:Originally posted by canttakesky:
Quote:Originally posted by AnthonyT:
It is important to remember that all of us here on Fireflyfans (and much of the internet) exercise our Free Speech while wearing a Mask.SUCH a good point.
Let's hear your real name, Newoldbrowncoat.
Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth. -- Lucy Parsons (1853-1942, labor activist and anarcho-communist)
Sunday, November 13, 2011 8:56 PM
Sunday, November 13, 2011 9:42 PM
Sunday, November 13, 2011 10:57 PM
Monday, November 14, 2011 3:33 AM
Monday, November 14, 2011 10:33 AM
I cannot hide what I am; I must be sad when I have cause, and smile at no man's jests, eat when I have stomach and wait for no man's leisure; sleep when I am drowsy and tend on no man's business; laugh when I am merry and claw no man in his humour. I had rather be a canker in my own hedge than a rose in his grace: and it better fits my blood to be disdained of all than to fashion a carriage to rob love from any.
I am a true laborer. I earn that I eat, get what I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man's happiness, glad of other man's good, content with my harm. I have no more philosophy in me but that I know the more one sickens, the worse at ease he is, and he that wants money, means and content is without three good friends; that the property of rain is to wet and fire to burn; that a great cause of the night is lack of the sun; and that he that hath learned no wit by nature nor art may complain of good breeding or comes of a very dull kindred.
If I be foiled, there is but one shamed that was never gracious; if killed, but one dead that is willing to be so. I shall do my friends no wrong, for I have none to lament me; the world no injury, for in it I have nothing: only in the world I fill up a place which may be better supplied when I have made it empty.
Monday, November 14, 2011 10:51 AM
... fully loaded, safety off...
Quote:Originally posted by NewOldBrownCoat:
Fare you all well, and may we meet again in a better time and place.
Monday, November 14, 2011 11:04 AM
Monday, November 14, 2011 1:34 PM
Monday, November 14, 2011 2:51 PM
"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." -- William Casey, Reagan's presidential campaign manager & CIA Director (from first staff meeting in 1981)
Monday, November 14, 2011 7:37 PM
Beir bua agus beannacht
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 5:14 AM
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 10:49 AM
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 12:28 PM
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 1:09 PM
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 1:20 PM
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 1:22 PM
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