Thursday, June 7, 2012

Where is Joe Simon?

Sorry I've been gone so long.

Since the fiasco of May Day, I've become too disillusioned with the Occupy movement--most specifically, with Occupy Oakland--to care much anymore. I'm still a supporter, and I'll still come out for the big events, but the movement anarchists played all of us for suckers, not least me. They've given absolutely no ground, whilst the rest of us--the pacifists, the dreaded NVers, the socialists, the communists, the horrible liberals, and the pathetic reformers have given them everything they wanted. And for what? Tiny FTP marches and GAs that no one attends (to the point where quorums are now, apparently, no longer required).

So until the movement moves back towards the far left and stops being a pathetic street gang, I'm done.

Which somehow brings me to Joe Simon and his 1975 LP, Get Down, and it's fabulously tacky cover.

This album has absolutely no business being anywhere near as good as it is. With its title hinting of all things disco, it should have been a career misstep for Mr. Simon. Better men than he--hello, Wilson Pickett and Tyrone Davis--adopted the disco sound wholeheartedly, to unhappy effect.

Whilst Get Down does occasionally nod in disco's direction, however, it remains at heart a southern soul album--despite track one, side one being a little ditty entitled Get Down, Get Down (Get on the Floor). Strangely enough, it was recorded in New York City (cue Pace Salsa commercial cowboys), but it's one of those rare albums where the liner notes truly tell the story: as Joe relates, "Months before the actual recording of this album, when (co-producer Raeford Gerald) and I first got together, I felt something special."

This is one of the best soul albums of the '70s, and it ends with its two most memorable tracks: the heart-rending ballads Still At the Mercy of Your Love and the monumental It's Crying Time in Memphis.

Joe Simon is still with us, but he no longer seems to be performing secular material. He's only 68 years old, and I'd pay a substantial sum to see him tread the boards again. C'mon, Joe...Get Down again for my sake, just one more time!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Putting Things Into Perspective

Here's something I read recently. You can find it on page 31 of Irving Bernstein's The Lean Years, a history of the American labour movement in the 1920s and early '30s. First published in 1960, the book is still in print and now features an introduction by the right's bete noire of a few months ago, Frances Fox Piven. Despite it's stridently anti-communist tone, The Lean Years remains a valuable resource.

This excerpt speaks for itself, but I'll state the obvious: we are re-fighting battles previously fought and won by those who came before us. I find this both depressing and hugely encouraging. It is, of course, deeply disheartening to be living in the era of the new robber barons (which reminds me of another great book, Martin Josephson's The Robber Barons-also still in print), but if the battle was winnable then, it is winnable now.

Enough of my blather. Here's what Bernstein (and novelist Sinclair Lewis) had to say about a 1929 strike at a cotton mill in South Carolina:

"As tension built up in the Baldwin mill, the night shift walked out in the early morning hours of October 2, congregating on the road before the front gate. The superintendent called in Sheriff Oscar F. Adkins, who brought along eleven deputies, six of them paid by the mill. When the strikers tried to persuade the day shift not to enter, Adkins released tear gas into their ranks. What follows has been described by Sinclair Lewis:

'This is the story of Old Man Jonas.
When Sheriff Adkins threw tear gas at the strikers, Old Man Jonas, the striker nearest to Adkins, attacked him with a stick. Adkins was broad, fat, strong, about forty years old, armed, and supported by the majesty of the Carolina law, which he represented. Beside Jonas was the distinguished constable Broad Robbins, aged perhaps fifty, but as powerful and menacing as a wolf. And Old Man Jonas was sixty-eight, and so lame with rheumatism that he had to walk with a cane-the can with which he struck the sheriff.
One would have thought that these two proud and powerful guardians of law and order would have been able to control Old Man Jonas without killing him. Indeed they made a good start. Adkins wrestled with him, and Broad clouted him in the back of the head. Jonas fell to his hands and knees. He was in that position when he was shot...
After the riot, Jonas, wounded fatally, was taken to the hospital with handcuffs on, was placed on the operating table, with handcuffs still on, and straightway he died on that table...with his handcuffs on.' *

While Jonas was being handcuffed , the deputies opened fire. Three strikers were killed, three mortally wounded, and twenty-five seriously wounded. All those who died were shot in the back. One deputy suffered a scratched cheek. A reporter for the Asheville Citizen, the only disinterested party present, saw no shots fired by strikers. When the wounded were taken to the Marion Hospital (many workers had contributed towards its construction), they were required to pay in advance. The head nurse explained that the Duke Power Company usually took care of charity patients but would not in this case. Two companies of the National Guard arrived the following day."

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...

From Cheap and Contented Labor: The Picture of a Southern Mill Town in 1929.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Transparency is a four-letter word

"For the record, I don't hate livestreamers. I just don't trust transparency."
--Comrade Kalamity on Twitter, March 27th 2012.

This could just as easily have been an off the record statement attributed to an anonymous Obama administration flunky, but this is where we are: some Occupy supporters are now eagerly mimicking the high-security, everything-is-classified government they supposedly hold in such contempt. Remember when the future President promised his would be "the most transparent administration ever"? Well, welcome to Occupy Oakland 2012: the populist movement so terrified of its own shadow that everything must be negotiated in a windowless room with the lights off.

How did we get to the point where someone filming a picnic can be threatened with bodily harm? It's been a slow, but inexorable process set in motion, I believe, when the Occupy Oakland GA failed to endorse non-violence back in November, thus setting the stage for the entire movement to serve as a shield for the tiny sub-set of black bloc practitioners and fuck-shit-uppers now in control. I've written before about how this presented a massive challenge for OO, but I was naive and optimistic at the time and thought that cooler heads would prevail. As the disastrous March 31st FTP walkabout proved, however, the seeds planted on that November night have now come into full bloom.

Quite simply and obviously, it is transparency and livestreaming that gave birth to Occupy in 2011, and it is opacity and embedded journalism that will be its death in 2012. Many livestreamers have already accepted the narrative and will no longer film revolutionary actions that could be misconstrued as vandalism. Others have been neutered to the point of ineffectiveness by filming only those who give consent--an impossible standard that results in endless shots of marching feet and little else. (A blessed few have been anointed as the chosen ones by the OO hierarchy, but quite how such decisions are made is another deep mystery. I’m sure smoke-filled rooms must be involved.)

Before Occupy, I had never supported any political movement or party in my life; it was the livestreaming of October 25th that convinced me, and many others, that this was a movement worthy of support. To discover that this movement has now forsaken two of the attributes that made it so attractive in the first place--transparency and non-violence--has been deeply disappointing.

Let me conclude with a personal statement for the sake of both clarity and transparency. I plead guilty to the following charges: I am a 49-year old white middle-class male with a full-time job, three writing gigs, three cats, a blog, a spouse highly skeptical of Occupy, and a son in high school. I am a pacifist. I am also a socialist who believes that one of government's greatest responsibilities and duties is the redistribution of wealth. I am not opposed to direct actions; I supported the General Strike, the Port shutdowns, and Move-In Day (I marched to the Kaiser Center and beyond). I am not opposed to flag burning, as long as you're burning a flag you bought or made yourself. I still consider myself a community ally of Occupy Oakland and I will be out on the street on May 1st. Keep the faith, baby, and Occupy Everything—but keep the cameras turned on!

(Cross-posted at Occupy Symposium)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Peace Police

Just typing those words makes me cringe.

I suppose there are worse things to be called at Occupy Oakland, but 'peace police' is an especially nasty pejorative in these parts. When used by those of an insurrectionary persuasion, it suggests not only collaboration with the powers that be, but a whole litany of other unpleasant stereotypes: the typical peace police officer is a muesli-eating, middle-class, censorious, wet white liberal in Birkenstocks. For bonus points, you might also be an aging hippie who's trying to relive the glory days of the '60s.

If you're a pacifist, or are simply convinced that non-violent civil disobedience should be the Occupy movement's preferred tactic, you might even consider the phrase 'peace police' fightin' words--only, being the people we are, we're not actually going to start a fight about them. So what are the options?

One could, of course, sit at home (preferably in the dark) and steam about the unfairness of it all--I admit that's generally my first reaction in such situations. Steam about something long enough, however, and sometimes the proverbial light bulb goes on--and not just when your spouse enters the room and flips the switch to the on position.

In such fashion did my own light bulb illuminate. To wit: I'm no longer going to be embarrassed by the label 'peace police', I'm going to embrace it.

Picture this: it's Move-In Day 2.0. After gathering at OGP, three thousand plus Occupiers embark on a march to the long vacant C. Europa furniture store near Broadway and 51st. A cadre of faith leaders, civil rights activists, elders, veterans, and other clearly identified Peace Police lead the way north on Broadway, shielding the crowd from the Violence Police. Masked anarchists are still out in force with their trash can shields, of course--remember, this is a radically inclusive movement--but they're now the second line of defense, and are, in fact, being protected by the Peace Police whilst sampling the schadenfreude entree with a side order of poetic justice.

What would the Violence Police do when confronted by the Peace Police? Would they repeat their mistakes of October 25th and eagerly beat the crap out of them, or teargas them, or shoot them with 'less lethal' rounds? Or would they have second thoughts about once again attacking protesters in clerical garb, or in military uniform, or in wheelchairs? I honestly don't know, of course, but I do know this: the tactics of J28 didn't work, and arguably exacerbated the situation. The Peace Police would, at the very least, force the Violence Police to adjust their tactics, and would make it that much harder for them to win the PR war. And who knows--they might even win the grudging admiration of the masked and anonymous crowd.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Paranoia strikes deep

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

I've been thinking for some time that Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth should be the official Occupy Oakland anthem. Despite being written by the appalling Stephen 'Love the One You're With' Stills, it remains the most evocative song of its era, its timely lyrics presciently describing exactly what's been happening here in Oakland over forty years later. It's a song that still sends a shiver down my spine--even though I've probably heard it a thousand times.

As the media committee drama played out over the last few weeks, the already high levels of paranoia at Occupy Oakland seemed to scale new heights. Whether or not someone had actually infiltrated OO on behalf of the Feds was almost beside the point: Occupational Awareness unleashed a wave of suspicion, anger, back-biting, fear, distrust and division--much of it in the form of inelegant and snarky 140-character Tweets--that surely delighted our local and national law enforcement agencies. It's yet another unfortunate and energy-sapping turn of events, once again putting the movement on the back foot.

As an Occupy Oakland community ally, I've experienced hints of this paranoia first hand. My efforts to reach out to the movement have generally failed. OOers don't seem to reply to e-mails from people they don't know, a precaution I can understand: after all, I choose not to communicate via phone, Facebook, or Twitter. At the same time, however, I think it's unfortunate that the atmosphere has become so poisonous that many Occupiers don't even bother to tell me to go away and stop bothering them. It also stands in sharp contrast to my outreach efforts to other Occupys, which have proven considerably more fruitful.

Things are a bit better when I show up in person. While I've had some genuinely enlightening conversations with Occupiers, however, many seem to look askance at me and hold back. Is it my mild-mannered, middle-aged appearance that suggests I might be a cop or an informer? Or is it simply the normal suspicion tightly connected insiders hold towards outsiders encroaching on their territory? There's more than a whiff of Dick Hebdige's subculture theory in the OO air, and I am definitely on the outside looking in: for those of us who weren't in OGP camps 1 and 2 or didn't get tear-gassed on October 25th, we'll never have the necessary street cred. I'm--quelle horreur!--a poseur.

At the same time, there's so much good stuff currently going on at OO that it's hard to get too downhearted about things. The Occupy4Prisoners event at the Grand Lake (which even included a Hayward teacher's rendition of For What It's Worth)--though not strictly an Occupy Oakland event--was an amazing, moving, and powerful evening. With foreclosure actions, community barbecues and the efforts of the Occupy Brooms Collective all ongoing, there's a lot for those of us in the movement's nefarious non-violence wing to be happy about. Perhaps I just need to grow a thicker skin about the other stuff--or perhaps I'd better put the Buffalo Springfield records away for a while.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Piedmont Avenue Three

Well, this seems to be a new low--even for the Oakland Police Department.

Three supporters of Occupy Oakland--Michael Davis, Nneka Crawford, and Randolph Wilkins (aka Teardrop)--have been charged with robbery and hate crimes. You can read OPD's press release here:

As I noted in my previous post, I was outside the Wells Fargo Bank on February 22nd, between approximately 5:15 PM and 6:00 PM.

I simply cannot imagine how these three people could have committed these crimes in broad daylight, on a major thoroughfare, without me (or apparently anyone else) noticing.

First of all, nobody was calling for a riot. That statement is ridiculous on its face.

I never saw anyone from Occupy Oakland cross to the other side of Piedmont Avenue.

OPD were present to escort bank employees to their cars after closing. I didn't see them arresting anyone.

I can testify that I was standing next to Michael immediately outside the Wells Fargo Bank between 5:45 and 5:55 PM. In addition, I saw Teardrop on the Wells Fargo side of the street shortly before then.

I am not going to state categorically that these crimes did not occur, but for those 45 minutes, there was certainly no visible evidence of anything being amiss on Piedmont Avenue--other than the upset customer I wrote about in my previous post.

There is something very, very wrong with this story.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Outside Agitators

Every time there's a protest in Oakland, there's a whole lot of blather in the corporate press about those evil and mysterious 'outside agitators' who come to cause trouble and use our city as their 'playground'.

The storyline was alive and well during the Oscar Grant demonstrations of 2009 (otherwise known as The Defenestration of Foot Locker) and is once again lurking openly within mainstream reporting about Occupy Oakland actions. After J28, we were solemnly informed that 'only' 35% of those arrested were Oakland residents. Setting aside the fact that 35% of 409 is still a pretty impressive 143, the implication is that if those wicked people had stayed in Berkeley/Fremont/San Francisco/Alpha Centauri where they belong, none of this trouble would have happened!

It's an attractive argument, and I must admit I once gave it some credence. It's easy to fall into a parochial mindset, especially when you've set down roots and lived in one place for a while. It's nice to believe that the folks who live in 'your' city wouldn't get up to any naughty business without the incitement of craftily manipulative foreigners from the badlands on the other side of Alcatraz Avenue. But it also defies logic.

For example: I've lived in Oakland for thirty years. I consider myself an 'Oaklander'. By the logic of the outside agitator argument, I should, therefore, limit my protest participation to actions within the city limits. But wouldn't it be just as logical for me to restrict my direct actions to the three cities in which I've actually worked during those thirty years: Emeryville, San Francisco, and Berkeley? After all, I've never worked a single day in Oakland, unless you count the occasional afternoon spent at the Northern California Independent Bookseller's Association annual meeting at the downtown Hyatt. Based on all those eight-hour work shifts (plus commute time), I've probably spent at least ten of the last thirty years 'outside' the city in which I 'live'.

And what of my national origins? I wasn't born in this country. Perhaps I don't have the right to protest anywhere in the United States, never mind Oakland. Do I need to 'go back to where you came from', as has been suggested to me on numerous occasions, to protest about Deanna Santana's ridiculously generous salary to whomever will listen to me in the Greater Merseyside area?

This issue came home to me last week, when I spent time supporting the Ice Cream Bloc's autonomous action outside the Wells Fargo Bank on Piedmont Avenue. As I was engaging in a very pleasant chat with a nice young Occupier named Matt, an angry, red-faced man with bulging neck veins confronted us and asked us if we were responsible for the bank closure, and if we were, how dare we attract such riff-raff to our events? As he steamed away, he turned and shouted "I live in this neighborhood!", to which I replied, "so do I!" This clearly struck the gentleman as preposterous: he'd assumed that a bunch of alcoholic criminals had been bussed in from Berkeley/Fremont/San Francisco/Alpha Centauri to disrupt his day.

I'm going to have more to say about this interesting encounter in a future column, but for now I want to keep the focus on the question of 'outsider' protest. I felt very comfortable on my home turf--this action took place within blocks of my house--but did this man have a point? Does one's right to protest decrease the farther one gets from their home address? And if you're homeless,
does this mean you have absolutely no right to protest at all? Considering the zeal with which OPD broke up Occupy Oakland's encampments, and with which other encampments were broken up after they started attracting 'undesirable elements', this may be one of the unwritten rules of the 'legitimate protest' game. Those who have the most 'skin in the game' aren't even allowed to participate in the game.

The argument leads to the inescapable conclusion that property invests people with rights, and the more property you own the more rights you have. After all, in addition to living in the neighborhood, Angry Bulgy Vein Man also owns a business (something he felt was important enough to mention to us). This is my neighborhood, and I own a business, and the fact that a group of 'alcoholic criminals' prevented me from visiting my bank is an outrage!

More on ABV Man next time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Yes it's me, and I'm in love again

Okay, I know Valentine's Day was last week, but after today's Occupy Oakland foreclosure action in support of Katie Mitchell my man-crush for the movement is in full effect again--at least until next weekend's FTP march. (I kid, I kid.)

For those of you who may have missed it, these are the phone numbers to call to voice support for bankster victim Katie Mitchell. Remember, keep it polite, calm, and on point, and tell the folks you're calling to support Katie Mitchell of 5833 Fremont Street, Oakland. Katie needs a loan modification and a reasonable principle. Simple!

Peter Barker 310-860-7007
Julius Robinson 415-765-3883
Union Bank, Downtown Oakland 510-891-9505

When you call Union Bank, you might also want to politely but firmly complain about their security guard, who went all OPD on a protester during today's action. Check out Oakfosho's Livestream archives for all the disgraceful action.

In addition to today's foreclosure action, there was a tangentially related event outside Alameda County Superior Courthouse, where the auctioning of foreclosed properties generated a raucous response from protesters affiliated with the East Bay Solidarity Network. I'm a big doofus, I guess, because I'd never heard of EBSN before now, but they raised holy Hell today. More power to 'em.

Coming on the heels of Monday's massively successful Occupy San Quentin rally, it's been a marvelous couple of days, despite Berkeley Police Department's ridiculous effort to blame OO for a murder. In my opinion, these smaller actions will rebuild community support for Occupy Oakland, and help us build momentum for the May Day General Strike. I've already scheduled a vacation day for myself--have you?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Top Ten Reasons I Have Never Attended an Occupy Oakland GA

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've been a community ally of Occupy Oakland since October 25th. I've attended events and marches, spoken in favour of OO at two City Council meetings, donated to OO and the Bail Fund, and--despite my displeasure regarding 'Diversity of Tactics'--advocated for OO to anyone who'll listen.

But I have never attended an Occupy Oakland GA in person (though I've watched a ton via Livestream). Here are ten reasons why, in no particular order.

1. I've never been a member of any political organisation. I'm deeply uncomfortable with the concept of joining anything, even when there are no membership applications or dues involved. During the Thatcher era I thought about joining the Labour Party long distance from Oakland, but considering how things developed with Tony Blair I'm extremely glad I didn't. I just don't join things--the risk of betrayal and/or disappointment is too high.

2. Whatever I do in life, I am generally all in or not in at all. When I commit to something, my commitment is serious. I am clinically obsessive-compulsive and find it hard to walk a middle path, but that's what I've managed to do (so far) with OO. If I start going to GAs, I would feel the need to go to every GA and would feel horribly guilty every time I missed one.

3. I have a spouse who thinks I'm a bit of a loony for supporting OO. We've been married for 27 years and I'm not keen on getting a divorce.

4. I have a full-time job. Jobs take up a lot of time.

5. I have writing gigs and other outside commitments. These also take up a lot of time.

6. The hand signals creep me out. Especially the twinkles.

7. The human mic creeps me out. I don't like mindless recitation of anything.

8. I am a white middle-aged male socialist. You don't want/need any more of those at GA, do you?

9. I don't want to get shouted at by anti-non-violence advocates and I don't want to be tempted to shout at anyone, especially that guy who called Gandhi 'a misogynist prick'.

10. I don't like inhaling second hand smoke (of any variety).

11. BONUS REASON: I understand how things work in subcultures. If you weren't there at the start, you weren't there at all, and if you join now you're a poseur. Contrary to Poly Styrene, I am not a poseur, I do care, and I don't like to make people stare.

Are these legit reasons, poor excuses, or embarrassing cop-outs? You tell me!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Keep Calm and Occupy

In 1939, the British government designed the poster on the right. As Wikipedia explains, the poster was "intended to raise the morale of the British public in the event of invasion."

The 'keep calm' theme has since taken on a life of its own: from 'keep calm and Cary Grant' to 'now panic and freak out', the clean lines, simple design, and telephone box red of the original poster has been a source of apparently endless inspiration for artists, tricksters, and political activists.

Of course, my favourite variation is 'keep calm and occupy'.

Since the 'failure' of J28, calm seems in slightly short supply at Occupy Oakland. Still homeless and suffering from the stress of being repeatedly set upon by OPD, OOers are engaging in deep internal debate and self-critique, and it isn't always pretty. Was J28 a bad idea, or a good idea poorly planned? How does the movement reconnect with the masses? And do the wicked reformers/liberals/anarchists/Stalinists/black bloc/live streamers realize they're destroying the movement from within?

To which I respond, 'keep calm and occupy'. Don't panic. Don't allow the City and the Chamber of Commerce to divide and conquer. Don't take the bait offered by OPD. When a smoke bomb or tear gas canister detonates nearby, walk, don't run. Engage neither in the shouty nor the smashy: resist in a thousand smaller, quieter ways. Read 'Alone in Berlin' by Hans Fallada for inspiration. Deface currency. Be unfailingly polite but firm when making a point. Wear a disguise (but not a mask). Confuse the enemy. Confound expectations.

The possibilities for non-violent resistance are limitless: from Aquapy to gingerbread City Halls, from Care Bears to Valentine's Day dance parties, all options are on the table. Allow your imagination to run free--but whatever you do, keep calm!

Monday, February 6, 2012

What I hope Occupy Oakland can avoid

Foreword: I do not know who took the picture at the end of this essay. I chose it because I think it illustrates a critical point, and it's also an amazing photo. If the photographer wants me to remove it or if they would like to me to include attribution, please submit a comment to that effect.

All broad-based social or political movements inevitably have internal ideological or tactical divisions, and Occupy Oakland is no exception. These divisions first became apparent during and after the General Strike, when some protesters broke windows and others tried to stop them, and when fires were set and barricades constructed outside the Travelers' Aid Building. Though an uneasy truce currently exists between proponents of non-violence on the one hand and 'diversity of tactics' on the other, many people dropped out or backed away from Occupy Oakland because of its failure to condemn property damage and pass a non-violence resolution.

The resultant schism isn't going to go away any time soon. Many people have quietly withdrawn from active participation in the movement, while a few former Occupy supporters have joined the anti-Occupy Oakland astroturfers 'Standing for Oakland'. Meanwhile, rumours of a 'white bloc' persist, though I haven't seen any proof that it actually exists.

It is indisputable that supporting the movement can be a challenge for those of us at the extreme non-violent end of the spectrum, but being exposed to the arguments in favour of DOT has proven to be a valuable learning experience for me. The mainstream media have intentionally conflated the ubiquitous spectre of 'black bloc' with the ideology of anarchism, and while I don't claim to understand anarchism (sorry, guys, it seems a lot like libertarianism to me- not that there's anything wrong with that), I have learned that anarchists come in a variety of flavours. I believe it's critical that anarchism and black bloc be de-linked and each examined on their own merits, and though I'm personally quite uncomfortable with black bloc tactics, I'm trying to keep an open mind and educate myself. For now, consider me an agnostic in the ongoing Hedges-Graeber wars.

Now, confession time. I am 'only' a community ally of Occupy Oakland. I participate when I can, but only when I'm comfortable with a particular action. I stay away from FTP marches; I come out for fundraisers, City Council meetings, and mass actions like J28. Though I passionately support Occupy Oakland, I have not invested the time and energy into the movement that many of you have. Consequently, it's easy for me to overlook some of the organizational day to day squabbling that can grind people down. I'll roll my eyes Quan-style or shake my head disapprovingly on occasion, but at the end of the day I still feel fully invested in the movement because I don't have an axe to grind with anyone in particular.

If, however, I had been organizing and participating in OO from day one, I can think of a number of events that would have precipitated feelings of anger or betrayal, some of which I've already mentioned. Most recently, there's been quite a bit of sexist and homophobic language flying around OO-affiliated Twitter accounts, and if I'd invested the amount of time some have invested in OO I could easily see myself saying 'enough is enough' at this point. The abusive language stems from tactical differences and I don't necessarily think it should be taken at face value, but it's still disturbing.

Of course, differences arise for all sorts of non-tactical reasons: race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, class, and education can all contribute to organizational friction. But it is the differences over strategy and tactics that provide governments with the ammunition they need to divide and conquer movements that pose a threat to business as usual. The state will use any means necessary to crush dissent, including selective enforcement of the law, psy-ops, and the use of agents provocateur, and they will use those tools to deepen and widen pre-existing differences within left-wing political movements. When successful, these actions almost inevitably force some activists underground, as happened throughout the late 1960s and early '70s. It's doubtful that hyper-radical organizations such as The Weather Underground (USA), The Angry Brigade (UK), Red Army Faction/Baader Meinhof (West Germany), The Red Brigades (Italy) and others would have existed if not for dirty tricks employed by western governments.

I do not defend the kidnappings, bombings, and bank robberies carried out by members of these splinter groups, but it is important to remember they were well-intentioned political activists before they were gangsters. Perhaps the 'most radical of the radical' will always gravitate to the most extreme actions, but internal divisions, dirty tricks, and constant police harassment no doubt played a role in driving many '60s radicals to 'safe houses' where paranoia ruled the day, debate and discussion were seriously proscribed, and violence seemed the only available option.

Unfortunately, we can see this same dynamic beginning to work its malevolent magic within the Occupy movement. Dubbed terrorists by Republicans and Democrats alike, treated like criminals or worse by the police, and now subjected to threatening graffiti ('kill the occupiers'), we're being psychologically and emotionally primed for extreme radicalization. The selection process has begun, with certain people subjected to stay-away orders, repeated arrest or threat of arrest, and other forms of law enforcement abuse. Of course, I don't know if the ruling classes are conspiring to create a violent Occupy-related splinter group in hopes of discrediting the entire movement, but I do believe the likelihood of such a splinter group emerging is increasing, and it would certainly prove a useful weapon for the 1%.

I believe all supporters and allies of Occupy Oakland must do their utmost to avoid this outcome. Don't let the ideological arteries harden: neither the non-violent nor the DOT factions should disavow the other or draw lines in the sand. Keep the lines of communication open, and continue to agitate, educate, and organise. I believe the strength of the Occupy movement resides in its commitment to economic and social justice, and whatever tactic we adopt to reach it, that goal should be our focus. If we allow the state to divert, distract, or divide us, we will surely lose.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lessons of J28

I'm not sure the world needs another analysis of Occupy Oakland Move-In Day, but that's what you're gonna get anyway. I've spent too much time obsessing about it for the past few days to let all that cogitation go to waste. So here goes. Oh, and please note my beloved son took these pictures. What a good boy he is.

1. The target. There's general agreement that Occupy Oakland aimed a wee bit high with the selection of the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center as the movement's new home. It's tempting to think that OO knew all along that occupation would be an impossible task, but judging from the amount of furniture and other move-in material on hand during the march there seemed to be genuine hope that the occupation could and would take place. The Move-In Committee hinted that alternate targets were available should the Kaiser Center prove impregnable, but I'm not convinced this was the case: I suspect it was Kaiser or bust. And while I wanted to believe the Occupy meme that Move-In Day was a diversion intended to allow smaller, under the radar occupations to take place, I haven't heard of any such occupations actually happening. So: all the occu-eggs were in one very, very big basket.

2. The route. I'm not breaking any new ground when I suggest the march route was ill-chosen. I understand that marching through Laney was intended to trick or divert OPD, but the march fractured and dissipated as soon as it entered campus. When we got to the other side of Laney, there was considerable confusion about where to go next and how to get there. In retrospect I think the march should have gone directly to the Kaiser Center via 10th Street, with the sound truck loudly and proudly leading the way. The crowd would have stayed together and provided more of a challenge to OPD than the small group that ultimately reached the fenced off access road on the north side of the Center.

3. The battle. Why did OPD form a line where they did? Was it intended to draw the march into a confrontation? And why did the march take the bait? We could have walked up 12th Street with impunity and gone straight to the Travelers Building, or any other 'Plan B'. (Added bonus: as described in an earlier post, this would also have provided marchers the opportunity to directly confront Mayor Quan. I'd love to have seen her roll her eyes at 2,000 protesters).

4. The aftermath. I'm not going to comment much on the second march and the kettling: I wasn't there, and plenty of others have written about it at length. But I will say this: watching the livestream and hearing the 'Submit to that Arrest' announcement OVER and OVER and OVER again was one of the most dispiriting and bizarre experiences of my life. At first I thought it was surely a joke; some Occupy wag with a bullhorn openly mocking OPD. When reality sank in, it occurred to me that the phrase's constant repetition was intended as some sort of horrific, Orwellian hypnotic suggestion. We have always been at war with Eastasia. Submit to that arrest. It was chilling and horrifying from a distance; I can only imagine the sheer terror marchers in the kettle must have felt.

5. DOT. The 'diversity of tactics' argument is still hanging like a millstone around Occupy Oakland's neck. That said, and even though I remain convinced that non-violent resistance is the most effective means of protest, I've acquired a new appreciation for those bold enough (sensible enough?) to bring shields and helmets to these events. As long as those shields and helmets are genuinely there to defend the people, and aren't there as radical fashion statements (or indeed weapons to be hurled at OPD), I'm in favour.

OPD's strategy is always to provoke a violent response. If that wasn't clear before January 28th, it's surely crystal clear now. Throwing anything at the cops--including balloons, apparently--is all but guaranteed to provide the police the justification they need to start beating the crap out of people. Now, I'm not saying they won't beat the crap out of people even if nothing gets thrown--but it makes their propaganda that much less convincing if the poor darlings don't have any bwuises to show the mainstream media.

(Random thought: we all know baseball players have used steroids and amphetamines as performance enhancers.What's the likelihood that police officers also pop some speed before pulling Occupy duty? This is pure speculation, but drug abuse could explain some of OPD's more bizarre and brutal behavior.)

6. When it hurts when you do that...stop doing that. It may be time to seriously reconsider the 'rally...march...beatdown' cycle and develop a real diversity of tactics. Small scale actions at banks, flying pickets at American Licorice, tiny tepees and Care Bears at OGP...there's no end to the possibilities. Aquapy was a welcome example of creative protest tactics, its return post-J28 a massive breath of fresh air after a depressing day. Aquapy is clever, humorous, effective, and 100% peaceful: with those ingredients, you can't fail to win broader community sympathy and support. I'd like to see more actions along these lines--a little more dada and a little less black bloc would, IMHO, go a long way. (And if we can't levitate the Pentagon, perhaps we could try to levitate City Hall?)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What I saw at J28

This is going to be a long one.

My son and I arrived at Ogawa-Grant Plaza at 11:45 AM Saturday morning. I was hoping to be greeted by a massive crowd, but was disappointed to find no more than two hundred folk spread throughout the area. Oh sure, the 'usual suspects' were there...but I'm not one of them, and I'd been hoping that others of a less active persuasion would be joining in on this special day.

The excitement began within half an hour, as OPD snatched up Khali on an outstanding warrant that he didn't have. A crowd converged and the inevitable 'let him go' chant erupted. Some brainless wag behind us suggested that the police van be flipped over...with Khali inside. There's an idea.

Around 12:30 PM, the crowd moved to 14th and Broadway. There was a boring speech about hating the rich by a woman whose name I've forgotten, and then some uplifting words from Gerald Sanders (who seems to be an awesome gentleman) and Khali, who had already been released from police custody. Oops, OPD's bad (using the word as a noun, not an adjective, though that applies, too)!

Fashionably late but now numbering well into the hundreds, the march finally began around 1:15 PM. My son and I decided to stick close to the sound truck because a)it needed protection and b)there's nothing better than over-amplified dance music to get the blood flowing and the tinnitus acting up. (The hearing in my left ear is still recovering from standing right next to the bass amp at a Jam concert in 1980. Yeah, I was young and foolish.)

As the march set off down 14th St, the trepidation and fear I'd been feeling melted away. The crowd was still growing, the sound truck was pumping, the brass band was playing, the neighbours were waving at us from the apartment buildings above. Where was the ticker-tape? It was a party atmosphere and I was getting some exercise, too.

The mood began to shift ever so slightly when we discovered that the Occupy Oakland bus had already been cut off from the march by OPD. The folks on the sound truck had urged the crowd to stay together to prevent this from happening, but it was too late: instead of the bus, there were van loads of OPD bringing up the rear. We rejoined the crowd (which I am comfortable in estimating had reached close to 2,000 at this point) and proceeded to march towards Laney College.

At first I thought we were going to occupy Laney, but the sound truck urged everyone to walk through campus. It was at this point that I began to worry again, as the passageways through Laney are narrow and would have made perfect kettling points for the police. The march lost its cohesion and unity at these choke points: not only were people spread out too thinly, we had also lost the symbolic and communicative power of the sound truck. From here on we were on our own.

Police had formed a line to the north, so we all climbed up a small hill and reached an intersection near what appeared to be an abandoned OUSD building (if it's not abandoned I really feel sorry for the folks who have to work there). Aha. Here was the destination!

Except, of course, it wasn't, at which point Occupy's leaderless organizational model really began to work against it. Everyone had an opinion: let's keep marching, let's wait until more people join us; let's run, let's walk; slow down, speed up! I'm not sure how the indecision eventually was resolved, but the crowd meandered their way to...

...another narrow space! Fenced in on both sides, we continued to march towards our final destination. By now my paranoia was striking pretty deep...even with two thousand people in the street. And wouldn't you know it, there were the Officer Friendlies of OPD, waiting to greet us outside the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, a building that hasn't been used for anything for six years. SIX YEARS.

Well, that's definitely ambitious, I thought. I'd been assuming all along that we would end up at something a little smaller, something that might be a little easier to hold, or something where the building's ownership status was unclear enough to give OO some breathing space. The Kaiser Center, on the other hand, is huge, impossible to hold, and is owned by the City (who apparently have no need for it, but that's another story).

What to do? Despite my intentions of being nowhere near the front lines, here we were...right on the front line. As Melvin waggled his bright red Occupy Oakland sign (I do love that sign), the crowd began raining motherfuckers on the plods. We moved away when folks decided they didn't like the fence between them and OPD. Hey, if it was up to me, OPD would always be on the other side of a fence. To each his own, I guess.

Boom, and a cloud of something began enveloping the fence-phobes. We walked slowly away from the crowd, now obscured by either tear gas or smoke...I'm still not sure which. The group reconvened for an impromptu 15-minute discussion while the rest of us leaned against some concrete barriers, where a nice woman gave out oranges to people. One of the Michoacan ice cream men from the Fruitvale came by, and I offered to buy my son a cone.

Me: "It might be your last chance to have an ice cream."
Son: "Why? Do you think the police are going to kill us?"
Me: "No, silly, because the ice cream man will be moving on soon!"

We then gently chided a gentleman for using the word 'bitch' to describe the police. I guess he hasn't been participating in Occupy Patriarchy.

Finally the Long March recommenced. Where we were going? Back to the plaza, I think--but the catnip scent of OPD beckoned, tempting and taunting the now riled up anarchists amongst us. The marching stopped as soon as the police line on Oak Street was sighted (I'd love to know why there was a line there, as the march did not initially seem to be heading in that direction). Someone started chanting 'fuck the police' and a few dozen others joined in, at which point I decided our day of direct action was over. I was not about to get myself and my son tear-gassed and/or arrested, so we calmly peeled off from the crowd just as the first flash bangs went off. (For what happened next, see my previous post.)

We went to Broadway and waited for the bus to take us back to our nice, quiet, safe home. Three senior citizens joined us. An African-American woman was complaining about owing $900 tax on her meagre 2011 income of $19,000. A white woman was in great physical pain and mental distress; she was almost in tears about her lot in life: "I'm so tired of being poor", she said. It was the perfect reminder of why Occupy exists. The day may have ended in failure, but the movement goes on, because it has to.

I'll be back in a day or two with a deeper critique of J28.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

My special moment with Jean Quan

I have a lot more to say about the incredible and horrifying things that happened in Oakland today, but while I digest the experience, I'll just share a brief anecdote.

Around 3:30 PM, my son and I left the Move-In march as the first tear-gas canisters erupted. We decided to walk up 12th Street to catch the bus at Broadway. As we were walking towards Franklin Street, my son said 'look, there's Mayor Quan.'

Mayor Jean Quan was leaving some sort of event in Chinatown. She was completely unaware of the violence unfolding only two blocks away. Accompanied by a small entourage, all smiling and laughing as if it were just another day, she climbed into the Mayor Mobile wearing that red outfit she seems to wear to every City Council meeting.

As we walked past, I shouted 'stop attacking Occupy Oakland! Peace, peace...stop attacking us!'

Her entourage looked surprised. The Mayor didn't look at me.

Another day in Oakland, indeed.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Good thoughts for J28

It goes without saying that tomorrow will be a big day. Move-In Day promises to be the most significant Occupy Oakland action since the 12/12 port shutdown.

If I were a believer, I'd be praying that OPD take the day off, let the 1:00 PM march go forward, and let the building occupation proceed peacefully.

As I'm not, however, I'm instead going to hope that someone in a position of authority realizes that the building occupation presents the City of Oakland with a golden opportunity to finally get OO away from Ogawa-Grant Plaza. However, as the decision-maker is likely to be Deanna Santana--or as I prefer to call her, Li'l Ms. Quarter Million Bucks Per Annum--I'm not really expecting that to happen, either.

So what will transpire? A lot depends, of course, on the building that is being occupied. Hopefully the organizing committee has done its homework and found a building with a legal status unclear enough to render immediate police action impossible or unlikely, or they've found a building owner willing to host OO.

You may call me a dreamer (though I'm probably not the only one), but I'm imagining how wonderful it would be for Occupy Oakland to finally have somewhere to call home: somewhere people could point to and say, 'look...there really is a there, there! No really, there, on the corner!' Somewhere where city residents and Occupiers could gather to organize and help each other--and somewhere where those of us averse to 'outdoor life' could get more deeply involved in the betterment of our city (which, surprisingly, most of us don't want to destroy. Shocking, I know!).

I haven't attended many OO events, but I'm coming to this one. See you there.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A good day in Oakland

Thank you, good sir!

As for these losers...

Get a real job! (Your other option is to start complying with Judge Henderson's orders. Your choice.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Some random but serious questions and comments about black bloc and FTP

I'll begin by stating clearly: this column should not be construed as anti-Occupy or even anti-anarchist. I'm not sure if I'm in favour of diversity of tactics, but I'm definitely in favour of diversity of thought. Please consider these serious if somewhat barbed questions from an enthusiastic Occupy supporter who considers himself a tentative but cautious ally of those of a more Bakuninan persuasion.

1. We are repeatedly told that black bloc is not a group, that it's a tactic. I accepted the company line about this for several months, but now I'm wondering...who, precisely, decided to make this rather fine distinction?

The word 'bloc' is defined by the Free Dictionary as:

1. A group of nations, parties, or persons united for common action
2. An often bipartisan coalition of legislators acting together for a common purpose or interest

Did a convention of anarchists pass a resolution changing the definition of the word 'bloc', or is this merely obfuscation or misdirection on the part of those who like to fuck shit up? The implication is that 'anyone' can participate in black bloc tactics, but that there's no group of hardcore black bloc practitioners...which is obviously not the case. It seems to me that this really gets to the heart of the 'diversity of tactics' versus 'non-violence' argument: those who subscribe to 'diversity of tactics' want to reap the benefit of being able to blend back into an otherwise non-violent gathering after chucking a bottle or setting off a firecracker. You know, having their peaceful protest cake and throwing it at OPD, too.

Of course, I'm still not entirely convinced that 'black bloc' wasn't cooked up by the CIA or FBI as an excuse to crack down on dissent. I'm paranoid that way.

2. As a hardcore pacifist who will not respond with violence or defend myself if attacked, I don't understand the following January 20 tweet from someone named 'Comrade Kalamity':

"Pacifists are the enemy of revolution. Too cowardly to step out of the cage, afraid to move or breathe."

May I be indelicate for a moment and call bullshit? Which is more cowardly: to get pepper-sprayed by UC Davis police (to cite one obvious recent example) and take it; or to throw a bottle at the police but almost hit your fellow protesters (as happened at FTP two weeks ago) and then hide in the safety of the crowd? Would it not be more logical and courageous to throw your bottles and stay 'out of the cage'?

I guess it also depends on your definition of 'revolution'. If it means fucking shit up, yes, I'm a coward. If it means changing the system, I'll take my lumps.

3. Finally: I know there are different flavours of anarchism, but I find much of the language of the anarchist/black bloc movement hyper-masculine and very rigid. For example, the Anonymous-inspired aphorism 'we do not forgive, we do not forget' is heard repeatedly at Oakland's FTP marches, but what does it really mean in the context of Occupy Oakland and FTP? In regards to what is forgiveness off the table?

Yes, yes, I know...some things can't be forgiven or forgotten. The slave trade, the annihilation of Native Americans, the (to quote Raul Hilberg) Destruction of the European Jews, the dropping of the atomic bomb. I agree. We should not forget, and we should not forgive, those crimes against humanity. But never forgiving is a slippery slope that can lead to untold pain and suffering, both for individuals and for societies.

I am lucky. I have not been beaten by the police. I have not been arrested on trumped up charges. I have not been subjected to the daily harassment dealt out to many of you. But does police brutality rise to the same level as a crime against humanity; does it rise to the same level as the war crimes our governments commit every day? Though a memorable and powerful phrase, 'we do not forgive, we do not forget' leaves me deeply uncomfortable. Perhaps all I need is a good tear-gassing to make me change my mind...but I hope not.

4. Finally: ditch the balaclavas and ski masks, guys. You know who else wears those nasty things? The fascist thugs of the English Defence League, that's who. If you're genuinely as fearless as you claim to be you should be willing to show your face. After all, once the revolution is won, you'll want everyone to know that you were amongst the vanguards on the front line.

Comments and dialogue are welcome...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rule Number One & UC Riverside

It's still 'follow the money'.

In the wake of the SOPA blackout (you'll notice there was no Pickled Bologna post yesterday!), a substantial number of Congress critters abandoned the SOPA/PIPA ship. Most of them were Republicans, though House sponsor Lamar 'Red Rug' Smith is hanging tough.

As for the Dems...they're still on board, for the most part. Gee, I wonder why? Could it have anything to do with all the contributions they get from Hollywood entertainment companies...companies that generally don't donate to Republicans?


Meanwhile, down in sunny Southern California, the riot cops were out in full force today, doing what they do best...shooting students with 'non-lethal' rounds. It went down at UC Riverside during a meeting of the UC Regents, a group of wealthy people who occasionally get together to enjoy a nice lunch whilst massively increasing the cost of a public education. The best info on the Riverside outrage is here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

"No more silly rules and no more law and order"

I finally figured out exactly what it is about the Occupy movement that's proven so inspirational to me. It's filling a space in my soul that has been empty since, oh, 1981 or '82--the space formally occupied (appropriately enough) by punk rock.

(By happy coincidence, calaverasgrande just published this on the Occupy Oakland website.)

I'm not an anarchist (never was, never will be), but the language of anarchism was an important and inspirational part of punk, especially when grafted to the raucous, distorted sounds of groups like Sweden's The Leather Nun, whose song 'No Rule' supplied this blog post's title. That song's chorus-- 'no more silly rules, and no more law and order'--strikes me as bearing more than a passing resemblance to the OWS chant, 'we are unstoppable, another world is possible.'

With punk, you never knew what was coming next, but you knew that it would be interesting, challenging, and exciting. As a teenager and a young adult, it offered a path to a place that existed outside the confines of 'regular' society: a place where all things were indeed possible and where anything could be imagined and put into practice.

It's been thirty years, but that path has once again been revealed to me.


Occupy Oakland Running Festival!

According to a news story in today's Oakland Tribune, "the popular Oakland Running Festival is moving from Frank H. Ogawa Plaza to Lake Merritt after recent problems with Occupy Oakland at the downtown plaza." The story quotes Lee Corrigan, the corporate hack whose company sponsors the event: "runner safety is a high, high, high priority of our event, and also showcasing the city in a positive light."

The story is by Kristin J. Bender, who writes:

Oakland's Occupy movement was thrust into the national spotlight after a series of police raids resulted in riots and violence. Occupiers first set up camp in the plaza Oct. 10, were cleared by police Oct. 25, then resettled the next day. Police cleared the second camp Nov. 14, during public outcry that it had become a public nuisance and was harming downtown businesses. The last straw was Nov. 10, when a man who had been in the camp was fatally shot in the head by another man at 14th Street and Broadway.

Wow. That's quite a piece of work, packing almost every untruth and distortion about Occupy Oakland into a single paragraph. Kudos to Ms. Bender. Perhaps she cut and pasted that from a Chamber of Commerce press release.

Anyway, you can read the entire fantastical article here.

Seems to me it might be a great idea to have some of our healthier, younger Occupiers register for this event, which is scheduled for March 24th and 25th (I guess it takes some folks a couple of days to complete the course).

Anyone out there enjoy exercise?

Thursday, January 12, 2012


The next big day on the Occupy calendar is almost here! Nationally known as Occupy Congress Day, January 17th promises to be an interesting day in both Washington, DC and Oakland. It's a race against time for Washington Mayor Vincent Gray, who's cooking up a phony health emergency in order to get Occupy DC cleared out before Tuesday whilst shedding crocodile tears for those holding down the encampment. Look out for the rats, a species never before seen in the District of Columbia! And it's much too cold to sleep in McPherson Square, so go home, or if you're homeless, go and sleep in a doorway where we won't notice you! Whatta guy. Here he is displaying his professional politician's look of concern.

Here in Oakland, we'll be celebrating Occupy Oakland City Council Day with three of our favourite people!

Rally outside City Hall starts at 4:30 PM, Council meeting follows at 5:30 PM. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Win some, lose some...wait, we WON one?

Apparently, the workers of American Licorice Company voted today by a narrow margin to accept the company's last, best (yeah, right) offer. The strike is over and the workers will be losing some of their health benefits--specifically, dependent coverage. (I lost mine this year, too.) Win-win for American Licorice, but knowing what I know now I'll never eat their lousy candy again (not that I ever enjoyed Sip 'n' Chew before the strike, either).


Thanks to a letter sent to the New York City Department of Buildings from OWS (signed by, amongst others, the NYCLU) , Brookfield Properties have been reminded that they are required to keep the Park open and accessible to the public 24 hours a day. Which means the fences and selective searches at Liberty Plaza/Zuccotti Park are over, at least for now!

We'll see what shenanigans Bloombo's Army cooks up next in their ongoing and tireless efforts to stamp out free speech and dissent in the Big Apple. Meanwhile here at home, I'm dreaming about finding a secret codicil to Oakland Municipal Code granting the public 24/7 access to OGP...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Boycott American Licorice!

No Red Vines for you, bub...the bad guys at American Licorice Company in Union City are determined to gut their workers' health insurance. Read all about it here.

Occupy Oakland joined the picket line today, prompting the Union City Police Department to fuel up their armoured personnel carrier, which they drove around the block. Thanks for the grant money, Homeland Security!

Other products produced by American Licorice include Sour Punch, Super Ropes, Snaps, Sip-n-Chew (no doubt a bizarre taste treat blending the subtle pleasures of Mickey's Big Mouth and Copenhagen Smokeless Tobacco), Natural Vines (which suggests Red Vines are...what exactly?), and the delightfully named Extinguisher, which sounds more like a WWF wrestler than a candy. Should any of these be amongst your favourite sweetmeats, make alternative arrangements until the company backs down.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday morning quarterback

Saturday night's Fuck the Police march went according to script.

The Tactical Action Committee proved they could organize a significant action.

OPD proved they still have superior firepower and are willing to beat the living crud out of random march participants.

TAC is now upping the ante and calling for 1,000 people to march next Saturday. Hyperbole it may be, but OPD is surely making mutual aid plans accordingly.

TAC has declared that every Saturday night will be Fuck the Police night in Oakland. I'm not sure how this decision was made, though I suspect it stemmed from a random tweet suggesting what a grand idea a weekly march would be.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

The TAC are well within their rights to hold these marches, both autonomously and with the imprimatur of Occupy Oakland. The creation of TAC was, of course, endorsed by the OO GA. Occupy Oakland cannot pretend not to have a relationship with TAC. TAC is the child of Occupy Oakland.

There are ample reasons to continue to remind OPD of their many and varied crimes over the decades and TAC are clearly capable of delivering those reminders. However...

1. What is the end game? What result is TAC hoping to achieve? There has to be one...otherwise the weekly march is going to rapidly dwindle from last night's 200-300 to less than 100.

2. Time spent on organizing a weekly march is time taken from more effective TAC activities, such as foreclosure occupations and the Burger King protest (which, to my surprise, turned out rather well).

3.Like it or not, marching with a banner that says Fuck the Police is going to alienate you from 99% of the 99%. Even those of us generally sympathetic with FTP would probably prefer something a little less inflammatory. May I suggest Stop Police Brutality, Free All Political Prisoners, or (if you must insist on something a bit rude) Up Yours OPD as the motto for next week's banner?

4. If TAC continues the Saturday night marches, it will need to develop some discipline. If someone throws a bottle from the back of the crowd, that person needs to be identified and removed from the march--otherwise TAC is complicit in the endangerment of non-violent marchers. If you are unwilling to do that, you need to make it clear that only those willing to throw bottles should attend. We know OPD are always looking for the slightest excuse to bash heads. Either don't give them one, or be honest and upfront about endorsing confrontational tactics.

5. I know that TAC are revolutionaries and probably uninterested in compromise. But you are never, ever going to achieve your goals by remaining ideologically rigid. The United States is not ripe for the kind of revolution you are hoping for.

I was hopeful that last night's march would pass without incident; that it would take place and that OPD would simply stay away. That would have been a great success for all involved: it would have allowed the city to display its purported dedication to free speech, and it would have allowed TAC to magnanimously declare victory. This did not happen, and it is clear it is not going to happen on future Saturday nights.

In my opinion, TAC needs to re-think its priorities. 10th and Adeline was a great thing; Zion Cypress was a great thing. You may think otherwise, but I don't believe these were defeats--both occupations were more help than hindrance to the movement. Whether casting light on the sins of banks and the foreclosure industry, opening eyes to the inadequacies of the City Assessor's Office, or simply revealing that a plot of empty land in West Oakland is owned by a rich man in Lafayette, these were admirable and positive actions.

Fuck the Police, however, is not a goal. It's a pit of despair and angst, a trap OPD and the city want us to fall into. If they change the discussion from economic and social injustice to the police battling scary anarchists, they will win.

Keep the faith! Occupy everything!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Birmingham Sound: The Soul of Neal Hemphill Vol. 2

We take a brief break from Occupy Oakland activities to recommend this CD in the strongest possible terms. Anyone who enjoys the music of Stax/Volt, Otis Redding, Al Green, or southern soul in general will absolutely adore this disc, which includes exemplary (and in many cases, previously unreleased) tracks by Frederick Knight, Ralph 'Soul' Jackson (his version of Carl Perkins' Matchbox is a standout), and Wes Lewis, amongst others.

Released in late 2008, The Birmingham Sound is still available from The Rabbit Factory. Incidentally, this label was until recently the home of one of the best retro-soul outfits currently treading the boards,
J.C. Brooks & the Uptown Sound. Check 'em out, keep the faith, and Occupy Everything!

And remember, order directly from the creator, not from scum sucker Steve Bezos.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Camp Care-a-Lot

In one of the most significant developments in the ongoing struggle between the City of Oakland and the Occupy movement, a group of celebrities showed up at Ogawa-Grant Plaza this morning to endorse the Interfaith Vigil and the Tactical Action Committee.

Yes, Cheer Bear, Funshine Bear, and--most critically--Love A Lot Bear are now camping out at Ogawa-Grant Plaza.

Reports that Mayor Quan and Darth Santana have been in contact with Professor Coldheart and Frostbite would not be confirmed this afternoon by City Hall, which closed early due to the elevated threat of pastoral action.


Dateline, Oakland CA: OPD (seen above) swing into action to break up and arrest the subversive garbage can creators of Occupy Oakland--and whoever else just happened to be standing around 14th and Broadway having a chat on the evening of January 4th 2012.

Deanna Santana, She-Wolf of the Oakland SS, could not be reached for comment.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Garbage cans of doom

Our illustrious chief of police, Howard Jordan, today complained that Occupy Oakland is causing a trash problem in Ogawa-Grant Plaza.

According to the City's press release revoking the vigil permit (and it's disgusting in itself that the use of public space can be subject to 'permits'), "individuals associated with the permitted activities are sleeping and lodging around the teepee and table, food is being distributed without the necessary health permits, garbage cans have been erected, and the area is being used as long-term personal storage (tables, chairs, mats, tarps, bedrolls, sleeping bags, food, coolers, etc.)."

Now how does this jibe with the city's (and the mainstream media's) depiction of occupiers as naught but smelly hippies? Why on Earth would a group of pot-smoking, patchouli-drenched, upper-middle class trustafarians ERECT GARBAGE CANS?

Hmm. No trash receptacles in THIS picture. Perhaps Jordan mistook Occupy Oakland's giant bongs for garbage cans?

Once again, the mind reels.

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I am a semi-aquatic marine mammal who enjoys eating fish and krill, as well as taking long underwater swims