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?)

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