It's happening in Oakland... again. There have been hundreds of instances where elements within the Occupy movement have broken laws and caused some form of havok, but it seems like the more violent and destructive Occupiers are more active and plentiful in Oakland. Especially when much of the country has become too cold to be out in the streets much, destructive behavior from the Oakland Occupiers brings one of their biggest problems into the spotlight once again.
I thought it was particularly hypocritical of the Oakland Occupiers to block the port there a few months ago, which really only hurt the workers, organized labor types just about as much 99%ers as you can get, who weren't able to get to work that day. It's more disturbing, however, to see the protests there devolve in the direction of destroying city property to make a statement.
Some of the Occupiers are claiming that they didn't actually break into the Oakland City Hall, but the evidence seems to indicate otherwise. Mayor Jean Quan told the press that she has a video showing a male Occupier using a crowbar to pull the emergency bar on the inside of the building to get in.
The protests moved there after police pushed them back from their effort to take over a convention center and a nearby YMCA. Regardless of how they got in, once inside they took to taking their frustrations out on the lobby. Past burning an American flag, they smashed displays, cut electrical wires, left graffiti and even damaged a exhibit of youth art (see pics of the protest, destruction and arrests here).
I'm no fan of the Occupy movement, but I realize that this violence does not represent the will of the majority of the movement. Their largely leftist ideological positioning does not necessarily align them with violent anarchistic factions, but so far they've allowed them to take the banner and run with it.
It really comes down to what the Occupy movement collectively wants to represent. Many of them defend actions like this by saying that it was an act of civil disobedience, but most of the rest of us see through that ridiculous spin. Civil disobedience is not flipping out and destroying public property after not being allowed to take over a convention center that they had no right to be in, any more than it is to make a point about corporate greed by blocking regular people from going to work.
This is not civil disobedience. This is childishly lashing out when not being given what they think they are entitled to be given without paying for it. If they were not given permission to stage a legal protest, and then took to the streets, that would be civil disobedience. If they went to the lobbies of some of the worst examples of corporate greed and staged mass sit ins across the city, that would be civil disobedience.
The 400 or so protestors that were arrested are not martyrs. They're short-sighted and misguided common criminals. Their lack of perspective is only leading to marginalizing the movement they say they're fighting for. The Occupy movement would do well to collectively learn from the successful civil rights movements of the past, take a stand on non-violence, castigate violent factions and focus their efforts on meaningful targets.