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Opinion: Occupy Oakland Another Black Eye for the 99 Percent

Thursday, February 02, 2012 - 03:10 PM

A protester from Occupy Oakland -the local offshoot of Occupy Wall Street- is arrested in Oakland on January 28, 2012. (KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images/Getty)

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.

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Comments [9]

Woody from NYC

I understand people's misgivings about illegal activity, but to put it into context let's look at what is apparently legal:
- Large banking institutions committing fraud on numerous investors via classification of mortgage securities - Any arrests?
- NYPD assaulting members of the city council as well as credentialed members of the press during the OWS/Zuccotti raid
- NYPD's racist policy of stopping and frisking predominantly Black/Latino youth in their own neighborhoods
- Unlimited funding of federal election campaigns via Super PACs
- "Enhanced interrogation" or torture of prisoners

The action in Oakland was an attempt to create a community center in a completely unused space (with no future plans). There's plenty of illegal activity which is downright ethical and morally sound. The action was non-violent until met with the force of the State which escalated the situation.

Feb. 03 2012 06:16 PM
Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

@listener

I'm no fan of the Tea Party as far as where it is on the issues, but I do give it credit on largely following the law. The Occupy movement broke more laws in the first few weeks of it being around than I'd heard of the Tea Party doing over the entire few years it's been around. The Occupy movement should learn from this aspect of the Tea Party if it wants to be a lasting force.

Trying to occupy a building that they had no right to be in is breaking the law. Having a protest without permission is against the law. Not leaving when police tell you to is against the law. If they didn't want to be disbursed with more forceful tactics, they only have themselves to blame for not following the law.

I wouldn't at all be surprised if there were some instances of police going too far, that's sadly normal and if provable should be pursued, but that is happened the way it did was all on the protestors. Like it or not, it's the police's job to enforce the law, not leave people alone because they're being peaceful as they break the law. That's like saying police shouldn't arrest me for stealing, as long as I don't use force.

Feb. 02 2012 10:59 PM
Joe from NY

Here is a good video showing what happened on Saturday.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJcxkiaFY0Y

Feb. 02 2012 10:33 PM
Joey Sentinella

I've been following Occupy Oakland especially some of their facebook pages. It seems there are some people really trying to stir up violent actions especially on the Occupy Oakland (Open Discussion) facebook group. I think these people are probably part of what is behind provoking this attitude from Oakland. I don't think all of these people are in Oakland and from the arrest record page of the OPD, I don't see their names as being arrested so whatever they are telling others to do they don't seem to want to actually take part themselves. It's a very strange situation.

Feb. 02 2012 07:02 PM
Vas from Washington, DC

Movie
http://vimeo.com/33854206

Feb. 02 2012 06:25 PM
doug, super non violent demonstator

Mr. Kleinsnith, You really should get your facts straight. We were kettled at the YMCA, allowed no access to dispersal, then violently assaulted with teargas,rubber bullets,flash bang grenades, and beanbag rounds and then brutally arrested for just practicing our 1st amendment rights. All video accounts from that event show absolutely no violence from protesters. It was after that that some more radical elements went to city hall. Their tactics were completely wrong but the real violence was perpetrated on us and in extreme measure before the misguided city hall response from a few radicals. Try to look at things from both sides before you make broad biased statements. Don't act like an authority when you weren't even there and are not responsible enough to get all the facts before you start blathering.

Feb. 02 2012 05:50 PM
doug, super non violent demonstator

Mr. Kleinsnith, You really should get your facts straight. We were kettled at the YMCA, allowed no access to dispersal, then violently assaulted with teargas,rubber bullets,flash bang grenades, and beanbag rounds and then brutally arrested for just practicing our 1st amendment rights. All video accounts from that event show absolutely no violence from protesters. It was after that that some more radical elements went to city hall. Their tactics were completely wrong but the real violence was perpetrated on us and in extreme measure before the misguided city hall response from a few radicals. Try to look at things from both sides before you make broad biased statements. Don't act like an authority when you weren't even there and are not responsible enough to get all the facts before you start blathering.

Feb. 02 2012 05:47 PM
listener

"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."

Its called the Tea Party.

Feb. 02 2012 05:16 PM
Stephen Nash from Denver

After a review of much of the video of the recent arrests in Oakland - I saw no instances of violent behavior from protestors until after the police attacked with tear gas, flash grenades and batons. Attacking protestors for sitting in the street is not legitimate police procedure, it is childishly lashing out.

Reports of mistreatment after arrest are another cause for concern, and of course it does turn the 400 arrested into victims of human rights abuse. Mistreatment after arrest was very short sighted behavior on the part of the authorities. It makes them nothing more than common criminals.

Feb. 02 2012 04:54 PM

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