An Open Letter to the Broader Occupy Community Regarding Occupy Oakland From a Small Group of Oakland Radicals

We are a group of radical Oakland activists who have been involved with Occupy Oakland from the very first days. We were previously unknown to each other and met as a result of our frequent participation in OO events and GAs.  Two of us (a married couple) moved in to the encampment on the second day at Oscar Grant Plaza (OGP) and have attended all daily camp facilitation meetings and most OO events since then. Another has been active in the POC Committee and Children’s Village/Children Parents, and Allies Committee. Another was involved within the labor community and in the early days of the Move-In Committee.

In our individualistic culture, it is rare when radical activists are able to pitch a big tent and draw in masses of people to the cause.  The early days of the Occupy movement provided one of those rare opportunities. Occupy was the spark for the emergence of a broad wave of anti-corporate, anti-repression sentiment in our society. We are concerned that the inclusivity that began this movement and contributed to its rapid growth is dying in OO as a result of the dominant insurrectionist tendencies and the “vanguardist” maneuvering and manipulations of some of its proponents. Dramatically shrinking numbers reveal that this ideology and organizing style either misreads the real political situation in Oakland, or else underestimates the importance of consolidating and advancing a broad, united and popular front. We all collectively must take responsibility for this “hardening” and shrinking of the OO ranks, and we must recognize that in trying to re-make OO in an ideologically purist vision, we are destroying our ability to garner the wide base of support and goodwill that will be necessary to successfully resist corporate and state domination.

Occupiers who have begun to question the decision-making processes involved in recent actions like J28 are being asked, in the name of unity, to maintain silence.  We have been told that our concerns will be dealt with, that there’s nothing to worry about, and that we shouldn’t speak publicly about them. Yet we feel that without transparency and open dialogue, the problems will only get worse. We are speaking to everyone who still believes in Occupy Oakland, but especially to those most active in the GA and various committees who have the ability to help us make the kinds of changes that would reassure the larger Bay Area community that Occupy Oakland is still a wise place to invest its energy.

The four of us decided to speak out because we have each been pushed to the margins of OO by ugly, ideological purification behavior that often now takes place at the GAs and in groups like the Move-In Committee, where dissenting voices are booed and jeered and “group speak” and in-group relationships now dominate. Please do not mistake our concerns as yet another attack on anarchism or Black Bloc; it’s not about that at all. It’s about the exclusionary strategies and tactics that alienate those of us who are interested in a slower, more solid, more inclusive approach of mass movement building.

What we are attacking is the acceptance and even rewarding of undemocratic practices, and the lack of a system to repudiate both these practices and the people who engage in them.  It has been clear for some time that a small group of people with similar insurrectionist leanings have been actively manipulating the process and promoting their own agenda. They have previous ties to each other and many have careers in academia which provide them the time and resources to devote their lives to the Occupy movement in Oakland. These academic insurrectionist leaders thrive in a climate of secrecy, and use vanguardist rhetoric and practices to seize control of actions and messages with which OO engages the public. Many of the most divisive and undemocratic actions undertaken in the name of OO can be traced back to this group, including: two non-sanctioned press conferences, including the one for J28 in which outrageous threats and juvenile rants were made in the name of Occupy Oakland; the secretive and exclusionary planning of the strategy for J28 in which community voices were systematically excluded from the inner workings; the hijacking of the General Assembly during the second Port Shut Down; and many smaller examples of non-democratic behavior.  The propaganda produced by these insurrectionist leaders reveals a very narrow scope and embarrassingly juvenile self-aggrandizement.  They even brag of trashing City Hall in this piece.  We strongly believe that the struggle in Oakland should not be used to produce what amounts to riot porn.  This only serves to subvert the will of the people here who are spending our time and energy to make OO something that serves the community.  It is safe to say that many of us local activists and community members feel a sense of anger and betrayal regarding the continued dominance of the collective agenda by these forces.

Many in leadership positions don’t seem to want the discussion about the future of OO or the Occupy movement to be about Black Bloc tactics. We don’t want the discussion to be about some false choice between Gandhian non-violence and “anything goes.” How about if we all agree to change the subject?

Let’s talk about our visions of what OO should be. We have one: OO could and should return to its origins as a broad mass of anti-corporate, anti-repression forces. Our vision for the future of Occupy Oakland is one of true radical inclusivity. We should think of creative ways to include, democratically represent, direct the energies of, and, yes, increasingly radicalize this amazingly diverse group. OO could evolve into a coordinating council for autonomous affinity groups, vetting, approving and organizing coordinated actions in OO’s name. This would allow political tendencies to form ideologically pure affinity groups if they wish, and to have a seat at the table. But we should all agree not to try to control the table.

We are asking for help from those of you who have been at the center of OO from the beginning and love the potential this movement has to create lasting, real change.  We understand that you all played a big role in pitching the Occupy tent, one that is unfortunately smaller now than it should be.  Help bring us all back inside. This is not a matter of individual personalities or power trips.  This is a profound historical moment in our community. This is a real political and ideological struggle with real consequences. The time has come for us to make choices, make the correct ones and make them now or the moment will pass. We are ready to help bring people back into the OO tent with you. We are excited about this moment, and our future.

  1. #1 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 13, 2012 - 5:57 am

    we are all leaders. when a group of leaders gather together, then part of the group allow brutal repression and dishonest press to fracture, then pick apart at the whole. each leader, which is each member of the group, has to begin right away picking up the pieces, applying the glue.

    please keep in mind the divisive and destructive power of cointelpro. please be reminded that these tactics are in use now, and their use will increase exponentially over time. please don’t forget that they’ve been training for this, while many of us have been sleeping.

  2. #2 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 13, 2012 - 5:58 am

  3. #3 by A POC annoyed with this article on February 13, 2012 - 6:46 am

    This is ridiculous. it sounds like you’re the one who is trying coopt not the people you’re condemning. This is extremely divisive. Why is it you folks can’t organize anything? Or pretty much refuse to? Start doing your own planning and maybe people would follow. All you are doing here is being divisive and trying to push out people who do hard work. And why call yourselves radicals? Just join the progressive party already and continue the party politicking.

  4. #4 by urbaned on February 13, 2012 - 7:29 am

    The day of the Scott Olsen march, I saw my “radically progressive” friends at the march — the ones I basically stay away from due to their inability to think critically. They are WARPED, and it’s so unfortunate.

    These people have no spiritual inclinations, believe that angry striking and bellowing are the way to make change, and neglect and reject anyone who is not in their palsy group, and who they can’t control.

    They instigate groups like the Black Bloc, and unfortunately, this is a blind an toxic mix.

    These people are bullies and have been dominating the landscape for years. Finally, there ilk is showing, and it’s just possible that the truly caring and peaceloving people in Oakland will have a say. You see, nonviolence will prevail.

    OWS is about: transparency, non-hierarchy, and nonviolence. Read the Principles of Solidarity. If a group wants to co-opt the brand, if they don’t uphold these principles, they will be outed. After all, we are Anonymous and we will prevail. The world is changing and these people now have a choice. Join us, or join the 1%.

    • #5 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 13, 2012 - 8:02 pm

      ‘warped’ . ‘palsy’ . black bloc is not a group

    • #6 by abc on February 14, 2012 - 8:10 am

      Dont see where the principles of solidarity say nonviolence.

  5. #7 by TQ on February 13, 2012 - 7:41 am

    I’m having a hard time distinguishing between this article and the press releases from City Hall and the OPD saying that Occupy Oakland is composed mostly of “outside agitators” (who live in…Hayward or something) who unlike “authentic” Oakland residents all fully support the mayor, the city council, and the police department.

    As a POC, I’m sick of this argument that gets repeated over and over that only white people can confront the state. Who are the “Oakland Radicals”? You’re an affinity group with a political perspective. Congratulations, you now “have previous ties to each other” and are a conspiracy which needs to be exposed. At least you’re not “academics” (what’s up with the anti-intellectualism).

    Okay, so most of the Occupy encampments in the US have been cleared through violent police evictions and Occupy Oakland still has weekly FTP marches and can still turn out 1000-2000 for coordinated actions which are publicized as confrontational.

    And yet this article argues the opposite, that “dramatically shrinking numbers reveal that this ideology and organizing style either misreads the real political situation in Oakland, or else underestimates the importance of consolidating and advancing a broad, united and popular front.” Okay, what is the real political situation in Oakland?

    The Occupy movement is dead in most of the rest of the country, and Occupy Oakland is one of the only places keeping it alive, through good and bad choices. It’s militant. People like Chris Hedges hate it. The Democratic Party is horrified.

    If the article authors think they have a better reading of the political situation in Oakland and don’t like the way things are going, then they should organize their own actions. If it takes off, awesome. You were right.

  6. #9 by Don Macleay on February 13, 2012 - 7:44 am

    I think of myself as part of Occupy, but not at the “center” of things.

    As part of the movement, I feel that it is up to all of us to help it be healthy, successful and to leave in its wake empowerment and more possible progress for all of us, as a group and as individuals who grow as being part of the movement.

    I agree with most, probably all, of what you four are telling us.
    Quo Vadis? Where do we go from here?

    With my kindred spirits I am trying to put some constructive plans on the table.
    It is not always easy to do and it is even harder to come up with good plans.
    And when I think I have something to add I add it here

    http://donmacleay.blogspot.com/

    Thanks for putting this part of the discussion forwards.
    The movement against economic injustice needs us to work these problems out.
    and come back stronger for it.

    • #10 by zappa montag on February 15, 2012 - 2:44 am

      Don, We need folks like you who were active early on and still care a lot, to make a big push for more participation and some changes…I think that we can recharge, and build for May 1. I know that we have a lot of ideas, and some momentum isbuilding. We are planning to start doing a lot more local neighborhood stuff, and are looking to have a gathering on Saturday in Mosswood to put some stuff out there to see where people are at.

  7. #11 by Della on February 13, 2012 - 7:44 am

    Are we really supposed to believe that thousands of people in Occupy Oakland were manipulated by a few academics into participating in Move-In Day? That idea is not only ridiculous but deeply disrespectful to the agency and intelligence of hundreds of people who worked hard to make that day happen.

    This article has all the makings of a witch-hunt, and is disrespectful to the many comrades who have committed their time, energy and good-faith to this cause. If its authors felt excluded from the decision making process than that is a serious issue we should address. I personally felt that the process was very inclusive (it was organized in OG Plaza by well attended, public assemblies, just like the Port Shutdown), but if there are ways we can improve inclusive than we definitely should.

    What is NOT inclusive is blaming a few people for Occupy’s decline just because you don’t like their politics. If you don’t agree with some occupiers’ political leanings that’s your right, but to fall back on finger pointing and conspiracy theories wont get us anywhere, and definitely won’t expand this movement or make it more inclusive.

    • #12 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 13, 2012 - 8:09 pm

      until this format offers a ‘like’ button, i’ll just have to keep coming to say LIKE.

    • #13 by zappa montag on February 15, 2012 - 2:48 am

      Well three of the authors were part of the move in day assembly and planning. They were treated very poorly and saw others being treated poorly, they brought up issues that should have been dealt with, which were ignored.It seems clear that there are reasons why we should look at that process. We have all been very active in OO from the very beginning, so we feel that our voice is just as important and as anyone’s, and are critiques are quite valid as we are people who have major concerns with OO yet have remained active, despite economic difficulties we might add.

  8. #14 by Donald Macleay on February 13, 2012 - 7:49 am

    #6 by Don Macleay on February 13, 2012 – 7:44 am

    I think of myself as part of Occupy, but not at the “center” of things.

    As part of the movement, I feel that it is up to all of us to help it be healthy, successful and to leave in its wake empowerment and more possible progress for all of us, as a group and as individuals who grow as being part of the movement.

    I agree with most, probably all, of what you four are telling us.
    Quo Vadis? Where do we go from here?

    With my kindred spirits I am trying to put some constructive plans on the table.
    It is not always easy to do and it is even harder to come up with good plans.
    And when I think I have something to add I add it here

    http://donmacleay.blogspot.com/

    Thanks for putting this part of the discussion forwards.
    The movement against economic injustice needs us to work these problems out.
    and come back stronger for it.

    (reposted using the Facebook method so I can share this in different directions)

  9. #15 by Oakland Radicals on February 13, 2012 - 8:22 am

    @#3, A POC: Don’t assume that we aren’t also trying to organize.

    @#4, urbaned: we are not conflating Black Bloc with the insurrectionists, and we are not arguing in favor of nonviolence; that’s a whole separate and very complicated debate.

    @#5, TQ: a lot of what you are commenting on is not reflected in this post; nowhere does it say anything about outside agitators or supporting the police or city council. Our names are in the About tab; we use our real names and not several different ones, as do some of those we’re concerned about. When we say “shrinking numbers,” we’re only comparing OO to itself. We had 20,000 at the first General Strike, perhaps 5,000 at the second port shutdown and maybe 2,000 for J28. At one point we had thousands at GA; now we are often lucky to have a quorum. I am militant and I hate the Democratic Party. There is quite a bit of daylight between being militant/radical and being an insurrectionist who wants to defeat the police. This isn’t Greece; we don’t have the discipline or the numbers. Also, I reject your notion that Occupy is dead in the rest of the country; it just doesn’t produce the lurid headlines that we do (mostly thanks to OPD).

    @6, Don – thank you, I will keep reading your blog. Zappa has posted some ideas on FB about having a weekend-long convention in which we reorganize – that would obviously require a great deal of outreach.

    @7, Della – of course we are not saying that anyone was tricked into participating in J28. My husband and I attended several of the Building Assembly meetings. We also attended the Port Shutdown meetings and it is disingenous of you to compare the 50 to 70 people (quoting one of the organizers) at the Building Assembly to the hundreds or even thousands who attended the first General Strike/Port Shutdown meetings. We found the process NOT to be inclusive. Nevertheless, we went to J28 with the intention of helping to make it successful.

    -Cheryl Kohler

    • #16 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 13, 2012 - 8:20 pm

      as a point of reference, ‘thousands at ga’ was a direct result of a series of all day street battles started by opd. these battles, all started by opd, are much of what you’re speaking against, as if those in the tac or participating in ftp marches are somehow unworthy of participation in the greater movement because those actions draw the ire of opd.

      there are many ways to move forward, and we really should be using all of them. also, i’m pretty sure there were never thousands at the general strike meetings. generally, there were a revolving hundred or so who were the core group of those planning sessions. please don’t exaggerate. it doesn’t help your case.

      and in case of confusion:::

      Definition of INSURRECTION

      : an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government

      this is what we all are doing ever day.

    • #18 by Sean Kline on February 13, 2012 - 11:03 pm

      Thanks Cheryl. I’ve been struggling with the issues you’ve raised myself. While I’m sensitive to airing conflicts publicly, occupy was built around radical transparency, democracy and inclusivity. We need to claw those principles and that culture back, to foster healthy, respectful, internal debate about what is and is not working. At the same time, I believe we need to make space for, and inspire hundreds of thousands of people prepared to put their privilege on the line for change. They’re out there, and if some of them are critical of some OO actions right now, those of us inside occupy need the discipline, compassion and wisdom to at least listen. Radical inclusivity means welcoming all who come. ~Sean

      • #19 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 14, 2012 - 1:29 am

        hey sean, given your heartfelt offering here, i want to inform you that this person cheryl has people blocked on facebook. the reason i’m telling you this is so you’ll understand that, while communication is the center of our movement, that which enables us to learn from each other, plan and carry out actions, people like cheryl make that very difficult, then come here posting this list of complaints.

        seems it’d be worthwhile for a person who is complaining about problems with communication to actually be willing to engage with everyone in the movement, maybe especially those with whom she disagrees.

        also, publishing harsh criticism about issues, and especially about other people, is not exactly the ‘healthy, respectful, internal debate’ you seem to be referencing. this is not an internal debate, but a public airing of grievances. the press, the city of oakland, and especially opd are having a field day today!

  10. #20 by a member of Oaklands Allstar Solidarity on February 13, 2012 - 8:23 am

    In you’re article it states that they even bragged about thrashing city hall. That is from an article posted in anarchist news that was then published through Bay of Rage which acts as a clearinghouse for information. Anyway, even in the article ( the one written anonymously, so I’m confused how you know who wrote it) it says ” People break into city hall. Everything that can be trashed is trashed.” That in itself says that the person who wrote the article was not themselves there or at least spoke as they weren’t. Have you tried to start your own committee or subgroup to create your own autonomous actions? I would personally like to help organize some completely non violent (we can determine guidelines as to what that means) actions and maybe even another move in. I hope you take this into account. with all the comments made and accusations in this article it would only make sense if you and whoever else participated in this article tried to organize an action the way you would like to see it. It also seems like a call to party politics and the creation of a “board of directors” that gets to control other peoples actions. we already have something similar- its called the GA and everyone is a part of it : ” We should think of creative ways to include, democratically represent, direct the energies of, and, yes, increasingly radicalize this amazingly diverse group. OO could evolve into a coordinating council for autonomous affinity groups, vetting, approving and organizing coordinated actions in OO’s name. This would allow political tendencies to form ideologically pure affinity groups if they wish, and to have a seat at the table. But we should all agree not to try to control the table.”

    • #21 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 13, 2012 - 8:21 pm

      thanks for this

    • #22 by zappa montag on February 15, 2012 - 2:53 am

      We are organizing, and continue to organize…one of our critiques however is that one shouldn’t try to pull of a big action without proper planning and without building the right coaltions for the action to succeed. As far as who wrote the article…we know, they know we know, simple as that. We expect people to raise the bar as far as the ethics involved in the actions they take. Trashing city hall and bragging about it is some no class having action and we are not going to retreat from the decision to let these folks know that they can’t behave like two bit louts here in Oakland.

  11. #23 by ethan young on February 13, 2012 - 3:36 pm

    Please read this still very on-point lesson from the early 70s women’s movement:

    http://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm

    “Diversity of tactics” is democratic internally, but antidemocratic when it forces tactics on community people that they consider harmful, and cannot oppose without being liberal- or cop-baited. In the end community people pay the price, not the implementers of the “tactics.”

    This is the lesson of Chicago 1969:

    October – Weatherman trashes and “fights” cops, ignoring Panther leader Fred Hampton’s warning that it is “anarchistic, opportunistic, Custeristic.”

    December – Fred Hampton is murdered in his bed by police, with the excuse that he was a violent criminal.

    • #24 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 13, 2012 - 8:23 pm

      while i wholeheartedly agree that it’s important for all of us to be careful in the application of a policy of diversity of tactics, do you really believe that fred hampton was murdered because of the excuse given by police? he was murdered because police saw him as a threat socially. the mythology of jesus goes exactly along those lines.

      • #25 by ethan young on February 14, 2012 - 12:16 am

        You miss my point. Fred knew that the only protection was an organized community. He knew he was a target but he also knew that a bunch of ex-students getting into ‘fights’ with cops and smashing windows only made it easier for the powerful to convince the majority that revolutionaries are violent criminals, hence fair game. Which undercuts the ability to organize the community in its own (and the Panthers’) defense. The Panthers had faith in the people. The Weather folks were desperate and hysterical.

      • #26 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 14, 2012 - 4:05 am

        i didn’t miss your point. i do agree that an organized community is a good idea. my understanding is that we cannot possibly avoid bad press. while we shouldn’t go out of our way to give the press real trouble from us to talk about, that cannot be the basis for our decisions. if that is the basis for our decisions and that is what these folks have gone out of their way to say, then why are they so willing to present a divided front to the press… free blog delivery… ?

        we have to choose whether to ask please, may i have my rights back? … or take our rights back. we know which scenario will not work, as it’s been tried for decades.

      • #27 by Laurence Schechtman on February 14, 2012 - 8:24 am

        To organize or to posture, that is the question. The convention building COULD have been taken over if there had been 20,000 people surrounding it. …….. In Argentina, for example, factories taken over & run by workers were successfully protected by mass mobilization by the neighbors of the factory. ………. So how do you produce that kind of mass involvement? By showing everyone you are tough enough to fight the cops and trash City Hall? Or by going out to the neighborhoods and struggling for THEIR needs? By reoccupying foreclosed homes and, less dramatic, by PREVENTING foreclosures and evictions. By organizing food gardens and neighborhood co-operatives. And, most important, by ASKING neighbors what they need. Sustained organizing is harder than fighting or trashing, put it is the ONLY way that we can build to the point where major actions can succeed. We can turn large buildings into Social Centers, as has happened in Italy hundreds of times. But first we have to do the organizing work. ……… Getting into fights before we have won over the population will usually lose, and it is just what the establishment WANTS us to do. Which is why they pay agents to push us in that direction. I have personal experience there. …….. I’m not making any accusations here. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take many agents to push angry people in their desired direction. And away from what should be OUR direction, which is organizing.

  12. #28 by Mike Draviso on February 13, 2012 - 4:01 pm

    Thank you for writing this article. The premature insurrectionist strategy and over-the-top belligerent rhetoric coming out of Occupy is damaging to the movement as a whole. I am glad to know that it is not a consensus within Occupy Oakland.

    • #29 by zappa montag on February 15, 2012 - 2:55 am

      Yes the premature insurrectionist strategies seems to not fit the time or place here in Oakland.

  13. #30 by Tatiana Makovkin on February 13, 2012 - 6:03 pm

    Thank you for stepping forward to help catalyze a more productive discussion. The bickering about definitions of violence and such semantics is an unresolvable distraction. The demand that we remain quiet for the sake of solidarity may have made sense in an age when we didn’t have access to powerful and near-ubiquitous communication tools that can allow each of us to be a media outlet, with discourse regularly conducted in the online public sphere. It’s helpful to learn from those who came before, and we also need to be able to adjust to modern times. We have to be astute about the conditions within which we work. We need flexibility, resiliency and creativity. Transparency and democracy are facilitated by our communication tools, and transparency and democracy is what will build a strong movement, with room for everyone.

    To respond to #10, I see nothing in this article about a “board of directors”. I don’t hear any call to change the structure of the group. I hear a call to return to the true structure of Occupy, with core values of inclusivity and transparency. Groups who prefer one type of tactic or another can still exist without hijacking the entire identity of OO.

    As a fellow organizer I want to offer my support and words of encouragement. When you speak of “a slower, more solid, more inclusive approach of mass movement building”, I feel for you. This is quality organizing, and it is deeper and more long-term than flashy, loud attention getting antics (although some of that may come along the way). It is so much quicker and easier to smash something than to build. Building takes thought, planning, design, materials, teamwork and persistence.

    • #31 by zappa montag on February 17, 2012 - 6:22 am

      Thanks Tatiana..We look forward to seeing you this way soon.

  14. #32 by rb on February 13, 2012 - 6:23 pm

    How do I know this unsigned “open letter” is not Cointelpro? Go to the GA and stay your position in the open. What it comes down to is that is the procedure we set up, but you don’t like it. So you unsigned, whine. And you think this is in some mode persuasive?

    • #33 by pdk on February 14, 2012 - 6:51 am

      The authors of this letter are listed under the “about” tab. In that way, it is hardly “unsigned”.

      • #34 by faithfulsceptic on February 14, 2012 - 8:35 am

        Worse still, why don’t people (e.g. me) remember what they’ve checked?

  15. #35 by Sally Robertson on February 13, 2012 - 6:25 pm

    My husband and I participated in Scott Olsen day (Oct.25). and saw that there was a small group of less than 20 that were out to stir shit. Getting in the police faces and saying incendiary stuff, throwing paint balls… We support the Occupy movement, but NOT tearing up our city. We support the occupy movement, but only if it stays non violent. When it gets violent, we all lose. So until that group and.their destructive actions, ceases, we will not participate. We will NOT participate in violence. I spoke to 100’s like us. That is why your numbers are down. The majority doesn’t want to be a part of broken windows, paint balls, tear gas. We want our rights, OO, lately does not seem like the vehicle.

    • #36 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 13, 2012 - 8:31 pm

      once again, another person coming to basically blame violence started and continued by opd, sponsored by the city of oakland and the feds, on the victims of the violence. though i don’t throw things at police, and don’t encourage destructive behavior, neither of those things are inherently violent.

      tossing a water bottle at a fully armored person is like tossing a noodle at a person dressed in regular apparel. not remotely violent.

      paint was used on o25 to mark police who were being extremely violent. again, not a violent or in any way physically threatening action in and of itself.

      ‘saying incendiary stuff’ really? so, the city promising to and then delivering chemical assaults on unarmed citizens is what, then? and again, words are not violence.

      i urge you to bring ideas to the general assembly. bring proposals for actions you want to do. participate in actions already planned. not one person has planned an action to commit violence. no action has been approved that includes a plan for violence, which is more than i can say for the plans and actions of opd and our elected and appointed and overpaid supposed representatives.

    • #37 by faithfulsceptic on February 14, 2012 - 6:45 am

      rb#25, neither you nor I can know for sure who’s written this unsigned open letter, unless we encounter the author. that person, it seems to me, has left sufficient detail in the letter to easily identify them an #OO general assembly.

      Assuming you can do the footwork, I leave the ground-truthing to you. I am on the other side of the Pacific ocean, so it’s out of my neighbourhood.

      That said, the letter does not match my experience of the work of provocateurs and propagandists for Cointelpro or other infiltrators. Granted, it’s been 40 years since I left the US, but my more recent experience of affinity groups participating in civil disobedience is consonant with the arguments put in the “open letter”. The letter falls through the hole in my blanket of suspicion.

      I’m very hopeful as a result of what’s happening in Oakland, in NYC, and in Brisbane. Sydney and Melbourne, here in Australia. What causes me dismay is the action of advocates of unco-ordinated spontaneous action, including vandalism and assault against opponents (such as but not limited to the police).

      To complain about the anonymity of a letter writer who can be easily traced while ignoring the anonymity of a masked vandal, exploiting the confusion of a demonstration, seems inconsistent. You can continue to carry on a conversation with the open letter author or myself, but I submit that you are much less likely to be able to ground-truth a Black bloc member or a provocateur, whose motives may need further scrutiny: are they trying to undermine the Occupy movement, or is it just a matter of them being unable to see any picture bigger than their reflection in the window they’re about to “spontaneously” smash?

      IMHO, Occupy doesn’t need people who smash, burn, bully and jeer. I think it’s essential to make a commitment to nonviolent, respectful but assertive tactics in confrontation with other Occupy participants as well as the wider and less easily accessible opposition.

      My inclusion in the campaign to stop uranium mining in Australia, over 30 years ago was on those terms. Because I had an American accent, I was suspect, and people were upfront about that. I could understand their viewpoint, and the outcome is that I am accepted as a person with a contribution to make rather than as an embodiment of a hostile ideology.

      If you are in Oakland, then I suggest you take the time to find the author of the open letter. I trust that if you find the “Power to the People” sign shown in the photograph at the beginning of the letter, you will find them without too much further trouble.

      • #38 by pdk on February 14, 2012 - 6:53 am

        The authors are listed under the “about” tab. Honestly, why don’t people check these things?

  16. #39 by Oakland Radicals on February 13, 2012 - 6:37 pm

    @#14: Our real names are in the About tab. We are real people who have been participating in person at OO since the beginning. You are free to be persuaded or not – or to suggest that we are Cointelpro instead of commenting on the actual content of the post.

  17. #40 by worker on February 13, 2012 - 6:50 pm

    if OO and the GA process was truly democratic, there would be a recall election against the self-appointed misleaders, the hardliners who have worked to marginalize OO and destroyed the mass support that it once had.

  18. #41 by nonviolentconflict on February 13, 2012 - 7:09 pm

    Reblogged this on NonviolentConflict.

  19. #42 by Radical thinker on February 13, 2012 - 7:19 pm

    I think there is great value in broadening the scope of the activism beyond “occupying places”. I believe that “occupation” is an incredibly limited and myopic approach to a complex problem and thus, one spoke on a wheel of possibilities for change. Perhaps some form of internal citizens arrest could be staged of the perpetrators of violence. This would go a long way toward sending the message that OO is capable of reigning in the instigators. I for one do not see anything wrong with denouncing agitators and using coercion and physical limitations to prevent their participation in OO. let them go form a pro – violence camp somewhere else.

    • #43 by Rodney R on February 13, 2012 - 7:33 pm

      YES EXACTLY the thing that we need is our own POLICE then we don’t have to worry about the POLICE outside of the movement who are part of the 99% but who have used violence in response to violent agitators. INSTEAD WE CAN HAVE OUR OWN NONVIOLENT POLICE maybe what we will do is surround the agitators in a circle and chant at them to go home and if they don’t we can take away their masks and we can humiliate them and frighten them and even restrain them if we have to because our movement is about NONVIOLENCE

      • #44 by Zephyrina on February 13, 2012 - 8:49 pm

        Not a good or even tenable idea. Better to keep doing positive actions. Even large fun, entertaining actions with a very serious point to make.

    • #45 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 13, 2012 - 8:33 pm

      i’d love to see you stage citizen’s arrests of the perpetrators of violence::: opd and the supposed representatives of the citizens of oakland.

      • #46 by Zephyrina on February 13, 2012 - 8:46 pm

        Agree with this. OPD definitely the serious violence perpetrators. Have seen it in person

  20. #47 by Rodney R on February 13, 2012 - 7:25 pm

    Thank you for writing this! As an occupier I really hate when people use ideas that aren’t NONVIOLENT but then pretend that they are acting for the good of people. Really? Then why are you breaking things? Don’t you know that things like windows or city hall are actually important to the people who own them, and that in the case of City Hall that is the PEOPLE OF OAKLAND? When you smash those things you hurt those people and the wealth of Oakland, the COMMONWEALTH, and that is not NONVIOLENT because you are making the community have less money.

    I agree with the authors completely! We need NONVIOLENCE and INCLUSIVITY. That means that everyone who wants to join us has to PLEDGE to be NONVIOLENT and INCLUSIVE or else they should NOT BE ALLOWED. It’s the only way to make sure that we are SAFE

    • #48 by Sally Robertson on February 13, 2012 - 8:27 pm

      non violent is the only way we are participating, ever. Its a matter of conscience, watch Martin Luther King’s speeches people.

  21. #49 by Oakland Radicals on February 13, 2012 - 7:33 pm

    @#19 – I utterly reject your idea of internal citizens arrest or physically limiting other people’s behavior – I consider that to be more violent than any of the behavior that OO has engaged in. I think random property damage and throwing water bottles at cops in riot gear are bad strategies, but I do not consider such acts to be “violent,” especially in the context of overwhelming police brutality. I am objecting to insurrection as an endgame but I am certainly not suggesting that anyone be forcibly removed or restrained. It’s interesting that those who argue most vociferously for non-violence tend to suggest such violent remedies.

    -Cheryl Kohler

  22. #50 by Oakland Radicals on February 13, 2012 - 7:45 pm

    @#21: Please don’t mistake this for an argument in favor of everyone taking a pledge of non-violence. Each of the four of us has our own perspective on that, but that is NOT what this article is suggesting. Please take the time to educate yourself about the differences between civil disobedience, anarchy, and insurrectionism. We are arguing against a strategy of full-blown insurrection and asking those who seem to be pushing in that direction to reconsider the strategy.

    And can you not see the hypocrisy in a sentence that says “everyone has to pledge to be nonviolent and inclusive or else they should not be allowed”?

    -Cheryl Kohler

  23. #51 by JJJ on February 13, 2012 - 8:24 pm

    I do agree to a certain point on this one….i was at OO on the first day and was there regularly for the beginning months…but these traits are exactly why i’m reluctant to support OO anymore…

    telling me to support something you won’t give me information about…not a great way to garner support…actually that’s kind of what fox news does and other mainstream media outlets…”hey, support this action even though you have no or inaccurate information, but trust us, we are right so you should support us”

    “Move in day” was specifically held in secret which was a major factor of me NOT participating or supporting the event. The secrecy was said to be such that police wouldn’t find out, which then translated into supporters being treated like cops – uninformed – but still asked to support. I do fully support the idea that people should occupy empty buildings seeing as there are so many who have lost their home or are on difficult times etc etc…it’s rather ridiculous that these buildings are empty. BUT, I’m not really a person to blindly support an action because some people that say they are for the ‘right’ reasons are saying it’s a good idea. I talked to a guy who knew the details, was handing out flyers and promoting the event but basically got completely shut out with a response of…’we aren’t telling because of cops’….i’m not a cop…but i’m not a sheep either. The building set to be occupied was a major factor in whether or not I would support an action, without that info it’s going to likely get a no from me

    • #52 by zappa montag on February 15, 2012 - 6:09 am

      We all agree with the idea of building occupations if they are to serve the people, and think there are ways of occupying them, but it would require better organizing, and from a broader base than the move in committee has at this point.

  24. #53 by Pam on February 13, 2012 - 8:30 pm

    Back in the 60s and early 70s, the FBI infiltrated the anti-war movement. The FBI managed to cause a backlash that turned some of the public against the peace protesters. The FBI doesn’t need to stir up trouble for OO. The backlash created by the violent people in OO includes making Jean Quan a sympathetic figure. Who would have thought that would have happened when they first started and she left town? If they have a point to make, they should articulate some way other than violence and destruction.

    • #54 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 13, 2012 - 8:40 pm

      please elaborate on ‘violent people in oo’ as i have not seen this at all. i have seen a very few act in self defense or in defense of those nearby.

      you seem to be unwilling to see the glaring truth that oo has been infiltrated from the beginning by those who would come in service to the fbi and opd, for the sole purpose of sowing strife in an effort to divide us and control the message getting out to the world. you’re doing a great job of helping them.

  25. #55 by Zephyrina on February 13, 2012 - 8:41 pm

    Agree. Couldn’t have wait it better. Where do I sign up? :-)

    • #56 by Zephyrina on February 13, 2012 - 8:42 pm

      Oops. wait = said

    • #57 by zappa montag on February 15, 2012 - 6:15 am

      thanks! We will keep you posted.

  26. #58 by Oakland Radicals on February 13, 2012 - 9:26 pm

    Please note that although “wiseoldsnail” accounts for at least 25 percent of the comments here so far, she is not one of the authors of this blog.

    • #59 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 14, 2012 - 1:33 am

      thanks for this. i’m pretty sure nobody here could possibly mistake me as an author of this blog. thanks, also, for keeping tabs. good to know somebody is in the business of collecting useless data.

  27. #60 by Richard Estes on February 13, 2012 - 9:29 pm

    In my view, the emphasis of the movement should be upon doing what needs to be done to reach the kind of people described in this article:

    http://www.poormagazine.org/node/4122

    • #61 by Oakland Radicals on February 15, 2012 - 3:04 am

      From the article that Richard linked to: “So perhaps that’s it, as the movement continues to grow and formulate its crucial to make poverty and class, disability, eldership and language justice central to the movement. Even if its not so easy and clean and simple to do. With a true recognition that some people can be there and some people can’t. That just because poor peoples are constantly occupied with child care, SSI checks, ebt cards, CPS requirements, ICE enforcement and substance abuse, it doesn’t mean we don’t have solutions and a voice and a dream.”

      Right on. Thank you for reminding us of what’s really important. I reposted this article to one of the OO FB sites.

      -Cheryl

  28. #62 by "community member there from day 1" and various other identities on February 13, 2012 - 9:34 pm

    I really wanted to appreciate this article as constructive criticism. It’s written like it, in some parts. However, there is no way that I can listen empathetically to an article that falls into the same exact traps that reactionary unhelpful critiques do.

    Your framework to me is as such:
    1. OO used to be great.
    2. Now it’s not.
    3. We have to bring it back.
    4 There is a small elite group controlling things.
    5. They have hijacked our movement, and we want everyone else to help us stop them.
    6. This will bring OO back to its original greatness.

    I have a serious problem with every single one of those statements.

    1. The OO encampment was totally fraught with serious issues. To romanticize the early days of OO, where we dealt with rape, assault, theft, and daily sexual harassment (for starters) is misguided. We were continuously trying to relate to one another in a different way than society expects from us, trying to build a new world in the heart of the old. The same inclusivity you praise brought people with all kinds of issues to the camp, where we struggled to live together without (literally) killing each other. The methods employed to prevent serious violence were constantly trashed in the same way as the insurrectionary folks you talk about here. People were called “bullies,” “exclusive,” and “divisive and undemocratic.” So all this sound strangely familiar.

    2. I think (temporary and subjective) shrinking numbers are a natural part of a movement. The initial sexiness of a working encampment and spiritual steadfastness of the vigil have worn off, and people are now incorporating Occupy-related activism and resistance into their everyday lives. The still visible aspects of Occupy, like Move-In Day, are inspiring. Only Occupy Oakland would publicly announce a building takeover with intent to create a community center, then march in the middle of the day to the location to take it over, right in front of the cops. It’s the conviction of folks to continue to provide services to the community that keeps us going. Move-In Day didn’t work; that is true. But anyone who takes the recent events of OO to mean that it’s dying down simply gives up too easily.

    3. On that note, people giving up too easily is our problem. We have to continue to reach out and assure folks that movements are rocky, that we won’t let failed actions bring us down. If we ourselves portray a dying movement, what else is everyone supposed to think? We should continue to push Occupy to its limits and where it stops, not be afraid to cast off the name Occupy because we are not an Occupy movement in reality. We are a movement for radical social, political and economic change. We can’t bring back what we had in the beginning. Things have changed, that’s how it works. Instead, we must continue to shift our tactics, build our communities and refine our targets in whatever way is threatening to the system at large. Having weekly mutual aid support meetings for survivors of the prison system is arguably just as threatening as a one-day street battle with cops, so don’t think I’m pulling that card. It’s just not helpful to be nostalgic.

    4. This is where I get less understanding and more annoyed. Everyone thinks everyone else is the vanguard. For instance, there is a lot of sentiment that the Facilitation Committee is overstepping its boundaries and calling too many shots to be considered democratic. Others say the same about TAC. During the encampment folks said that about Security, or the Camp Meetings, or the “outside agitators,” or certain labor leaders with City ties. You say it about, essentially, the Move-In Committee. If everyone thinks everyone else is the vanguard, what does that say about the existence of the vanguard in the first place? It’s conspiratorial, in the regular sense and the legal sense, to say what you’re saying. That makes it dangerous and unwise. We can’t be dragged into the realm of pointing fingers at every other group that’s not ours and calling it undemocratic, that only fosters an overall mistrust and ends up further isolating the different Occupy projects.

    5. The notion that a vanguard group has taken over Occupy is untrue and also dangerous. You create an “other,” one that is separate from the people you call on in the end to bring OO back. Those people, the academic insurrectionists or whatever, are they allowed in your metaphorical OO tent? Or are they lost? Or were they never really “us” to begin with? Not only are there holes in the argument about how secret everything was for Move-In Day, but the holes lead to a created entity that relies on secrecy and sneakiness. So they had connections before. Does that mean that they are seasoned resisters of capitalism, or does it make them a shadow cult? The fact that you don’t recognize the same folks, the same faces that built the camp in the planning for Move-In Day means to me that you haven’t been paying attention. Who are you asking to help you bring back the inclusivity and broad based support? Cause to me Move-In Day was an attempt to do just that. It had all the elements that Occupy contained from the beginning: providing services, political education and workshops, antagonism toward the police, occupation of unused or underutilized property, and broad outreach campaigns.

    6. Because the whole framework of calling for action to fix OO is based on false information, it’s pretty hard for me to see what this group wants to plan being effective. Thank you for your contributions, but purging your academic insurrectionist nemeses will only further demoralize people. I appreciate your more constructive sentiments about coordinating affinity groups, but how can you say that after you create a conspiracy against many of the hardworking members of Occupy who were there from the beginning and consistently. Which do you want, inclusive or exclusive? You seem to put out a pretty hardline statement against some folks, how do you plan to enforce your version of inclusivity? Enforcing inclusivity at the camp meant physically throwing out people who were assaulting or sexual assaulting others and refused to leave on their own. That was Security protocol, passed through the GA. I know ’cause I was there. What will be your protocol? How will the shadow vanguard be thwarted in the name of inclusivity?

    I very much look forward to constructive criticism. I haven’t seen a whole lot of it. I’m not trying to protect the power of people who hold too much power. I have my own critiques of the recent events and trends of Occupy. I just can’t sit back and watch finger-pointing exclusivity be done in the name of inclusivity. It’s time we did have a serious conversation about how different Occupy projects should relate to one another, but why would people take part if the entire basis for the conversation is conspiratorial and creates “others?”

    • #63 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 14, 2012 - 1:46 am

      THIS is beautiful. thanks.

    • #64 by zappa montag on February 15, 2012 - 5:18 am

      I thought this was a pretty good critique.
      On point one…I agree that there was a lot of problems at the camp. In fact I remember talking to other people about how the cops busting heads kind of bailed us out a couple of times….from the stories that women were telling me, I was concerned that there could be some kind of bad sexual assault any day…at the very least it was a place that many women found hostile at times from what I was told…this is part of why I got so involved when the camp was supposed to move to 19th and Telegraph since mt teen daughter goes to OSA. It was there that I saw the first un authorized press release, and heard a couple folks who I I personally am speaking of in the article make a very poor representation of Occupy Oakland. It was later that day at the Facilitation Committee, and then later at the GA, that I witnessed and was a victim to some very underhanded , undemocratic moves by one of these folks….at that point I began to pay attention to some of these folks because it seemed like they were among certain folks who seemed to be allowed to make their own rules….call it a conspiracy or not…that would depend on what a conspiracy is…As far as undemocratic, and generally unfriendly, I have seen to much of it…and some of these folks are in the news constantly, representing OO. There has to be a way to have some transparency and fresh rotation in the committees and working groups So yes OO has had probmlems for a long time.

      As far as point two) I was not trying to make wuite that point…OO is potentially strong but it is ot living up to its potential and it is not growing, and it is gradually less and less representative of local, east bay issues..imo But I stll think the potential is there and even the failed insurrectionaist strategy has an upside in that there is buzz and momentum, but it will take more than that to even get to the next level, let alone win..

      As far as point 3 and 4,,I am in the building mode..even this article in my mind was for that..I think we get in collective ruts, and our strength is in diversity of ….ideas..which lead to actions…I am very hopeful for the movement, and I spend a lot of time working on it so I should be..Point four, I think that there is a vanguardist mentality that permeates OO at this point, but it can be easily shifted by bringing in more people and continuing to be innovative with our system…we are working on a lot of decentralized stuff, (neighborhood GA’s gatherings and festival, and community building campaigns) and we think that there should be a way of coordinating and strengthening eachothers innitiatives, and I even think that a lot of people are ready to implement new ideas…So part of that is being willing and able to dislodge peoples vanguardist mentalities, and I supppose that anyone could start getting vanguardist..my main definition of vanguardist is making decisions for other w out consent, and without democratic process….that happens in many ways..

      as far as 5 and 6, no we haven’t been taken over by a vanguard, but…..there are a bunch of people in one committee who have much shared history and ideology, and I don’t think that it is unfair to assume that they are working in concert with eachother, and based on the experiences of the other writers of the article, all of whom were involved with the Move in Committee, there was a lot of underhanded, and overt displays of vanguardism, and reltively uncivil behavior…thus this article..Personally I am ready to do a lot of new exciting stuff…I don’t expect people to see my version of the so called conspiracy, but I have talked to enough people, and seen enough with my own eyes that I am ok putting it out there….I hope to find ways of working with people such as yourself who have thought out disagreements, but also share the same goal of a strong, world changing movement in Oakland.

  29. #65 by Summerspeaker on February 13, 2012 - 9:37 pm

    I’m not a fan of using “juvenile” as a slur. Agism/the oppression of those coded as children isn’t a joke. To contrary, I’d suggest it’s one of the foundations of heteropatriarchy and capitalism. I’m inclined to believe the charge vanguardist co-option (doesn’t that always happen?) but I don’t see anything wrong with bragging about trashing city hall.

    • #66 by zappa montag on February 15, 2012 - 5:33 am

      Ok..that was probably me..something to think about…

  30. #67 by ruc2 on February 13, 2012 - 9:48 pm

    it was ironic to read this letter about “undemocratic behavior” having seen the so-called “oakland radicals” in action. i was at the move-in assembly meetings where they attempted to unilaterally alter the proposal that had been approved by the #OO GA. the proposal as passed by the GA (http://occupyoakland.org/2011/12/proposal-for-the-taking-of-a-large-social-center-for-occupy-oakland-10-in-queue-for-december-7-ga/) was to take an empty building to serve as a social center and headquarters for #OO. but starting in the first meeting of the move-in assembly (that is, the body that constituted itself to carry out the proposal that had already passed the GA, not to come up with a new or different or better proposal), jan gilbrecht in particular repeatedly intervened in order to change the proposal. jan thought it was a bad idea to take a space and transform it into something that would serve the needs of #OO and the wider community. instead she wanted to plan for #OO not to stay in the building, to take it only temporarily, for a day or so, and then leave. she refused to accept the fact that this wasn’t actually what the proposal said, and she continued to interrupt the meetings, both in person and over email, until it got to the point where she was actively preventing the move-in assembly from doing the planning work it needed to do. in other words, jan thought she knew better than the rest of #OO. whatever we may think of what happened on #j28 and whatever the “oakland radicals” say in their letter, what they’ve attempted to do in actual fact is go behind the back of and undermine the GA.

    • #68 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 14, 2012 - 1:49 am

      wow. light shined on the ugly truth. this is priceless. i’m wondering if you’ve been in the discussions in which some of these folks are crying that they were pushed out of the planning sessions. now i can see why that may’ve needed to happen.

      i didn’t like the overall plan, and certainly didn’t like the threatening press statement, but i supported those who did the work because we all agreed to back this idea, and because i could not take on this project myself.

      my deepest thanks to you for telling this. i hope you go to every site where this is reposted and repost this explanation.

  31. #69 by Jan Gilbrecht on February 13, 2012 - 10:17 pm

    RUC2: That is a complete mis-characterization of my role and stated positions within the Move-In committee, and I have emails and honest participants and witnesses who will back me up. Some of the proponents and proposers kept adding “anything goes” to the list of what would happen in the building, like for example child care, without consulting the childcare committee or having that be part of the initial proposal, or housing without addressing the serious issues with violence at the old encampment. I pointed out that it was hubris for the Move-In committee to decide on behalf of the community what would happen in the building. My proposal was to build for a very large Move-In action and community festival for the weekend, with a mass GA to be held each night, where members of the community could make proposals for the future of the building and then make decisions and commitments together. Rather than a distraction, many many people agreed with or also proposed this type of an approach, and a committee actually came up with a list of proposed housing guidelines to present to the GAs. Someone was identified to facilitate these mass GAs. Actually, it was one of the central proposers and planners of the action who told me personally that he didn’t care what we said would happen in the building, because it wasn’t about holding the building anyway, that would never happen. He thought we should say whatever people wanted to hear to get them out that day. That is exactly the kind of dishonest approach that caused me to withdraw from the Move-In action.

  32. #70 by zappa montag on February 13, 2012 - 10:35 pm

    Testing. Testing…Zappa here. Thanks for the commentary, support, and principled critique…and everything else…I am still learning some of the technical aspects of this blog. We have more writing projects in mind, such as a critique of the local Non Violence movement, and movement building strategy ideas…we are also looking for material..we want this to be a place that gives us a radical window to many worlds..I will try to respond to some of the questions that I have knowledge around soon. thanks

  33. #71 by Andrew on February 13, 2012 - 11:00 pm

    Thank you for writing this very honest, intelligent assessment. The belligerent reaction of some of our fellow activists on this thread only reinforces that this is a necessary conversation. Those who equate tactical and strategic critique voiced by people loyal to the movement with City Hall/corporate media etc. are not doing their own views any service. If you really think that the tactic of provoking state repression through propagandistic stunts will be more effective than the patient base-building argued for here, have the courage to argue that. Don’t try to slander honest comrades while hiding your own identity, don’t attempt to shut down debate with Stalinistic
    hysterics about Cointelpro– this is not only unproductive, it’s cowardly. OO desperately needs an honest, fraternal debate about our strategy to grow this movement and make it more effective. Nobody is being ‘othered’ here– rather than taking things personally, why not take the high road and reflect honestly on some widely-shared concerns from fellow radicals who– just like you–want to see OO succeed?

    • #72 by Sean Kline on February 13, 2012 - 11:05 pm

      ¡Spot on!

  34. #73 by Carl on February 13, 2012 - 11:06 pm

    As an occupy activist in the northwest, I appreciate the Oakland Radicals starting this discussion. In general, I agree with most of what they say. In addition,I personally believe that non-violent tactics are the ones that will gain us the most support. There are a LOT of different people in the 99%. In a not-so-radical corner of the country I hear a lot of concern regarding OO’s recent tactics.

  35. #74 by John Tango Iversen on February 13, 2012 - 11:14 pm

    I agree with the sentiments of the letter and I think you represent far more than a small group of Oakland radicals. You represent the sentiments of 1000s in Alameda/Coco County. I think Boots Riley and the foreclosure group of OO and others groupings like this that 1-connect with community groups; 2- provide immediate aid to people losing their homes; 3–actions which most of the 99% can agree with. If you are worried about the police, follow the examples of the Black Panther Party and American Indian Movement, and I m presuming Brown Berets and Young Lords. Also use of the word FUCK is only going to alienate a lot of potential allies. And assume that there are police agents involved to rachet up the violence and use swear words rather than a reasoned argument. John Iversen, co-founder ACT UP East Bay, Berkeley Needle Exchange, HealthNet HIV Patients Union. Also a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe who spent 7 weeks inside Wounded Knee 1973.

    • #75 by zappa montag on February 15, 2012 - 5:22 am

      Thanks for this! To all the Oakland Radicals!!

  36. #76 by Jeff T (blue skateboard guy) on February 13, 2012 - 11:26 pm

    Greetings … I’ve been to lots of Occupy Oakland events and occurrences … O25, O26, N2, N7, J28 … a few GA’s … etc. anyway, what I’m thinking right now … after reading all of this above and the recent Chris Hedges piece and all the responses to that and so forth … is this:

    There has to be some way to promote a broader group (with broad appeal and lots of openness and a commitment to nonviolence) and to at the same time promote more autonomous groups that will sometime need to embrace organizing around small affinity groups. Everybody needs to have more respect. I feel that what the original letter brings up is valid in some ways, because it is what they experienced. Their experience and their perceptions are valid, even if they are not totally accurate. There is no need to insult them. At the same time, they shouldn’t have been so quick with the labels and all the anti-intellectual rhetoric and so forth. Still, there is a kind of pure-ism … a kind of hardening of ideological and/or tactical thinking that has created very separate cliques that are fast losing the ability to communicate with one another.

    We need both a movement that is broad and sort of “feel-good” if you will … open … committed to certain principles that always guide and characterize their events. This is the big umbrella .. the big tent … the coalition. It can’t be too rigidly stuck in one ideology or another and the language and tactics involved have to be inclusive … open … public. And, when this, the larger entity has events and they decide (via consensus) that they would rather not have any property destruction or offensive behavior directed at the police and so forth at these big (coalition building and community outreach type of events) … (which can also be civil disobedience actions or marches that are designed to shut something down … etc.) … anyway, when the big groups says, “hey, let’s have a day with a positive, less confrontational tone” – we should all be able to come together and respect that. If it’s November 2cd, for example, and the big group is enjoying a giant turnout and they actually shut down the port that day … then, leave that alone. Let that be the narrative for that day. … Plan your building takeover for another day. If the cops aren’t beating anyone or releasing any gas on a day like that – then, why provoke them or call them crappy names. Invite them to join the movement (I know that sounds naive and reform capitalist of me) .. but, hey, respect the tone of that day. In Seattle 99, we said, “respect the tone of your zone.” I would say that this is true of certain days or events as well. Timing is everything. Even Sun Tzu agrees – timing is everything. And respect is also really important. There just needs to be a lot more in the way of diplomacy and the language of inclusiveness and trying to understand where the other is coming from … all around. And, we as a movement, need to be able to take different approaches at different times. Imagine if when the police where trying to kettle us in somewhere – we all went silent and became still behind our shields and orange chairs … and then, just stared at them and waited in total silence. I digress … My original point for this paragraph was that every event doesn’t have to turn into visible clashes with the police or fall into the tactic of property destruction. We should have some family friendly outreach days and there is nothing soft or dumb about this. It’s what we might call, “a diversity of tactics.”

    And, on the other hand, when some property destruction occurs and the press is busy condemning the “violence” of Occupy, no one from within our movement should jump on that band wagon. No one should start accusing those that take actions they don’t particularly like as being from someplace else or being juvenile. No one should say anything to the press about it – if they don’t like it. Save your critiques for the next GA. And use the positive sandwich approach and be respectful. Focus your criticisms on particular behaviors or the particular timing of things that were done … etc. Avoid name-calling and demeaning language. The knee-jerk reactions to things that have happened (even before we have known who was responsible or what really happened) have also been very destructive and have really diminished the overall good vibe at Occupy Oakland events … on some occasions. This should be avoided. Take a deep breath, find out the facts first … take a step back … and, then, offer your constructive critiques. And, always suggest positive alternatives whenever you feel it necessary to criticize the actions of others. Never feed the media negative stereotypes or repeat them. … The fact is, we need all kinds of events and tactics in order to face our herculean task of overcoming corporate dominance.

    To be fair, January 28 was advertised as a day to takeover a building .. a move in day. So, that is probably going to entail a confrontation with the status quo. It is a risky venture. It might not go well. So what! What’s the big deal. When the smoke settles and it’s time to reflect, think about supporting those that are still in jail before jumping the bandwagon of criticism that was (from what I saw) mainly fueled by the MSM. Why should we, who claim to be in the movement, be the ones repeating misinformation and divisive rhetoric? It doesn’t make sense.

    There is room for and a need for events and actions that are broad, safe and united … and for those that are autonomous and more directly confrontational. Let’s have respect for all of our brothers and sisters. And, let’s try and figure out ways to make our actions more effective, to support each other … to allow for autonomy but to also be able to come together for big events as well. Let’s have appealing messages and outreach and let’s have targeted actions by autonomous affinity groups. It can all work together … RESPECT!

    • #77 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 14, 2012 - 2:00 am

      like

    • #78 by zappa montag on February 15, 2012 - 5:24 am

      Nice post. thanks..I think we can build the kind of movement you are talking about but we have to be tough and honest and transparent to get it done..

  37. #79 by javart on February 13, 2012 - 11:50 pm

    Aggressively defending ones self from attack is hardly radical or anarchistic, it is a human instinct. Running away screaming while being hit in the back with tear gas canisters and batons is NOT pacifism, it is just running away. I never have the intention or desire to fight cops at these actions, but i find myself under physical attack when participating in one of the most important political strategies available to us citizens. Bless all those who understand what the reality on the ground is, OPD is breaking the law when they attack us, plain and simple. We have no one to turn to for protection, so we take care of each other. Love to all involved, stand up straight and move forward.

  38. #82 by Maxina Ventura on February 14, 2012 - 12:46 am

    2/13/12 Maxina Ventura,

    who helped establish Occupy Berkeley with my three children, who camped with them there much of the first month, and still regularly the rest of the 43 or 44 days of the encampment, and was at camp for part of every day, our family still involved. Our family kicked off the Solidarity Knit-ins still happening with yet another couple boxes to be sent off next week. See http://www.occupyberkeley.org and scroll down for an article, then click on ‘knit-in’ on the right of the main page for the flyer. Our own website, http://www.occupyknitin.org , should be up this week. And look out for an upcoming McDonald’s action which is likely to be called as a national action by OB and a nationwide planning working group for actions March 3rd (all that’s bad about McDonald’s and all we’d like to see taking place instead where they are located) after the knit-in, to feed into the OB dance benefit that night at the Sawtooth building, and the March 4th day of skills sharing being planned by Bay Area Occupiers, all of which will be feeding into our national month of earth actions kicked off nationwide March 24th, leading toward Earth Day April 22nd.

    I did not say that it was all instigated by these young people but made the statement that it was not only instigated by cops, a popular misconception parroted ad nauseum.

    Here’s what I wrote: <>

    Yes, many of these young people who are of the same group that was in Oakland (moved over when the Oak. camp was shut down, then back to Oak, when OB was shut down) called themselves Blac Bloc, and some identified as Juggaloes.

    There were both kinds of experiences… New Year’s Eve cops restrained themselves completely, even when people were pounding on the glass doors of the cop shop on a Fuck the Police march. They continued to restrain themselves from any acts of violence beyond what is societal violence of the existence of police forces. This seemed to enrage protesters more. Once the march was back at the plaza with no overt police violence or threats, cops standing waaay back and away, though present in small numbers, there came bottles over heads not too far from where we were, in fact, and right near some bicyclists. Still, no cop action.

    I know people who were boxed in at the action recently, and sprayed with tear gas. I’m not suggesting that the Oakland cops aren’t overall a violent lot but people have to take some responsibility for our own actions, too. Even cops are human beings and if you taunt anyone enough, she/ he is likely to snap. So it’s also only honest to look at the whole of the actions, not only one OO action as though it stands alone. The recent action was full of violence perpetrated on, once again, mostly completely nonviolent protesters but this action followed weeks of Fuck the Cops marches. I wasn’t going to go to that march because I’d read flyers for it and recognized the silly talk about the cops “taking our homes”. These people writing that were writing about the plaza where the camp was. Homes? It just wreaked of whining. Like some of the same people who were screaming at media people who were photographing at OB, like they had been screaming at media people in Oakland. So you set up a tent in the plaza or park (after telling me that a bunch of you gave up apartments and were couchsurfing between OO and OB, demonstrating that, in fact, you have many options, unlike the homeless people you got sent out into the cold without cover of tents at night). So suddenly you are declaring the plaza or park home? Whine whine. Some people really do live at the plaza, or at the park. Not these people. And their actions made life more miserable for people who have lived for years at either location. What gets lost is the opportunity for the important topics which need public airing, such as the increasing militarization of local cop forces. Any serious chance at widespread discussion about this is lost as people are busy debating who threw the first blow: cop? protester?

    If we will not admit that any person can snap after too many threats, aren’t we just a tad unrealistic? If we cannot look at the emotional context of our actions, we become a caricature, a bit of a joke.

    Here’s where I’m coming from: I spent an afternoon in June with one of the couple of people who strategized the uprising’s beginnings in Cairo and looked at where there is a bullet lodged, still, in his head. I heard much detail from him about the principled actions that took place, the careful use of defensive actions to safeguard protesters, but specifically designed not to do any major harm to anyone, including cops or military people, the use of broken tiles to keep them away, for instance, what would hurt but be unlikely to harm in any serious way the way they used them in spite of these activists suffering the slaying of friends and neighbors all around them. I have been writing back and forth with another Egyptian activist who has been witness also to the horrors in Egypt as people are demanding some of the most basic things in life. I get angry when I am around people acting like every day at Occupy Oakland the cops are coming at them as though it’s a surprise. They are doing some wonky idea of civil disobedience, I guess, but aren’t bothering to learn about any history of c.d. in this country, let alone elsewhere, and are about acting out against mommy and daddy (commonly heard at OB: “We don’t like parents”). Another 200 Syrian protesters were killed a week ago or so, and these young people here are trying to create cop scenes. At OB, I watched the eviction unfold after packing up as much as we could of our kitchen gear, tables, and various other resources. No riot gear, just a couple cops up front, doing the city manager’s bidding. Yes, they could have decided not to work that night, but remember that by this time, most of the core of OB couldn’t even defend trying to keep the encampment part of OB because this group had torn things so completely apart, creating a place way too dangerous for my kids and me, for instance, to continue camping out. That says a lot. And yes, one of them lost it, you might be aware, using a club at someone’s neck. Yes, sick, and he is a particularly violent one who especially should have no job on the streets, but other than that, how many hear the back story of how things came down that night? The eviction notice was 100% unequivocal. A letter from a city council person days before someone had knifed someone in that circle, had suggested that if the violence that had erupted was not quelled, the city was likely to have no choice (as they would put it) other than to shut down the camp. The knifing days after that letter was the final straw that broke the camel’s back and resulted in the eviction notice based on the spike in violence since that group had arrived. This was not an unexpected event but more important, this was precisely what this group said it wanted. The cops as a group came in very quietly, not posturing and not escalating beyond the fact that they were removing tents, but remember, OB people had removed our tents, info booth, kitchen gear, etc. There were but a few tents left as most people, including most of that group, actually, had taken their tents, taken OB kitchen gear, and had run. These people had repeatedly NOT id’d as OB, kept saying they were OO. OO people coming to OB to visit over weeks were giving us their apologies that we now were dealing with the very ones who’d brought down OO. Anyway, when the cops came, they were absolutely swarmed by people who had nothing to do with OB, had never set foot in OB in many cases, as some said when I asked. They’d responded to some call put on on Facebook. The people who set in motion this whole thing were for the most part non-existent in the camp that night. They were off like a dirty shirt, as my dad used to say. Nowhere to be seen.

    The big hulking question we as activists need to confront is whether we must accept anyone at all in our organizing circles and act in solidarity with them. For me the answer is: absolutely not. I can act in compassion for people without being forced to spend enormous (or any) time with them. We live in a wrecked society. Only the most pious Catholic anarchists I know would be willing to live with some of the people with whom I don’t want to spend time in the same room. But that is their choice, and the same people do not expect that I am going to invite into my family’s home some of these people; they recognize that each person does what she/he can do. But the deep question is whether we are willing to allow people who bully to have their way, and what do we suppose we should gain by doing so?

    For those who are young alienated people on the streets including people id’ing as Blac Bloc, in a way it isn’t so deep a political thing as people might want to make it; these kids haven’t been parented and I feel sorry for them (our society faces rich and poor kids and kids in between all being abandoned to consumerism) but speaking as a parent here I’d say what they need is to be stopped cold in their tracks. They are looking for boundaries and how funny that the movement that could change their lives for the better instead lets them keep spiraling out of control. It’s what I associate with liberalism; refuse to confront problems for what they are, then act all befuddled when you have a mess on your hands. On the other hand, perhaps this is the deepest of politics because it goes to the intersection of family and society.

    In a way, they are welcome to do what they want, if alone, right? I mean, if they don’t drag others into it. But what goes on here is that people are afraid of taking the reins and saying, “Just stop it. People are dying in many countries around the world fighting for something serious and you’re doing what?” These people’s actions are cheap and selfish. That’s my bottom line. Put out facts about the dangers of the chemical cocktail called tear gas. Don’t throw things from the middle of a crowd so that tear gas gets thrown in, launching more people into MCS. Take personal responsibility. If you think throwing bottles and breaking windows is a good strategy, I’m all for hearing your analysis. I have stood up publicly for people who have chosen breaking windows as a tactic, in some cases, when it has been done in a way which does not threaten to cause harm to anyone by the action, or responses to it. So talk to me. I am part of the Plowshares movement, for godsakes. I believe in property destruction, certainly, but not randomly and once again, not if it means that anyone might be harmed as a result of my action. I have repeatedly, and within this movement, begged to differ with people who say that breaking windows is violent. I give them some of my analysis and though they might feel differently, at least their minds seem to open some.

    What is missing from these people about whom we’ve been speaking is that any sense of personal responsibility is absent from their speech and actions. Solidarity is a word they do not know. In a way, I do not want to afford these people all this energy, but I keep seeing people letting bullies off the hook. I want people to open our minds and dig deeper and stop being afraid, as I think many are, to have to do the hard work of standing behind excluding people from organizing or actions. It doesn’t fit our activist self images. But what I look at is all the really great people who were getting involved who left OB because of those people. It would be tempting to say that these people were not committed enough, or didn’t care, but I would say instead that many of them had better senses of self than many activists and weren’t going to waste their time on a lot of crap, which is that to which things were turning. My hat was off to them for knowing their own limits. That is a skill many of us could stand to develop in our lives.

    **********

    Taking from what I wrote on the list in response to someone excerpting out of Osha’s (Counterpunch) article without referencing him, or his history, I will include Blac Bloc by name here in a slight edit. I want more people to be thinking about responsibility of parents when talking about people who identify as Blac Bloc or Juggaloes. Speaking from experience at Occupy Oakland, while of course we have always to look at and confront the military state in all its forms, yes, much of the violence perpetrated at OO actions, as well as at Occupy Berkeley and Occupy SF, WAS engaged in fully by, if not always instigated originally by, a lot of alienated young kids. It serves absolutely no one any good to say it was only the cops. I was in the middle of living with these people in our encampment at Occupy Berkeley. The really sad thing is that some of them will end up in prison for some time for what they have done, but why are so many people so afraid to call an ace an ace? I was in the middle of an OO demonstration where bottles were being thrown at cops from the middle of a crowd, what anyone can witness by watching livestream videos which show many examples over many months of actions. Yes, cops are being paid to do any number of things, assuming restraining themselves from “losing it” would be somewhere on that list, but they are human beings. You want a violent scene? it’s always easy to create that with cops if that’s the goal.

    The violent actions which have NOT been perpetrated only by infiltrators or agents of the state, have not been revolutionary. These are mostly suburban, bored kids (I include outerlying areas of Oakland and SF and as part of the suburbs, in fact most of the acreage of the city). My analysis would not be like most people’s; these kids have been willingly abandoned by their parents who have put consumerism before their kids. Therefore, they have the monster houses, the multiple new cars, all the new electronic toys, but what they don’t have is their families together. So they go looking.

    What we endured at Occupy Berkeley when these people arrived was like watching a gang form. People feeling alienated from families and society were banding together to form their sick version of family. They were stealing from everyone, ransacked and stole our most basic kitchen supplies such as pots and propane, and said this was Occupy and they could take anything they wanted. And guess what? Apparently, their perceived right to take anything included women. There was a particular fondness for violence toward women in that crowd, with the strangling of one, attempted rapes, and verbal harassment as icing on the cake. Still, we never called in the cops ourselves as our security team worked to get such perpetrators out of camp (with this group inviting the same people back in) but it was so violent that people within that little circle started calling the cops themselves! For 6 weeks prior we’d kept cops out not because there were no problems but because we chose to take time 24 hours a day to deal straight up with those problems (I was one of those people often up doing middle of the night shifts). I was out there camping with my three kids.

    But that young crowd was an entitled, bratty, but also distinctly violent crowd and they had as a group the stated intention of getting OB raided. There were some decent people within, trying to affect some internal changes but just about all gave up and left .

    When we confronted them about their complete lack of solidarity for those who unlike them had no good options, reminding them that if the camp were dismantled all the homeless people who’d gotten help would be tossed back to the streets and the chill nights, they didn’t care. Not one bit of care. So they did their yelling about being evicted, which was precisely what they had repeatedly stated was their goal, then whined that the camp was to be dismantled (they used the word ‘raid’), but they all fled to leave the actually homeless people stranded. It was OB people who helped the actual homeless people get packed up and made sure as many as possible had at least tarps with them, as they headed into the hills and back to be under freeway overpasses.

    There is nothing romantic about allowing immature entitled people to run roughshod over the good work tens of thousands have been doing in just the San Francisco Bay Area. As a parent, I see the movement not “getting” that the kids allowed to bully others gain nothing from it but more alienation. It’s heady times for a few people but won’t be so heady when inmates laugh their heads off at the stupidity of these people when they get to prison. People in jail and prison often have lots to say about actions on the outside and have excellent analysis. I feel sorry for the young people dragged into this stuff, being used. And I keep scratching my head at the enraged comments showing up in Letters to the Editor from parents in suburbs and around the city talking about “those” young people, trying to convince themselves that they played no part in creating the very alienation which leads to young people being vulnerable to agents provocateurs, or those who identify as Blac Bloc and insist that their hiding behind masks and throwing bottles or rocks or molotov cocktails is in any manner acceptable.

    And may I vent just a little more? That these people call themselves anarchists is a big joke. Anarchism is about taking personal responsibility for what needs doing around us, and for our actions. Hiding like cowards behind masks at Occupies in the U.S. in this time period cannot be compared to people hiding behind masks to save their lives in several countries around the world. I see a mask at an action here, and by experience of dealing with mask-wearers over decades I know that this person is likely to have come from the suburbs originally (as in any area, regardless whether within, say, Oakland boundaries, which is not in a more urban, dense, part), has way too much time on his (or her) hands, and this is the person who is most likely to be a sponge expecting everyone to take care of not only his/her needs, but desires. These were the people whining at Occupy Berkeley that they “needed” coffee, demanding that that’s how we spend very, very limited camp money, but you can bet they were never short of pot, alcohol, or any variety of drugs. We had started the Occupy Berkeley camp talking of the entitlement of the 1% and when that Blac Bloc group “came to town” we found ourselves using that word ‘entitlement’ as often
    about these people.

    Some of us have for months discussed the benefits we would see having an affinity group/ spokescouncil structure. Throughout the Bay Area, and indeed throughout the Occupy movement, we have thousands of longtime anti-nuke activists steeped in this structure, and true consensus process decision-making which with this structure can allow for decisions which will be acted upon by thousands. This is no utopia, but what we have done in the middle of the Nevada desert almost a quarter century ago, long before cell phones, and with the nearest phone an hour away. It’s honestly democratic decision-making.

    As I said first week of the camp, when difficult decisions were being made minute by minute over scarce resources since everything was going to Oakland, and to SF, very few people providing any material support to Occupy Berkeley (which began with some of the Cal and Berkeley City College and Laney students who were part of OB and later began the OccupyCal actions), when a group does not make public decisions and solid policies, hierarchies develop. I was making the point that without clear decisions, individuals or very small groups make decisions on the fly which in effect suggests hierarchy. It’s the hierarchy of availability, which is exactly why OB faltered all over the place for months in terms of logistics; yet, we have always had a dedicated, very interesting core group which in many ways is like an affinity group, in spite of having some absolutely varied strategies and tactics. It is quite possible to work in solidarity when people actually have some unified overall goals in mind. It is impossible for anyone seriously to say that most of the Occupy movement would want there not to be cop forces in society; yet, an affinity group could take the time to develop useful analysis on the importance of this possibility and provide that to people within the movement as food for thought. Within the context of affinity groups and spokescouncils, it is possible they could still do their Fuck the Police marches as a means by which to vent (or via the spokescouncil nonviolence guidelines created might preclude that) but if they wanted to smash windows but potentially not be seen as just reckless vandals, they would agree to do any actions which might include property destruction well away from the other actions, and within a nonviolent movement, they simply would have to agree not to do actions which would in any way be likely to harm others at the demonstrations, or people in any buildings they’d target. If they couldn’t agree to that simple foundation, is there any reason any of the rest of us would see any gain suggesting they are even remotely under our umbrella? They can take a new name and stop being users. But by our experience, we know they are unlikely to stand back on their own; the rest of us have to take the reins and refuse to allow them to appear to be part of OO or OB or OSF… because they are not.

    It’s that simple. Really, it is. Time for more to say it publicly and move on to real work ahead.

    Maxina Ventura

  39. #83 by Maxina Ventura on February 14, 2012 - 12:48 am

    Oops… can you ad after the intro:

    Sorry… I was cutting and pasting some things and forgot to write that in!

    Thanks,

    Max

    • #84 by Oakland Radicals on February 14, 2012 - 1:28 am

      Maxina, we are not moderating comments but for some reason yours required permission; I think it’s too long. Can you please try posting it again, maybe in smaller sections?

  40. #85 by Jonathan Nack on February 14, 2012 - 12:52 am

    This open letter provides an important analysis at a critical juncture – thank you. I think the vision it puts forward for OO is compelling.

    Anarchists have been at the center of the OWS movement all across the country. The impact of anarchists of all stripes have had in creating and building this movement, that has generally been so terrific and inspiring, and still has tremendous potential, must not be underestimated. I gotta give em props.

    The influence of anarchist ideology is evident in the form and structure of many local Occupy groups across the country. Much of it has been positive. As a result, for better and for worse, there are certain sacred cows that have emerged in OWS movement.

    One of the OWS sacred cows is that our movement has no leaders. I understand the appeal of this, but I’ve always thought it was BS. In my 35+ years as an activist, I’ve never known of any people’s movements which didn’t have leaders. I’ve participated in OO actions and some GAs and I can tell you that OO has leaders.

    What proclaiming that we have no leaders really means is that we have no accountable leaders. I’m sympathetic to building organizational structures which attempt to minimize and mitigate against hierarchy and which favor maximum participatory democratic and consensus decision making. However, I think accountability of leadership is just as important. In reality, I don’t think we will accomplish the other organizational goals without accountable leadership.

    When there is no accountable leadership, negative group processes such, as those described in the letter, are free flourish. Unaccountable leadership is dangerous leadership.

    The letter’s call for inclusionary approaches to building OO could not be more timely.

    • #86 by zappa montag on February 15, 2012 - 12:18 am

      Yes> Inclusionary pracitices and transparency are key. I think that we undersaztnd the need for people to take on leadership roles at different times, but it must be above board, and in ways that exert the will of the movement.

  41. #87 by Maxina Ventura on February 14, 2012 - 12:54 am

    Weird… the line I typed to add did not show up in the oops email. Can’t imagine how that happened but here I go again:

    Thanks,
    Max

  42. #88 by Mord Ulrike on February 14, 2012 - 1:14 am

    “The visible committee”? You must be trolling son! Tiqqun writes your name on the bottom of their oldest shoes!

  43. #89 by ruc2 on February 14, 2012 - 1:17 am

    @Jan Gilbrecht: good job of completely ignoring my comment. i don’t need your honest witnesses or emails because i happened to be there myself and have all the emails as well. anyway, my comment didn’t have anything to do with discussions about what would happen inside the occupied building. as you’ll recall, the proposal didn’t specify anything about what would take place inside, just that there would be room for sleeping and enough space for GAs. the rest was up to the move-in assembly to work out. what was not up to the move-in assembly was re-writing the original proposal as it passed the GA, which called for taking over a building and using it as a social center and headquarters. in the context of the move-in assembly, you pushed over and over, in real life and in emails, to change the proposal — without going to the GA! — to take the building for only two days.

    it’s just funny that you guys are posturing and calling “undemocratic practices” and “non-democratic behaviors” when your own interventions are about circumventing the GA.

  44. #90 by John Reimann on February 14, 2012 - 3:42 am

    I agree with a lot of this open letter, but the question is what are we going to do about it.

    By the way, I just recently put together a pamphlet called “The Politics of Occupy Oakland – a Marxist Viewpoint” which also makes some of these same points but goes more deeply into the politics involved. I’m happy to e mail a pdf of it to anybody who wants to see it. I’m out of the country for the next 10 days but would be very interested in meeting with Occupiers who are interested in discussing how Occupy Oakland can move forward. This would include discussing plans for May 1.

    • #91 by zappa montag on February 15, 2012 - 12:22 am

      I think our goal is to organize harder, and push for transparency in OO. There seems to be a lot of momentum for this. And May 1st should be on the immediate agenda as well. Keep us posted.

  45. #92 by Maxina Ventura on February 14, 2012 - 4:06 am

    2/13/12 Maxina Ventura,

    who helped establish Occupy Berkeley with my three children, who camped with them there
    much of the first month, and still regularly the rest of the 43 or 44 days of the
    encampment. Our family kicked off the Solidarity Knit-ins, still happening. See http://www.occupyberkeley.org and scroll down for an article, then click on ‘knit-in’ on the right of the main page for the flyer. Our own website, http://www.occupyknitin.org , should be up this week. Look out for an upcoming McDonald’s action which is likely to be called as a national action by OB and a nationwide planning working group for actions March 3rd after the Knit-in (all that’s bad about McDonald’s and all we’d like to see taking place instead where they are located), to feed into the OB dance benefit that night at the Sawtooth building, and the March 4th day of skills
    sharing being planned by Bay Area Occupiers, all of which will be feeding into the national month of earth actions kicked off nationwide March 24th, leading toward Earth Day April 22nd.

    Some of what I wrote on a listserv (have to get it to the blog in pieces):

    I did not say that it was all instigated by these young people but made the statement
    that it was not only instigated by cops, a popular misconception parroted ad nauseum.

    Here’s what I wrote:

    Yes, many of these young people who are of the same group that was in Oakland (moved over
    when the Oak. camp was shut down, then back to Oak, when OB was shut down) called
    themselves Blac Bloc, and some identified as Juggaloes.

    There were both kinds of experiences… New Year’s Eve cops restrained themselves
    completely, even when people were pounding on the glass doors of the cop shop on a Fuck
    the Police march. They continued to restrain themselves from any acts of violence beyond
    what is societal violence of the existence of police forces. This seemed to enrage
    protesters more. Once the march was back at the plaza with no overt police violence or
    threats, cops standing waaay back and away, though present in small numbers, there came
    bottles over heads not too far from where we were, in fact, and right near some
    bicyclists. Still, no cop action.

    I know people who were boxed in at the action recently, and sprayed with tear gas. I’m
    not suggesting that the Oakland cops aren’t overall a violent lot but people have to take
    some responsibility for our own actions, too. Even cops are human beings and if you taunt
    anyone enough, she/ he is likely to snap. So it’s also only honest to look at the whole
    of the actions, not only one OO action as though it stands alone. The recent action was
    full of violence perpetrated on, once again, mostly completely nonviolent protesters but
    this action followed weeks of Fuck the Cops marches. I wasn’t going to go to that march
    because I’d read flyers for it and recognized the silly talk about the cops “taking our
    homes”. These people writing that were writing about the plaza where the camp was. Homes?
    It just wreaked of whining. Like some of the same people who were screaming at media
    people who were photographing at OB, like they had been screaming at media people in
    Oakland. So you set up a tent in the plaza or park (after telling me that a bunch of you
    gave up apartments and were couchsurfing between OO and OB, demonstrating that, in fact,
    you have many options, unlike the homeless people you got sent out into the cold without
    cover of tents at night). So suddenly you are declaring the plaza or park home? Whine
    whine. Some people really do live at the plaza, or at the park. Not these people. And
    their actions made life more miserable for people who have lived for years at either
    location. What gets lost is the opportunity for the important topics which need public
    airing, such as the increasing militarization of local cop forces. Any serious chance at
    widespread discussion about this is lost as people are busy debating who threw the first
    blow: cop? protester?

    If we will not admit that any person can snap after too many threats, aren’t we just a
    tad unrealistic? If we cannot look at the emotional context of our actions, we become a
    caricature, a bit of a joke.

    Maxina Ventura (cont’d in another posting)

  46. #93 by Maxina Ventura on February 14, 2012 - 4:08 am

    continuation:

    Here’s where I’m coming from: I spent an afternoon in June with one of the couple of
    people who strategized the uprising’s beginnings in Cairo and looked at where there is a
    bullet lodged, still, in his head. I heard much detail from him about the principled
    actions that took place, the careful use of defensive actions to safeguard protesters,
    but specifically designed not to do any major harm to anyone, including cops or military
    people, the use of broken tiles to keep them away, for instance, what would hurt but be
    unlikely to harm in any serious way the way they used them in spite of these activists
    suffering the slaying of friends and neighbors all around them. I have been writing back
    and forth with another Egyptian activist who has been witness also to the horrors in
    Egypt as people are demanding some of the most basic things in life. I get angry when I
    am around people acting like every day at Occupy Oakland the cops are coming at them as
    though it’s a surprise. They are doing some wonky idea of civil disobedience, I guess,
    but aren’t bothering to learn about any history of c.d. in this country, let alone
    elsewhere, and are about acting out against mommy and daddy (commonly heard at OB: “We
    don’t like parents”). Another 200 Syrian protesters were killed a week ago or so, and
    these young people here are trying to create cop scenes. At OB, I watched the eviction
    unfold after packing up as much as we could of our kitchen gear, tables, and various
    other resources. No riot gear, just a couple cops up front, doing the city manager’s
    bidding. Yes, they could have decided not to work that night, but remember that by this
    time, most of the core of OB couldn’t even defend trying to keep the encampment part of
    OB because this group had torn things so completely apart, creating a place way too
    dangerous for my kids and me, for instance, to continue camping out. That says a lot. And
    yes, one of them lost it, you might be aware, using a club at someone’s neck. Yes, sick,
    and he is a particularly violent one who especially should have no job on the streets,
    but other than that, how many hear the back story of how things came down that night? The
    eviction notice was 100% unequivocal. A letter from a city council person days before
    someone had knifed someone in that circle, had suggested that if the violence that had
    erupted was not quelled, the city was likely to have no choice (as they would put it)
    other than to shut down the camp. The knifing days after that letter was the final straw
    that broke the camel’s back and resulted in the eviction notice based on the spike in
    violence since that group had arrived. This was not an unexpected event but more
    important, this was precisely what this group said it wanted. The cops as a group came in
    very quietly, not posturing and not escalating beyond the fact that they were removing
    tents, but remember, OB people had removed our tents, info booth, kitchen gear, etc.
    There were but a few tents left as most people, including most of that group, actually,
    had taken their tents, taken OB kitchen gear, and had run. These people had repeatedly
    NOT id’d as OB, kept saying they were OO. OO people coming to OB to visit over weeks were
    giving us their apologies that we now were dealing with the very ones who’d brought down
    OO. Anyway, when the cops came, they were absolutely swarmed by people who had nothing to
    do with OB, had never set foot in OB in many cases, as some said when I asked. They’d
    responded to some call put on on Facebook. The people who set in motion this whole thing
    were for the most part non-existent in the camp that night. They were off like a dirty
    shirt, as my dad used to say. Nowhere to be seen.

    The big hulking question we as activists need to confront is whether we must accept
    anyone at all in our organizing circles and act in solidarity with them. For me the
    answer is: absolutely not. I can act in compassion for people without being forced to
    spend enormous (or any) time with them. We live in a wrecked society. Only the most pious
    Catholic anarchists I know would be willing to live with some of the people with whom I
    don’t want to spend time in the same room. But that is their choice, and the same people
    do not expect that I am going to invite into my family’s home some of these people; they
    recognize that each person does what she/he can do. But the deep question is whether we
    are willing to allow people who bully to have their way, and what do we suppose we should
    gain by doing so?

    Maxina Ventura (to be continued in next blog comment post)

  47. #94 by Maxina Ventura on February 14, 2012 - 4:11 am

    Continued from past post:

    For those who are young alienated people on the streets including people id’ing as Blac
    Bloc, in a way it isn’t so deep a political thing as people might want to make it; these
    kids haven’t been parented and I feel sorry for them (our society faces rich and poor
    kids and kids in between all being abandoned to consumerism) but speaking as a parent
    here I’d say what they need is to be stopped cold in their tracks. They are looking for
    boundaries and how funny that the movement that could change their lives for the better
    instead lets them keep spiraling out of control. It’s what I associate with liberalism;
    refuse to confront problems for what they are, then act all befuddled when you have a
    mess on your hands. On the other hand, perhaps this is the deepest of politics because it
    goes to the intersection of family and society.

    In a way, they are welcome to do what they want, if alone, right? I mean, if they don’t
    drag others into it. But what goes on here is that people are afraid of taking the reins
    and saying, “Just stop it. People are dying in many countries around the world fighting
    for something serious and you’re doing what?” These people’s actions are cheap and
    selfish. That’s my bottom line. Put out facts about the dangers of the chemical cocktail
    called tear gas. Don’t throw things from the middle of a crowd so that tear gas gets
    thrown in, launching more people into MCS. Take personal responsibility. If you think
    throwing bottles and breaking windows is a good strategy, I’m all for hearing your
    analysis. I have stood up publicly for people who have chosen breaking windows as a
    tactic, in some cases, when it has been done in a way which does not threaten to cause
    harm to anyone by the action, or responses to it. So talk to me. I am part of the
    Plowshares movement, for godsakes. I believe in property destruction, certainly, but not
    randomly and once again, not if it means that anyone might be harmed as a result of my
    action. I have repeatedly, and within this movement, begged to differ with people who say
    that breaking windows is violent. I give them some of my analysis and though they might
    feel differently, at least their minds seem to open some.

    What is missing from these people about whom we’ve been speaking is that any sense of
    personal responsibility is absent from their speech and actions. Solidarity is a word
    they do not know. In a way, I do not want to afford these people all this energy, but I
    keep seeing people letting bullies off the hook. I want people to open our minds and dig
    deeper and stop being afraid, as I think many are, to have to do the hard work of
    standing behind excluding people from organizing or actions. It doesn’t fit our activist
    self images. But what I look at is all the really great people who were getting involved
    who left OB because of those people. It would be tempting to say that these people were
    not committed enough, or didn’t care, but I would say instead that many of them had
    better senses of self than many activists and weren’t going to waste their time on a lot
    of crap, which is that to which things were turning. My hat was off to them for knowing
    their own limits. That is a skill many of us could stand to develop in our lives.

    Maxina Ventura (to be continued in blog comment post)

  48. #95 by Maxina Ventura on February 14, 2012 - 4:14 am

    Last bit:

    What we endured at Occupy Berkeley when these people arrived was like watching a gang
    form. People feeling alienated from families and society were banding together to form
    their sick version of family. They were stealing from everyone, ransacked and stole our
    most basic kitchen supplies such as pots and propane, and said this was Occupy and they
    could take anything they wanted. And guess what? Apparently, their perceived right to
    take anything included women. There was a particular fondness for violence toward women
    in that crowd, with the strangling of one, attempted rapes, and verbal harassment as
    icing on the cake. Still, we never called in the cops ourselves as our security team
    worked to get such perpetrators out of camp (with this group inviting the same people
    back in) but it was so violent that people within that little circle started calling the
    cops themselves! For 6 weeks prior we’d kept cops out not because there were no problems
    but because we chose to take time 24 hours a day to deal straight up with those problems
    (I was one of those people often up doing middle of the night shifts). I was out there
    camping with my three kids.

    But that young crowd was an entitled, bratty, but also distinctly violent crowd and they
    had as a group the stated intention of getting OB raided. There were some decent people
    within, trying to affect some internal changes but just about all gave up and left .

    When we confronted them about their complete lack of solidarity for those who unlike them
    had no good options, reminding them that if the camp were dismantled all the homeless
    people who’d gotten help would be tossed back to the streets and the chill nights, they
    didn’t care. Not one bit of care. So they did their yelling about being evicted, which
    was precisely what they had repeatedly stated was their goal, then whined that the camp
    was to be dismantled (they used the word ‘raid’), but they all fled to leave the actually
    homeless people stranded. It was OB people who helped the actual homeless people get
    packed up and made sure as many as possible had at least tarps with them, as they headed
    into the hills and back to be under freeway overpasses.

    There is nothing romantic about allowing immature entitled people to run roughshod over
    the good work tens of thousands have been doing in just the San Francisco Bay Area. As a
    parent, I see the movement not “getting” that the kids allowed to bully others gain
    nothing from it but more alienation. It’s heady times for a few people but won’t be so
    heady when inmates laugh their heads off at the stupidity of these people when they get
    to prison. People in jail and prison often have lots to say about actions on the outside
    and have excellent analysis. I feel sorry for the young people dragged into this stuff,
    being used. And I keep scratching my head at the enraged comments showing up in Letters
    to the Editor from parents in suburbs and around the city talking about “those” young
    people, trying to convince themselves that they played no part in creating the very
    alienation which leads to young people being vulnerable to agents provocateurs, or those
    who identify as Blac Bloc and insist that their hiding behind masks and throwing bottles
    or rocks or molotov cocktails is in any manner acceptable.

    Maxina Ventura of Occupy Berkeley

    • #96 by Laurence Schechtman on February 14, 2012 - 8:41 am

      Thanks Max,
      Your essay is brilliant and heart felt.
      Let me add the following.

      To organize or to posture, that is the question. The convention building COULD have been taken over if there had been 20,000 people surrounding it. …….. In Argentina, for example, factories taken over & run by workers were successfully protected by mass mobilization by the neighbors of the factory. ………. So how do you produce that kind of mass involvement? By showing everyone you are tough enough to fight the cops and trash city hall? Or by going out to the neighborhoods and struggling for THEIR needs? By reoccupying foreclosed homes and, less dramatic, by PREVENTING foreclosures and evictions. By organizing food gardens and neighborhood co-operatives. And, most important, by ASKING neighbors what they need. Sustained organizing is harder than fighting or trashing, put it is the ONLY way that we can build to the point where major actions can succeed. We can turn large buildings into Social Centers, as has happened in Italy hundreds of times. But first we have to do the organizing work. ……… Getting into fights before we have won over the population will usually lose, and it is just what the establishment WANTS us to do. Which is why they pay agents to push us in that direction. I have personal experience there. …….. I’m not making any accusations here. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take many agents to push angry people in their desired direction. And away from what should be OUR direction, which is organizing.

  49. #97 by Black Light on February 14, 2012 - 4:25 am

    Solidarity Forever. All Power to All the all the People!!

  50. #99 by Alex Fraser on February 14, 2012 - 5:00 am

    The whole point of the Occupy Movements is that they long term non-violent testaments, inclusive of anyone for peaceful change, rejecting violence in all its forms. That is what is new about the Occupy Movements. As soon as people start smashing windows because it makes them feel good, the whole thing begins to become counter-productive.

  51. #100 by Citizen on February 14, 2012 - 6:50 am

    Here, here! A big thank you to the authors of this letter. For far too long Oakland’s image has been tarnished by anarchists and street thugs. I remember the devastation those kids caused a couple years back when that young man Oscar Grant was mistakenly killed. Where were all the protests and the riots for the dozens of innocent people killed by street thugs in East Oakland? Now it sounds like the anarchists who shut down Bart have formed an unholy alliance with the very same trash that came out to loot and pillage out of nonsense and hatred. Don’t these people love Nelson Mandela??!! What would he say about all of this violence? I was happy when OWS started, I’ve been affected by this Great Recession, too. The big banks need to be punished for what they did to all those people’s homes. But when the lunatic fringe took over here in Oakland, I was appalled. OWS isn’t about the police, or racial divisiveness, it’s about non-violence and hope and change from within. I say, identify these so-called “anarchists” and their homeboy thug comrades and purge them from OO. AND JUSTICE FOR SCOTT OLSEN! I support OPD and all police, but that veteran deserved better. He was caught between the anarchists and the cops. Not his fault!

    • #101 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 16, 2012 - 1:51 am

      ‘Oscar Grant was mistakenly killed’??? are you serious? oscar grant was murdered by bart police. scott olsen was injured by opd, as was i, as were many others that day and since, because that’s what opd does. you must be living in an alternate universe inside your head.

  52. #102 by wendy davis on February 14, 2012 - 6:53 pm

    Good job on posting this, Radicals. This conversation has to happen.

    A few thoughts from a strong Occupy supporter:

    I’m supremely uncomfortable about the new crap (IMO) morality that some here are espousing, namely that: (a) any critique of conduct by other protestors amounts to ‘selling out your comrades’ and is effectively deemed ‘immoral’, and (b) the arguments that police and government have enacted policies, or even de facto policies that are violent, or amount to violence against our citizens…makes it okay to use even limited violence fighting back…okay. That’s sophistry, IMO, because it can lead you anywhere on some violence apologist continuum, which is seriously not what #Occupy is about.

    I also believe that O Oakland and O Seattle, maybe others, may fail to consider how actions that look like rioting affect the democracy movement as a whole. Dunno what standards Occupy NY finally ended with, but at the time their general assembly declined to sign on to full-tilt nonviolence, they sincerely admonished everyone to consider the wider, and possibly lasting, implications of any and all actions they undertook as individuals.

    Clearly police or other agents of DHS, FBI, who knows, have been unmasked as provacateurs in actions around the country, and while some pragmatists note that masked black bloc insurgents can invite more masked provacateurs into the crowds, it seems forgotten that over-relying on the fact government agents are likely committing vandalism, violence, whatever…also does provide *cover* to those who committ acts that are purposely confrontational, and serve to diminish more massive participation by the very citizens we need to help engage in massive civil disobedience.

    • #103 by zappa montag on February 15, 2012 - 4:39 pm

      A broad discussion on strategy would be most welcome. I also think that there may be three major wings in terms of the violence debate…I find myself somewhere in the middle…my main concern has been with safety and participation so I have generally been in the NV camp strategically, but I also don’t believe that we have the time to train people to be effective as mass NV disobediance on a scale that will be effective, andtherefore we have to consider all tactics..which to me means a lot more than street brawling. I think there may need to be a way to separate actions and grouping more specifically for certain campaigns.

  53. #104 by Jan Gilbrecht on February 14, 2012 - 8:00 pm

    To our non-violent “supporters”: In the same spirit as Cheryl’s fine comments from yesterday, I want to point out that we authors of the Open Letter in no way intend for it to be seen as a call for adoption of non-violent tactics.

    While we each may feel differently about the subject, we are in agreement on one point – that this debate about questions of tactics is serving to obscure more fundamental issues about the strategic focus of OO, the role of a vanguardist grouping and mentality within the center of OO and the impact of this on community inclusion in all decisions, both strategic and tactical.

  54. #105 by wendy davis on February 14, 2012 - 8:52 pm

    @ wiseoldsnail

    It occurs to me that the Oakland Radicals have the courage and integrity to name themselves, while you try (and succeed at) dominating this entire thread as a pseudonym. While I’m mindul of the tradtions of pseuds in the blogosphere, I find this difference…enlightening as to your character (or not).

    • #106 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 16, 2012 - 1:54 am

      don’t you worry. the folks who penned this public complaint know full well who i am. if you don’t, that doesn’t bother me, since, name public or not, i don’t know you. responding to other people’s comments, including chiming in to say i like or agree with or disagree with someone’s comments, is not the same as domination. you know nothing of my character. but now i know a bit about yours.

  55. #107 by Tom Brown on February 15, 2012 - 1:09 am

    The Oakland Radicals’ call for “radical inclusiveness” reminds me of why I got involved in Occupy in the first place and I think it’s a good starting point for building (or rebuilding) the movement. Although I favor non-violence as the best tactic for any social movement, I see the point of not excluding the possibility of autonomous actions or diversity of tactics. However, those tactics should be consistent with and appropriate to the overall goals of the group, as determined by the democratic GA process.

    When I read the Bay of Rage statement, I was really bothered by it’s apparent lack of respect for this democratic process. In the end, it calls for violence for it’s own sake: “With your friend or even alone: smash, attack, expropriate, blockade, occupy.” That’s not a social goal, it’s adulation of tactics.

    Jeff T. above suggests that there’s a time and place for diversity of tactics and from his level of detail you know he’s been there and done that. I appreciate Jeff’s call for mutual respect in this movement and wonder how that can be achieved for the Oakland Occupy group.

    • #108 by 99%er on February 15, 2012 - 1:26 am

      With the elections coming up, the kind of sensational thrillseeking that is seen coming out of Oakland is really going to hurt us. Obama may not be the best President, but we can’t let Mitt “I like to fire people” Romnet get his hands on the levers of our country. Scenes of violence, rioting, the theft of public property like the Kaiser building, these images will hinder our ability to fend off the Tea Party. Let’s unmask the anarchists and let the police department deal with them. From what it sounds like, most Oaklanders don’t want these nihilistic teenagers around anyway. Thanks again for representing the 99 percent!

      • #109 by Maxina Ventura on February 15, 2012 - 2:00 am

        Just a reminder: anarchism is not the issue. Anarchism has many definitions but chaos is not one of them. In fact, anarchists in the anti-nuke/anti-draft/anti-militarism movement(s) have been some of the most organized of any activists over many decades, and have been inclusive to the extent of welcoming anyone who is of like mind enough to agree to a fundamental principle of nonviolence. The discussion then becomes deep about what constitutes nonviolence. People can explore shades of grey and can figure out ways to work together. People yelling about smashing and destroying may just be venting, but they are not taking responsibility for the reality that others may do what they are suggesting, even if they might not. Anarchism includes as a most basic tenet taking personal responsibility for our actions.

        Maxina Ventura

      • #110 by Oakland Radicals on February 15, 2012 - 2:07 am

        @ 99%er: Sorry, but I am not going to discuss national electoral politics, which I personally feel to be irrelevant.

        Every person with a mask is not a nihilistic teenager, and I wouldn’t turn my worst enemy over to OPD.

        The Kaiser Center belongs to the public; we are the public. An example of theft of public property would be the bank bailouts.

        Occupy Oakland, despite its faults, really will keep trying to represent the 99%. Obama and Romney represent the 1%; it doesn’t matter which of them “wins.” They have both been vetted and deemed acceptable to the oligarchy.

        -Cheryl

      • #111 by wiseold snail (@wiseoldsnail) on February 16, 2012 - 2:00 am

        i am so happy to find myself agreeing with cheryl about this.

    • #112 by Oakland Radicals on February 15, 2012 - 1:57 am

      Tom, thanks for recognizing the nuances in this conversation. I agree that the Bay of Rage post seems to celebrate violence for its own sake – and that’s not why I got involved in Occupy. I live in East Oakland, where 15 people were shot over a recent 72-hour period – including four just a few blocks from my house. The violence in our city is relentless. After climbing a fence to escape tear gas during the building occupation and returning home only to hear gunshots and sirens and helicopters, I have violence fatigue. And I can’t imagine anyone who lives in my neighborhood wanting to come down and join Occupy Oakland if all they know about us is what they’ve seen on TV lately.

      I would be the first to acknowledge that 99% of the violence associated with Occupy Oakland activities has been perpetrated by the police. I have watched the police assault protestors in situations where they were simply gathered at the plaza or marching or assembling, where even the most principled pacifist would agree that nobody was being “violent.” And I’ve seen OPD use the pretense of a water bottle thrown at their riot helmets to begin attacking whoever was close at hand. So I am not able to defend their behavior under any of these circumstances; it is abhorrent.

      On the other hand, we don’t have to provoke the police to riot with every action that we undertake. The General Strike and the second Port Shut Down drew sufficient people to force the police to stand down. We might have occupied Kaiser Center if we had 5,000 or 10,000 people instead of just 2,000, and if we had enlisted support by better explaining why there was moral authority in taking an empty building – as opposed to making ridiculous threats and then retaliating by trashing City Hall and burning a flag. No, property damage is not violence. But it is a stupid distraction.

      In answer to your question of how we can achieve mutual respect: I don’t know. I’m gratified by the support we have seen to this Open Letter here and elsewhere. Responses from people who perceive themselves to be among the targets of the letter make me think that those positions are pretty entrenched; they really believe that OO is headed the right direction and, in the case of some of them, have come right out and said that people like us are easily replaced.

      -Cheryl

  56. #113 by Radical Realist on February 15, 2012 - 6:11 am

    The questions of strategy are worth discussing.

    The character assassination against academics and anarchists (not by name) as a ruling clique ignores the fact that these are the very folks that had the audacity to call and organize the first encampment and the successful “general strike”.

    The grand gesture of taking the civic auditorium, (which is closed because of a failed attempt to privatize it by the Brown administration and not in any meaningful sense a public building any longer) was beautiful, but the cops and the city beat our ill-organized, badly planned effort.

    We do need to look at our strategy and at the weaknesses of our tactics but we don’t need to eat each other alive in the process. I’ve been irked and irritated by anarcho-lenninists (“everyone has to do what i say but no one can tell me what to do”) but our collective errors and weakness are far deeper than the political /psychological elements discussed above.

    the unions which did come out to support the general strike also need to engage in some self criticism, the NGO’s which had a flurry of involvement after the first eviction could also be invited to some public soul-searching–and speaking of soul, the interfaith committee was a shining example of non-violent practice–but where were all these armchair pacifists during the long period between december 12 and january 28 as the non-violent vigil was crushed by police raids and city harassment.

    we don’t need a blame fest, we need forward looking proposals.

    onward to May Day! Occupy, Decolonize, Liberate. It’s going to be a long process

    • #114 by zappa montag on February 15, 2012 - 6:25 am

      Thanks…A couple of things…not calling anarchists was intentional..anarchy is not the problem at OO..anarchists are a big part of what holds OO together…I am an anarchist myself…There is some critiques of how anarchism plays out in Oakland, but that wasn’t the point of this article in particular…just pointing to Vanguard tendencies, lack of broad organizing, and the use of undemocratic means to control certain actions, and mariginilize dissent…We have a lot of ideas though, and are ready to get moving…and yes other groups probably do deserve self critique..we do plan on taking some issues in here, as well as offering solutions..we also want more atilces or op ed pieces from fellow radiclas of all stripes.

    • #115 by Jan Gilbrecht on February 15, 2012 - 4:10 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Radical, and yours too Zappa. First, I want to make it clear that I am writing as an individual from my own point of view only now.

      You raise the chicken/egg question of why the lower numbers – have people walked away from OO because of short attention span, MSM lies, the cold, etc., or, as I feel, have folks been pushed away by a process which I first saw demonstrated at the very large GA after the General Strike where there were two proposals presented regarding non-violence. There were over a thousand people there. Many people were like me – they came because they were unhappy with the destruction that accompanied the Anti-Capitalist march and the Traveler’s Aide takeover and thought this was an important discussion to have. I personally did not support the NV proposals because I did not think we needed to draw lines or have big general debates, but I did think voices needed to be heard on this issue. At this meeting I saw folks booed, jeered, verbally and physically assaulted and threatened and literally driven away from the meeting to the cheers of others. Yes, most of these folks were older like me. I personally knew or knew of many of them from their long histories as radical anti-capitalist activists in the Bay Area. Many of these folks never came back to another meeting after that.

      I have heard and read comments by a number of our self-proclaimed OO leaders – they named their own names – that OO has “rejected the 99% meme” and we know that “a lot of the 99% are our enemy” and won’t be down for the fight to come, “only want to see a return to the 1990s”. They aren’t willing to have the community “dictate” what OO is. Great, these make good bumper stickers, but misapply these pat, trite sentiments and you get the situation we face now.

      In what world do we think that we need to start drawing the line within the 99% at long time local anti-capitalist radical activists who are down for a lot of militant activity but don’t appreciate random property destruction? We need to spend our time and energy “purifying” the GAs and Committees of these elements?

      I really want to own the ways in which I personally was drawn into this cycle of personal attack/retaliation. For example, immediately after being booed and jeered while speaking at a Move-In Assembly post J28, I was confronted by one of our self-proclaimed leaders who had previously called me out as classist and racist in an email sent to the Move-In listserv. At that moment at the MIA she decided to publicly accuse me of being in the Communist Party. I responded by calling her the B word, at a pretty high level of volume. I feel very badly that I sunk to that level, but that was provocation beyond my level of tolerance, because, you know, I’m not really a very non-violent person. So me personally, I’m very reluctant to participate in the future unless there is some kind of recognition and repudiation of this kind of behavior, because I personally don’t function well in that environment. But since the goal really is to exclude participation by people like me, there is not a lot of incentive from those at the center, on committees, playing the game, even just sitting by while others get booed and run out to even acknowledge that this behavior goes on or that self-advanced leaders and “theorists” of OO such as the one I described should be held accountable.

      • #116 by Maxina Ventura on February 15, 2012 - 4:42 pm

        This sounds so familiar. And at OB one guy called me a backstabbing lying sociopath and whatever else amounted to about 1000 words or so of similar stuff because early on after seeing him take money after money, saying he was part of the Financial Working Group (was not), the FWG made up of people not camping, so not seeing what was going on, got himself into the position of being given an additional $50/day by the FWG to buy supplies for camp. He was not spending anything close to that and was not producing receipts so I went to a G.A., confronted him straightforwardly about this, and proposed that he not be allowed to handle OB money any more. The proposal was passed easily as many had been experiencing the reality of his not buying even the basics needed for camp, and evermore he was having tantrums at G.A.s and doing diatribes on the google group. It took 4 months for OB to get up the spine to decide not to allow him these outlets for his hatred or sickness or whatever else. But we got there, ridiculous as the timeline was.

        The process we are going through is messy and difficult, and involves ironies many have trouble facing. Refusing to allow certain people to be part of something appears to be less than anarchism in people’s eyes, and many of us have id’d as anarchist for decades. But let’s look at it another way. Say you form a band. If someone doesn’t like your music, doesn’t have even a sideways ability to stay in tune BUT more importantly doesn’t have any interest in trying to build that skill, you have the desire and possibility of doing great stuff with your band, making music that brings people together, maybe vents the horrors of the world in a way that can reach people when some speech or book will not, are you going to let that possibility be upended by someone who seems to be about being in some spotlight and your band is only the vehicle for that? Don’t think so. You politely and straightforwardly have to say, “Sorry, but this isn’t working out. We’ll be parting ways now.”

        How many of us have done this in romantic relationships? Probably most reading this. You want to work to see if there is good to salvage, but if it becomes clear that there is not, you don’t stay unless you are bullied. Once you’re out, you can extend yourself to do good in the world rather than just trying to survive ,which is where I see OO, and where until recently I saw OB. Having lived through a relationship of domestic violence, I associate what has been happening within OO and OB and other OO’s as reminiscent of that kind of bullying relationship, but with thousands of abused people trying to find their way out; yet, there are kids in the picture (our movement) and it’s not so easy as walking away. So we’re here now, and we have been digging out from under debris to find a good way for the future. Staying in a bad relationship where the person (or people, in this case) on the other side will not acknowledge their part in the plummeting relationship, it becomes more than clear that it’s time to part ways. That’s what we’re all in the process of doing.

        Thanks, OR, for getting more of this discussion onto the table.

        Maxina Ventura
        Meanwhile, come on out to our Knit-in Saturday by the Farmers’ Market just west of Berkeley BART, noon-3. If you don’t have yarn, we have some donated yarns and loaner needles. We will be packing up boxes for a couple other occupations to get them sent out probably that day, or in the next week. You can send some solid solidarity to people around the world. Bring a chair or blanket.

  57. #117 by Tom Brown on February 15, 2012 - 6:24 pm

    I’m hoping the rift between factions in Occupy Oakland can be healed and believe this kind of dialogue is helpful. Wikipedia editing rules ask editors with different points of view to “assume good will” and not to engage in personal attacks. That approach seems to apply here.

    My own understanding about what it means to be “non-violent” or an “anarchist” in the Occupy movement has been deepened by an open letter David Graeber wrote in response to Chris Hedges on this very subject. The Ocean Beach Rag blog publishes both here:

    http://obrag.org/?p=54470

  58. #118 by Ethan Nebelkopf on February 16, 2012 - 7:04 am

    This is a fascinating conversation to improve the local movement toward social change and economic equity. The current movement needs to build on the successes of previous movements. The Bay Area has always been on the forefront of change. OcOak has had spectacular successes and devastating blunders. Transformation is not easy, takes patience, time, wisdom, and heart. I appreciate the opportunity to re-examine some basic assumptions and shift course to embrace and rally greater community involvement and improved relations with the media, nonprofit sector, people of color, Native Americans and public infrastructure.

  59. #119 by sandra a smith on February 16, 2012 - 10:51 pm

    Since I personally occupy an apartment in Berkeley, and haven’t been to any

  60. #120 by sandra a smith on February 16, 2012 - 11:03 pm

    any of your meetings, I cannot comment on your interactions, but notice the readers of the Tribune supported Occupy overwhelmingly.

  61. #121 by Richard Estes on February 22, 2012 - 12:15 am

    Jan, Cap, Cheryl and zappa; if interested in a radio interview this Friday at 5pm about this statement, please contact me at restes1960@yahoo.com

  62. #122 by Aryt Alasti on February 29, 2012 - 9:25 pm

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  1. Occupy Oakland activists take up the question of decision-making « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist
  2. A response to the “Oakland Radicals” « Occupied Oakland Tribune

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