Two Issues; Only One is Important

There was a lot of bullshit at the “fuck the police march”. I think throwing bottles from behind, and doing other childish hijinks and disappearing into the crowd is the height of immaturity. What’s more, its difficult to believe that with all the antagonisms people of color in our group rightly have against police after lifetimes of abuse, its almost always young white people doing this crap. Seriously, I find the fake, tough machismo bullshit, the costuming, the fact that these people only lead the crowd when they manage to get in front of its retreat is one of the most grating and annoying thing I’ve ever witnessed. This isn’t an issue to me of violence vs. non-violence—I hate that asinine conversation, with its disregard for physical, mental and economic violence from authorities and its hysterical preoccupation with property damage and shattered glass. Rather, this issue is of silly posturing and directionless strategies vs. intelligent use of diversity of tactics to further goals.

That all being said, its not anywhere near the most important issue. Nothing matches or excuses the brutality of the police. OPD beat protesters and shot sub-lethal rounds at people who had assembled non-violently using the acts of a few as pretext. Police must know that the people they’re attacking are almost never the ones that hurt their feelings, frighten them with their ominous kerchief masks and dark clothing, or stain their uniforms with soda from a bottle broken harmlessly against their kevlar.

After the march, I saw one of the OG kitchen people at the plaza; he’s been an integral part of the camp from the beginning. His arm–in a sling–was likely broken from baton strikes he received when he saved a friend and fellow kitchener from beating and arrest from the police. Incredibly, these two occupiers then brought a gigantic stock of cast-off muffins and pastries from a local bakery to feed people at the plaza. THEN they went to Highland. As much as such people have been the heroes of this movement, they are also the ones who’ve experienced the most danger, violence, intimidation and incarceration from this brutal police force.

You can hear Leila tell her story about what happened on Oakfosho’s livestream at 53:28.



25 thoughts on “Two Issues; Only One is Important

  1. Wow. This blog kinda outlines everything I’ve been trying to straighten out in my head for weeks. On a personal level, I’m really against violence in all forms. I’m also opposed to non-artful vandalism. I’ve been upset with black bloc since they smashed and ran on Nov 2. Not because I liked the windows, but because they got to go home and leave the vulnerable people of OGP in direct danger at the hands of OPD. But WHY should these innocent people feel unsafe when the police show up? Police are meant to protect the public, and the homeless/mentally ill need protection much more than the rest of us. Some of our people might be loud, angry and destructive, with some troubling thoughts and backgrounds… but it’s their own personal business. Theoretically, if you do not involve yourself in their questionable or illegal actions, you should be safe. OPD is violently attacking, destroying property, arresting and terrorizing innocent Oakland citizens when the mission statement of the job is ‘to serve and protect’. We can be a messed-up crew at times, but at least we’re not getting paid to be bad. Oakland Police make good money by doing evil to the People of Oakland, and that’s more fucked up than anything that an Occupier will ever come up with.

    Oh, it seems like I’m tied to a wordpress account here… but this comment has been brought to you wholeheartedly and soley by rainbow-haired Liz.

  2. I greatly admire people who are are willing to stand up for their beliefs, put themselves out there, and try to change things. I recently took my kids to the circus, and there were a bunch of animal rights protesters outside it. I really respect them, but have different priorities. The thing is, my kids really loved the circus, watching with joy and wonder. If some animals have to suffer for that, it is unfortunate but so be it. Sorry for being somewhat off topic, but I’m bored.

  3. To show up to a march called “fuck the police” and complain about bottle-throwing is just asinine. Everybody should have understood, given the week of repression, that people would attack the police last night. Now, I wasn’t there. And perhaps some people threw bottles from deep in the crowd. I’ve seen that. People need to be careful about “friendly fire.” It’s a big problem. But by implying that this was the general case, you perpetuate stupid mythologies about the bad, nasty (white) black bloc and the poor, vulnerable people of color. I also think there’s just a general misunderstanding about why people do the things they do. Someone who is wearing all black (not for “costuming,” but to avoid getting arrested) and throwing bottles isn’t going to stand right next to the cops, or in the front of the crowd, for the obvious reason that if they do so they will be snatched. . .Finally, if you were out during any of the Oscar Grant riots, you’d know that your claims about the race of those who do or do not throw shit is total bullshit.

    • Sorry, they were mostly white. I saw them. And talked to them–for the last three months, in almost every instance in which I’ve seen this, its been the case. I wrote here about throwing bottles from within a crowd. I also said that i don’t think that throwing bottles and other such things is inherently wrong. I also don’t think that a “fuck the police” march has to throw bottles, any more than it shouldn’t; these are your assumptions, based on the fact that you think that this is an anarchist movement. Its not, nor should it be. If I wanted to sit in a room full of college-educated, affluent white people, I would have been politically active all this past decade, instead of incredibly turned off by the tone-deaf inability of cadre groups to get working class and people of color to realize how wonderful they are. And I actually experienced the last week of repression, throwing things at the police was the last thing on my mind. Rather, I wanted to make sure that people involved in our movement–some of whom have been arrested two or three times already and/or face greater time in the system because of previous run ins with police–didn’t disappear into the system like others before them. And that we don’t keep draining our resources on bail and legal fees.

      Over the past months, I’ve come to appreciate some anarchist ideals, and even cherish them. It doesn’t mean I buy the whole thing lock, stock and barrel. Nor does it mean that I won’t challenge certain ideas as counter-productive and traditional, rather than effective and meaningful. Feel free to talk to me about it any time.

      • I didn’t deny that they were white. I denied the implication that only white people do this, which is false, in my experience. The sad fact of the matter is that the marches, actions, and events that Occupy Oakland does have gotten much whiter over the last months — at the port this was quite clear.

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with throwing bottles or rocks from within a crowd, as long as you’re close enough to the edge that you’re not going to hit people on your side. I can show you videos of people doing this –non-white, white etc. — in all sorts of places, all over the world. I don’t think this is an “anarchist movement.” (I’m not actually an anarchist). The only reason you could infer that from my statements is if you think throwing shit at cops is the exclusive province of anarchists, of college-educated people, or affluent people. But it’s not, it’s the pastime of proletarians the world over, and no matter how many times you repeat this stuff — which is, let’s remember, the official line the city and the press used during the OG riots: “out-of-town” professional anarchists — you will not make it true

  4. Finally, my assumptions about the obvious militancy of the march come from the posters used to promote it. Again, my point is not that the march *must* throw bottles but that being surprised by such bottle-throwing, given the context, the name, the propaganda, the discussions about it in advance on public fora, is nutty.

  5. I’ve actually thrown my share of rocks, dude, so you don’t have to convince me. My comment about that being anarchist was that the title of the march necessarily inferred lobbing things at the police. It doesn’t. I was trying to figure out in what context that meaning is inherent, so I assumed things about that statement and you, unfairly. But otherwise, I can’t figure out how the title of a march inherently predisposes it to one type of protest or another.

    Also, i didn’t make any of the remarks about out of towners–unless you think calling someone white means they’re from out of town. And I actually heard more than one passer-by say, “its some anarchist blah-blah”, so at least i know my ignorance is shared by the proletarians around me. And what I wrote is not the official line of the city and police. Far from it. I think you should read the article again.

    • The official line of the police/press/non-profit-industrial complex during the Oscar Grant riots ran like this: out-of-town (this was code for “white”) anarchists come to these events to sow “violence,” leaving the people of the community (code for nonwhite) exposed, angry, etc. This was repeated in almost every article, press statement, etc., even when the images accompanying it were of black of Latino youth smashing windows or whatnot, youth who were then, once arrested, subjected to the racist justice system while their actions were attributed to “professional anarchists.” That’s why I find the line of description above very disturbing, because it’s part of a narrative about who does what that is not only false but takes agency away from people. . .

  6. Read what I wrote:

    “What’s more, its difficult to believe that with all the antagonisms people of color in OUR GROUP rightly have against police after lifetimes of abuse, its almost always young white people doing this crap.”

    The reason that people of color in OUR group, are not throwing things at police is because many of them have already been through the system. I speak only of my experience with Occupy Oakland. I wasn’t politically active at all during most of the Oscar Grant period, so I’ll leave that commentary to you.

  7. One more point: I wonder about the “disappearing into the crowd” theme. This has become a common criticism — or it was after Nov. 2. But is this cowardice? Or is it intelligently evading arrest? I’ve seen examples both, but there’s a weird implication in the sentence above that someone who does something — tosses a rock — should just stand there, rather than “hiding behind” people, and therefore “posturing” or being “fake”. But that’s what these kind of crowds can and should do — protect people from being singled out and arrested, allow folks to get away. You have to understand how cops work in this situation — their Tango Teams are designed to individuate people they deem troublemakers or who they think they know have done something and snatch them. . . It seems like, in many cases, we shouldn’t be chastising people for the techniques they use to evade arrest but rather trying to generalize them so that people can protect themselves.

  8. Its difficult to misunderstand the tactic. You’re right, its about evading arrest. But your comment about the crowd protecting the others indicates that without consensus on tactics being used–especially given time and space discussions that I thought had been very productive in the past three months–people are expecting others to have their backs NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO, WHEN, AND WHERE. When people do this kind of thing I have absolutely no trust in them–the fact that they then trust me to help hide them without conferring with me or anyone else about what they were going to do is “nutty”. There had been several conversations about time and space separation, I thought that the message had gotten through at Occupy Oakland and that it was productive. It seemed fair and it seemed to have a lot of consensus. If there was one thing I’m surprised at, its that people simply forgot this conversation when it mattered. If a small crowd wants to engage the police and get out of harms way, I’m totally supportive of that if the group they’re with reached consensus on doing that together. I probably won’t do it with them at this stage without clear goals or a discussion of why we’re doing it. I’m clear about that as well.

  9. As a person of color who participated in throwing shit at the police I think this played argument is ridiculous Jaime. This is the same exact argument used to pacify people we always here. Its extremely disempowering to poc’s who fight. when they tried a snatch squad last night folks including myself threw shit at them and it stopped their advances. It works. The only bullshit Iseen was from 4 folks (i wont name names) who I confronted numerous times last night for playing the role of peace police. They knocked over several women and scarred the fuck out people by targeting them in the demo toyell and scream. There were about 200 people there and 150 + wearing all black. The huge majority of them knew what the march was for and it was very clear from the start. If folks had any confusion about what the march was about they must’ve been drunk (which the peace police were) or not paying attention.

    • If your stated goal is to use that tactic to stop snatch squads, then that’s a great tactic for it. I didn’t see anything like that happen, though I’ll take your word for it if it did. What I saw had no objective. If you read the article, I actually advocate the use of such tactics when there’s a good reason. Stopping a snatch squad is a good reason, so we’re not actually in disagreement if things happened the way you claim.

      • Throwing shit at the cops doesn’t need a goal. The point of throwing shit at the cops is to throw shit at the cops. Even if it does “nothing.” After a week of getting beat on, it should surprise no one that people wanted to do more than march to the jail and chant. In any case, I’ve seen cops driven back by rocks and bottles. I’ve seen a cop in riot gear dropped to the ground by a projectile. This is not to say that one should always fight but if there was ever a time and place, this was it. You misunderstand the notion of separation of time and place: this was *clearly* both the time and place, announced about as clearly as it could have been.

      • No, it wasn’t announced, not clearly at all. Your assumption that everyone is on the same page, that they understand the rules of the game–also assumptions that “fuck the police” means throwing bottles at police, starting fires, etc, is a testament to the bubble you probably live in at the dorm hall you wrote this response from in Berkeley. I’m also getting annoyed at the people assuming that I’m not involved with the people who have been abused by the police. I;ve been spending 5-12 hours in the plaza for three months now.

      • Well, you set impossible standards for notice, then, Omar. No one is going to create a flier that says “hey folks, we’re going to fight the cops now, k.” I think you’re in the minority in expecting anything less. I haven’t spoken to many people who feel the same, even the nonviolent folks, who showed up *expecting* that this would happen, and intending to fight people. In any case, people who weren’t down with throwing bottles can leave once that starts happening. . .’If you stick around, I don’t see why others are responsible for that.

      • I don’t mind being in the minority. I’ve been in many minorities in my life, often those minorities end up being the mainstream view within a little while, that’s happened often in this movement. But I don’t actually agree with you. And certainly, given the exaggerated rhetoric that’s a part of this kind of tactic, no one can say that claims actually have anything to do with intentions, or with effects.

        Finally, you’re giving yourself quite a lot of power to dictate who gets to “speak” in a public demonstration. Apparently, the person who throws a bottle then gets to dictate who can be out on the street. There’s a name for that, it starts with an A and ends with an ism, but its not the one you’re probably hoping for.

  10. Doesn’t anyone remember the 99%? At one time, they were at least nominally connected to the Occupy movement. Ah, but those were the days—long, long ago. I’m sure no one who visits this site gives a shit about what I think, but I nevertheless include a link to my Allvoices article about Occupy Oakland’s New Year’s Eve FUCK THE POLICE march, where the American flag was burned.

    No doubt self-deluded Occupiers such as Jaime Omar Yassin—who seriously argues that FUCK THE POLICE is not an open invitation to violence—believe that burning the American flag sends just the right message to the vast majority in this country who increasingly despise and distrust Occupy.

    • “I’m sure no one who visits this site gives a shit about what I think”

      You got that right, cousin.

      Also, “Fuck the Police” was one of the greatest songs of the 20th Century. Also.

  11. I admire the TAC crew, Love those who are willing to confront the police, As i have since 1984, But the FTP march is a waste of time and resources, that plays right into the hands of our opponents.
    OPD are a gang of assholes and bullies, who have jerked us around at the bidding of our pathetic city government, but…..
    OPD did not restructure our economy over the last 30 years
    OPD Did not loot the treasury with a tax funded bailout.
    OPD did not slash our social programs, undermine our unions,export our jobs, wage aggressive illegal wars overseas for oil,
    OPD will not build the tar sands pipeline, or new coal fired power plants.
    OPD does not direct the capitalist system, they serve it.
    OPD will engage in, and enjoy jousting matches with OO for as long as we are willing to entertain them.
    The capitalists love that we switch our focus to their lackeys
    The capitalists love that undertake actions well designed to isolate us from the masses who come out to support us.
    The capitalists love that we spend ALL our funds on bail and legal defense.
    Lets take actions that build our movement and are directed to change the society we live in, confront the cops when we need to.
    I say Fuck The Police, and boycott the FTP march.

    • Actually, the OPD is an incredible drain on the city’s budget. I’ve noted it often; there’ve been 58 million dollars in lawsuit payouts that the city has had to fork over in the past decade. THat’s roughly twice of what city’s with double our population are paying out. OPD overtime in 2007–a period in which there were no “crisis” was 26 million dollars. Just today, a mass round of city layoffs were announced, but the OPD won’t be shouldering the burden of those cuts, because they’re not allowed to be layed off like other workers. They cost all this money, and yet Oakland has one of the biggest crime and murder rates in the country. And these costs don’t even reflect the repression that they visit regularly on poor communities in our city.

      If you don’t think that the OPD is looting the city’s treasury, then you really haven’t been paying attention despite what you’ve written.

      • I was referring to the federal bailout of the wanker bankers who sold us all short, but yes, you are right. OPD is wasteful, ineffective, and abusive. I’m hoping the federal judge takes over.
        Nevertheless I think that a weekly police centered event has no upside for us. Our comrades hurt or in jail, and the larger public wondering WTF? We are just playing into their hands.
        I know that there is no single vision of our strategy, that is one of our strengths, but, can anyone describe how a weekly clash with the cops fits into their strategy?

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