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Forum Post: SUGGESTION: Unmasking Vandalism and Violence

Posted 11 years ago on Nov. 3, 2011, 7:54 p.m. EST by NateNine (23)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Read any mainstream coverage of the strike in Oakland yesterday – “mostly peaceful” gets drowned out by “broken windows”, “graffiti everywhere”, “local businesses suffering”, “tear gas”, “bonfire in the street”, “rioting”. Even the most sympathetic coverage focuses on the actions of the radical fringe; they simply go on to state that a small group of “anarchists” are responsible well after the general public has already gotten entirely the wrong idea.

OWS will fail without widespread support. Ideologically, the American people largely share the core grievances being expressed by the majority of protesters, but if any act of violence or vandalism is committed anywhere near an OWS gathering, even if it is in no way endorsed by anyone else, that act is all the news media (and therefore the public) will see.

We’re all fed up with the status quo; that’s what OWS is all about. But what good does it do to deface a local bank branch with spray paint? What good does it do to smash a bunch of windows? What good does it do to terrorize a damned grocery store? Adolescent acts of vandalism and deliberate provocation of police will only make OWS go away, and then you rabble-rousers will be back to having no cover from which to commit your pointless acts of nihilism. Anarchy is not the solution, it’s not even a solution. If you abhor government so much, go join the Tea Party – the rest of us want to build a better world without burning the old one entirely to the ground.

Anarchists – settle down or get lost. This is not the moment when the American people rise up to spill the blood of the oligarchs we all fear and distrust, and trying to turn it into that will only kill the movement itself. If you want to be part of OWS that means helping it grow, not making it fail. GAs across the country are about to have serious discussions about the role of violence and vandalism in the movement, and I can already tell you what the majority will say: Those things have no role. They serve no purpose other than to inflate egos, as though painting a few swear words on an ATM makes you Che Guevara. OWS is and must remain a strictly non-violent phenomenon to survive, and that means no violence against people (no matter how vile) or property (no matter how vile its owners). If you prefer violent tactics to non-violent ones you have no place in OWS – go start your own movement and see how far it gets.

Everyone else – those people I just addressed? They’re still here. Some of them are actually hired agents provocateurs; most of them are probably just confused and small-minded people with more bottled up rage than common sense. Do. Not. Let. Them. Define. You. They’re not going away no matter how nicely you ask, either, because this is the first time in their short, addled lives they’ve ever been part of a crowd that would hesitate to stop them from being belligerent and openly destructive. It’s hard to stop someone you basically agree with who is resorting to methods you wouldn’t use, but you absolutely need to change that, and NOW. They aren’t just destroying bank facades and coffee shop windows, they’re destroying your only chance to make OWS matter.

Luckily, there’s a very simple solution to this issue. Anyone who wants to protect his or her identity with a mask should be given the right (even outside a “masquerade ball”), but should be treated with extreme suspicion by all other protesters. Use all those fancy smartphones and cheap digital cameras to keep tabs on these people at all times. Don’t let them blend with the crowd, form bubbles of accountability around them. If they do attempt to use their anonymity to commit a violent or destructive act, remember the slanted news media will turn this into an act of violence against you. Stop them. Tackle the idiots. Take away their masks. Shout “CAMERA!” Show the world their faces, and show the world you in no way tolerate their actions. Violence committed by one of you translates as violence committed by all of you in the minds of everyday people, and if you have to resort to a little violent tackling just to wage a successful PR war I don’t think Gandhi himself would revoke your satyagraha cards.

Physically stop all vandals and provocateurs. Knock the cans of spray paint out of anarchists’ hands. Unmask anyone who commits an act that you yourself would not commit. Don’t let people who only want to watch the world burn start by leaving OWS in ashes.



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[-] 1 points by DanaWard (1) 11 years ago

Equating vandalism with anarchism is, in a word, stupid.OWS is a horizontal, and hence anarchist, movement. Only a small minority of anarchists, over a very short period of time, advocated or engaged in violence. The great bulk of the modern anarchist movement is pacifist. The black block is only one element in a very diverse movement. Embrace OWS for what it is: an anarchist movement.

[-] 1 points by NateNine (23) 11 years ago

Perception is reality, Dana, and the perception outside of anarchist circles is that "anarchism" stands for the absence of a state or governing body of any kind, and that this necessarily implies the use of force by one individual to subjugate another in the absence of the rule of law. You may be a mutualist or anarcho-syndicalist or somesuch ready to supplant our warped form of capitalism with workable, pragmatic social and economic systems, but as soon as the word "anarchist" enters the conversation all most Americans picture is Mad Max shooting people for their petrol. Stop trying to reclaim a term that has only negative connotations and call yourself something more specific - if you're trying to build a better society instead of tearing the old one down, according to Mr. and Mrs. Middle America you ain't an anarchist.

[-] 1 points by kimlehmkuhl (1) from Pleasant Hill, CA 11 years ago

Love from the Bay Area! I think you hit the nail right on the head, and I wanted to let you know that I just reposted your thoughts for the #OO crew at: http://www.occupyoakland.org/2011/11/some-useful-insight-on-how-oo-affects-the-entire-movement-from-nyc/ #OO is ready to have a serious discussion about those fringe elements who are bent on provoking police violence -- which unfortunately is hella easy to do in Oakland -- at all costs, and I think that the clarification that our nonviolent approach does not preclude feeling empowered to stand up to provocateurs and demand accountability for their actions is a helpful place to start. Shit, we're demanding accountability from BofA and Goldman Sachs, I think we can deal with some 90-lbs. hipsters from the suburbs!

In solidarity, Kim

[-] 1 points by NateNine (23) 11 years ago

Many thanks for cross-posting this, Kim - I was beginning to think no one was really listening!

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 11 years ago

if one is to be identified, one shows their face

[-] 1 points by Teacher (469) 11 years ago

I agree that we need to citizens arrest anyone who would harm the movement with their ignorance and violence.

Do not insult the Tea Party, they are on our side more than not

[-] 0 points by stevo (314) 11 years ago

Those are your brothers you speak ill of.

[-] 0 points by LoveToLickCum (54) 11 years ago

Oakland is a shithole.....used to be a nice neighborhood until the Nigs moved in. What do you expect?

[-] 0 points by electrictroy (282) 11 years ago

"Adolescent acts of vandalism and deliberate provocation of police will only make OWS go away... If you abhor government so much, go join the Tea Party – "

Pardon me. :-) I like your anti-violence message, but please do NOT send anarchists to Tea partiers (or libertarians). We are not violent either. Please be more careful with your implication we are the place for violence. Neither are we "racist" (as Jimmy Carter, NBC, others falsely-claim). I am not aware of any case where we attacked buildings or people.

The Tea party respects the law, especially the law known as the Constitution and especially the 9th and 10th amendments (rights and powers are reserved to the People and the People's State Legislatures). We never condone violence and we do Not welcome the vandals that hurt people's private shops in downtown Oakland.

Thank you.

[-] 1 points by NateNine (23) 11 years ago

The Tea Party crack was intended as a joke; I strongly believe many Tea Party members share many grievances with OWS whether they want to see it or not. The Tea Party has within it a contingent who want not merely smaller government but government small enough to "drown in a bathtub", however, and they (like violent anarchists within OWS) richly deserve to be marginalized and kept at arm's length. The idea that OWS should never seek to drive a wedge between one group and another is utter foolishness when one group is the protesters and the bulk of the American people and the other is a handful of rabble-rousers who would destroy OWS through unauthorized and media-unfriendly violence or insidious design. To suggest that these people should hook up with the fringe element of the Tea Party and begin the bloody revolution they mutually desire was insensitive, perhaps, and I will strive to focus on emboldening similarities rather than going for cheap jokes about differences in the future.