By Tina Dupuy
Why #OWS Needs to Denounce Violent Tactics on Display at Occupy Oakland
Occupy is not an armed conflict – it's a PR war. And images of
violence undermine the movement.
The Occupy Movement, “the 99 percent,” has, ironically, been hijacked
by a small minority within its ranks. I speak of a small percentage of
Occupiers who are okay with property destruction. As we saw in Oakland
over the weekend: They’re okay with breaking windows, trashing city
buildings and throwing bottles at the police. In short: They are not
nonviolent. They are willing to commit petty criminal acts masked as a
These are Black Bloc tactics and they're historically ineffective at
spurring change. The now Gingrich-vilified Saul Alinsky in 1970 said
the Weather Underground (the terrorist wing of the anti-war movement)
should be on the Establishment’s payroll. “Because they are
strengthening the Establishment,” said the “professional radical”
Alinsky. Nothing kneecapped the call for the war to end quicker than
buildings being bombed in solidarity with pacifist sentiments.
Here’s the key point: Occupy is not an armed conflict – it’s a PR war.
Nonviolent struggle is a PR war. Gandhi had embedded journalists on
his Salt March. He wasn’t a saint. That was a consciously cultivated
media image. He used the press and its power to gain sympathy for his
cause. What he didn’t do is say he was nonviolent “unless the cops are
d*cks,” a sentiment voiced at Occupy. Nonviolent struggle has nothing
to do with how the cops react. In actual nonviolent movements they
welcome police overreaction because it helps the cause they’re
At some General Assemblies this issue is referred to as “diversity of
tactics.” It means basically if you’re not okay with property damage,
but if someone else is, you’re not going to stand in the way. To a
liberal ear it sounds like affirmative action or tolerance. It sounds
like diversity of opinion – it’s not. It’s 3,000 people peacefully
marching and two *ssholes breaking windows; which becomes 3,000 people
breaking some windows in news reports.
Violent tactics taint everyone involved evenly – consenting or not.
Property destruction is not only a bad PR move (it costs taxpayers and
small business owners money) it’s not constitutionally protected Free
Speech. It’s also not what democracy looks like. The First Amendment
specifically states the right to peaceably assemble to redress
Moreover the destruction of property is exactly what Occupy is
protesting against; it’s what the banks took from us. Occupy has
pointed out the criminality of the banks and the seeming collusion
with government to take wealth and property away from working people
and give it to the wealthy. So protest property crimes, by committing
crimes against property? It's nonsensical.
Destroying property destroys moral authority. You can’t rail against
Bankaneers while trashing a City Hall. You can but you lose. Then the
cops look justified in their show of force. Being quiet is seen as
consent and being in solidarity with Oakland is standing with their
well-documented embrace of “diversity of tactics.”
Occupy should denounce violence and property damage. There should be a
statement that Oakland doesn’t speak for the movement as a whole.
Holding solidarity marches against Oakland police brutality is exactly
what that sounds like. It sends the message that Occupy is happy to
cost the Oakland taxpayers millions in damages. If Occupy is to
succeed it has to purge the extreme (read: ineffective waste) elements
now commandeering the movement.
Some have emailed me and asked if the people who autonomously did
these acts of vandalism and violence were “undercovers” or extreme
anarchists. My response has been their goal is the same and their
tactics are the same, so why does it matter? If they’re undercovers
trying to undermine the movement then disavow them. If they’re
anarchists who believe they are a part of Occupy, disavow them. The
distinction means little if the endgame and the solution are the same.
It’s not true that no one speaks for Occupy. Those using violence are
speaking far louder than the “people’s mic.” They need to be purged,
or the the entire movement will be marginalized.
Tina is an award-winning writer, investigative journalist, and
managing editor of Crooks and Liars. Tina appears frequently on MSNBC,
Current TV, RT and BBC and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s
To The Point, The Stephanie Miller Show, The Block Radio and The
Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic,
Fast Company, LA Weekly and Newsday among many others.