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East Bay | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism

A Call To Oakland's Non-Violent Movement: We Must Lead By Example
by Neil Frazier
Thursday Feb 2nd, 2012 12:56 PM
As a non-violent activist committed to social justice, I question where these advocates of brave, non-violent disobedience were when the police began shooting people with rubber bullets, tear gassing them, and shooting exploding concussion bombs into the crowd that was attempting to occupy the Kaiser building? Where were these voices, who now rise up to condemn the violence of the protesters in article after article, when they needed to be on the front line providing an example of a disciplined, resolute, and courageous non-violent response to the police attacks on protesters?
After the recent attempt by Occupy Oakland to occupy an abandoned building to create a community center like the one the city repeatedly destroyed at Oscar Grant Plaza, some non-violent activists have taken to the internet to denounce those who chose to throw objects at the police.

As a non-violent activist committed to social justice, I question where these advocates of brave, non-violent disobedience were when the police began shooting people with rubber bullets, tear gassing them, and shooting exploding concussion bombs into the crowd that was attempting to occupy the Kaiser building? Where were these voices, who now rise up to condemn the violence of the protesters in article after article, when they needed to be on the front line providing an example of a disciplined, resolute, and courageous non-violent response to the police attacks on protesters?

In video after video of the days events, you do not see anyone acting in the classic non-violent methods of disobedient response to the brutality of the police. Without a doubt, it is much harder to do so today, when police forces no longer have only the helmets and truncheons of the civil rights era with which to attack people face to face, but can now shoot activists from 500 yards away with incredibly painful weaponry while hiding behind enough riot gear to make them look like robo-cops incapable of any type of humanizing interaction with those who would choose the moral power of a non-violent response to their violence. But, this change of condition is no excuse for those who come out condemning violent protesters after the fact to only criticize while not providing any leadership or example. Dr. King was arrested at least 34 times during his struggle for civil rights and justice. That is what true leadership looks like.

Those who would condemn the actions of activist's violent responses to police brutality must show by example what a powerful non-violent response would look like. We must be there, on the front line, willing to sit down and refuse to move when tear gas, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades are going off all around us and injuring us. That is when the courage of our conviction to non-violence is tested and proven. That is when we prove the power of non-violence to oppose injustice.

Until we, the advocates of a non-violent response, can show the power of our convictions through our actions, we have no room to condemn violent protesters, especially when we do so while not also condemning the violent actions of the police in the same breath. We have no moral ground to stand on in this regard. We must build a moral high ground through the sacrifices of struggle. It is not automatically afforded to us without proving our commitment to non-violent resistance when it is tested the most.

Non-violence can be an incredibly powerful response to violence by institutions because it can clearly show who the violent side is and which side is fighting a moral struggle, rather than a military one. I envision the next time Occupy Oakland is attacked by the police a group of activists committed to non-violence refusing to move or turn our focus onto those activists throwing objects when the police attack, and using the moral power of our refusal to move to expose the violence that keeps buildings empty while the homeless sleep on the streets. Only then can our plea for a non-violent struggle be taken seriously.

In the civil rights era, non-violent activists were beaten, bloodied, jailed, and even murdered while retaining a fierce commitment to non-violence. If we use their struggle as an example for the Occupy movement to emulate, we must be willing to make those same sacrifices. If we aren't, our words will continue to ring hollow, and the youth, seeing no other viable alternative in practice, will continue to defend themselves from the modern-day long range police assaults on the streets with their own long-range responses of rocks, bottles, and other violent means that take away our moral power to shame the system into ending it's policy of defending abandoned buildings and the rule of the 1% with vicious violence.

We must be the change we wish to see within the movement, even more so than in the world at large, and we must provide an example, not of the condemnation of violent activists -- which is an argument all too easy for those opposing the movement against economic inequality to use to their own advantage -- but, rather, of a path forward for those in the struggle beside us. A non-violent path that overwhelms the guns and chemical weapons of the modern riot police with a refusal to be moved and a refusal to stop demanding social justice.

Only when we begin to lead by example will people once again come to understand the meaning of "we shall not be moved" and "we shall overcome." And if we can find the courage of our convictions, we surely will overcome their morally bankrupt violence and achieve Dr. King's dream of equality.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Another pseudonym
Thursday Feb 2nd, 2012 4:55 PM
I was there. All day. The action was bad because it FAILED not because it was "violent". While I would like for the so-called "nonviolent" types to step up a lot more and I also like the adventurist street fighters to step back. The two building takeovers have been at best debacles for Occupy Oakland. Please no more fuck-ups. I have every "right" to complain.
by lambert strether
Thursday Feb 2nd, 2012 9:23 PM
When OO was perceived as non-violent, it was also perceived as legimate. Then you get 10K people and the port closure.

Enter the black bloc throwing bottles, FTP, no commitment to non-violence, and now there are hundreds. So no wonder OO can't hold its space; the numbers aren't there.

by A
Friday Feb 3rd, 2012 9:04 AM
That is the fault of the non-violent participants who failed to show resolve in the face of police attacks to engage in organized non-violent resistance that can show an example that is powerful. Stop whining about those you have no control over and look at how our own actions could be different, because our own actions are the only ones we can change.
by E
Friday Feb 3rd, 2012 9:20 AM
"Until we, the advocates of a non-violent response, can show the power of our convictions through our actions, we have no room to condemn violent protesters, especially when we do so while not also condemning the violent actions of the police in the same breath."

I agree completely with this statement by Neil Frazier.
by reader
Friday Feb 3rd, 2012 12:57 PM
Oakland is a city of violence. People are dragged to death in the street. Homeless are burned to death. AK-47s are shot in residential neighborhoods for the thrill of it, and residents shoot back. Raiders fans have trashed the city. OG supporters have trashed the city. The playgrounds for young children look exactly like prison yards. Cars have been used like toys in sideshows so that residents wake up to all the cars on the street smashed. A child recently murdered his parents and buried them.

If you are not aware of these facts, ask yourself what Oakland you really know.

Asking people who live in this kind of environment, who are subjected to it daily or even just for their work or driving through it, to somehow float above it all, is a lot.

I applaud the effort of this post to make the non-violent crowd do something useful. Tackling anyone spray painting or destroying something will not really stop it, because for many, this is what Oakland is all about, destruction and surviving it and managing to enjoy waking up in the morning despite it.
by Indigo
Friday Feb 3rd, 2012 1:52 PM
I agree with your post's main message, however I think there are many examples of NV protesters demonstrating NVDA. We need only go back a single week to the J20 Occupy the Courts and Occupy Wall St. West protest actions to see that. What you didn't see was as harsh a crackdown by the police, but I think you are ignoring the fact that despite police sometimes using tear gas and rubber bullets on totally non-violent protesters, it happens far more likely with a mix of violent and non-violent protesters. Not to in any way condone the OPD response on J28, but though OPD was totally out of line, it was not a day one could genuinely see NVDA in action given the event was a DOT event. I personally didn't even go to that protest action because the action itself in my mind was not a non-violent action. I suspect there were many others who decided not to be there, not because they knew their would be tear gas flying, but because they simply didn't agree with the taking of the building as expressed in the PR release that came out about the action the week before. Being a part of Occupy doesn't mean everyone has to participate in everything the GA votes in. We are still individuals who pick and choose our actions... but then yes, show up non-violently for the non-violent actions we choose to go to, regardless of what the police do.
by urbaned
Friday Feb 3rd, 2012 2:05 PM
no, no, no. Violence is NOT the way to raise up the 99%. (I do not use the term "take down the 1%" any more.) The way to elevate the 99% is through boycotts, viral tweets, etc. Not inciting to riot. We must use the internet to petition and move society. We can move millions out of banks and protest oil pipelines, and do not have to do it in person. Any form of violent action, including non-violent pacifists putting themselves in the line of fire, is as outdated as the police billy clubs, as you suggest. Let's use our brains and our real strength to elevate the 99%.
by Sorry
Friday Feb 3rd, 2012 2:14 PM
Those ideas won't work. Consumer actions such as boycotts cannot change a SYSTEM. It can change a company, but that just means it will be out-competed by the more ruthless in the end.

It takes a campaign of disruption and obstruction to the smooth functioning of the system to change a system, just as it did for the civil rights movement.
A true warrior with honor faces the enemy head on and does not use noncombatants as a human shield ~Me
by Reality based
Saturday Feb 4th, 2012 10:57 AM
Lambert stated that we had ''10 k and then had a Port shutdown '. Wrong . Please stop parroting the OPD and the capitalist media's disinformation . We had a at least 20, 000 the night of Nov 2 (and some think far more )
And we had approx. 2000 last Sat. Not just ''hundreds'.
I had a lot of problems with 1/28 but the least of which was our ''violence ' ! The Alameda Sheriffs dept. even brought a modified Armored Personal carrier to the scene , the onus of ''violence'' belongs soley on the OPD and their '' Mutual assistance '' fellow cops .
That being said the City hall action was very stupid and counterproductive . Jean Quan , that nasty cynical ex- Maoist turned capitalist pol , was exuberant with such a photo op for he rnarrative .