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Open Letter from Anarchist Participant in The General Strike.
by Anonymouse
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 2:19 AM
An open letter from an Anarchist with Occupy Oakland.
After the successful national day of action and general strike in Oakland, naturally, we see the topic of violence and non-violence growing within our movement and within the voices of corporate media networks. Obviously this is a result of certain actions that individuals and groups within the movement decided to partake in. Unfortunately we are hearing a great deal of slander, and nonsense at the forefront of this discussion. As someone who has been with the occupation as much as possible, I feel it's necessary to confront this.

Isolating people based on their willingness to engage in self-defense by actively protecting the spaces we’ve all worked so hard to build together, and the symbolic defiance of exploitative property by making absurd claims of them being “Outside agitators” as if it they are some how separate from the many people who have been actively involved in building these spaces of 'direct-democracy' and communal living should not only be considered an attack on solidarity, but an attack on movements of the people. What divides movements of the people, weakens movements of the people.

Many of us out there today and tonight were Anarchists, but many were also not. We are the ones who were in the streets, ready to provide support & solidarity with all of our brothers and sisters. We were ready to brave against the violence of the state arm and arm with you, to protect one another, and provide medic support to anyone who fell victim to the police assaults. We are the ones whom also involved themselves with serving food to the commune, providing sanitation, organizing actions and broadening the movement. We are not separate from the movement. We are not outside agitators. We are a part of the movement, we are involved with the struggle. We stood with the occupation before day one, we stood with the occupation tonight and will continue to do the same in the future. Don’t let age old divide and conquer tactics convince you otherwise, please.

What do I mean when I say “by actively protecting the spaces we’ve worked so hard to build together”? Well I’d like to invoke a quote taken from a statement of solidarity with the occupy movement written by Egyptian activists and rebels, “It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our desire to lose. If we do not resist, actively, when they come to take what we have won back, then we will surely lose. Do not confuse the tactics that we used when we shouted “peaceful” with fetishizing nonviolence; if the state had given up immediately we would have been overjoyed, but as they sought to abuse us, beat us, kill us, we knew that there was no other option than to fight back. Had we laid down and allowed ourselves to be arrested, tortured, and martyred to “make a point”, we would be no less bloodied, beaten and dead. Be prepared to defend these things you have occupied, that you are building, because, after everything else has been taken from us, these reclaimed spaces are so very precious.” Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, those of us who belong to the community and movement of many Occupations around the globe can relate to this quote all too well. They continue to attack us & our reclaimed communal living spaces with a clear display of intimidating tactics, force, and brutal violence. To only add to this, their militarized presence alone is a form of violent authority.

Is it correct to call defense of our direct-democracy,our autonomy, our communities, and bodies senseless, and violent? Is it OK to attack the legitimacy of the countless struggles that have chosen to do this? Were individuals on the Nile bridge (Egypt) whom, literally, fought off police attacks senseless? Were the Argentinians resisting the ruling classes in 2001 by combating police attempts to violently remove them from the city center by charging down riot squads, senseless? Are the Greek anti-austerity mass gatherings and 'occupy Athens' senseless for doing the same? These are questions we must ask ourselves. I'd quickly respond saying,No,Not at all. Actually the strength of these movements grew and expanded in these moments of resistance. To quell spontaneous and energetic moments many people within the movement take part in, would be to to essentially contribute to extinguishing the collective power we've created. It's important to remember our ability to adapt to situations and repression in necessary but diverse ways is what helps us become unpredictable, and a force to reckon with. This is what we need in order to remain strong under serious repression. It's why we were able reclaim the Plaza, and it's why we had the streets without much trouble from police for most of the day during the strike.

Now onto what I mean when I say “exploitative property”. We all see the sinister nature of most of these large financial institutions & multinational corporations, that’s why we're all coming together to denounce them. Property owned by the 1% is used to exploit the labor of the people for the creation of wealth; The rights of their private property are continuously trumping the rights of the people. We can see this on physical display when veterans are getting shot at in Oakland, or when 3rd world Coca-cola union organizers are being killed by private militias and police enforcing ’property rights’. Hence, the use of the words exploitative property. You may say breaking a window is not largely effective, and I would agree with you 100%. That is not the point I'm implying. We call this violent, yet that very property some people wish to target is property used for the exploitation of the globe. Being starved is violence. Getting your arm cut off in a factory is violence. Development on indigenous lands is violence. Having your home foreclosed by Bank of America is violence. More than thousands of people being incarcerated is violence. The 'rights' of their property is upheld by violence, clearly. If certain people want to take part in acts against “property rights” of corporations as a symbol of defiance towards institutions of private tyranny, then so be it. I’ll send more solidarity their way than the way of the property of a bank. After all, who is more likely to help me set my tent up in the plaza, or to provide me with water as tear gas is launched. Who is anyone to shun, and demonize them blindly and rampantly? Lets not play into the role of the corporate media here, by becoming a mouth-piece of the interests of the "1%".

Everything I've experienced with you all here in Oakland this Wednesday was for the most part exhilarating, amazing, and even inspiring. It’s great to see so many people uniting, and coming together to fight against the economic conditions the people of the world are subjected to. My intention with this letter was to express the need for the solidarity within the movement to remain strong; Diversity needs to be accepted. We are not blind, the situation is escalating and the movement must not devote itself to one approach with senses of dogma. As said before, strength comes from the ability to adapt when under attack. Don’t be fooled, we are under attack. Every single day, directly and indirectly. Do not denounce the courage of those willing to defend themselves and our collective spaces of direct democracy. Just as we shouldn't denounce the courage of comrades who use their bodies in non-violent resistance. Know your friends, and don’t confuse them as your enemies. Support them. We’re all out here together, don’t let anyone change that. We have a beautiful thing happening in Oakland. LETS KEEP IT UP!

your friendly occupying Anarchist.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by reader
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 6:01 AM
Thx for the statement! I really missed this words in the last hours. Greetings & Solidarty from Germany! But: Also no stupid actions (destroying small shops, dangerous attacks,...). Dont forget the nonviolent activists and families with kids. Everyone should choose his own way of resistance!
by Sludge
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 6:58 AM
It was disgusting to see that some emotionally charged individuals chose to act directly against the criminal banksters under the biased eyes of SF Chronicle photographers, facilitating a smear campaign (already in progress) you the Yellow Press!

Equally disgusting were the actions of the Right Wing Protectors, known as "Peace" Nazis who have not learned that passive resistance and voting change NOTHING, trying to prevent direct action against the very criminals who are robbing them daily!

Peace Nazis are the faction which will destroy the Occupy movement by introducing an exclusive (US VS Them movement...) Within the Occupy formerly Democratic action, which was founded with an "every voice is equal " idea.

Now every voice is NOT EQUAL...right wing voices in the Occupy collective, demand the exclusion of direct action voices.

I say FQ, right wing Peace Nazis! If you had your way, we would still have a KING!
by Another participant
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 8:28 AM
This isn't Greece or Egypt. Tactics need to born out of particular circumstances. The debate for me isn't about Property damage. It's about whether your actions were effective. The building takeover was a fuckin failure. It damaged the movement.

I don't object to taking over buildings and it was perhaps a direction the movement should take. That said the more I think about that the more I'm convinced that the point was to have a street fight with the police. The people involved in this action should own up to their intentions. The dishonesty is getting more obvious.
by a
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 9:51 AM
Many of us in Portland have been inspired and emboldened by your activities in the bay- those members of occupy who care more about trying to tear down other occupy members for not being 'polite' enough should be ashamed of themselves. The main thing we are discouraged to hear about from the bay is not "violence" but rather internal division and senseless criticism. Not to say that all criticism of actions is sensless, but clearly all of the comments calling anarchists "fools" "agents" "outsiders" and the like is. Shape up. Keep critiques of those also in the movement constructive, reserve the the vile attacks for our actual enemies.
by Another participant
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 10:16 AM
Respond to the actual thread or quote something from somewhere else with a link. Otherwise you're off topic
by Bob
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 10:27 AM
This is complete crap. Nobody "actively protected a space we have all worked so hard to build." I was there from start to finish. You opened up a building, provoked a huge fight with the cops, and fled without at all defending the space, which wasn't all that hard to open up in the first place.

It is the Occupy camp that people have "worked so hard to build." And it was in serious jeopardy of being overrun by the police. If the cops had wanted to do that, nobody could have stopped them. And I seriously doubt anyone would have resisted anyway. The person who wrote this letter would probably have taken advantage of the situation to go break some windows a couple blocks away rather than defend the camp. I personally had to stop a guy who was dragging a very expensive solar panel out of the camp to go throw it onto the barricades.

This debate is pointless. Most of us have been through it a thousand times before. If there was some benefit to what you are wanting to do, it might make sense. But there is not. The violence/nonviolence debate is a total non sequitur to the Occupy movement.

Your black mask does not make you an anarchist. The Occupy movement is pretty anarchist, without being explicitly so. General Assemblies are anarchist. The Port shutdown was anarchist.

Your version of anarchism will cause the rest of us to be banished for a generation if keep it up.

We've already had this debate in the comments to the "Statement from the Building Occupiers." Everyone is overwhelmingly against what went down Wednesday night.
by JT
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 11:16 AM
This is an eloquent letter which provides insight into some of the thinking behind why some people vandalized certain property and fought the cops yesterday.

There are points I would take issue with, but I agree that those who took such actions are part of our movement and we can't allow this fact to tear the movement apart. Let's discuss our differences, let's share our experience, debate and offer constructive criticism, evaluate tactics, but not let it prevent us from continuing to plan how we can move forward together.

Let's not attack each other and fall into the paradigm of the "the good protester" or "real revolutionary" versus the "bad protester" or "reformist". We must not condemn each other. We need to continue to think constructively.

There are many actions already planned and actively being organized for the coming weeks. The Occupy Oakland General Assemblies have proven to be an excellent vehicle for launching united action. The occupation of Oscar Grant Plaza has been a terrific focal point and inspiration. The shut down of the Port by the mass action of thousands was unprecedented even given the incredibly rich history of struggle and actions at the Port of Oakland.

Let's keep the momentum going!
Thank you!

And excellent points overall.
by AoT
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 11:36 AM
"This is complete crap. Nobody "actively protected a space we have all worked so hard to build." I was there from start to finish. You opened up a building, provoked a huge fight with the cops, and fled without at all defending the space, which wasn't all that hard to open up in the first place. "

Exactly. I can't tell you how many times I saw someone run up and throw something at the cops and then run away immediately. NO ONE DEFENDED SHIT!!!! The police let the camp remain in spite of what these folks did.
by ntuit
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 12:02 PM
"Your version of anarchism will cause the rest of us to be banished for a generation if keep it up." Who is going to banish "us? or anyone?"

The U.S. is very diverse. Isn't that what people want - diversity. Some people sit in front of computers and kill innocent people thousands of miles away with drones. Some people sit and meditate. Some people take men and women who have sat in a cell for decades and strap them down on a gurney and snuff life out of them. Some people plant trees. Others saw them down. Some people talk. some people are quiet. Some of the 99% occupy and others stay at home and in their minds support it. Some people understand. Some people don't. some people are blind. Others see. some people who think they see are really blind. Some people think they are free when they aren't. Some people know they are free.

People who control have agendas, hierarchies, labels, plans. It is important for them to separate and control. But it is also their way to make everyone seem the same and therefore guilty by association. Unfortunately for those who control, free people will not walk in lock step with an agenda and a movement has flows in various directions. There was a Malcolm X and a Martin Luther King. There is a yin and a yang energy. But there needs to be a balance. Truly free people are not controlled by a movement, a political party, a religion....they are a movement unto themselves!
by Bob
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 12:15 PM
I don't know how long you've been around, but these debates are not new. They've been going on forever. Most of us are tired of them. You are saying things that have been said many times before, although not very coherently in your case.

The fact that there is evil in the world and you want to be free has nothing to do with the rest of us condeming people for doing stupid shit that harms the movement both locally and nationwide.
by Jayo
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 2:53 PM
This doesn't seem to be about whether anyone defended a space, or reclaimed streets from police and stood their ground. It's about individuals whom seem willing to do that in ways beyond human barricades or dispersal being shunned for 'violence'. Also the result of the building occupation makes it seem majorly symbolic, but helped create a discussion of reclaiming private property and create communal spaces of organizing with them (i even hear the mayor talking about returning it to travelershq?). The fact that you blame the people willing to storm an abandoned building with a march for the violence the camp experienced shows your complete lack of understanding of the inherent violence and domination and upholds capital and property. Fuck off with the blaming of others in the movement, stop this privileged attachment to the white supremacist social order and realize the system cannot meet our well-being and demands. We need to create our own shit.
by Bob
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 3:30 PM
Of course I blame the police for their violence. But I also blame people in the movement for doing stupid shit. Do you really think everyone in the movement shoud be beyond criticism just because they are in the movement?

The police did not force anyone to set fires, build barricades, or smash windows. There have been plenty of occasions when I would not object to that kind of behavior, BTW. But not in Oakland on Wednesday night. Tens of thousands of people spent all day Wednesday scoring enormous victories for our movement. Provoking a streetfight that night just turned everything into a clusterfuck for absolutely no benefit.

Would the cops have attacked that night if the building occupation hadn't taken place in the way that it did? Very possibly, but I tend to doubt it. They were obviously under orders not to raid the camp.

If the City somehow decides to help turn the Travelers' Aid building over to the movement, we should count ourselves incredibly lucky after the way Wednesday night went down. There are all kinds of ways we could have raised this issue without causing mayhem. Homes Not Jails tactics might be a start.

We all need to realize that this is not the typical marginalized movement we are all used to, where there are few consequences for our screwups. We are used to failure no matter how hard we struggle for a better world. This time is different. This is a historic moment. Huge numbers of people who have never done this before want to join us. We need to think before we act.
by sphynx
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 4:35 PM
ADDITIONALLY, how can you blame everything that happened on an entire group of similarly dressed people? And you say you have anarchist principles. Bullshit. Do your reading. Four people started that fire, and many people have suspected that the fire was started by agent provocateurs. Tons of people who were NOT in black bloc were participating in this occupation of the building, and getting ready to fight back. It was only a few unmasked white people "peace policing."
by Irv Thomas
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 8:25 PM
That was nicely put, Bob, and needed to be said. The best of the comments, in my humble view.
by deanosor
Friday Nov 4th, 2011 10:02 PM
We've had some major victories. We occupied a plaza in front of City Hall. When it was taken away, we seized it back. People struck on Nov. 2, banks were shut down, the largest industry in Oakland, the Port, was shut down. And that's just Oakland. The Occupy movement is gigantic. In every major city in the United States, and many minor ones, tens and hundreds of thousands of people are learning to speak or regaining their lost voices, through the occupation camps and other direct actions that began with Occupy Wall Street. and that's just oen country. On every continent including Antartica there are actions and solidarity on the issues that bring us together.

Let us not forget this in the middle of these important debates. This is a new era.

Let us remember the enemy is not the "foolish macho anarchist" or the "self-righteous peace police" no matter how stupid or wrong-headed each considers the other. The enemey is the 1% who run the world. In the process of figuring out plans to defeat them, we will hopefully overcome these divisions.
by m
Saturday Nov 5th, 2011 1:45 AM
Sorry, Bob. But I was there as well. For the whole thing. And your comments and observations are utter BS. From start to finish. Next time, try and do a little fact finding rather than parrot what you've read on SF Gate. - Thanks to Anonymouse for an insightful assessment of what actually happened.
by shelleybear
Saturday Nov 5th, 2011 7:08 AM
It seems to me, that when there is a general consensus of a colossal failure by law enforcement to handle a situation the movement builds even more credibility. When the violent anarchists provide a visible display of public violence and stupidity they undermine this progress. I am forced to wonder. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!?!?
by Adamladamla
Sunday Nov 6th, 2011 1:36 AM
This video includes audio of Ward Churchill from Pacifism as Pathology.
by Steve
Sunday Nov 6th, 2011 8:54 AM
Nice video footage. But could you please explain what the Ward Churchill audio has to do with anything?

Nobody here is arguing pacifism. We all read Pacifism as Pathology years ago. It has nothing to do with the debate here.

We are debating strategy, and Wednesday night was a strategic disaster. Your superficially-clever arguments about violence and nonviolence and the nature of capitalist property relations are knocking down strawmen.

I have yet to read a single coherent strategic defense of Wednesday night's events. Churchillian arguments, in this context, are the last refuge of scoundrels.