The Portland Occupier

an official, unofficial content channel for Occupy Portland

ILWU and EGT — The Victory That Wasn’t

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by Lester Macgurdy

“Immediately upon execution of this Agreement, the ILWU Entities shall immediately cease all action directed against EGT (including, but not limited to picketing and any other form of disruptive activity), its partners, members, and their affiliates and employees, and anyone doing business with them, and shall actively discourage any other person or group from engaging in such activity. The ILWU Entities shall issue a written notice to The Daily News and the general public, including the Occupy movement, informing them of this settlement and urging them to cease and desist from any actions…”

— 1/27/2012 Settlement agreement from Port of Longview, EGT, and ILWU

The Portland Occupier recently ran an article entitled, “Occupy and ILWU Declare Victory as Contract Finalized with EGT”, and in keeping with the overly optimistic and misleading press releases generated by Occupy and some ILWU locals in regards to the standoff between the ILWU, Port of Longview and EGT, the article failed to accurately report the condition of the ILWU workforce and the agreement reached between ILWU, Port of Longview, and EGT. A free press being the cornerstone of any free people or movement intended to make people free, the facts should not be kept hidden because one party or another believes that the spin put out by public relations — i.e. convincing the people that a failure was a success — is more important than the truth.

Occupy and ILWU have some reason to celebrate for winning the battle against EGT, because they did win that battle, and its extent is of larger historical significance than most of us even realize. President Obama, following a hard-right anti-labor agenda, commanded the Navy, Homeland Security, and the Coast Guard to violate picket lines, and contractual agreements between the Port of Longview and EGT to escort a scab grain ship into the EGT terminal. The last time Federal troops have been ordered to intervene in a labor struggle was in the Postal strike of 1970 by President Richard Nixon. The potential for tragedy resulting from this order by President Obama could, if history is any guide, have resulted in the slaughter of working men and protesters at the hands of Federal Troops. This showdown was narrowly averted by the combined efforts of ILWU and Occupy to bring the crisis to resolution.

However, once the details of this “victory” are brought into sharp contrast, they don’t paint a very victorious picture. In order to understand the dispute, it’s important to take a look at how it began. The Port of Longview has a requirement in its lease (which EGT signed in 2009) that demands any businesses leasing facilities use ILWU labor. EGT signed one of these leases and then refused to abide by that term of the lease, instead choosing to contract labor out, hiring a rival union that agreed to less strict wage demands. For 70 years, organized labor in the Port of Longview has survived because of this requirement in Port of Longview leases. This requirement is what gave the ILWU the legal grounds to file unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board and to join in the lawsuit with Port of Longview as a defendant in a suit filed by EGT.

Here’s is the new lease accepted by EGT in accordance with the terms of the current agreement:

“Warranty of Labor. Lessor [Port of Longview] warrants that, as of 4:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on January 27, 2012, there are no agreements or restrictions affecting the Port ,whether Lessor is a party to the same or otherwise, requiring (a) union labor or prevailing wage compliance.”

The above is a section from the lease agreement between EGT and the Port of Longview. As a result of the agreement between the ILWU and EGT, the varying court cases filed by all partied have been dropped. The dispute between EGT and the Port of Longview has been settled by the Port of Longview dropping the requirement that EGT use Union labor at their facility. EGT now has what they sought from the very beginning, release from contractual requirement to use organized labor.

Without any such provisions requiring Union labor in the current lease, ILWU no longer has any legal reason to challenge the hiring of scab labor by EGT once this short term agreement reached by both parties has run its course (a maximum of five years). The use of ILWU by EGT is currently a “business decision” of EGT, which they can change at their sole discretion in the future.

The ILWU EGT Settlement agreement confirms:

EGT has made a business decision to directly employ employees performing Landside and Shipside work at the Facility, to integrate the Landside and Shipside operations at the Facility; to hire and employ individuals who have proven expertise and skill … The parties specifically state that EGT has not, by this Agreement or otherwise,…recognized any ILWU Entity as the collective bargaining representative of the workforce at the Facility, and that no ILWU Entity has accepted such representation. No such representation shall be extended by EGT, nor accepted by any ILWU Entity, unless and until lawfully proper.

What Occupy and the Longshoremen won was a “business decision” by the EGT to temporarily use ILWU employees. What was lost was 70 years of contractual protection of organized labor at the Port of Longview.

Protest and Movement: What This Means for Occupy

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by David “Däv” O’Bryant

Protest and Movement: Distinctions

Political protest, whether with an aim toward raising social consciousness within the broad public or with that of challenging authority in the hopes of pressuring power to concede to demand, sometimes (though by no means always) occurs within the framework of a wider protest movement. Unlike specific protest actions, the tactics employed in their manifestation, and the strategies which underpin the wider framework of these tactics, protest movements, as any other social movement, are considerably less centralized and arguably less able to be contained or controlled. It is primarily through the autonomy of the constituent parts of any social movement that it takes hold in the hearts and minds of those who identify with the movement in question.

There exists in any social movement something of a cultural semantic dissonance on the part of the multivariate constituents at a given time. While this dissonance is crucial to the mass appeal of a movement, it may only facilitate the social movement toward and up until the point where break downs occur in the perceived efficacy, commitment and momentum of the movement in question.

Political protest is by its very definition, extra-systemic political activity which aims to address a social grievance through presenting a challenge to culturally accepted forms of authority. This challenge may aim at raising social awareness to a particular social issue to the end of putting that issue on the political agenda of the day or it may aim toward directly challenging political authority in a disruptive manner to the end of pressuring political power to concede to demand. In either case, political protest seeks to challenge culturally accepted norms as a matter of course.

This is not so simple a task as it seems. The hegemonic strains of social pressure which bind the fabric of social norms in place in any society are very strong. Certainly, the institutionalization of cultural habit handed down through a culture’s history manifests itself in such broad and pervasive social forums as politics, economics, the military, religion, education and familial kinship ties. What’s more, those institutional forces which acquire hegemonic force over and above all other social forces actively seek to retain their hegemony through the activity of those individuals and groups within society who actively benefit from it. Given such a social condition, the effectiveness of political protest can only be marginal without being engaged in continuously and in a multitude of ways through mass participation on the part of a wide and diverse segment of the public.

This is the central feature of a protest movement. A protest movement extends across a broad spectrum of societal elements, each motivated for somewhat different reasons. The content or cohesion of these reasons is not immediately pertinent to the efficacy of the movement but the perception of efficacy certainly plays a key role in the maintenance of the movement. The movement to abolish slavery in the United States, for instance, took on ethical dimensions shaped by religion, and general ethical politics and saw its aims ultimately accomplished due to matters of military sensibility. The civil rights movement of the 20th century took on many forms and many tactical and strategic manifestations, from those put forth by Martin Luther King Jr. and southern black Christians to those of Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, from those of black and white northerners who mounted a campaign to travel to the south and directly confront Southern racism through the freedom rides to the many people who participated in the race riots of the 1960s which lead directly to the drafting of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. The Second wave of the Women’s Liberation movement in the United states had a similarly mass appeal to women pushing for changes in political, economic, educational and familial institutions through a myriad of tactical and strategic approaches. In each of these cases, the appeals of the movement were at no point controlled or constrained by the ideals or ideologies of any segment of the movement. Additionally, the efficacy of the general cause was felt across all ideations and ideologies of the individuals and groups of which these movements were comprised.

What This Means for the Occupy Movement

Movements of the past have a great capacity to inform our present course of strategy, and should we not fail to ignore them. If we are to grow the now toddling Occupy movement into a powerful and strong engine of social change, we can only do so through nurturing it on the milk of past social movement successes. This most prominently means a few key things. First, we must continue to vocally rally around the central theme of the movement, as it was expressed in the conception of the initiating Occupy Wall Street protests and has continued to be articulated by many actions across the United States and around the world since: “The domination of all facets of society by the interests of corporate hegemony is unacceptable and must come to an end.”

Second, we must adopt a strategy which empowers us to approach political, economic and social change extra-systemically, as it is within the shadow of the recognition and capitalization upon the illegitimacies of the dominant institutions of political, economic and society that our greatest opportunities for success lie. Any strategy thus developed, must recognize the equal importance of focusing on consciousness raising and power challenging methods of approaching social change.

Third, it is important for us to recognize the association of our movement and its struggle with the many movements which have come before it and their successes and failures.

"The domination of all facets of society by the interests of corporate hegemony is unacceptable and must come to an end." In the months since the Occupation of Wall Street, we’ve seen many different approaches to strategy. The vast majority of these have not lost sight of the overarching theme stated above. If we are to successfully fight the power that is (I intentionally utilize the singular as it is my contention here that there is no plurality of social power in its broadest context), we must recognize that in the American complexion of power, corporate hegemony is king. All educational, religious, familial, political and martial clusters of society are subservient to the interests and motivations of corporate power. This can be clearly seen in the social manifestations of the death of education as an instrument of the exploration of our understanding of the world for the sake of knowledge in the face of the bottom line of the business of educating; of the rise of big moneyed interests within the military-industrial-complex; of the manufacture of familial kinship norms, industries and institutions which have been established to commodify every variety of human relationship from birth, to child rearing, to pair bonding and even to death itself; and of the rise of the mega-church which serves to undersell their church competitors by presenting a more emotionally stimulating religious experience to a wider audience at a lower cost and for a higher rate of donation much as large chain warehouse stores have accomplished in the retail industry. It may also be clearly seen in what is presently its most directly challenged manifestation: the pecuniary axis of institutional power’s domination of our institutions of political governance. It should by now be clear not only that the occupation of Wall Street and indeed of "All Streets" across the United States and around the world is in direct confrontation with the occupation of "all facets of society by the interests of corporate hegemony."

Strategies which we can thus take to broach fighting the behemoth of corporate hegemony must utilize a logical diversity of aims, methods and tactics. Most crucially, consciousness raising and power challenging are equally important approaches to social change as they provide the means to build political leverage to bring our intentions into the realm of our capabilities as a movement. Action oriented toward consciousness-raising activity seeks to reach out into the minds of the public at large and to question why we obey the leaders of our dominant institutions and how people we are motivated in terms of our ideals, ends and means. Action oriented toward challenging the dominant institutions of authority seeks to highlight their failures and to capitalize upon them in order to directly correct these failures. In each case, the central theme of individual and collective self-empowerment is key to promoting our movement as a vehicle whereby the public may take agency in establishing real positive change and not just feel good hope and squandered optimism. Social awareness may be raised through myriad tactics designed to bring the message of the immorality and social disempowerment wrought through corporate hegemony upon the lives of people everywhere to those arenas of public life with which all facets of the public can personally identify. This can, for example, be done more generally through formal statements through all forms of media, marches, rallies and other attention drawing tactics. It must, however, be done everywhere: In every home, school, church, political and martial outfit. Challenging the dominant institutions of authority may only be logically accomplished through establishing dual power direct action methods of confronting the failures of these institutions. This can be done through occupying space and providing food, housing and medical treatment to dispossessed segments of the community, through mutual aid projects seeking to fix problems which the authorities are incapable or unwilling to approach and through mass action seeking to prevent the authorities from acting against the interest of the public. The
strategic actions required of any successful social movement which seeks to become a mass movement must simultaneously walk down both of these roads.

Finally, it is important to remember those who have come before us. The Occupy movement is neither the first nor the only movement to address many of the issues subsequent to the corporate hegemony which we are fighting to shed light on and to correct. It is necessary, looking forward to remember the contributions of liberation struggles of the past form the American experience as well as other experiences, worldwide. We must honestly assess their successes and failures, their strengths and weaknesses and how these experiences can contribute to the task which we presently have at hand. Ultimately, the struggle for democratic social change is a complex and often difficult one. Through effort over time, the relative powerless within society often attempt to push forward inch by inch, mile by mile. Our overarching aims, strategies and tactical methods must reflect the time and place in our struggle in which they find practicality. These tactics and strategies are most effective when they are engaged in and developed autonomously by many different groups of individuals from broadly diverse segments of society, bearing broadly diverse ideas and beliefs, uniting under an identity held together by a broad and general goal. If we do not, however, seek to relearn the lessons of those who have come before us, the Occupy Movement will join them in the ash heap of history, without a bang or a whimper.

Why Prison is Profitable

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by Ahjamu Umi

I wrote my Master’s Thesis on the politics of imprisonment and comparative economics. The imprisonment portion of the 70 page research centered on the state of California, where I lived at the time, and the 160,000 people who are imprisoned there. My research confirmed the obvious facts. Eight out of ten people in prison in California are there for non-violent drug related crimes. And out of that 80% incarcerated for drug related crimes, 90% of those who participated in the 2000 elections proposition 36 program that increased funding for drug offenders, successfully participated and completed that program before funding for the program was cut in 2003. Success here is defined as no further drug arrests and no recidivism, i.e. no returning to prison. Some of the more unconventional trends my data revealed are that 44% of those convicted on third strikes in California are Black and 85% of those third strike crimes are non-violent. What was also revealed is the staggering rise of women who are being incarcerated.

Still, nothing I discovered was more shocking than the high level of sophistication that has developed in the prison system as it relates to utilizing inmates for low wage labor. In the 1990s, the state of California initiated a program called the Joint Venture Program. That program offered private companies low rent contracts to build facilities on government prison land in order to employ inmates to work in the production of their products. These companies were offered impressive tax breaks for participating in this program. The roll call of companies that participated is full of familiar names like Chevron, Dell Computer, Wal Mart, Kmart, and Trans World Airlines. In fact, from 1991 until 1994, if you made a phone reservation for TWA, chances are an inmate took your credit card information and made your reservation. If you wore Lee Jeans, an inmate probably stitched them, and if you bought a Dell computer, an inmate may have assembled it. As people became aware of this program, most of the companies pulled out, but not before Dell was forced to settle a class action lawsuit from two employees from Corcoran State Prison who successfully argued in court that Dell forced them to work 20 hours a day in un-sanitary and unsafe conditions.

There is plenty of research out there on this subject, including my thesis paper which is available online. The point is arresting and imprisoning people is profitable for private corporations. As a result, imprisonment is much more about providing that cheap labor source instead of attempting to address any question of crime and punishment or justice. This issue calls into the question the entire process of arrests, who is being arrested, and why. What that means is since there must be a cheap labor source; the question then becomes who will serve that need? Since its unlikely to be rich White kids since they have the resources at their disposal to defend themselves, then it’s likely to be poor people, particularly poor Black and Brown people, who will be arrested and imprisoned since targeting them is the path of least resistance. This is an excellent example of how institutional racism works It also explains why Black people are only 7% of California’s overall population, but 40% of the prison population in that state. The movement towards privatization of prisons simply amplifies these issues.

Justice-seeking people have a responsibility to be 100% opposed to the prison industrial complex. We call on all people in the Portland area to support the Decolonize Portland effort on February 20th to bring attention to this critical issue because for poor people and people of color, prison is the slavery of the 21st century.

Monday, 6:00pm until 8:00pm at Portland Community College campus a film will be shown called Three Thousand Years and Life. It is a documentary about the prison uprising at Walpole State Prison in 1973. Spurred by the terrible conditions at Walpole, the prisoners organized themselves and took it over They ran it themselves for several months, with incredible results. Following the film will be a presentation and discussion on the Prison Industrial Complex.

This event is part of the national Occupy the Prisons day. The film showing is presented by Decolonize PDX, co-sponsored by the PCC Black Student Union. For more info, go to http://pdx.decolonize.org.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

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Tracy Mattner

Nowhere is the hierarchical structure of our society more apparent than at the airport gate. Once on board, first class passengers recline comfortably while the coach masses shuffle slowly past and into the economy cabin. Zone four passengers are forced to gate check their carry-ons, even though there are remaining spaces in the first class cargo; economy luggage is not permitted to mix with elite luggage. A partial wall protects the more delicate sensibilities from the rabble. Bathrooms are segregated so that economy does not even wipe its ass with the same toilet paper.

From my vantage point behind the great divide, I cannot tell if first class passengers are also forced to watch repeating commercials from CBS, HBO, and Coca-Cola on ten-inch screens just two feet in front of their faces—screens that will not turn off until we’ve reached ten thousand feet. Moments later, passengers are pacified by peanuts, pretzels, and the pffft of pop tops popping. The redeye flight is full and cramped and the cabin is hot, but I manage about three hours of head-hung middle-seat airplane sleep.

The next morning I arrive in D.C. and trudge from plane to subway with heavy eyelids. As I chew dried mango, I notice a sign warning that possession of food or drink in the subway system is punishable by a $100 fine or jail time. This seems…excessive. I imagine the absurdity of calling my mom and reporting that I never even made it to the Occupy Congress protest, because I was arrested for eating fruit on public transit in our nation’s capitol. When I reach Capital Hill and emerge from the underground tunnel, my senses are immediately assaulted by the ugly aesthetic of power that marks the monumental architecture. I am beset on all sides by massive monoliths; each base spreads far wider than its height, imparting the appearance of great weight and inertia. All have an eerily faceless quality and stand in glaring contrast to the abundant green space surrounding them.

Dissident patriots from all across America gradually gather on the expansive but muddy Capitol lawn. The Metropolitan Police Department is out in full force, exerting the obligatory authority as tranquil protesters, greeted by scattered rain showers, are instructed by policemen to stay off the low and wide wall that encloses the soggy grass. They are told it’s for their own safety, for the wall is slippery. The idea that the rough concrete wall might be dangerous or more slippery than the rain-slicked grass and mud elicits laughter. I note that, just as turbulence is now merely “rough air,” riot police have been tamely renamed “crowd control.” A mobile command unit also oversees the event; it is a behemoth surveillance system, purportedly equipped with scores of cameras to record and scan the faces of the crowd as people come and go. I pose in front of it as my friend snaps a photo of me: smiling, waving, and flashing a peace sign.

The day is long and filled with spontaneous and seemingly unending speeches: what I call “Occupy therapy sessions.” It occurs to me that these people want, most of all, just to feel important. It is an enduring and universal human need to be listened to. Yet I make no attempt to mask my annoyance at the ever-present and insatiable ego; as Poet Naomi Shihab Nye writes, “I am not interested in who suffered the most. I’m interested in people getting over it.”

By twilight, I’ve run out of steam. All day I’ve been carrying a fifty-pound backpack over my shoulders, but I decide to stick around for a bit longer; the crowd feels electrified, like a storm is brewing in our midst. Maybe there’s something about the dark that brings out the animal in man. Or maybe it’s just the heightened perception of anonymity that comes with darkness that causes individuals to grow emboldened. Whatever the case, cries of “March! March! March!” begin to ring out across the lawn in a mighty moving crescendo. The crowd, which has swelled to roughly four thousand, easily slices through lines of police cars and swarms the city streets—spanning the entire five lanes at a depth of over three blocks. The sidewalks too are crawling with living, marching, chanting bodies.

The hoard ascends upon and greatly overflows the steps of the US Supreme Court, shouting, “Money! Is! Not free speech!” in an outcry against corporate personhood. After several tense minutes at the Court, in which police attempt a few arrests only to have their targets escape into the chaos, the crowd continues down Pennsylvania Avenue in a giant amorphous flow. An uproar of mixed frustration and laughter erupts when the front lines reach the Newseum, a seven-story museum dedicated to news and journalism. Etched in four stories of stone are the 45 words to the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Both green and red laser pointers dance over the stone edict as the crowd reads in unison, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The spirited mass then moves in on the White House; like a military installation, it stations itself outside the iron fence. Thousands of individuals chant furiously, in unison, “Obama! Come out! We have some things to talk about!” A smoke bomb, presumably thrown by an agitator in the crowd, goes off just inside the fence, and for a moment we think we’re being tear-gassed by the Secret Service.

By now the crowd’s energy has seemingly peaked and begun its gradual downturn. I suddenly feel my weariness again and lean up against a stack of metal barricades that happen to be on the street, positioning my bag so that its weight is held up by the structure and not my back, which by now is beginning to spasm. I am forced to step aside by a self-described “yarn-bomber.” This renegade knitter busies herself with wrapping red yarn around and around and around everything in sight—and has her heart set on weaving some crimson through the barricades’ metal bars. I am approached by a reporter for the Washington Post who asks to interview me, and I deflect the questions to my travel companion. I am not an authority; I am one among thousands. Beyond that, I am confused when approached with the usual questions of, “Why are you here today?” and, “What would like to change?” At this point the answers seem so rudimentary that I have lost patience for them. I would be happy to engage a stranger on the street with this query, but from a reporter these are not genuine questions. Noam Chomsky once shared an observation regarding the futility of speaking truth to power: “Power quite probably knows the truth already and is mainly interested in suppressing or limiting it.”

The next day the Washington Post is the only major newspaper to run a story about the protest, greatly underreporting the number of participants and not including any words from the protestors who were consulted; thus it appears that it wouldn’t have mattered if I had spoken anyway. Quite likely in the minds of those who weren’t there, the entire day’s events never actually happened.

After hopping a bus to New York City, I take the night to relax on the couch with a book as Back to the Future plays on the television. I don’t intend to watch the movie, but I do. I don’t intend to read anything into it, but I do. In the beginning of the movie, when Marty McFly is racing through the mall parking lot and travels back in time, the camera lingers on a Bank of America for what seems like a little too long. At first this seems trivial…until I notice that in Back to the Future Part III, which takes place in the Wild West of 1885, a Wells Fargo figures prominently into the screen shots—the most unintentionally comic case of product placement I have ever considered.

As soon as the movie credits start rolling, a reminder appears at the bottom of the screen: 3 Days until the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Bravo! This is my cue to retire, but I am kept awake by nightmarish images of the Real Housewives drama and the constructed culture of envy that is the driving force of American consumption. Our airwaves are inundated with it. Because they are a profoundly influential and yet limited resource to which not everyone has access, the airwaves were originally established as a public trust—meaning the content was largely restricted by the requirement that it benefit the common good. I cannot fathom what good such dramas impart. It is a mostly sleepless night.

The next morning, I gaze out the window of the café in Brooklyn where I’m having breakfast, and my eyes rest on a painted gray wall across the street; it is partially lined with a series of bright yellow and black “Avoid Occupy” stickers. Not everyone is a fan, I think to myself. Only after breakfast do I have a view of the lower half of the wall; it is covered with a series of large white fliers that read, “Buy More Stuff” in bold black letters.

Avoid Occupy. Buy more stuff.

A rally has been planned for that evening at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan where Occupy Wall Street originally began. The event has been dubbed “Occupy the Courts.” It is a protest of the January 21, 2010 Supreme Court decision in the case known as Citizens United vs. FEC, in which the Court held that corporations are entitled to unlimited independent spending for political purposes, under the First Amendment right to free speech.

Corporations are people. Money is free speech.

When we arrive the temperature is roughly 25 degrees, and I’m thankful I’ve just visited a street vendor for a pair of ten-dollar gloves. My rapidly condensing breath makes me look like a smoker—or even a fire-breathing dragon. Despite the cold, a crowd begins to gather. One man, ragged, worn, and quiet, is wearing a gigantic sign that reads, “Freedom of speech has always had sensible limits: yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, prohibited; disturbing the peace, prohibited; slander, prohibited; controlling too many TV/radio stations or newspapers, prohibited; unlimited campaign funds corrupting democracy, allowed (US Supreme Court, Jan. 21, 2010).”

A handful of women have brought poster boards, markers, and other sign-making accoutrements, so I busy myself in fashioning a sign while my hands tremble with what I assume is a combination of excitement and anxiety. In multi-colored sharpie, it reads, “American corporations use money to silence free speech,” and features a shaky and hurried depiction of a face whose features are almost entirely obscured by a dollar bill.

The march is full of assorted flags, signs, chants, and people, escorted by the NYPD, and spotlighted by blue and red police lights. Throats go raw from raising tired voices into the night air. The protesters end in Manhattan’s Foley Square where a stage and microphone have been set up in advance. I’ve been drinking coffee all day in an attempt to keep warm and now desperately need to unload some liquid baggage. Perhaps naively I had arrived in New York City expecting to find a public restroom in the subway. At this point that notion seems laughable; I’ve quickly realized that toilets are a luxury to which the general public is not entitled. I hesitate then decide to approach a police officer, asking if there are any coffee shops open nearby. His expression tells me that I am an idiot as he points to the Starbucks in the distance. Inside I receive the customary reminder: restrooms are for customers only. A lock-and-key system ensures that the rule is strictly enforced, so I promptly buy a cup of tea and rush to the bathroom cell, relieved.

When I join back up with the crowd I am just in time for the “Smash Bank Polka” (aptly titled, as it is a lively polka song about destroying banks). I don’t mind that I am one of five people dancing; it is so cold that I don’t know how others are standing still.

After the band the speakers begin. Journalist and author Chris Hedges—who many times has spoken publicly to Occupy crowds and been arrested for acts of civil disobedience—announces that he is suing President Obama over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), as it is in direct violation of the US Constitution.

Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig—who is also director of Harvard’s Center for Ethics—has just arrived by train from Boston, with the sole purpose of speaking for just three minutes at the event. (He flew home immediately afterward.) There is something strangely profound about hearing a Harvard intellectual weave f-bombs into his call for campaign finance reform. Our “republic,” Lessig reminds us, is a form of government in which citizens conduct their affairs for the benefit of the common good and not the good of the ruling class. A corporation, he continues, cannot cast a vote based on the interest of the common good; it is required by law to operate in the service of profit and the private gain of its shareholders. He says further that democracy has been broken since before Citizens United, and it will not be fixed without publicly funded elections.

Ultimately, both men articulate quite clearly what many occupiers perhaps only instinctively know to be true: the American political and legal institutions are so fundamentally corrupted that affecting meaningful change through these systems is no longer possible.

As I listen to speech after speech, I find my face growing hot as the peppermint tea in my hand. Attempting to conceal the logo, I am utterly mortified to be holding a Starbucks cup in a crowd of people protesting corporate personhood. More than that, I am enraged at the absurdity of having been forced to buy something from a multinational corporation in exchange for the ability to urinate—something which I have no choice, as a human, not to do.

The next morning I wake to find the city in the midst of its first snow of the year. I get lost on the subway and arrive an hour late to the “Occupy the Corporations” march, but find I am actually right on time. (It is somewhat comforting that even the Big Apple slows down for snow days.) A preacher, decked out in a most ornate robe, is giving an inspirational speech about the influence of corporate greed on our nation’s moral fiber. Someone adopts the “human mic” to announce that there is a giant thermos of hot instant coffee/cocoa mix available for all. It tastes terrible, but I am grateful for the warmth. Just as the huddled mass begins its march through the frozen snow, I again feel a flush of shame—this time at dropping my empty Styrofoam cup into one of the park’s waste cans. The degradation of the environment is intimately connected to the issues that Occupy is addressing, and we are complicit even in such small acts. One’s true character is defined by a composite of seemingly insignificant moments.

We snake through Manhattan on a tour of American corporations’ “worst offenders” list, stopping at each headquarters to publicly shame each company with uncomely information and statistics. All the while I can’t avoid noticing a little girl who, though holding her grandmother’s hand, is somehow always adjacent to me in the crowd. She glances over and up at me with deep brown eyes while she repeats my chanting. By the last half of the march she is courageously leading the chants. I am struck by her bouncy brown ringlets, wide eyes, and the stunning degree to which she resembles the young Evey in the film V for Vendetta. I think also of Caterina Sforza, Countess of Forlì, who, when her enemies threatened to kill her children whom they held captive, exposed her genitals from the fortress walls and said: “I have the instrument to bear more!” The point of the legend is not that we should sacrifice our children, but that when the state is attacked or oppressed, there will always be another generation to take up the battle for justice.

On my final night in New York City I cannot sleep, and open Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens has much to say about inaction in the face of corruption, and repeats the same sentiment in many different forms throughout the book: “Remember that saying nothing is also a decision.” In a most poignant passage, Hitchens writes, “Dante was a sectarian and a mystic, but he was right to reserve one of the fieriest corners of his inferno for those who, in a time of moral crisis, try to stay neutral.” Hitchens has no sympathy for those who passively watched the construction of the Third Reich. He scathingly recalls that the “long-standing excuse for their own inaction had been that, under such terror, no gesture of resistance would have been possible. This depressing discovery need not bind us to the true moral, which is that everybody can do something…”

I immediately think of my own mother, whom I have recently spoken with over the telephone, and who has become very concerned about what she calls ‘me taking the entire world on my shoulders.’ I had told her simply that if everyone, rather than doing nothing, resolved to do something, a few burrows would not be forced to bear the lion’s share. She agreed whole-heartedly that everyone should do his or her own part, but when I pointed out that that meant she too would have to contribute, the line went silent.

Hitchens simply repeats a truth that has been passed down in the traditional lore of widely different cultures for centuries. The story that easily exposes this axiom is an intellectual riddle commonly known as the prisoner’s dilemma. Although such dilemmas occur in real life, they are considered the most fantastic of conflict situations. A very simple dilemma tale from Western Africa goes something like this:

A man is crossing a river with his wife and mother when a beast appears on the opposite bank. As the man draws his gun, the beast says, “If you shoot, your mother will die. If you don’t shoot, your wife will die.” What should the man do?

As the prisoner’s dilemma illustrates, the refusal to act does not absolve a person from blame; to not act is still a choice. Hitchens writes, “There is only one argument for doing something. The rest of the arguments are for doing nothing.”

Will Occupy Spring Forward Or Melt Down?

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By Shamus Cooke

A healthy debate has finally gripped the Occupy Movement: there is now a discussion over strategy. Most Occupiers have learned that raw enthusiasm alone cannot bring victory to a social movement; ideas matter too. Action divorced from strategy equals wasted energy, divisiveness, diversions and unnecessary mistakes. Not all tactics push the movement forward.

Why this debate now? Anyone paying attention can tell that the Occupy Movement has lost momentum; the winter months showcased increasing amount of actions combined with fewer and fewer people. After taking the lead in national Occupy enthusiasm, Occupy Oakland is doing some soul searching after an attempted building takeover resulted in massive police violence.

Some Occupiers claim that Occupy was simply in winter hibernation, waiting for its own Arab Spring. But the movement in Europe has grown during the same winter months. The movements in the Middle East, Russia, and elsewhere too have voted with their feet against hibernation.

A social movement, by definition, requires masses of participants, without which momentum grinds to a halt; the movement ceases to move.

Numbers matter, and Occupy has been shedding numbers for months. A major reason for this is because Occupiers have swerved drastically left, leaving the broader 99% ashore. If this trend isn’t corrected soon, Occupy will resemble the pre-Occupy left: small isolated groups pursuing their own issues, disconnected from the very broader population that must be involved to actually win any significant demands.

This is the original sin of Occupy: without first sinking its roots deep enough into the broader population, Occupy marched quickly to the left, unconcerned with who was following. Hopefully Occupy can correct this mistake in time, since not doing so would be fatal fast.

Hopefully, Occupiers have passed through the movement’s immature adolescence. For example, Occupy must shed its focus on radical-themed direct actions that inevitably attract only a couple hundred Occupiers but no one else. Again, this was the strategy of pre-Occupy that has already proved its lack of worth. Mass direction action is truly effective, but that raises the critical question: how to bring the masses of working people to Occupy, and vice versa?

Europe has already answered this question, having passed through the adolescence if its own movement, and now focused on bringing down unpopular governments. Greece, for example, went through an immature stage of rioting that showcased much bravery but could provide no real answers. Now, however, a massive workers movement has emerged, the entire 99% is directly involved in producing gigantic demonstrations that soon evolved into one-day General Strikes, and then two-day General Strikes. A common demand in Greece is now for an “indefinite general strike” to bring down the government and stop austerity, i.e., the massive cuts to public programs — education, health care, social services — and jobs.

Demands matter. The entire Greek population would not be going on strike against capitalism — at this time — or against corporate greed, etc.

Typically, an effective general strike — one where the entire 99% participates — happens after a prolonged struggle over demands that affect all working people, where they are agitated enough to take action in the streets. A general strike is the culmination of this movement, itself the byproduct of reaching out to and connecting with broader and broader layers of working people.

Throughout Europe working people are inspired to fight against austerity. Workers in the United States would likely also be inspired to fight against austerity. Unfortunately, there is no venue to do this. The labor and Occupy Movements have failed to take on the key issues that actually have the potential to unite the U.S. population in a European style social movement.

Austerity is happening fast in the United States; on a state-by-state level massive cuts are being pushed through while taxes on the rich stay low. Health care, education, and social services are being killed on a city, state, and federal level. Public sector jobs are being slashed in an epoch of mass joblessness. Medicare and Medicaid are undergoing a very public attack and Social Security is on the chopping block.

Yes, Occupy is too “radical” to unite around these demands; while the labor movement has acted too timidly. Some Occupiers avoid these demands because they fear Democrat co-optation; labor avoids seriously pressing for these demands because they don’t want to upset the Democrats. This is exactly the point: the Democrats — with the Republicans — are the ones pushing these cuts. Fighting austerity in the United States directly challenges the two-party system, while engaging the broader population into struggle.

Without struggle there is no movement. If working people do not identify with the issues that Occupy is fighting for, they will not join, and Occupy’s issues will remain unachievable.

Occupy Oakland has called for a general strike on May Day. Unless conditions change fast, it is unlikely to succeed, and more likely it will put further distance between Occupy and working people, since the 99% will not take Occupy seriously if it calls for actions it cannot organize. Occupy would do better to follow Europe’s example: organize around demands that connect with working people, so that the real power of the majority of working people can be mobilized in the streets.

Black Bloc: Occupy the Black Bloc!

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Editor’s Note: This Tuesday, Feb. 21st, come to the basement at St. Francis at 7PM for a community discussion on the black bloc and the future of Occupy Portland tactics

Had enough of discussions about Black Bloc? No? Good! Because we’re running a three-day series on Black Bloc tactics. Click the Black Bloc Series tag to read the other articles, delving into the controversy currently sparking throughout the Occupy movement and beyond.

This article was originally published at Deepecomedy.

by Arlo Stone

The black bloc quandary is upon us.

AAARRRGGGGHHHH!

Hedges ignited a shit storm!

In true anarchist fashion (green anarchy/anarcho-primitivism, thanks. Really.) Let me first identify my terms and premises. (That’s how you spot an anarchist by the way. Arguing over terms and words. Not all who wear black are anarchists, but all who spend more than an hour splitting hairs between anarcho-syndicalism & anarcho-communism are. Anarchists can’t even begin to argue about anything unless we have two hours before the argument starts to argue about what all the symbolic words do or don’t mean. Forget bandannas, look for arguments if you want to spot an anarchist.)

1) “BlackBloc”; any autonomous cell of one or more PEOPLE for whom property destruction is on the table as a potentiality, given the right circumstances. I am well aware the term actually refers to a set of articulated “strategies”; for readability “black bloc” is used below as a catch-all for the people using the tactics rather then the tactics themselves.

2) BlackBloc cannot be purged from Occupy. This is a fact. Black bloc members ARE the 99%. And Occupy. Just the most radical edge of it. Everywhere. Tat Tvasm Asi . You could no more prevent black bloc from coming together under the Occupy banner than you could people with red hair. And you’d have a lot more success with the latter. Black bloc cells of anarchists targeting the 1% have been active world-wide for hundreds of years. Occupy is 5 months old.

The reason Occupy is the gathering du jour these days for black bloc cells is because WHEREVER there are people gathered in sufficient numbers to provide a general degree of anonymity not normally possible, black bloc will ferret out that opportunity to come together. Sporting event celebrations, marches, rallies, accidents, natural disasters, power outages, spectacles of all types have always been incubation opportunities for black bloc to form and destroy property; right now Occupy is a black bloc hotbed because it has both the large numbers to provide necessary cover AND a pool of potential participants consistently angry enough with social and/or economic injustice to swell the numbers organically in any black bloc gathering given the right circumstances. Occupy is now big enough and frequent enough to make it a lightning rod for the black bloc both now and in the foreseeable future. Just as occupiers found each other in municipal camps and grew in power and organizational ability, black bloc is using the exact same system to grow their numbers every time there’s an Occupy march or event of consequence.

In equal parts, to the delight of black bloc and the chagrin of Occupy, both groups must learn to co-exist in a reciprocal relationship of mutual benefit if this uneasy “arranged marriage” can be sustained to the benefit of occupy instead of aiding in its destruction.

Thus, my starting points are simple. “Black bloc” or “bb” refers to “people willing to destroy property and fight cops” and I submit that is unremovable from greater occupy in the near future. If you think that marginalizing the black bloc from all occupy marches until they go away is even possible, then you disagree with the second premise above and don’t need to continue reading. Alienation and ostracizing the black bloc from Occupy will simply lessen Occupy’s influence there, which is exactly what Occupy needs more of, not less. If Occupy tries to purge the black bloc from Occupy ranks, the response from black bloc will be no respect whatsoever for Occupy goals, (since they will have displayed no respect or tolerance for black bloc goals) unfocused property destruction will increase and MSM will continue to fracture occupy’s public image via the small but highly damaging unfocused rage of the now “expunged” (but still around) black bloc.

Don’t do it, young Occupy, only five short months old. Resist the urge to purge. You will not only lose your fight to remain relevant and swell your ranks, you will lose the group MOST willing to incidentally work for Occupy’s benefit in the very ways you wouldn’t personally have the stomach for.

Don’t do it. With regards to the black bloc, Occupy’s motto should be: “Don’t exorcise, organize!”

How to Occupy the Black Bloc

Obligatory disclaimer: I am 43 years old. I have kids. My bb days are long finished. Just an occupy citizen-journalist comedian now, an anarchist pundit. With a little “a”. So fuck off, pigs.

In my experience, there are two basic stations of people usually comprising a black bloc event. The “Lord of the Flies” and the “Weathermen.” “Lord of the Flies” black bloc are generally adolescent or post-adolescent youth with insufficiently developed moral ego structures to find fault with indiscriminate vandalism while “Weatherman” black bloc are usually a bit older, intelligent, community and globally oriented and almost always motivated by values and morality; people who have calculated that specific property damage and engaging in confrontations with police directly in specific situations helps stress the current system, urging collapse of inequality ever sooner. Animal liberation, destruction of machinery, sabotage of 1% buildings and symbols done anonymously… weathermen, alf, elf, ef… all black bloc cells. Can you tell me “Anonymous” doesn’t fit the description of a black bloc cell? Anonymous destroys what their victims consider “personal property” (although many anonymous don’t believe it’s “personal” at all) but takes great care to limit exclusively their direct action to perps and 1%ers, all while masking their identity. That sounds like the kind of high integrity and pointed attack that distinguishes a “Weathermen” black bloc from a “LOF” black bloc to me…

LONG LIVE THE WEATHERMEN BLACK BLOC OF ANONYMOUS!

Anarcho-whatevers (including me) will wax theory and bicker for weeks for weeks about what to do post political/social/economic/patriarchal/imperialist unjust system of empire, but it only takes three seconds for us all to agree on what’s next. – TAKE IT DOWN! – NOW!

The phrase “diversity of tactics” can be bandied about freely in proper context when referring to “Weatherman” black bloc of all types and camps. “Tactic” by definition presupposes a further end, a common goal currently missing. Absent an identifiable victory by which the tactic is meant to help bring about, tactics are simply behaviors. Indiscriminately smashing windows is a behavior insofar as Occupy is concerned; one being exhibited by an enemy to Occupy at that! Crimes of selfishness against the 99% are precisely what we’re fighting against, not “strategizing” for. Diversity of tactics in right context is a nod to the needed discretion and autonomy of the “Weatherman” black block type who, while perhaps wild in tactic, remains unswervingly committed to only targeting the 1%.

This “Weatherman” black bloc archetype, MUST be recognized by Occupy, publicly or privately, but authoritatively regardless. This individual is sufficiently developed morally to target only 1% structures and symbols and thus worth the support and solidarity of Occupy, even if unspoken by necessity. (See ILWU Bosses vs. ILWU rank & file for template) Perhaps even more critically for Occupy, the “Weatherman” black bloc quite possibly might be the only conduit to the hearts, minds and behaviors of the “Lord of the Flies” black bloc to which Occupy is, for the moment, not only maligned by but inexorably linked.

You know, the ones running roughshod all over “Occupy Island.”

Grabbing the Conch Shell

Penetrating the adolescent psyche is a guerrilla exercise in that it cannot be attempted head on, as any parent trying to boss their teenager around can confirm in spades. No authority will resonate with sufficient power a message of behavior modification; this is why black bloc “Weathermen” are needed. From Paul Shepard…

“The perverted adolescent has great inner pressure for senseless destruction. His moral absolution is based on felt — “gut” — reactions and the simplistic reduction of complex issues. Repetition, exaggeration, and the slogans are taken as validation of assertions, and reasonable arguments are rejection as diversion. All imperfect institutions are condemned by him to destruction and conservatives are persecuted. Revolutionary political activity is the paranoid’s haven, where one’s delusion are acted out and accepted by others as reality…
What is necessary, then, is drastic ecological revampment of our situation and a revival of the lineaments of tribal society. In defiance of mass culture, tribalism constantly resurfaces. Canadian professor Marshal McLuhan’s new “tribal man” –immersed in the group, linked by instant media instead of dead print, attuned to ecological rather than static forms–cannot be obliterated . He keeps erupting through the literary, linear, segmented culture like a wild plant that heals the inured soil. But the medium is not enough by itself. The gang or commune operating outside society cannot create from this air myths embodying real wisdom. No one can live on empty function. There must also be a content, passionately believed in, that relates man to nature, entering all human experience.”

These kids are falling all over themselves seeking proper narrative and mentor attachments, mostly unbeknown to themselves on a conscious level. Horizontally (peer/mentor level) perceived “Weatherman” black bloc are uniquely positioned to hold onto the conch shell over on Lord Of The Flies Island by supplying a hero’s journey so relentlessly demanded of their ontogeny.

You will never get bb to put the rock down, but you can show them where the bank is.

Occupy needs to bring the following tools to the table if it wish to avoid certain derailment via the Lord of the Flies wing of the black bloc: Strategery, resources and narrative.

Imagine if the mayhem on Oak street in Oakland on January 28th with the black bloc at the frontlines, chunks of cement and debris falling at the riot cops’ feet, was instead an advance group comprised of young girls with flowers, no cement to be found anywhere. (That’s how we stack it up in Portland. We’ve welled up many a pig’s eye with it too.) Black bloc non-existant, no where to be found, until the police advance on the “flower corps.” Black bloc suddenly emerges from behind or to the side, hurling cement chunks in a heroic (albeit largely symbolic) effort to engage the cops and divert them away from the march. Cops then scatter the now heroic black bloc, who’s escape and regrouping can then be aided by Occupy.

Better, Hedges?

Whenever Occupy march, trusted “Weathermen” black bloc should be given 1% locations and symbols along the route in advance, de-arrest responsibilities for internal media, anti-kettling planning, scouting opportunities, diversionary “marches” and “faux occupations” ANYTHING that moves unfocused rage into congruence with Occupy principles. Walkie-talkies, pads, shields… all of these resources and more should be made available to the black bloc. By incorporating heroic narratives and INCLUDING (who doesn’t feel proprietarily about an endeavor once asked for help and advice about how to execute it?) black bloc rather then marginalizing it, Occupy can begin learning how to delicately dance with the radical energy of the black bloc and tether it to a productive end.

It is time to occupy the black bloc as we have occupied everything else in our path to date. With creativity, effective methodology, resolve and persistence.

We don’t avoid or duck our problems, we OCCUPY them until our problems become our strengths!

Black Bloc: Two Wrongs Never Make a Right!

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Had enough of discussions about Black Bloc? No? Good! Because we’re running a three-day series on Black Bloc tactics. Click the Black Bloc Series tag to read the other articles, delving into the controversy currently sparking throughout the Occupy movement and beyond.

By Vargus Pike

In the realm of mathematics two negatives when added together become a greater negative. A positive when added to a negative serves to overcome the negative. If the positive is greater then the result will always be positive. The realm of morality and ethics have an additive property similar to mathematics. Add the negative actions of the police with negative actions from the protesters, and you will always result in a greater negative. Oppose a negative with strong enough positive action and you will always result in a positive.

A greater negative serves no one but the established negative which the protesters are attempting to change. Shouting obscenities, throwing bottles at police, vandalizing public or private property, and burning flags all only serve to provide those police with the community sanction they need to become even more brutal than they already are. It has the effect of providing them with carte blanch to violate the civil rights of the protesters and of the general public in the name of safety and security. It feeds the politics of fear that is already so pervasive in America today. Two wrongs will never make a right. Two wrongs will only serve to destroy the rights that we still have.

Conversely, meet the brutal actions of the police with unified passive resistance, meet them with dignity, meet them with respect and the police who purport to be emperors of freedom and public safety will be revealed to have no clothes.

When this happens, then and only then will the general public recognize the cause as true and just.

To effect real change any movement must have the support of the general public or it is doomed to failure. The Boston Massacre in 1770 galvanized the colonists and most certainly served to sanction the act of civil disobedience known as the Boston Tea Party. If the order of events had been reversed the revolution may never have happened. When John Brown raided Harper’s Ferry in 1859 he failed to start an armed revolt against slavery. He succeeded however in galvanizing the South to arm in anticipation of more raids. The North, while admiring his motives, nonetheless considered his actions to be those of a madman. On February 12, 2012, the leader of Peru’s Shining Path, a Maoist organization, was captured by Peruvian authorities. This capture may very well be the death knell of the organization which controlled a significant portion of the Peruvian countryside in it’s heyday. Due to it’s brutality however, it never succeeded in gaining the support of the people and so eventually withered and essentially has died.

Now contrast these examples of violent action with the likes of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parks. All gained the support of the general public through positive action exemplifying dignity and respect. Once they garnered public support, real change resulted. Look to the examples of dignified protest in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria. Two of the three governments have fallen and Syrian actions have almost certainly doomed it as well for it has lost the support of the majority due to it’s blatant brutality against dignified peaceful protest.

History shows repeatedly that violence only brings more violence. Unless one has the means to physically conquer one’s enemies the only way to bring about meaningful change is through passive resistance until such time that the goodwill of the people has been secured. Then, and only then, if the powers that be refuse to bend to winds of change, can the violence of revolution be justified or sustained.

Editor’s Note: This Tuesday, Feb. 21st, come to the basement at St. Francis at 7PM for a community discussion on the black bloc and the future of Occupy Portland tactics

Black Bloc: Things Were Smashed, and Rightfully So!

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Had enough of discussions about Black Bloc? No? Good! Because we’re running a three-day series on Black Bloc tactics. Click the Black Bloc Series tag to read the other articles, delving into the controversy currently sparking throughout the Occupy movement and beyond.

This article was originally published on Indymedia.

by (A)-Team

What makes something worthy of being vandalized? Why do occupiers insist on inflicting acts of personal violence and assault in order to protect private property much like the police themselves?

Several things went wrong on Monday [February 6th]’s march to protest police brutality in Portland, Oregon. These issues primarily stemmed from the liberal Occupy movement’s attempted co-option of a radical anti-police march, which was neither initiated nor organized by local Occupiers. Unfortunately, since the march was called for in solidarity with the Oakland Occupy movement’s recent arrests and police conflict, local Occupiers showed up en masse and with a particularly strong sense of entitlement. I remain disillusioned by anything conducted locally under the ‘Occupy’ moniker, which has taken on a decidedly soft, liberal stance on goals and tactics.

And why not?

With the bumper-sticker approved formula for a pseudo-class analysis put forth by the Occupy movement, the fallacious 99% vs. 1% based class-division has spread like a plague, finally giving aspiring political activists something which is easily digestible and accessible to spring on - to take action in the streets!!! And what easy theory to put into practice, uniting police officers with those they imprison and murder, bosses and capitalist business owners with the workers they subjugate, and allowing anyone of privilege to neglect true class-consciousness and global solidarity in the name of their own depersonalized, non-focused, and primarily white middle-class struggle. What a strange bunch, having pinned the issue of capitalism’s failure yet unwilling to sacrifice it completely in exchange for something better. It is seemingly believed that once the major corporations fall, and we continue to micro-manage our antiquated Constitution with endless ratifications, bells, and whistles, that capitalism and the state which supports it will prevail and fulfill our dreams for freedom. Why replace state-controlled capitalism with something better when state-controlled capitalism works so well for those who perpetuate it? Even their own skewed class-model of the 99% vs. 1% doesn’t negate this fact entirely, though it would be nice if they maintained such numbers after ridding us of the entire upper-class, only to discover that their bosses, business owners, government officials, police officers and the like were continuing to impede on their freedom. If Occupiers cannot see the inherent failures of capitalism as a whole then their movement has been doomed to produce any tangible or sustainable change from the start.

Police Protect Property, Not People

There is a common misconception, held strong by Occupiers, that police are present to protect our safety as taxpayers and will uphold their duty until provoked by so-called ‘violent’ property destruction - and since their parameters for responding to property destruction have been formally predefined, we are at fault for crossing the line and have only subjected ourselves to police violence.

It shouldn’t take an anarchist to see the lack of merit in such a conclusion, especially at a police brutality march! A major mistake was assuming that because folks were marching against the police, that they were actually against the police as an institution, when many seemed to only be marching against what they viewed as minor transgressions in what is (thought to be) a generally functional and effective system. These primarily white, middle-class folks have been disillusioned by capitalism yet have largely maintained a privileged distance from direct police-oppression or state violence prior to Occupy-based incidents. In Portland, these encounters in the Occupy movement have only been abstracted politically into a narcissistic occupation of space, speaking not towards the direct needs of the people for which the state and capitalism has failed, but rather moving forth into the mode of a self-perpetuating institution. Not to say that occupation is not a sound tactic - if used properly and unimpeded from liberal co-option it can be a powerful tool indeed! The movement’s lack of motives and goals and subsequent institutionalization have developed from a combination of general political unawareness, westernized privilege and aimless entitlement, yet youthful desire to evoke change at any costs as a break from our state of disillusionment. People have tasted the idea of change and are clinging to all they know in order to hold their dream strong, yet unfortunately their dream cannot be realized without radical methods and the ultimate goal of an anarchist society free from state and capitalist oppression!

Sorry Occupiers, we will not reduce ourselves to the vile standards laid forth by those who benefit from our corrupt capitalist system, the state which supports it, and the police who uphold it.

The police have proven time and time again that they hold no value on human life, and we will continue to show them that conversely, we hold no value on the property that they are in place to protect.

The Police are Enforcers, Not Negotiators

Another common misconception amongst Occupiers is the myth that non-violence will always prevail. ‘Pacifism in the face of violence.’ This falsely optimistic view arises from a privileged state of existence, an informal petite-bourgeois comfort zone perpetuated by laws which have evolved over time to marginalize and subject various groups of minorities who lack the means of control and production, while keeping the larger public minimally satisfied, and the elite more than comfortable (an understatement, of course.) These white, middle-class folks have little tangible evidence for their subjection - interactions with police officers often minimal offenses such as traffic violations which can easily be negotiated out of or avoided. Unfortunately, racist, classist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, heterosexist, and other systematic and widespread forms of profiling don’t afford others the same level of comfort in dealing with police. These dynamics require swift and militant tactics in dismantling such an unjust police state, or doing everything within our capacity to facilitate the end of the state and capitalism as a whole.

Another foul and despicable development within the Occupy movement is the close coordination of protests and actions with local police enforcement, including citizen’s arrest tactics, blatant snitching of black-bloc perpetrators of direct action, and mimicking police tactics to the point of assaulting fellow marchers (and particularly those in black-bloc). When certain actions listed below were initiated, Occupiers formed an ad-hoc group of vigilantes acting on behalf of the police, attempting to identify, subdue, and turn the perpetrator of direct action over to the police - and all for the cause of sanitizing the name of the Occupy movement! Not unlike capitalism and the state, the Occupy movement will seemingly stop at nothing to perpetuate itself. Do not attack an inanimate object in the name of humanity, for they will attack you in the name of their abstract movement and deny the contradiction!!

* * *

Unethically Produced, Ethically Destroyed

Here is a description of the things which were vandalized or smashed during the march, listed chronologically. These are detailed as a result of public outcry against the nature of the actions, though may it be known that they were carried out not as a form of public outreach, but in solidarity as retaliatory actions in light of police brutality locally, nationally, and internationally, including the recent murder of Brad Lee Morgan by Portland Police, as well as the ongoing violence and arrests in Oakland, and all comrades imprisoned by our unjust system! Also, it should be mentioned that the final three acts were committed with a black and red flag, and proudly so! Actions included:

—- A Honda Element SUV driving through the march was spray painted with a circle-‘A’, the symbol of anarchism. Anyone privileged enough to afford to drive any car does not hold precedent over the countless thousands of people who die in the name of the oil which propels it, nor is their comfort and convenience worthy of the environmental destruction these vehicles put forth. And how much better that it be in motion while being tagged, a symbol of capitalism in progress, of our hard earned oil in use, exhaust spewing on the perpetrator in action. We will not simply allow you to cruise through our march without thinking twice about the brutality you blindly perpetuate. Fuck your cars, fuck your wars, and fuck the police flying overhead who watched helplessly as anarchists destroyed property that they were being paid to protect. There was an Iron Cross decal on the window which was vandalized, a blatant symbol of oppression heavily used in Nazi Germany, and an image that deserves to be vandalized regardless of the surface it’s attached to. Honda is a major capitalist corporation which has been strengthened as a result of purchasing this vehicle, regardless of the buyer’s social position, and thus capitalist oppression continues to devastate all it touches. Surely, the person’s life was equally devastated after having to rub the graffiti off with a cheap rag and solvent - a mere aesthetic and non-permanent offense (perhaps next time the window should just be smashed!).

—- The front window of a local business, ‘Genoa Restaurant’, one of, if not the only, five-star restaurants in Portland. This is not a business for the working class, this is strictly a business for the wealthy and privileged, literally spending over $100 a person to consume delicacies such as Foie Gras, a notoriously cruel and unethically produced serving of duck. Money flies out of pockets as disgusting rates as an indulgence indoors while others live houseless and without property, exposed to the elements and hiding in fear from police aggressors.

—- A classic Alfa Romeo convertible’s windshield was smashed through in two places and the side scuffed up. This car was not a humble, working-class minivan with a child’s seat, but an extravagant European collectible sports car denoting material privilege. Furthermore, Alfa Romeo has designed cars specifically for the Italian police since the 60’s, and have been used as the automobile of choice by several departments of the Italian police force to this day. May this action be in solidarity with our comrades in Italy, facing similar police brutality and oppression!

—- And lastly, a new BMW sports coupe. Similarly, the sides were scuffed up and the front windshield busted through twice. This is a luxury car, and surely the owner will survive a night or two while their car which costs more than the average person or household makes in an entire year sits in the shop. Beyond the bourgeois status of the car, BMW has a dark history of fascist oppression which has propelled them into their current status as a wealthy capitalist enterprise. In fact, the Quandts, founding family and subsequent errs to the BMW fortune (eight of which are among the hundred wealthiest Germans today) utilized approximately 50,000 slave laborers from concentration camps, many of whom died in extreme work conditions or were executed. Openly important members of the Nazi party, the Quandts played major roles in the Holocaust and the forced ‘aryanization’ of Jewish businesses. Fuck those who have profited from the brutal and systematic slavery and genocide of people, fuck BMW, and fuck your windshield - of which I’m sure you can afford plenty more - so pardon the marginal inconvenience from your privileged life.

FUCK YOUR COMMODITIES, FUCK YOUR PROPERTY, FUCK YOUR FALSE SENSE OF MATURITY BASED ON CAPITALIST LUXURY AND PRIVILEGE.

SOLIDARITY TO COMRADES IN OAKLAND, GREECE, SYRIA, EGYPT, PALESTINE, AND ANYWHERE AND EVERYWHERE PEOPLE FACE POLICE-OPPRESSION.

ONLY ANARCHY IS JUST AND ONLY ANARCHY WILL PREVAIL!

Editor’s Note: This Tuesday, Feb. 21st, come to the basement at St. Francis at 7PM for a community discussion on the black bloc and the future of Occupy Portland tactics

Share Your Stories with Occupy Voices

By Michel Losier

[caption id=”attachment_3736” align=”alignright” width=”424” caption=”photo by fourteen85photography”][/caption]This coming weekend a project called Occupy Voices will be collecting interviews at the Occupy Solidarity Social Forum (OSSF) this weekend in Olympia, on Saturday from 10am to 4pm, and Sunday starting at 10am. They will also be set up at the Occupy Portland office at St. Francis on Thursday, February 23rd, from 11:30am to 4pm.

Occupy Voices is a project that seeks to elicit the stories of thousands of individuals across the country to illustrate economic crisis as told from human experience. It aims not only to present individual narratives of struggle but to also serve as an outreach tool. In its first week of launching, the project had collected 80 interviews in Portland.

Occupy Voices started at inception as a proposal for forming an oral history project within the Occupy movement. It was brought forward in recognition of the value and strength that the capture and exhibition of in-depth personal histories has in empowering marginalized voices and bringing them to popular attention. Discussion in their initial meetings focused on how the merits of this kind of work could be used to have an impactful application for the movement and from this they decided to design the project to emphasize its potential as a galvanizing outreach tool.

The project operates on a five to ten minute short interview format that primarily utilizes two open ended questions: “How have you been impacted by the current economic climate?” and “What would you like to see changed?”. From this they have received many deep personal stories that have given color to issues of economic inequality, social justice, and political corruption.

Occupy Voices makes these interviews available online as a collection on their website, OccupyVoices.org, with interviewee consent, under a Creative Commons non-commercial use license. They present videos without editorship except to remove the footage used for cataloging, the consent agreement, and the moments in which the interviewer asks the primary interview questions.

The interviews will be transcribed to not only provide a textual experience of the interviews but to make the content of the interviews searchable on the site. Along with this, videos will also be tagged based on this content.

The website is a large part of the experience of this project. The hope is to see people who have felt alienated by their own struggles to find other interviews that they can identify with and understand that they are not alone, and for those in more advantaged positions, identifying and understanding situations alien to their own. A larger goal is to see individuals take initiative to collect interviews in their own communities or uploading interviews of themselves. Those interested in performing focused oral history projects are invited to use them as support.

The stories collected are seen as one of many contributions to a shared folklore of struggle that can be engaged with in creative and positive ways and they invite people to help its forms emerge. With the Creative Commons license, they encourage use of the content for video projects, guerrilla theater, transcript performance, playback theater, bat signaling, pamphleting, collaging and DVD mailings to persons of interest.

To encourage participation, OV has also created an easily reproducible and accessible process model for anyone who wants to volunteer or to collect stories in their own community. For this they have produced training documents with guidelines and advice on approaches, equipment, forming an interview team, transcription, and video editing.

OccupyCoordination.org, which hosts weekly national working group webinars, has also been a strong partner in their efforts. Occupy Coordination had initiated a similar effort of their own and have since combined efforts to make this a national project with the participation of other occupations across the country.

After spending the last few months to lay down a back-end foundation to launch from, Occupy Voices is eager to go back out in Portland to conduct more interviews and are calling out for volunteer support and for individuals to come and share their story with them at OSSF this weekend or at the Occupy Portland office this coming Thursday. Volunteer work is open to any capacity of involvement whether it be helping tag videos, transcribing an interview, video editing and prep, or going out and forming an interview team. To get involved visit OccupyVoices.org.

Black Bloc: Concerning the Violent Peace-Police - A Letter to Chris Hedges

[caption id=”attachment_3721” align=”aligncenter” width=”640” caption=”photo by Nicholette Jean Codding”][/caption]

Had enough of discussions about Black Bloc? No? Good! Because we’re running a three-day series on Black Bloc tactics. Click the Black Bloc Series tag to read the other articles, delving into the controversy currently sparking throughout the Occupy movement and beyond.

This article was originally published on The New Inquiry.

by David Graeber

I am writing this on the premise that you are a well-meaning person who wishes Occupy Wall Street to succeed. I am also writing as someone who was deeply involved in the early stages of planning Occupy in New York.

I am also an anarchist who has participated in many Black Blocs. While I have never personally engaged in acts of property destruction, I have on more than one occasion taken part in Blocs where property damage has occurred. (I have taken part in even more Blocs that did not engage in such tactics. It is a common fallacy that this is what Black Blocs are all about. It isn’t.)

I was hardly the only Black Bloc veteran who took part in planning the initial strategy for Occupy Wall Street. In fact, anarchists like myself were the real core of the group that came up with the idea of occupying Zuccotti Park, the “99%” slogan, the General Assembly process, and, in fact, who collectively decided that we would adopt a strategy of Gandhian non-violence and eschew acts of property damage. Many of us had taken part in Black Blocs. We just didn’t feel that was an appropriate tactic for the situation we were in.

This is why I feel compelled to respond to your statement “The Cancer in Occupy.” This statement is not only factually inaccurate, it is quite literally dangerous. This is the sort of misinformation that really can get people killed. In fact, it is far more likely to do so, in my estimation, than anything done by any black-clad teenager throwing rocks.

Let me just lay out a few initial facts:

  • Black Bloc is a tactic, not a group. It is a tactic where activists don masks and black clothing (originally leather jackets in Germany, later, hoodies in America), as a gesture of anonymity, solidarity, and to indicate to others that they are prepared, if the situation calls for it, for militant action. The very nature of the tactic belies the accusation that they are trying to hijack a movement and endanger others. One of the ideas of having a Black Bloc is that everyone who comes to a protest should know where the people likely to engage in militant action are, and thus easily be able to avoid it if that’s what they wish to do.
  • Black Blocs do not represent any specific ideological, or for that matter anti-ideological position. Black Blocs have tended in the past to be made up primarily of anarchists but most contain participants whose politics vary from Maoism to Social Democracy. They are not united by ideology, or lack of ideology, but merely a common feeling that creating a bloc of people with explicitly revolutionary politics and ready to confront the forces of the order through more militant tactics if required, is, on the particular occasion when they assemble, a useful thing to do. It follows one can no more speak of “Black Bloc Anarchists,” as a group with an identifiable ideology, than one can speak of “Sign-Carrying Anarchists” or “Mic-Checking Anarchists.”
  • Even if you must select a tiny, ultra-radical minority within the Black Bloc and pretend their views are representative of anyone who ever put on a hoodie, you could at least be up-to-date about it. It was back in 1999 that people used to pretend “the Black Bloc” was made up of nihilistic primitivist followers of John Zerzan opposed to all forms of organization. Nowadays, the preferred approach is to pretend “the Black Bloc” is made up of nihilistic insurrectionary followers of The Invisible Committee, opposed to all forms of organization. Both are absurd slurs. Yours is also 12 years out of date.
  • Your comment about Black Bloc’ers hating the Zapatistas is one of the weirdest I’ve ever seen. Sure, if you dig around, you can find someone saying almost anything. But I’m guessing that, despite the ideological diversity, if you took a poll of participants in the average Black Bloc and asked what political movement in the world inspired them the most, the EZLN would get about 80% of the vote. In fact I’d be willing to wager that at least a third of participants in the average Black Bloc are wearing or carrying at least one item of Zapatista paraphernalia. (Have you ever actually talked to someone who has taken part in a Black Bloc? Or just to people who dislike them?)
  • “Diversity of tactics” is not a “Black Bloc” idea. The original GA in Tompkins Square Park that planned the original occupation, if I remember, adopted the principle of diversity of tactics (at least it was discussed in a very approving fashion), at the same time as we all also concurred that a Gandhian approach would be the best way to go. This is not a contradiction: “diversity of tactics” means leaving such matters up to individual conscience, rather than imposing a code on anyone. Partly,this is because imposing such a code invariably backfires. In practice, it means some groups break off in indignation and do even more militant things than they would have otherwise, without coordinating with anyone else—as happened, for instance, in Seattle. The results are usually disastrous. After the fiasco at Seattle of watching some activists actively turning others over to police—we quickly decided we needed to ensure this never happened again. What we found was that if we declared “we shall all be in solidarity with one another. We will not turn in fellow protestors to the police. We will treat you as brothers and sisters. But we expect you to do the same to us”—then, those who might be disposed to more militant tactics will act in solidarity as well, either by not engaging in militant actions at all for fear they will endanger others (as in many later Global Justice Actions, where Black Blocs merely helped protect the lockdowns, or in Zuccotti Park, where mostly people didn’t bloc up at all) or doing so in ways that run the least risk of endangering fellow activists.

All this however is secondary. Mainly I am writing as an appeal to conscience. Your conscience, since clearly you are a sincere and well-meaning person who wishes this movement to succeed. I beg you: Please consider what I am saying. Please bear in mind as I say this that I am not a crazy nihilist, but a reasonable person who is one (if just one) of the original authors of the Gandhian strategy OWS adopted—as well as a student of social movements, who has spent many years both participating in such movements, and trying to understand their history and dynamics.

I am appealing to you because I really do believe the kind of statement you made is profoundly dangerous.

The reason I say this is because, whatever your intentions, it is very hard to read your statement as anything but an appeal to violence. After all, what are you basically saying about what you call “Black Bloc anarchists”?

  • they are not part of us
  • they are consciously malevolent in their intentions
  • they are violent
  • they cannot be reasoned with
  • they are all the same
  • they wish to destroy us
  • they are a cancer that must be excised

Surely you must recognize, if laid out in this fashion, that this is precisely the sort of language and argument that, historically, has been invoked by those encouraging one group of people to physically attack, ethnically cleanse, or exterminate another—in fact, the sort of language and argument that is almost never invoked in any other circumstance. After all, if a group is made up exclusively of violent fanatics who cannot be reasoned with, intent on our destruction, what else can we really do? This is the language of violence in its purest form. Far more than “fuck the police.” To see this kind of language employed by someone who claims to be speaking in the name of non-violence is genuinely extraordinary. I recognize that you’ve managed to find certain peculiar fringe elements in anarchism saying some pretty extreme things, it’s not hard to do, especially since such people are much easier to find on the internet than in real life, but it would be difficult to come up with any “Black Bloc anarchist” making a statement as extreme as this.

Even if you did not intend this statement as a call to violence, which I suspect you did not, how can you honestly believe that many will not read it as such?

In my experience, when I point this sort of thing out, the first reaction I normally get from pacifists is along the lines of “what are you talking about? Of course I’m not in favor of attacking anyone! I am non-violent! I am merely calling for non-violently confronting such elements and excluding them from the group!” The problem is that in practice this is almost never what actually happens. Time after time, what it has actually meant in practice is either (a) turning fellow activists over to the police, i.e., turning them over to people with weapons who will physically assault, shackle, and imprison them, or (b) actual physical activist-on-activist assault. Such things have happened. There have been physical assaults by activists on other activists, and, to my knowledge, they have never been perpetrated by anyone in Black Bloc, but invariably by purported pacifists against those who dare to pull a hood over their heads or a bandana over their faces, or, simply, against anarchists who adopt tactics someone else thinks are going too far. (Not I should note even potentially violent tactics. During one 15-minute period in Occupy Austin, I was threatened first with arrest, then with assault, by fellow campers because I was expressing verbal solidarity with, and then standing in passive resistance beside, a small group of anarchists who were raising what was considered to be an unauthorized tent.)

This situation often produces extraordinary ironies. In Seattle, the only incidents of actual physical assault by protestors on other individuals were not attacks on the police, since these did not occur at all, but attacks by “pacifists” on Black Bloc’ers engaged in acts of property damage. Since the Black Bloc’ers had collectively agreed on a strict policy of non-violence (which they defined as never doing anything to harm another living being), they uniformly refused to strike back. In many recent occupations, self-appointed “Peace Police” have manhandled activists who showed up to marches in black clothing and hoodies, ripped their masks off, shoved and kicked them: always, without the victims themselves having engaged in any act of violence, always, with the victims refusing, on moral grounds, to shove or kick back.

The kind of rhetoric you are engaging in, if it disseminates widely, will ensure this kind of violence becomes much, much more severe.

*

Perhaps you do not believe me, or do not believe these events to be particularly significant. If so, let me put the matter in a larger historical context.

If I understand your argument, it seems to come down to this:

  • OWS has been successful because it has followed a Gandhian strategy of showing how, even in the face of strictly non-violent opposition, the state will respond with illegal violence
  • Black Bloc elements who do not act according to principles of Gandhian non-violence are destroying the movement because they provide retroactive justification for state repression, especially in the eyes of the media
  • Therefore, the Black Bloc elements must be somehow rooted out

As one of the authors of the original Gandhian strategy, I can recall how well aware we were, when we framed this strategy, that we were taking an enormous risk. Gandhian strategies have not historically worked in the US; in fact, they haven’t really worked on a mass scale since the civil rights movement. This is because the US media is simply constitutionally incapable of reporting acts of police repression as “violence.” (One reason the civil rights movement was an exception is so many Americans at the time didn’t view the Deep South as part of the same country.) Many of the young men and women who formed the famous Black Bloc in Seattle were in fact eco-activists who had been involved in tree-sits and forest defense lock-downs that operated on purely Gandhian principles—only to find that in the US of the 1990s, non-violent protestors could be brutalized, tortured (have pepper spray directly rubbed in their eyes) or even killed, without serious objection from the national media. So they turned to other tactics. We knew all this. We decided it was worth the risk.

However, we are also aware that when the repression begins, some will break ranks and respond with greater militancy. Even if this doesn’t happen in a systematic and organized fashion, some violent acts will take place. You write that Black Bloc’ers smashed up a “locally owned coffee shop”; I doubted this when I read it, since most Black Blocs agree on a strict policy of not damaging owner-operated enterprises, and I now find in Susie Cagle’s response to your article that, in fact, it was a chain coffee shop, and the property destruction was carried out by someone not in black. But still, you’re right: A few such incidents will inevitably occur.

The question is how one responds.

If the police decide to attack a group of protestors, they will claim to have been provoked, and the media will repeat whatever the police say, no matter how implausible, as the basic initial facts of what happened. This will happen whether or not anyone at the protest does anything that can be remotely described as violence. Many police claims will be obviously ridiculous – as at the recent Oakland march where police accused participants of throwing “improvised explosive devices”—but no matter how many times the police lie about such matters, the national media will still report their claims as true, and it will be up to protestors to provide evidence to the contrary. Sometimes, with the help of social media, we can demonstrate that particular police attacks were absolutely unjustified, as with the famous Tony Bologna pepper-spray incident. But we cannot by definition prove all police attacks were unjustified, even all attacks at one particular march; it’s simply physically impossible to film every thing that happens from every possible angle all the time. Therefore we can expect that whatever we do, the media will dutifully report “protestors engaged in clashes with police” rather than “police attacked non-violent protestors.” What’s more, when someone does throw back a tear-gas canister, or toss a bottle, or even spray-paint something, we can assume that act will be employed as retroactive justification for whatever police violence occurred before the act took place.

All this will be true whether or not a Black Bloc is present.

If the moral question is “is it defensible to threaten physical harm against those who do no direct harm to others,” one might say the pragmatic, tactical question is, “even if it were somehow possible to create a Peace Police capable of preventing any act that could even be interpreted as ‘violent’ by the corporate media, by anyone at or near a protest, no matter what the provocation, would it have any meaningful effect?” That is, would it create a situation where the police would feel they couldn’t use arbitrary force against non-violent protestors? The example of Zuccotti Park, where we achieved pretty consistent non-violence, suggests this is profoundly unlikely. And perhaps most importantly at all, even if it were somehow possible to create some kind of Peace Police that would prevent anyone under gas attack from so much as tossing a bottle, so that we could justly claim that no one had done anything to warrant the sort of attack that police have routinely brought, would the marginally better media coverage we would thus obtain really be worth the cost in freedom and democracy that would inevitably follow from creating such an internal police force to begin with?

*

These are not hypothetical questions. Every major movement of mass non-violent civil disobedience has had to grapple with them in one form or another. How inclusive should you be with those who have different ideas about what tactics are appropriate? What do you do about those who go beyond what most people consider acceptable limits? What do you do when the government and its media allies hold up their actions as justification—even retroactive justification—for violent and repressive acts?

Successful movements have understood that it’s absolutely essential not to fall into the trap set out by the authorities and spend one’s time condemning and attempting to police other activists. One makes one’s own principles clear. One expresses what solidarity one can with others who share the same struggle, and if one cannot, tries one’s best to ignore or avoid them, but above all, one keeps the focus on the actual source of violence, without doing or saying anything that might seem to justify that violence because of tactical disagreements you have with fellow activists.

I remember my surprise and amusement, the first time I met activists from the April 6 Youth Movement from Egypt, when the issue of non-violence came up. “Of course we were non-violent,” said one of the original organizers, a young man of liberal politics who actually worked at a bank. “No one ever used firearms, or anything like that. We never did anything more militant than throwing rocks!”

Here was a man who understood what it takes to win a non-violent revolution! He knew that if the police start aiming teargas canisters directly at people’s heads, beating them with truncheons, arresting and torturing people, and you have thousands of protestors, then some of them will fight back. There’s no way to absolutely prevent this. The appropriate response is to keep reminding everyone of the violence of the state authorities, and never, ever, start writing long denunciations of fellow activists, claiming they are part of an insane fanatic malevolent cabal. (Even though I am quite sure that if a hypothetical Egyptian activist had wanted to make a case that, say, violent Salafis, or even Trotskyists, were trying to subvert the revolution, and adopted standards of evidence as broad as yours , looking around for inflammatory statements wherever they could find them and pretending they were typical of everyone who threw a rock, they could easily have made a case.) This is why most of us are aware that Mubarak’s regime attacked non-violent protestors, and are not aware that many responded by throwing rocks.

Egyptian activists, in other words, understood what playing into the hands of the police really means.

Actually, why limit ourselves to Egypt? Since we are talking about Gandhian tactics here, why not consider the case of Gandhi himself? He had to deal with what to say about people who went much further than rock-throwing (even though Egyptians throwing rocks at police were already going much further than any US Black Bloc has.) Gandhi was part of a very broad anti-colonial movement that included elements that actually were using firearms, in fact, elements engaged in outright terrorism. He first began to frame his own strategy of mass non-violent civil resistance in response to a debate over the act of an Indian nationalist who walked into the office of a British official and shot him five times in the face, killing him instantly. Gandhi made it clear that while he was opposed to murder under any circumstances, he also refused to denounce the murderer. This was a man who was trying to do the right thing, to act against an historical injustice, but did it in the wrong way because he was “drunk with a mad idea.”

Over the course of the next 40 years, Gandhi and his movement were regularly denounced in the media, just as non-violent anarchists are also always denounced in the media (and I might remark here that while not an anarchist himself, Gandhi was strongly influenced by anarchists like Kropotkin and Tolstoy), as a mere front for more violent, terroristic elements, with whom he was said to be secretly collaborating. He was regularly challenged to prove his non-violent credentials by assisting the authorities in suppressing such elements. Here Gandhi remained resolute. It is always morally superior, he insisted, to oppose injustice through non-violent means than through violent means. However, to oppose injustice through violent means is still morally superior to not doing anything to oppose injustice at all.

And Gandhi was talking about people who were blowing up trains, or assassinating government officials. Not damaging windows or spray-painting rude things about the police.

Editor’s Note: This Tuesday, Feb. 21st, come to the basement at St. Francis at 7PM for a community discussion on the black bloc and the future of Occupy Portland tactics.