Friday, November 04, 2011
UPDATE 1: A an open letter by a medic on indybay:
By the way, the possibility that the city of Oakland will shut down the occupation is very real.
My concern was with the ill-conceived tactics used to occupy the building, in that it looked like an anarchist glamorshot instead of a committed and revolutionary act to actually acquire and hold that space. I am tired of direct actions being done in a way that turns them into photo-ops and nothing else. I am tired of watching barricades be built only to be abandoned the minute the cops open fire. In addition, the crowd on 16th around the occupied building was terrifying far before the cops ever showed up. As a woman and queer person I wanted to get the fuck out of there almost immediately as it felt wildly unsafe on multiple levels, and I feel like whoever orchestrated the take-over made choices that specifically facilitated the overall crazy atmosphere. There were fistfights, screaming matches, fires, and just a general vibe that people were out to fuck shit up, and absolutely no attempt on the part of anyone to shut that sort of in-group violence down.
The setting on fire of the barricades was totally unnecessary, and may make it necessary for the city to call for the camp to be cleared; the breaking of windows and vandalizing of businesses which supported the strike was utterly stupid and counterproductive; and watching black bloc-ers run from the cops and not protect the camp their actions had endangered, an action which ultimately left behind many mentally ill people, sick people, street kids, and homeless folks to defend themselves against the police onslaught was disturbing and disgusting in ways I can't even articulate because I am still so angry at the empty bravado and cowardice that I saw.
Personally, I'm not that big into apologies. While sometimes warranted, a request for one often makes the recipient defensive, without signaling a change in perspective if they fulfill the request. And, that is what is so urgent here, a recognition by those involved in the Traveler's Aid Society seizure that it is essential to consider the implications of their actions within a broader social movement, and conduct themselves accordingly.
Taking this building was a good idea, but the action was not planned or executed correctly. The public has no idea about the backstory of the building or the intentions behind Occupying the building.
If your goal is to occupy a building, why would you do it in the public spotlight? If people really wanted to put the building to use, they would quietly, secretly, break into the building, and fill it with people. They could have actually begun USING the building. Then, they could gain public support before an eviction attempt by educating the public about the history of the building and the good use to which an empty building had been turned.
Instead they made a public statement. That means that this was not a practical action. It was not a real attempt to use the building, it was symbolic. And a symbolic action is designed to send a message. But what was the message?
There was a banner hung on the building that said Occupy Everything I watched the TV live news report and the anchorwoman spoke the words on the banner as part of the report. At the time I thought it was cute. But now that I read the above description of what people were supposedly trying to accomplish, I see that the banner should have carried a specific message about this particular building and action, to educate people about the story that was unfolding.
As for the barricades, give me a break. I squatted in the Lower East Side in the early 90s. Evictions are not a game. The cops rolled a tank onto 13th street when they wanted the squatters out. A TANK.
Were these protestors actually intending to defend the building militarily? Did they think they had a chance? What is the point of barricades? What is the point of burning trash cans? Do you think that will make it possible for you to keep the building? Of course not. You know you can't win against their military might. We can only win against their limp morality, their shriveled integrity, and their flaccid principles. And we win by being morally strong, impeccable in our integrity and holding fast to wise and courageous principles of service and compassion. Service to the community. We win by expressing our morality, integrity and principles with clarity and grace.
The people who raged in the street last night were not motivated by an impulse to serve the community, that is clear. What did motivate them, really? Maybe they will do some introspection, look into themselves and ask of themselves what is true. Were they looking to have a good time? Craving excitement and adrenaline? Infatuated with their own egos and sense of identity? Were they swept up in the euphoric feeling that comes with being part of something, part of a group, a club?
This movement is not about being in a club. This is the 99%. This is for everyone. We show our faces. And when I say this movement is for everyone, I want to feel that this movement is for you too.
The people who were part of the drama that played out late last night need to look into their hearts. They need to ask themselves who they serve. If they are seeking to serve their own selfish needs, they don't hold a place of honor in this movement. They are the troublesome relation and we are all wondering how they will reconcile with the rest of the family. Maturity is expressed in a willingness to take responsibility. They should apologize. Publicly. They should work to mend the damage that they have caused to the spirit and reputation of this movement, a movement awash in beauty and humility. The people in this movement are so humble, none of them will claim to have the authority to lead or to speak for the other members. We represent ourselves, and we are all in leadership positions. Decentralized structure means that we are all responsible. You be responsible too, anarchists. Be responsible on a spiritual level. Be responsible on an emotional level to the good, trusting people in this movement whom you have hurt. Be responsible on an intellectual level by thinking carefully about your goals and strategy and acting for the good of the whole
Taking this building and starting a library and center of operations would have been an action that served the good of the whole. But that is not what you did. You didn't take a building. You just took a lot of attention and made the conversation center around yourselves. The people in the movement deserve better. The 99% deserve better. They deserve an apology.