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Letters for the Week of February 15, 2012

Readers sound off on Occupy Oakland, hunger, and Jin Lia.


"It's Time for the Black Bloc to Go Away," Seven Days, 2/1

Counterproductive Tyranny

Thank you for speaking out against the Black Bloc and the Occupy groups which tolerate its tactics.

The phrase "diversity of tactics" might have a nice ring, but those who endorse it don't seem capable of appreciating that nonviolence and violence can't coexist at the same march or event. Nor can violence and large numbers, violence and children, violence and goodwill with the community, violence and tear gas-free air, etc.

If the Black Bloc is idiotic to want to face off with a poorly trained police force, they should arrange to do so somewhere where it doesn't impact those of us whose quest for economic justice manages not to include a lot of broken glass.

As for Occupy, I hope they can imagine how big their marches might be without the Black Bloc's predictable, counterproductive tyranny.

Carol Denney, Berkeley

Blame the OPD, Not the Black Bloc

This article is the 21st-century equivalent of red-baiting. As soon as one group is sacrificed to the police, other groups will become vulnerable. Solidarity does not require approval — only a willingness to work together for the long haul.

Blaming protesters for being provocative is like blaming rape victims for wearing provocative clothing. Those who use force to get their way are the ones to be held accountable, not people who defend themselves.

Robert Gammon's reckless assertion that the Occupiers have been using "deeply undemocratic rules" needs to be set alongside the fact that the Quakers have been using a stricter version of the same rules for more than three and a half centuries and yet have taken the lead on many issues.

Finally, it's absolutely insane that the decision by authorities to ignore neighborhoods to protect property can be blamed on Occupy Oakland. This does prove that some folks definitelyhave to go. And, it ain't the Black Bloc.

Richard Fitzer, Oakland

Has Occupy Oakland Lost Its Way?

Over the weekend of January 28, the lead major media story for at least the third time in three months was the war-like altercations between Occupy Oakland and Oakland police. One local announcer loudly reported that, following the weekend altercations, "Oakland has become the flashpoint of the nationwide Occupy movement." This accolade raises the question: Since Occupy Wall Street is proclaimed a "peaceful, non-violent movement" of the 99 Percent exposing the excesses of the ever-enriching One Percent, how did it come to this? Particularly in my beloved hometown of Oakland?

Three weeks after the landmark eruption of Occupy Wall Street in September 2010, Occupy Oakland sprang to life almost unilaterally with enthusiastic, unbound support and heady optimism as hordes of Oaklanders instantly identified with the escalating economic divide between the uber-rich One Percent and the remaining 99 Percent of the US populace. Either directly or indirectly, the pain caused by the uninhibited greed and corruption of Wall Street institutions and mega-corporations, widespread devastation of neighborhoods by home and apartment bankruptcies, industrial failures and off-shoring millions of jobs, calamitous unemployment, and the burdening of students with debts to which they will be shackled to the rest of their lives, is experienced by practically all of Oakland.

Oakland was fertile ground for the Occupy movement, and a tent encampment quickly sprang up on the lawn of Frank Ogawa Plaza. Two weeks after that, however, the city made history by calling in riot-equipped police from nineteen surrounding jurisdictions, who brutally attacked and demolished the initial encampment. This first-of-its-kind military attack on the nascent peaceful Occupy movement — instantly flashed around the world — was later admitted by policymakers to be a mistake. On November 2, one week following its violent displacement, Occupy Oakland was back in the plaza stronger than ever. The movement triumphantly announced its re-birth as 30,000 people exploded onto city streets in jubilation and an historic day of general-schools-workplace strikes, including shutdown of Oakland's busy port.

But after that, inherent flaws within Occupy Oakland began to take over the promising and critical movement. Given Oakland's violent police history and years of wanton police killings, particularly of Oakland's Black and Latino populations, Occupy Oakland became a prime destination for dissident, aberrant, anarchistic thrill-seeking youth whose sole purposes were "anonymous" property destruction, confrontations with police, and general mayhem.

After bemoaning the failure of Occupy Oakland to establish a firm foundation of "peace, nonviolence and non-property destruction," it was recently revealed (and confirmed by other long-term participants) that early in the movement's formation, the general assembly was presented with, and passed, a resolution endorsing "diversity of tactics" in its operations, and went further in authorizing "sub-groups" within Occupy to plan and carry out actions of their choosing in the name of Occupy Oakland without needing to return to the assembly for deliberation and approval. Under this blanket authority, the dissident group has performed several unilateral demonstrations, and over the recent three Saturday evenings, has carried out marches — otherwise known as "Fuck the Police" rallies — from City Hall plaza to Oakland Police Headquarters, intentionally meant to provoke violent altercations with the police. 

The early authorization by the general assembly of "anything goes" is generally unknown — even today — to the vast majority of Occupy activists and supporters.

I contend that the entirety of Oakland, including city officials, Port of Oakland employees, and even the OPD are all constituents of the 99 Percent.