ANALYSIS – In the pre-dawn hours of October 25th, repression against the Occupy movement reached a new level. At 4:40 a.m. 500 riot police surrounded Occupy Oakland. By assembling across the city, striking quickly and in the dead of night, then gassing the area before the mass arrests in an apparent attempt to drive away media and their cameras, there seems to have been a concentrated effort to suppress coverage and control the narrative. That afternoon, when over a thousand people marched back to the former camp, the police once more met them with force. They used tear-gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades throughout the night against the protesters. The national (corporate) media mostly repeated, with little question, the official police narrative of the events. Videos and first hand accounts circulating through social media and the international press punched small holes in their story and galvanized even greater numbers to take to the streets the next night when 3,000 re-took the park and called for a general strike on November 2nd. Across the bay in San Francisco police backed down against a threatened eviction, and across the country and around the world people poured into the streets in solidarity. For the moment, we are winning; but this is only the beginning.
As we grow in strength, so will repression. In a sick sort of way, it just means we are on the right track. Thus far one of the strengths of the movement has been that we have not let city halls and police commissioners control the narrative. When New York City tried to use sanitation as a pretext for eviction, we scrubbed the park in front of television cameras. When they said we were just hippies and college dropouts, we had a family sleepover. When they said we were violent and weak and pushed us, we stood our ground peacefully.
We have grown stronger than they can tolerate and they will try to provoke us. They will hit us, gas us, and arrest us. We need a diversity of tactics and we need to remain assertive, but just as the images of police violence against protesters have galvanized the movement, protester violence against police will ruin it. It will be difficult to remain calm in the face of repression, difficult to not let anger hit back, and in all likelihood that repression will intensify. If the police attack and we remain peaceful, we change the narrative. The public will cheer police crackdowns if we attack them, but they will not tolerate violence against peaceful protesters—and many rank and file police officers will not either. Already, in Albany, police officers have defied orders to break up a peaceful protest. Thus far that is an isolated incident, but if we can stay peaceful, it will spread and the public will join us, swelling our ranks.
When Oakland was attacked it presented more than a new challenge, it ushered in a new phase to the Occupy movement. Every time they attack us, we need to come out in force and show we will not be intimidated. Further, we need to show we can maintain our composure in the face of police violence. What makes this movement so special is that it has thus far been able to be assertive and forceful yet remain peaceful. We need to continue to take the streets, it is important to give physical representation to the concept that we are taking back control of our own lives and cities, but we also need to remain peaceful. When we take back space, we create a community that is a hope for what our nation could be. We create change by giving a living example of it.
When they attacked Oakland, they attacked all of us. Let’s make them regret it.