I really can’t get that upset about the broken bank windows in Oakland. This is minor stuff, a tiny part of what has been largely a peaceful Occupy movement. The windows have been replaced, the banks and their insurance companies have paid for it, the Occupy people helped clean up … whatever.
The problem was that the folks who went a bit Seattle ’99 on Oakland weren’t thinking too clearly — or else they didn’t care about the differences between then and now, and here and there, and why property destruction in downtown Oakland in the fall of 2011 is a bad strategic idea.
There are always folks at a big Bay Area demonstration who want to cause some mayhem. It happened during the protests against the Iraq War, and it happened during the Oscar Grant protests, and I figured it would happen when thousands of people convenened in the East Bay for what was dubbed a general strike. Sometimes it’s spontaneous anger (see: Oscar Grant), and it’s hard to argue with; sometimes it’s sparked by police riots and violence, and while it’s hard to blame protesters for fighting back.
I’m not here to attack the black bloc or denounce anarchists or get into the whole battle over whether property destruction counts as violence. Been there, done that, got the circle-A t-shirt. I just want the Occupy movement, in Oakland and San Francisco and the rest of the country, to continue to grow and develop and become an agent of real change in a way that we haven’t seen in decades. The potential is there; this could really happen.
And that requires not just debate and discussion and theory and action; it requires political strategy.
I’m not talking about turning the refreshingly leaderless and nonhierarchical, consensus-based structure into something more traditional. I’m talking about the protesters considering the way their actions are portrayed in the news media, their ability to build crucial alliances — and frankly, their willingness to be good neighbors.
Folks: You now live in downtown Oakland and downtown San Francisco. You’ve turned empty public spaces into lively, exciting communities. That’s a positive thing.
There are other people who share downtown Oakland, and some of them are evil corporations but some are small local businesses who are hurting, just like the rest of the 99 percent. So make alliances, shop local, and don’t trash the place. That’s just smart politics.