Sunday, October 30, 2011

Too Soon for Analysis -- Still in Dialectic Mode

Hippies show you how it's done.

If all one knows about the Occupy Movement is what's in the major mass media, that's a problem right there. What's so ironic about the continuing media puzzlement regarding the aims and goals of the Movement is that pretty much everything is open source, right out in public, most of it in the great outdoors no less, or easily accessible online. There would be no excuse for the media's bafflement if it weren't for the well-known fact that the media in this country is a strategic tool of the Overclass. Observing what the media says about the Movement-Becoming-Revolution is a clue to what the Overclass is thinking about it. What we can say of it so far is that the Overclass is baffled on the one hand and indifferent on the other. Kind of the way they are about most everything that isn't Them.

Our Overclass and the government which serves Them is so barricaded and divorced from The People that any action outside its narrow interest simply doesn't register; it's really worse than the Bourbons.

A couple of interesting efforts of analyzing the Occupy Movement have been brought up in comments here, and I thought I'd take some time to discuss them.

I liked Danny Goldberg's "In Defense of Hippies" in Dissent (h/t Cuchulain).

Hippies and their grandkids (not so much their own offspring, though) are found everywhere in the Movement, and their presence makes perfect sense. It's not because this is a Hippie movement -- it isn't, not even close -- but more because Hippies and their descendants are like so many other marginalized and excluded sectors of the population who have no more say in the course of national and international events than any other sector of the "99%". They're an integral part of the Movement by the very fact of their ongoing Marginalization.

It's not too analytical to say that the Movement is ultimately based on the fact that all sorts of excluded groups have discovered (not entirely spontaneously) that they have more in common with one another than they thought. And guess what? Drum circles are not bad things. Peace, love and harmony are positive goals (if you need goals; otherwise, they are just positive). The fact that the more rigidly programmed liberals have a tough time of it when they smell pot or patchouli in the air is more their problem -- that can be overcome -- than it is a problem of the remnant Hippie/Commune community.

Ponder for a moment how many groups are rigidly excluded from policy influence in this country and around the world. It's practically everyone except the 1% and their running dogs and handmaidens.

Goldberg, approaches this issue from the perspective of Mainstream Democratic/Progressive contempt of the Hippies and all their appurtenances. Yes, well. Part of the role of the Overclass and the Insiders is to be contemptuous -- or condescending -- toward those on the Outside. It's always been so.

The Occupy Movement turns that contemptuous attitude inside out: in this Movement, those on the Outside are generally more condescending and contemptuous toward those on the Inside. Most of us instinctively defer to Authority. We recognize Power when we see it, even if it is not in the form of tear gas and rubber bullets, and we generally yield. But in the case of the Occupy Movement, the yielding -- say to arrest for Occupying -- is a highly formalized and ritualized form of contempt and condescension for the truly petty laws that require so much overwhelming force for implementation. "The whole world's watching" the Overclass make fools of themselves over and over and over again. And when it turns violent -- as it has in several cities, most prominently Oakland in the USA (we'll leave aside some of the international violence against The People for the moment) -- the shame brought on by the police state tactics used against peaceful demonstrations stings. It merely builds a more contemptuous attitude toward the Overclass.

When that police state violence is turned against Hippies and their descendants, it is generally met with outrage. How dare you hurt these loving people? How. Dare. You? The Hippies are at the spiritual center of the Movement.

As Goldberg puts it:

Yet it is precisely the mystical utopian energy that most professional progressives so smugly dismiss that has aroused a salient, mass political consciousness on economic issues—something that had eluded even the most lucid progressives in the Obama era.

I've heard and read many calls by otherwise progressives to "ditch the utopia talk" -- since we can't get anything like that done, we shouldn't even consider it. Yet one of the chants that's making the rounds is: "A Better World is Possible." It's part of the internal dialectic of the Movement. Should it focus on "what can be done," much as Chomsky argues, or should it be focused on what should be done? Of course the answer is "both," but we haven't quite got there yet.

In the interim, many of the Occupations -- though not all of them -- have become demonstrations of what that Better World might look like. Sketches and outlines, to be sure, but still, the point is to demonstrate the Change You Want to See by Being the Change yourself.

That can't happen without enormous amounts of what I'd call "Hippie Spirit," for it was the Hippies -- during a time of intense pressure to Conform -- who demonstrated that there was another way to live, and who showed how to do it.

Goldberg recognizes that aspect of the Hippie Movement, but I wonder if he understands the nuances of the demonstration. The Hippie Spirit never went away, and it never entirely went underground, either. It is apparent in all kinds of "alternative lifestyle" movements, and especially in environmental activism today.

Whole communities and subcommunities all over the country, but especially in parts of the West, and in California in particular, are culturally "Hippie." Once the culture was adopted it became a permanent fact of life. Just because these communities are ignored -- except when they are raided by the Marijuana Police, when they are ritually despised -- doesn't mean they otherwise don't exist. They certainly do exist, and their humanist/spiritual ethic and culture is deeply rooted by now.

Goldberg concentrates on Hippies as a "spiritual movement", in the sense of Alternative Religious Belief, and I'm somewhat taken aback by it. Yes, there was a strong spiritual element to the Hippie movement of the past, and present-day descendants of Hippies of Yore (such as in Sedona, for example) are still promoting an alternative spirituality, but for the most part, spiritual matters (beyond regard for the Earth and for one another) are a private thing best left to the individual and like-minded others to sort out as they see fit. There is little need to cultify.

If there are cultic elements in some of the Occupations, they are not Hippie-cultic.

Goldberg further observes:

The anti-hippie ethos on the left runs deep. Many 1960s radicals claimed that the hippies had squandered a chance to mainstream left-wing political ideas. In Black Panther leader Bobby Seale’s book Seize the Time he quotes white radical Jerry Rubin as saying that he and others had formed the “Yippies” because hippies had not “necessarily become political yet. They mostly prefer to be stoned.” In the real world, the Yippies never got a mass following, but the Grateful Dead did.

Talk about a mash-up! Well, he's got a good underlying point: the contempt of the mainlined political movements for a movement that was as conscientiously a-political as the Hippies were is as strong now as it ever was. If you believe in the System and the possibility of reforming the System, then those who want to -- or are -- standing outside it and are demonstrating another way altogether can only be met with contempt and arrogant condescension. Jerry would wind up as a corporate man, let's not fool ourselves. Bobby Seale has been fully integrated into the standard non-profit realm. It wasn't so much that they were co-opted as it was that they were natural reformers. They may have denounced the System in their Radical days, but they came to believe, if they didn't already believe it, that the System could be made better by their activism and the activism of others. They were reformers, not Revolutionaries.

Part of the ethical grounding of Utopian communities of all kinds in this country is that they don't as a rule participate in the politics of the nation. They keep it at a distance for all kinds of reasons, primarily ones of survival. The political show is a distraction from what really matters. So the alternative Utopians mostly don't play.

Hippies quite consciously had very little political influence then, and most see little point in pursuing it now. It's an Insider's game.

This is why Goldberg's statement here is confused at best:

Conservatives have effectively peddled the notion that all politics are corrupt. The resulting apathy, and opposition to government, conveniently leaves big business more in charge than ever. The price that Democrats and progressives pay for belittling or ignoring contemporary devotees of the hippie idea, who share the opinion that politics are corrupt, is to reinforce the impulse to “drop out” in a cohort that would otherwise be, for the most part, natural allies.

Hippies are not the natural allies of any politician, on the left or the right (as the duopoly in our country conceives itself.) The politics is irrelevant.

Whenever an analyst tries to shoehorn the OWS Movement into a political framework, the attempt fails. And if they try to define or direct it into an institutional framework of any kind, be it party politics or standard-model organization, I am reminded of my man Mario Savio's deeply felt manifesto on the steps of Sproul Hall in the Winter of 1964:

Embiggen by clicken image
That's not Hippie -- there were none at that time. But the sense that things have gone so wrong that you have to either withdraw from the Machine, or stop it altogether, is as strong now, if not stronger, than it was then.

And until somebody says it and presents an alternative, nobody knows it openly.

Mario opened the door to radical consciousness in 1964. Now many doors are being opened. Not just to radical thought, but to alternatives of all kinds.

Was Mario a leftist? Does anybody actually know? Were Bobby or Jerry political leftists? Were the Hippies leftists? Were they Democrats? And OWS, is it leftist? A tool of the Democratic Party?

The questions themselves expose the absurdity of left/right dualism in the context of Movements like this.

And that's where I think Goldberg and many analysts of the OWS Movement go wrong. They keep trying to figure out how the Movement (that is made up of all these excluded elements of society) can be integrated into the insider political system without actually following through on any of their still forming objectives.

It won't work.

Later, I hope to take on Morris Berman's analysis from October 12 (h/t teri49). It seems kind of quaint now, but it makes an important point: there's more than one phase of a Revolution, and the second phase (and subsequent ones) may be made impossible by the overreliance on technology and social media by the OWS Movement.

The problem with this analysis I think has to do with the perception that this Movement is sui generis, and that's hardly correct. As I've pointed out in other fora, the elements and the arguments for Revolution have long been "there." This Movement puts them together...

This video was made in 2007, and it gives an interesting overview of some of the pre-Revolutionary context that the current Movement-Becoming-Revolution draws from:

It didn't spring from the Vacuum.

Oakland AgitProp and the Pivots of Revolution

Wow! Just stunning AgitProp poster from the folks who bring you Occupy Oakland.

This is what Revolutionary Graphics look like... in my view at any rate. Of course, I am very visually oriented -- perhaps overly so -- and a poster like this grabs me on multiple levels: it's visually powerful and striking, the images are evocative of previous Revolutionary actions (I think most of us know which ones), and they speak to conditions right here and right now.

Break the chains that bind you. Hello?

But of course there are many, many people involved in the Occupy Movement who will recoil at a visual image like that, many who will denounce it outright as "a call to violence" (which it is not, at least not necessarily, but I'll try to get to that), and who will be fearful of the potentials a graphic image like that can unleash. The power of images (and the narratives that go with so many of them) should not be underestimated.

No one should enter into a Revolution mindlessly. Just as no one can predict the start of a Revolution, no one can predict its outcome. Do not do this unless you are prepared... or at least mindful... of unpredictable consequences.

I posted a "somewhat" Revolutionary image on the Occupy Sacramento Facebook page, an adaptation of a poster that was developed by an artist in the initial days of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, and as far as I can tell, it's been taken down after there were some complaints about its being "too forceful" or "too communist" or "too violent." Of course, in my view it was none of those things, but other people did see it as an implicit threat to the established order, and as such, it was "forceful, communist, and violent," by definition.

That should give you an idea of how difficult it is to open minds and consciousness to the possibilities of Real Change, how serious one has to be about it to accomplish any significant Change, and how fearful most people are of actually doing it.

It's justified fear; I won't deny that. You don't know where your action is going to lead. There is no way to know in advance. Even the threat of Action, even if only subliminal, is disturbing to many.

But. If you're going to get anywhere, people do have to be disturbed, their comfort and convenience has to be disrupted, and their natural complacency and apathy has to be overcome.

So it is with more than a little interest that I post this video of the Q&A session after Noam Chomsky's talk at Occupy Boston last week (so long ago now, in Revolution-Time, it seems like decades ago!):

Yes, well.

Listen to the subtext of what he is saying: "Work through the System as it is. Do not do Revolution. Do not upset the apple cart. Do not expect quick results. Do not be subversive. Do not engage in anything but proper political action on established models. Do not do General Strikes. Do not Make Trouble. Do not concern yourselves with the Big Picture. Focus on 'what can be done.' Immediate issues only. The People are not ready for Revolution. Do not do this."

This is one reason I have never had much regard for Chomsky: despite appearances, he is not just part of the Establishment, he is an active defender of the Established Order, an Order which, of course, has given him a prominent Place at The Table. He has free rein to talk all he wants, but only because he is no threat to the Established Order, and he will take no action -- and in fact he will support no action -- that will actually disturb that order. The farthest he will go is to suggest the possibility of making marginal adjustments within that order, preferably on a very long time scale.

His critique of the Established Order is not in any way meant to subvert or overcome it; at best it is meant to "improve." Lots of people resonate with that point of view. It is not just safe, it is passably doable. If you're prepared to wait a very long time, and if you are satisfied with baby steps forward now and then, and much reversion and backsliding most of the time, then Chomsky's approach is just the ticket.

It does work. I know. I've done it. I've worked within the system as an an activist/advocate, as a contractor, and as a direct government employee, and I pretty much know how to get things done within that context. It takes a long time, there are lots of setbacks along the way, and what you initially set out to do is not likely to be realized as you envisioned it (if it is realized at all.) Yet by working within the System, there is at least a fair chance that some of what you're interested in seeing happen will happen. You can have an effect on policy, and that effect will have a ripple effect throughout the System.

This is something that many of the activists in the Occupy Movement are just learning, and they don't know how to do it yet; they had no idea they could do it before this Movement sprang up.

But there is a whole other contingent (now concentrated in Oakland, it seems!) who have already been down that road and have rejected it; or they never had any particular regard for it in the first place.

They know full well you can "get something done" within the System, but it will never be more than an adjustment at the margins; it can't be anything more than that. They aren't satisfied with that, and at this point, after what has been going on to harm the People for so many years, I ask why should anyone be satisfied with that?

I think it is fascinating that the Occupy Energy Center (to give it a name) has shifted from New York to Oakland. What happens in Oakland is now the catalyst for what will happen in the Movement as a whole.

And there are some real Radicals and Revolutionaries in Oakland, make no mistake. They will not sit down, they will not shut up, and at this point, after the unprovoked police assault on the Occupation in Oakland, and the subsequent absurd police overreaction to the protests against it -- an overreaction that resulted in hundreds of injuries, and the severe wounding of Scott Olsen -- they will not be stopped, either. At least not any time soon, nor easily.

There have been these kinds of uprisings in Oakland in the past, many times, and they have either been successfully suppressed, co-opted or they have dissipated, so I won't make any prediction about where this particular activist movement is headed.

It could well be that enough of the Demands of Occupy Oakland will be met that the Revolution will peter out; on the other hand, if Authority continues to dismiss those demands and insists on committing further atrocities, then we're literally looking at a situation that will mirror other uprisings that have happened this year which have turned into full on Revolutions that ultimately led to the overthrow of governments.

Calling a General Strike at this point is a "test" in a way, to see just what kind of public support there is for Occupy Oakland, not solely in Oakland itself -- though that is the focus -- but throughout the Movement and in the general society. If it is as extensive as I suspect it is (though I can't be sure it is), then Oakland won't be just the momentary Center of the Occupy Movement, it will become the "motor" in a sense for the entire movement.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing at all.

There are true Radicals and Revolutionaries involved with Occupy Oakland, and at least from my perspective 80 miles away, all I can say about them is that they know what they are doing and they are fully mindful of the risks and rewards of Revolution (for Real).

If the Energy Center stays in Oakland, we're going to see much more than marginal change from within the System result from the continuing Occupy Movement.

Strap in, the Ride is just beginning.

This is an image from last night's confrontation with OPD:

It may seem kind of cute, but it's deadly serious.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Be the Change...

Make Something of It

I haven't said much about the local Occupation lately in part because there have been so many more stirring events elsewhere.

Which is not to say that what's going on here doesn't matter. It does. Like most other Occupations -- maybe even all of them -- Occupy Sacramento is engaged in a fierce internal contest of wills over its "proper" direction, and who or what, if anyone or anything, should be in charge of that direction.

For some time it has been a matter of jockeying for position and power and fighting those who claim top-doggery.

In other words, internally the local Occupation rather closely mirrors the external society and its power structure. This tendency to mirror the power and sometimes the organizational structure of the society in general is widely found in the Movement, and what -- if anything -- to do about it is a frequent topic of discussion here and elsewhere.

The OWS model of horizontal organization and leaderlessness is the tonic to much of what goes on in the world outside the Movement (and that world seems to be shrinking by the day). But the model is not well-known or well understood beyond a certain relatively small cohort of enthusiasts (I consider myself one). Even in New York, which has essentially made the model in this country, they had repeated visits from Spain for consultations on how it works and what to do in particularly difficult situations.

A question came up yesterday in a discussion about the #Spanishrevolution as it is called.

Have they accomplished anything? Have they changed any policy of the government?

The Indignados Occupied the Puerta del Sol in Madrid and the main squares of many other Spanish cities, most prominently Barcelona, for months. The Spanish general elections are coming up, and it is quite likely that the Zapatero government will fall. It is expected that a coalition of Spanish conservative, if not outright Fascist, parties will win parliament(much as has already happened in Portugal.)

Is that what the Indignados had in mind? It's impossible to tell from a distance, but I kind of doubt it.

Already this year the People's Party (conservative/borderline Fascist) has won in a majority of municipal elections, and it's likely they will do very well -- probably win -- national elections for Parliament (Cortes).

Is this because the Spanish people are enamored of the policies of the right all of a sudden? I would say not. No, this likely outcome is for the same reason that Republicans did so well in the 2010 elections in this country: People are fed up with the unwillingness or inability of the ostensible "leftist" party (in Spain, Zapatero is the Secretary General of the Socialist Workers' Party) to serve the People's interests before those of the financial interests who now seem to own governments all over the world.

The Occupation of Puerta del Sol and the other public plazas has had no discernible effect on the policies of the government of Spain. The government of Spain, like every other European government, is apparently owned by -- and directed by -- the same financial interests that own and direct the United States government, and what the owners want comes first and foremost. The People -- even if united in solidarity -- need be paid no attention; let them have their little camp outs if they want them, there is nothing the People can or will do that government, as a function of the controlling financial interests, need to fret about.

There is nothing the People will do. Still.

What does it take?

I can't say I have all that much of an insight into these things, but I have seen what's happened -- and is still happening -- here. After the Mayoral Visitation, there was a huge amount of explosive anger addressed toward the process and the process movers which allowed KJ free rein to make his mischief, though there wasn't necessarily any understanding of just what that mischief was. ("My god, these people don't know anything about how power works! This is a disaster!." Yes, exactly. And that was the Mayor's intent.)

On an instinctive level most people do understand how power works; and they like it like that. They don't want any significant change in the power dynamics they know, and they will resist any imposition of another power dynamic -- sometimes without even meaning to do so.

In Sacramento, in part because of the way society is organized here (around a government model), changes in the power dynamics are very difficult or impossible to achieve. Some of the extant social dynamic here goes back to the Gold Rush and its immediate aftermath, much else comes directly out of the Railroad Era; the remainder is a factor of the persistence of governmental and bureaucratic memory that you will find in any capital city. These dynamics become so deeply ingrained they aren't even consciously recognized.

We've had what amounts to a split in the Occupation in that the more radical/anarchist contingent (along some others) have stayed with the Movement but have left the local Occupation saying that it is just too "conservative" for their taste, and that much of what they would like to see happen here can't happen under the current set up. And they're right. It can't.

Even if our General Assemblies were on the right track -- which they aren't yet -- the more radical contingent would not be getting their way. Overall, Sacramento's Occupiers and their supporters are a highly conservative lot, even though most would consider themselves to be liberal/progressives.

Sure they are.

They are, but in the context of the Occupy Movement, the liberal/progressive ideal is conservative.

I look at this and ask myself what to do about it, and the answer is "let is be." Don't try to change the culture -- that can only happen on the longest of long terms anyway -- try to change yourself. "Be the change you seek."

That's why "make something of it" is such a key idea. The image at the top of this post is of what happened to the fencing the City of Oakland installed after Tuesday night's disturbances to keep people out of Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza. The Occupiers tore it down as soon as they were allowed back in the Plaza (which they were on Wednesday night).

And then they made something of it. Something beautiful.

THAT'S exactly what's necessary; make something of it.

Be the change you seek.

There is no way to stop that spirit.

Friday, October 28, 2011

What Happened in Oakland -- and the Problem of Progressive Politics

Above is a picture of Marine Veteran For Peace Scott Olsen, 24, standing next to Joshua Shepherd, another VfP member in full Navy uniform holding the VfP flag, at the demonstration Tuesday night in which he was severely wounded by -- some projectile -- that came from police lines during the brutal attempt to clear the crowd from the area around Frank Ogawa (aka Oscar Grant) Plaza in front of the Oakland City Hall. [Note: Edited to add name and link to video of Navy member of Veterans for Peace.]

"Some projectile" is the best anyone can come up with at this point because there is no clear evidence regarding what the projectile was, nor even is the source entirely clear. On the one hand, Scott fell severely wounded immediately after two or even three flashbang smoke grenades were hurled by police at the crowd and landed about 20 feet away from him. Other projectiles -- bean bags, "rubber bullets", possibly wooden blocks or dowels (which Oakland police have used before) -- were also being fired into the by then largely dispersed crowd.

What exactly hit and wounded Scott Olsen is at this point unknown. But something hit him hard enough in the head to fracture his skull and knock him unconscious and leave him in critical condition from which he has only recently emerged.

From the video evidence, it is clear that once Scott was down and people gathered to lend him aid, an officer -- who has been spotted but not identified -- then threw a flashbang grenade (and a smoke grenade?) directly at the group of people attempting to aid Olsen. It exploded in their midst, mere inches from Scott's body. This momentarily scattered those who were trying to help their wounded comrade, but they rushed back as soon as they saw it was relatively clear -- if not safe -- to do so. They were then able to carry Olsen away.

No one is yet sure what agency the officer(s) who threw the grenade(s) and who may also have fired the projectile that hit Scott came from. There are indistinct video images of the shoulder patches worn by the two most likely officers. All I can make out of them indicates that they are from a police agency in Alameda County; the closest match I've been able to find to their patches is that of the Oakland School Police. If it is correct, that would be quite a revelation.

The only other one that I've found that it might be is the California Highway Patrol.

From a distance the CHP patch appears to be a somewhat closer match, and I have seen CHP at the Capitol on occasion in riot get ups, so... may be. [See UPDATE below]

At this point, it doesn't matter who exactly wounded Scott; according to reports, hundreds of people were hit and wounded by police projectiles or suffered lingering consequences from tear gas inhalation on Tuesday. The incidents of police firing on the crowds went on from the very early morning when the Occupy Oakland village in front of City Hall was first raided to late into the night of the following day when the police and demonstrators finally called it quits for the night.

Who caused Scott's skull fracture may never be known for certain, any more than who caused any of the other wounds the demonstrators suffered.

What is of more critical interest at the present time is the fact that the raid and its aftermath were ordered by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan (who now wonders whether she did the right thing), was planned by Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana, and was implemented by Oakland Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan with the assistance and participation of law enforcement agencies from Alameda County and elsewhere in the Bay Area and Northern California.

There were over five hundred officers assembled in Oakland for the initial raid on the Occupy Oakland encampment at 4:30am on Tuesday. Many of them stayed throughout the day and long into the night as the demonstrations against the raid took place. They cordoned off the Plaza in front of City Hall and prevented public access. They intercepted crowds marching from the Oakland City Library to the area of the Plaza and ordered them to disperse. When they did not, the police fired tear gas and other projectiles at the demonstrators, and took several into custody. At some point during the afternoon, police officers were splashed with paint (much as has happened in other demonstrations around the world), and further rounds of tear gas were fired and further arrests were made, though so far as I know, not of anyone who actually splashed the paint on the officers, whoever it may have been.

The issue is the order for and the implementation of plans for violent clearance of the Occupy Oakland village, and the violent suppression of the protest thereof.

As I've pointed out in other fora, this is Oakland, California. Violent suppression of protest and dissent is a way of life there, as is the nearly constant activism of residents against the suppression. There have been many demonstrations and occasional riots which have been brutally put down by Oakland law enforcement with the support and assistance of many other Northern California police agencies. The situation has been especially tense in Oakland since the shooting of Oscar Grant by a BART cop on New Year's Day 2009.

In a very real sense, Oakland has been under some form of martial law for years. While the events of Tuesday are shocking to the conscience of anyone who has a conscience, they are not at all surprising to anyone who is aware of the nearly constant outrageous actions of the police there and the almost constant demonstrations against the outrages.

Jean Quan was elected mayor last year as a reform candidate. She has long been known as a "progressive" activist, and she won office against the wishes of the Democratic Party apparat.

She ordered this? What the fuckkity fuck?

Yes, yes she did. She ordered this, and she approved the action while she was in Washington, DC, lobbying principally on behalf of Oakland business interests.

Which may give you a clue as to why it was done the way it was done and when it was done in the first place. There are few accidental actions like this. They take long planning and coordination, and they must have a date certain and a time for implementation. They are not ad hoc at all.

Bluntly, it seems clear she was trying to make a show for the White House's benefit, much as Kevin Johnson is trying to do in Sacramento.

The point being that these mayors are trying to demonstrate just how to successfully thwart and suppress the Occupy Movement.

The 'baggers weren't nearly the threat to the Powers That Be that the Occupiers are -- for the simple reason that the 'baggers were co-opted from the get, and their program was essentially no different than that of the Overclass. So far, the Overclass has barely been able to penetrate, let alone co-opt, the Movement-becoming-Revolution, and so the issue for the 1% is to figure out how to suppress it without looking too much like Mubarak's thugs in Cairo.

It's apparently up to mayors all over the country to show how to do it, ratcheting up the pressure on the Occupiers, while experimenting with various tactics and techniques to find something that works.

Jean Quan was doing her part, but maybe now she's having some second thoughts about it, for she has come under withering criticism and has been forced to issue a statement is almost -- but not quite -- contrite regarding what happened. [See UPDATE for more information]

The police chief and the city administrator have also come in for their share of criticism -- including criticism of the fact that they blatantly lied straight out about the weapons and tactics they were using against the demonstrators.

Wednesday night, thousands of Occupy Oakland participants and their supporters returned to Frank Ogawa (Oscar Grant) Plaza, conducted their General Assembly on the steps of City Hall, decided to call for a General Strike on November 2, and then they danced.

They also tore down the fencing erected to keep them out of the Plaza itself, reestablished part of their campsite on the Plaza and several of the participants spent the night -- without being harrassed by the police. In fact, reports were that the police were nowhere to be seen near the Plaza by Wednesday night, and the City had ordered a temporary stand down.

Yes, well. What else could they do? Without looking like Mubarak's thugs that is...

By Thursday night, the Oakland General Assembly was attracting over 2000 participants, as union members arrived in solidarity and support.

The City now says they want to listen and negotiate (ah, the KJ approach).

But in my view, it's too late. They screwed up so badly with the raids and failed attempts at suppression that there's little chance of productive negotiation at this point.

They only have two options now: Yield or go to full on conquest and rout of the demonstrators. And the second option is not going to work over the long term. You can't kill a revolutionary idea.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan's letter to Occupy Oakland regarding her absence from the GA last night: "Mayor Jean Quan's Statement to Occupy Oakland"

I did some additional research, and now there's little doubt in my mind that the officers fingered by Occupy Oakland as the ones responsible for wounding Scott Olsen and tossing at least one and possibly more flash/smoke grenades at those who came to help him were CHP officers. I've seen CHP officers in black riot gear at the Capitol here in Sacramento on occasion, but I didn't remember their exact uniform, and I can't find any pictures I may have taken of them. But I did find this picture of a line of CHP officers in riot gear at another protest in Oakland last year (the issue was the killing of Oscar Grant at a BART station.)

That's pretty much a match for the uniforms on the officers in the Tweet from Occupy Oakland.

Further, there is this extraordinary split screen video showing the events from above and simultaneously on the ground. While it's still impossible to say exactly what hit Scott Olsen, the number of grenades and tear gas canisters seen from above is astonishing. Police were also firing "rubber bullets" and other projectiles at the same time.

The demonstrators did not provoke this response by police. The application of overwhelming force by the police was planned all along. The upshot, however, was not.

This is a global movement, and everything that the authorities say and do to squelch it is closely monitored and made immediately -- and in this case very graphically -- visible around the world. The Oakland Debacle will probably not be the last violent assault on the Occupy Movement. And we can assume that "Lessons Learned" is being debated in the Halls of Power right now.

It didn't go well for Authority in Oakland. No, not much.

Edited for clarity and to provide more information as it became available.
Additional Bay Area LOE shoulder patches:

San Francisco County Sheriff's shoulder patch:

San Ramon police department:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido!"

This is a video made from images collected during the first phase of the Indignado occupation of the Puerta del Sol in Madrid and other plazas throughout Spain -- which began on May 15, 2011. The Indignados have been an inspiration for the global Occupy Movement that has gained so much strength since the September 17, 2011 launch of the Occupy Wall Street action in New York City.

The song is by Sergio Ortega, a Chilean composer, who heard the chant "El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido!" while passing by the main square of Santiago de Chile in 1973 just months before the Pinochet coup which overthrew the elected government of Salvadore Allende.

The song became an anthem of resistance against Pinochet and other Latin American dictatorships, and eventually for resistance and social justice movements all over the world.

After what happened in Oakland -- and the aftermath of what happened in Oakland -- "The People United Will Never Be Defeated" is now one of the global anthems of everyone who believes in


Nobody expects the #SpanishRevolution -- now the #GlobalRevolution.

Last Night in New York City

-- the People assembled to march in solidarity with Occupy Oakland. The NYPD were not amused. The Ratchet Effect is working in more than one direction.

It may not take as long as I thought it would for people to reach their limit of patience with the continued bullshit.

"Ya basta" indeed.

This Revolution Can't Be Stopped

All that Authority can do now is to try to suppress it -- but it won't work more than momentarily -- or Authority must yield. Co-optation has proved ineffective. Since there still is no specific "there" there, there's nothing to take over and win with, or make go away for that matter.

Veterans for Peace Statement Regarding Scott Olsen

Official VFP Statement Regarding Occupy Incident in Oakland

October 26, 2011

Veteran For Peace member, Scott Olsen, a Marine Corps veteran twice deployed to Iraq, is in hospital now in stable but serious condition with a fractured skull, struck by a police projectile fired into a crowd in downtown Oakland, California in the early morning hours of today. Other people were injured in the assault and many were arrested after Oakland police in riot gear were ordered to evict people encamped in the ongoing "Occupy Oakland" movement. Olsen is also a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

VFP members are involved with dozens of these local "occupy movement" encampments and we support them fully. In Boston, for example, our members, wearing VFP shirts and carrying VFP flags, stood between a line of police and the encampment, urging police to "join the 99%" and not evict the protesters. In that case, several of our members were banged and bruised when the police decided instead to carry out their eviction orders.

In Oakland, last night, a similar thing happened, according to VFP Chapter 69 member and Navy veteran, Joshua Sheperd, who said he went to downtown Oakland "to see if, as a VFP member, I could help still the be between the police and the seemed unconscionable to me that the police use the cover of darkness like that to do what they were doing." Fortunately, he was not injured in the police assault that left Olsen with a fractured skull

As with virtually every example of the occupy movement across the country, those encamped were conducting themselves peacefully beforehand, protesting current economic, social and environmental conditions in the U.S. brought about by decades of corporate control, a criminal financial industry and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are driving the U.S. global empire into bankruptcy. These "occupy movement" participants are telling us something we need very desperately to hear. They should be listened to, not arrested and brutalized.

Police in the majority of cities are acting with restraint and humanity towards the encampments, but Veterans For Peace will not be deterred by police who choose to use brutal tactics. In fact, as happens with repression everywhere, more people join the cause. We do believe that the rank and file police officers are part of the 99%, the overwhelming majority of Americans who are suffering at the hands of an intolerable system. Layoffs and cutbacks in city after city prove that we must join together to demand justice for all.

We send our very best to Scott Olsen and his family and wish him a speedy recovery to health.

We shall not be moved.

"A Revolution Without Dancing is Not a Revolution Worth Having" -- Emma Goldman

[This is video of an Occupy Oakland dance party on October 10, 2011, their first day of Occupation at Oscar Grant Plaza -- aka Frank Ogawa Plaza -- in front of City Hall]

Last night, Occupy Seattle and Occupy Oakland both concluded their General Assemblies and began Dance Parties that lasted in Seattle for hours into the night, and may well have done the same in Oakland, though I am not sure, as I wasn't able to stay with the stream much past the end of GA, and supposedly, the Plaza in front of Oakland City Hall now officially closes at 10pm.)

(Livestreaming is a wonderful thing, but the technology is not perfected by any means; what you are actually seeing on the feeds at any given time is never entirely clear, as many Livestreams may be putting out archived material or material from other Occupations rather than live webcasts from whatever Occupation one has tuned into. Often, very, very often, live webcasting is choppy with frequent outages, and very often, too, there is no simultaneous verbal description of what is seen. Consequently, you just have to make your way through it as best you can.)

Of course previously, the Occupy Oakland GA approved calling for a General Strike on November 2, 2011, as an appropriate tactic in the ongoing struggle with The Powers That Be.

Dance Parties, whether regularly scheduled or impromptu, have become very much a part of the Occupy Movement. Sometimes the drummers provide accompaniment, but more and more, there are DJs spinning music on the record machine -- as there was last night in both Oakland and Seattle.

Funny thing. As I was pondering the very serious events in Oakland and Atlanta and other cities where evictions of Occupiers were carried out in the last couple of days, I kept thinking, "There ought to be dancing."

And there is. There is dancing. There are lots of ways to do it. Here's what they did in Vancouver in February of last year:

(How many times have I posted "Dancing in the Streets" over the last couple of years?)

What this sort of thing does is disarm both the police and the public. How can you argue with sheer joy?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Scott Olsen in Critical Condition

An Iraq war veteran has a fractured skull and brain swelling after allegedly being hit by a police projectile.

Scott Olsen is in a "critical condition" in Highland hospital in Oakland, a hospital spokesman confirmed.

Olsen, 24, suffered the head injury during protests in Oakland on Tuesday evening. More than 15 people were arrested after a crowd gathered to demonstrate against the police operation to clear two Occupy Oakland camps in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Jay Finneburgh, a photographer who was covering the protest, published pictures of Olsen lying on the ground.

"This poor guy was right behind me when he was hit in the head with a police projectile. He went down hard and did not get up," Finneburgh wrote.

Olsen was taken to Highland by fellow protesters.

Shaming the Oakland Riot Squads

"Why are you here? Why are you doing this?"

Oakland -- There's no way to stop this now

Livestreams everywhere along with Twitter and Facebook have become the media platforms of the Occupations. The Livestreams often freeze or otherwise become barely or non-functional. Twitter and Facebook don't appeal to large swaths of the public. But many of the Occupations produce excellent videos like this one and post them on the YouTubes.

Agit-prop such as has never existed before.

And it's working.

Here's an additional video from last night. A Marine named Scott Olsen is wounded when he is hit in the face by a tear gas canister. (When I first saw this scene last night, I thought the wounded person on the ground was a woman.) People rush to his aid. The police then fire a flash grenade directly at the wounded man and those trying to help him. It is monstrous. Insane. These are the kinds of things that make the Occupation Revolution necessary.

This is Insane -- And They Know It

Hundreds of police from all over Northern California are participating in the ongoing action in Oakland to attack Occupy Oakland and their supporters since early yesterday morning.

What's going on is ratchet tightening on the part of officials, in the somewhat wan hope that by increasing the aggressiveness of the police, the protest will fizzle out; so far, it's not working. Not in Oakland, at any rate.

So far as I can tell from the various television, livestream, and print coverage, there is a very dedicated core of at least 1000 Occupy Oakland demonstrators and their supporters who will simply not "go away." Add to them a rotating group of at least another 1000 or more who stand in solidarity against the police aggression, who come and go -- many don't like being gassed for some reason and they don't stick with the demonstration after tear gas and flash bangs are fired into the crowd -- as the demonstration evolves.

I'm linking to some KTVU videos below that show at least some of what happened last night -- some of which I saw taking place live via other video resources (unfortunately, Occupy Oakland's Livestreaming was not the best) -- just to give an idea of what has been going on. Please don't listen to the mindless blather of the "news" people, some of whom were gassed and flash-banged. It annoyed them greatly, and they tend to blame the "protesters" for their discomfort. Whaa.

The video linked above was taken last night at ground level, in the midst of the march toward the City Hall and Frank Ogawa Plaza (renamed by the Occupiers "Oscar Grant Plaza") where the main Occupy Oakland encampment had been. It is a relatively typical Occupy Wall Street affiliated demonstration and march. There is nothing unusual about it nor is there anything threatening about the demonstrators or marchers. It is clear from everything I have seen -- of course that's not everything -- that there is a conscious, deliberate effort on the part of the demonstrators to confront the police peacefully. Accusations have been flying since the camp raid yesterday morning that the demonstrators have been "throwing things" at the police, including rocks and plates and skillets. I kid you not. There is no evidence whatever that I have seen that the crowd has been doing so prior to being fired upon by the police. Once the gas is fired into the crowd, some people will throw the gas canisters back into the police formations. That is absolutely all I have ever seen anyone in the crowd throw at police.

In the video above, near the very end, you will see something that looks like a large bag or something like that on the ground as the crowd runs away from the gas. Then suddenly members of the crowd run back to this object on the ground, and it is clear that it's not an object, it's a person. They attempt to check on this person's condition when a flash-bang goes off right in the midst of them, and the video ends.

In another of the videos, below, a "news" caster states that she saw someone on the ground bleeding profusely. She didn't know how that had happened. Maybe the victim fell or was pushed? Who can say?

In the video below, we see the firing of gas and flash-bang grenades directly into the crowd. It's difficult to watch, at least it is for me. The only time I have experienced tear gas was in Oakland, a long time ago (I think there is a post below that mentions that day...) and I still have body-memories of it. It's not something I fear, but it is not something I wish on anyone else, either.

By this time, a sub-set of the crowd is very defiant. They are being attacked. For what? For being there. For being loud. For being persistent and demanding. For refusing to be moved. For standing up to and challenging corrupt authority. For insisting on and acting on their rights as citizens and human beings exploited by a corrupt and indifferent system.

So what happens? The streets of Oakland turn into a mini-version of the streets of Athens, Cairo, Damascus, or Tripoli.

The attempts at suppression have come here. Not quite full bore, but getting there.

Things may start getting rougher for Occupiers everywhere. Intellectually, they're prepared, even hyped by the challenges ahead; they are not by any means -- at least from what I can tell -- dissuaded from continuing to demonstrate by the threats of official violence, nor by the acts of violence by the police in Oakland.

The more violence the authorities unleash on demonstrations like this, the stronger the resolve of the demonstrators. This should be obvious by now. It should be obvious.

In other news, there were reports that the (Un)Occupation in Albuquerque would be evicted from the University during the night, but I haven't checked yet on what happened.

The local Occupy Sacramento contingent went before the City Council last night once again, to politely but firmly request that the city authorities desist from their policy of arrest of Occupiers and open the Plaza 24/7, or face lawsuit. It was clear that not only were the council-members not interested, they weren't even hearing the always-articulate speakers on the Occupation's behalf. So. There were more arrests last night; the first batch of 18 who were arrested on October 6 go to court this morning for arraignment. The District Attorney refused to prosecute on state charges of illegal assembly saying that as far as she is concerned, there was no illegal assembly, and therefore there was nothing for her to prosecute. On the other hand, the City Attorney is apparently going to try to pursue loitering charges against the 18. According to one of the local attorneys working pro bono on behalf of the Occupiers, the rumor is that the City Attorney will ask the the charges be reduced from a misdemeanor to an infraction -- so as to avoid any possibility of a jury trial. The attorney recommends not accepting the reduction in charges because it is the interest of the Occupiers to go forth to a jury trial rather than accept a fine for an infraction. There is a rally scheduled at the courthouse at 8:00a this morning in solidarity with those who will go to court today. There have been approximately 80 arrests locally, four more last night, and as many have cogently pointed out, the city is wasting money on all of this; just open the Plaza and there will be no problem. As I put it, "Stop the arrests, drop the charges, open the Plaza."

It's so very simple.

The thing of it is, by not taking such a simple course, by refusing to hear or to act on the interests of the People, the Authorities -- wherever they are -- reinforce the complaints of the Occupations, and they strengthen the resolve of the Occupiers to persist and resist.

It's an interesting tactical move. Assuming they are thinking on those lines.

It's not clear that they are actually thinking, however. It looks more like the mindlessness of almost any modern bureaucratic system that sees nothing, hears nothing, and learns nothing. They have an environmental cue. They respond automatically.

Same as it ever was.


We The People Have Found Our Voice (Occupy Wall Street) from ivarad on Vimeo.

And they know it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oakland, live. From above.

[Screenshot, they don't have an embed code. Link below]

They fired tear gas into the crowd about an hour ago. So far as I could tell, there was nothing happening within the crowd to justify it. Now there are about half as many demonstrators on the street -- maybe 1000 -- getting much closer to the police. And demonstrating.

What the Oakland police did early this morning about 4:30a was appalling. I saw the camp -- wreckage of the camp -- on the livestream after the assault. It was godawful and without justification. Be skeptical about anything you read about what happened and why. It was a large encampment in a very visible position in front of the Oakland City Hall; the police claim all kinds of things about how dangerous, etc, the Occupy Oakland people were and how they had to do what they did. Sure. Whatever.

It's Oakland.

At any rate, there is a standoff between police and demonstrators in central Oakland going on right now. Well, there was. The police fired gas again just now.


This is the Hard Part -- Consensus

Where Do We Go From Here?

Repost -- On Effective Resistance and Abbie Hoffman

[Every now and again I get flashbacks to 1968 and before. This essay was written last year and seems for some reason to be germane now... dunno. Maybe there's something in the air?]

I'm in a strange and contentious mood today. Maybe it's the extended heatwave. Maybe it's just my "time".

Today would be my father's 109th birthday if he were still alive. Of course he died many years ago in a hospital where he was finally taken at the last to perish of a cancer that is usually controllable or curable if treated early enough.

He refused treatment when it might have saved his life. By that time, he was refusing most every overture from the outside world. He lived his last few years as a virtual hermit, doing his best to withdraw into a shell. I had no contact with him by then since I was more than a thousand miles away on the one hand, and I was unable to get a response to letters or phone calls, on the other hand.

In fact, I found the letters I had sent to him stacked in a neat pile on a side table when I explored his house after he died. None had been opened. I had tried calling him numerous times, but he never answered the phone. Eventually, I called his sister who lived down the street from him to find out whether he was OK, and she said he was, but she hadn't seen or talked to him for over 6 months, maybe a year. She thought he was fine, he just didn't want to be bothered. He wouldn't even listen to her the last time she saw him. He just looked right past her. What could you do?

Yes. What can you do? I missed his funeral and burial due to a flight delay from California, but I did attend his wake at the home of his sister, and I left with my head reeling, revolted and disgusted at these shallow and self-centered Iowans, claiming as they did: "Well, you know, Ray committed suicide. He wouldn't take any help when it could have made a difference. When they finally got him to the hospital it was too late. It was his own fault. Did anybody send for a priest?" The best thing they could say about him was that he should have stayed in the military. He had a very promising career in the Air Force, and he would have been out of the mess that things became in his small town in Iowa. It would have been for the best for all concerned.


At the time, I was actively resisting military service -- which the rest of the assembly to "honor" my father knew -- and so I saw it as backhanded slap not just at my father (for being himself) but at me, too, for being a doGdamned Hippie. He had left the military to go home and defend his older brother who on trial for murder. A political trial, I might add, for the real killer was known to the prosecutor before he took the case to trial, and it ended with a directed verdict of acquittal. That was the "mess" that things became in small town Iowa.

I still rage about those people. Not that it ever did me the least bit of good.

But then, I didn't have to deal with them more than occasionally. What a relief.

This is a picture of my father's house as it looks today:

I think it was actually taken last year, and the house looked a good deal different when my father lived there. The sort of mismatched window on the first floor left front was a door, the main door to the house. The larger window on the left front was even larger, and it was put in by my father to please my mother who came out to Iowa from California and who found the house dark and dreary when she got there. The house was built in stages, starting in the 1840's or '50s with the two rooms in back (which became the kitchen and dining room when my father lived there.) The small wing on the left side was added as a lean to originally, in the late 1850's; it had two bedrooms and a bathroom when my father lived there. Not too long afterward, a second story was added over the four early rooms, and one of the rooms above still had a Gothic arched window that Grant Wood made famous:

The front was added in the 1870's, and included a parlor, a stair hall, and a large bedroom upstairs.

A wraparound porch was added at the same time.

My father had lived in the house for years, since the early 30's. It had belonged to his father from whom my father inherited it. This was one of several houses on the street my grandfather had owned. Once it was in my father's name, he "cleaned it up," as he said, removing all traces of its Victorian Era origins from the exterior, including the porch, and masking the Gothic window from the outside with siding and a new window. He had it painted white. He partially modernized the interior -- Late Moderne Era light fixtures, tropical figured wallpapers, plumbing updates and the like -- and overwrought Victorian furniture was replaced with simple '40's modern pieces. Linoleum and new appliances were installed in the kitchen and the coal fired furnace in the basement was updated.

By the time my father died, the house was pretty much of a wreck. He hadn't maintained it for years while he'd shut himself up in it like a hermit. He'd rented out the upstairs to some very strange people who pretty much trashed that part of the place, but they're the ones who finally got him to a hospital. Some attorney friends of his said they'd take care of his estate on contingency, and so they did. Of course, it was nothing but trouble getting the few things I wanted boxed up and sent to California, getting the house sold, the proceeds (such as they were) distributed, and ultimately gaining closure on the whole sorry affair.

But you can see by the way I write about it more than 40 years later, I'm still puzzled at all the unknown elements of my father's final years, and annoyed at the complete insensitivity to him and to others shown by his surviving friends and relations.

I mentioned that I was actively resisting military service at the time my father died. I was called up for the draft in October, 1967, during a time of intense protests at draft centers all over the country, including Oakland where I was ordered to appear. In fact, the Oakland Induction Center was shut down by the protests during the time I was in transit. There had been protests and shut downs and arrests all week. I thought that going for my physical as ordered could be quite an interesting experience, though I had no intention of becoming a troop.

And it was interesting to say the least. We were scheduled to arrive at the Induction Center at 10am, but because of the protests, we were held at Santa Rita until about 4pm, and needless to say, we tended to act up some while we waited. Anti-war chants were our favorite.

When we were finally delivered to the Center, the smell of teargas was very strong in the air and the protest was still going on. Protesters had been removed from the front entrance, but they were right behind the double line of Oakland police who formed a kind of gauntlet for us to literally run through from the bus to the front entrance of the Induction center. The crowd was chanting slogans, and some of us were chanting too and raising fists as we stumbled into the Induction Center.

I remember being surprised at how respectful and even gentle the staff was once we were inside. I expected something much rougher, and it wasn't that at all.

We could hear -- and if we were near a window, see -- the protests outside all through our not too excruciating ordeal inside, and I saw people being arrested and hauled away. Some of us inside made for the windows in our underwear and shouted our solidarity with those outside, but truthfully, most did not. Most were silent, enduring the various pokage and proddage that's part and parcel of the process and getting ourselves "evaluated" by the psych team. Some of it was very funny, like when we had to give a urine sample and the military fellow supervising this process had to keep very close (and eager) watch on us to make sure... well, not sure what, but he obviously loved his job!

Now and then, we could hear the pop of tear-gas outside amid all the chants, and soon enough the air would fill with that acrid aroma and we'd all start coughing and gagging. They gave us something for it, but I honestly don't remember what. It may have been just a wet cloth to hold over our noses and mouths. I can still feel the burn of teargas in the back of my throat from that day, and every time my eyes are irritated due to allergies, I'm reminded of it.

Eventually, they were done with us, and I was surprised it was over so fast. I had a handful of papers to take with me, and when we got back outside the crowds were gone and it was getting dark. There were a few police milling around and a lot of debris in the streets. Faint odor of teargas lingered. Got back on the bus and went back home.

Got a notice that I passed my physical, and the real struggle began. I was NOT going to be drafted. Period. There were maybe half a dozen of us from that induction cohort who had vowed we were not going to go, no matter what. And we said as much at the Induction Center, something that the staff said they were very used to hearing, and it was no skin off their nose one way or another. Some people, they knew, really didn't want to be drafted. Oh well.

I sent letters to my draft board saying, "No, I will not go, don't call me," and I remember they sent me one back saying they received my letter and would I please provide documentation that I was a conscientious objector. Hm. No, I would not, thank you very much, and I would not be drafted, either. This went on for several months as I recall, with the draft board periodically replying to my refusals with very polite requests for more information. I was actually expecting to be arrested at any minute.

I burned my draft card at a public ceremony at my college (I wasn't a student at the time, I had dropped out for a variety of reasons, and that was why I'd been called up for a physical). I protested at the Federal Building, marching and chanting and carrying signs against the war and the draft. While the police were always a threatening presence, they didn't bash my skull and they didn't arrest me, either. Much to my surprise.

Finally, the draft board sent me notice that I was classified 1-A and would be subject to induction into the military within a short time (30 or 60 days, I'm not sure). Of course they conveniently included a new draft card. Bless their hearts. The one I had burned was a 1-S student deferment, which was no longer valid anyway, since I was not a student any more.

So I expected to get a notice any day that I was drafted. And you know what? It never came. The same thing seems to have happened to all six of us who "Hell no, we won't go." After what seemed like a long time -- and many letters back and forth to the draft board, and for some of us but not all, medical opinions from sympathetic doctors that said we weren't "fit" for service -- we were all re-classified 1-Y, subject to induction only in a national emergency.

It was... over. We weren't going to be drafted. We wouldn't have to go to jail, and we wouldn't have to go to Canada. Deferments didn't matter any more. It was... over.

Of course, if the Viet Cong started crawling up the beaches of Santa Monica, all bets were off.

Some time later, toward the end of the draft, some of the draft board members were interviewed, and they said that from time to time, they would get letters from draft and war protesters, and they said they would not arbitrarily reject them. They considered each one carefully. They knew there were many, many Americans opposed to the war and the draft, and they didn't see it as their job to induct men who were simply going to resist. So, if the facts warranted, they would try to find a way for men who were genuinely opposed to the draft and the war to stay out of the military, because what use would they be inside?

This was the first time I'd really thought of the draft board members as human. Their reputation was something entirely different. And yet, apparently they found a way to keep us out of the military.

Who'd a thunk it?

So, in a very small way, and essentially without our understanding of what was happening, our resistance was effective. And I cannot go to the Vietnam Memorial downtown and read all the names of the men who died there, some of whom I knew, some of whom were drafted, and not burst into weeping rage. Why? Why? Why?

By 1968, my rage at what was going on was tempered somewhat by the knowledge that it wasn't just damned dirty hippies or dumb kids who were outraged. Far from it. The McCarthy campaign and then the Kennedy campaign demonstrated the depth and breadth of opposition to the horrors being inflicted on the suffering peoples overseas and at home. This was no fringe uprising. It was global. It was deeply felt at home. I was attracted to the Kennedy campaign, but I thought he was an opportunist just the same. I watched the primary results come in from California, and I went to bed before Kennedy gave his victory speech.

I felt a hand shaking me awake. "Kennedy's been shot."

Oh my god. Not again. Please. Not again. Martin Luther King had been shot in April, and the national upheaval was intense. Many, many people had been killed or wounded in the aftermath. Please, not again.

This time, there was only sorrow and resignation. The last, best hope extinguished... And yet, there was still Chicago.

If I could have, I would have gone. "Won't you please come to Chicago..." Yes, well.

But I was penniless, had no way to get there, and no chance of going. I watched the events of the Democratic convention unfold on television, more bloodshed and rioting and teargas. More anger, more misery, more outrage.

And the star of the show was Abbie Hoffman. There was no doubt that it was a show and he was an absolute star. Simply amazing.

And my doG he and those with him got a lot done. To say that protest and resistance and monkeywrenching, and yes, clowning when the situation calls for it, is "ineffective" -- after what Hoffman and others were able to do -- is so full of shit and ignorance the mind boggles with the breathtaking arrogance of it.

Hoffman was a character, no doubt about that, and he relished the spotlight. He was a liberationist, not a communitarian, and yet every cause he supported and everything he did seemed geared to "be of service" to far more than himself and his image and reputation.

Somehow too many Americans have lost that spirit, or maybe never knew it.

He was an organizer with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee; he was a committed anti-war activist; one of his stunts was organizing the "Levitation of the Pentagon;" he always encouraged others to get involved and he was very successful in motivating otherwise passive or apathetic individuals to get off their butts; he went to the New York Stock Exchange and threw fists full of dollars down on the trading floor making some of the traders scramble to get the money.

Of course his arrest and trial in Chicago for his participation in the Democratic Convention protests in 1968 is the stuff of legend, and while his trial with that of the other "Chicago 7" was going on, his antics in court were magnificent, appropriate for the political trial context, and utterly contemptuous. Where are those today who will so creatively and gleefully expose the corruption of justice that passes for our court system today?

His books -- like Steal this Book and Letters from the Underground -- are still inspirational.

He went underground when he was set up by police as a big cocaine dealer and ultimately skipped bail. But while underground, he remained active as an organizer and writer. When he eventually surrendered to authorities, he was given a light sentence and was released after four months, something that is almost impossible to conceive of given draconian sentencing these days.

Abbie Hoffman was one of those involved with the revelations about the CIA's illegal involvement in the "Contra" war against the Sandanistas in Nicaragua when, at trial after his arrest (along with many others) for protesting the CIA's recruitment at the University of Massachusetts, Daniel Ellsberg, Ramsey Clark, and Edgar Chamorro, among others testified to decades of illegal and violent activities by the CIA.

Hoffman is alleged to have committed suicide by ingesting over 150 Phenobarbital tablets on April 12, 1989, but many of those who knew him don't believe it was suicide. Instead, they suspect he was "suicided," though just how is a mystery. The "why" is obvious. He remained a very effective organizer of trouble and afflictions for the powerful and comfortable to his dying day, and if there was anyone in America at that time who "needed suiciding" by the Powers That Be more than Abbie, let's hear who.

Effective resistance is sometimes an accident, often an art. But effective resistance and protest to right the wrongs of our nation is a constant necessity.

'When our country is right, keep it right; but when it is wrong, right those wrongs.' -- Abbie Hoffman, 1987

Our call never ends.

"Get Up, Get Down! There's Revolution in this Town!"

The assault by the Oakland, CA, police on several of the OccupyOakland encampments is (correction, was) winding down, but now there are reports of tear gas and stun grenades being used, and I don't know what's going on.

It's impossible to keep up with everything. Last I heard at any rate, the camps in Oakland had mostly been cleared, and there was some "diversity of tactics" going on by the demonstrators, which apparently now has been met with force by the police.


Meanwhile, yesterday, Albany, NY, police refused to arrest demonstrators encamped on city land at the State Capitol -- YAY! -- and reaction to the 130 arrests in Chicago was gaining steam as nurses who were arrested went to the mayor's office to give him a piece of their mind and were brushed aside. Yes, well, isn't why there's an uprising? Ya think?

Livestream occupy oakland has been let into the battle scene in and around city hall. Watching news conference now.

The arrests continue in Sacramento though several developments yesterday and overnight have complicated matters. Heh. Yesterday afternoon one of the most generous participants in the Occupation here was arrested. I didn't see what happened, only the aftermath, but I was told he was arrested for no apparent reason by an officer who nabbed him in a crosswalk after he had playfully hung from the side mirror of the Occupation's supply truck. Later, it came out that he was arrested because he couldn't produce ID at the request of the police officer. But in California, there is no requirement that one have and produce ID on demand unless one is driving.

Whatever the case, he was taken to jail and held for about an hour and released. This caused more than a little outrage in the Occupation camp, and what was called a 'General Assembly' was convened outside the jail (which is three blocks away from the Plaza) where I caught up with them and saw... the Assembly was hijacked with old business from the hijacking from the previous Saturday.

Oh, the sturm und drang. Not to make light of the issue, which no one is entirely clear about in any case, but people are really getting pissed off and turned off by this continuous hijacking for showboating purposes. In my view there really is an important -- fundamental -- issue* underlying the whole psychodrama of the hijacks, but that issue can't be dealt with so long as individuals continue to act as if the only thing that REALLY matters is their personal centrality in the Universe.

At least there are beginning to be some challenges from the Assembly floor to this sort of shit. It is only when the General Assembly uses its intrinsic empowerment that these things will stop, and I saw last night that the Assembly was beginning to challenge the hijacker(s) and take back control, or actually assert it in the first place.

Meanwhile, yesterday morning, our crack legal team announced that suit would be filed in Federal Court if the City did not stop the arrests and open the Plaza 24/7 forthwith. Well, by today. Well, within a reasonable period of time. Whenever.

Later, it was announced that the DA had decided not to prosecute those who have been arrested for failure to disperse at closing time; the City Attorney, though, insists she may, or she will, it's not entirely clear, and we'll know when the first 18 arrestees go to court for arraignment tomorrow.

And she and the City Manager insist that the arrests will continue, no matter.

The signs and signals suggest that the ratchet is tightening on the Occupy Movement, but there is honestly no way to contain it at this point.

It's got a life of it's own, it will go in the direction it goes, and that's that.

* The fundamental issue that is at the bottom of the hijackings, possibly even the hijacking by hizzoner, is that principles of solidarity have never been considered and adopted here. Here's the NYCGA set of principles:

Through a direct democratic process, we have come together as individuals and crafted these principles of solidarity, which are points of unity that include but are not limited to:

  • Engaging in direct and transparent participatory democracy;
  • Exercising personal and collective responsibility;
  • Recognizing individuals’ inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions;
  • Empowering one another against all forms of oppression;
  • Redefining how labor is valued;
  • The sanctity of individual privacy;
  • The belief that education is human right; and
  • Endeavoring to practice and support wide application of open source.

  • There were others that were going to be added but they never were. As far as I can tell, even the working group that was consolidating principles in New York has gone away. What they have is apparently sufficient.

    In Seattle, they've come up with a different set of principles that are meant for the General Assembly rather than, strictly speaking, the whole Occupation, yet a few of them could be seen as something like the Principles of Solidarity of the New York City General Assembly.

  • 1. All decisions that affect the collective are made by general assembly. No decisions that affect or represent the whole are made by working groups. Working groups focus proposals to bring to general assembly, and they coordinate the work.

  • 2. Yelling really loud does not put you on stack. Come to the front and get on stack if you have a proposal or an announcement. Never repeat what some else already said.

  • 3. Assembly time is precious. Think three times before you speak. Does this really help the assembly make a better decision?

  • 4. Nothing is more precious than the thoughts of the quiet. Nothing is more precious than the words of the silenced. Speak up! Please! Especially when it’s really hard!

  • 5. Facilitators make space and move the process. Facilitators never present content or represent someone else’s thoughts. The assembly is responsible for keeping the facilitators in line.

  • 6. Use the People’s Microphone. It makes us choose our words, and makes us listen.

  • 7. The assembly is responsible for signing to the facilitators. If the assembly doesn’t sign, the facilitator doesn’t have anything to facilitate!

  • 8. No one else can speak for you. That’s why we need you here!
  • Monday, October 24, 2011

    The New Model Revolution -- Sunday's Reformation

    The explosive events of Saturday night's aborted General Assembly at OccupySacramento led to a remarkable level of reconsideration and recommitment to The Cause that took place Saturday night and into the morrow.

    In talking to people on the scene and online -- quite a few who aren't in attendance in person are witness to the struggles thanks to Livestream -- it's clear they were dismayed, upset and angry at what happened, yet many understood that these explosions are a natural part of the development of this sort of Revolutionary effort. It's happened pretty much consistently throughout the movement during the early stages of development of each Occupation, including New York's.

    And it's OK. Some would say it is necessary.

    Because what happens afterwards is that Solidarity is reconfirmed. Yes, some of the angriest and loudest voices against what is going on may leave the Occupation and the Movement -- it's happened here, and it's happened elsewhere. It is to be expected. They may or may not come back after a suitable cooling off period. It's OK.

    People have a right to their feelings and their emotions, and they have a right to make decisions for themselves. They have a right to be wrong. They have a right to their anger and to their pain.

    Trying to suppress it or cover it up merely leads to greater difficulty down the road. Let. It. Out. And Let. It. Go.

    It was obvious by yesterday that many, many people associated with OccupySacramento had done just that. I arrived at the Plaza just before 4:00p after spending most of the day preparing for a workshop on OWS General Assembly practices. There was a surprising number of people already there, engaged in all kinds of productive and nonviolent discussions and seminars and conversations and actively listening to one another. Ideas were popping, identifying and offering solutions to various problems was being hammered out. Focus was on particularly important issues and a growing disinterest in those issues that weren't so important.

    For example, The Mayor and the City Council were no longer seen as a focal interest; they were peripheral at best, irrelevant to many participants. The internal problems of authority and transparency were being worked out as productively as possible in a large group that was tasking itself with finding solutions rather than piling on more layers of problems. I don't know what the result was because I had to go off to the OWS GA workshop, but from what I could tell, there was essentially no animosity involved in what they were doing; there was an active effort to come up with consensus solutions, and after that meeting broke up, there was no sign I could see of continuing animosity or anger at one another in the group.

    In fact, cohesiveness was growing all over the Plaza as small groups and large ones explored how to rather than whether to move forward in collaboration and solidarity rather than try to continue to go forward in disharmony and rivalry leading to more and more anger and distrust.

    What I saw happening was the process of learning to trust one another.

    The OWS GA workshop was intended to provide information -- specifically for people interested in learning to facilitate GAs -- on how the process works in New York. It was a surprisingly large group, twice or three times the size expected, and all of them were intrigued to learn that there really is a way to do General Assemblies that works and works well on behalf of all the participants and the Occupation in general. It reinforced the general spirit that we will get through this difficult period and we will be stronger for it.

    Sunday's General Assembly followed immediately after the workshop, and some of the principles and practices we had just discussed in workshop were presented to the GA for consideration and adoption on the spot; sure enough, they were so moved and adopted. This was out of order according to our previous practices, but it was realized through the workshop on OWS practices that there really is no ultimate rule book and that the GAs are quite capable of overriding previous practice by adopting new practice by consensus, and that's what happened.

    To say that the transformation was immediate and startling is an understatement. It was remarkable -- and very rewarding -- to witness. The General Assembly became "owned" by Occupation as a whole, it was no longer some annoyance going on off on the side, run by "little dictators" and alienating its participants. There was intense discussion of proposals, yet always with respect for one another's positions. Remarkably innovative proposals were offered for development or adoption on the spot, and some were adopted. Others were sent back to the proposer -- respectfully -- for further development and resubmission. Everyone who had something to say about proposals under consideration was heard, respectfully, and new ideas were welcomed.

    There were no blocks but not every proposal was adopted, nor should they have been. Nothing was discarded out of hand. Nothing was accepted mindlessly. People really thought about what they were doing and about the decisions they were making, and from my observations and talking to people afterwards, they felt that they were in charge for the first time. They weren't being led or forced or cajoled into doing something or adopting something that they didn't understand or that was potentially not in the interests of the Occupation. They decided based on their best assessment of the matter before them.

    And that produced what used to be called "process buy in."

    Some of us have been hoping for this to happen, but there is no way to force it. It has to happen organically. And it did. Some of those who have been so frustrated by the way things have devolved over the last few days were very moved to see the transformation.

    Hizzoner is supposed to report back to the Assembly today. Whether he will show or not is unknown, but I doubt he will be allowed to hijack tonight. He won't be shouted down, but he won't be given the floor for more campaigning either. Should be interesting....

    Also, finally, there is supposed to be a press conference this morning to announce the filing of a civil rights lawsuit on First Amendment grounds, though no details have yet been released.

    Things should get very interesting indeed...