New Lessons from the Oakland Occupy Movement

The tactics nationally of the Occupy Movement have led to the continuing demobilization of this once broadly popular effort to kindle opposition to current ruling Establishment politics. Several comments by participants in Oakland Occupy’s recent engagements with the police there shed light on some of what is going wrong with this movement for change that began as Occupy Wall Street in New York City. Let us browse some of these observations being made.

‘Saturday’s attacks (in Oakland) are part of an ongoing counter-insurgency campaign to attempt to strip the movement of its substantial legitimacy, to intimidate, to harass, to divide, to contain, to co-opt, and to eventually destroy Occupy Oakland. The lines in this ongoing conflict are clear. The City’s overwhelming use of force and mass arrests, firing less-than-lethal weapons into marches with many children, the violent beatings, and the trumped-up charges in response to a peaceful attempt to make social use out of an unused building makes the State’s position clear. What is not clear is who will eventually win….’

‘We need to think about how to build a movement that is not just militant, but smart…. Militancy alone will not win this war. Oakland Occupy Patriarchy’s assessment and analysis illustrates both the public support the action received as well as the tactics of the police. The police used rubber bullets, tear gas, bean-bag munitions, at one point on a crowd that had an organized group of children in it. The police kettled a march at 19th and Telegraph, where protesters were able to escape, and kettled them again at 23rd and Broadway in front of the YMCA. YMCA workers opened their doors to protesters being violently attacked by police. Some people who allegedly took the shelter that the YMCA workers offered are facing felony burglary charges.’

‘…Counter-Insurgency: Oakland’s Iron Fist – Velvet Glove Combination- The goal of counter-insurgency is to employ as many tools as possible to destroy a movement – through misinformation and disruption, through discrediting and breeding conflict within the movement, and through employing various mechanisms of harassment, surveillance and force. It is a broad strategy that draws on riot cops, but it also draws on ministers, the media, non-profits and others to bolster the legitimacy of the State, while attacking or undermining the movement…’

‘…The movement, today, should not commit itself to non-violence and doom itself to repeat the generations-long cycle of pacifist failure within the US Left. We need to learn from history, and our mistakes. We also need to see the nature of the strategies being used against us and strategically act accordingly. If we simply go directly at the State, making threats we have no capacity to back up, the State will keep coming at us until we are gone….’

‘…Revolution is about strategy more than militancy. Sitting with undocumented workers in the Fruitvale, sick people without healthcare Downtown, grandmothers who have lost their grandkids to police violence East Oakland, parents who are seeing their kids’ school closed near Lake Merritt, or families who have lost their home in West Oakland – and seeing what their realities are and what they want to do to change those realities through the Occupy movement is a bigger threat to the State than street militancy, not that we likely won’t need a bit of street militancy along the way…’

for complete comments by this Oakland Occupy participant, see Militancy and Counter-Insurgency Occupy Oakland and State Repression by MIKE KING

and now from another participant in Oakland’s Occupy battles…

‘The night of January 28th in Oakland left me feeling angry. I felt anger toward police for brutalizing people in the streets, illegally kettling protesters, and collectively punishing the entire march with indiscriminate use of chemical weapons and projectiles. I felt angry about protest organizers and march leaders employing completely ineffective and non-strategic tactics for realizing our goal of opening a functioning community center which would cooperatively feed, educate, and provide support for anyone who asks and about the secretive process by which a building was chosen for reopening through embarassingly fantastic hopes of what might be possible through such tactics. I was embittered at the fact that at the end of the day hundreds of people were violently subdued, arrested, and thrown into Santa Rita jail…’

‘…We each have limited energy and resources. Let us not squander what we have on fabricated warfare which will only end in defeat and further entrenchment into the hollows of oppression where the fury concerning our sad situation will only produce more fantastic scenarios for the achievement of our liberation. We, those of us marching in the streets in the USA, occupying plazas, parks, and buildings, are not at war, as anyone who has actually been at war would explain. Underpinning this romanticization of our situation is an understanding of the very real war on poor people, people of color, women, and LGBTQ identifying people in this city and throughout this world built on a foundation of genocide, slavery, and hatred which continues to undergird so many of our economic and social relationships. But the battlefields of that war are not solely demarcated by lines of riot cops…’

‘…Within the Occupy/Decolonize movement, many tactics employed successfully in prior instances now run ashore. Movements must adapt as those forces which seek to crush them adapt and employ new strategies. A true diversity of tactics should be employed and continually reassessed. A patriarchal value system with skewed interpretations of integrity, honor and courage is packed deeply within the baggage which we all carry on board our movements. A fundamentalist attachment to macho tactics which reinforce this destructive system of values is as damaging as the state violence imposed from above…’

complete comments by this Oakland Occupy participant can be found at Finding Power in Solidarity- Occupy Oakland After the Crackdown

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1 Response to New Lessons from the Oakland Occupy Movement

  1. Avatar Tony Logan says:

    Yet another analysis of the Oakland Occupy’s tactics, this time on the ZNET website… see ‘Occupy Oakland at a Crossroads: Rebirth or Self-Destruction?’ at

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