Over the last few months, I have been an active, critical, yet ultimately proud member of Occupy Oakland. Despite the sometimes-questionable tactics and lack of much diversity in this working-class, multi-racial city, I believed that Occupy Oakland was still a young movement and would mature into a more solid political force. Sadly, it seems, we still have a long way to go.
On January 28, Occupy Oakland’s attempt to take over an unused public building turned into yet another painful, predictable street battle with the Oakland Police Department (OPD), with over 400 people arrested by night’s end. The police’s actions were more brutal than ever, from the tear gas and sound grenades to the unlawful mass arrest that has left many of my comrades still in jail as I write this. I stand unequivocally against the severe repression and the increasing police state that we find ourselves in. To my fellow Occupiers, though, it is time that we critically examine our own tactics. If we don’t, Occupy Oakland is going to fizzle out quicker than Rick Perry’s presidential campaign.
The events in Oakland on January 28 indeed occupied national headlines and local jail cells, but they almost certainly lost more supporters to the movement than they gained. Needlessly picking fights with the cops, vandalizing City Hall, and putting our own people in harm’s way is not the path to social and economic justice. It is a losing, incoherent strategy, one that will continue to damage the public’s support for Occupy until our claim that “We are the 99%” becomes a bad joke. Forget whether folks can survive endless police confrontations and court dates. The question now is: Can Occupy Oakland survive itself?