THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PEACEFUL, LEGAL PROTEST
(ed. Originally published Jan. 30, 2012 – here!)
As Oakland leads the way in devising ever more inventive and innovative actions which pressure an already panicked Jean Quan and her fascist army the OPD, Occupy LA still persists in meandering around, patting itself on the back for being ingenious enough to call a solidarity march from MacArthur Park to Rampart Police Station. On the sidewalk, of course, though a few brave souls took to the streets. Legal advisers were called in to protect the white middle class OLA movement as they marched through, and disturbed, a predominantly Latino and African-American neighborhood, and a news crew showed up so that everyone could get their TV time and pretend to be a spokesperson with something really important to say. Occupy LA is nothing if not media savvy!
Thankfully for OLA, the walk along the sidewalk provoked no police violence (despite the few brave souls with ‘Fuck the Police’ signs, boldly ignoring the Liberals’ evident displeasure at this terrible PR display), and everyone involved smugly congratulated themselves as they arrived at the Rampart police station. All in all, yet another politically ineffective, onanistic symbolic show which achieved absolutely nothing – except to assuage the Liberal conscience, and make them feel better about the fact people are dying for their beliefs in Egypt and Syria, and getting beaten and unlawfully arrested in Oakland. But we in LA show solidarity, which is the most important thing in any activist movement.
Then individuals of Occupy LA decided that the most appropriate way to show more “solidarity” with Occupy Oakland would be – to talk to the cops. This pervasive myth that “cops are the 99%” perpetuated by a few, politically-correct, pacifist souls who got lost on their way to a Liberal love-in, has no place in an activist movement which actively practices civil disobedience.
Does OLA need a reminder of what civil disobedience is? It’s the breaking of unjust laws. It’s the breaking of those laws to demonstrate how our rights have been eroded by the police state, a state which is constructed to serve and protect money, and oppress human beings, particularly the poor, the colored, the uneducated, the sick – all those without our privilege. Is it any wonder that the Reformist Liberals in this movement are facing such inner turmoil (and blaming that nasty feeling on the Radicals), as they struggle with their oxymoronic desire for “legal, peaceful protest”, and the inevitable realization that the United States government does not allow effective protest to be either legal or peaceful?
Whenever a group of individuals come together in this country to make a political point, to actively petition their government for a redress of grievances, or to exercise free speech as protected under the First Amendment, they are declared an unlawful assembly. They are arrested and intimidated. They are beaten and abused in the hopes that this will drive them away forever, and deter the public from getting any fanciful ideas about questioning the political, economic and social corruption of this country. When free speech is met with abuse, this is a sign that it has been successful in putting political pressure on the State. It has succeeded in making those in power sit up, listen – and show fear. Fear is behind physical aggression and force. They see us as a threat. They attempt to quash us mercilessly, to destroy us physically and mentally. When we are met with abuse, we must rise up again, ten times stronger, be more daring, fearless and inventive…
Yet Occupy LA goes on another solidarity march.
The Occupy movement is not just an activist movement. It is a movement daring to experiment with another political and economic structure as a viable alternative to our current screwed up, corrupt system. These twin desires: to both resist, and to build, are key to the ultimate survival of our movement. As Naomi Klein observes, “the British eco-and arts activist John Jordan, talks about utopias and resistance being the double helix of activist DNA, and that when people drop out and just try to build their utopia and don’t engage with the systems of power, that’s when they become irrelevant and also when they are extremely vulnerable to state power and will often get smashed. And at the same time if you’re just protesting, just resisting and you don’t have those alternatives, I think that that becomes poisonous for movements.”
OLA is in a state of cleansing itself from poisons. Poised for reoccupation, the strongest elements within our movement embody the strength and passion of Oakland, with the savviness and intellect to recognize that we need to concurrently build our Utopia. It will be a Utopia which has room for those who understand that while you can chat to a cop informally and pleasantly in the Starbucks coffee line while waiting for your Skinny Caramel Latte, that cop is not your friend when holding a baton and a tear gas canister, with orders from above to smash and destroy you, your friends, your movement and your beliefs. It is a Utopia for those who believe in democracy, transparency, horizontalism, consensus decision making and the freedom to dissent. It is a Utopia for those who are willing and able to question their own privilege, and make space for marginalized voices, those who are currently ignored and discarded like human garbage. It is a Utopia for those who truly want change, and are willing to be the ones at the forefront of the Revolution, risking their all for a Utopia.
It is a Utopia which has no room for those who do not respect the Revolution, or those who do not want it. It is a Utopia which has no place for those who destroy and hurt comrades in their attempts to obstruct us from destroying the State Apparatus they are still attached to, they are still convinced ‘might’ be OK, once they’ve plastered over a few cracks.
There is no room for Reformist Liberals in this movement. The next time the police bear down on us with their weapons, the Reformists will slide off home, close the curtains, switch on ‘Keeping up with The Kardashians’ and get an early night so they can make it to 7am Vinyasa yoga at ‘Exhale’ and Organic vegan breakfast afterwards. The truly stubborn ones will be sitting at home already, one eye on their Radical comrades getting beaten on the TV, the other updating Twitter with self-congratulatory BS about how much they’re doing for a movement they rarely participate in.
When the Revolution happens, they will be there, waving us on from the sidewalk, still talking about how they were here from Day 1. They won’t have learned a thing. And yet the Radicals still fight for these idiots, fight so that they can breathe in the Revolution, and learn what it truly is to be free. As OLA Liberals march for Radicals in Oakland, they turn against their Radicals fighting their battles at home, not recognizing the incongruity of their actions and statements.
Reformist Liberals would make such great politicians. They simply embody the purest political ideal of hypocrisy.