After hundreds of Occupy Oakland protesters were arrested Saturday night for attempting to violently seize control of a convention center, Mayor Jean Quan once again avoided criticizing the Occupy movement directly, instead blaming the violence on so-called “splinter groups.”
“This splinter group inside Occupy Oakland – the ones who advocate violence – are not in sync with the rest of the movement,” said Sue Piper, Quan’s spokeswoman. “People who have been involved with the national movement – and a lot of people who live in Oakland – are really fed up with this splinter group. This is not what Occupy is supposed to be about.”
It’s nice of the Oakland mayor’s office to inform the public this “is not what Occupy is supposed to be about.” But a slightly more trusted source – Occupy Oakland’s official website – begs to differ. Far from condemning the behavior, the organization is now soliciting bail money for the activists arrested during the botched building takeover, and organizing solidarity events.
Here’s what the Occupy Oakland’s media committee had to say about Quan’s claim the arrestees were part of an outside “splinter group,” in a statement charmingly titled “OPD Before and After: Seriously, F— the Pigs.”
Quan also wants the public to believe that Occupy Oakland is made up of outsiders, and there are few Oakland natives and people of color in the movement. This is definitively not true, and many of our most impassioned members, those organizing marches and occupations, are native Oaklanders who know all about the Oakland police’s tactics. Occupy Oakland says “F[---] THE POLICE” because OPD has for too long been allowed to brutalize Oakland’s communities, and now they are being used to stamp out our right to protest against the complex systems that allow, even encourage, that brutalization.
Some Occupy Oakland organizers may publicly condemn the general idea of violent tactics. But you’d be hard-pressed to find them condemning the specific actions of those arrested at Saturday’s riot. To the Occupiers, how could these actions possibly be criminal? When you honestly believe you’re living under an imperialist, oppressive system that uses institutionalized violence and discrimination to keep the 99 percent down, it becomes remarkably easy to excuse or gloss over instances of violent radical activism. As one radical student activist remarked after the Weather Underground’s U.S. Capitol Building bombing in 1971, “we didn’t do it, but we dug it.”