The Birth of Occupy Oakland, the Death of Another Young Man

Today was the one month birthday of Occupy Oakland, and there were plans to celebrate with a party.  Ironically, or perhaps symbolically, it was a death changed those plans.  Shortly after 5PM, a man was shot and killed just outside of our camp.

Candles in front of the site of the shooting

There is some debate about whether or not this shooting had anything to do with Occupy Oakland.  Critics want to blame the shooting on the movement, and most people within the movement are saying that this was unrelated, and distancing the movement from the incident.

Embrace this Moment
As a strong supporter of this movement, I want to offer a thought.  Rather than running from this, we should embrace what happened and make the claim that this has everything to do with Occupy Oakland, and with the entire Occupy Movement.

This incident of violence, and other incidents of street violence, are the result of unjust economic policies that create poverty.  These policies, written and implemented by the 1%, creates impoverished environments that are a fertile breeding ground for violence.  And cities like Oakland suffer the consequences.

This shooting, unfortunately, is not a unique incident in Oakland.  Yes, it is rare for there to be a shooting downtown in broad daylight.  But in a city where a three-year old boy can be shot and killed in broad daylight, this is life and death in Oakland.

Candles in front of City Hall

These acts of violence are something that Oaklanders have to live with on a daily basis.  At times, I have felt a disconnect between Occupy Oakland and the issues that many in Oakland have to live with.  Well, this incident brought these issues right to our front door, literally.

We cannot run from this.  This incident has everything to do with the issues we have been talking about.  This is a direct manifestation of our economic policies, this is the result of economic injustice, this is how these policies impact those who live in Oakland.

This was not about gang violence.  These types of shootings do not happen in Beverly Hills.  They happen in East Oakland, in Over the Rhine, in the South side of Chicago, in East St Louis.  This was just the most recent manifestation of the violence produced by economic injustice.

While critics of this movement is saying that this shooting proves their point that the camp has to close, we need to make the case that this shooting proves exactly why we need to stay and continue to make our case.

The Moment for Nonviolence
This is the moment that Occupy Oakland needs to take a firm stance against violence.  These are the issues that people who are from Oakland have to live with, and these killings need to stop.

There has been a heated debate at Occupy Oakland around violence, nonviolence and property destruction.  They are healthy debates (most of the time).  But at the very least, if we are unable to come together and take a firm stance against violence, I am not sure if we will continue to reach deep into the heart of Oakland.

Nonviolence does not simply mean “not being violent.”  You can be “not violent” and still be oppressive and support an unjust system.  Nonviolence means taking a stand against violence and against injustice.  This is the difference between non-violence and nonviolence.

There are so many misconceptions about what nonviolence is, that I don’t know if it is realistic for an Oakland General Assembly to pass a resolution committing to nonviolence.  But rather than fighting over our differences, let’s come together around our common principles.  Let’s come together and take a stand against violence, however one may choose to define that.

If you don’t think that property destruction is violent, I may disagree with you but for this moment, let’s let that be.  Let’s come together and agree that as a movement, we are taking a firm stance against violence and in support of compassion.  Lets come together and identify our common principles, a set of values that brings us together in unity.

Let us come together against violence.  Let us continue to move with love.

I love you all.  Happy birthday Occupy Oakland.  And Rest in Peace to all of those whose lives were taken from us too soon.

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2 Responses to The Birth of Occupy Oakland, the Death of Another Young Man

  1. sks says:

    I am down with non-violence. It is a powerful tactic to fight power.

    I simply take issue that violence can be directed at property.

    Property is a thing. An object. To destroy it is not inherently violent. It simply isn’t. To argue it is, is to agree with the 1% that says that corporations are people – they are not and neither is property.

    It is that simple.

    When you vandalize property, it is a non-violent, representative, symbolic action against those who value property above human life and well being. The horror visited upon Scott Olsen have been compared and contrasted with tags in a Whole Foods.

    The kind of morality that equates the two, that argues that both are examples of the same continuum is the morality of the worship of property over humanity that got us this mess in the first place.

    We need to smash more bank windows and create economic hardship on corporations. It is the only language these things, considered people by some, understand. A corporation is deaf to any other consideration, to any other argument.

    • kazuhaga says:

      To me, it’s not the violence against property as much as the impact that has on people. In Kingian Nonviolence, we define violence as “physical or emotional harm.”

      Think about the manager of the Men’s Warehouse, a person who has supported many movements including OO and closed their store in solidarity with the strike, only to see his window get smashed. Or the owners of several independent businesses that were vandalized. Or someone who happened to be at Whole Foods with their kids and all of a sudden there are crowds of people dressed in all black trying to break through a window. Those types of things, I would argue, causes emotional harm and in some cases long lasting trauma.

      I am in no way equating that to the actions of the police re: Scott Olsen. There are degrees of violence. But both cause some level of harm.

      I also think we are fooling ourselves if we think that breaking a few windows causes any economic harm on big banks. Windows are insured, and even if they are not, banks make billions upon billions of dollars. You really think they can’t afford a few windows? Especially if it comes at the expense of undermining the movement’s message?

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