Fighting “the Man” vs. Confronting Injustice

There is a difference between wanting to fight and wanting to confront.

Sometimes, not just at Occupy Oakland events but in many movement spaces in general, I get the sense that some people want to fight the police and they want to fight the state.  They want to escalate the tension to the point it erupts in violence.  With tear gas, beatings, pepper spray.

It’s cool.  It’s radical.  It’s militant.

But the point of a direct action isn’t to incite a fight, it’s to put pressure on a strategic target so it gives you leverage to negotiate or make demands.

Again, there’s a difference between wanting to fight and wanting to confront.

Nonviolence is not afraid of conflict.  In fact, nonviolence means confronting violence and injustice.  Nonviolence is a powerful way, and in my opinion the most powerful way to confront injustice.

We can talk all we want about how the police are the ones that started it, but we do plenty of things to egg it on.  Yelling, name calling, chanting “fuck the police,” aggressive body motions, throwing bottles (and yes I HAVE seen bottles thrown BEFORE any action/violence by the police).  All of those things are actions that generally escalate the level of tension in a situation, and make it more likely for violence to break out.  When we go into a march and we start pouring our anger at the police – whether or not that anger is justified – it makes it more likely that they will respond with violence.

Nonviolent students getting pepper-sprayed at UC Davis

And you can certainly make the argument that the police would have gassed us anyways.  But if that were the case, imagine how much more powerful of a narrative it would be if we were all sitting in silence and they were gassing us.  Compare the images we saw of UC Davis with the images of what happened after the violence that broke out in Oakland after the General Strike.

An image from a local news network of Occupy Oakland

If they’re going to gas us, turn their violence against them by painting such a clear picture of who is right and who is wrong that it can awaken the moral conscience of the public.  Don’t confuse the narrative because you wanted to break a window or light a fire.

Don’t jeopardize this movement, this moment, and this opportunity because you wanted to fight The Man more than you wanted to confront injustice.

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