No single person speaks for Occupy Wall Street, and anyone who has participated knows that it takes a general assembly to turn a group in a particular direction. What I am about to say is spoken only from the space that I Occupy personally.
I would like to present the following ideas to any and all groups, for discussion. This piece is specifically about the methodology we use during Occupy Wall Street actions and what I believe our response should be proactively, and reactively, to the tactics of Black Bloc when they are infiltrated within our street actions.
I am not going to denigrate any of the tactics listed here, for they all have their place and time. What I'm disillusioned with is what I perceive to be a relatively small group of people in disagreement with the Occupy Wall Street message, who would catalyze incidents that lead to overt violence, injury and ultimately death, and then leave the scene. Their sole stated purpose is to nullify the effectiveness of the actions we are taking and the message we are trying to convey.
One of the realities we must face is that if some group is intent upon impeding, by whatever means necessary, the progress we are intent on making, and that progress is social evolution; they will stop you. Your alternatives are to accept that result or respond in a fashion consistent with your beliefs and message.
There is a story about a corner man at a prizefight, whose boxer is getting pummeled mercilessly. Between rounds, as he's pushing his boxer back out to the center of the ring he's heard to say, "Don't worry champ, they can't hurt us." This is so very true for the guy who's not in the ring taking the blows.
Never, for a moment, believe that assertive violence, property destruction (including property belonging to the 99%) or vandalism represents the 99%'s best interest in this endeavor. We have a responsibility, when we step out on the street under that banner, to be true to the concepts espoused from the very beginning. Evolution of the movement is essential, the devolution of the structure that makes us a society is not and never has been a part of the plan.
Have you seen West Side Story??? That is how Black Bloc should run an action... the big rumble scene as a template. The Jets vs. the Sharks, the sharks in riot gear and the Jets in black hoodies. Black Bloc, in their own words, has stated that their actions are designed to cause material damage and that Black Bloc Activists Are NOT Protesters or participants in Occupy Wall Street actions.
I believe we are a non-violent movement, as we must be when facing a better armed and morally unteathered opponent in an arena more suited to violence than a softball game. We will NOT "handle' the police. We will win them over by persuasion or we will cease to confront them in the streets because of their limited understanding of the "master' they serve and our own attrition.
If we don't have representative committees speaking to the police departments in various cities on a regular basis, we are conceding control of every situation to the better armed. This metamorphosis will only be realized with words and overt, peaceful actions. Where force is necessary, and there will be times when it is, that force will not be against the Biggest Dragon in the Valley (the police) but should always be focused on those who drew us to the streets in the first place; the 1%.
I earned my street cred on the streets and my diplomas hang on my body as scars. Those marks speak to field studies. In the late "60s, when I was a young teen protestor, I almost certainly would have been a participant in Black Bloc actions, of a sort. I would like to think I have learned a few things since then.
It is for all the reasons listed above, and many I've yet to share, that I will state my most controversial suggestions and the real point of this piece. I believe that if we don't strike a middle ground with Black Bloc, which does not include violence at our events, then we should look at Black Bloc participation as a greater threat than the target our eyes have been intentionally drawn to; the police standing station.
Since I see Black Bloc as a threat to achieving our clearly stated goals, I'm going to suggest some ways that we can deal with that threat in the least aggressive way possible. There are three players on this field, Occupy Wall Street, Black Bloc and those who believe they have come to maintain the peace. We must make our intentions known clearly to all three parties prior to any action.
Here are my suggestions:
All Occupy Wall Street participants must take responsibility for everything that occurs at an event. Having peace monitors at a march is limited in its effectiveness because when you are trying to curtail violence one-on-one, you will almost certainly be drawn into the violence.
The first proactive step we need to take is to put Black Bloc on notice that: "If you fail to exhibit appropriate actions at any OWS event you will be seen as an overt threat to that event and you will be contained and turned over to the proper authorities". Have no doubt that I know what screams of "sacrilege' will echo from the heavens, one protester turning another over to the police. With fair warning, if you show up at our events with the sole intention of disrupting them and catalyzing violence you are not a protester, by your own words.