The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    Donal's picture

    Will Occupy Remain Non-Violent?

    Update: Bloomberg 'cleanup' will stop OWS from camping in Zuccotti Park.

    The City Paper put 'Occupy Baltimore makes up a movement as it goes along' on their cover and like everyone in the media, described the movement as inchoate:

    The Occupy movement got rolling in New York on Sept. 17 with an inchoate and broad coalition of people attempting to “Occupy Wall Street” in order to push back against the rampant capitalism that many feel is overwhelming/undermining American politics and American society itself.

    As many have noted, Occupy Wall Street didn't get noticed by the press until there was violence against protestors by the police. During an attempted expansion into a neighboring park, Occupy Boston linked arms to try to hold off an overwhelming force of police. There have been scattered other incidents around the US, but Andrew, who I chatted with on Day Three, and was on the Security Committee of Occupy Baltimore (OB), said that the Baltimore police had been cool.

    As I walked by in yesterday afternoon's faint drizzle, OB's camp seemed very peaceful. The officers driving the little electric GEM past McKeldin Square were laughing and talking about clubbing (nightclubbing), and the bike cops seemed placid, but I had already read about one less-than-cool incident:

    Beth Emmerling says she was drawn to the occupation by personal circumstance. With two master’s degrees, she describes herself as “partially employed” and unable to find a full-time job. She came to McKeldin Square on Tuesday, returning every day except Friday. On Saturday she was helping ladle soup to the occupants when, she says, a drunken man staggered up and nearly knocked the soup over. A nearby protestor called police, and, about 10 minutes later, four bike cops arrived and tried to interview the man, who by then had repaired to a mattress at the edge of the gathering.

    “I didn’t perceive them as threatening,” Emmerling says. “But a very large contingent that really hates the cops” went after the officers.

    Emmerling says the leader of this group, whom she says she knows as “Michael,” had led a workshop earlier in the day about how to resist the police. “It was how to get away from them, how to hurt them,” Emmerling says.

    When the police showed up, about 25 protestors confronted them verbally “and they were violating, I thought, the cops’ space,” Emmerling says. One of the officers told the group that they—the police—had been called, and Emmerling “yelled out. I’m sure the police could have taken care of themselves. But once trouble starts, it stays. . . . I yell, ‘He’s telling the truth.’ Pretty much in a heartbeat they turn on me.”

    Emmerling says she felt menaced as the group—mostly men in their teens and 20s—surrounded her soup table, shouting “fuck you” and wagging their fingers in her face. The cops stood by, a move Emmerling says she understands, since wading into the crowd would have needlessly escalated the confrontation.

    At the General Assembly that night, Emmerling says, Michael announced to the assembled group of 200 or so that he was a member of security, and that the man who had called police had apologized to him for his transgression and so the matter was closed. Beth cut in front of others waiting their turn at the microphone to correct the record.

    “I said it’s not alright to be violent to a member of your own group,” Emmerling says. “So much of the group is so well intentioned. But this is not a safe space.” She says she does not intend to return.

    In an e-mail to City Paper, Cullen Nawalkowsky says the group takes the issues Emmerling raised seriously. “Following Beth raising her concerns this weekend, a working-group was formed to address precisely these kinds of issues,” he writes. “I appreciate Beth’s willingness to speak out and to remain engaged, to help us grow and learn, to share her perspective, and hopefully to continue to build this movement and make it better.”

    My wife and I almost visited OB last weekend - neither of us felt that great so we stayed inside on a beautiful weekend - but I shudder to think of being there, trying to protect her, in the middle of a tussle with police.


    Best way to keep the police perplexed is to be as peaceful as possible ... it makes it harder for them to justify their actions if the people they engage are obeying their instructions and not arguing. It's those within the movement who are agitated and vent their frustration at the officers when they have their justification to act. So it's the responsibility of the movement to police themselves and single out those troublemakers. Without some level heads to monitor participant behavior the chances of a minor altercation escalating into a massive police action is inevitable. Think along the lines of a community watch and you'll get the picture ... like you see people involved in something in your neighborhood that's out of character and seems to be out of place kind of thing.

    Occupy Wall Street is planning another arm-linking action to resist being evicted from Zucotti tomorrow morning:

    Occupy Wall Street is gaining momentum, with occupation actions now happening in cities across the world.

    But last night Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD notified Occupy Wall Street participants about plans to “clean the park”—the site of the Wall Street protests—tomorrow starting at 7am. "Cleaning" was used as a pretext to shut down “Bloombergville” a few months back, and to shut down peaceful occupations elsewhere.

    Bloomberg says that the park will be open for public usage following the cleaning, but with a notable caveat: Occupy Wall Street participants must follow the “rules”.

    NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has said that they will move in to clear us and we will not be allowed to take sleeping bags, tarps, personal items or gear back into the park.

    This is it—this is their attempt to shut down #OWS for good.

    I have to wonder whether resistance is the best tactic, or whether adapting and occupying in a different manner might be a better long term strategy. Per AM and others on Facebook, I read that OWSers are trying to scrub down the site to take away Bloomberg's rationale for the eviction. That sounds like better PR.

    Of course it won't "remain non-violent." There was violence from the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the environmental movement, you name it. There are always provocateurs, the mentally ill, the overly-stressed, and those who actually support violence. In addition, there is, in my view, nothing non-violent about Wall Street's horrific crimes... nor the way our governments have handed our money to the rich... nor the way they have busted down protest against this process which arose along the way (e.g. the antiglobalization stuff)... and nor will there be anything legal about the way they eventually force this to closure. Cops cracking skulls is just an extreme example. Which us a way of saying, YES, I agree with your point and also hope the OWS folks stick with non-violence, and keep the crazies back from the brink. But let's remember that the OTHER side is already engaged in violence, and perhaps ask when they, Wall Street and their associates, will begin to TRY non-violence.

    Latest Comments