NO WORK – NO SCHOOL – NO SHOPPING – NO BANKING – NO TRADING! THE PEOPLE OF THE PLANET WILL TAKE TO THE STREETS!
That’s the rallying cry for today’s Occupy May Day General Strike, in which the Occupy movement has called for its supporters to show the country what “a day without the 99%” will look like.
The New York City Police Department put out a May Day Event Advisory Bulletin(pdf), which the Occupy NYC General Assembly has posted at its website. Among the activities surrounding the general strike, teach-ins, seminars, various street theatrics and a parade are also calls for civil disobedience demonstrations.
While some of the activities are planned in participation with the labor unions and are expected to be permitted events, there are factions of Occupy Wall Street that objected to any activity requiring a permit. Elements of the movement are therefore planning more disorderly actions, according to the NYPD bulletin.
Elements of OWS who objected to participation in a march with a permit have called for demonstrators to engage in disruptive activities including:
- A “Wildcat March” in which protesters distinct from the labor-dominated march would march without a permit, potentially disrupting pedestrian and vehicular traffic beginning at 1:00pm at Sara D. Roosevelt Park (2nd Avenue and E. Houston Street). Organizers of this action have advocated the use of so-called “Black-Bloc” tactics to confront the police, sometimes violently, like those experienced during the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh in 2009, in which barricades, rocks, and trash bins were used in clashes with law enforcement;
- A “Bike Bloc,” in which relatively small groups of cyclists would be instructed to try to tie up automotive traffic. The cyclists would leave Union Square at 9:00am and attempt to randomly disrupt traffic;
- Attempts to block Manhattan-bound automotive traffic at bridges and tunnels, as well as protesters attempting to block ferry passengers;
- A “NYC Hoodie March Against Police Violence,” which will occur at the same time and place as the “Wildcat March”
- A “High School Walk Out,” in which high school students will leave class at noon and congregate at Fort Greene park in Brooklyn for a May Day BBQ
- Picket lines staged in front of various businesses across the five boroughs.
The flyer also makes mention of the type of more violent activity that was seen recently this month in NYC:
There are fissures within OWS, but a “respect for diversity of tactics,” which includes everything from peaceful protests to the kind of vandalism directed at Starbucks in April, when demonstrators tried to smash the windows at the Starbucks location at Astor Place, has been embraced by the movement.
Be reminded that the incident at Starbucks this month also resulted in the arrest of several anarchists, including one long-time Occupy protester, for the alleged attack on a NYPD officer with a metal pipe.
While many in the movement have preached about the need for non-violent conflict in this “American Spring,” there has been a focus on breaking down crucial “pillars of support” – these pillars include the police.
As an introduction to the talk, Margaret Flowers referenced the “Pillars of Support” defined by Robert Helvey in his book “On Strategic Non-Violent Conflict.” The idea is that “when important pillars of support are sufficiently undermined, the government, or the opposition, collapses just as a building will collapse upon itself when its support structure is weakened and gives way.” In our society, those pillars are the police, the military, civil servants, media, the business community, youth, workers, religious organizations, and NGOs. Not every pillar has to stand at the same time, of course.
Occupy Chicago, which will be the site of the upcoming NATO summit on May 20th and 21st (the G8 summit has since been moved to Camp David), recently adopted the “Chicago Principles of Non-Violence” after acknowledging that there are factions within the movement that do subscribe to “diversity of tactics,” which is a way of bridging the gap between varying tactics. The group’s statement effectively acknowledges that, within the larger movement that is Occupy, there exists the possibility that such “diversity of tactics” might include violent activities sanctioned by a particular faction or group, though these might not be activities with which all of Occupy as a whole may agree. According to one leading organizer of Occupy Chicago, “people are going to do other stuff, and that’s a fact that we’re not going to be able to change.” Adopting the Chicago Principles, according to the organizer, “allows organizations to sort of work together and steer clear of others” at the same time.
However, noted others in the movement disagree that non-violence is the only way. The Occupied Wall Street Journal presented two conflicting views in its “Diversity of Tactics or Divide and Conquer?” article. When asked whether all violence within the movement should be denounced, some do seem willing to accept that a certain amount of violence, which can span from property destruction to physical violence, may be unavoidable to enact change.
We need to ask: When does the time come to literally, physically dismantle the power structures which are continuously inflicting violence upon us? How long will we, for example, tolerate the rape of the Earth, begging our so-called “representatives” to reform away the latest problem? Eventually, we must, if we are to remain intellectually honest, realize that the pipelines and hydrofracking and mountaintop exploding will not stop until The People rise up and end it themselves. We must face facts: We are out of time, the planet is out of time, and surely the children, born and yet-to-be-born, are out of time. This deadly system must be brought to an end, and from its ashes, a truer democracy must be born, complete with an economic order that is just as democratic and cooperative as the political order is supposed to be. I believe this can be accomplished through nonviolent revolution. OWS is nothing if not a shift toward direct democracy through direct action, in both the sociopolitical and economic realms. Obviously, our super-wealthy rulers do not like this idea and will stop at nothing to squelch it. This shouldn’t be surprising. These are the same people who have no problem murdering Iraqi civilians, for example, to obtain oil and control of strategic land. They, too, are victims of a system whose logic is akin to that of the sociopath.
Revolution is not a dirty word. It is Fierce Love. It need not be violent. But it absolutely must be full of conflict, for “power concedes nothing without a demand.”
As the Occupy movement continues to struggle for relevance, any leaderless movement of its size will also continue to splinter into factions. And with those factions will come differing views on tactics. While many of these factions may disagree on which tactics they employ, and whether or not violence should be included, it’s clear that they all agree on one of the overarching goals – law enforcement as we know it is one of the pillars they must dismantle.
While the Occupy movement likes to break us down into simple percent brackets, the truth is, not all 99% of the “non-wealthy” in America subscribes to Occupy. A movement that, in reality represents such a small portion of the country is targeting law enforcement in an effort to disrupt a major “pillar of support” in our society, all in the name of instituting a new system of democracy. Violent or not, they want their tactics to speak for all of America.
Many of us who cherish individual rights subscribe to the notion that challenging authority in a productive manner is a good thing. But I’m not so sure that the real “other 99%” wants a leaderless movement – one that has splintered into factions and can’t control what all of its groups are doing – speaking and acting for all of us.