Here’s a video, posted a couple of weeks ago under the banner of “Anonymous,” which takes to task the notorious “Black Bloc” that has engaged in confrontational tactics with police and destroyed property during the Occupy Oakland protests.
Anonymous, you may recall, is an extremely loose-knit group of computer hackers and activists that gained a good measure of local fame last summer when individuals, more or less self-affiliating with the movement, took several high-profile actions against BART. Those measures included hacking into the BART police union’s web site and releasing the personal information of officers, and posting racy personal photos of then BART-spokesman Linton Johnson. The actions were taken in retaliation for BART’s shutting off cellphone service as a means of disrupting a planned protest over the shooting death of Charles Hill, a homeless man, by BART police.
Below is the text of the message delivered in the Anonymous video — in an electronically altered voice, naturally. Take it for whatever you think it’s worth; anyone can post any video at any time, of course, so extrapolating a deeper meaning or trend can be dicey. Thus, the message here may or may not be interesting as another indication that various activist communities are split over the issue of the use of violence. (On Tuesday, Anonymous released the personal info of Oakland officials in an Occupy-related protest.)
Those tensions do seem to have come to the surface. Oakland Local‘s Susan Mernit, a longtime observer of Oakland’s activist community, put it this way last week in an interview with KQED’s Tara Siler:
(M)any people, because of the violence and because of the transient nature of some of the people who have gotten involved in Occupy Oakland, have taken steps to distance themselves from the movement.
And with [the latest incident, in which hundreds of protesters were arrested], especially the vandalism of city hall, a number of people who were involved through Saturday have published things on their Facebook page and published essays saying, ‘that’s it, I’m done.’
Here’s one such essay, by a former Occupy Oakland member who quit the movement after the latest battle with police. One quote:
What happened in the streets of Oakland yesterday and into last night was stupid, and I no longer want to have my name associated with a “movement” that is so driven by anger at the expense of strategy…and speaks against many of my core values and principles.
Occupy Oakland, for its part, has defended the actions of protesters while acknowledging tensions within the movement. From a Feb 6 statement from the group :
We recognize that there are communities who were affected in the neighborhoods where the conflicts with the police took place. We did outreach all over Oakland before the action and will continue to offer support and solidarity to those who might have been negatively effected or traumatized by the OPD’s inexcusable actions. What we saw in the streets of Oakland on the 28th was overwhelming support, whether it was bystanders bringing us water to wash off tear gas, waving and cheering us on, honking from their cars, or coming down from their apartments to join us. We experienced solidarity first hand rather than percentage points in a poll.
The OPD and the city claim that we are outsiders and that we are not from Oakland (even as 93% of OPD officers live outside Oakland). These lies are transparent to anyone who comes to our marches and assemblies and sees their friends and neighbors next to them. And those who came in solidarity last Saturday, from across all over the bay, from Dallas to Los Angeles, they are us and we are them. They are our comrades and no city press release can come between us. Our heart goes out to them and all the Occupies (over 26 at last count) who organized solidarity protests within 24 hours of the mass arrests on the 28th. We love you in the deepest meaning of the word. From its inception, Occupy Oakland has been about taking direct action and defending ourselves and what we reclaim to the best of our abilities. It has always been about people providing for each other and working to build radical alternatives to the patriarchal capitalist system, and it is in this spirit that we move forward together. No one comes from some ‘outside’ in order to mess with our Oakland, other than the suburbanite riot police. We come from here and everywhere, and in our movement those who join us are all insiders, agitating together towards a better Oakland, a better world.
To be sure, many of us are frustrated about the tactical mistakes made throughout the day, and we have to learn from these as we advance. There are many questions and criticisms coming from our broader community, and we welcome your help in transforming these into better strategies for future actions. We have to learn how to takeover buildings in an effective and intelligent manner. We have to learn how to move cohesively through the streets, to take offensive and defensive initiatives, to improve communication in highly charged situations. Critiques are important but we want everyone to understand the difficulty in undertaking such an initiative in the face of such forceful police response. The state fears that one successful building takeover will lead to another. It has nightmares of whole blocks of vacant buildings put to use as social centers and nodes of resistance, inspiring those in other cities to do the same. Despite the knee-deep shit that the OPD is in right now, when it comes to challenging property relations all bets are off and the leashes are cut. Full message here
The response from fellow anons to Black Bloc has been overwhelming. Peacefully shutting down banks and locations has had a far greater economic impact than Black Bloc’s pitiful acts of vandalism could ever dream of. If you truly want to protest in such a manner you should take it to the homes and websites of those you protest against. Replacing a window is nothing to them, you are not even a nuisance.
This issue has been discussed many times during the past several months, and there appears to be a popular consensus that your tactics of chilling and intimidating the citizen press, breaking the windows of small businesses, terrorizing innocent employees and bystanders, and sometimes outright assaulting occupy protesters are unacceptable. You are at best misguided, harmful, and idiotic in your actions. But more than anything it is your cowardice in hiding behind the banner of the Occupy movement, using Occupy protesters as shields, and attempting to pin your actions on Anonymous that will not be forgiven.
We suspect that many of you are agent provocateurs, as for the rest who behave in such a manner, your tactics demonize us in the eyes of the general public, robbing Occupy of much needed support, both in finances and approval. And worse, your activities provide the illusion of justified police brutality, robbing Occupy of the moral high ground and providing ammunition to the media.
Consider this an act of diplomacy before we start doxing your asses all over the internet and paying special attention to personally ruining your lives. You have a choice, abandon your pathetic ineffective and counter productive tactics and join us, or step aside, or risk the wrath of legion. As of now we are asking all citizen journalists to expose any Black Bloc using Occupy or Anonymous as a shield. If they attempt to chill your freedom as press, get up in their faces, call protesters around you for support. But do not respect the Anonymity of any Black Bloc who hide behind Occupy and Anonymous, they are not Anonymous, they are cancer and must be devoured for the good of the legion.
To any Black Bloc to whom this does not apply, we advise you to stay well away from citizen journalist and choose your targets wisely. If you harm Occupy or attempt to pin your thuggish crimes on Anonymous, we will not forgive. If you travel like a gang and attempt to intimidate Occupy we will get all up in your base finding all your secrets and wiping out your dudes. We are everywhere, we are hidden in plain sight, we will follow in the shadows, we will circle you like wolves, and if you slip, we will devour you without mercy. You will not know friend from foe, and once injected into the hate machine, we will periodically reintroduce you to it. You will not know peace again for a very long time.