Monday, October 24, 2011

A Peaceful Yet Militant Strategy

Occupy Oakland March, Saturday October 22, 2011
 Occupy Oakland held its first rally and march this past Saturday. The speakers ran the gamut from Union members (teachers and longshore workers) to anti-racism activists. The day was hot and beautiful the mood was both militant and festive, angry yet peaceful. The march was spirited and long, winding through downtown and under the freeway underpass where the acoustics for chanting and yelling were spectacular. The main chant was, "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!"

The mood of this emerging movement is inclusive and democratic with a definite pacifist bent. When the several hundred of us marched past Chase bank on Lakeshore Avenue the crowd crossed the lanes of oncoming traffic and poured into the bank's open door. The small space filled up with protesters wall to wall. Some protesters threw deposits slips up into the air and they rained down like confetti. Aside from that action and a table being accidentally overturned, the mood stayed controlled and overwhelmingly peaceful. This phenomenon is both amazing and unique to someone who protested in an earlier, more abrasively militant era. Clearly, this movement is unfolding in its own unique way.

In the seventies, we were furious. The Vietnam War had a mandatory draft and it was dragging on endlessly bringing with it death and destruction. Images of napalmed children filled the airwaves.We had witnessed the assassinations of our most beloved leaders, the ordeal of the freedom riders, the brutallity directed toward those who sat in at segregated lunch counters in the American South. We were more jaded than this new generation, even though we were young. So, it was a combination of factors. The end result being that we were mad as hell and we let our anger control us.

This group led by the Occupy Oakland folks have an air of both determination and  about them. It shows in their genuine effort to maintain cool heads and stay focused. Even in instances of extreme police provocation, they do not resort to what the angry demeanor that the media inaccurately labels "violence."

I know that this may not always be the case, but for now, it's a powerful position, a brand new face on an age-old tactic.When the Occupyers first began their protest I thought here we go reinventing the wheel. But that old wheel is flat-sided and hasn't served anyone for a long time. Perhaps this wheel can transport us to a different place...somewhere we've always wanted to go, but have never been.