As the tear gas clears and we tend to the wounded, there are a few things that you need to know about Occupy Oakland:
- Police Over-reaction: Tear gas and police batons have been used largely without warning to break up an overwhelmingly peaceful encampment... an encampment made up of dozens of orderly tents, a school and playground area for the resident kids, a regular clean up crew, a largely self-governing assembly that provided more security than the truncheon wielding attack police. Certainly there were problems, including some disorder and an often truculent anti-authoritarian tone that was often as hostile to the press as to the gendarmes. But no one was as badly injured at Occupy Oakland as they were by the police who broke up the camp and beat protestors.
- Diversity:The camp and its supporters reflect the diversity that has endured the Great Recession: Not only the young, the unemployed and people of color, but seniors, retirees, those lucky enough to still be workers, military veterans and job-seekers.
- Numbers: The size of Occupy Oakland ranged from the two thousand marchers and campers present on October 15 to the thousand or more that demonstrated in support last night (October 25).
- Peaceful Nature: Despite the size of the crowds and their anger at the system that has betrayed them, the campers and demonstrators have not used violence to register their discontent or strike back. Even the reporters covering the events thought it remarkable that no windows were trashed or stores looted. At one point last night, as demonstrators marched past a stranded police car, they made a point to protect it from any angry outbursts.
- What do they want and when do they want it: By now even the most obtuse commentator knows why the Occupy movement has swept across the United States and the world. Every day more data piles up showing how the greatest transfer of wealth in history has undermined the health of our economy, broken families and ruined lives. The cry from the streets is to address this problem. But it certainly is not the responsibility of those protesting to effect this change. Clearly it is the responsibility of those in power who have underwrote the change and those who have benefited from it.
- Where do we go from here? Where we should go from here is out into the streets to join the protestors because that is the only thing that media, politicians and corporations seem to understand. The demonstrations need to be as large and long lasting as possible. They may not always be on as good behavior as Occupy Oakland, where last night a few kids resorted to throwing stones. There will also be more casualties among demonstrators, like the two-tour Marine Iraqi War Veteran who police hit with a rubber bullet to the head or the young people hit with batons.
But the threat of large scale protest from Wisconsin to New York, from Chicago to Oakland, in 1000 cities and towns around the world has drawn attention that the large-scale suffering of unemployed and impoverishment has not. It is long past time for suffering in silence and timid politeness. Occupy may be only the first step in pushback.