Sometime last week, someone circulated a flier in downtown Oakland urging people to “beat the (expletive) out of anarchists/vandals.”
One was posted on the Oakland Tribune office building and on a Tribune newsrack.
The violent content created understandable concern.
The fliers targeted “any and all Caucasion (sic) black clad anarchists/vandals and others that would engage in physical destruction against Oakland and use our city landscape as a canvas for their divisive and violent message.”
No one has claimed responsibility for the racist material that referred to “white domestic terrorists” who have ‘occupied’ our city for the wrong purposes and urged people to “BYOB (Bring your own bat)” and “A I M 2 MAIM.”
Were the individuals who produced the flier serious? Or is this some twisted individual’s idea of a joke? Whoever it was apparently didn’t know how to spell “Caucasian.”
The last thing Oakland needs is anything to inflame the already potentially volatile occasion of the anniversary of the Occupy raid this Thursday.
Only a nut would condone the violence advocated in the flier.
Yet many perfectly sane Oakland residents would agree something must be done about the continuing aimless and costly destruction that radical elements who identify with Occupy Oakland are inflicting on this city.
The vandalism has continued long after the tent encampment closed. People dressed in black vandalized buildings
during the city’s Pride festival and Art Murmur. They busted out windows at President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters. They did the same at the Tribune and other downtown businesses during an anti-war protest.
People are fed up with Oakland’s $3.7 million and counting cost of dealing with Occupy and its offshoots in a city that is struggling to pay for basic services.
Whether they live in the flats ravaged by constant street shootings or in the hills plagued by burglaries, Oakland residents are sick and tired of having our police officers stationed downtown to deal with the latest nonsense by so-called anarchists.
How did a movement that once commanded the support of thousands of supporters come to be viewed by many of those same people as a plague on the city? How did a popular movement lose the people’s support?
The Occupy Oakland tent encampment first sprung up at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza on Oct. 10, 2011. It was inspired — like Occupy movements all over the world — by Occupy Wall Street which focused on corporate greed. Protesters focused on unemployment, foreclosures, student debt and other issues that resonated with low and middle income Americans who had felt powerless in the face of a political and economic system corrupted by greed.
Occupy Oakland, however, quickly morphed into something entirely different. The tent dwellers renamed the city hall plaza after Oscar Grant — the Hayward man fatally shot by a BART police officer in 2009.
The larger goal of addressing inequality became a myopic focus on police brutality in Oakland — which converged with the most radical elements’ (some claim infiltrators) aim to create open rebellion. While people from all walks of life tried to work together to build a movement to effect social change, the hard-core anarchist fringe set about turning every Occupy protest into a pretense for provoking a violent clash with the police, attacking media, and vandalizing businesses. As the violence escalated, Councilwoman Desley Brooks who had once pitched a tent in solidarity with protesters on the plaza, nurses, teachers and others who had enthusiastically supported Occupy, began distancing themselves.
At an Occupy General Assembly meeting in November those in favor of nonviolence tried to get Oakland to go on record against violent tactics. This was a week after the general strike and port shutdown when some factions set a Dumpster on fire, tried to occupy a building, and defaced buildings downtown to provoke physical confrontations with the police. But the hard-core anarchists prevailed.
Occupy became associated more and more with violence and less and less with the fight for social justice.
“We all had this desperate hope and desperate need for something and it all went up in smoke,” says Pamela Drake, a former Occupy supporter.
Drake said it’s too early to assess Occupy Oakland’s legacy.
For now, however, she says Oakland must deal with the “dregs of the movement” who are continuing to tear down the city.
“We have to stand up as a community and say we’re not going to stand for this violence anymore.”
Tammerlin Drummond is a columnist for the Bay Area News Group. Her column runs Tuesday and Sunday. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at Twitter.com/Tammerlin