Reflections from Monday night’s Oakland solidarity march

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via Portland Indymedia. Feb 8, 2012:

Reflections from Monday night’s Oakland solidarity march

Monday night’s anti-police brutality march ended in 10 arrests and the scapegoating of the black bloc. How can we avoid this in the future? On Monday night there was a march in Portland in solidarity with Occupy Oakland’s call-out for a day of action against police brutality and arrests. The description for Portland’s march specifically called for a respect for diversity of tactics including a black bloc and nonviolent direct action. Unfortunately the actual event proved much less tolerant to this diversity of tactics – people utilizing black bloc tactics were physically assaulted by other marchers on multiple occasions, and scapegoated for the 10 arrests the police made.

The march departed from Colonel Summers Park in SE Portland around 6:30 pm. We marched north through a residential neighborhood, led by a “Police Violence Is Business As Usual” banner and a “Capitalism Is Cannibalism” banner. We chanted the usual anti-cop chants. Mainstream media estimates place our numbers anywhere between 75 and 150 people. My guess is that about a quarter of those in the march were in black bloc, though that could be inaccurate because I’m really terrible at estimating numbers of people.

While we marched through the neighborhood a passing car with an iron cross sticker on the back was tagged with a circle-a, and other marchers immediately loudly denounced this minor vandalism. We broke out onto Belmont Street and a bourgie-ass 5-star restaurant had its windows broken in two places. Other marchers immediately came to its defense – this was a local restaurant, this was the wrong target, etc. Window lovers also yelled about Occupy being a nonviolent movement (as though that were relevant to a march not endorsed by Occupy Portland and some broken glass with no harm to human or nonhuman life). A few luxury cars received broken windows and there was a similar outcry against property destruction from fellow marchers.

One marcher in particular was an especially fierce defender of private property – this person specifically targeted participants in the black bloc and physically assaulted us. This person tripped me and threw me to the ground, hit me in the face with the metal flag pole I was carrying, assaulted several others in the bloc, and vocalized his desire to hand over to the police people who destroyed property.

The march was split into several groups by the police. I have a hard time remembering specific details of what happened next, I lost my battle buddy and was trying to stick together with the rest of my friends. At one point we were driven up onto Morrison, then found a way back down to Belmont. Riot cops and bike cops started advancing on us from behind and several people in bloc dragged dumpsters and other debris into the streets in an effort to slow the police enough to escape. Peace police promptly removed the dumpsters and other debris from the street and yelled about the local businesses in the area. I want to reiterate this point: police were advancing from behind, people in the bloc dragged dumpsters into the street to block the cops so marchers could escape arrest, and other marchers removed all the dumpsters out of the street. Almost immediately after this, the police caught up to the marchers and started making arrests.

I was the first or second person arrested, and the only person in the black bloc who was arrested. Other arrestees spent the ride to the justice center blaming the arrests on the black bloc and property destruction. Let me be clear: I was arrested because people removed the makeshift roadblocks, allowing the police full access to the back of the march, not because others in bloc smashed shit. I did not commit any property destruction but I commend whomever did, and I in no way blame them for my arrest.

My charges are relatively minor. In all likelihood I will have to do a few hours of community service and that will be the end of it. I am sore and bruised from the police throwing me on the ground and kneeing me in the back and rubbing my face in the pavement. I am always infuriated with the police, but they behaved exactly as I expected. Police violence is the norm and I am lucky to make off with only bruised ribs and face. I am more upset by how I was treated by my fellow marchers. I did not expect to be assaulted by anyone other than the police. My knee is scraped, my ankle is stiff and sore, and the side of my face that wasn’t rubbed into the pavement is bruised from being hit with a metal pole.

Equally infuriating as the peace police are the so-called “anarchists” who condemned the property destruction on the basis that it was the “wrong target” – their line of reasoning being that one should only attack police targets at a march against police brutality and arrests, otherwise we will alienate potential allies and the message will be lost. I cannot speak for whomever tagged the car and smashed windows, but I cannot separate my hatred and contempt for the police from my hatred and contempt for capitalism or any other aspect of this despicable society. To ask someone to compartmentalize their anger (and actions) is not only condescending but out of touch with reality – you have to take advantage of the circumstances presented to you. The march did not pass by any police targets (at least not before I got arrested, I’m not sure what route the march took after that), but it did pass by luxury cars and a 5-star restaurant. I do wish the march had passed by a police station or other manifestation of prison society (I chalk this up to the organizers’ naivety and poor planning), but again, I commend the property destruction and don’t think its targets were inappropriate.

Regardless of how we interact with the official Occupy Portland, it has politicized a great number of people who now attend every (anti)political event they hear about. Occupy’s terrible excuse for a class analysis and total lack of analysis of societal power means that these new activists play the role of peace police again and again. These new activists also tend to have very little tactical experience. I would like to believe that as much as they may have wanted the black bloc arrested, they didn’t intend to give the police wanton access to everyone else in the march. Not that throwing garbage in the street needs any justification (mad love to the trash bullies!), but bringing dumpsters into the street served a specific tactical purpose of slowing the cops who were trailing behind the march. Removing the dumpsters gave the cops access not only to the black bloc but to the 9 other random marchers they arrested.

This leaves some important questions. How are we as anarchists and other radicals to proceed? I had already given up on working with Occupy Portland, but Portland occupiers clearly aren’t giving up on attaching themselves to every leftist or radical event, then enforcing their own pacifist rules of engagement (by any means necessary, of course). I certainly don’t have any definitive answers. How can we build the anarchist milieu while simultaneously repelling those who would physically attack us? Clearly stating in a call-out that a diversity of tactics should be expected at an event is not enough. I am not one for building broad movements with mass appeal, but I also recognize that taking action only in my group of friends with whom I am on the same page politically is a fast road to isolation and irrelevance.

This entry was posted in Analysis, News - All, News - Portland, Occupy Portland and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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