Don’t get the wrong idea, though. These violent tactics are still mostly peaceful.
Since last week, the conventional wisdom among progressives has been that Occupy Oakland needs to condemn and expel the black-clad vandals who seek out violent clashes with police. The morning after last week’s general strike turned into a night of chaos, many liberals showed up at Occupy Oakland urging demonstrators to embrace nonviolence, and some protesters responded in kind, by helping clean up debris and graffiti in downtown Oakland.
But over the past week, the Occupy Oakland General Assembly has stopped short of denouncing violence, even though many occupiers have distanced themselves from what happened last Thursday morning. At times, calls for peace have been shouted down by the more militant members of the movement. In fact, since last week’s events, there appears to be a contingent at Occupy Oakland that is openly embracing violent tactics.
Oft called “The Black Bloc,” or “the anarchist wing” of Occupy Oakland (even though many anarchists scorn them), the small group who turned last week’s protest into chaos uses a methodology that gained currency after the 1999 World Trade Organization demonstrations in Seattle. They dress in black and obscure their faces with ski masks or bandanas, both to conceal individual identities, promote “solidarity” (i.e., the group looks like one autonomous bloc), and make it difficult for police to apprehend the protesters who throw rocks or light trash cans on fire.
Not all Black Bloc protesters are violent; some merely wear the uniform as a fashion statement, or to show sympathy for their counterparts. One occupier said the black dress helped prevent mass arrests and persecution of individuals. He emphasized that Black Bloc protesters don’t subscribe to any uniform political ideology — meaning that not all believe in violent revolution.
Well, that’s a relief.
Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) had marching orders to help direct traffic, diffuse conflicts, and keep the peace as large groups of people disrupted service at each of the big banks downtown. For the most part, the peace-keepers were successful.
Yeah, except for all that violence and mayhem.