Occupy Oakland protesters split over violence
For many Occupy activists outside Oakland and San Francisco, the violent clashes with police and destruction that attended protests in those cities over the past two weeks not only went against the Occupy message - they’ve started to undercut its essence.
Even within the cities, there is a deepening split between those who accept violence as a tactic and those who oppose it.
The conflict is turning into a wrestling match for the soul of the Occupy movement in the Bay Area. And it’s become so pronounced that many who started out calling themselves Occupiers now refer to themselves as “99 percenters” instead.
“When I started to see what was happening Saturday, my heart just broke,” Michele Horaney of Alameda, a member of the 99 Percent Solution activist group in the East Bay, said of the Occupy Oakland protest that devolved into an hours-long street battle with police. “There is so much good to be gotten, earned and kept from really solid, sincere efforts to make things change for the better.
“But now,” Horaney said, “we’ve got this group that pretty much just wants to destroy things and make trouble.”
Not their fault
For others, though, it’s not a matter of protesters committing violence. Any destruction is in reaction to police repression of their efforts to seek economic equality, they say - and if violence happens, it’s not really the protesters’ fault.
“In any struggle for social justice, the people have been told to shut up and sit down,” said Cat Brooks, an active Oakland Occupier. “I believe in a diversity of tactics. If you are fully aware of the risks, then you have to do what you have to do.
“I’m not condoning violence, and I’m not condemning it,” she said. “I’m just saying that 99 percent of the time when violence happens, it’s police who start it. And you have to do what you have to do.”