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Occupy committed suicide. Now, the George Floyd movement is doing the same

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I probably react more emotionally to the protests and looting than some people, because for the better part of ten years, my Oakland neighborhood has experienced more of that than possibly any other in America.

Since the Fall of 2011, I’ve witnessed on at least six occasions the widespread smashing of shop windows and automobile windows, the arson burning of stores, the ugly racist graffiti on every wall, the wanton destruction of public and private property; and it’s reached a point where I hate the people responsible for it. I dread the announcement that a “peaceful protest” is being launched, because I know—we all know in Oakland—that there’s no such thing as a peaceful protest. They may start out non-violently, but as soon as nightfall comes, the agents provocateurs crawl out from their hiding places and begin their criminal rampage.

What these thugs have been doing has nothing—repeat, nothing to do with civil rights. What has been happening in Oakland and elsewhere since Friday night has nothing to do with George Floyd. The legitimate protesters know that, although they’re intimidated from admitting it. The thugs couldn’t care less about George Floyd, or anything else. They care about rage for its own sake, for the cheap thrill of wanton destruction, for stealing sneakers and CD players and anything else they can get their hands on.

What difference does it make if they’re “leftist” or “rightist” or anything-“ist”? Mostly they’re opportunists, looking to get high, rampage, scream their little heads off, encourage each other with fist bumps and high fives, and rip off stores where hard-working Oaklanders work their tails off for little money. The vandals and looters have no political philosophy beyond “Smash everything,” which makes them ideal useful idiots for the likes of nihilists such as Steve Bannon, who desire nothing more than to smash the system so that their guys—the rightwing cabal that put Trump into office—can overturn our Constitution and run America like a mafia-religious-corporate kleptocracy.

The debate raging here in Oakland is to what extent what I’m calling “legitimate protesters” are responsible for the violence. The protesters say, “Don’t blame us. We didn’t do it.” And they add, without evidence, “Besides, the looters and arsonists are mainly undercover cops, trying to poison our movement.” To which I respond: What complete and utter bullshit. Sorry, protesters, the looters and arsonists are young, angry, spoiled, entitled brats—black and white. And there’s no way for the average American to any longer tell the difference between a “legitimate” protester, on the one hand, and the criminal looters, on the other. In the public mind, you are all one, cut from the same cloth. Whether you like it or not, your movement has been hijacked by these thugs—with your complicit permission.

The protesters hate hearing this inconvenient truth. “You must be a racist,” they scream, “if you don’t support us 100%.” No, I’m not a racist. I love and support my city, my home, and whatever threatens it, threatens me. When these demonstrations turn violent, the violence is directed against me, against my friends, against my home, against my neighbors. Why would I not defend those things?

Back in 2011, I was a fervent believer in Occupy Oakland, which was the precursor of all of this. I visited with the occupiers at City Hall, struck up conversations to understand them, believed in the cause: it was shocking that one percent of all Americans owned 99% of the wealth. The income gap, the wealth inequality, the systematic injustice had to end. I marched with Occupy and was proud that so many of my neighbors marched with me. But that pride, that glow of moral superiority ended for me on the night of Oct. 25, 2011, when Occupy protesters who had been peaceful suddenly reached for their crowbars and hammers and began rampaging throughout the city, breaking and burning and smashing and destroying. I was shocked out of my wits—could not understand what was happening, was utterly unprepared for this turn of events. Turning to a young man, clad in a black mask, next to me, who was smashing everything he could, I—already an old man—asked him why he was destroying our town.

It was a naïve, simple question; I really wanted to hear what he had to say. Instead, he punched me, called me something vulgar, and made his way into the night. Over the following days, I tried to reconcile my emotional belief in Occupy with the evidence of my own eyes that this was no longer a trustworthy group I could associate with. I went to an Occupy town hall meeting a few days later and argued that Occupy must “self-police itself” to rid the movement of these looters and criminals. I was out-voted: Occupy, which claimed to have no leaders, unilaterally decided on a “by any means necessary” policy, which meant they allowed and even encouraged violence. When the Occupy movement in America died, in 2012, I wrote that “Its death was not by natural causes. Occupy committed suicide.”

And now we have this current movement, in the name of George Floyd, slowly, pitifully dying, and for exactly the same reason: its adherents refuse to condemn and confront the criminality committed by their cohorts. They could, if they wanted to: every time a black-masked thug starts to smash and burn, a team of a dozen peaceful protesters could surround the perp, reason with him and, if reason were non-availing, resort to more conclusive action to eject him from their midst. But the peaceful protesters refuse to do that. “It’s not our job,” they whine.

Well, yes, it is. Study history. Study the rise and fall of Occupy, and realize that the same thing will happen to your movement, unless you reform it now.

  1. Marc Metz says:

    Agree Steve. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that“ – MLK. Wish we had leadership.

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