Not With A Bang, But A Whimper: How California's local governments' "moderate" response to #OWS might be more dangerous to the movement than outright crackdowns

In Oakland, after the police used tear gas and rubber bullets on Occupy protesters, the mayor released a statement (PDF) apologizing for the excessive force and listing a "compromise" position which would ostensibly allow Occupy to continue without police opposition - so long as nobody stayed overnight.

The San Francisco mayor's office says he supports the protests but is citing "health concerns" and saying they can't stay much longer.

Fresno justifies their intent to remove Occupy protesters because they "failed to meet permit requirements" such as "limiting the gathering to about 20 people" along with, predictably, not staying overnight.

I read these stories and I wonder if, in a way, California's generally-liberal nature is actually working *against* the Occupy movements here.  This is California, we love us a good protest, but do it quietly and only during park hours with a small number of people, if you please.

Oakland's "no camping" stance is ridiculous because...err, you do realize that the point of Occupy is to, well...occupy?  To take over and hold a space in the name of the people, as a visible community together against oligarchic oppression?  "Only during daylight hours" completely fails to address this.  Without the community, without the living-together-encampments, Occupy is just another Tea Party.

San Francisco's "okay but not too much longer" stance misses the point again: an Occupy that lasts a couple weeks then goes home is just a blip on the radar; to do the work that Occupy is trying to do, it needs to make it clear that it's not just a passing fad, that it's a serious movement that will not just go away and cannot just be ignored.  It's taken nearly two months for #OWS to gain even the piddly amount of mainstream media coverage it's gotten.  It would have been no coverage at all if they'd gone home after a week or two.

Fresno's complaint about the protest being too big for a permit is basically a gentle request to defang your own movement; the point of the Occupy protests is to show a massive display of solidarity.  To demonstrate the 99% principle, to show that we really do outnumber the 1%.  Making sure only 20 people show up sort of defeats that purpose.

And that's the problem with these demands.  They are so reasonable on the surface and designed to appeal to the moderate person's sense of compromise, but to comply with them would strip the essential meaning from the Occupy protests.  They would see them reduced to a useless, token gesture, easily ignored and dismissed.  But because they're framed as moderate, common-sense compromises, to reject them and continue to preserve the core principles of the Occupy movement leaves it open to being painted as "radicals" who refused to negotiate with the authorities.  Bad PR, and fodder for mainstream media attempts to discredit the movement - "We tried to negotiate, but those hippies wouldn't budge!"  And I am very much afraid that disregarding the pseudo-reasonable demands of local governments who are trying to compromise the movement into irrelevancy will set the stage for ever more violent clashes as they use that refusal as justification for "extreme" tactics out of "necessity".

I hope - and I think most likely it will happen - that the Occupy movements negotiating with the local governments stay true to their principles and refuse to conform to "acceptable" levels of protest.  But I'm concerned what that refusal might do to the general representation and public opinion of Occupy and that it might provoke further police violence.  And I'm not at all sure which path is best, in the end.



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