November 2, 2011

Self-Policing: Another Part of the Occupy Story We're Not Getting

Yes, there was a group of black-shirts in Oakland yesterday that vandalized a Whole Foods and smashed a bank window. We’ll have to see what the media does with that. The overall story, however, given the fact that the city largely removed its police from the action, is that the march and general strike was not only impressive in scale, but overwhelmingly peaceful.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I had the chance to spend some time in Zuccotti Park yesterday talking to members of the community there. One of the protesters spoke to me at length about camp rules, rule enforcement and self-policing, also pointing out people detailed to security who were otherwise regular “camp citizens.”

Not that you would notice it right off, but video from Oakland yesterday provides a good example of how the movement is employing peace-keeping and security as part of its very complex agenda.

Yes, there is Oakland Trib video showing the black-shirts apparently overcoming an Occupy security guy (yellow helmet), then wreaking their havoc. But then, there is also this video where the screen grabs above came from. What happens in this clip is that a group of protesters approach a Bank of America where they begin to violently bang on the window. The aggression is too much for the first Occupy security guy to handle, but very quickly and sure-handedly, a second Occupy security guy (the one with the green hat) steps in and takes control. In a second, these two guys, along with a woman, apparently affiliated with a local union, are calmly protecting the bank, the situation de-escalating so fast that, in the next instant, we see a girl standing where the rabble-rousers were eating a popscicle as the demonstrators rejoin the march.

I’m not saying there aren’t going to be incidents of violence as OWS tries to contain and control a growing movement, one which is attracting all types of disenfranchised people, including the 1% of bad actors looking for trouble. At the same time, I’m assuming Occupy — which is proving itself remarkably savvy at organization and “self-government” — will continue to improve their self-policing. Something that remains to be seen, however, is whether traditional media picks up on the fact.

(Video from Oakland Tribune article: Occupy Oakland Live Blog: Quan estimates crowd was 7,000.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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