Occupy finally turning openly violent may spell the movement’s end.
So it finally happened. After all this time of things going relatively smoothly, Occupy protests have at last turned violent, with the city of Oakland playing host to the inevitable turning point.
Perhaps it’s fitting that, after all this time, it was that old stand-by of police brutality that got us there in the end. Riot police in Oakland dispersed a crowd of several hundred people from the city’s Frank Ogawa Plaza on Tuesday night after having less forcibly cleared the area of an encampment earlier that morning. In the process, the officers used, among other things, tear gas canisters, concussion grenades, and bean bag rounds on the protestors, claiming in a statement that these were used to “stop [protestors] from throwing dangerous objects at the officers.
No matter who is really to blame for this particular, we all know how it looks. A group of peaceful protestors living communally in a public space was essentially attacked by trained and heavily armed riot police. Not just once, either; twice in less than twenty-four hours. Whenever something like this happens, the cops never come out of it looking good—but then again, when do they ever—and, more crucially, the protestors invariably change their tack in a less than lustrous way that ensures they achieve no real change. One need only look at the protests surrounding every G8, G-20, or G-n (for all n) conference in the last several years—or any similarly-minded recent protest in America or virtually any other industrialized nation, for that matter—to see this trend.
The simplified perception of these events described above is, ultimately, all that will matter, as that is the black and white story that the black and white newspapers will print on their black and white pages for all to see. Though this fact is unfortunate, it is almost pointless to decry it; when have things ever been different? If anything, sadly, it would perhaps be more pertinent to decry the impending aggression-laced protests that will surely follow this incident in Oakland, which saw a former Marine, of all people, sustain a skull fracture from a police projectile. The media really could not have asked for more.
At the end of the day, however, one can only hope that the Occupy movement will take no cues from other recent protests and its followers will stick to the peaceful principles that brought them this far. How likely that is to happen remains to be seen, but a guy can dream.
Posted by Ajay Batra