Daily Archives: November 5, 2011

Dear Occupy Oakland: Declare Victory, Cut Your Losses, and Go Home

I kinda hate to say it. But only kinda.

Occupy Oakland should go home now.

With the general strike on Wednesday you made a huge point. Not as big as it could have been, but still huge. Very important. But with the follow-up riot, the second in only a few days, Occupy Oakland proved without a doubt that it cannot control its violent elements. A little law-breaking leads to a lot of law breaking, at least in Oakland.

The solution is easy.  Declare victory and disperse the camp.You shut down the city with a (relatively) peaceful general strike. Your demonstrated your power. Good for you.

Also good for you is that the rioters are not identified as intrinsically a part of you, which is very important. However, if these unseemly elements keep acting as they do, they will become more and more identified with the movement. And then you will incur loss of the moral high ground (insofar as you have it in the eyes of some, as of now).

The violent element requires your presence in order to have any shred of legitimacy. The camp’s unlawfulness makes the rioter’s unlawfulness possible. This is no minor point, it is essential. OO is indirectly at fault for both riots, it is a material (unintended) cooperation in evil. And if it becomes foreseeable that future riots may occur due to OO, the the cooperation starts to approach formal (intended). And then you lose the moral high ground, and you lose big time in the eyes of the public. So cut your losses now.

I know you have no hierarchy so that can’t actually be done with any kind of coordination. I’m just presenting this as one voice. But as a person who studies human action, good and bad (aka ethics), that’s my take on it.

You have demonstrated both your power and your weakness. Your power in in popular support.  Your weakness is in your uncontrolled elements; elements which you cannot control because in order to control them you need police cooperation, which is precisely what you cannot have because you are already breaking the law, thus denying yourself your only solution.

So comply with the city and disperse. Then you can cooperate with the police and achieve your solution, maintaining the moral high ground and ridding yourself of the bad element which may destroy you. You can still make your point as a cooperative occupation, say, during the day or whatever you can agree to with the city.

But you cannot remain breaking the law. That opens you up to being named culpable for indirect causation of serious damage to the city in the eyes of the public.

Other cities need not do this, this is an Oakland-specific problem and solution. Unfortunately, circumstances, I think, necessitate this. You risk the OWS movement if you continue to facilitate major law-breaking by your minor law-breaking. Its a bad break, but you are at a point of power now (and soon may no longer be), so now is the time to declare victory and go home.