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Semiformalishmaybe

Statement on Occupy Oakland

Last night, in Oakland, CA, police mobilised and stormed OccupyOakland, destroying the camp and barracading it against the return of Occupy. So far, the legal advisor of the mayor, Dan Siegel, has resigned in protest, citing solidarity with the movement rather than the city.

This is not an issue of dictatorship (we do have elections), it is one about rule of law and when and how that should be limited. We generally should respect the law, but making large-scale changes to the system sometimes requires direct action. The camp may have been on the wrong side of the law, but it was and is worth fighting for. When enough people decide to band together and protest, rules can and should be bent. May Occupy Oakland return. I believe that this justifies more than non-violent resistance against the police; the sanctity of peaceful protest is more important than the concerns used to justify disbanding the camp; forcibly disarming the police involved in the raid and preventing their effective action against the camp would have been appropriate. Destruction of regional police offices, should it prevent the effective coordination needed to disband the camp, would have also been appropriate.

In general, the movement should aim to have reasonable relations with police where possible; so long as the camps themselves are respected and there are no signs of systemic abuse of protestors (and specific abuse is dealt with appropriately), criticism should remain targeted tightly on whatever few officers misbehave. Movements should not shy from direct action, but nor should they be eager for confrontation or condemnation. If and when the Rubicon is crossed by police, protestors should be willing to meet force with force, violence with violence, and destruction with destruction, but in ways that are as civilised as possible and in ways that, once the cost for such incursions is made clear by symmetric action, permit a scaledown of tensions.

This is not an issue with the direction of the protest; it is about the ethics and jurisprudential concerns around protest in a democracy.

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