Progressing into night, downtown Oakland took on a weak apocalyptic appearance.

 

 

 

As Oakland and Occupy movements across the globe mobilize toward the undoubtedly historic general strike and mass actions tomorrow, the events of October 25 in downtown Oakland endure constant rhetorical invocation and bear ongoing terminological scrutiny.  Demonstration.  Confrontation.  Conflict.  The disruption and spontaneity of “riot” is tempting but tonally and semantically false in any interpretation.  “Protest” indicates a flailing, temporary whinging that has never defined this movement.  Descriptions that invoke the already immaterial questions of “violence” vs. “non-violence” are inadequate.  An unrelenting presence, a continual convocation and reconvention of bodies defined the day and night.

 

The rapidity and efficiency of the initial formal reconvening at the Oakland library, particularly divorced as it was in its abstract digital communications sphere from the vocal immanence of consensus we had relished at the General Assembly meetins, was an electrifying force to a populace woken up far too early that morning to the symbolic destruction of our occupation.  The dismemberment of the camp was only symbolic in its destruction of the comfort with these strangers who had become unestranged purely by personal geography since October 10, which would yet be ongoing and immune to locational bias.  If the administration of Oakland intended to fight us, so be it—as much as the march was a reclamation of our territory and our public space (another problematic term—as if we were taking something that hadn’t been ours in the first place), it was also an appropriation of the symbolic staging of this conflict.

 

Progressing into night, downtown Oakland took on a weak apocalyptic appearance.  The thousands-strong march’s outraged energy weathered the initial assault from the cops as it pressed on through the streets in the daylight hours.  The crowd turned to quiet refusal as deterrence as it faced the evening in addition to the riot squad surrounding the plaza.  An officer issued unintelligible dispersal orders over a bullhorn to which no one granted attention or acknowledgement.  Of course the ensuing projectiles were visceral and shocking, and many of us were tempted to (and did, understandably) scatter.  Under the fog of the first round of tear gas, the police turned the streets into an ostensible war zone, although little reciprocal war was waged.  While paint and bottles were occasionally lobbed toward the barricade, our primary mode of defiance was presence.  This first volley at 14th and Broadway was also the moment in which former Marine Scott Olsen was infamously struck in the face by a police projectile, and while his identity was not discovered until much later in the evening, this and other less immediately life-threatening injuries were enough to ensure the perseverance of our cohort.

 

Let me be clear: tear gas is a brutal, inhuman way to subdue a crowd under any circumstances.  People of all ages and physical conditions were indiscriminately choked and blinded by the chemical assault, not to speak of the rubber bullets, bean bag shots and flash-bang grenades which were fired on the crowd with nothing even approximating strategy.  But against a police force and an administration which has never expected to have to treat its constituents like human beings, particularly in any remotely dissenting context, the space for debates about humanity evaporates—as does the space for debating violence vs. non-violence.  To expand upon the argument with which Brian Ang concluded his general report this morning, the immateriality of this dichotomy becomes apparent when even the definition of violence becomes a question of proportionality of force.  While the police may have at hand all the weaponry and defensive outfittings—against which hand-tossed paint cans, rocks and empty bottles are, let’s face it, a negligible offence—that millions of taxpayer dollars siphoned from worthier public projects can buy, our own far-less-than-lethal armaments and our absolute physical presence continue to wage the battle on which Oscar Grant Plaza was claimed, temporarily overtaken by police, and reclaimed almost immediately.  The enduring circling and return of the crowd each time the gas forced a temporary dispersal proved the recurrent nature of “revolution” in its very etymology, enacting the kind of measured ostensible chaos resident in any truly insurrectionary movement.  It is this kind of inscrutability in which our movement (our political movement, the movement of our bodies, the presence of our bodies in public space and public exchange) finds its strength, its distinct capability of shutting down the kind of pointless conversation about dichotomies in which bloviating, pedantic commentators have languished, of defying the already immutably incomprehensible logic of the state—which has now even failed their incompetent watchdogs see ridiculous open letter from OPOA). This is where we make the rift in everything.

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