All right, let me start by saying that the residents of Casa LexiMonkey are barely emerging from our ante-Solstice funk. That said, I recognize that I came out of the gate a little strong on the subject of secrecy behind #OccupyOakland’s #J28 planning. People wanna plan it that way and sign up for that, go for it.That’s a tactical choice with tactical consequences. It’s also a boat that has left port.
Still, I realize that I had a very visceral reaction to the whole J28 plan, and I’ve had some time to think about it.
Oh wait, some of you don’t tweet. “WTF is ‘J28’, Pirate?” Lemme ‘splain.
On 12/21/11 The Occupy Oakland General Assembly voted to approve a plan to, on Jan 28 2012, occupy a large building in Oakland:
We propose to occupy and hold a large building that will serve the purpose of becoming a social center, convergence center and headquarters of the Occupy Oakland movement on Saturday, January 28th, 2012. The building will have sufficient office space for all of the Occupy Oakland committees and an auditorium large enough to hold Occupy Oakland general assemblies and adequate sleeping space. It will be a vacant building owned either by a bank, a large corporation of the 1% or already public. The occupation of the building will take place in daylight and on a weekend to ensure more safety and aim for maximum participation. The building will be the destination of a mass march, promoted as a “Move-In Day March” starting at Oscar Grant Plaza at 1pm and finishing up in the new building. Together we will enter the space, clean it, set it up and occupy it…
I made a big deal on Twitter about the location being secret, known only to the (as I put it) “Cabal” a.k.a. the cool kids. Strongest arguments I’ve seen or thought of for keeping the location secret are:
-So the place isn’t filled with cops that would prevent an occupation
-To keep the planners from getting harassed/arrested for planning an illegal takeover like this.
The secret planning is now ancillary to what I’m thinking. What I’m focusing on is what is the endgame? What is the objective? How does the J28 building occupation play out?
I’m a strategy-game geek from way back, so I spent a little time in my head gaming out the broadly possible scenarios:
A.1) #OO occupies the building and is able to (as the proposition calls for) defend and hold. Success of this type comes in two flavors.
A.1.1) The community of Oakland rises up, embraces #OO’s efforts, and forms rings of bodies around the building to thwart OPD’s eviction efforts and signal community solidarity behind the action.
A.1.2) Insufficient numbers of Oakland community members join the effort to block OPD nonviolently with bodies, so the occupiers barricade themselves inside “Fortress #OO” and are able to deny a heavily armed, thoroughly trained police force entry to a space they intend to enter. Where #OPDX learned “Light infantry retreats when faced with heavy infantry”, this scenario involves #OO hunkering down for a siege.
A.2) #OO occupies, the sky rains down magic pixie dust, and some eus ex machina miracle happens where #OO is allowed to keep possession of the community center and OPD doesn’t come to evict them.
Yeah, I know. I just put it in for a sense of completeness. Moving on.
B.1) Failure to occupy due to police interference. The cops frustrate #OO’s attempt to take over the building. This is one of the biggest arguments for secrecy-culture surrounding the planning.
B.2) #OO occupies, but is evicted from the space in basically the same manner as the failed Traveler’s Aid Society (TAS) occupation on November 2. I see B.2 as having the most possibility for a nightmare scenario, what I call the “CQB Clusterfuck option”. (I’ll explain this below.)
Outcome A.1.1 (community support, large numbers of bodies peacefully blockading) is basically the optimal scenario. It’s the technique that we used to shut down the Port of Oakland twice in two months.
But I don’t see it happening on J28.
The biggest reason: #OO does not have nearly the level of social capital necessary to pull it off. A week after OPD got their cop-riot on downtown, beat Kayvan Sabeghi till his spleen ruptured, shot Scott Olsen in the face, and then flash-banged the people and medics trying to come to his aid, Oaklanders who may not have previously been general supporters of the Occupy movement came out en masse on November 2 to march on the Port, largely in condemnation of OPD’s brutal repression of political dissent.
Many fewer people (though still enough) showed up for the #D12 Port shutdown. #OO had burned a lot of social capital between November 2 and December 12 over the Occupy/Decolonize name-change issue, on top of the ongoing PR War #Fail we seem to eagerly embrace.
And now the target of the J28 occupation is a secret.
We will not get mass numbers of people to show up to this event not knowing what the target is. Sure, some people will turn up on faith. But if OO are really going for a building of the size the proposal describes, I can’t imagine people showing up in large enough numbers to link arms outside and defy the OPD on behalf of the occupiers inside. Not going into it blind.
Last time the TAS was occupied, people set up flaming barricades on Broadway. Every reason to expect they’ll show up again at this occupation. I don’t know that for a fact, I just think it’s quite likely.
Outcome A.1.2 involves #OO succeeding in an active, physical defense of the building against the OPD’s efforts to gain entry and evict/arrest everyone inside. Sure, could happen. Right?
No, not really. But even I’m romantic enough to have embraced the possibility for a moment.
Anyone who thinks that OPD is going to let #OO barricade themselves inside “Fortress #OO” and get away with it is out of their minds. This is not a tree-sit. OPD will effect an eviction LONG before midnight on J28. No matter how many flaming dumpsters out front, boarded up windows and barred doors, they will get in.
They will call enough reinforcements until they have their way. Rely on it..
So yeah, I really don’t see outcome A.1.2 (Fortress #OO successfully defies OPD) as a viable option.
So, if (as I predict) enough bodies can’t be rallied to defend the building peacefully — and successfully defending against a siege of the building is a pipe-dream of people smoking better stuff than we get here at our local dispensaries — that brings us to the FAILURE options.
Outcome B.1 (occupation thwarted before entry) basically sucks. All that organizing effort and a big march, gone fizzle because the cops got there first and made occupying impossible.
And now, outcome B.2. The “CQB Clusterfuck” option. The one that makes hospital stays more and more likely the longer it remains unresolved once the breaching team gains entry to Fortress #OO.
People ask me why I so often think in terms of “What’s the absolute worst way this situation could go appallingly sideways and involve screams and blood?” Besides having a father who’s way more pragmatic-pessimist than I’ll ever be (and who fully earned said pragmatic pessimism), I was a first aid Ranger out at Burning Man for 4 years. It became a habit to at least game those options through.
In this scenario, an occupation is effected, barricades are put up when there isn’t community support to form a linked-arms blockade, but said barricades are insufficient to stop OPD and they gain entry to Fortress #OO.
Here’s why it could become a nightmare.
“CQB” is short for “Close Quarters Battle”. It implies conflict at very close range, up to and including hand-to-hand combat. Urban combat inside buildings is a classical example of it. Because when OPD have to go room to room to room and clear/secure every last damn one to make sure no one with a gun is hiding in the corner, that’s gonna get the adrenaline up. When they’re already wearing their Darth Vader armor and carrying their Team Vader weapons.
Once the OPD effect entry to the building, they will attempt to establish control of the situation and arrest everyone. If they have to break down barricades to get in, they’re gonna come in hot expecting violent resistance. (This is Oakland, people. Let’s not be fucking coy about this.) It’s going to be a dark, crowded, LARGE building with lots of places for occupiers, many or most of whom have zero tactical experience, to run and hide inside and force hostile, twitchy, heavily armed OPD to root them out while being in guard for ambush.
And if OPD and occupiers are intermingling in that environment… it could be a street-medic nightmare. Now, #OO’s got some talented and dedicated medics. But flash-bangs are even more effective indoors where they’re designed to be used. Pepper spray in a building corridor anyone?
#OO is not a Satyagraha-oriented group. Far from it (Realistically,
a lot of a non-zero population of #OO look at the satyagrahis and think they were stupid schmucks who deserved to get their skulls broken.) Someone is gonna resist arrest. Someone is gonna yell the wrong thing, show a little too much attitude, and OPD will put them face-down on the mat like it’s professional wrestling night. That will get more occupiers (righteously) riled up when they see their comrades getting jacked up as they’re taken into custody in what they’re claiming as their new #OO homeland. #OO mobs like that*.
At which point #OPD will escalate their efforts to forcefully establish control of the situation. Because the one thing they WILL DO is assert dominance over the situation. Once they come in hot, any delusions occupiers may hold of having established a Temporary Autonomous Zone… well, “temporary” can be a real short time..
If the OPD efforts to evict the occupiers were not 100% successful at first, repeat, adding more physical force with each iteration.
Some occupier(s) is/are gonna get freaked out when Team Vader storms in through multiple points of entry and will bolt into the depths of the building. Go back to the description of the desired building they’re looking at. The Traveller’s Aid Society bldg on #N2 was only so large. There was only so much space to hide in. A building big enough to suit the proposal’s needs is gonna have boo-coo space to hide in. And making the cops search you out in a dark, possibly dangerous deserted building, not knowing what kind of “diversity of tactics” they may meet when they do find you…
SWEET ELVIS, I don’t even want to think about what happens if some knucklehead actually attacks a cop while they’re inside the building arresting people. THERE is when the tragedy-o-meter pegs the scale and everything gets a rocket-assist on its downhill trajectory. Insert screams, blood, and hospital stays to the arrests. Ooh, is this deserted building a fire hazard? Did one of those trouble-making protesters drop a cigarette where they shouldn’t have? Did some pig toss a flash-bang on a pile of oily rags? Are the exits splintery gauntlets quickly filling with smoke? Oops…
Here’s the thing: The closest I’ve come to anything remotely like CQB is playing paintball in a dark, retrofitted warehouse. Running confrontations from room to room where the opponent might just pop out from behind a door and pop you is TRIPPY. Your heart gets up, adrenaline pumps, you get twitchy at every last movement. Hell, people have this kind of experience just sitting in front of a computer or console playing a FPS videogame. Anyone whose actually seen it first hand and wants to comment below, please do.
OPD already actively dislikes #OO. Force them into what could easily be a dangerous ambush for them…
The more I think about this, the more I can’t imagine a scenario that doesn’t end with #OO getting forcefully evicted in short order. Because the OPD would much rather prevent an occupation than besiege Fortress #OO.
ESPECIALLY if the target is Henry J. Kaiser Auditorium.
Fits the bill: large; auditorium for GAs; space to sleep people and set up offices for the various #OO committees; symbolic link to the 1946 Oakland General Strike.
SO MANY KINDS OF BAD IDEA.
You want to alienate Oaklanders and have them chanting outside for the OPD to go in and kick some black-hoodie anarchist ass, take over HJK on J28. Even people who are down with OO and who have been taking part (participating in the Port shutdowns, going to GAs, etc.) have already said that their reactions will be, publicly and vocally, “Oh HELL no!”
Considering what I see are the options, they all end with eviction. So what is the endgame of J28? What is #OO playing towards?
-The organizers actually think that this is a viable plan, and that one of the SUCCESS options is going to come through, and that it will be an ongoing situation.
Not gonna happen. OPD will be kicking down the doors before the first dustpan of litter is collected. There will be no offices, no community center, no sleeping space. People are delusional about the prospects of any building take-over lasting more than 6 hours at most. Talk of a 2-day festival is utter madness if taken seriously.
-The organizers want to provoke a direct confrontation with the OPD.
There are people who relish the idea of a head-on confrontation with the OPD. The #OO hashtag on twitter
is loaded with more than zero people who condemn “fetishizing nonviolence”*. There are people who fucking YEARN for the opportunity to light fires in the street and play live-action Paris ’68 while the boom-truck is bumping Rage Against The Machine. They are in love with the idea of militant resistance against state violence, and think that if they just lead the way, THE PEOPLE (tm) will rise up seeing their righteousness and charge to join the fight.
And when that doesn’t happen, they can take off their black hoodies, unmask, and melt away and hide among the non-combatant population.
Of course, guerrilla warfare tactics like that require a population that’s actually gonna shield you, rather than livestream your ass while narrating “Look, these were the fuckers setting the flaming barricades, now they’re looking to exfiltrate through civilians and leave behind the mess they created.”
Guerrilla warfare cannot be waged without a supportive (or intimidated) population in which the guerrillas can hide. Now, there is a vocal contingent of #OO who think “solidarity” means “Under any and all circumstances, no matter what, without criticism or question”. I disagree. That’s a basic social fallacy. Occupy can and has the right todeal with its asshole problem. Solidarity no matter what is not a law of nature. It’s a choice we as people make or don’t.
The more I think about it, I feel like I’m standing in the Belfast shipyard watching the Titanic being built.
HELLA OCCUPY OAKLAND!
OCCUPY ALL STREETS!
* Honestly, at that point so will I. OPD look at me and see just another fucking #OO. And #OO had a moment of sincere concern when people thought I was arrested at 21st and Mandela but wasn’t on the roster. I know whose back I got and who’s got mine.
** I will point out that Occupy Wall Street and the NYC General Assembly, the seed from which every Occupy out there has sprung, fetishizes nonviolence so much it’s woven into the basic statements of who and what they are. #OO, not so much.
PREVIOUSLY in O,DIKTO?:
-Militant. Radical. Pacifist. Language and Occupy Oakland
-Berkeley PD Arrest #OccupyOakland Medic for Standing In The Street
-Here Comes Oakland!
-#D12 West Coast Port Shutdown: And after that…?
-Why I am voting “No” on changing the name from “Occupy Oakland” to “Decolonize/Liberate Oakland”
-18 And Linden is HELLA OCCUPIED!
-Running Wolf is PISSED!
-Why was shutting down the port ok, but occupying the TAS was met w/ POLICE VIOLENCE
-#OCCUPYOAKLAND: Beware of Wolves in Sheeps Clothing