Thursday at the Occupy Austin General Assembly, I brought a proposal to offer solidarity with Occupy Oakland. For those who are not aware, Occupy Oakland was violently assaulted by police, with over 400 arrests and at least 5 journalists arrested. There are even reports of Occupy prisoners being tortured in jail. In the aftermath, Oakland’s mayor Jean Quan asked that “the leaders of Occupy Wall Street” disavow their connection with Occupy Oakland.
Since Occupy is a movement of leaders, I thought it was important that Occupy Austin do the opposite — that we stand in solidarity with all the occupation including Oakland. Here is the proposal I brought tonight. The italicized text in red is a friendly amendment which passed during discussion:
Occupy Austin stands in solidarity with the nonviolent activists of Occupy Oakland. We oppose violence at Occupy events but we believe we are all one in occupation.
We oppose the violent methods used by the Oakland Police Department, and condemn all efforts by police or elected officials to spread dissent among the Occupiers and the 99%.
Occupy Austin! Occupy Oakland! Occupy Everywhere!
First off it is fair to say that there was, and IS a LOT of support for passing a solidarity proposal in Occupy Austin. There was tons of sparklefingers (a hand signal for support) to go along with my original proposal, and even more support for the amended version with the text in red. But when we tried to come to consensus, there were some concerns which would have led to blocks, and they were from some important members of our community.
Let me point out here, for those unfamiliar, that Occupy Austin continues to occupy Austin’s city hall as it has continuously for 120 days. We have an especially touchy relationship with city hall now, who are threatening our medical tent and library. I think there is a fear of being seen to be supporting potential violence against our city hall by proxy. We are also in the midst of some potentially very valuable but still tentative outreach to local Unitarians and Quakers, two groups for whom nonviolence is a high priority (as it is for us, as one of Occupy Austin’s core values). I think it’s important to keep in mind that these are the source of a lot of these concerns.
So some occupiers raised the issue of whether should we specifically disavow the “violence against property” which occurred at City Hall in Oakland in our proposal? At least two members felt that we must specifically do so, or be seen as endorsing that violence by the mainstream media. Meanwhile, others objected to this proposed amendment — one man spoke who has relatives that are 24/7 occupiers in Oakland, who insisted that they had told him that what happened at City Hall occurred at the hands of outside provocateurs. Others pointed out that we don’t know what happened there, and need to remember Oakland’s long history of police oppression, violence, infiltration, and even assassination of activist movements. Others emphasized how police violence is more important than a burnt flag and that we shouldn’t buy into the media’s story.
But we are a consensus body, and we have to take the concerns of everyone into account. This was a principled block by someone who we do not wish to leave our movement. However, the proposed amendment did not pass and with a clear lack of consensus among the group we tabled the proposal when our time limit for discussion ran out. A heated discussion broke out after the meeting; we eventually agreed to take it to an online working group discussion using Google Docs.
To address a couple specific comments from Twitter:
@OccupyAustin Would someone @ #occupyaustin GA please DM me so we can get phone conference re #solidarity #OO proposal ? Need support!
@ProjectCambio @marymad @OccupyAustin @OccupyBurners From what I can tell, #occupyaustin not engaging #OO in dialogue re #J28. Why, please? – Both from @ElOaklandTejano
These messages came in during our general assembly. This was not a deliberate slight against Occupy Oakland. Our twitter team setup does not make it possible to functionally respond to @ mentions during a general assembly. I am the primary person who monitors our @ mentions, and during this general assembly I was simultaneously defending my proposal and using my phone to livetweet the general assembly on @OccupyAustin. It’s difficult to impossible to respond to the Twitter-based conversation that inevitably springs up during our GA’s until afterward. We’d love to get input from Oakland occupiers!
@ProjectCambio @OccupyAustin I’d call it vandalism. I am not a fan of vandalism, but I am utterly opposed to police brutality. – from @MaryMad
This is a great point and may allow us to short-circuit debates about defining violence and whether breaking property is violence. And I completely agree — I am not a fan of vandalism, but police brutality — and the attempt by people like Quan to use this to sow dissent — are abhorrent to me. I’m probably going to propose we go with something like this:
Occupy Austin stands in solidarity with the nonviolent activists of Occupy Oakland. We believe we are all one in occupation.
While we oppose any acts of vandalism which may have taken place on community property, we are more concerned with the violent response to peaceful protest. We oppose the brutal, unethical methods used by the Oakland Police Department, and condemn all efforts by police or elected officials to spread dissent among the Occupiers and the 99%.
Occupy Austin! Occupy Oakland! Occupy Everywhere!
We’ve agreed to take this to Google Docs & email as an online working group. We’d welcome the comments from Occupy Oakland members & anyone else who wants to take part. Members of Occupy LA have already offered to help. We’ve also been sent this proposed Oakland Solidarity statement from Occupy Portland. While I still support the proposal I had originally written, I’d like to pass something which truly has the consensus of my occupation. I also believe it’s not a matter of whether we want to pass a statement of Solidarity — consensus is that this is very important to Occupy Austin.
If you’d like to take part in this online discussion please contact me via Twitter or the email or phone # at the top of this page.