Here’s part of what I’ve seen in SF:
At this writing, I’ve been to three OWS actions, two general assembly meetings and have spent hours milling about the camp outside the old site at the Federal Building and at the new one at Justin Herman plaza talking to people. Support in general has been lukewarm here; perhaps it’s the proliferation of protests here in the bay area that has made this type of protest seem fairly common. Add the cultural distance between many of the protesters and more mainstream working class people and you have a recipe ripe for division.
Make no mistake about it; this is still a middle-class protest. Yes, some of the unions have added their support but there are questions about their motivations. Here in SF, it is more like the middle 20 or 30 percent rather than the 99%. That’s not too bad considering it started off as the middle 15% or so. Since the upper 10% of the US support the 1% and aspire to a wealthy lifestyle, as do a good number of working-class people, gaining support among those who seem unconvinced will be a key point.
The fact that OccupyOakland has been shut down last night only brings to light the difference in treatment mostly black poor people get when they protest. Seems no one was too concerned about the rats, drugs and violence present in downtown Oakland before the protests started. Add to the fact that many of the Oakland protesters are actually homeless and the picture starts to emerge: some protesters and types of protest are condoned and some are vilified as criminal.
We have had some union and community support, but the important union, the Police union, is certainly not on board. As usual, they are doing the bidding of eh establishment. It’s all about low-level police violence and harassment:
o Not allowing campers to legally camp by denying permits
o Rousting them through-out the day and night to disrupt sleep and normal operations
o Using surveillance techniques such as overt filming in order to intimidate
o Using undercover and plainclothes police to infiltrate the group to collect intelligence (If you haven’t seen Hipster cop, yet, check out the link)
o Conducting cyber investigations into the group’s online presence.
o Physically intimating and on occasion assaulting campers and protesters
o Using crowd control techniques to contain protest and redirect it to best reflect capital interest.
These measures are being used pretty uniformly nationally from what I can gather. This reflects the overall militarization of peace officers that has been occurring since the civil disturbances of the sixties so I’m not surprised. They can pull the plug on the protests ‘legally’ at any time as they have done in Oakland and elsewhere, but why take a chance on bad PR when the oncoming winter has beaten bigger and tougher foes?
As finish writing this on Tuesday night, the scene in Oakland has turned ugly with police and protesters clashing: Here’s local television report. At this moment, the police have tear-gassed the protesters again for the third time this evening. KTVU has more incredible footage and reports from the conflict that is well worth viewing if you go to their website. Here’s what it looks like on the ground. This is precisely what Sgt. Shamar Thomas was talking about in this viral video and here he is talking about the experience as he begins 15 minutes of fame. Perhaps I spoke too quickly when I wrote the above yesterday, now OccupyAtlanta is experiencing the same escalating tactics that Oakland has seen tonight. This can only be the beginning of more sustained resistance and whether the media brownout will work in the long run remains to be seen.
Good footage from earlier this evening (26th October) as well.
(For a further update on events in Oakland, see here)