Wisconsin state police earlier this year escorted protestors into the state capitol so they could sit-in and sleep-in, in an act of non-violent civil disobedience. Police could just as easily have blocked demonstrators from entering, by any means necessary.
Why this course of action by state police in Wisconsin? After all, it could easily be argued that police and firefighters, whom Republican Governor Scott Walker had exempted from his attack on public employees, had no immediate incentive to cooperate with demonstrators. But they did.
They understood that in broad unity lay the secret to victory for all: “An injury to one is an injury to all.” They understood they would be next on the chopping block.
Now, obviously no such gesture can be expected from the Oakland Police Department, which has an ugly history of use of excessive force in African American, Latino, Asian American and Native American communities in Oakland.
The latest tragedy inflicted on Iraq veteran Scott Olsen, a peaceful man, by Oakland cops is becoming a galvanizing moment to root out right-wing and racist elements long embedded in the city’s police department.
We can expect no less from public officials and even from forces within the police department itself who recognize they are part of the “99 percent,” as filmmaker Michael Moore so aptly pointed out recently at Occupy Oakland.
But in order to win this battle, we – Occupy Oakland – must remain strictly nonviolent in our acts of civil disobedience.
To be sure, the Occupy Oakland movement has conducted itself in the spirit of non-violent civil disobedience of two American legendary giants, the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cesar Chavez.
Any effort by a tiny minority to break the unity of action of our movement must be repelled.
Anything short of strict nonviolence will play into the hands of the right-wingers in the police department, and into the hands of Wall Street.
There is nothing Wall Street and right-wingers at all levels of government would love more than to have today’s public anger against them turn into its very opposite.
When engaging in civil disobedience, let’s employ non-violent tactics that will galvanize broad unity with the people of Oakland and nation.
Tactics that will win over even misguided working people and students influenced by Fox television and other media outlets at the service of Wall Street and the far right.
To the extent we succeed in isolating Wall Street and the right wing from the masses of the people of Oakland and the nation, to that extent victory will be ours, the “99 percent.”
Occupy Oakland, let’s not squander this moment.
Let’s keep our eyes on the prize.
Photo: (Marilyn Bechtel/PW)