As seen last night in Oakland and Atlanta, police agencies continue to clamp down on the surge of anti-capitalist, anti-bank, and anti-corporate protests around the country, and Phoenix has been no exception. Phoenix police made dozens of arrests during the first night of Occupy Phoenix, as people sat down in the park after it closed at 10 PM and refused to leave. Many of those arrested chanted that they "love the police" and reaffirmed their commitment to non-violence, while riot cops methodically pulled them behind their lines. Notably, one person was grabbed by her head and yanked behind the police line, while another person reported that he received a light beating after he was snatched. Still loving the police?
Anyone in the park who shouted back at the police advance, who had the nerve to challenge the state's attack on a peaceful gathering, was labeled as being "violent", or accused of trying to "provoke the police" by some of the "non-violent" protesters.
There's already a couple of other posts on here in the last few weeks about the role of the police as antagonists to social movements amidst all the cop loving going on, as well as the dead end of a non-violent movement that polices anyone who oppose the presence of armed white supremacists and neo-nazis at Occupy Phoenix. Furthermore there have been a number of different groups and individuals advocating for some type of "peace police" that will marginalize and even physically isolate any person(s) who may be engaging in "violent" behavior, like defending oneself from a physical attack, or yelling at a cop who is being violent towards others. The Occupy Phoenix encampment will not survive if militant non-violent advocates continue to insist on a "head down" mentality that shames individual or collective self defense, the politicians, cops, and/or nazis will make sure of that.
In addition to some of the problems with the organized non-violence presence, there is also a popular, if factually inaccurate, narrative of non-violent movements (Gandhi, MLK, the civil rights movement) that says they were victorious simply because of the virtuousness of their non-violence. This one sided understanding of social change throws history and facts out the window in favor of a mythologized interpretation of struggle, one that ignores any context that becomes inconvenient or clashes with the dogma of non-violent protest in the United States.
So, with all the contention over the question of tactics in this current struggle, I was happy to see that a friend of PCWC has organized an event for this weekend to challenge the dogmatism of militant non-violence, and to invite attendees to explore the histories of direct action, movement self defense, and diversity of tactics through a public discussion. This event will take place this coming Saturday from 2-5 PM, at the Occupy Phoenix camp at Cesar Chavez Plaza (201 W. Washington Street) in downtown Phoenix, I encourage all interested to attend. The summary for the event is reproduced below:
"Defending Self-Defense from Militant Nonviolence"
From day one of Occupy Phoenix it has been made clear that Kingian nonviolence is the acceptable means of protest, demonstration and direct action.
Nonviolence is a tactic, but it is one of many. It is important to remember that those who defend self-defense as a tactic are likewise not discounting the efficacy of nonviolence.
The purpose of this teach-in is to give a historical account of self-defense and direct action from the abolitionist movement and the Civil Rights era through to the present day.
It would also be extremely important to listen to our Native brothers and sisters, whose land we continue to live upon, on their ongoing struggles against U.S. state oppression and the tactics they employ.
It is also for the purpose of pointing out what Joel Olson has recently described as the "left colorblindness" of the Occupy movement in pointing out the historically different relations that people of color have had with the state and with the police. It seems easy to dismiss self-defense as a tactic when the community you are a part of has never felt oppressive state violence through exclusionary legislation, racial targeting, criminalization, slavery, prison and the dispossession of land.
Also, it is a hope that a discussion regarding the protection of private property rights above human values under nonviolence principles can occur.
Saturday, October 29 · 2:00pm - 5:00pm
Cesar Chavez Plaza
201 W. Washington Street