Spray Paint & Broken Windows Black Bloc style Tactics… Are they Good or Bad for Oakland?

In the aftermath of Occupy Oakland’s Historic General Strike and shut down of the Port of Oakland, there’s been a lot of talk about ‘violence’ and its varied and nuance definitions and property damage and whether or not its an appropriate tactic at protests and demonstrations..

During the day of the November 2 General Strike there were a number of marches that were designed to fan out into neighboring communities, bring attention to the strike and ideally get big banks to close their doors. One of the those marches was deemed the March Against Capitalism. Here you see folks donning Black masks and scarfs spray painting and tearing up a Whole Foods Grocery Store as well as a few nearby banks..

Those in support of the march and this activity say we shouldn’t get upset over property damage. We should be more upset with the damage/ violence the banks and big businesses have done on the average everyday person..

Banks can easily get their windows repaired, but can we easily get our economy that they destroyed by them repaired. In short the banks and big financial institutions are violent with us everyday… They refer to the people attempting to stop the destruction of property as ‘Peace Police‘ as they note that sometimes a broken windows are needed to shake things up make larger points.

Its also been argued that there’s no difference between violating the law by breaking windows vs those who decide they wanna take direct actions in violations of the law like stopping traffic in the middle of rush hour, setting up tents in the front of city hall or hanging a banner in a spot where no permission was granted. It boils down to what type of tactic one wants to use to get their point across…

It’s also been noted that those who believe in using these types of tactics have been apart of the Occupy Movement from day one…

March Against Capitalism Photo credit: Reginald James/ Black Hour

With respect to the property damage done at Whole Foods.. It was said to be done because the management threatened to fire any of its employees who partook in the strike..That allegation was reported to have been denied.

Those in opposition say that these types of tactics take away from the overall message of a demonstration especially if you are trying to win public support to a particular cause..

In addition there is a concern that these types of tactics bring about unwarranted crack downs by the police where folks who have nothing to do with the destructive activity get swooped up.

The other nagging question is why destroy anything in a struggling city like Oakland? Why not bring this tactic on the doorsteps of the 1% in more affluent areas like a Walnut Creek? Aptos? or nearby Piedmont? Why attach this to a march where the majority of folks aren’t embracing or willing to participate in such activity?

Peep the video below and give us your thoughts…Is this type of activity ever appropriate? Is there a difference between what was done with Whole Foods and the banks at these protestors in Oakland vs when we saw banks burning in Greece during their economic crises and many of us cheered? Did we view the unrest differently in places like London or France over police shootings vs the confrontations we witnessed last week after the General Strike in Oakland? Where do we draw the line?

For additional perspective on this you can peep the following article;



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6 comments on “Spray Paint & Broken Windows Black Bloc style Tactics… Are they Good or Bad for Oakland?

  1. I was initially sad to see both Whole Foods and The Men’s Wearhouse get vandalized. Whole Foods because, well…everyone there is so damn friendly and the food is great (not that I can aford to shop there). Men’s wearhouse because they supported the general strike and shut down for the day. But the more I think about it the less sorry for them I feel. WF exploits it’s own consumers w/ it’s marked up prices and feeds them rhetoric about the price of organic foods when in fact it utilizes further exploitation of laborers to acquire it at minimum costs. Meanwhile, Men’s wearhouse would be out of business without a consumer base of exploiters and profiteers. Further, they have essentially monopolized the market in this part of California.

    As I was forced to confront my ethics on the issue and further consider the events of the day of the General strike and early morning the next day my perspective further changed. On the one hand, I feel like it is unfair for out of towners to come to Oakland and trash it to make a point but at the same time Oakland is serving as a venue to demonstrate discontent at the moment and the fact is that as there is not an “occupation” in every bay area city, Oakland and San Fransisco are bound to express the apex of discontent within the bay area. It is never pleasant to go to work and have to look at tagging and broken windows but this is a protest and in a protest, unless you are pissing someone off or costing them money you might as well be just camping outside for fun.

    The more I think about it the more I resent the way Bay Area anarchists are being scapegoated for the violence and vandalism when in fact most Bay Area anarchists are just as divided on the subject of how to proceed and what is an appropriate course as everyone else. Whatever, I suppose minority groups tend to be scapegoated.

    I understand and can sympathize with the other side of the argument as well. These are my tentative positions.

  2. How do the people feel who live in Oakland and remain long after the hit and run window breakers leave? When some say general consensus gave the DOTs (diversity of tactics, which quite frankly means property destruction, burning dumpsters, etc. and then the freedom to run away from the scene and has since the term emerged during the WTO) the “go ahead” to do their thing, it strikes me that it was limited to certain people who were part of that meeting. I wasn’t there, but it sounds like it was NOT a general consensus that fully backed up those engaging in window breaking and spray painting. I have heard many People of Color, including Ishmael Reed the other night on KPFA, say that white privileged masked guys know the Oakland police won’t shoot to kill like they do against the Black and Brown people of Oakland all too often. This question of privilege is very important. As at the WTO, DOTs like to take credit for getting media attention. Those of similar ilk in Seattle are still taking credit for media attention during the WTO, minimizing the 50,000 of us who did shut the secret ministerial meeting down. I saw some really disturbing attacks during the actions including masked guys slashing the tires of a black woman who was simply trying to get home. She had no money, so we took up a collection on the line to help her out so she could get home. One has to wonder how such actions can shape new heros of the day. I am drawn to deeply principled property destruction such as the Ploughshares action at the Bangor Nuclear Submarine base where 5 people, 3 in their 60’s and 2 in their 80’s, cut thru 3 fences including those surrounding the largest nuclear stockpile in the world. Now why is it that window breaking gets wide media attention and cutting thru the fences one of the most dangerous places on earth got little to none? Perhaps it is because the criminals did not run, poured their own blood at the site , planted sunflower seeds which draws out radiation from the soil and took responsibility for their very powerful action. Seems the hit and runners are media darlings assisting in the maligning of those thousands of people resisting against the corporate take over of the planet. Their actions are also oiling the way for provocateurs and infiltrators which we know are also operating in Oakland at the Occupy. This really needs to be deeply examined after 12 years of these addicts to immediate gratification smashing their way to ending capitalism, but truly not solving any of the issues impacting us all.

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  4. swaneagle harijan said:
    November 9, 2011 at 12:04 pm:

    “…masked guys slashing the tires of a black woman who was simply trying to get home. …”




    The difference between Greece and the U.S. is that _*MOST* of the people_ in Greece are *literally* — *right now* — not a year or two from now — not even 6 or 8 months from now, but *right now* — in a *present* or *imminent* financial live-or-die situation: they’re *in* a ‘Great Depression’, no argument or two ways about it. And the EU so-called “bail-out”– would even *magnify* that — only bails out the foreign banks and investors (including in the U.S.), via the Greek Banks (who owe the money), without a single Euro going to bail out the Greek *people*! So, in Greece the people _*already have*_ a national mass movement against the capitalists.

    (This is like the tipping point finally reached by so many UC Berkeley student demonstrators — now primarily *white* — who see themselves in an *educational* [but still not overall financial] live-or-die situation — with the 82% fee increase [I call it ‘Proposition 209’ for UC Berkeley’s *white middle-class* students] — applied *retroactivley*!! — that imminently threatens their ability to continue in school past this academic year, if not past this semester!)

    The situation in England/Britain is almost — but still not quite (up to now) — as bad as in Greece, which is why there was “rioting” — rebellion — in almost every major city in England — actually by more *whites* than by people of color — this past August there.

    So, there was and is *already* a mass *militant* movement in Greece, and collective widespread rage in England, about what to do about the huge austerity cuts. In both those countries the economic situation was so bad that the *national* tipping point for violent rebellion — violent *resistance* — had already been reached. (This, aside from those capitalists and petty capitalists who might have torched their own businesses/property for the insurance!)

    Here in the U.S., as bad as the situation is, it’s certainly not as bad for *most* people as it is in Greece, and, as bad as it is, not quite as bad as it is in Britain. In Spain, where the huge ‘Occupy’/encampment movement in Madrid (“the 15M Movement”) began long before anyone even thought of it in the U.S., they still have not resorted to violence (property destruction).

    So, we here in the various Occupy locations ARE STILL *TRYING* TO BUILD UP a national mass movement — and are still trying to *attract* people, especially those who have never *participated* in a mass protest movement before(!) — and people — white, Black, Brown, Yellow or Red — who — for now at least — have decided that they *don’t want to* be part of a violent mass movement, or one that officially/openly condones violence, or a movement that welcomes perpetrators of violence, as the word “violence” is commonly understood by such people. And, people who are certainly not used to being involved around or in violence, and what can happen to them as a result (*needless* days in dank cold jails, aside from any self-participation decision in civil disobedience, violently provoked brutal backlashes from the *Pigs* [whom most white people, reflecting their relative privilege, still don’t even want to *call* the Pigs the *Pigs*], their children being harmed or even arrested too and at least temporarily taken from their parents, severe personal injury, or even, if foreign-born, possible deportation)! This so, however the word “violence” is ideologically or philosophically intellectualized, politically differentiated, micrometically nuanced, and linguistically parsed by highly sectarian ideologues (especially relatively privileged white leftists Black Bloc or Anarchist types claiming to speak for ALL thosed oppressed) all ready to start the armed “Revolution” yesterday!!

  6. But, I like many Oakland people’s one-sentence response: If indiscriminate property destruction and property defacement, let alone directly terrorizing store patrons, is so good for Oakland, then why not for the likes of Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Orinda and, even moreso, Palo Alto, Aptos, Los Gatos, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, and Woodside — where the 1% actually live!?

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