Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Must Be Nonviolent To Succeed

Occupy Wall Street has been a growing movement for a couple of months now, and during the past few weeks we have seen example after example of violence by law enforcement all over the country using force in an attempt to crush the spirits of the protesters. From Zucotti Park in New York City to Occupy Denver to Occupy Oakland, American citizens with weapons are using violence against unarmed American citizens (an 84 year old woman?) simply attempting to have their voices heard. However, this show of force by the powers that be seems to have only galvanized the movement, while also leaving many wondering what to do next, but knowing with a certainty that the movement must continue.

Regardless of what happens next, whether action is taken through continued protesting in the streets, voting, or choosing to hit Corporate America in the pocketbook, one thing is for sure.... for the Occupy Movement to continue to be taken seriously by the mainstream and ultimately succeed in it's goals it MUST be committed to nonviolence!

Why is nonviolence so crucial if the Occupy Movement is to truly be a revolution?

Rebecca Solnit recently brought some compelling insight to the subject with a piece entitled, 'Throwing Out the Master's Tools and Building a Better House: Thoughts on the Importance of Nonviolence in the Occupy Movement
'. Solnit does a great job of shedding light on 'People Power' while also giving examples of the futility of violence that ultimately brings a movement down.

Randall Amster also evokes 'People Power', weighing in gracefully with an article entitled, 'Power To The Peaceful':

"No amount of force can deter people seeking survival, meaning, and the natural longings of hope for the future. “Holding one’s ground” becomes the operative premise — not in an aggressive way that replicates state power but with a presence of body and mind that demonstrates the unshakable force of “people power.” There is no single way to manifest this spirit; for some it is standing firm on the front lines, for others it is rebuilding after a sweep, and for still others it is remaining peaceful and compassionate even and especially in the face of extreme provocation. All are equally powerful tacks.

Holding space, inner and outer, is the fulcrum. In the wake of systemic assault, seemingly coordinated at the highest levels and indicative of the elites’ concern about the widening impact of the movement, the spirit of resistance is demonstrated with small acts of bravery and large mobilizations of open defiance. Individually and collectively, the movement bends but refuses to break, absorbing the system’s blows and transforming them into stimuli for evolutionary growth, popular support, and bonds of solidarity.

Successful movements throughout history have understood this. It is the essence of nonviolence, to “win over” undecided observers and even antagonists by virtue of courage and compassion. It does not mean that everyone in the movement agrees on tactics or that a pledge of nonviolence ought to be imposed, but rather that the movement as a whole is in fact nonviolent in seeking to overcome the structural violence of a dehumanizing and despoiling system based on avarice and aggression."

Amster goes on to mention Nonviolent Revolutionary Francisco "Pancho" Ramos-Stierle, a peaceful protester arrested as he was meditating at Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland. Ramos-Stierle now faces the possibility of being deported.

Amster is also quoted in an article in the Mercury News regarding Ramos-Stierle:

"There was an intentionality to what he was doing," said friend Randall Amster of Arizona. "He was attempting to bring peace to a space that had a lack of peace for the past couple weeks."

Amster called his friend a "very strong nonviolent activist" and a "force of love" involved in causes ranging from nuclear disarmament and environmentalism to immigrant rights and nonviolence in Oakland's Fruitvale district, where he lives.

For the Occupy Movement to succeed it must take a lesson from Mr. Ramos-Stierle, whose action of nonviolent civil disobedience was one of intentionally 'attempting to bring peace' and calm energy into an otherwise tense and volatile situation .

UPDATE: Pancho's Message For Occupy Wall Street, Pancho on 'Democracy Now!'

The movement as well has to learn from the great Nonviolent Revolutionary Mahatma Gandhi, as seen below, brilliantly explaining what it takes for a Nonviolent Revolution to succeed in this inspiring clip from the film 'Gandhi':

Finally, to be a legitimate revolution the Occupy Movement must recognize that every single person involved in law enforcement is a part of the 99%! It is critical for those in law enforcement to realize that they too are being duped by agenda of the corporate ruling class... and therefore make the choice to refuse carrying out further state sponsored violence against innocent people!

Just how does a movement of 'People Power' achieve this understanding? With a continued and relentless campaign of nonviolent direct action, that's how. Indeed, it is the only way.

Veteran journalist and author Chris Hedges puts it succinctly in his article 'This Is What Revolution Looks Like':

"The process of defection among the ruling class and security forces is slow and often imperceptible. These defections are advanced through a rigid adherence to nonviolence, a refusal to respond to police provocation and a verbal respect for the blue-uniformed police, no matter how awful they can be while wading into a crowd and using batons as battering rams against human bodies."

Quite simply, the 99% must recognize that every single police officer and law enforcement official who puts on the uniform is a human being, they have families, they have feelings, they have a need for dignity, they do not want to be dehumanized as 'pigs' or humiliated for what they perceive as doing their jobs.

For the movement to succeed, the 99% must be willing to empathize with the humanity in those they call oppressors and recognize that they are us... and we are them.

1 comment:

  1. I really like this image of the young man hugging the police officer, it's so evocative. It raises several questions, but mostly it makes me feel. If we're to ever get to a more peaceful place as a society, if we're to evolve as a civilization, it will not be without feeling; deep human feeling.