I went to the reinvigorated Occupy Oakland assembly tonight.
I left when two speakers in a row called the police fascists, and compared them to Neo-Nazis. I can understand the anger and outrage at their behavior, but this is not the approach. Attacking them with words is still violence.
We need to stop dehumanizing the police. They are humans. They are acting on the behalf of a corrupt system. But they are still humans. Convince them to stop acting on behalf of a corrupt system. This is within our power. But not when you treat them as tools, as inhuman.
Non-violence isn’t just about not using fists and guns. Violence isn’t confined to tear gas and bullets (regardless of what they are made of). Those are just the physical manifestations of violence.
Violence starts in the heart. It starts in fear and hate. People are afraid of what we are doing. We are breaking the system as they know it. That is terrifying. Many will fight us out of that fear.
Non-violence starts with compassion. Recognize that every person is human. They can be met.
Many speakers spoke of love and compassion. They spoke of the pain and anger. One woman told a story of how she was choking from asthma as the police watched. And as another person helped her she eventually got the words out “You just tear gassed a 17 year old with asthma.” Someone else urged love for the police because they are programmed by a system. People are not evil, they are trapped and indoctrinated. We need to fight for them. They need to be free, too.
You hurt us. You oppress us. But we fight for you, still.
Because that’s the message the 99% need to hear.
One speaker came up and said in the words of NWA, “Fuck the police.” I had no problem with what he was saying because he was talking about their actions. He was talking about their violence. Fuck the oppressors.
Fuck their violence.
The speaker who killed the mood riled up the crowd with an argument that the police are fascists. They are not the 99%. They might be economically, but their ideology makes them separate from us.
And to her, and everyone else who agrees, I say emphatically: “NO.”
The 99% is not a choice. You do not get indoctrinated out of it because you don’t get indoctrinated into it. The 99% is not friends who you get to choose. It is everyone who is oppressd. It is all of us. It is a family. And yes, there are members of this family who have been abused and twisted by the system. But it is the system that is the enemy. It is the system that dehumanizes them by putting them in uniform, behind masks. It is the system that reinforces the idea that all they face are criminals and enemies instead of fellow citizens.
You will never win this fight if you hate them and speak violence towards them. They are the 99%. It’s not 99% of liberals and progressives. It’s 99% of the entire country, if not the entire world. Single mothers, working parents, well off CEOs making $200,000 per year, racists, vegans, environmentalists, oil rig workers, city clerks, police, firemen, students, priests, shamans.
Yes, the police are the first weapons of the state. The military is the next weapon. You will not win against these weapons by using violence, whether it’s throwing bottles or dehumanizing them with words. The only way to win is to show them the ugliness of violence. Don’t give them justification for using violence.
Police are not fascists. They are not neo-nazis. They are humans. They have families. They have dreams. They have hope. They are “just doing a job.” And if you spit in their faces, they’ll do that job proudly. But if you stand defiant, with courage, and show them that you will not fight them and you will not stand down, then they will begin to realize that some paychecks are not worth earning.
Look upon the police with compassion. This movement is about oppression. Who is more oppressed than those imprisoned by an ideology that rewards them for attacking their fellow citizens? We have the power to free their minds. In doing so, they’ll join us. And then we’ll be completely free.