Commie J-School in Oakland

Last Sunday, I was one of 11 people who attended what got nicknamed “Commie J-School” in Mosswood Park in Oakland. Initiated by two of Occupy Oakland’s most active reporters, journalist and cartoonist Susie Cagle and journalist and journalism teacher Justin Beck ( @susie_c and @pixplz respectively on Twitter), it was billed on the Facebook page as

A workshop on journalism law, ethics, best practices, tips & tricks. We’ll cover livestreaming, tweeting, blogging, photographing, interviewing, investigating, and the tools needed/best used for all.

That, of course, sounds like a couple years’ worth of journalism school curriculum, not a two-hour workshop. Nevertheless, quite a bit of ground did get covered as it applies to amateur, citizen and freelance journalists covering topics like, but not limited to, Occupy Oakland.

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Regarding the question of violence or nonviolence in Occupy. A short statement.

I haven’t had time in the last week to read any of the screeds and counter-screeds revolving around the question of violence or nonviolence with regard to the Occupy movement. Being involved in Occupy Oakland, where this has been a front-and-center issue since at least late October, it is something I’ve spent a lot to time on. There is only so much you can say on Twitter, but I simply haven’t had the time to devote to catching up this week and writing a detailed response. Even if I do, it will not be so much about debunking most of the “violentist” claims and hollow arguments, but more on looking at the big picture, which I sum up something like this:

Society evolves and has been evolving, however fitfully, toward equality and democracy and liberty. This is because people who want equality, democracy and liberty have worked really, really hard for hundreds of years and have been more successful at organizing and changing people’s attitudes than those who want to maintain prejudice, inequality and control. It didn’t magically “happen” that, for example, women got the vote and segregation ended.

Those who want a more egalitarian society don’t spend their time and energy pointing to hundreds of years of patriarchy, quoting dead guys and saying that gender equality is impossible. They don’t point to hundreds—or thousands—of years of racism, quote dead people whose work they’ve never really studied and then claim that racism is necessary, inevitable and that an egalitarian society could never work.

What would it say about someone if they talked like that? Who would want to be around someone with such a cold, hard heart and constrained imagination who claims to want a better world but says it cannot work?

In the same vein, what should we now think about the people who spend their time and energy pointing to history and quoting dead people and making justifications for the need for social change through violence?

People who want a more free, nonviolent society put their energy and imagination into working toward that in new and effective ways. They don’t put it into explaining all the reasons it can’t work.

A better world is possible, but not if you have your feet and mind so deeply stuck in the mire of the old empire that you can’t imagine anything better.

“Twitter Jail”—Oregon style

In order to defeat spammers and to save their servers from being overloaded, Twitter sometimes temporarily suspends an account from further posting for a short period of time—usually under a couple hours. To get thrown in this “Twitter Jail,” as it’s known, you have to send over 100 tweets/hour or 1,000/day.

Recently the Oregon State legislature introduced—and, for now, killed—Senate Bill 1534, a bill that would have put most of us in actual jail for sending ONE tweet if the content involved soliciting “two or more persons to commit a specific crime at a specific time and location.” The crime you would be charged with under this law is “aggravated solicitation.”
Read More…and weep

So you want to get a fake scab job?

[UPDATE: Strikers have settled! But these suggestions below can come in handy next time, especially with more pre-planning and lead time. Heh heh heh]

Here are some background and tips if you want to be a scab/spy or “salt” as it’s also known. I’ll start with a bit of my history with this.

Back in ’98, I got a job as a “replacement worker”—aka “scab”—at two different Kaiser Aluminum plants struck by the United Steelworkers. They were on strike against Kaiser Aluminum’s new corporate owner, junk bond and S&L scandal criminal Charles Hurwitz, owner of Maxxam Corporation. Here in Norcal, we’d been fighting Maxxam since ’85 after they’d taken over Pacific Lumber and begun liquidating old growth redwood forests. When we in Humboldt heard about the Steelworkers striking in Washington State against the same company, we immediately jumped at the opportunity to form alliances.
Click for more story and tips

How to remove scabs and save workers’ health benefits

[UPDATE: Strikers have settled! But these suggestions below can come in handy next time, especially with more pre-planning and lead time. Heh heh heh]

Workers at American Licorice, located in Union City (irony noted), makers of Red Vines, have been on strike for a week now. More details here in the Union City Patch. The Occupy Oakland General Assembly recently voted to support the strike and early this morning, many Occupiers stood with workers on the picket lines, trying to prevent “scab” workers from entering the factory.

The strikers cannot legally block the gates, but nonunion supporters can do that and much, much more. Below are a few off-the-cuff ideas from previous strike support work I’ve done. The important thing is that, with a couple exceptions, they are all legal and nonviolent and help increase the support base by involving people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to be involved in a picket line. These and similar tools also directly target vulnerabilities. Picket lines, while important for morale and highly symbolic are themselves somewhat tangential.

I might try to update this later, since I have to get to real work now. Any suggestions welcome!
Read below for list of suggested actions!

OPD 6. Occupy Oakland 0

Last night’s “fuck the police” march in the streets of Oakland ran its predictable course. I was out of town, but wouldn’t have gone anyway. Instead, I watched @OakFoSho’s livestream while sorting a couple boxes of receipts in preparation for this year’s taxes. It was a good way to double-task and feel like I was at least accomplishing something while watching Occupy Oakland accomplish nothing. At least nothing I could see. (Scroll through the videos on that link to the 1/7/12 FTP march videos, where you can watch the whole thing.)

The crowd gathered, marched to the jail, set a toy fire in the street, threw a few rocks and bottles, screamed at the cops a lot, made embarrassingly empty threats, got herded around a bit, ran when the cops advanced and eventually ended up at the Plaza.
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A protest about arrests at a protest protesting arrests at a protest.

Let me start with a parable of sorts.

Imagine a man with a vicious dog on a 50′ chain, staked 10′ from his neighbor’s unfenced property line. The dog routinely runs 40′ onto the neighbor’s lawn, biting the neighbor as she’s trying to enjoy the yard that is hers to enjoy. When bitten, the neighbor runs out in the street screaming at how evil the dog and the owner are and how irresponsible the owner is being. Then she walks back into her yard and, feeling righteous in the legitimacy of her cause, asserts her right to walk on her own property, gets bit again and again runs up and down the street screaming. She repeats this several times, always to the same effect.

At what point do we say that she is responsible for this outcome? How long do we sympathize with her, fully aware that she is intentionally provoking the situation and the predictable results?

Does she have the law on her side? Of course. Along with morality and common decency. But at some level—let’s call it the “karmic level”—she has to take responsibility for her actions and the outcome. She, after all, is the one who keeps getting hurt. More…Wait, no more! Anything but more of the same

Stumbling forward at Occupy Portland and elsewhere.

A few weeks ago, this article appeared on the Portland Occupier website: Occupy Portland Outsmarts Police, Creating Blueprint for Other Occupations.

Coming to a virtually identical conclusion to what I say in my previous post, the author states:

In summary: when the cops come to clear the park, don’t resist. As they are preparing for their military maneuver and use of force that the Occupiers cannot reasonably be expected to resist, the occupiers should be packing up their tents and baggage and loading them into wagons, bicycles, backpacks, etc.

You could just skip the article and take that bit of wisdom and sound practical advice to heart and you’d be way ahead of the game.
Now read on for the good part

Knowing when to fight. Some thoughts on recent police attacks on Occupy Oakland.

He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious. —Sun Tzu

Summary: The police attacks on Occupy Oakland’s vigil and tree sit last Friday, December 30th were disasters for the movement, sapping scarce energy and resources, generating bad press and putting a dozen occupiers behind bars. This happened because we gave our opponents exactly the fight that they had come prepared for. In this sense, we are fighting dumb, engaging in confrontation that we can only lose, on political and legal terrain where we are weak. A more effective response to the OPD’s attack-and-disrupt strategy would be to deprive them of their goals by refusing to engage. When they attack, we fade back and disperse, depriving them of a target. When they grab for substance, we flow away like water.
Now click here for the longer version. Do it.