Anarchists who helped kill Occupy worry anti-Trump activists

  • Posted on: 7 February 2017
  • By: Anonymous (not verified)

From Chronicle - by Kevin Fagan and Michael Bodley

As Kathy Lipscomb watched TV newscasts of “black bloc” anarchists smashing windows at a UC Berkeley protest, the former organizer of Occupy demonstrations was obsessed by two thoughts.

The first, she said, was: “Oh no, not again.” The second: “We can’t let them help ruin things this time.”

Those sentiments echoed across the Bay Area as leaders of the current wave of protests against President Trump took heed of Wednesday’s campus violence, Trump’s subsequent threat to cut funding to UC Berkeley, and what all that portends for their movement.

Their biggest fear is a repeat of what happened to Occupy earlier this decade, when black bloc violence chased away nonviolent, mainstream protesters — and helped lead to Occupy’s collapse about five years ago.

“That stuff that happened at UC Berkeley with the black bloc was just nuts, doesn’t help,” said longtime protester Buck Bagot, who helped organize the Occupy movement in San Francisco and has been mobilizing demonstrations against Trump. “People need to make sure this incredibly negative, destructive element isn’t there in what we do this time.”

Its adherents saw Occupy as a wake-up call against income inequality. But many of them say Occupy fell short of being more than that, partly because violent anarchists came to be the bandanna-obscured face of the movement to the broader public.

The day after Trump’s inauguration, the new president’s opponents staged peaceful Women’s Marches in cities across the country, many drawing tens of thousands of people. It was what Bagot and others envision as the building block of a sustained resistance to Trump on such issues as the rights of women, immigrants and poor people.

Black bloc protesters, however, have grabbed headlines at two protests. The first was on inauguration day, when a small cadre smashed windows and clashed with police in Washington.

The second was Wednesday night at UC Berkeley, where hundreds of demonstrators had gathered to protest the scheduled appearance of right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos. Dozens of black-clad anarchists marched into the middle of the peaceful rally, pulled rocks and bottle rockets from their backpacks, and flung them at police. They broke windows at the student union, then roamed around downtown, smashing glass doors and windows and scrawling graffiti on buildings.

It was hardly a surprise they got all the attention, including from Trump, who tweeted Friday that “professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” He had earlier threatened to cut off federal funding to UC Berkeley — which responded that it had nothing to do with the violence.

It was all reminiscent of the charges that came to be leveled at Occupy. And just as they did during Occupy, the people whose actions prompted the reactions promised to keep at it.

As he hunkered down beneath a homemade shield to ward off rubber pellets being fired by police, one anarchist at the Berkeley protest, who declined to give his name, defended the tactics of his “resistance.” They’re permissible in the face of fascism, he said.

“Peaceful protests don’t work anymore,” said the man. “This is war.”

Companions unfurled a large banner that read, “Become ungovernable.”

Robin Averbeck, a community college professor, was at the Berkeley protest. She wore no hood over her head or bandanna on her face, but said she had been part of a crowd that overwhelmed security at Yiannopoulos’ scheduled appearance at UC Davis on Jan. 13, forcing its cancellation.

It’s crucial, she said, for protesters to use a “diversity of tactics” in “fighting fascism.”

The black bloc is not an organization. For the past 20 years it’s been called a “tactic” by anarchist extremists, and now it’s a broad term that encompasses people who believe that destruction is the best way to force home the point of protest against right-wing or even conventional politics.

Their tactics are pure confrontation: Dress in black, wear a mask, bring a backpack with hammers, rocks or incendiary devices, then charge through the peaceful crowd to smash windows and get in the face of police.

Participants never give their names to reporters who try, usually unsuccessfully, to interview them. During the Occupy protests, they often ran away or blended back into a crowd as quickly as possible to avoid arrest.

Their presence at UC Berkeley made for a nasty case of deja vu for the people who were committed to Occupy.

That movement faded to a whisper for several reasons, including its commitment to having no leaders and its disorganized cacophony of causes. But the destruction wrought by black bloc anarchists scared away nonviolent protesters and focused public attention on what amounted to a tiny sliver of protesters. And often, though they attacked banks and other big-corporation businesses the demonstrations were aimed at, black bloc vandals also damaged small shops whose owners agreed with the philosophy Occupy.

Some who tried to bring constructive change through Occupy remain rattled to this day.

“It got really nasty,” said one attorney who helped assemble Occupy in Oakland and didn’t want his name published for fear of reprisal. “My goal of Occupy was to raise awareness of our economic crisis of inequality, but it became clear to me that some people had other goals of violence. It was scary. A lot of my friends and other people dropped out because they were afraid.”

Lipscomb noted that black bloc was a small part of Wednesday’s crowd, adding, “I never like the press focusing on the violence, because that’s not the point of the protest.”

During the current movement, she said, “We are going to just have to ask them to leave. Take off your mask. We may need security of our own.”

Bagot has already recruited security volunteers for his protests against economic inequality in San Francisco, but the concern is also being felt by anti-Trump organizers in the suburbs.

Ellis Goldberg left the Occupy movement in disgust over the violence to organize the followup 99 Percent demonstrations. He helped plan a Women’s March in Walnut Creek on Jan. 21 and said he made sure to arrange for volunteer security, “because we want to show we are doing something positive and we’re not just a bunch of hooligans.”

The march drew several thousand people, and there was no vandalism.

“We have to remember what we are about this time as we oppose what Trump is doing,” Goldberg said. “We’re not just the fringe people, but the mainstream and everyone — soccer moms, workers of all kinds, people who have never done protest before.

“Those people Wednesday with black masks on? It’s crazy. Breaking windows and fighting with police is not what we’re about.”

Longtime East Bay activist Dan Martin, whose son attends UC Berkeley, said he didn’t go to Wednesday night’s protest and urged his son to stay away, too, fearing the event would turn ugly.

Martin said the Bay Area is in for “four years of protests,” and that there are right and wrong ways to conduct them. “I hope (police) come up with some successful tactics of how to deal with it,” he said. “It looks like it’s totally out of control.”

Martin said he had a “rougher background” than his family, and that he wouldn’t let anarchists keep him away from any and all protests. But he added, “I don’t expect my wife and kids to go out and get their heads beat in.”

Bagot said he’s confident that “something long-lasting will come of things this time.” But, he said, “That won’t happen if we let the craziest, most macho people mess it up like they did with Occupy.”

Kevin Fagan and Michael Bodley are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email:, Twitter: @KevinChron, @michael_bodley



Occupy would have succeeded otherwise.

Occupy was mostly a shallow exercise of crowd management by a bunch of racist, power-hungry kids from well-off backgrounds. I find it stupid to have anyone refer to it as a turning or starting point for anything. Was interesting for being a free public meet-up, that made some people have sex, share a few stories and maybe make friends, but that's it. To me it was just a surreal place where to have some sleep and hang out for a time. Anything political happening there was godawful, it not revolting.

if it weren't for those anarchists, wed be post revolution now and bernie would be in office.

they'll never hand over the keys. they count on your passive complaining to continue their oppression.

Yeah, cuz Occupy would never have collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions and internal tensions... Cuz the cops were so polite and non-violent when they cleared Ogawa/OG Plaza...
If your movement can't survive a few broken windows, its weakness is apparent to all onlookers. What scared people away was the fetishizing of polite civil disobedience and how quickly the liberals caved to the machinations of MoveOn and the Democratic Party machine.

the right and left are two sides of the same desire for human control over the earth.

control is delusional thinking.

idiots with god complexes want us to be automatons, to be automated, and make way for automation.

i for one, am tired of a world of human minds filled with fear and their projecting imprisoning fear upon others.

what i learned from this piece is that everyone wants to change the world, but no one will allow anything to happen.

no one can go: "all right you dumbass, dreamer anarchists, go build your worlds while we laugh at what will become utter utopian failures." when have we ever been allowed to try and fail?

i'm tired, and i say so with my own ip address, of all of the threats that follow wanting to live life to the fullest. politics is banal, and predictable as all of the threats of violence in the form of cages, torture, firing squads.

i am not moved by mental gated conmunities, by boundaries and borders. the believers in this system say they are granting humanity while totally denying it.

i wouldn't doubt bodies occupying so-called public space (we share the whole living space Earth with all other life forms, know) will be restricted in the name of ____.

the right and the left both make up the sides of the whole of an ideology of human control over the earth. we gotta get more creative than this delusion. the model of reality is not reality. poke holes in all the models.

fuck politics. fuck conceptual separations. forward imagination.

Yes, onward imagination and creativity, its all one needs.

To the above.

Sorry chummmmp, the NY Times, newspaper of champions, already weighed in and said the blaqq bl0qqrz are here to save the nazi-punching day. That's got the Chronicle beat, ding donger.

Occupy failed because it lacked vision, lacked coherence, and above all lacked anarchy.To all of you anti-Trump leftist pacifists: stop blaming anarchists who use Black Bloc tactics for your failures. The Black Block tactic gave direct action a spine when it needed it in Seattle in 1999. Things are different today. The police have created new tactics and have become militarized. Direct Action will have to go where the power is, and it is not in the streets.

The majority of people have been using peaceful protest for the past 60 years and continue to fail to this very day. Maybe it's about that time to switch from majority happy to majority angry black bloc style! Maybe it's time for an egyptian like arab spring. Once the rain is gone....I can see a lot of shit happening. Maybe something bigger than occupy and much more militant. Lets face the facts shall we. The hippy movement of the 60's failed miserably at putting an end to the war machine. We're still a war monger nation driven by thieves in business outfits on wall street and slave drivers in the workplace. People are struggling everywhere and are too afraid to call out capitalism for their suffering in fear of being labeled a red flag communist. People need to stop being afraid of saying what's on their mind. People want to rise up but are afraid so they resort to useless tactics that have been beaten to death and still dont work. We know 10,000,000 peaceful protesters could turn out peacefully and the wars will still be waged and nobody will get a raise and cops will still kill and trump will still be potus. Rightwing nationalism won't be prevented from spreading either. Nobody in the government gives a fuck about your stupid opinion! BUT what if 10,000,000 people used egyptian style protest to overthrow the government? Mass anti-capitalist convergence every fuckin where flooding the streets and overloading the system and its resources. Egyptian people overthrew their government by violent protest. IT WORKS!

the useless tactics are essentially saying: "solve our problems for us!"

i'm para-paraphrasing an ellul book that came out in 1967, called The Political Illusion.

i suspect a christian conversion narrative here. the system is good, was designed for and by 'we the people' (in other words we can't imagine something other than what we'd been trained to believe k-12), and if they would just see our message in the strength of our numbers they'd listen. how many generations were brought up with that military line "winning hearts and minds" by the 'goodness' of 'our americanism.'

it's slowly going away, yet rand corporation and govt agencies are likely to try to blame doubt in the system as coming from china or russia. rand at least desires to use such blame tactics to put an end to protests, and shore up nationalism to start war with china.

there's something to be said of a hypernormalizing (read super rationalizing/abstract) culture used to prescribing doses of reality through constant funhouse/distorting mirrors of media amplification of parts of moments without context (heightened reality), to then also be used to doling out pharmaceutical pacification of anger, real responses (those that aren't from a mediated source).

there's a lingering biblical abstract notion here that believes the world should be constantly run according to plan, and when it doesn't, stick to the plan while keeping the problem away/hidden/make it disappear. life happens while you're busy making other plans. the plan causes problems. unforeseen consequences.

the right and left would have us disciplined so that everything stays the same and responses stay within prescribed patterns. in short, they would race us toward automation, automated responses. sadly, a lot of people could get hurt in pursuit of this model of reality, and the externalities they create (because the model of reality is not reality).

the model in our case is called 'system' and its functioning called 'normal' or 'business as usual.' none of these are human qualities, or quantities. efficiency replaces all human values with abstraction...

Agreed, all I see here is the forces of recuperation being deployed in response to the threat of a good example at Berkeley.

The more that the liberal booj press is writing hit-pieces directed at you, the more likely you're doing something right.

Every one of these shit bag leftists have got to go! They are the worst and love to navel gaze till the earth is dead. Fuck all these douchebags in this article.

Those are pacifist liberals dude ... Might need to refine your analysis a bit.

Nay, fuck the left AND the right. And fuck the dorsal and the ventral while you're at it! Fuck all bilateral prejudice! End bilaterally symmetry! Fuck vertebrates! Especially fish. Also I hate crabs. And fuck hard shelled creatures of all types.

Fractal symmetry over bilateral symmetry!

funny, i was just looking at the original call out poster for occupy from adbusters. looks like a black bloc invitation to me.

'What scared people away was the fetishizing of polite civil disobedience and how quickly the liberals caved to the machinations of MoveOn and the Democratic Party machine.' - yep.

that scared me away. And the bizarre idea that it was a good idea to chant someone else's words in a group, without having any idea what they we're going to say. Where oh where were the snarky pranksters of 2016 to take advantage of that? You could have got a whole crowd of clueless hipsters to recite lines from Mein Kampf and they'd have been none the wiser.

If you thought black bloc scared you today, fast forward 2 years of Trump. #GETUSEDTOIT!

Is that a threat?


The call to "occupy" was put out by Anarchists'!
This was a beautiful direct action plan, no one ever asked any neo liberal pacifists to create a brand: "Occupy" I was one of the first people down there, I was never part of "Occupy"!
If it wasn't for radical anarchist voices it never would have even happened! I'm glad and proud that I was there, The status quo just don't wanna know! Get it right!

Yeah, this article is just a hit-piece that was pre-ordered by the editor in the fallout from the incident at Berkeley. Doesn't even pass the basic standards of actual journalism.

Shut Down Alt-Right Pro-Trump March in Berkeley March 4th!

Alt-Right Trump supporters are mobilizing a broad far-Right base including militia types and run of the mill Trump supporters to take the streets on Saturday, March 4th, 2pm in Berkeley (at MLK 2151, Berkeley Police Department). At a time when the Trump administration is calling for attacks on social movements, communities of color, and the entire working-class, it's important that we stand up to these scum.

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