A day-long peaceful general strike across Oakland Wednesday was followed by several hours of early morning violence on Thursday, in which police clashed with protesters and arrested 40. Several small groups of people broke the windows of banks and a Whole Foods store, lit Roman candles and firebombs, and set trash cans on fire.
The photos of the scene were reminiscent of August’s London riots, which devolved into looting and violence, or June’s Vancouver riots after the Stanley Cup, from which videos emerged of angry mobs. The Occupy Oakland protesters that drew wide support last week after police treated them with what many thought was excessive force suddenly became criminals in the public eye.
As with the tiny group of Occupy Wall Street protesters whose alleged anti-semitism has been blown up by some to represent the entire movement, Salon reports that a small group of vandals “hijacked” the peaceful general strike. But will it threaten the movement?
If so, Occupy Oakland may be forced to acknowledge it’s got a PR problem on its hands.
Occupy Oakland, more than other city’s Occupy movements, has had such an image problem since influential conservative Christian blog Verum Serum quoted a police officer who described the protests as “Lord of the Flies.” Reports by conservatives about the movement’s “intimidating” internal police force and drug use didn’t help.
The New York Times notes Thursday, however, that those who participated in the violence were only a tiny portion of the thousands of Occupy protesters that took part in the strike.
“A roving group of about 100 mostly young men broke from the main group of protesters in a central plaza and roamed through downtown streets spraying graffiti, burning garbage and breaking windows,” the Times reports.
That’s 100 out of thousands of participants. But those hundred people were the focus of conservative blogger Michelle Malkin’s writing Thursday morning, who rounded up photos of the violence with the headline, “More ugly Occupy Oakland pictures that won’t make MSM [Main stream media] front pages.” Conservative writer Andrew Breitbart’s Web site has a giant headline that reads: “Occupy Oakland Vandalizes Whole Foods Store, Smashes Bank of America Windows.”
Salon writer Justin Elliott wrote of the violence that protesters who destroy property or attack police are “playing into the hands of the movement’s critics... These are not images that are going to help the Occupy movement accomplish anything.”
Some Occupy Oakland strike participants seemed unhappy with the actions of those hundred protesters, too.
Graffiti on the wall next to a damaged shop read: “This act of vandalism was not authorized by the general assembly. Peaceful protest.”
And there’s this, via @Revsmoke on Twitter:
A spokesman for the encampment in Los Angeles, Mario Jefferson, told CBS that violent demonstrators don't represent the movement.
“We are about peace. That's the most powerful tool we have,” said Jefferson, who noted that the movement attracts many different types of people.