Spin: How Not to Win Friends
Occupy protesters, and their nemeses, could use a chill pill.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Occupy Wall Street – the Monterey edition – has so far been something of a non-starter. It’s lacked the jaw-dropping, please-arrest-them insanity of Occupy Santa Cruz, where a fringe group of the larger movement recently broke into a vacant commercial building on River Street and decided to take it over, using it for what they describe as a teaching center and local headquarters. The property manager, understandably miffed at having the $3.5 million building occupied, called upon police to remove said occupiers.
Even onlookers sympathetic to the cause of the 99 percent threw up their hands. But the group tried to wait for what’s called an adverse possession clause to kick in. The common-law clause means they could legitimately take ownership of the property without paying the owner, if they were able to hold onto it for a period of time. Santa Cruz police dressed in riot gear have showed up a few times; the group left the building on its own Dec. 5.
Occupy Monterey has also lacked the gut-wrenching, casual violence of the UC cops going up against Davis protesters. By now you’ve likely seen the video, or the Internet meme that spread as a result: Police Lt. John Pike (now known as Casually Pepper Spray Everything Cop), wielding an extra-large can of chemical mace, walks up and down a line of students sitting on the ground with their arms linked. Pike lets them have it straight in the face.
Call it the spray heard ‘round the world, because the outcry was huge and still reverberating. Protestors tried to halt a multi-locale UC Regents meeting; UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi was nearly booed off the stage as she tried to apologize for the campus cops’ actions and her own inaction on that terrible day; her own faculty has called for her to resign, a move she says she won’t make. We’ll see.
And we’ve come nowhere near the violence of Occupy Cal, where just a few weeks ago former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass took a sound and unprovoked nightsticking from cops during an Occupy protest. The 70-year-old Hass, now a professor of poetry and poetics at Berkeley, had gone to an Occupy protest with his wife to show support for the students. In his own words, from a story he wrote for The New York Times:
“My wife was speaking to the young deputies about the importance of nonviolence and explaining why they should be at home reading to their children, when one of the deputies reached out, shoved my wife in the chest and knocked her down.”
When Hass went to her defense (“You just knocked down my wife, for Christ’s sake”), he took two hard shots to the ribs and one to the forearm.
The closest we’ve come to violence at Occupy Monterey was an incident last week, and it’s documented through the camera lens of a YouTube user who goes by the handle TheKaffeeKlatsch.
He declines to give his real name or talk to the Weekly because we linked to his video last week and called him a “provocateur.” He also told us, “Kiss my ass,” in a video response (which he’s since made private) to my questioning of some of his techniques.
The Occupy video shows Klatsch taping some of the Monterey occupiers camping out in Veterans Park. “Where’s your permit?” he asks.
“It’s somewhere safe because it’s been raining,” an occupier responds.
The questioning and responding goes back and forth for about 20 seconds, and the occupier, a white kid in his late teens or early 20s who’s taking his own video on an iPhone (yay for irony), tries to smack the camera away.
“I’m trying to be peaceful,” Klatsch says. “You’re violently attacking me?” The kid walks away and the video ends.
To his credit, Klatsch didn’t respond in kind – I’ve seen him around town, and he’s a big dude. He could have squashed the kid like a bug. But the whole thing has me wondering: If members of a mostly innocuous group like Occupy Monterey can’t keep it together in the face of one provocative videographer, what happens when Monterey City Manager Fred Meurer and the City Council decide its time to take down the encampment?
This Saturday, Occupy Monterey will hold a series of teach-ins, starting with a free yoga circle at 9am, followed by talks from Naval Postgraduate School Economics Professor David Henderson; Jason Scorse, chair of MIIS’ International Environmental Policy Program; and representatives of the National Lawyers Guild and Monterey Bay Central Labor Council offering advice on maintaining a populist movement and non-violent strategies.
It’s a good thing they’re starting with yoga. We could all use a few deep breaths.
Mary Duan is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.