Debating Policy Repression and Activist Violence

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Bibliography [1]:

  • Hedges, Chris. The cancer in Occupy. Truthdig. 2012 Feb 6.

Available from: Accessed 2012 Feb 6. Archived by WebCite at

Hedges argues that the credibility and wide popular support of the Occupy movement are being endangered by the violent and undisciplined actions of a group of extremist anarchists known as the black bloc because of their black clothing and masks.

  • Cagle, Susie. Activists and anarchists speak for themselves at Occupy Oakland. Truthout. 2012 Feb 8.

Available from:

Cagle responds to the Chris Hedges “cancer” article, illustrating her points from the recent history of Occupy Oakland, which she had covered extensively. She criticizes Hedges for a number of errors of fact, including the misconstrual of the black bloc as a persistent clique or sect, when in reality it is a tactic that can be adopted by an individual activist on some occasions of action and not others. The black-bloc tactic is used by activists of more than one political philosophy, not solely by anarchists. Cagle also points out that the perception of actions as “violent” or not involves a great deal of interpretation, and is strongly influenced by factors other than actual behavior.

  • Graeber, David. Concerning the violent peace-police: an open letter to Chris Hedges [Internet]. n+1. 2012 Feb 9.

Available from: Accessed 2012 Feb 9. Archived by WebCite at

Graeber responds to the Chris Hedges “cancer” article with a warning that the language used by Hedges to describe the black blocs — including the term “cancer” — has historically been associated with implicit calls for violent action against those so described, and may be so construed and acted upon even on the assumption that Hedges did not intend his words to be thus interpreted. Remarkably, there has also been historical precedent for violent action against black blocs by professed pacifists who disagreed with black bloc tactics, sometimes directly and sometimes by turning over black bloc activists to the police, even when the black bloc activists themselves did not engage in any violent action. The police are overwhelmingly responsible for committing, and even more so for initiating, violence that occurs at demonstrations (including those where a black bloc is present), and that public perceptions to the contrary are overwhelmingly due to biased reporting by the mainstream news media, rather than to any behavior by activists, including those in black blocs. For this reason, condemnation of black bloc tactics by other activists plays into the hands of the police and the media. Finally, Graeber notes that even Gandhi himself believed that violent resistance to injustice, while not ideal from a moral point of view, is still morally superior to no resistance at all.

  • Carson, Kevin. Should Occupy use violence? I dunno, should the cops? CounterPunch. 2012 Feb 10–12.

Available from: Accessed 2012 Feb 11. Archived by WebCite at

Carson argues that even framing the question of violent confrontation between police and activists as a tactical question — that is, as a question of what activists should do — is itself a serious tactical mistake that plays into the hands of the authorities. Carson asserts that the authorities focus attention on alleged violence by activists as a “psyop” — in effect, a form of gaslighting — to distract attention from police violence and maintain the mainstream news media status quo, in which violence committed by agents of the state simply does not count as violence. Carson proposes that a more effective tactic for activists would be to refocus attention relentlessly on state violence and on the systematic concealment and falsification of that state violence by the mainstream news media.

  • Yassin, Jaime Omar. What lies beneath the “violence” discourse. Hyphenated-Republic. 2012 Feb 4.

Available from: Accessed 2012 Feb 4. Archived by WebCite at [anchor]

Drawing on his experience with Occupy Oakland and with the news media, Yassin diagnoses liberals’ and centrists’ concern with supposed violence on the part of Occupiers as a psychological defense mechanism against recognition of the extent of violence, waste, and incompetence in local government. Police repression of Occupy requires large numbers of officers and is very expensive, all the more so because it is implemented via overtime rather than additional hiring. Spending on police is used to justify cuts not only to social services, but even to income-generating city offices such as the real estate department. Liberals and centrists have too great a psychological stake in the status quo to allow them to face such problems squarely, so they frame police violence and its expense as necessary responses to violence by Occupiers.

  • Frase, Peter. No police order [Internet]. Jacobin. 2012 Feb 2.

Available from: Accessed 2012 Feb 16. Archived by WebCite at

Frase responds to a proposal by Alex Hanna that radicals in the USA should attempt to win the police over, since their perceived legitimacy in the eyes of the public could cause a confrontational approach to backfire. Frase acknowledges that intentional provocation of the police is a generally a mistake, but argues against any active attempt to reach out to the police, placate them, or constrain one’s own behavior within limits set by the police. Frase asserts that any such complaisant approach will only lead the police, with the complicity of biased mainstream news media, incrementally to redefine any failure to comply with police demands as “violence”. And the police themselves will use violent coercion against radical activists regardless of the activists’ behavior. Frase denies that there is any fundamental difference between the character, behavior, or social role of police in the USA and in other nations where radicals have ultimately had to confront the police forcefully, such as Egypt. Frase asserts that the perceived legitimacy of the police in the eyes of the public is a cause of police violence, and that undermining that legitimacy is a critically important task for radicals in the USA.

  • Rockstroh, Phil. Recovering from Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS): “Because the cops don’t need you and man they expect the same”. Truthout. 2012 Jan 11.

Available from: [anchor]

Quoting Bob Dylan, Rockstroh warns activists not to expect good results from attempts to reach out to the police, who are heavily indoctrinated and thoroughly identified with the authoritarian paramilitary ideology of their departments. Even in cases where the objective long-term economic interests of the police are aligned with those of the 99%, they are likely to respond with hostility to the anti-authoritarian radical activist message, and identify with their bosses and fellow police officers.

  • Kilkenny, Allison. Occupy and the importance of not asking for permission [Internet]. In These Times. 2011 Dec 2.

Available from: Accessed 2011 Dec 2. Archived by WebCite at [anchor]

Kilkenny responds to proposals that the Occupy movement should work within the electoral system via the Democratic Party. She contends that the system is so corrupt and beholden to corporate interests that any attempt to work entirely within it would inevitably result in co-optation of the movement, and neutralization of its effectiveness. Instead, she sees civil disobedience as indispensable."