OWS nonviolence commitment
1. As is generally recognized, OWS has a commitment to nonviolence. Here's the link to a Twitlonger post with relevant info on the nonviolence commitment.
2. There's a substantial complicating factor. According to this article from the site WagingNonviolence: "But New York’s Direct Action group has in its GA-passed guidelines a nod to respecting “a diversity of tactics”—which opens the floodgates. It means that, effectively, in an Occupy Wall Street action, you can’t assume that nonviolent discipline will be maintained by everyone in the movement."
3. Now I've tried to find GA-passed DA guidelines mentioning "diversity of tactics". So far, I can't find anything passed by NYCGA approving diversity of tactics (despite looking semi-exhaustively). However, I did find this:
Posted 4 months ago on Sept. 25, 2011, 12:23 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
1. Stay together and KEEP MOVING!
2. Don't instigate cops or pedestrians with physical violence.
3. Use basic hand signals.
4. Empowered pace keeps at the front, back and middle of every march. These folks are empowered to make directional decisions and guide the march.
5. We respect diversity of tactics, but consider how our actions may affect the entire group."
The above March Guidelines were created by the Direct Action Working Group.
I also found a couple relevant passages from reportbacks or discussions at the NYCGA:
"48.1.1. Direct Action (DA) – Breakout Groups and Park Defense Training
184.108.40.206. Clarifying Question (CQ): I was wondering, why is it so important that we use nonviolence over violence?
Response: this is a really complicated discussion. People over there need to hear. The question that was posed is why are we using nonviolence as opposed to violence. Obviously this is really complicated. DA’s guidelines support a diversity of tactics. That’s a really great concept that can mean different things, much like the concept of violence. What we want to emphasize is that your actions affect yourself and others. We also consider self-defense as nonviolence. But that’s just us. And we have to support each other through solidarity. If someone makes a decision that we don’t agree with politically, but we’re all being beaten, we should probably stick together and not alienate each other based on political choices surrounding violence or nonviolence, because usually that will break us apart even faster, and that’s using the same tactics as the cops. Also we cannot police each other, that’s just wrong."
"3.1. Reportbacks from Working Groups
3.1.5. Direct action—Two outcomes from their meeting.
220.127.116.11. Nonviolence amendment added to a previously mentioned march guideline. The original guideline was 'do not instigate cops or pedestrians' but it was changed to 'do not instigate cops or pedestrians with physical violence.'
4. To restate - So far I haven't found a GA vote approving "DA Guidelines" or "March Guidelines" with the "diversity of tactics" language.
One possibility, that looks likely to me at this point, is that the article from WagingNonviolence might be slightly wrong - that the March Guidelines were just promulgated by the DA Working Group but were never "GA approved". But again - can't be certain of this since haven't had the time to search exhaustively (though I looked fairly thoroughly).
5. So from a purely "legalistic" perspective, here's how it looks to me:
a. The GA has passed policies that prohibit violence, including verbal violence.
b. There is a "March Guideline" developed by the DA Working Group that say "we respect diversity of tactics". But "diversity of tactics" is a vague phrase - and some have said that in a nonviolence context, it can just mean that everybody can do what they want, but with the constraint that all the choices must be nonviolent. [Though usually DoT is just a code phrase for allowing violence/property destruction - sort of like "states rights" and segregation.]
c. GA passed policies supercede anything developed by a working group (e.g. there's a "Demands" Working Group, but currently OWS has no formal demands, since the output of the Demands Working Group has never been passed by the NYCGA, and it's generally understood that the anarchists in the NYCGA will never allow a set of demands to pass).
d. So formally, I think OWS is committed to nonviolence.
e. Even the "March Guidelines" would prohibit the kinds of actions occurring at the OWS Sunday Solidarity march. Throwing bottles at cops instigates violence (violating guideline #2).
f. Advocates of violence can reinterpret words - specifically the meaning of the term "violence", to do whatever they want. E.g. Some claim that property destruction isn't violence. Some claim that "self defense" isn't violence - and "self defense" can be construed so broadly as to allow anything.
Just for the hell of it, I'm going to include here the definition of "violence' provided by Google (since I think it conforms to the general understanding of the word).
violence - noun - Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.
6. I'm posting about this because of the current debate on "diversity of tactics" versus nonviolence. Some core folks in OWS, particularly in the OWS Direct Action Working Group are advocating more aggro and are arguing that OWS has never committed itself to nonviolence.
There is an InterOccupy conference call scheduled today to discuss diversity of tactics versus nonviolence.
7. I'm also finding myself disturbed by the recent uptick in OWS doublespeak/spin. This is what politicians do, and there's a reason I don't trust politicians. For example, the patently false claim by OWS tactical "Despite tweets stating otherwise, there is no black bloc present on this march. #j29". There was a Diversity of Tactics meeting before the march, people had been asked to come dressed in black, and some were dressed in black, wearing masks, and throwing shit at cops (a few bottles and some bags of garbage) and one of the masked guys in ninja drag attacked a livestreamer. That's by definition Black Bloc.
Straightforward honest communication builds trust and support. Spin does not (I think everyone's accustomed to and tired of spin).