Oakland on Fire: Anarchists, Solidarity, and New Possibilities in the Oakland Rebellion

It's important to also remember that not one person was assaulted during the actions and there were no reports of fights or scuffles amongst the groups of youth who resisted police and destroyed property into the night. In this sense, the rebellion was not violent. It is disturbing to watch as fellow organizers and members of our communities have uncritically adopted the rhetoric of the right in their confused denunciation of mass property destruction as 'violence'.

On the other hand the Oakland Police Department, who everyday harass, intimidate and beat Oakland's youth, was unleashing its very real violence that night. Police opened fire on crowds with different types of less lethal projectiles and in some cases shot tear gas canisters directly into people's bodies. A Berkeley High teacher had his face bashed during arrest and spent the night in the hospital before being taken back downtown for booking. A man taking pictures was attacked by police and his bike helmet was cracked as he was beaten. During the mass arrest at the end of the night, 80 people were forced by police to lay on their stomachs at 20th and Broadway, including a very pregnant woman who was screaming in pain.

What manifested during the Oakland rebellion was a moment of interchange and revolutionary transformation that rarely happens within the rituals of left organizing in the Bay Area. Between white "community organizers" overtaken by guilt into an impotent politics of servitude, professional activists worried about annual reports and grant cycles, and vanguardist marxist sects continually looking to use the next demonstration as a recruiting drive, many radicals find themselves in a desert devoid of revolutionary activity and thought. Within this barren landscape, it is rare to find new possibilities for radical social change while combatting racism and the constant oppression of capitalism. Resisting the police shoulder to shoulder, destroying property (albeit with different emphasis), helping one another evade arrest, exchanging tactics and gestures of solidarity across racial barriers pushes the desire for a multi-racial revolutionary movement years ahead, more than any speaker at a rally ever could.

Anarchists are very accustomed to accusations of spoiling carefully managed demonstrations, and in some cases this is true and necessary. The Oakland rebellion was a different story. Those who are truly committed to revolutionary change in this country need to appreciate the significance of what unfolded in the streets that night and move forward without falling into the usual sectarian traps.

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