Last week a small irresponsible wrecking crew took advantage of a pre-May Day rally loosely identified with Occupy movement to go on a rampage of paint throwing and window breaking in the 16th Street area. Some 15 small businesses -- and zero big corporations -- were the targets.
So guess who gets to play kindly uncle to the damaged enterprises? That's right -- Wells Fargo Bank, the target of legitimate protests against its foreclosure practices and exploitative payday lending. The big bank has pledged to help the distressed merchants. (I'll be curious to see how long it takes the city to fix the cop shop.)
Great publicity for the cause of the 99 percent, folks!
Here's a comment from a discussion of a different brick throwing incident that marred a May Day protest:
I don't know if that's quite fair either. Perhaps "embrace" goes too far. But it is incumbent on all of us to say "no" to violence while we push our case for change. There can be no room for stupid wanton destructiveness in the movement for economic justice. Such behavior is a luxury we can't afford.
Authentic movements unleash passions -- surging anger and also a fierce joy in struggle -- that can shade into violence. But authentic movements that win require discipline, individually and collectively. The people of this country don't have a lot of experience with discipline -- applied delayed gratification -- but we need to learn some if we want to make this a better place.
UPDATE: The same day I posted this, a group of Occupy stalwarts repudiated the violence on Valencia and questioned the intentions of those who perpetrated it. I an acquainted with two of the people quoted and am certain that vandalism is not their style or purpose.
The question remains, how do social movements prevent outbreaks like this, whether from their ranks or by infiltrators?