Thursday, 10 November 2011

Two police officers bitten at nonviolent protest

An organization committed to nonviolence should never need to deal with headlines like this: Occupy Vancouver protesters bite cops

Below the fold:
- what happened (with start-to-finish video of the confrontation)
- what nonviolence means
- what nonviolence requires
- what nonviolence requires of me
What happened:

The idea of lighting a sacred fire was not approved by the general assembly.  It's disturbing that the General Assembly does not seem to be in control of the site.  It's not clear to me that the Elders made a proposal to the GA, or that they thought they needed to make one.  From the minutes, I know that it was proposed that OV disburse funds to the Elders to pay for firewood, but that this proposal did not achieve consensus.  

Lighting this garbage can fire was...inflamatory.  The main challenge to OV's right to exist has been bylaw infractions.  It is much harder for OV to be shut down if it is clear that the site is not a health and safety hazard.  The sacred fire was in violation of a preexisting understanding with the VFD that fires were not to be permitted onsite.  The fire was set in such a way that there was little risk of spread (in an oil drum, on sand, far from anything combustible), but I don't think the VFD had been given the chance to confirm this.  Once lit, the fire was putting out enough smoke to present something of a choking hazard (my theory is that the fire was not getting enough oxygen).  Under the circumstances, I'd say extinguishing the fire was a legitimate restriction on religious freedom, and something the VFD was duty-bound to do.

I was not present, but I've seen video (below).  Protesters formed a linked-arm ring to keep the firefighters away.  Protesters screamed at VPD officers as they tried to break through the ring.  Given the need to break through, the police response seems to have been professional and minimally violent -- I have nothing negative to say about it.  Somewhere in the scuffle, someone got bitey.

What Nonviolence Means

It's not enough not to throw the first punch.  Nonviolence means renouncing violence even in self defense.  If attacked unjustly, it exposes the thuggishness of the attacker and demonstrates moral superiority.

What Nonviolence Requires

Nonviolence is unnatural.  It requires great discipline.  It is particularly difficult for Occupy Vancouver because the movement is inclusive toward mentally unstable people.  Resistance needs to be permeated with a spirit of nonaggression if the most unstable members are going to remain nonviolent.  If everyone is screaming at the top of their lungs then someone will lash out.  This is predictable, and Occupy Vancouver is responsible for it.

If OV were serious about nonviolence they would need to run drills.  The art of holding on to each other without wrestling takes practice.  The art of remaining silent when attacked takes training.

What Nonviolence Requires of Me

Below, video of the violent confrontation.

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