Note: This was originally posted on my Tumblr blog on 26 Oct 2011.
Just had an interesting (and long) discussion about the situation in Oakland. My friend pointed out that there was no real reason for the protesters to hold out until the police resorted to extreme violence. But, in some sense, extreme violence is the whole point.
The right to protest is central to the existence of a free society. If we can't assemble and make noise about what we think is wrong with the country and what we think should be changed then how can we, "the people", influence the course of society and the country?
In fact, today I think the right to protest is actually more important than the right to vote. But that's a rant for another post.
But why don't they just comply with orders to vacate their protest sites? Why do they need to be occupying central locations? Why didn't the Oakland protesters just go somewhere else before the police moved in?
Because that would defeat the whole point. When you are protesting the violation of your rights on a massive scale (as the recent management of the economy has been), complying with an unconstitutional order is counter-productive. You can't protest the violation of your rights by, or while, allowing your rights to be further violated.
But what about the violence? Well, would we be talking about Oakland if there hadn't been violence? Nope. Sometimes getting attacked for doing nothing but exercising your rights is the only way to demonstrate to the world that your rights are being violated and expose the corruption of those in power.