The city of Oakland is experiencing a deep crisis of conscience, amid what appears to be the moral confusion of its administration. The mayor, who had marched with the Occupy Oakland demonstrators, has now ordered not one but two paramilitary strikes against nonviolent protesters, in which tear gas, “flash-bang” grenades, rubber bullets and powerful sonic pulses were fired directly at unarmed civilians.
There are calls for attempted murder prosecutions against some of the officers. Thousands are now demonstrating against clear violations of constitutional civil liberties, caught on video. The reaction has spread across the country, and some have questioned whether the mayor should resign.
An ex-Marine is now in the hospital, reported in critical condition, and authorities say the paramilitary tactics were justified. New video has emerged clearly showing a policeman firing directly at a group of unthreatening unarmed civilians simply attempting to assist a man injured by the attacks. To many, the crisis seems incomprehensible, even moreso because the mayor herself previously marched among them.
The most vital question, however, is how can the people of Oakland rally to the Occupy cause, without further inflaming tensions in a city where the elected government openly violates basic civil liberties? What strategy should the demonstrators adopt in order to maintain and defend their rights to peaceable assembly, free expression and to seek redress for grievances, that will allow them to show how steadfast nonviolence wins the struggle against brutal aggression?