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A ragtag assortment of anarchists, revolutionaries, nitwits and rabble-rousers.

  • Feb 17, 2013
"I am frankly pretty disgusted with the complete lack of respect. You don't know how to follow your own principles. You are hypocrites when it comes to free speech. The only people you think get to have free speech are people who agree with you. I am appalled at how you represent the Occupy Wall Street movement. Nothing has happened in Occupy Oakland that has furthered a single goal toward (remedying) income equality or anything else. It has become a self-indulgent bunch of antics on the street where you just provoke confrontation with the police."

That was the assessment of Oakland City Councilwoman Patricia Kernighan after five months of dealing with the violent, disruptive and destructive tactics of the Occupy Oakland movement in her city. Since I generally do not subscribe to the aims and objectives of the Occupy crowd I paid very little attention to the movement during their rather short-lived heyday in late 2011 and early 2012. What little I did see thoroughly disgusted me. So when author Alan Kurtz offered me to send me a copy of his new book "Occupy Oakland: The Little Revolution That Couldn't" I decided to accept and see once and for all if my initial impressions of these people were accurate. I really had no idea what to expect but I most tell you I was pleasantly surprised. I could not put this book down!

What I found so very fascinating about "Occupy Oakland: The Little Revolution That Couldn't" is that author Alan Kurtz gleaned his information from an incredibly diverse variety of sources. In the nearly 60 pages of footnotes at the conclusion of the book you will discover that Kurtz tapped newspaper and magazine articles, online blogs, Facebook and Twitter posts, police department reports and You Tube videos in cobbling together his narrative. I thought it was quite effective indeed. There is a lot to be said for new media. I even took to time to view some of those videos and found that it greatly enhanced my understanding of what was going down during those riotous six months. And what I learned only reinforced my opinion of the Occupy movement.

It is certainly not hard to figure out why public support for Occupy Oakland began to diminish precipitously after just a few months. During the initial clash with Oakland police at Frank Ogawa Plaza in late October 2011 Occupy protestors tried to defend their makeshift tent city by hurling M80 explosives at police and pelting them with rocks, bottles, pots and pans etc. etc. The police had little choice but to respond by using tear gas. Violence would erupt on a number of occasions over the next several months and Alan Kurtz gives us a blow-by-blow account of all of the action. Meanwhile, the Occupiers were in no mood for compromise. As one Occupier put it to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan at a mid-December forum: "We're no longer asking for your permission to tolerate or not tolerate anything. This is not a protest...this is about reclamation, insurrection and taking back what is rightfully ours." Another protester complained that Mayor Quan "misrepresented anarchy". Surprise, surprise...that individual was a 2010 graduate of UC Berkeley. And in the category of "you just can't make this stuff up" Alan Kurtz quotes from an article by Kevin Fagan in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Mitchell Langon and Michael Ludlow, managers of the Berkeley Surplus Store ("For All Your Riot Needs") acknowledged that in the seven months since Occupy began, they'd done a brisk trade in gas masks, dark bandanas and black hoodie sweatshirts sold to protestors."   Damn those capitalists!

After all of the Occupy nonsense finally died down in the Spring of 2012 the City of Oakland was left holding the bag for all the physical damage and destruction inflicted upon Frank Ogawa Plaza and other public places within the city. Following the confrontation on November 14th Oakland DPW hauled away 36 tons of debris from Frank Ogawa Plaza. These people were pigs to boot! Of course there are two sides to every story. Alan Kurtz points to an investigation of the Oakland Police Department called The Frazier Report that determined the department suffered from "inadequate staffing, insufficient training, a lack of understanding of crowd management techniques, and outdated policies and protocols."

When all is said and done I found "Occupy Oakland: The Little Revolution That Couldn't" to be an incredibly informative and entertaining read. What I learned in Alan Kurtz's book only served to reinforce my opinion of the Occupy movement. This was a leaderless, rudderless movement that never seemed to spell out exactly what they were trying to accomplish. In my view, Councilwoman Patricia Kernighan had it about right. Highly recommended!

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February 19, 2013
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About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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This lively debunking of Occupy's most militant franchise is not a formal history. Rather, it's a contrarian critique meant to inform, entertain and provoke the reader.
Calling Oakland "the Westboro Baptist Church of Occupy," independent author Alan Kurtz deftly chronicles the arrogance and paranoia of wannabe revolutionists using a troubled American city as their playground. From seizing public parks and endorsing Black Bloc smashy, to being courted by organized labor as a "rent-a mob" after having twice shut down the Port of Oakland, to threatening public officials and vowing to blockade the airport, Occupiers obeyed a stark exhortation by one of their speakers: "Now is the time to spread hate!"

For half a year in 2012, Occupy Oakland owned downtown streets every Saturday night, marching on OPD headquarters, chanting "F*** THE POLICE," dragging and burning the American flag—all with constitutionally protected free speech impunity and all while loudly decrying life in a brutal police state.

After six months, however, it was clear that this little revolution couldn't. Eviscerated through infighting, dumped by disillusioned supporters, Occupy Oakland desperately reduced quorum for its vaunted General Assembly from 100 to 70, yet still attracted only a handful of diehards.

When its first anniversary rolled around, Occupy Oakland could—like an oldies station run by spent anarchists—do no more than reflect ...

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