There weren't nearly as many people at Westlake yesterday afternoon as there had been last Saturday, when the tents went up. Some speculated that the weather was keeping people away. Others said they weren't thrilled by the October 22 Coalition's pre-scheduled rally against police brutality and the visibility of "anarchists"—folks wearing black and bandanas.
"We do not want to see this turn into WTO, that's for damn sure," one organizer said. "There have been rumors that the anarchists were trying to promote some kind of violence or a smash-and-grab."
Chris Mancuso, on the right.
The differences between the "radical" and "liberal" factions of Occupy was a popular subject of conversation yesterday, and on the Occupy Seattle blog, where the first sentence of one comment neatly sums up the tension: "This movement has two parts. There are the organizers who are careful, timid and non-confrontational. There is the rest of us that more determined to see this through."
But pretty much everyone I talked to yesterday agreed that all the different constituencies in a movement describing itself as "the 99%" were going to have learn to get along.
"The anarchist contingent is a turnoff for me," said Chris Mancuso. "Why not reveal your face when you're rallying for your rights?" his friend Rob Merwin added. "If we're asking for transparency from the government and corporations, let's walk the walk." In the background, a woman's shrill, quavering voice screamed from the stage about how someone had been shot by the police "Seventy times! Se! Ven! Ty! Times!"
One self-described anarchist, who recently moved up from Los Angeles, said she covered her face at protests because she didn't want a photo of her to "wind up on some weird website" or be targeted by police for her participation.
Had she ever been targeted by police for participating in a protest?
"Oh hell yeah," she said...
... and told a story about attending the 2008 Republican National Convention protests where someone took a photo of her. Two weeks later, back in California, some police officers and an FBI agent showed up at her home to ask her what she'd been doing at the protest. (That sounds outlandish at first. But, sadly, given the number of stories about this kind of political surveillance in the United States these days, her story is entirely plausible.)
The "liberals" at Occupy, she said, "are more about order and having a system" but the tension between the radicals and liberals is, in the end, "just people shitting on each other for their views—we don't take the time to listen to each other."
Another self-described anarchist said: "I'm not about violence—it's just about stopping the bullshit. There are a lot of conflicting views in anarchism, but I believe in the peaceful path. I believe in an anarchist style of living, being community-minded instead of focusing on individual goals."
Why do the anarchists make some of the Occupy protesters nervous?
"We get a lot of bad press," he said. "The majority of us are not seeking to engage in violence, but some of the less educated think anarchism is just about kicking over a trashcan."
"I'm not about violence."
Gabriel, from the Occupy Seattle legal team, said the tension about the anarchists was mostly a misunderstanding. "When you have a lot of different people coming together and some of those people have not had a lot of exposure to other kinds, you can have flare-ups," he said. "In any growth movement, leaderless movement, you have growing pains. We're not trying to exclude any minority view, or let a minority view become tyrannical."
Ross Grimshad, a chemistry grad student at the University of Washington, does not consider himself among the anarchists, but said "they're like the eternal flame, the symbol that keeps the pulse beating," but that the Occupy movement was about other views as well. "This is a public forum," he said. "If you wanna come down here and push the movement in a certain direction, just do that."
From the stage, one of the October 22 speakers said: "It's not a matter of some bad apples—we need to rip out the whole fucking orchard! We need to destroy the state, capitalism, and the police with it!" Nearby, Lt. Sano of the SPD said he'd "heard about the anarchists" and that the SPD was there just to keep the peace. "A lot of people want to express themselves, exercise their First Amendment rights, without the craziness of a completely different agenda."
The riots and violence that some members of the Occupy protest had been nervous about didn't transpire.