Indeed, if there is a lesson to be learned from Occupy Oakland’s violent rebirth Sunday, it’s that OWS is losing its base of moderate college youth. We didn’t rally around the protest beforehand and we didn’t come out in numbers. Now, in the aftermath, we are upset and disturbed. Regardless of whose fault it is, the West Coast Occupy brand is looking like a street brawl, not a public debate.
Millenials are turned off by this violence. We initially were attracted to the discussion circles, the devotion to consensus decisions, the people’s mike, and speeches by Joseph Stieglitz and Robert Reich. We like the debate about inequality and policy solutions like the Buffett Tax. We like drumming circles and the occupation of more justifiable public property like city parks. It is in the intellectual vitality of the early occupations that most youth found the motivation to join the movement.
As Oakland cleans up this week, it’s time for a change. The tired tropes of police brutality, radical occupiers, zip ties, tear gas, and vandalism have begun to lose their allure. We don’t want war. We want change.