While work crews were busy replacing smashed windows and scrubbing graffiti off downtown walls late last week, Christopher Goodwin, 30, held up a copy of the Oakland Tribune with the headline “Violence, Vandals Divide a Movement” to a group of mostly first-time visitors to the occupied City Hall plaza. “The media can be our biggest ally or our biggest enemy, and right now they’re tying to figure out which route to take,” he declared, adding that he was going to propose a holding press conference to denounce violent tactics being used in the name of the Occupy movement. “That might be harder than it sounds,” interjected a skinny young man in the crowd, with noticeable irritation in his voice. “I’m 100 percent committed to nonviolence; I would never throw a rock at a police officer,” Paul, 21, a self-described anarchist from Los Angeles, explained afterward. “But at the same time, while I wouldn’t condone those tactics, I don’t delegitimize them either … a lot of [social] change was brought about by violence.” He cited the American Revolution and Civil War as examples…

“You have to have some sort of leadership. Don’t confuse leadership with dictatorship,” says Alonzo, 24, a Black Panther activist. “When you put that leader thing in front of [someone], he’s gonna have an ego,” counters Ali, 38, who instead argues that individuals should take more initiative on their own when trouble is on the verge. Next time a major action is held, he says, he would form an ad hoc group to protect businesses around the plaza and pull the masks down of anyone wearing a bandana to ensure accountability. Rasta, another camp resident, is less conciliatory: “These anarchists are going to f— this up; we need to stop them by any means necessary,” he says, making a slicing motion with his hand.