Occupy SF violence shows the ugly side of peaceful protest 

Here’s the good news: a man who allegedly stabbed another man at the Occupy San Francisco camp showed up again, whereupon a number of Occupiers grabbed him and called the cops.

Here’s the bad news: there were two stabbings at the Occupy SF encampment.

On March 25, a man identified only as Chris allegedly stabbed Occupy  SF protester Brian “Boston” Reid in the chest after an argument about a stolen camera. Reid was transported to the hospital to undergo surgery, but is expected to recover.

On March 26, a transient not associated with the Occupy SF camp stabbed a protester in the neck after an altercation.

Days later, on March 29, Chris, the suspected stabber in the first attack, returned to the camp, apparently after learning that he might have killed somebody. Another Occupier, Nick Shaw, recognized him, chased him down and held him in a headlock until the police arrived.

“If you’re here to harm, or steal from or in any other way give disrepute to Occupy, then we will police ourselves,” Shaw told this newspaper.

Shaw is to be commended for acting on behalf of Reid, his fellow protesters and the notion that human beings can’t hurt one another with impunity. That usually sounds trite, until you remember the Occupy SF camp is trying to reinvent justice and order in the absence of governmental authority.

Because the fact is that Occupy SF is, by intent and definition, a lawless place. People are expected to police themselves, and to comport themselves with dignity and a respect for other human beings, on an entirely voluntary basis. An honor system, as Occupy SF organizers put it when they asked nicely for protesters not to bring any knives to the camp.

This honor system hasn’t quite worked out. As The San Francisco Examiner has reported, drunken fights break out as a matter of routine. Some are resolved with a minimum of fuss. Some, as in the case of Reid, are more serious.

The Occupy movement started as a challenge to a financial and banking system that had systematically conned prospective homeowners and mom-and-pop investors into a grand illusion that the housing market would never stop growing. Millions of people have suffered, but the bankers got TARP relief. Occupy Wall Street was designed to confront Wall Street with the face of the suffering it caused.

But thanks to the anarchist ethos that spawned it, the Occupy movements also have had to contend with governing their tent cities on a consensus basis. And because tent cities are a natural draw to criminals, the homeless and the desperate, Occupy organizers are forced to contend with the most erratic and potentially dangerous elements of society, with only the powers of persuasion at their command.

Across the nation, each Occupy tent city has been shaped by the local political culture of the radical left. New York City’s camp was dwarfed by an overwhelming media presence and the police power of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Occupy Oakland was particularly grim, infected by a locally grown impulse to provoke the cops for the sake of a conflict.

So far, Occupy SF has oscillated between these two poles. It’s not in the fishbowl of national attention, and it’s not in a depressed port town with a crime problem. So far, it’s been able to get by with just the occasional knife attack.

Let’s cross our fingers now that the warm weather is coming.

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