Two Notes on "Violence" vs. "Vandalism"

Comments

1
Brendan, agreed that smashing a bank window is vandalism, not violence.

Not so sure about specifically targeting the home of a public official. It's in no way "direct action" or any form of (juvenile) political speech. It's thuggery, pure and simple. It drips of implied violence and intimidation.

I get and applaud that you want precision in language. But even the WHO's definition of violence is vague, and I for one would definitely think the targeting of McGinn's home would qualify under said definition.
2
You don't think a brick through the window of a person's home might cause psychological harm?
3
Uhhh...I _do_ think the banks are doing violence, not least because their property is in the end backed by the threat of State violence, but also because they are threatening the ability to live decently on the part of others.

And though I can sort-of believe that someone can be so pure that their destruction of property will necessarily end with property, 0.) reality is complicated, and people can end up getting hurt regardless of intention, and 1.) I believe it is a form of intimidation, whose beginning is damage to property (e.g. a cross-burning) but carries the strong implication that people can be next if they're not careful.

And we are the descendants of people who survived largely because of their things---tools, clothes, shelter---and so to say that we are only destroying things cuts little ice for me...though things that are claimed by State-created entities do seem fairer game than such for actual persons.

And a good anarcho-communist should balk at destroying something that's difficult to make---modern windows are a marvel---and doesn't belong exclusively to her...she is by her lights destroying _everyone_'s property.
4
So I guess the next time there is a protest where black bloc tactics might be used you'll happily park your car on the street near by eh?
5
Meh... Itz just things. You canna always get more things.
6
Brendan - you need to read further into the definition provided by the WHO. They break down violence into subcategories. Here's one:

Interpersonal violence refers to violence between individuals, and is subdivided into family and intimate partner violence and community violence. The former category includes child maltreatment; intimate partner violence; and elder abuse, while the latter is broken down into acquaintance and stranger violence and includes youth violence; assault by strangers; violence related to property crimes; and violence in workplaces and other institutions.

Note that "community violence" includes "violence related to property crimes."
7
It seems that the presence of other people would dictate whether or not vandalism is violent. The smashing of the window of an empty bank would be simply vandalism, but if someone is standing behind that glass, if there are people in the bank, that speaks to violence – there is a threat of personal harm. Throwing rocks through the windows of an empty house is far different than throwing rocks through the windows of an occupied house. There’s the threat of personal harm. The mayor and his family were unharmed, but there was an implied threat in that act.

Painting graffiti on a wall: vandalism. Painting “die, jew, die” carries a threat of harm and FEELS like a violent act.
8
Be careful out there with all those crazies


Maybe he meant the cops.
9
Not acknowledging the historical context of such forms of protest (e.g. destruction of property) is pretty disingenuous too, Brendan.

I mean, Kristalnacht wasn't just a spontaneous protest against the banking system either, though often the rhetoric of early-to-mid 20th century anti-Semitism was couched as such too. The Nazis were pretty adamant about the banking industry being the devil too.

The point isn't that people shouldn't protest banks or socioeconomic inequalities, just that, perhaps a little more creativity is needed in order to, you know convey the protester's message more effectively and without the historical baggage that 1938 and 1968 carry.
10
I think the distinction you have made between violence and vandalism is very important. Thank you for writing these pieces, Brendan.
11
"So... are banks that foreclose on homes and farms and repossess property committing acts of violence on American families? I wouldn't say so. But this line of thinking points in that direction."

To the extent they are doing so unlawfully and without authority, e.g. mistakes, then yes that is a violent act.

I think you seem to be having a hard time with the concept of degree. Slapping someone and hatcheting them are both violent acts but one is quite worse than the other. Likewise wielding weapons downtown and smashing things is violent, if only for the fear it creates, is a violent act, though on the lower side of violent acts.

Many people have various things they feel strongly about or are key to our survival that no one else pays enough attention to. The environment, religion, abortion, race mixing, capitalism, gay rights, etc.

If we all broke each other’s stuff to get attention none of us would have any stuff left.

Well that an the exercise of physical power to achieve your ends welcomes that in return and in this case the state has a hell of a lot more of it than some dumb kids in black masks playing revolutionary for the day.
12
You felt safe with protestors because you looked somewhat like the protestors. Other people downtown might have a legitimate fear if they look like tourists, businesspeople, homeless, whatever...
13
Well that an the exercise of physical power to achieve your ends welcomes that in return and in this case the state has a hell of a lot more of it than some dumb kids in black masks playing revolutionary for the day.


I am pretty sure these kids are daring the state to do something.

And quit being so bourgeois. I want the state to do something, too.

14
As soon as you choose destruction as the means for delivering your message, you've lost the vast majority of listeners. Rationalize all you want, but now you're only talking to yourself.
15
@5: Ok, so give me your address and I will come and destroy all of your possessions.

Just get more, right?

Breaking a millionaire's window is just as immoral as breaking a poor man's window. Moral relativism is fundamentally flawed, and just an excuse to do immoral acts for personal gain.
16
Some kid spray painting a wall is vandalism.

An angry mob smashing windows, destroying property, and terrorizing the people inside those shops by doing so is violence.
17
@12: did any of the people you describe actually suffer physical harm from the black bloc? i "feel" unsafe downtown a lot, mainly around schizophrenics, but never anarchists.
18
@15: and if you think billionaires could afford more in taxes, you're free to write a check to the IRS, right?

@5 saying that fucking Chase or fucking Dov Cherney can shrug off a busted window is not equivalent to volunteering to have all one's material possessions destroyed. "it's just stuff" is a pretty healthy approach to life in our materialistic society, and you know it.

19
I'm more upset by realizing that I have been calling you by the wrong name this whole time, BRENDAN.
20
I don't agree that smashing a bank window is "vandalism not violence" and I don't think it is even under the supposedly strict definition of violence from the WHO. I think the better standard is if you were working that day at the bank or the store being vandalized would you feel threatened? Would you feel unsafe and in danger when a bunch of black masked people started smashing out the barriers between you and them? Would you go home that night and not take it with you? It's a bullshit distinction. Bullshit.
21
@17 My cubicle window faces straight up 6th ave. We watched the marchers come down towards Nordstrom. Then we saw the smoke and then the whole group of marchers started running. From ten floors up, it looked like chaos as this large group bolted for the next intersection and scrambled, some went left around Nordstrom and some turned right around pacific place. Someone fell, a car stopped short, general mayhem.

This was certainly not an organized jog. Why would they decide to bolt like that? Joy? Apparently a few of them, at least, FELT unsafe.
22
@13 And of course they know that while the police response might be harsh it will be nothing compared to what one might encounter in a real fascist or police state.
23
Equating foreclosure with violence is, as has been implied, misleading. While a bank is taking your home, they are not throwing bricks through the window coercing you to pay your mortgage. Nor are they roughing up your children in the alley on their way home from school. There is no doubt that the loss of a home is emotionally traumatizing, but it is a far cry to equate what is, at it's base, a financial transaction, with violence.

If foreclosure is violence then I could just as justly assert that default on payment is theft. The reasons may be varied, job lost, interest rate changed, medical hardship, etc but the fact remains that you are not paying money that you've entered into contract to repay. If I walk into a store, pay them 5% of the cost of an item and then accuse them of theft when they take it back if I can't pay the balance I think most would call me crazy. (sure, it's an imperfect analogy...for some mortgages people give the 5%, take the "purse", the purse goes on markdown and they have to return it for some reason but are left holding the debt for the original, not marked down, cost...but I digress...) Being angry that the terms of your financial contract no longer favor you is justified, but claiming the terms are unjust or that we are "owed" property is misguided.

Let us also point out that those who are saying "it's just stuff" are shooting themselves in the foot. You're justified in breaking my car's windows "because it's just property" but a bank can't treat your house as property? Why do your things hold such special status? Do you think that the money with which others will repair your damage comes freely? Even if it's paid by insurance those dollars come at the cost of premiums that you, I, and our friends are paying. So when you bust that window you aren't doing anything to The Man but you are stealing an hour, two, or twenty from people who may be working just as hard, if not harder, to make ends meet.

24
@7 has it just right.

Brendan, I've never been so tempted to throw a brick through someones window than yours. I'd be really curious to see if you regarded this as a "direct action", you know, just free speech, expressing my viewpoint, etc. My guess is that you would feel violated, intimidated, worried, and maybe even experience some psychological harm. My guess is that you would feel like violence had been done to you. But who knows? Maybe the next day you'd be telling everyone that someone had non-violently protested your viewpoint during the night.

I agree that throwing a brick through an empty bank's window in the middle of the night is not violence, it is vandalism. But plenty of what went on May 1 rose to the level of violence, particularly the attack on the mayors home, with his family inside.
25
So... are banks that foreclose on homes and farms and repossess property committing acts of violence on American families? I wouldn't say so. But this line of thinking points in that direction.


No, Brendan. This line of thinking does NOT point in that direction. (Before I proceed, I'll remind you that I'm one of the people who agreed that there is, or should be, a sharp distinction between violence upon a person and vandalism.)

First, a foreclosed home isn't a destroyed home (except in cases where the the people being foreclosed upon vandalize the property, an act that has no parallel to the May Day window smashing). Second, mortgaged homes have distinct legal definitions whereupon failure to make the payments results in the bank seizing the property, as all the parties agreed to at closing. (This may seem like a bit of a social justice issue today because of all the deceitful measures banks took in the previous decade to originate mortgages with people too poor to afford them, but that's not an indictment of mortgages all across the board.)

I have a real problem with this kind of rationalizing. The fact is that destruction of property undertaken in this fashion IS something that induces fear in the people who work at these businesses, to say nothing of what the mayor and his family must have experienced when it happened at his home. It may not be violence, but people suffer just the same.
26
I fall firmly on the side of the argument that says that smashing property is valid, if extreme, political expression, and smashing flesh is over the line. It surprises me that the semantic distinction between "violence" and "vandalism" is attracting so much attention in the comments, while the motives & politics behind the acts keep getting overlooked. That's why we have journalists like you guys! Thanks for keeping the conversation relevant and providing valuable insights on such emotional questions.
27
@18 Until it's your stuff right? So maybe for Chase the cost of a window it's the same as me coming to your house and spitting on your couch does that mean that you would welcome me doing so?

You're committing a logical error of degrees. Because this is a small thing it becomes right. You have no more right to stab me with a tooth pick than you have to stab me with a knife even though the harm is proportionally different. I have no more justification to steal your shoes than I have right to steal your car. You would thank me for neither.
28
TL;DR version of @ 25 - @ 7 +1.
29
@23 When a foreclosure is legal it is not violent, but a bank taking homes they are not legally entitled to, backed by the force of the police, is different. Forcibly evicting someone from their home without just cause is violence.
30
@ 26, the fact that people are debating this instead of the politics is a measure of the failure of these tactics. This was NOT the time to smash windows.
31
@25 Fully agree. It's a contract and it sucks to not meet the terms but they were the terms you agreed to on the dotted line. But like your post, I suspect that my post is simply too long for the "TLSR"/"it's just stuff" crowd.
32
@26
"It surprises me that the semantic distinction between "violence" and "vandalism" is attracting so much attention in the comments, while the motives & politics behind the acts keep getting overlooked. "

That's because people who behave poorly are not entitled to have people pay attention to their views. When a child throws a fit the focus is immediately shifted to the fit itself and not the reason behind it. That's why most people learn that handling their disagreements with others in a grownup matter is best.

Once someone forms an armed gang and smash up downtown I stop giving a shit about their politics and simply assume they are as childish as their behavior. Which Anarchism generally is.
33
@29 - I agree if a bank is repossessing a home they have no right is violence of a kind. But of all the foreclosures I know of personally (and there are a good number in my circle of aquaintences) not a single one was unlawful. Unfortunate yes. Unlawful no.

I wager, without evidence to support myself I fully admit, that most current foreclosures are fully legal, albeit unfortunate, events.
34
@ 29, you're making up shit. Banks don't take back property unless they hold the mortgage and it's gone into default.
35
@ 29, I apologize - just looked it up and it looks like illegal foreclosures is a real problem. *Hangs head in shame*
36
@33 Agreed. Most of the issues with foreclosures relate to issues with paperwork or proving ownership not the fact that the person is, for good or bad reasons, not paying their mortgage. Not being able to legally prove a claim is not the same as not having the underlying right. Though I think it just fine that we hold banks to the letter of the law since they most certainly hold customers to the letter of the law and their agreements.
37
I've been sexually assaulted and choked, certain that I was going to die and had to fight with every ounce of power within me to escape alive.

I also watched helplessly as my house burned down and I lost everything I own, as the fire department stood idly by, because they have a tendency to do in that small community. (The burned properties are then purchased by the chief of police and sold.)

One was an attack on my person; one was an attack on my possessions.

Is my bodily autonomy the same as my baby pictures? No. Is my continued life the same as cherished diaries I wrote in from the time I was ten? No.

However, in my mind and heart, both felt violent. Both left scars. Both caused terror and anguish.

Throw a brick through a business window when no one is there to witness it and you may hurt a company's bottom line, but you have also sent an implicit message: We are willing to take part in destruction. Throw that brick when there are employees there, or frightened people on the street, or through a home window with a family inside, and you are committing violence. Perhaps it doesn't match some overly literal interpretation of the word, but the human heart knows what it's been subjected to.

Are there times when violence is justified? When terror is an acceptable weapon? Because every time you start a group of people destroying property, you have created the possibility of fear and harm. It may not be your intention, but my rapist didn't "intend" to hurt me. I wasn't human to him. It's not the perpetrator's intentions that decide what sort of damage has been done.

You cannot decide what's justified in an idealized world. You have to justify it in the real one. If no one was physically harmed or terrorized in this vandalism, grand. That doesn't mean it wasn't a real possibility.
38
@15: I disagree that breaking a billionaire's window is exactly as immoral as breaking a poor person's window, since the billionaire is in much better condition to replace it, is able to afford good medical care if she should step on some of the broken glass bare-shod and unaware, and so on.

Consequences matter...so, yes, though I don't care for people's smashing Chase's windows, I care less about it than I would if a small business' or home's window were smashed.
39
@37 beautifully written. Thank you for sharing.
40
Like Dan says it is a distinction without a difference. If we are going to be honest we should call this terrorism. My husband works at a downtown bank and they were locked in the building all day. His bank is Canadian and does not have a mortgage division or profit from prisons. Like so many people downtown, he was more than inconvenienced. Spray-painting a window is vandalism. Storming the streets wielding poles and smashing things directly impacts people whose only offense is trying to make a living. this is terrorism.
41
Attacking property is different than attacking a human body. Black blocs insist on that difference, as you witnessed. No one seems to reject the legitimacy of property destruction, so long as it is sanctioned by ownership (I can destroy my own car), or the state. The state attacks property everyday, just as a matter of doing it's business. Black bloc vandalism forces the question: why do property ownership or state power make those attacks legitimate? A bloc asserts the power to destroy property without the legitimizing force of ownership or state sanction. No other tactic can force the question, which is a good reason to use the tactic.
42
There is no such thing as security.

It's all in your mind.

It doesn't matter to a person who hit them, or shot them, or threw a brick at them.

But ... you know that, on a real level ... you're just trying to pretend to yourself you're "safe".
43
@38: I guess I have to ask then, at which point is someone rich enough that it is no longer immoral to break their windows?

If no number is high enough, then you have to admit that it is always immoral. Immorality is immorality, it is not a relative concept. It does not matter how much you personally care about the individual.

You are committing a fallacy of degree, which several commentors mention above. But this since is a basic philosophical issue, there is really nothing we can say to each other outside of what has already been said, so there is my 2 cents.
44
@41 - I can honestly say, with no exaggeration, that I have no bloody clue what you're trying to say.
45
oops, hit "post" rather than"edit:"

*"but since this is a basic philosophical issue...."

*"There are my two cents"
46
On the news, I saw more than the windows of banks or stores smashed. I saw car windows smashed. And not luxury cars, we're talking cars most probably belonging to your beloved 99%. How do you justify this?
47
@37 - You articulated all the reasons why this is a stupid argument. If someone feels threatened it is a form of violence, as you stated.

I suspect no one will address your post, though. You did it far too well.
48
I did not know the World Health Organization is now a dictionary. Perhaps next they'll provide you with a journalisistic style guide.

Bottom line, vandalism of this nature is a violent act - intent is irrelevant. Pick your nits all you want, but it's still violence. These windows weren't smashed by gentle stroking, they were smashed violently. You're desperately trying to make some justification for the acts of a few fuckwits instead of just acknowleding that some fuckwits hijacked a legitimate public action.
49
@41 People talk about state violence all the time. One need not commit violence to raise that question. Acting with the same sense of entitlement and violence they allege of others makes them no better. Now in addition to worrying about their bank fucking them over people have to worry about these assholes breaking their stuff and scaring the shit out of them while they try and go about their day. It is supremely arrogant to think that your views are so important that they justify breaking shit and scaring people to make them 'think'.

The question of damaging your own property is only interesting until you pull your head out of your ass and think in real terms for a few seconds.
50
So, by Brendan's reasoning we should do away with hate crime statutes? I see public vandalism a la Seattle on May Day as akin to hate crime. Sure, it's only a fucking window but it's clearly intended to send a threatening message to some person or persons. I'd call that kinda violent.

Another thought: Holy shit! Stranger writers writing about nuance of language. If only they could employ such nuance in their fucking jobs!
51
I absolutely disagree good sir.

I someone with a baseball bat smashed my mailbox while I standing there, that's an implicit threat. I'm not the chair of the Harvard Law Review or anything, but the threat of violence itself is considered "assault". When the violence is executed, it is "battery", IIRC.

Come to my house with a mask on and a big wooden stick to smash my window... would I be justified in the court of law for self defense? I don't like hypothetical situations, but food for thought.

Having a gang of masked, hooded people with sticks smashing the windows and throwing rocks and home made devices at occupied stores sounds like "assault" to me. The best part is the folks getting assaulted are poor retail schmucks doing their best to pay their bills.

The philosophical and semiotic argument bores me. As a pragmatist, I simply do not want anarchists smashing stores because they are displeased at corporate entities
52
@6 is correct. Smashing windows and cars fits the WHO's definition of violence against a community, as several people pointed out in the original thread. On May 1, my husband called me from work and asked me to avoid walking through Belltown to the library that day as he was concerned for my safety. I think it's great that Brendan feels secure and safe standing next to people who are smashing windows and cars. I wonder if his sense of security would extend to his loved ones -- a mother or a daughter, perhaps -- if they were placed in the same situation.
53
I want to commend the Seattle Police on their appropriately measured response. They responded to individuals instead of trying to control the entire crowd. They arrested people damaging property, but did not try to clear entire streets with tear gas. They protected public safety without criminalizing peaceful protestors. They deserve thanks for a job well done.
54
Wow, a whole post arguing about semantics.

You guys must have a major hard on for Occupy Seattle as you are trying to put a positive spin on this. Shameless.
55
What about the car windows that were smashed out? Are the owners of Hyundais and Buicks a legitimate political target?
Each of those people is out at least their deductible, usually $500. WTF was that supposed to prove? WTF kind of message are they supposed to get from this douchebaggery?
56
@ Moron Stranger writer and @3

"So... are banks that foreclose on homes and farms and repossess property committing acts of violence on American families?"

Umm, see, when you stop making the payments on something, it ISN"T YOUR PROPERTY. If I kick a squatter out of a vacant house being renovated, I'm not dispossesing him or her. I'm not comitting violence by getting the sheriff and forcing them to leave. They had no right to be there in the first place.

Foreclosure is a very long process. Sometimes it takes a couple of years from the point where someone stops making payments and the point where the locks are punched by the bank. NOBODY has this happen accidentally. NOBODY doesn't know it's coming. If you continue to live in a house for 12 or 16 or 24 months without making a payment you're not a homeowner, you're a burglar.

But hey, nice try on the extreme false equivalency!
57
@53

If they did not have a permit to block public streets, they were not peaceful protestors.

If they watched someone breaking windows and didn't report that person to the police, they weren't peaceful protestors.

If they watched someone damaging a car and didn't report that person to the police they weren't peaceful protestors.

The word for anyone who did any of the above is simple. Criminal.
58
@53 and yet they didn't arrest those individuals who darted out and broke stuff, failing to learn from what actually worked in Vancouver riots and what didn't work.

The majority of the crowd expects those provocateurs to be arrested - when they aren't it makes them feel violence against property is condoned or encouraged.
59
@57 wrong on all three counts.
60
@49, yes, my habit also is to talk about these things. I abhor violence and vandalism. But that doesn't mean black bloc tactics are senseless. In fact they make good sense and are important political tools. The state grants us the right to debate and speak about these things. They agree not to shoot or imprison us for it. But break property that's not yours and the state can imprison you. To question the state's monopoly on violence, or question the legitimacy of property ownership, you need to act outside state-defined rights. It makes sense, and ought to be dealt with as sensible, even if we don't do it ourselves.
61
@35

The vast majority of those who've had their homes foreclosed had it done because- wait for it- they didn't pay their damn mortgage. The few who had a mistaken foreclosure almost certainly ignored or didn't deal with notices for whatever reason.

Should the banks be held accountable for fraudulent or lazy paperwork practices? Absolutely. And we have legal means for dealing with fraud or error. But that doesn't excuse a homeowner who doesn't act on a bloody foreclosure notice, erroneous or not.
62
Yay, that noted liar Seattleblues is chiming in. Your response to @53 doesn't seem to address the comment put forth there - you really can't control your urge to say what you want to say instead of taking comments on directly, can you?
63
Brendan, you seriously underestimate the importance of the psychological impact part of that WHO definition.

Burning crosses on the lawn by the KKK is clearly a violent act. Fake punching someone is clearly a violent act. A mock executions is clearly a violent act. Why? Because they are intended to cause psychological harm.

Keying a car or putting up non-aggressive graffiti is probably not violent. But it depends on the motives and the psychological response. If a person keyed the car of an ex to intimidate him or her, then it would be violent.

So how about these protests?

The rock through the mayor's window was clearly violent. It was designed to intimidate and punish him and his family and to make them feel less safe. It was a psychological attack. If I were the mayor, I would be worried about many potential future attacks (firebombs, gunshots, etc.).

The smashing of windows of a bank due to the malevolence of the protestors was a violent act even if the bank was empty. Spray-painting the windows would not be. The difference is in the psychological state of the protestor. In the first case (assuming an empty store) a passerby would likely feel that they were in a riot situation and that the protestors have reached the maniac state where they could lash out at anybody. But even if it were smashed at midnight with nobody around, it is still difficult to ever argue that window smashing is a non-violent act. Just the appearance of it brings out fear in anyone working there or passing by. I have no doubt that this was the goal.
64
No, you moron, it isn't.

You must pull a permit before blocking a thoroughfare. If you don't, you're breaking the law.

You have a duty to report a crime you witness. If you don't the technical term is 'accessory after the fact' to that crime. So someone who didn't report vehicle damage or window breaking is an accessory after the fact.

A person who breaks the criminal statutes is called a criminal. In case you didn't know. Which case covers a lot of ground, to be sure.
65
Oh, and liar @ 61? Feast on this.
66
A storm can be violent. Forcefully destroying property is violence. You may or may not justify it, but it is violence pure and simple.
67
@64 and 62

Oh, it's Mile High Matt! What are you smoking today, Matt old chum?

See, the answer to 53 is that THERE WERE NO PEACEFUL PROTESTORS. There wasn't a permit pulled, so none of them had a legal right to block the roads, and there were all rioters.

As for illegal foreclosures, how about you address the actual content for once in your useless life? If in fact a home was illegally foreclosed on, do we not have legal recourse for that? (Hint, idiot, the answer is 'yes.') Did none of these people receive notice before the actual foreclosure and fail to act? (On this one, brainless, the answer is 'no.')

Also, let's distinguish between foreclosure proceedings and being kicked out of your home. In the cases I looked at from your google search proceedings were begun, and the banks punished when too many of these were done poorly or in contravention of banking law. But how many actually lost their homes? Yeah, thought so.

68
@60 No, you really do not. You can question it just fine without breaking things and scaring people. The use of violence is not needed to discuss these things. It may be an attempt to force people to look at these things, but I personally do not take kindly to coercion of that sort and refuse to accept it as valid. Once you break windows downtown I could give a fuck about your ideas and simply think of you as an asshole.

The truth of the matter is that a vanishingly small number of people share anarchist views. So like any good revolutionary their own sense of self righteousness leads them to do things like this to create an impact outside of that which they could achieve via peaceful democratic means. Arrogance and self importance plain and simple.

They are no different from what they claim the police or state to be. They are just not as good at it.

69
Keep digging.

Your argument pretty much denies that terrorism is possible unless people are physically hurt. The people who smashed McGinn's windows are terrorists, and I think the people who smashed the windows of the courthouse and Nike are too.

There is a huge difference between vandalism (tping someone's house) and TARGETED VANDALISM DESIGNED TO INTIMIDATE.

When Nazi punks spraypaint swastikas on synagogues or Jewish cemeteries, does that count as easily-dismissable vandalism? You know kids, they get high spirits, right?

Where's the limit? Sticks and bricks are just expressions of opinion; what about bombs? Sgt. Doom is explicitly pro-bomb; you seem to be too, at least on a chin-stroking level; you may not want to light the fuse, but you approve of the theory.
70
@ 67, was EVERY PROTESTOR doing that? Was EVERY PROTESTOR watching crime take place and not reporting it? You have no way of knowing that. That, right there, is a lie.

I like the rest of your comment, where you try to project your flaws onto me. Let's go to the tape, starting w/@29...

@23 When a foreclosure is legal it is not violent, but a bank taking homes they are not legally entitled to, backed by the force of the police, is different. Forcibly evicting someone from their home without just cause is violence.


I dispute it @34, then correct myself @35.

You blame the victims @ 61 and imply that there is no such thing as an illegal foreclosure, just "fraudulent or lazy paperwork practices." You gloss over that people who can't pay the mortgage probably also can't afford an attorney, and ignore that this is such a problem that several states now have law protecting mortgage homeowners from such "paperwork."

I think I addressed your content perfectly.

"Yeah, thought so." Thought what? That NOBODY lost their home via illegal foreclosure? Check again, liar.
71
I agree with Eli and Cienna. If somebody tags my house with sparaypaint or a marker, that is an "implicit threat of violence directed at a person." I can't be secure in my person if there are squiggles painted on my garage. The cops should put them in prison, with rapists and muggers. I If I see them tagging my garage, I have a right to protect my person and shoot them.

Putting a sticker on a bank's window is the same as breaking the window, which is the same as stabbing a bank teller.

(I well know Cienna and Eli love to defend graffiti as "art" when they're not condemning window breakers as "violent". Because that's how retarded they are.)
72
I think many commenters need to go back and re-read the first paragraph of the article. The author does not condone vandalism OR violence, but is merely making a distinction between breaking a window and breaking a skull.
73
@68 Yes, I have the same habits and predispositions as you. But I understand why anarchists who question the legitimacy of state violence would assert the same power without state sanction. The violence scares me; but now that I'm scared, I'm thrown into the same boat as those who are victimized by state violence every day — either because they are poor, propertyless, or because of racism and bias. For many people, the spectre of violence did not arrive when the black bloc showed up. We tolerate the same behavior from the state and property owners all the time. Why?
74
A brick through a house window has been used as an implicit threat of violence for CENTURIES (probably since the invention of glass windows!). It was a notorious tactic of the KKK and other hate groups as a final warning before actual violence was used. It seems obvious that you're trying to backpedal, and justify some poorly thought out statements.
75
@71: I know you are being facetious, but I would find it hard to sleep at night knowing that people are walking up to my house and vandalizing it. It is only a few more steps until they break a window and come on in. I can not know their true intent.

The greater point about the window breaking is that smashing a window is making a statement "I can break what is yours with impunity" and this includes one's person. Once again, true intent can not be known. It is a threat of bodily harm, in addition to the obvious economic harm.

The bigger point is, that it is immoral to destroy the private property of others. The ends simply do not justify the means.

If you do not believe this, you can not complain if someone sets your car on fire, or smashes your windows. Hey, if you can break a bank's windows, why the hell can't someone break yours?
76
"If God lived on earth, people would break his windows."
77
@75

Walk around the U District. People's homes get graffitied up all the time. Should they really feel personally threatened?

I don't support graffiti. I think it should be cleaned up and the perpetrators punished. Punished appropriately. I just don't think vandalism is violence. Vandalism is a part of city life, like litter and pigeon shit. I don't like it, and don't advocate tolerating it. But don't freak out either; just clean it up every day. Like cleaning up the garbage.

The thing here is that some people think broken windows are scary. That's all. Targeting McGinn's at home, where his family lives, is scary. Probably terrorism. But a storefront is not the same thing. It's vandalism, that's all.
78
@Giffy -
That's because people who behave poorly are not entitled to have people pay attention to their views. When a child throws a fit the focus is immediately shifted to the fit itself and not the reason behind it. That's why most people learn that handling their disagreements with others in a grownup matter is best.


You've posted in this thread alone about
the appropriate role of the state in protecting property
moral distinctions between acts based on social class
cooperate responsibility versus personal responsibility

If I were an anarchist, I’d say my acts were pretty effective conversation starters.
79
it is immoral to destroy the private property of others


Immoral? Because the property is private? Public property is fair game?
Is it more immoral to harm a person or his property?
80
Quoting myself from this comment, since no one bothered to heed it in that thread:


We're paying far too much attention to a few acts of vandalism, at the expense of the bigger picture of Occupy and social justice.

Paul Constant had it right in his May Day post, and everything he said there applies perfectly to The Stranger:


Based on what I've seen of the coverage, this General Strike is being blown out of proportion by almost every media outlet in town (and a few around the country, too.) Right this moment, we have a few broken windows along one block downtown.

[...]

Here's the thing: There are hundreds of people all around town right now protesting income inequality, identifying a desperate need for immigration reform, and celebrating our shared American history of organized labor. Those are issues that need our discussion, and our consideration, and our attention.


At least SLOG has multiple perspectives on the vandalism. Yet, the "May Day Protest Coverage" header at the top of this page focuses SOLELY on vandalism, violence, "violence" vs "vandalism", etc., and features a photo of an act of vandalism as an icon for the day!

Meanwhile, Constant's acknowledgement of the issues underlying May Day falls to the wayside.

Who is making the day-to-day editorial calls at The Stranger? Is it Savage? Frizelle? Sanders?

I'd like to see someone representing The Stranger's editorial direction address this error.


Constant doesn't even seem interested on following up on it at this point.
81
@80 --
One more block within a block within a block and I might have actually been able to read what you wrote.

I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to quote yourself in polite company.
82
Perhaps Eli Sanders and Brendan Kiley should co-author an article on self-deception.

You silly boys. Smashing in someone's head with a brick isn't violence. It is assault.

83
I still disagree, but I'd endorse it even if violence, if it was anything other than the bougie obsession with breaking things for its own sake. When I can't tell the difference between an ideology and a limp bizkit concert, you're fucking useless.

That said, <3 FNB and other collectives.
84
@ 69. You've been indulging in some wild extrapolations in these threads, Fnarf. I meant what I've said and I've said what I meant—I'm not speaking in crypto-terrorist code.

Again: I *do not advocate* any of this stuff. But I do not believe that vandalism and violence are the same thing. Smashing a person and smashing a window are both scary, but they are not moral equivalents and should not be regarded as such.

I'm surprised by how difficult that idea seems to be for some of you.

We could all spit in disgust about what happened on May Day and move on to the next distraction—but I'd like to take a moment and think about why those people chose to do what they did.

Is that so wrong?
85
I'm the person who wrote the quoted comment about feeling secure in my person and secure in my property. As such, I'm the person who was asked if the banks that foreclose on homes and farms and repossess property committing acts of violence on American families.

Short answer: yes.

The longer, more nuanced answer, which I must apologize that I simply don't have the energy or leisure time to type right now, has to do with the abuse of capital wielded as a weapon, the monopolization of violence by the state, and the use and usurption of that state violence monopoly (and a host of other state functions) in defense of the wielders of weaponized capital.

Were YOU threatened by the violence against property? No, because it wasn't your property so the implicit threat was not against you. The implicit threat was against the corporate entities who own the property, which, according to the Supreme Court, Mitt Romney, and a set of legal fictions, are people. And what kind of people are they? They are capital-based just as we are carbon-based. And how do you do violence to them? By doing violence to their capital. And what better representation of their capital than their real property?

Vandalism against the property of real people carries an implicit threat of violence against the real people. Vandalism against the property of a corporate person is IN FACT violence against the corporate entity itself. You damage their net worth, you damage them.
86
As for moral equivalences, I'm not sure that I believe in them.
87
I think we need a distinction between wanton acts of vandalism, such as tagging in the U District, and intentionally threatening acts of vandalism, such as the bully glaring into your eyes as he stomps the shit out of your science project.

There are, of course, random acts of violence against people which are not intended to bring harm to the specific victim but to people in general. Likewise, random vandalism isn't intended as a threat to the specific property owner but to property owners in general.

Some of the attacks on corporate property on May Day were directed at the property owners. Some were directed at corporations in general. Some were directed at property owners in general.
88
This point also deserves to be considered:


It was the vandals who sidelined the messages of Occupy, immigrant rights groups, and labor demonstrators. And The Stranger's editorial board was all too happy to oblige them.

Just think of how many ad clicks The Stranger reaped over this fiasco! When you're a mainstream media outlet, crime always pays.

(Holy shit! I just turned off Adblock Plus for a moment to take a look at SLOG's ads. This site is filthy with ads!)
89
@81 says:

I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to quote yourself in polite company.


So what's that got to do with SLOG?
90
@84, "why those people chose to do what they did."

But we KNOW why they did what they did. They're criminals who can't get what they want politically so use violence to intimidate others.

By pretending otherwise, by pretending that there's a serious political message that we should pay attention to behind these people, YOU ARE CONDONING IT.

You are saying, in essence, "wait a minute -- I'm not condoning the painting of swastikas on synagogues, but let's look at their motivations -- these people appear to have a legitimate grievance against Jews, and painting swastikas on things is a tradional political response to this idea, which can't seem to get any traction in our culture".

Bullshit. They're thugs intimidating through the use of violence. That's what the word "thug" MEANS.

Your continued obtuseness over the word "violence" is grating. You appear to have it confused with "assault and battery". Did these thugs commit assault and battery? No (Phoenix Jones did, though). Did they commit violence? God damn right they did.

If you want to argue about the motivation these thugs claim to represent, go for it. You'll lose that argument too. Hint: Nike doesn't foreclose homes. But the thugs themselves, and their actions? Scum, tip to toe. And yes, I believe that they are threatening ME PERSONALLY: that courthouse they smashed is of the people, by the people, and for the people.
91
Brendan - I think you are meaning to draw a distinction between battery and vandalism. And that distinction is accurate (person or property). But both battery and vandalism are acts of violence. It's inaccurate to believe violence can only be inflicted by a person or persons upon another person or persons.
92
Fnarf's got things covered.
93
Why did the violence, ahem I mean vandalism occur???

Why are a significant group of black clad people with disguised faces, lead pipes and apparently explosives as well, using Occupy Seattle rallies as a base from which to emerge and retreat, regardless of the deletorious effect it might have on the movement, both locally and nationally, and to the great dismay of most of the participants, and a significant portion of the organizers???

Because Occupy Seattle can't get it's shit together and agree to engage in strictly non-violent tactics at rallies, protests, civil disobedience, etc.

Why can't Occupy Seattle get it's shit together???

That is for me, the burning question.

Is writing an article making the profound distinction between assault and vandalism (because the average Joe just can't figure it out), or politically motivated violence, and other forms of violence effective damage control???

Should there even be a damage control effort???

How will it effect Occupy Seattle in the future???

94
@30 while I think that property destruction was a failure of the resistance movement in the sense that it gave news media their limited sensational story (however innaccurate), i do not agree with you that this was "not the time to smash windows". a denouncement of capitalism, in the form of property destruction, is not culpable for derailing the rest of the demonstration's message. indeed, the message was NOT derailed at all at the protests themselves, only in their wake as the news media appropriated the events to the benefit of the City's image and their own pocketbooks.

A participant myself, I believe that there were very few actions in the May 1 demonstrationS (yes, there were many!) which at all distracted from the politics of the situation. Most of the violent/destructive/yadayada action came at the hands of excessively armed police, which i believe furthered many participants' understandings of the institutionalized oppression we experience as a species around the globe.

Thank you all for participating in this discussion, but please try to speak only to the level of experience you have with these issues and events. Try to avoid using the words which corporate media have offered us, something I believe Brendan has successfully done. Way to challenge homie!
95
@93: "Why are a significant group of black clad people with disguised faces, lead pipes and apparently explosives as well, using Occupy Seattle rallies as a base from which to emerge and retreat, regardless of the deletorious effect it might have on the movement, both locally and nationally, and to the great dismay of most of the participants, and a significant portion of the organizers???

Because Occupy Seattle can't get it's shit together and agree to engage in strictly non-violent tactics at rallies, protests, civil disobedience, etc"

Wow, you're incredibly stupid.

Yeah, Occupy "agreeing" on anything would sure fucking keep the Black Bloc away, they'd sure stop using all other protesters to hide behind, because they really give a shit what nonviolent protesters think!
96
@ Fnarf:

You are saying, in essence, "wait a minute -- I'm not condoning the painting of swastikas on synagogues, but let's look at their motivations -- these people appear to have a legitimate grievance against Jews, and painting swastikas on things is a tradional political response to this idea, which can't seem to get any traction in our culture".


Let me get this straight: I consider why a leftist might break a bank window as a form of economic protest (without even weighing in on the legitimacy of the grievance, which I haven't done) and now I am, "in essence," a Nazi apologist?

Your extrapolations keep getting wilder.
97
@ Brendan, destruction doesn't shift from being an immoral act to a moral one based on the politics behind it.
98
Can breaking stuff during a parade become a tradition in Seattle every May Day? Like naked bikers in Fremont or Dykes on Bikes?

We can call it Glaziers Day. Old Navy can have an "all the loot you can loot!" sale. Cops would get paid over time to pose in riot gear for protest photographers. Tourists could buy postcards of the same at Pike's Place Market.
99
#91 has it right. There is an important linguistic and moral distinction between assault/battery and vandalism.

Did you see the footage of the windows being broken? Of the flares being lit? That was some violent shit there. Just because, in theory, it wasn't directed at a person's body didn't make it any less violent. Just because nobody was physically injured didn't make it any less violent. Just because no one is likely to suffer significant psychological scarring doesn't make it any less violent.

When a bowling ball hits the pocket and the pins slam together--it does so violently. Football, which has rules preventing players from trying purposefully to injure their opponents, is a very violent game.

And when you look at the footage of the vandals doing what they did...it looked violent. So, describing what they did as "violence" seems like a perfectly acceptable use of the word...and not something that needs to be objected to, somehow, on moral grounds.

A claim was made to differentiate "throwing a brick through a window" versus "smashing a brick in a face"--and there is a difference between the two, but "violence" can be a word to describe both actions.
100
Brendan, for someone who's trying to be thoughtful about all this, I'm really surprised that you haven't acknowledged the point, made many times in the comments, that targeted property destruction can be perceived, and is all too often intended, as a threat.

Whether or not a given bit of vandalism is threatening isn't something that's determined by a dispassionate observer, it's determined by the person who feels threatened. Or doesn't, as the case may be.

Are you perhaps avoiding an obvious conclusion one might arrive at once perceived threat is considered? To wit, that threats, particularly threats made physically (as with clubs and smoke bombs) are very much a form of violence?