Transcript: Thom Hartmann & Ronald Cruz: OWS - Are All Means Necessary? November 14, 2011
Thom Hartmann: Well a weekend of police crackdowns and arrests against the 99% movement in various cities around the country. We will be getting to that. Occupy the Living Room has started up. Actually it’s Occupy the Front Lawn in most cases. The Murdoch paper, the New York Post, you know the sister to or brother I don’t know if newspapers have gender, to Fox News, says that businesses around Zucotti Park are losing some money. Anybody looked at the rest of America around Wall Street as a consequence of this? So anyway, a lot of really interesting occupy stuff going on. The effort to recall Governor Scott Walker coming up as well, so, and some disturbing news about that. But first, Ronald Cruz is with us. He is a participant in the Occupy California, OccupyCal, and attorney with BAMN. Bamn? Hey Ronald.
Ronald Cruz: Yes. Hi there.
Thom Hartmann: Hi. First of all, what’s BAMN?
Ronald Cruz: Yes, BAMN is a civil rights organization. It stands for the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary. And many of us were there at the Occupy Cal protests last Wednesday.
Thom Hartmann: Okay, great. So the UC Berkeley general assembly meeting, they’re calling for a University-wide strike on Tuesday November 15th. And I’m seeing over at the Occupy Wall Street thing a call for a strike, I believe this Thursday as well. First of all what came out, you know, what’s the latest from Occupy Cal?
Ronald Cruz: On Saturday I believe the general assembly voted on a set of demands for tomorrows strike which included calling for Chancellor Birgeneau to resign and defending free speech rights of students and reversing the fee hikes and cuts that have happened in the UC system in the last two years. And the words going out. We’re having a press conference this afternoon, announcing our intended law suit against the university for police brutality and welcome everyone to come out to that and there’s just a lot of solidarity and confidence coming out of what happened last Wednesday when despite the Chancellor’s over the top brutality people just doubled in determination, came out by the thousands and we’re confidant that tomorrow is going to be a successful day.
Thom Hartmann: The, when Ronald Reagan became governor of California you had a statewide university system that was free to anybody who wanted to show up.
Ronald Cruz: Pretty much, yeah.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah I hitchhiked out there from Michigan along with a bunch of friends of mine. I didn’t go to college there but several of them went there just so they could get a free education. And, back in the late ‘60s. And Reagan came in and said these students are ‘brats’ was the word he used. And rhetorically asked the question why should I be paying for the education, him as governor, I suppose, or as a taxpayer, for the education of people who are going to protest against my policies or say that they don’t like me. Which I think is a pretty lousy reason to deny people education. Has there been any discussion of basically, you know I’m always calling for people, for us to roll back Reagan’s tax cuts, you know of his first term as president. Rolling back his policies as governor of the state of California?
Ronald Cruz: Your question, I’m sorry?
Thom Hartmann: Has there been any discussion of rolling back Reagan’s ending free public education in California?
Ronald Cruz: Right, there’s been the whole tax revolt coming out of the ‘70s, there’s been a lot of talks within the movement of fighting to overturn prop 13, to tax the rich and billionaires, to pay for public education. And yeah, people are sick and tired of fees going up every year and know that, well many, not within our own living memory, know that UC used to be free. And just to respond to what he said, the movements of the campuses were tremendous and advanced everybody. One free speech ended a costly and immoral war in Vietnam and really reshaped our society to be more democratic and egalitarian. And that’s what the students who were there last Wednesday were saying that we cannot let the rich, who are leading our globe to ruin at the moment, and have no solutions for the economy or the environmental crisis, cannot be the ones who solely lead the way. That our universities should be places of critical thinking and free inquiry in which we collectively solve the problems that face us. Because what’s going on right now is just a dead end road. And Ronald Reagan is among the, was among the 1% and you know I frankly don’t really care about his opinion.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Well I’m more concerned about his actions frankly. And his actions were to end free public education in California when he was governor. And then when he became president to drop the top tax rate on millionaires and billionaires from 73%, 74%, which caused CEOs to only take 30 times what their average workers made because, anything beyond that just went to the government. Dropped that down to 28% which caused this explosion of wealth and a 30 year collapse in the middle class. But in any case, what is Occupy Cal going to be doing now that the Occupys are starting to be forcefully shut down. Is there a plan B beyond simple resistance?
Ronald Cruz: well with the strike tomorrow we do intend to begin the encampment again. And there are already, there already is a response in Oakland to have an emergency response demonstration this afternoon. Mayor Quan did clear this out, clear out the camp two, three weeks ago and we saw where that ended up. And also we are going to be going to the UC Regents meeting this Wednesday to shut it down. And basically it’s many, we’ve seen so far and it was true in the 1960s, all these efforts to use violence to quell free speech and people striving for democracy will only increase the support of the movement. As long as we continue fighting. And we’re just very confidant that our movement is on the rise. And we’ve got to continue to take actions where we are and you know, just march and march forward.
Thom Hartmann: But Ronald, if you look at for example the civil rights movement, the language of violence, continue fighting, for example, was largely, not entirely, but largely absent. There were no efforts to shut things down. The whole, isn’t shutting down a meeting of the regents its own form of violence?
Ronald Cruz: what we’re talking about is showing the power of our movement. And it’s just clear that…
Thom Hartmann: It’s force.
Ronald Cruz: Force for progress, force for democracy. What we saw last week was Birgeneau using violence to protect his prerogative to private the university. And this policy is a dead end road and it’s where the regents are going to continue to take us unless we make clear to them and to the politicians in Sacramento to both political parties that they’ve got to turn this around.
Thom Hartmann: Right. We have just a couple of seconds left, a very quick question. I think a lot of people have seen the video of the guys wearing hoods and black smashing windows in Oakland. Groups of anarchists who are getting violent. What are you all doing about that?
Ronald Cruz: First, we defend everyone’s right to protest in the movement and we want to make sure, the main concern is what will increase the power of our movement. And there’s got to, there’s going to be debates about what are the best ways to do that.
Thom Hartmann: Well do you think smashing windows in buildings is going to increase the power of your movement?
Ronald Cruz: Well, you know we’ve got to…
Thom Hartmann: Shouldn’t that be a simple no?
Ronald Cruz: It’s, we’ve got to build the power of our movement. We defend everyone’s rights to do what they can. We cannot limit. Martin Luther King never condemned the violence of people in the urban uprisings in the 1960s because he understood that the mass movement that was nonviolent behind them also had the …
Thom Hartmann: Ronald, respectfully, he did not defend violence, Martin Luther King. But and in fact if you want to hang on we can continue this conversation.
Thom Hartmann: Welcome back, Thom Hartmann here with you. Ronald Cruz, a participant in Occupy Cal, an attorney with By Any Means Necessary, BAMN.com, on the line with us. Ronald, I, back to our conversation just in the five six seven minutes here we’re going to have left. Martin Luther King for example, you were quoting him as if he would support smashing windows in buildings as a way to add strength to the movement. He openly opposed that type of behavior. And in fact, here’s a quote from him.
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. ... Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. ... Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
Thom Hartmann: Isn’t by any means necessary ultimately a very destructive message for the movement?
Ronald Cruz: Well to respond to Martin Luther King, towards the end of his life he became increasingly left wing. And in response to the urban uprising, particular what began in 1965 with Watts. Martin Luther King never openly condemned the youth who were in those. And one of his quotes was that “riots are the language of the unheard." And ..
Thom Hartmann: Oh he said “violence is born out of the womb of pain," absolutely. But he didn’t, he was not…
Ronald Cruz: And much of his condemnation of violence was against the government’s policy in Vietnam and he said, in direct criticism at the violence of the government.
Thom Hartmann: So you’re using that as a justification and saying by any means necessary, including violence. Including smashing windows, including vandalizing buildings, including shutting down the chancellors meeting, that those are things that you think are going to strengthen the movement and cause more and more Americans to support you.
Ronald Cruz: There’s two questions going on here. One, what are the best ways to build a movement. One, we’ve got to show our power, our mass power.
Thom Hartmann: Why?
Ronald Cruz: Because that’s the only way it’s going to change.
Thom Hartmann: Why not show your morality? Why not show, I mean, isn’t that the ultimate power? Or do you think that the ultimate power is the ability to physically overwhelm for example the university chancellors meeting?
Ronald Cruz: Well, what we’ve got to show is that we can stop the attacks that are already being carried out against us. And just as…
Thom Hartmann: So you don’t think that moral force is the greatest force in the universe, to paraphrase Martin Luther King?
Ronald Cruz: I’m sorry, go ahead?
Thom Hartmann: So you don’t think that moral force is the greatest force in the universe. You believe that physical force is more important.
Ronald Cruz: We have both on our side. And what happened last week was the police attacking people, protestors, who said no when the university said you may not have camps, you may not have your encampment.
Thom Hartmann: Absolutely.
Ronald Cruz: We do not accept the authority.
Thom Hartmann: I’m with you on that. But also what happened is that a group of people dressed in black with hoods on went around with shovels and things smashing windows in buildings and you know, I asked you about that, I expected you to say no, we absolutely condemn that, you didn’t say that. I’m wondering why.
Ronald Cruz: Well one, I don’t condemn that because the only way we, we’ve got to make clear that we are going to fight by any means necessary. And that’s the quote from Malcolm X. On the other hand…
Thom Hartmann: Malcolm, but…
Ronald Cruz: There are just as many question about what are the best…
Thom Hartmann: By any means necessary, does that include murder?
Ronald Cruz: No. I mean this is not, the problem with framing it as violence, this debate as violence versus non-violence is that in the end it’s…
Thom Hartmann: Well isn’t that the problem of framing it as by any means necessary?
Ronald Cruz: Say that again?
Thom Hartmann: Isn’t that the problem of framing it as by any means necessary? Shouldn’t it be framed as nonviolent resistance, or the force of moral authority or you know we are the 99%?
Ronald Cruz: For years and years we’ve been told oh the only way you are going to get change, the only methods that are available to the oppressed are voting.
Thom Hartmann: No. We’ve not been told that.
Ronald Cruz: And right now we have democrats in office and peaceful demonstrations and coming out and making moral appeals to the people in power. And for years and years that has not taken us where we need to go. We now have democrats who are implementing the attack on public education…
Thom Hartmann: How did women get the right to vote? There were no riots.
Ronald Cruz: This is, 1919, anyway we could go back.
Thom Hartmann: No, I’m saying if you look at, yes there were violent…
Ronald Cruz: How did segregation end in the 1960s? There was people, protestors, that Martin Luther King led, children boycotted their schools, marched in the streets of Birmingham. Yes, and they faced violence and were nonviolent. But always behind was the threat of social unrest throughout the south. And actually at the end of the week, after the children were waterhosed, about one week later, after Martin Luther King’s hotel was bombed, there was a riot in Birmingham.
Thom Hartmann: Sure.
Ronald Cruz: And there were, the first urban uprisings of the 1960s were in December of 1963 throughout the whole south that led up to the 1963 march on Washington. And affirmative action programs, the great society, were all a response to the threat of social upheaval that the urban uprisings that started in 1963 represented.
Thom Hartmann: So you believe that the threat of violence was what provoked the civil, the successes of the civil rights movement, rather than the nonviolent moral statement that they made by letting the fire hoses and the dogs be turned on them.
Ronald Cruz: Both were violent, both were needed for the movement.
Thom Hartmann: Okay. And you think that moving forward there needs to be a threat of violence.
Ronald Cruz: What we need is to make clear that we don’t accept the efforts by those who oppose us to limit our means of struggle. And so when…
Thom Hartmann: And struggle in your mind includes smashing the windows of businesses.
Ronald Cruz: Just to clarify this movement is nonviolent. It’s a movement that hates violence, that’s why we are protesting what…
Thom Hartmann: Isn’t hate a form of violence?
Ronald Cruz: No. No. When you hate violence and when a friend of mine who is on the front lines was pulled by her hair by the UC police, I am going to defend her right, and I’m going to try to make sure she is not brutalized. That’s nonsense.
Thom Hartmann: But, and that’s hate in your mind.
Ronald Cruz: One can say that and there’s nothing wrong with, it’s also love. Love for my fellow people who are standing alongside me for justice.
Thom Hartmann: Okay. Ronald, we’re out of time. Ronald Cruz, by any means necessary, BAMN.com. Check it out. Ronald thank you.
Ronald Cruz: Thank you.
Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.