Huntington Beach Occupiers Linked to Bank Vandalism

Categories: Occupy OC
Occupy Chase.jpg
Kevin Liu
Occupier at a Santa Ana protest last fall
The Huntington Beach Independent is reporting that police there are investigating an act of vandalism that allegedly occured at a Surf City Chase bank on Tuesday. Though police have declined to say whether the suspects are members of the Occupy Orange County movement, which is protesting in the area, attorney Greg Diamond's Facebook page indicates Occupiers may have been involved. 

Diamond has served as the group's civic liaison since the movement sprang up in Orange County last fall. He was one of the negotiators who crafted an agreement with the Irvine city council allowing Occupiers to camp on the civic center lawn for nearly three months.

Diamond's posts, published on Occupy Orange County United indicate there may have been more than one act of vandalism including a Bank of America branch. Thursday morning he wrote "Now there have been arrests in HB for vandalism of a B of A, apparently by people who came in from out of town. We're not going to be able to defend what they did; among other things, they're on tape."

He also wrote that three people were believed to be involved in the Chase vandalism, which he said was also caught on surveillance video. 

Speaking to Diamond by phone yesterday, he explained that what he has heard about the incidents are still heresay and that he hasn't received any information directly from the police, but rather other Occupiers. 

He added that a general assembly was held yesterday which saw the group condemning the acts.

 "To the extent that people thought this was appropriate, they were out of synch with what people across any segment in Occupy favor," Diamond said.

A meeting with the Huntington Beach City Manager, city attorney and chief of police is planned for early next week. Diamond said he'll be attending that meeting. "We're going to try to get back onto a positive track with the city," Diamond said.

Calls to Huntington Beach Police Department were not immediately returned.

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Greg Diamond
Greg Diamond

A few clarifications (some since I spoke with Brandon):

(1) There was just one event.  In my quick dispatch to Occupy participants about what were events then newly made known to us, I mixed up the name of the bank based on an unrelated story I had read the same morning.

(2) It was not posted on my personal Facebook page, but a page used for internal discussion by the Occupy movement.  (That page had accidentally been left "open," but that's fine -- now people know that we take this sort of thing seriously even when we think we're talking only among ourselves.)

(3) I'm now informed that the specific vandalism involved, if it warrants that label, was tossing glitter within the Chase Bank in Huntington Harbor while denouncing certain of its objectionable practices and then scrawling something like "stop all foreclosures" in dry erase marker on the wall.  This behavior still isn't acceptable to Occupy -- but as the clean-up would involve some sweeping and wiping with a rag it is far less serious than the first reports I had heard.

(4) As I have clarified on that page, the initial report that there had been arrests was inaccurate.    No one was arrested, though I understand that at least one person involved has spoken to HBPD detectives.  Again, what I wrote was not a press release, but an internal alert to members about a disturbing report.  I was not waiting around to fact-check before publishing.

(5) The reference to the events "on tape" was to the presence of surveillance video.  At the time, I thought that it involved more serious damage than turned out to be the case.

(6) I still haven't received information from the police, but I did have a good phone conversation yesterday with the City Manager and City Attorney.  One person who claimed responsibility did show up on an internal Occupy web page, explained that this escapade was the hare-brained idea (in my words) of the participants only, was roundly abused by many commenters for making our movement look bad, and ended up terminating all affiliation with Occupy OC.

(7) We have worked hard for over five months -- the story omits mention of the almost two months in Fullerton following our time in Irvine -- to prevent any activity like this that could be used to besmirch our reputation.  We reject violence and intentional property damage of any kind; my sense is that the people who committed this act did not view it as property damage and so thought that it was "within bounds."  They have a point about something requiring only minimal and safe cleanup truly not being "damage," but this sort of stunt is still not how we have chosen to interact with our host communities.  We are dedicated to exercising our rights of free speech and assembly all the way up to their constitutional limits.  Those in the traveling encampment are also willing to engage in non-violent civil disobedience under certain circumstances that we will try hard to avoid; our colleagues in Santa Ana may have determined that in that city civil disobedience will be necessary and appropriate.

While Brandon seems to have written the story reasonably given the facts at hand in my initial posts to my colleagues, my concern is that the story may imply to some readers that Occupy is in some way linked to one or more significant destructive and illegal acts.  The truth is that:

- the "vandalism" was nowhere near as destructive as the label implies- it was conducted by two or three people who had come in from out of town- other Occupy members did not, so far as I can tell, know about the plan ahead of time- the Occupy encampment promptly denounced the activity when it learned of it- the consequence was that the people who committed the actions quickly left the movement, propelled in part by Occupy members expressing extreme irritation at them for the stunt.

You can call that what you want.  So far as protesters go, even by OC standards, I call it pretty much exemplary behavior that I think reflects well on our movement; even our occasional "bad apples" are not all that bad.  We remain committed to our values, both regarding our ends and our non-violent means.  I hope that if this story makes it into the print edition, you'll consider including this explanation for the context it provides.

S.A. Artist
S.A. Artist

That is the traveling band of campers, not to be confused with the larger Occupy Santa Ana group that is busy organizing an Armory Relief Action, A homeless "Necessity Camp" to call out City, County, and State neglect of emergency homeless shelters, and of course the May First General Strike for world labor recognition and rights.  Happy Saint Patrick's Day  Everybody. Avoid those D.U.I.s.   You don't need to give the prison industrial complex any more money or support this year.   

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