Why Occupy Values Lead to Occupy Violence

Top: Connor Stevens, Brandon Baxter, Doug Wright
Bottom: Anthony Hayne, Joshua Stafford

The Occupy Cleveland movement ground to an anticlimactic halt last year as four of the five men accused of plotting to blow up an area bridge received prison sentences ranging from 6-11 years.


After an undercover operation, the FBI arrested the men April 30 in what the agency termed an act of domestic terrorism. The men later admitted their roles in a plan to remotely detonate improvised devices containing C-4 explosives. … The men pleaded guilty in September to charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and use of an explosive device to destroy property used in interstate commerce.

Joshua Stafford, the fifth member of the group, awaits sentencing pending the outcome of a psychological evaluation.

The men all participated regularly in the Occupy Cleveland movement. A website dedicated to supporting the confessed bombers clearly links them to the group, and Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummings, himself a founding member, even admitted he knew about the anarchist views of the “Cleveland Five.”

Nevertheless, on the day of the arrests, Occupy Cleveland denounced the actions of the men, emphasizing their commitment to non-violence:

While the persons arrested Monday evening by the FBI have participated in Occupy Cleveland events, they were in no way representing or acting on behalf of Occupy Cleveland. Occupy Cleveland has affirmed the principles of non-violence since its inception on October 6, 2011.

Whenever someone in their camp commits an act of violence, someone in the group exchanges his Guy Fawkes mask for a “surprised face” and issues a statement like this, wondering aloud how this could have happened to their peaceful little commune. Verum Serum compiled a list of violent crimes associated with the movement, including rapes, assaults, knife fights, and Molotov cocktails — all behaviors we’ve come to expect from the left.

The reality: while the public faces of the Occupy movement spout the mantras of peace and non-violence, these groups act as tolerant breeding grounds for violence. While citing Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. as their role models, the movement creates a safe ideological space for those who would choose violence as the means for revolution. While the U.S. Constitution and the Judeo-Christian legal traditions rely upon the concepts of natural law, absolute truth, and, quite simply, a general agreement that some actions are right and others are wrong, the Occupy movement deconstructs those virtues as it embraces postmodernism and adheres to policies designed to turn a blind eye to violence.


“Cleveland 5” member Brandon Baxter

We hear “That’s just your opinion” or “Everyone has his own truth” used as serious rhetorical arguments these days. And sadly, “Who are you to judge?” often serves as a substitute for an intellectual debate. These phrases spring from the rampant and morally dangerous postmodernism that has conquered our culture. According to Summit Ministries,

In a postmodern world, truth and reality are understood to be individually shaped by personal history, social class, gender, culture, and religion. … Postmoderns are suspicious of people who make universal truth claims. Such claims of universal meaning are viewed as imperialistic efforts to marginalize and oppress the rights of others. … Postmodernity, as a worldview, refuses to allow any single defining source for truth and reality. The new emphasis is on difference, plurality and selective forms of tolerance.

Postmodernism developed as a reaction against the structures and confines of modernity in all areas of life: social norms and relationships, the arts, religion, and even epistemology — how we know things:

Dominate postmodern concerns for plurality, diversity and tolerance have not led to a more stable and secure society. Instead, the postmodern era exchanged one misguided mood for another. Postmodernity was fueled by a shift from the human optimism of modernity (based on scientific certainty and technological progress), to a pessimistic mood of skepticism and uncertainty. One observer noted that, “Modernity was confident; postmodernity is anxious. Modernity had all the answers; postmodernity is full of questions. Modernity reveled in reason, science and human ability; postmodernity wallows (with apparent contentment or nihilistic angst) in mysticism, relativism, and the incapacity to know anything with certainty.”

A perusal through the archives of the Occupy Cleveland forum gives us insight into the group’s postmodern decision-making process, which resulted in an inability to distinguish right from wrong and demonstrated their devotion to an “incapacity to know anything with certainty.”

Two months into the Occupation, the group began to experience the problems associated with living in a lawless communal camp. People stole their stuff, a young girl had been raped, and some group members were showing their violent sides. They decided to create a “Good Neighbor Agreement” (GNA). Unfortunately, they couldn’t come to an agreement about what constituted violence. Some of the comments:


“Violence is against a person, not a thing. Call it something else.”

“Do you really want to get in to the semantics of the word? Is gardening violent? How ’bout cutting down a tree and making a fire for warmth?  As I said prior, broadening the word to include so many things makes it irrelevant. I have no problem with rejecting vandalism as a principle, but don’t assume that it is included in rejecting violence.”

“…Some of us are morally opposed to handing someone over to the cops and consider it a violent act. But it’s an issue on which we reasonably disagree and we’re not going to use the Good Neighbor Agreement to tell people not to deal with cops if they honestly feel it’s necessary in cases of assault, rape, and the like. We should probably just let that be a matter for individual judgement.”

“So for some people that makes this not exactly a commitment to nonviolence, because it basically allows me (for example) to call the cops on someone who commits an assault at the tent, and to those people that would be me committing violence. Well, if that’s your point of view, cool, and I get it, but then the cop thing is an exception…”

“BTW, I can tell you for a fact that at least one other prominent Occupier is strongly opposed to calling police, for the same reasons stated here. Even when someone has committed violence, this person says, putting them through the criminal justice system only imposes more violence.”

“I think I agree with that reasoning but simply consider it an exception to my belief in nonviolence because in many cases I don’t think our society has any immediately useful alternatives to calling the cops.”

“Remember, this is coming out of a process where we as a movement couldn’t actually agree to disassociate with someone who continually made physical threats against individuals. It wasn’t one of those gray-area things.”

The “Cleveland 5” bombers found homes in this environment, where the soup of postmodernism replaced absolute truth and their comrades drew a moral equivalence between violent criminals who plan to blow up bridges and the criminal justice system that tries to stop them. The relative truth of each person rises above simple propositional truths like “blowing up bridges is wrong.” Connor Stevens attempted to justify his anarchist views in a rambling autobiography that reads like a textbook of postmodernity. He compared the actions of the U.S. government to his terrorist activities:


Somewhere along the way “primitive” and “civilized” got mixed up.  As Levi-Strauss observed,  when the “civilized” anthropologists go on about savages, they are in fact talking about themselves, the lens through which they are looking.  Here enters  “quantum psychology” – the relativity of the observer and the observed.  For instance, the US government is accusing me of being a terrorist, but I respond, stop talking about your mother that way.

Postmoderns almost always miss the irony that while they claim to reject absolute truth, they assert with conviction that their causes alone are just and right. And though they say postmodern, tolerant things like, “If that’s your point of view, cool, and I get it,” they’re really only “cool” with views they like. They’re selectively tolerant. The Occupy movement hypocritically turns (with breakneck speed) back to modernity to judge the actions of the 1%, the corporations, the banks, and many other enemies they believe to be wrong, immoral, even evil. Which leads to the question, who are they to judge?

As a result of the postmodern mindset of the Occupy movement, groups across the country adopted policies that grew out of their expressions of moral neutrality on violence. Despite their non-violent dissertations, the fine print allows for “diversity of tactics” and a “security culture,” which are code words for “don’t ask, don’t tell” on violent behavior.

As described in an article at The Nation:

In the first days of the occupation at Zuccotti Park, the newly formed DAWG approved guidelines for the movement’s public protests. “Don’t instigate cops or pedestrians with physical violence,” it urged. “We respect a diversity of tactics, but consider how our actions may affect the entire group.”That phrase, “diversity of tactics,” can have a hair-raising effect in activist circles. It emerged during the anti-globalization movement as a sort of détente between those using tactics like marches and street blockades and those wanting to do more aggressive things like breaking windows and fighting back against police. But it’s not always a happy compromise; when a day of thousands peacefully marching is punctuated by a broken window, guess what makes the evening news.

In other words, while they publicly give lip service to non-violence, if someone wants to run around smashing windows, that’s his business and his personal choice. No one has the moral right to object because violence is in the eye of the beholder. Occupy Cleveland, like many other Occupy groups around the country, adopted this philosophy in March of 2012:


Our solidarity will be based on respect for a political diversity within the struggle for social, economic and environmental justice. As individuals and groups, we may choose to engage in a diversity of tactics and plans of action but are committed to treating each other with respect and working towards a common goal of peace and justice.

The group’s “common goal of peace and justice’ — which they consider to be the greater good — overrides any disagreements about tactics, even if they happen to be violent in nature. In Cleveland, that led to tolerating a violent ex-con in their camp and allowing known anarchists to join their group, some of whom eventually plotted to blow up a bridge. In an article on “Criminology and Postmodernism,” John Lea explained the justification for postmodernism’s acceptance of crime:

If freedom and the formation of personal identity are to be understood as a process of free self creation by means of endless experimentation and to involve the maximisation of independence from social bonds, then the condition of marginality becomes the general condition for freedom. Violence and “crime” become a choice like all others — simply another experiment in “difference.” The paradox of postmodern society becomes one in which “crime” may be increasing but we cannot know the “causes” of this as they are simply the general conditions of freedom itself. Very little in the way of criminological theory could survive such a fundamental reorientation.

Conner Stevens, Brandon Baxter, Joshua Stafford, Doug Wright

Most Occupy groups also abide by a mutually agreed upon “security culture” which pits the protesters against law enforcement, taking the position that the authorities are the enemy. A wide variety of (usually leftist) protest groups implement these policies when they engage in sensitive or illegal activities that may put group members in jeopardy. According to a standard security culture guide, in order to maintain a secure environment, one should not discuss the following:

  • Your own or someone else’s involvement with an underground group
  • Someone else’s desire to get involved with such a group
  • Asking others if they are a member of an underground group
  • Your own or someone else’s participation in any action that was illegal
  • Someone else’s advocacy for such actions
  • Your plans or someone else’s plans for a future action

The groups permit very limited exceptions including:

The second exception occurs after an activist has been arrested and brought to trial. If s/he is found guilty, this activist can freely speak of the actions for which s/he was convicted. However, s/he must never give information that would help the authorities determine who else participated in illegal activities.

They take this very seriously.

To give you an idea of just how deeply this ethos permeates the Occupy movement, a website dedicated to supporting the “Cleveland 5” (Cleveland 5 Justice) launched shortly after their arrests in June of 2011. It originally launched as cleveland5justice.org and included updates about the case and all five of the defendents. But in an unexpected twist, Anthony “Tony” Hayne went over to the dark side, leaving his supporters with no choice but to shun him:

Around 9:30 AM Anthony Hayne formally entered into a cooperating plea agreement with the government on the basis that he was found guilty on all three charges. … As the Cleveland 5 support group, as friends and loved ones of all of them, we are shocked by his decision. Particularly by his decision to enter into a plea that would, by its nature, require the exchange of information that would implicate and/or potentially make worse the case of his other co-defendants. As this is and will remain a political case, we can no longer express support and advocacy on the behalf of Anthony. As was explained to and agreed upon by the co-defendants, our support only exists as long as they stay strictly non-cooperative with the government. … We our deeply saddened by his decision and hope that, in the end, it does not hurt the other four, who continue to struggle for the justice they deserve.

Tony is dead to them. Five days later they renamed the group “Free the Cleveland 4,” launching a new website and redirecting the old one to the new address. These people mean business. What happens in Occupy is supposed to stay in Occupy and Tony broke the rules.

So, as we start 2013, we can all breathe a little easier knowing the Feds locked up a handful of would-be terrorists in Cleveland. The rest of the group scattered, along with the majority of the Occupy movement around the country. Of course, we just watched union mobs occupying the national stage as their mobs stormed Lansing, upending tents and throwing punches. Some on the left, including President Civility, refuse to condemn the violent “diversity of tactics,” apparently finding the behavior acceptable as long as it accomplished what they considered to be the greater good.


Postmodern thoughts and attitudes do not belong solely to the Occupy movement; they run rampant on the Left. With continued high rates of unemployment and inflation, more union clashes on the horizon, and mass economic mismanagement by government officials, the potential for violence from leftist groups will continue to threaten our peace and the rule of law. When everyone does what is right in his own eyes and loyalty to comrades is greater than loyalty to God and country, our American tradition of self-government becomes divorced from morality. That trajectory inevitably leads to a state of lawless mob rule.


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