A Delicate Moment for the Occupy Wall Street Movement
A group of children from Central Park East One and Two schools join demonstrators at the Occupy Wall Street protest in Zuccotti Park, New York, October 10, 2011. (Photo: Michael Appleton / The New York Times)
Anyone who still thinks the 'Occupy Wall Street' protests are some kind of fluke, an exercise in ego inflation by spoiled college kids and aging hippies, needs to go back to bed. This thing is very much for real, is very large, and is growing exponentially. Similar protests have sprung up in dozens of cities all across the country, and with an 'Occupy the London Stock Exchange' action set to take place on Saturday, the movement is poised to become an international affair.
The New York police have already laid into the Wall Street protesters with unnecessary violence on more than one occasion, and the Boston police have likewise gotten into the action:
In one of the largest mass arrests in recent Boston history, the Boston Police Department cleared a park of activists with the 99 Percent Movement in the early hours of Tuesday morning, dismantling and destroying tents that had been set up on Monday. Startling footage shot by an onlooker shows members of Veterans for Peace, an organization of U.S. military veterans who oppose war, being arrested by members of the Boston Police Department, their flags - including the American flag - being thrown to the ground.
Before the arrests and clearing of the park, the police surrounded it, lining up over a dozen paddy wagons along one side. They told members of the media to leave and not to film proceedings. After a five-minute warning to disperse, police moved in, first arresting the peacefully protesting veterans - who included a female veteran of the Iraq War, according to the Boston Phoenix - and then other Occupy Boston activists. According to Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, about 100 arrests were made.
The police then tore down the protesters' encampment. Live feeds from onlookers showed Boston Police dumping dismantled tents, signs, and chairs into waiting garbage trucks, destroying the protesters' property.
Frontal assaults have not been the only tactic deployed by those who would like to see the OWS movement dry up and blow away. Patrick Howley, an assistant editor for the right-bent publication The American Spectator, bragged on the Spectator's website about deliberately disrupting a peaceful protest at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, for no other reason than to give the protesters a bad name. James O'Keefe, the wannabe gotcha-journalist famous for his manipulative hit pieces on ACORN and NPR, has been spotted skulking around Wall Street...which sets up an amusing potential endgame for him, as he is on probation in New Jersey and requires a judge's permission to leave the state. As best as anyone can determine, that permission was never obtained. Hopefully Mr. O'Keefe can find refuge in an OWS protester's tent to avoid the judge's wrath.
So the cops are getting heavier, the agent provocateurs are out in force, and the protests continue to grow. Now is a most delicate time for the movement. If the protesters react with violence to police, the "mainstream" media will have the opportunity they've been waiting for to disparage and discredit the entire thing. If the fakers and disruptors in the crowd are not exposed immediately, as was the care with Howley and O'Keefe, they will paint a fraudulent picture of the movement that will likewise allow the "mainstream" news to create an inaccurate and unflattering picture. So far so good on these scores, but the protesters absolutely must continue to do what they have been so excellently doing, no matter what provocations they are presented with. The whole world is indeed watching.
Another delicate moment looms for the movement, one you can file under "With Friends Like These..." Yes, everyone can relax, because the Democratic Party is coming to the hoedown. The very politicians whose inactivity and collusion regarding Wall Street excesses made this movement necessary in the first place have licked their finger, put it to the wind, and decided it is safe to come out and play:
Prominent House Democrats are embracing the Occupy Wall Street protests as demonstrations are spreading across the country and gaining support from traditional progressive institutions. Democratic leaders in Congress say that there's a lot to like about movement's central message that corporate greed is fueling a growing income gap. And the enthusiasm from Democrats in Washington suggests that they think this sentiment will resonant across the country.
Other progressive Democrats are even more enthusiastic. "I'm so proud to see the Occupy Wall Street movement standing up to this rampant corporate greed and peacefully participating in our democracy," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY). The co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus, Reps. Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva, issued a joint statement to express "solidarity" with the movement, describing themselves as inspired by the mass movement. "We join the calls for corporate accountability and expanded middle-class opportunity," they wrote. "The silent masses aren't so silent anymore. They are fighting to give voice to the struggles that everyday Americans are going through," added Rep. John Larson in his own statement supporting Occupy Wall Street.
Even Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat, agreed that there were similarities between the protesters' message and Democratic priorities. "Certainly, there is an overlap in terms of jobs and economic opportunity, which they want and we want," Hoyer told me. Though he didn't go so far as his Democratic colleagues in embracing the movement wholeheartedly, he said that one "positive aspect" of the protests is that they're "raising issues and raising concerns and asking policymakers to focus on it."
Howls of outrage and disgust from OWS activists and supporters could be heard all up and down the Eastern seaboard when word reached them of their new prospective allies. No, no, and hell no, went the refrain. These are the same politicians who line the pockets of the very people being protested, and now all of a sudden they want to join the struggle? The OWS movement is protesting the Democrats as much as it protesting against the rest of the crooked institutional theft machine that shattered the economy in the first place.
There is a decision to be made here. Does the OWS movement issue a "Thanks But No Thanks" response to the Democrats' sudden interest, or do they open their arms and welcome the Party to the party under the auspices of "The More The Merrier"?
Personally, I incline to the latter choice, distasteful as it may be. Including the Democratic Party will raise the profile of the movement, and make it more difficult for it to be undermined. Time will tell if they are too undermined by their own participation in the economic collapse to be of any assistance, and it is certain that their inclusion will leave a bad taste in many mouths. It is yet another delicate question at a very delicate moment, but if it were up to me, I would say "Better late than never," open up the tent, and let them see for themselves what it looks like when history is being made.