Tuesday, November 15, 2011
November 15, 2011: The Real Occupation Begins
In the dark hours of the early morning today, hundreds of New York police dressed in riot gear entered Zuccotti Park and began forcibly evicting Occupy Wall Street protesters who had been encamped there for the past two months. The police warned that the park would be “cleared and restored” and that any protesters who resisted would be arrested. Apparently, 200 people have already been dragged off to jail, most of whom were engaged in civil disobedience in the spirit of Gandhi and King.
I’m not surprised that this has happened. Wall Street elites and their representatives in government and the media have become increasingly frustrated by the growing popularity of this movement. As I’ve previously pointed out, the vast majority of Americans now identify with the aims of Occupy Wall Street and are supporting the movement in ever increasing numbers. Every day that the protesters were encamped in Zuccotti Park, speaking to the media and engaging the public, more and more people were becoming influenced by their message.
And what is that message? Simply that our country has been taken over by the top 1% of monied elites, who control most of the economic resources of this country, our government, and our media, and these elites have been prospering even as they have driven this country to the brink of moral and economic ruin. That’s the basic message of Occupy Wall Street, and that’s the message that the top 1% were determined to stop from spreading any further.
So they convinced the befuddled Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, to throw the protesters out of the park and end the occupation, once and for all. Apparently, those who made this decision believed that, once they got the protesters out of the park, the movement that they are part of would simply fall apart and everything in New York would magically return to the way it was before the protest began. They probably also thought that if they could crush the protests at their epicenter in Zuccotti Park, the assorted protests that have sprung up in other parts of the country might magically disappear too.
This is wishful thinking in the extreme.
I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with the occupants of Zuccotti Park since the protests began in New York. I’ve found the vast majority of these individuals to be intelligent, articulate, socially aware, and, above all else, committed. The Mayor of New York might foolishly believe that he can smother this movement in its infancy, but it’s too late for that at this point. Maybe if the City had tried this tactic when the occupation first began it might have been successful, but far too many young people have been swept up by it for such crass totalitarian tactics to work at this point.
And, had the Mayor simply waited a month or two, he would have achieved his goals much more easily: the frigid climate of New York in January would have probably thinned the ranks of protesters down considerably. It’s one thing to hang out in a New York City park when the weather is a relatively balmy 50 degrees; it’s quite another to have to sleep there in weather that’s 10 degrees below zero. Had it waited just a bit longer, the City probably could have “cleaned up” the park and there might not have been any real resistance at all.
But that’s not going to happen now.
No, the occupation will continue, and it will probably gain even more strength from what transpired this morning in Zuccotti Park. The only question is what new form the protests in New York will take. The heavy-handed tactics of the police today will further increase the likelihood that the protesters will resort to violent resistance out of sheer frustration. And the blame for this will lie squarely on the head of the man who made the decision to clear out the park—the Mayor of New York. I certainly hope that violence isn’t the direct consequence of this decision, but, seeing the intensity of this movement up close over the past few weeks, I fear that this very well might be the case.
If past history is any indication, using force to try to quell a popular uprising will simply strengthen that uprising. That’s what happened during the pro-union strikes of the 20s; that’s what happened during the Civil Rights Movement; that’s what happened during the anti-Vietnam student protests; and that’s precisely what’s going to happen today as well.
Consider November 15, 2011 the day when the Occupation of New York by the 99% truly begins!