New York — The scripted excuses provided by mayors around the country to justify their police-state tactics in rousting peaceful occupation movement activists from their park-based demonstrations now stand exposed as utter nonsense, and, given their uncanny similarity in wording, can be clearly seen as having been drawn up for them by some hidden hands in Washington. the same can be said of the brutal tactics used.
If Mayor Jean Quan in Oakland, or Mayor Mike Bloomberg in New York, had been genuinely concerned about the health and well-being of the people in the encampments in their cities, they would not have dispatched police suited up in riot gear and armed with pepper spray and big clubs into the camps in the dead of night, as each did, and as other mayors are doing. They would not have used tear gas and guns firing projectiles like so called “bean bags” and rubber coated bullets, as police in Oakland reportedly did on several occasions — weapons that can cause severe injury and even death on occasion, especially when fired at close range.
They would not have stormed encampments that are known to have pregnant women, children and even babies living in them.
Rather, they would have come in during broad daylight, peacefully, and accompanied by health inspectors and other personnel who could to try to help solve any problems.
In Bloomberg’s case, if he really cared about the safety and well-being of the protesters, he would have long ago had the city set up a bank of port-a-potties near Zuccotti Park, so protesters could relieve themselves without having to foul the streets. And he would certainly not have barred demonstrators from setting up tents, forcing people, in increasingly harsh weather, including one heavy unseasonal snowstorm, to survive under plastic tarps laid on the cold flagstones over their sleeping bags.
If public safety were seriously an issue, as Quan, Bloomberg and the other mayors have also tried to claim, police would have been told not to direct vagrants and people with mental problems from around the city to head for Zuccotti Square, as New York’s Police Department was caught doing. Instead of acting like thugs and an occupying force penning in demonstrators, police would have worked out a coordinated system with demonstrators to help protect those in the park from any sexual predators or mentally unbalanced persons who might have entered the park to cause trouble.
Actually, the regions in and around the encampments have never been safer than they are now with all those demonstrators on hand. Take Center City in Philadelphia. The area on Dilworth Plaza and around City Hall has always been a scary place to find one’s self alone at night because so few people actually live there, making lone pedestrians up on the street or down in the tunnels of the train station or subways easy targets for muggers, rapists and thieves. The same is certainly also true of downtown Oakland and of New York’s financial district. If there have been crimes committed by people in the encampments, they are few and far between and mostly minor, and it is almost a certainty that overall crime and especially violent crime is down significantly in the areas where the protests are being staged.
There can be no real justification for the growing number of paramilitary police assaults against the occupation camps.
These coordinated assaults on the Occupation Movement are clearly happening not for the reasons stated, but because the ruling elites, particularly the powerful bankers and financiers on Wall Street, and the Obama administration in Washington, are frightened by the growing popularity of the protests, by the movement’s rapid spread to cities across the country, large and small, and to the resonance that chants like “We’re the 99 percent!” and “Banks got bailouts! We got sold out!” are having among the general population of the United States.
Bloomberg and Quan, and the mayors of other cities from Atlanta to Dallas to Portland to Seattle and back to Boston who have been unleashing their police forces on peaceful protesters in their jurisdictions, have been doing the movement a great favor by brutally attacking protesters’ right to demonstrate and present their grievances. The corporate media, which at first tried to ignore the occupations, have had to cover the assaults — even if they misreport them. And the images of idealistic young people being thrown on the ground, hammered with batons, and sprayed in the face with pepper spray, are deeply upsetting to most ordinary people. Workers are increasingly angered and aroused, and many are touched by the support for their struggles being manifested by the young student demonstrators.
And importantly, the enemy of the public is being given a face.
No longer is it just a bunch of unidentified and overly aggressive cops. Now it’s clear that it is the mayors, and whoever it is in the background who is giving them their marching orders, who are instructing the cops to go in and bust heads.
Mayor Bloomberg — a man reportedly worth $19.5 billion, up a staggering $1.5 billion over the last year while other Americans are becoming poorer — is in fact the perfect symbol of what is wrong with today’s America. Having this greedy “one percenter” issue the marching orders to the police in New York makes it absolutely clear what this repression is about.
With this wave of assaults, the Occupation Movement is being forced to shift gears — to move out of the cramped spaces to which it has been confined and to become an uprising for economic justice, instead of just an occupation as an act of protest. Zuccotti has been reoccupied, but the movement is busting out of the police barricades that surround the square.
Perhaps a group of young musicians standing on a street cornerat 66th and Broadway just off Lincoln Square in New York City, just off Lincoln Square in New York City, doing a “mic check” routine at 11 pm the evening after the police assault on Zuccotti Plaza, said it best with their sign, which read: “Nostalgia for the Student Protests of the Past Dies Here!”
The ’60s are over. It’s the ’10s now and rebellion is in the air.