By Steve Klinger
Police in cities across the country did the Occupy movement a great favor when they raided the mothership Monday night and evicted Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park. In a coordinated series of actions that Oakland Mayor Jean Quan admitted included an 18-city law enforcement conference call, police raided encampments from coast to coast, using batons, pepper spray, riot gear and whatever it took, short of lethal force, to retake the parks, in the guise of public welfare and safety.
Some, like Bill O’Reilly, calling it a “legitimate political movement” for the first time only in pronouncing its eptitaph, boasted hopefully that “the Occupy movement is dead…and it’s a good thing.”
Not so fast, Bill. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg screwed up big time, and so did his law-and-order buddies with their Gestapo tactics. The camps were actually becoming a major drag on the movement, though they were its necessary and effective beginnings. By mid-November they had drawn influxes of transients, druggies, drifters and grifters, far more interested in free food and lodging as winter began to bear down than in sweeping political change. Increasingly, they had filled the encampments with hard-core homeless and a variety of mentally ill social outcasts, whose tactics of Occupation were based largely on a misplaced sense of entitlement. They were draining energy from the political focus of the movement, sullying the image of the original Occupiers and deflecting focus from economic injustice in this country to stories of petty theft, drug use and assault, and spreading filth and squalor.
If left alone, many of the larger camps especially, in more controversial locations than Occupy Santa Fe, and with far less sympathetic mayors and police forces, would have descended into tent-filled slums in a matter of days or weeks, damaging the movement further and perhaps destroying it.
Instead, the widely broadcast brutality of cops with truncheons and klieg lights, dragging sleeping and nonviolent campers from their tents I the middle of the night, accomplished just the opposite of their objective. This is why the mood in Zuccotti Park the following day, after it reopened once a judge ruled that First Amendment rights did not include sleeping bags and tents, was one of liberation and near-euphoria.
As Gandhi famously noted: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Stage 3 had begun in cities across the United States. The cops and mayors and 1-percenters thought the Occupiers would give up and go home, but they miscalculated, as the forces of oppression always do, after they panic when they realize they have overreached, big time.
There is too much wrong in this country for those who have become aware of it to give up and go home. The Occupy movement changed the dialogue from the trumped-up, red-herring deficit issue to the real subject of injustice and unfairness in America. The 99 percent are the 99 percent for a reason. The emperors have no clothes, and now everybody knows it. There is no going home, as the 30,000 or so rallying in New York’s Foley Square tonight and marching across the Brooklyn Bridge are exclaiming, as the thousands more who flooded Wall Street earlier are proclaiming, as the hundreds and thousands in marches and protests in dozens of cities, which will spread to hundreds of cities by this weekend, are reminding those who would continue to oppress and repress them.
We don’t know where exactly it’s all heading, but it is looking more real by the hour. Marches, rallies, teach-ins, move-your-money actions, and why not a nationwide strike, boycotts, flash mobs? If the cops stay violent, and the mayors keep making condescending speeches about the public health and welfare, they become the movement’s best recruiting tool. Bring it on, Bloomberg and your media minions, for you know not what you have unleashed!