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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The young (and not-so-young) protesters who came to Occupy Wall Street — and have stayed despite mass arrests — deserve thanks from the “99 percent” of Americans they claim to represent. Without articulating a clear set of demands, they have nevertheless voiced the frustration felt by millions of ordinary people who have lost homes, jobs, income, and security in the post-crash economy and see little help coming from government offices or corporate suites. Soon, however, someone will have to decide whether Occupy Wall Street eventually concludes in mere symbolic success, which would be little more than glorified failure, or evolves into a powerful political current that can rival the Tea Party.

If the pivotal moment of this protest continues to be a video of a high-ranking police officer brutally “macing” innocent women, then it is unlikely to grow far from its anarcho-bohemian roots. There are simply too many Americans who will never side with “hippies” against cops, no matter how wrong the cops may be. But if the sympathetic statements from labor leaders of the past few days turn into supportive action — and if teachers, bus drivers, firefighters, nurses, and yes, police officers show up to demand change — then this could be the beginning of something very, very big.

Don’t scoff too quickly: Last winter, hundreds of off-duty law enforcement officers from around Wisconsin repeatedly joined the statehouse sit-in against Governor Scott Walker’s attack on labor, even though their own unions were exempt from his proposed law — and even as their fellow officers were standing guard over the protesters. In those circumstances, the cops were just as capable of understanding the stakes behind the protest as any other workers, or the students who supported them. A policeman who had retired from the Madison Police Department after 20 years on the force explained to USA Today that “we all see this as union busting and wage suppression. This is a long-term, downward spiral of wages for working families.”

Such progressive insights probably don’t fit the anarchist stereotype of the cop, whose enmity is cherished as a token of the alienated lifestyle. But not all of those who have flocked to Zuccotti Park and the other protest sites that have sprung up around the country are committed to political irrelevance as proof of authenticity. Many, perhaps even a majority, might be intrigued by an opportunity to provoke something more significant than a cloud of tear gas or a court summons.

The protesters have serious grievances, from mass youth unemployment to burdensome student loans that cannot begin to be paid off if there are no decent jobs. What would happen if they began to articulate the connections between their own problems and the assault on the living standards of public employees and unionized workers? How would the angry middle class respond if the “kids” made common cause with those downwardly mobile working families — demanding debt relief for everyone, a special prosecutor for the financial crooks, and higher taxes on those who have profited from the crisis? Why shouldn’t the students (and former students) stand with teachers against cuts in education and for rebuilding public schools and colleges? Even those who understandably disdain partisan politics, with its endemic money corruption, could swiftly change the direction of the national debate.

It is encouraging that many young activists came down to Wall Street from Wisconsin, where they have conducted themselves with impeccable style and effectiveness. Four decades ago, the goons in Richard Nixon’s White House egged on construction workers in downtown Manhattan to beat up anti-war students, who had allowed themselves to be portrayed as enemies of working-class soldiers and cops. Repeating that same mistake now would be tragic for everyone — except the one percent.

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Copyright 2011 The National Memo
  • ArthurDay

    Since when does voicing our rights have to be considered as “anarcho” or “hippies”? Seems it has already begun in order to marginalise. Get off your high horse and help stop the crooks and criminals!!!

  • Shaun Costello


  • wakingkat

    Just decided to subscribe to National Memo yesterday. I’ve read your stuff before, Mr. Conason, so was looking forward to seeing your take on the Occupy actions. I agree with you about the futility of making the actions only about police brutality but I’m disappointed by your naysaying. The point of these occupations is ACTION and the working process of assemblies. Sitting on a high horse of “progressive realism” does nothing to help and much to hinder. Movements, especially nonviolent ones, take time and are not born full blown. There are already working people involved in OWS and October 2011. Seems to me your sources need to be expanded.

  • Avi Zenilman

    Joe asked me to tell you he meant no “naysaying” and he isn’t on a high horse — he thinks the Occupy actions are great, which is why he says they deserve the nation’s thanks in his first sentence. (I think you’d have to agree that our posts are pretty supportive especially compared with the mainstream.) But Joe also feels that if the “point of these actions” is how they are conducted, they will be as ineffectual as every similar action that has preceded them. Which is fine if that’s what the activists want. He’d like to see them aim higher, that’s all…

  • Avi Zenilman

    Thanks for subscribing! Joe and the staff really appreciate it — and your criticism, too!

  • ambrita

    I went to the link you suggested and disagree totally. First of all, we have no worthy candidates running. Second of all, we have already tried going through the system and it doesn’t work. There is unavoidable corruption in Washington through Citizens United and lack of control of payoffs, money laundering, etc. The only way to change the direction now is for the people to take to the streets and demand it and that is exactly what is happening. The corporate news likes to show the hippies. There is massive middle America supporting OWS. Unions, unemployed, people who have lost their homes, students who can’t find jobs, etc. Even people fighting to keep Social Security, a very healthy program that the Koch Brothers are trying to disassemble to leave the seniors in abject poverty. Taking to the streets is our only realistic recourse.

  • bulletproof_tgr

    “Without articulating a clear set of demands, they have nevertheless voiced the frustration felt by millions of ordinary people who have lost homes, jobs, income, and security in the post-crash economy and see little help coming from government offices or corporate suites.”

    Actually, they have:

    Declaration of the Occupation of New York City
    This document was accepted by the NYC General Assembly on september 29, 2011

    As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

    As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

    They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
    They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
    They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
    They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
    They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
    They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
    They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
    They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
    They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
    They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
    They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
    They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
    They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
    They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
    They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
    They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
    They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
    They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
    They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
    They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
    They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. *

    To the people of the world,

    We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

    Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

    To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

    Join us and make your voices heard!

    *These grievances are not all-inclusive.

  • BickEubanks

    I am a retired pilot and a former law enforcement officer; as such I think I know what the cop’s long term strategy is. In a little over a month the weather in New York City will turn brutal with sub-freezing temperatures and a gusting north wind whistling down the canyons between the high-rises. This will test the resolve of the protesters. Perhaps we could help them by making sure that they are warmly dressed.

  • standan

    In this morning’s Salt Lake Tribune was a short local report that some locals are using Facebook to recruit for a protest against the financial industry at the Federal Building. At 79 years of age I am not about to camp overnight in the Utah fall which is rapidly turning into winter with them, but if they can get some protestors to stay for maybe a week, I plan to join them if only for a little while. I would like to encourage all Americans to spend a little time thinking about what the following fact means: Twenty per cent of the households in the US receive 85% of the national income and own more than 85% of the national assets. And in 2012, vote based on what this fact means to you.

  • third

    Read this and get this party on the road. If you want to change the system and think this is a good idea tell your friends.
    Platform of the American Peoples Party
    1. Term Limits.
    12 years only, one of the possible options below.
    A. Two Six-year Senate terms
    B. Six Two-year House terms
    C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms
    D. One 12 year Supreme Court term
    2. No Tenure / No Pension.
    A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.
    3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
    All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.
    4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
    5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise based on current inflation to be no higher than 3%.
    6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
    7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
    8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective immediately.
    9. All political campaigns will be publically financed.
    10. No lobbyist would be able to give anything of value to any political candidate be it monetary or nonmonetary.
    11. Any group or individual must disclose who they are or who they represent when doing any political ad on any media.
    12. All corporate tax loopholes to be closed.
    13. Any business or corporation who moves their headquarters to any other country than the United States will not be allowed to donate in anyway to any political campaign in the United States because it would be foreign interference in the U.S. political process.
    14. A woman’s right to choose will be guaranteed.
    15. No discrimination of anyone based on race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.
    16. Marriage shall be guaranteed to all no matter their race, religion or sexual orientation.
    17. Medicare, medicad, and social security are sacred to the American people and will not be changed to diminish or eliminate them.
    18. Social Security tax to be raised to all who make $250,000 or less and eventually there will be no cap within 10 years.
    19. All Bush tax cuts will be eliminated.
    20. In both houses of congress the 50%+1 rule will be honored when passing any legislation.
    21. The electoral college will be eliminated or changed so that a candidate’s vote percentage will be reflected in the electoral votes received.
    22. The country will go on a crash course to be energy self-sufficient within 10 years with clean energy resources of wind, geothermal, solar, tidal, plug-in electric, electric, and natural gas vehicles.
    23. Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States .

  • Ruthiekemp

    As a senior citizen, I can understand the frustration that these people are feeling. I voted for change and things have gotten worse. Corporations are now considered people and running the country. The justice department is more concerned about steroid use in baseball than with bankers who put together toxic mortgage derivatives. Banks that are too big to fail. At least one war that was never necessary. A country that has the best medical care for less people. A country getting less healthy. Soldiers leave the military and cannot get jobs. Students who cannot pay loans. And thenthere nis the fat cats tha won’t share their good fortune.

  • RobynBloise

    Start with your personall choice. What do you buy. You We are the wheel of cooperate America. We gave up our power. When you do shop, your choice is now your vote.. READ.. what are you injesting? Why does package food taste so wonderfull..Is it all lies.. OH yea SCott toliet tissue taking out cardboard.. CENTER on choice. one begins with one awakening. WHEN YOU REACH THE PRETTY LIGHTS AND LOVELY COLOR RED OF DEAD FACE SPRITS LAYING SUBBLIMALL message of protien.. who remembers their life ..WHAT ARE YOU EATING //COOPERATION Dogma.. If we make our choice to vote everyday each day.. read read join this is an amazing chance to burst the myth,,We have given our power freely and just gone to sleep. Wake up all.. together.we stand.. This is not who againt whom.. this is about the truth of all .. we must break the myth incooperated so far in our minds ..we have allowed a new religion.. and the cooperate govern our chices with dis information.. We vote every so many years ..Actually in reality we have a choice aVOTE EVERYDAY.. A vote to make your own choice in what not to buy and most important why.. Read injest knowledge.. Lets gather and work this for all life on our soul planet human form we have an oppertunity to move this ugly dis-ease away counscious change.. We need the unions their trying to get rid of our solidarity buy distroying the one whole communacation system.. It is all about us all. This is not the 60ies.. we are now bringing forth truth to all. all are affected.. COME ONE THIS IS EACH OF US TO BRING OUR GREAT PEACEFULL NATION OF THE PEOPLE BY THE OEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE UNDER ONE ROOF OF TRUTH.GOR THE PEOPLE BACK UNDE THE ROOF OF TRUTH..