Thursday, December 01, 2011

Is Occupy Wall Street Over: No, it's just begun

The violent eviction of campers in public parks around the country had many conservative pundits gloating that Occupy Wall Street has been effectively vanquished.

They want you to believe that Occupy Wall Street, and the many encampments nationwide,

have been ignored by average Americans as if they were stepping over homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters are fighting greed and seeking legal and financial reforms that stop 1 percenters (and their trolls) from rigging the system.
They are working on:
1) Ousting corrupt politicians by getting money out of politics
2) Reforming laws that need change
3) Bringing the finance sector back under control

They are organizing marches against the military industrial complex, war profiteers, and irresponsible mass foreclosures by banks. Instead of camping out in public parks, they are occupying government buildings in Washington and Indiana and university offices and even a vacant bank in Santa Cruz, Calif. I call that an upgrade.

But it all started with the movement to reform big finance: Wall Street.

Many financial systems, of all different kinds, can work if operated with transparency and honesty. That stopped happening in the United States. Without rigorous and frequent public examination of financial institutions, they can easily subvert the democratic societies they intended to help prosper.

When people around the country began protesting against abuses by the largest actors in the financial sector, which they call "Wall Street," the street retaliated. The finance sectors pushed the politicians it owns to use the police to dismantle the protests. The police did what they were told: they donned ridiculous riot gear that made them look like space invaders and some tore into protesters with batons and pepper spray. The police officers who used brute violence may be unhinged individuals, but what was more troubling was that government had deployed police to fight against people who were protesting. Protest is at the heart of what makes democracy a democracy. Protest is self-expression and self-determination for the people of a nation. So when the politicians directed the police to violently suppress protest, they called attention to themselves. (Forbes tech blogger E.D. Kain writes that is more likely that the police themselves are responsible for the sheer brutality of the crackdown, not corporate overlords or political hacks.It's possible)

For clear evidence of how brutal the police repression has been, just watch the two minute video of police pepperspraying students at the University of California - Davis Campus. John Pike sprayed students quietly sitting on the ground three times point blank with military grade pepper spray (classified as a chemical weapon - something US soldiers don't use on the battle field).

Here's another video of an Oakland police officer beating up a protester who served in the US Marines. The soldier, who never retaliated, suffered a ruptured spleen.

But the politicians' willingness to use the domestic police force to quash dissent attracted enormous attention to the fact that politicians are willing and able to use force to suppress protest. That complicates US foreign relationships. How can we be a shining beacon of freedom when it is not permissible to protest in our own country. Police brutality toward protesters underscored the message the protesters had been trying to send. And this message is evident to everyone, including many who have never set foot in the Occupy protests or seen them firsthand.

The disbanded camps are now forced to reorganize around more specific goals. The violent evictions did not merely attract attention to Occupy Wall Street, but forced the protesters to organize and articulate more specific goals.

In a survey of photographs by major media, I see a lot more signs calling for the full reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, for the revocation of corporate personhood (a legal fiction created by the courts for convenience, not by legislation or the constitution), and a call for the revocation of Citizens United, a landmark Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns. There are further rumblings about increases to the capital gains tax (a move that would have a tremendous impact on the 1 percent).

Violence by police at the direction of politicians following the orders of their corporate leaders has added to the Occupy Wall Street agenda. (This is just my observation from reading OWS postings online). Now there is greater concern about addressing the militarization of the police, worry about standing armies in the United States used to subjugate the US citizens, and growing trepidation over the privatization of prisons. After all, if corporations can make money by sending people to jail, might they not lobby for more arrestable laws.

The American population is learning about the limits of its rights and freedom - and many do not like what they are learning. For that reason - this is not over.

I hope this post does not ruin anyone's day. These are real concerns, but we have to remember that life still consists of love, laughter, friendship, hopes and kindness. These are our foundation and based on them we can rest secure today while working toward a better future.

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