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None of it matters. In Boston, shouts of “F**k capitalism!” and “Tax the rich!” were yelled, even as speakers rallied against funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and home foreclosures. Another participant bewailed the lack of public housing. “They’re closing down shelters,” said Nicole Sullivan, a self-described poor person. “We can’t get food, we can’t get housing, we can’t get education. What I’m looking for out of Occupy Boston is a way to change it.”
In New York, protesters spoke of “taxing the rich” and overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which deregulated the campaign finance system. Others rallied against corporate greed, global warming and social inequity. In San Francisco, demonstrators held several signs that said, “Make banks pay” and “Take it back. Tax Wall Street,” even as city supervisor and mayoral candidate John Avalos opened up the protest with a speech demanding banks be held accountable for the bailouts they received from the taxpayers.
Yet despite the seeming number of unrelated agendas, there is one unifying theme: Us against Them. But it is Us against Them filtered through the lens of progressivism. Thus, it is no surprise that dedicated leftists such as film maker Michael Moore and actress Susan Sarandon have offered support to the group in New York, along with Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), who showed up for the Brooklyn Bridge demonstration. He didn’t stay long. When he tried to speak, a protester hassled him, and Rangel left. Spokeswoman Hannah Kim denied he was chased away. ”He knows people are frustrated and hurting badly from the financial meltdown,” she said. “He is glad that he went.”
Who hasn’t shown up at these demonstrations? No one among these protesters is suggesting that government, save for “obstructionist” Republicans and most notably the Tea Party, is to blame for the current crisis. No one in this movement has suggested reining in runaway spending, which has gotten the country $14 trillion in debt, or undoing the massive amount of government regulation strangling a business community essentially on strike as a result. And no one is championing public sector employee reform, despite the fact that government worker salaries, pensions and health benefits far exceed those in the private sector, and are blowing holes in state budgets across the nation.
The real agenda? “This is a liberal version of the Tea Party, especially with young people who are getting mobilized and expressing their grievances,” said Dorian Warren, a Columbia University professor who “specializes in the study of inequality and American politics” according to the university website. “I think this could potentially carry over into the 2012 election and get people to the polls.”
One can only imagine if the Tea Party used the same kind of tactics to get its message across. Prior to the 700 demonstrators who were taken in on Saturday, police had already made at least 80 other previous arrests in New York, including one for assaulting a policeman in another demonstration which took place near Union Square. Authorities were forced to use pepper spray to keep that mob in check. Another 24 protesters were arrested by police at a Bank of America demonstration in Boston on Friday. “These individuals choose to ignore the facts and instead focus on increasingly aggressive PR stunts,” said Bank of America spokesman T.J.Crawford.
That may be by design. One of the complaints being made by the protesters is that they’re not getting enough attention from the mainstream media. Keith Olbermann accused the MSM of hypocrisy, with Michael Moore echoing that sentiment on Olbermann’s Countdown TV show. Thus, it becomes quite possible that the movement may resort to upping its level of obstructionism and/or violence in an effort to garner greater attention from the so-designated “corporate media.” By contrast, this writer searched for stories involving mass arrests of people involved in Tea Party demonstrations, virtually all of which have received substantial levels of media coverage. Ten people were arrested for demonstrating outside Nancy Pelosi’s office on Nov 5th, 2009 during the healthcare debate.
Meanwhile, a core group of protesters remain in Zuccoti Park, where they have created a semi-permanent encampment. Brookfield Office Properties, the real estate firm that owns the park, has released a statement saying that it would like to work with the city to restore the park “to its intended purpose.” Yet as of now, there are no plans to remove anyone, according to police. As a result, approximately 200 people sleep on air mattresses, organize meetings, play with computers, and bang drums. Occasionally, they traipse over to Wall Street and yell, “This is what democracy looks like!”
More like mob rule. And one can only wonder how much further this movement will go. In New York, the United Federation of Teachers and the Transport Workers Union Local 100, which has 38,000 members, have pledged “solidarity” with the protesters, adding to the possibility that they could provide important organizational and financial support–and perhaps muscle as well–to the demonstrators. The prospect of further involvement by organized labor remains a distinct possibility as well, when one recalls Teamster President Jimmie Hoffa’s Labor Day rallying cry. “President Obama, this is your army,” Hoffa said at the time. “We are ready to march. Let’s take these sons of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong.”
The president didn’t offer a whit of criticism to such ill-tempered remarks. Nor has he said a word about the current protests. If the level of violence and obstructionism ramps up, it will be quite revealing to see if our self-proclaimed Class Warrior-in-Chief is willing to take responsibility for the resultant fallout. Fallout largely engendered by his own ongoing determination to stoke the fires of class warfare.
Or is that credit for it? It is remarkable how far the man who ran on hope and change and uniting Americans in 2008 has fallen in less than three years.
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