The seamy underside of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The Occupy movement went global on Saturday. Rallies were held in more than 900 cities around the world, with violence breaking out most notably in Rome, where 100 people were injured and police were forced to use tear gas and water cannons to break up a mob that burned cars and smashed the windows of shops and banks. 175 protesters were arrested in Chicago, when they attempted to set up camp in Congress Plaza, and 92 were arrested in New York. Another 8 were arrested in London. In Hong Kong, Derrick Benig, a 22-year-old art student, expressed what is rapidly becoming the over-arching theme of these demonstrations. "I want to tear down capitalism," he said.
Mr. Benig is hardly alone, but the number of really dubious actors expressing support for such an idea is growing. On Sunday, the American Nazi Party released a statement decrying the "judeo-capitalist banksters who swindled the American taxpayers out of A TRILLION dollars in the 'bailout' scam AND continue to oppress the White Working Class" even as they urged their members to "utilize and support every movement of dissent against this evil American empire."
Not to be outdone, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) also expressed solidarity with the demonstrations, which they characterized as the "the newest wrinkle in the all-people’s upsurge against the banks and corporations" and which they hoped would lead to "more advanced programmatic ideas like nationalizing the banks and socialism." Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is convinced the protests will destroy capitalism and bring about the downfall of Western civilization. “The one percent launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the remaining 99 percent have to suffer the deaths and pay for it,” he said. On their website, the organizers of the demonstrations, United For #GlobalChange, contend that people are "rising up to claim their rights and demand a true democracy."
There is another name for true democracy. It's called mob rule. And it is mobs in locations such as New York's Zuccotti Park, outside of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, in Toronto’s St. James Park, at Hennepin County Government Center plaza in Minneapolis, and at Woodruff Park in Atlanta, along with several other cities, that have announced their intentions of setting up semi-permanent campsites "for as long as it takes." They intend to do so irrespective of municipal laws, sanitary conditions, or simple respect for non-demonstrators who live or work nearby.
Thus, what are currently being championed as non-violent demonstrations are setting themselves up for the inevitable confrontations which must eventually take place when municipal politicians are forced to confront the reality that no group of protesters can engage in civil disobedience, or flout the law, indefinitely. Politicians must also deal with the reality the providing sanitation and safety is currently costing cities such as New York and Boston millions of dollars of overtime costs.
These overtime costs are eating holes in municipal budgets right now, even before any escalation of activity or confrontations take place. “I don’t think it’s the activists’ intention to break the public treasury here, but that’s what’s happening,” said Boston City Council President Stephen Murphy. “We’re concerned about making the city’s streets, playgrounds, and parks clean and safe, but each of those may wind up taking less because of these protests.” Harvard Law professor Richard Fallon notes that incurring such costs are political, not constitutional decisions. “Cities have an obligation to make a space available to engage in speech and protest activities, but nothing more,” he contends.
Cities also have obligations to non-demonstrators which many are currently ignoring. With respect to businesses, NRO, for example, publicized a sad video of a working class New York man, ostensibly an immigrant, who has been unable to work for two weeks because of the mobs. Some business owners near Zuccotti Park have not only experienced a downturn, but have been forced to deal with the inevitable unruliness as well.
"I've had a lot of damage from the protesters," said Stacey Tzortzatos, owner of Panini & Co. Breads. "I've had to put a $200 lock on my bathroom because they come in here and try to bathe. The sink fell down to the ground, cracked open, pulled the plumbing out of the wall and caused a flood. It's a no-win situation. If I open the restroom for one, 30 people line up outside, disrupting my business." In Boston, downtown campers forced the cancellation of the “Greenway Mobile Food Fest” on Saturday, keeping twelve mobile food truck vendors, hardly members of the one-percent club, from earning a living.
Neighborhood residents have also been adversely affected. “It’s been three weeks now,” said Heather Amato, 35, a psychologist who lives in the Wall Street area. Amato said she had to shield her child from women dancing topless at Zuccotti Park. “Enough is enough,” she added. Melissa Coley, spokeswoman for Brookfield Office Properties, which owns the park, released a statement noting that sanitation conditions had reached “unacceptable levels.” Resident Karen McMann, 33, was equally exasperated. “I do believe in the right to protest,” she said. “But in other cities, the financial district is separate. Here, this is a neighborhood they’re coming into. They’re disrupting a lot of people’s lives.”
As of now, disruption for disruption's sake seems to be the primary motivating force behind the movement. Michelle Nickerson, assistant professor of history at Loyola University, says the lack of a unifying goal doesn't mean the protesters should be dismissed out of hand. "It takes time for activists to find each other, for them to identify common grievances and goals, even to identify their political opponents and how to attack the problem," she contended.
It may be easier to identify their political allies, or at least the politicians who are attempting to co-opt the movement. "I support the message to the establishment," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). "The protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works," said President Obama. Robert Mook of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has sent out a fundraising email titled "I Stand with #OccupyWallStreet," asking people to "let billionaires, big oil and big bankers know that we’re not going to let the richest 1% force draconian economic policies and massive cuts to crucial programs on Main Street Americans." Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) also expressed solidarity with the movement, noting that they "share the anger and frustration of so many Americans who have seen the enormous toll that an unchecked Wall Street has taken on the overwhelming majority of Americans while benefitting the super wealthy."
Unions are also in on the act. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) released a statement in support of the movement. “Wall Street CEOs not only crashed our economy and demanded billions in taxpayer-bailouts--they destroyed the jobs and livelihoods and took the homes of millions of Americans. It’s time to force Wall Street to pay for the jobs our country desperately needs," it read in part. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka went to Wall Street to talk with protesters, and Lee Saunders, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), attended protests in Washington. The Teamsters have officially endorsed the movement as well.
And then there's ACORN. Judicial Watch has discovered that the corrupt leftist organization with political ties to the president has re-organized and re-branded itself as New England United 4 Justice. It has been directly involved in the Take Back Boston part of the Occupy movement, attacking banks for pushing “bad loans on people of color and the poor.”
On Sunday the President Obama spoke at the dedication of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. Part of that speech indirectly addressed the Occupy Wall Street movement. "If [Martin Luther King] were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there," he said. It is worth remembering that the president himself has demonized bankers as "fat cats," even as it has been revealed that he took more money from Wall Street than any other politician in the last 20 years.
Yet more importantly, while people can challenge Wall Street excess without demonizing those who work there, that's not what is happening at all. Demonization is the essence of the OWS movement. Demonization is precisely why the continued use of the phrase "99 percent versus 1 percent"--an utter lie whose percentages wouldn't align with even the most slanted survey of Americans--becomes critically necessary.
An "enemy" comprised of the richest one percent of the population--minus "certain" one percenters such as leftist billionaires George Soros and Warren Buffett, leftist Hollywood millionaires, and other assorted wealthy progressives--purportedly making life miserable for the other 99 percent eliminates the necessity of dealing with the reality that economics is far more complex and intertwined than the OWS movement would like it to be. What it does do however is align itself perfectly with radical organizer Saul Alinsky's Rule Number 13: "Pick the Target, Freeze It, Personalize It and Polarize It."
Mindless polarization is a far easier concept to get behind than inconvenient truth, such as the reality that for every "evil" banker who sold a "predatory" mortgage, there was someone willing to buy more house than he could possibly afford. Or the fact that many unions have been more than willing to allow thousands of their own members lose jobs in order to secure raises and better benefits for the remaining workers.
Neither of those particular realities, along with countless others, fit the OWS narrative, nor are they ever likely to. While some of the OWS demands may yet be amorphous, the parts of heroes and villains have been created and cast. The eventual outcome is pre-determined as well. Despite all protests to the contrary, there is only one economic system that can bring the world from the brink of economic Armageddon back to prosperity: free-market capitalism, in all in unequal glory. A movement that seeks to kill the proverbial golden goose--under the banner of social justice no less--cannot sustain itself indefinitely. Even urban campers need someone to make their tents.