One after the other, city governments across the country have been ordering their police departments to evict protesters in the Occupy Wall Street encampments.
They have used, as their excuse, concerns about violence and public safety.
The protests, which have been going on now for two full months, have been overwhelmingly peaceful and crime-free.
The demonstrators are exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly. New York’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, makes the ludicrous claim that through discussion groups in the park and not by camping out, demonstrators can make their point.
Staying put – whether it be by sitting in, teaching in, or sleeping in – is a time-honored form of protest. Often, as is the case with Occupy Wall Street, it draws attention to injustice in a dramatic fashion unlike any other form of protest.
The Occupy Wall Street encampments have captured both the imagination and the support of the American people. To forcibly dismantle them is to infringe on the constitutional rights of everyone. Those rights supersede local ordinances governing activity in city parks.
However, the Occupy movement has to take a sober look at the viability of encampments going forward. Concerns range from the winter weather to public fatigue to the safety issues that do exist in the encampments.
While public opinion supports the 99% movement, it doesn’t support any kind of crime or violence in the camps or towards the police. Any case of violence, sexual assault or other crimes does a huge disservice to the Occupy movement. There is no justification for it.
In the end, the Occupy movement is fighting for something much more important than what piece of what public park they can sleep in. A movement cannot just use one form of protest either.
The Occupy movement is a reflection of the demands by millions of Americans that they, the 99% majority, can sleep in a house with a roof over their heads, and have gainful employment.
The protest is a reflection of the demands of millions for a fair share of the wealth they produce.
The protest reflects the concerns of the 99% majority in our country.
Breaking up the encampments will not stop the movement. In both Chicago and New York, for example, there is talk of even expanding the protests as winter sets in by occupying foreclosed properties and homes.
Certainly, the next step is to build for the November 17 day of action to celebrate Occupy’s two-month anniversary. There are activities scheduled all over. To join in, participate and help organize, click here.
We are living through the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. As they did, during those years, the people are fighting back again.
The people’s movements in the 1930s – and the 1960s – did not stop when city governments told them they were violating various ordinances. They organized and fought on, and shifted the entire country in a new direction.
This is precisely what is happening with Occupy Wall Street and all the labor and people’s movements today.