Remember back a couple of years ago when thousands of people decided to march on Wall Street and protest … something? Well unsurprisingly the actual demand or point of the protest itself is still up in the air. It wasn’t just Wall Street, even our fair city of Orlando had an occupy movement as well. Which, sort of ambled about in a couple of local parks near the Bank of America building downtown. All that seemed to do was draw the ire of local law enforcement and virtually no major reaction from the community. The real party it seemed was over in places like NYC and Berkley where it degenerated quite rapidly into a virtual smorgasbord of police violence. I mean you had so many options to choose from, getting punched, beaten with knight sticks, and my personal favorite mace to the face. For any reason really. Even sitting still, fuck you have some mace. Predictably one of the most famous cases of which, by the way, led to the charges against the police officer being dropped even though there’s video evidence of him just walking along macing everyone in his path with little to no rhyme or reason.
The Orlando Occupy movement, after the national tolerance for the whole affair seemed to wane on it’s facebook page degenerated into the typical collage-hipster dabbling into the whimsical world of communism. Going so far as to quote people like Mao and Stalin, who were, as we all know, paragons of morality and righteousness. Both, having a collective body count that actually beats Hitler’s best estimates almost ten times over. When I think of men to inspire me to greatness, lord knows that’s my first choice every time. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t think that the occupy movement was a bunch of collage communists who got what they deserved. The problem was trying to start a non-movement movement to begin with. The issue with Occupy Wall Street was that it’s greatest strength in the opinion of the people involved was also it’s greatest weakness. You can’t expect people to rally behind a cause when you advertise the real reason for your cause as some vague and esoteric mystery that you are either clued into or are not. As hinted in the movement’s ‘official’ poster:
Try and explain how this poster makes sense, is inspirational, or in any way helps define a major social movement. Go ahead, I dare you.
There was no demand because the protestors themselves didn’t know what they were protesting. They would hold communes in tents and show approval or disapproval for ideas by wiggling their hands up or down as if they were trying to shake off carpel tunnel syndrome. You’d get different answers depending on who you asked, if you even bothered to ask. All that they seemed to agree upon was that getting maced by the cops really really really stings. There’s the rub too. During this whole thing, while it played out, it may have failed miserably at inspiring social change but did an amazing job displaying how much of a police state we live in. For example, I liked how because most places in a city are in some way owned by someone, apparently even most public parks, the protestors could only exercise their rights to protest on sidewalks in most cases. Especially in NYC. Also, they could be arrested by simply impeding the flow of vehicle traffic. It’s almost magical to watch how the NYPD would literally have ten cops fencing off five people on the sidewalk as if they were quarantining a freshly converted batch of zombies. Ten police to hold up barricades to protect people using the sidewalk from… other people… using the sidewalk… holding signs.
The police presence at many of these protests was so laughable in just how over-the-top it was. Buses, vans, surveillance towers, helicopters, et all. All to simply stop a bunch of hand wiggling protestors of something from doing something to someone. Maybe, it was a knee-jerk reaction to a fear of it degenerating into a full-scale riot or a repeat of The Battle of Seattle, but it was interesting in that it seemed to be a nation-wide over-reaction. When they couldn’t just wait out the protest, and when the media, who tried their damnedest to ignore them, could no longer do so, they simply did what any good citizen protection agency would. They began to simply use force. Though my personal favorite example from the national melee once again belongs to the NYPD. They are like the Micheal Jordan of stomping on people’s rights. I mean, if this was the all-star police protest shutdown games they’d be the MVP by a long shot. What they did was actually fairly tactically sound and I have to give whoever thought of it credit for dreaming it up. They were allowed to protest on public sidewalks, but not in the roads. So they NYPD herded them in such a way they had no choice but stand in the road and thus then had legal justification to start mass-arresting people for committing a ‘crime’ they forced them into. Well played fascists, well played indeed.
The police definitely in more than a few ways instigated confrontations and did their damnedest to sweep this whole mess under the rug. I’m not entirely sure if it’s simply some sort of institutionalized dislike of protests or civil disobedience in general, but in the case of the NYPD, it wouldn’t surprise me if it were something as simple as a few well placed donations from, say, the very banks who’s actions in many ways drove these people to want to protest the imbalances of capitalism and corporate greed’s impact on society. Which, is what I believe more or less this whole thing was about. At the very least it looks bad; however, when you consider that after 9/11 basically everyone’s hearts were pouring out to NYC and the NYPD you could say that, hey, these donations may reflect existing sentiment. Doubtful but plausible, and awfully convenient. Considering some of the more dubious actions of the NYPD like the case of Adrian Schoolcraft, who they abducted and locked in a mental hospital against his own will for a week for blowing the whistle on actual confirmed police department corruption such as simply not reporting crimes like, oh, rape, to keep the numbers down so they could look good to their superiors. I honestly would not put anything past them at this point.
We’re not talking about saints and pillars of morality, we’re talking about fallible men who use their positions in whatever organization they can to impose their own fraternal order of institutionalized conformity upon others. Using and abusing power for personal gain. No one group is exempt from this sort of behavior. Without oversight or scrutiny any institution can be turned against the public good., and the quickest way to allow it to happen is to simply stop asking questions and just start accepting what they do is right no matter what the circumstances. The image of the police and civic protection agencies over the past ten years has been severely tarnished. That’s not to say that I think everyone with a badge is a jack-booted thug who will mace the shit out of you at the drop of a hat, but that being said, a lot of the police actions in regards to this protest movement were plaintively wrong. Some people don’t view it as a problem, but only insofar as it’s about something they don’t care about. I’m sure if the cops suddenly decided to, for example, bust up a Tea Party Rally and mace a few angry grandpas mad at the president for being black, they’d be singing a different tune. Personally, my real problem is that if police organizations across the country are going to decide that any protest that speaks out only on certain issues is to be treated in such a manner as a deterrent, then it limits any real chance at redress of the fundamental imbalances that our current political system creates. Other protest movements are largely ignored, even the KKK can march in peace, but a few people want to yell at the bankers for screwing the entire economy and it’s suddenly this huge security risk that needs an army of police to address? I don’t buy it.
I suppose I’m also a bit disappointed. A huge anti-corporate protest might actually do some good and raise public awareness for the major problems with unbalanced wealth distribution and corruption that a money-centric only societal mentality can create. Instead it was a bunch of people who didn’t even have any clearly defined goals other than general outrage getting beat up and maced by police for a few months. Any attempt at a unified message has still been rejected, and while some of them were quoted as using the middle east protests as a model for the ones here, there was one major difference between the two movements. The Egyptians didn’t feel the need to be pretentious and assuming. Instead they told everyone what their one demand was, that Hosni Mubarak and his government had to go, and by actually stating their goal they managed to get people to rally behind them. Even in the face of, you guessed it, police violence. Oh, and one more thing. The Egyptians actually got what they wanted in the end.
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