Oct 31, 2011
On October 25, at 5 a.m., while people were sleeping, Oakland California police stormed through the “Occupy Oakland” camp, pushing to evict the protesters linked to the Occupy Wall Street movement. They arrested the people rousted out of their beds, tore down their tents and destroyed their belongings.
When protesters reassembled with reinforcements at 5 p.m., attempting to march to the site, they were confronted by police, who used rubber bullets, so-called bean-bag shotguns and tear gas to sweep the downtown area, arresting dozens more. A number of people were injured. Scott Olsen, a former marine, who had served two tours of duty in Iraq, was hit in the head by a police projectile, giving him a more serious wound than anything he experienced in Iraq.
On the same evening, Atlanta police evicted Occupy Atlanta protesters from the site where they had set up a camp, arresting 53 there, also destroying belongings and the camp. Two days later, police forcibly evicted the people camped in Nashville and San Diego, and the next day, Denver police tore up the belongings and tents of people, using Mace and rubber bullets on people trying to reoccupy their camp in downtown Denver.
These were not the first arrests since the Occupy Wall Street movement, which first gained attention with a September 17th demonstration near Wall Street in New York City. But most of the earlier arrests had come in response to “civil disobedience” actions initiated by the protesters, like the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or the attempt to occupy Bank of America headquarters in Boston, or the hundreds arrested in Chicago on two Saturday nights in a row. Or they were the smaller arrests, almost everywhere, with police nipping away at the edges of the movement.
But the cops in all five of these cities – Oakland, Atlanta, San Diego, Nashville and Denver – were dispatched with the specific aim of disrupting and dispersing the whole protest, attempting to break it – and they did it in heavy-handed fashion.
Is it the beginning of a wider crackdown by authorities across the country, or are these just a few isolated cases? At this point, that’s not clear. In any case, what’s more important is whether the movement becomes discouraged by the attacks or whether it is reinforced by many more of those who are outraged. We can only hope the movement expands.
Whatever happens, it’s obvious that the protests, which started in New York City, but quickly spread throughout the country, rolling through big cities and small, have touched an exposed nerve in the population and found support among working people.
Perpetual unemployment has marginalized nearly half the younger generation and made everyone’s life insecure. Wage cutting guarantees this new generation will live less well than their parents.
The rich get richer, spectacularly richer, parading their wealth for TV, while millionaire stockbrokers imperiously tell us they are worth every penny they get. The richest one% of the population own more of the nation’s wealth than do the bottom 85%.
The government bails out the banks, while four million families find themselves expelled from their homes in the banks’ mortgage scam, and 11 million more are “underwater” – with no hope of ever getting afloat again.
The unions, led by bureaucrats in bed with the companies, tell us we have no choice but to give up concession after concession in order to improve the companies’ bottom line – and workers watch their jobs disappear, or the work they still have gets killingly harder and their wages go down; their children are unable to find a job.
So, yes, the youth who flocked into these demonstrations had every reason to do so. Even many of the middle class youth whose families can put them through the university find themselves today without prospects – not to mention the working class youth, unemployed, bumped from temporary job to temporary job, priced out of the university by years of tuition increases.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has opened up possibilities, all the more so since many workers watch it with approval. The question is, where do the demonstrations go from here? A movement like this can develop quite a way, but only if there are people inside it who understand or come to understand that they have to confront the root cause of the problems we face, that is, the whole capitalist system.