Nel's New Day

November 16, 2011

Occupy Movement Celebrates Second Month Anniversary

The Occupy Movement celebrates its two-month anniversary tomorrow–ten days shorter than Kim Kardashian’s marriage. In the beginning, media didn’t report on it. After the police attacked the peaceful protesters, attention swiveled to Wall Street to watch passive people get pepper-sprayed and arrested. As the movement started sweeping across the country and around the world, more and more media attention focused on people protesting the inequities between the top 1 percent and the rest of the population. Now it’s moved to the top of the media headlines.

Conservatives’ first approach was to denigrate protesters’ actions. Tea Partyers deplored the fact that Occupiers didn’t go home like nice, well-behaved people. Those same conservatives forgot that they behaved so badly in town hall meetings with their Congresspeople had to be call off these meetings or monitor them with a strong police presence.

House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) called them “growing mobs” before he decided they were all voters and said that they were “justifiably frustrated.” “They are out of work. The economy is not moving,” Cantor said. “Their sense of security for the future is not clear at all. People are afraid, and I get it.” It was a short-lived change: he’s back to cutting benefits for the poor and middle-class.

The police continued to physically abuse the protesters in Oakland until an Iraq veteran went to the hospital in critical condition with head injuries, and the mayor called them off. The stricken man has since been sent home although he hasn’t regained his speech. Other cities followed the more peaceful approach—for a while.

After mayors from 18 large cities conferred, police started on Sunday to drive protesters out of their camps across the country from Oakland (CA) to New York City. Police destruction of these areas went so far as to throw the New York Occupy Wall Street library, over 5,000 books, into a dumpster along with everything else including shredded tents, tarps, sleeping bags, clothing, food, and electronics. Told that their library was being saved for them, protester librarians found only a few boxes of books, destroyed laptops, and one chair at Sanitation.

City officials claim that their actions against the protesters came from the violence surrounding the camps although those not associated with the protest movement including undercover cops perpetrated many of these actions while the actual protesters tried to stop them. Because of this movement, the homeless and mentally ill are now highly visible, something that city officials try to oppose.

Unions, such as the ones that fought union-busting Ohio Gov. John Kasich, will join Occupy protesters and liberal groups such as moveon.org and the American Dream Movement tomorrow in a “day of action” to pressure lawmakers on jobs. Since people first occupied Wall Street, President Obama presented his jobs program, and conservative legislators refused it. Events tomorrow will focus on getting lawmakers to pass federal funding for infrastructure. Republican-led filibusters blocked funding to repair government structures such as bridges, funding that would help the jobs crisis that Republicans refuse to address. A $60 billion infrastructure bill could have been funded by a .7 percent tax on millionaires, but most Republicans have zero tolerance for making the wealthy pay their share.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA), the nation’s largest telecom union, is coordinating two marches with Occupy protesters to coincide with the day of action. Both are tied to the battle over union contract negotiations with Verizon. In one march union members and other protesters will go from Albany (NY) to New York City; the other goes from a Verizon call center in Maryland to McPherson Square in Washington, one of the Occupy’s encampments.

After accusing the Occupy Movement as being just a bunch of hippies, conservative media has worked daily to connect Occupiers with unsavory characters. Fox started by claiming that protesters were part of ACORN, an organization that conservatives destroyed last year. Then Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and his guest, Glenn Beck, said George Soros was funding the protesters and their newspaper, the Occupied Wall Street Journal. Glenn Beck reported that former KKK leader David Duke had “endorsed” Occupy but neglected to point out that Duke also endorsed the Tea Party. As usual, Andrew Breitbart rose to the top of outrageous claims when he suggested that Occupy was affiliated with Al Qaeda.

The Family Research Council is battling the Occupy Movement in the same way that Texas Gov. Rick Perry tried to solve the drought across the state: pray. It is calling on all its members to destroy the movement through mass prayer. “May the movement simply fizzle” is what people are called upon to say to their god.

The hundreds of thousands of people protesting across the country are largely composed of people in the mainstream—students, labor unions, unemployed workers, teachers, artists, singers, writers, former real estate brokers, political activists, in short, people who have given up on the traditional political system. A growing contingent is composed of veterans who are suffering from high unemployment but want to support their country while banks prey on them. Politicians give money to profiteering corporations as they try to cut and privatize veterans programs through proposals of capping military basic pay, limiting veterans’ health benefits, and swapping the military pension program for a 401k system.

Almost 80 years ago, more than 20,000 unemployed World War I veterans occupied Washington to support a bill that would have given them immediate cash payment of the war service “bonus” they were due in 1945, 27 years after the end of the war. Although the House of Representatives passed the bill, the Senate and President Hoover opposed it. Disturbed by the “Bonus Army” or “Bonus Expeditionary Force,” the 15,000 veterans who refused to leave, Hoover called up four troops of cavalry under the command of General Douglas MacArthur to clear the area of men, women, and children. More than 1,000 people were injured in the incident and two veterans and one child died.

A year later the new president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, took a different tack with the 3,000 Bonus Marchers who converged on Washington, giving them housing and providing them with housing. Although he refused their demand for the early payment of their pensions, he offered them work in the newly formed Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Ninety percent of them accepted, the Bonus Marchers voted to disperse, and those that opted to return home rather than join the CCC were given free rail passage.

Complaints about the protesters include the one about their breaking laws: they stay at the park during hours when this isn’t allowed. Protesters ask why they are arrested for not walking on sidewalk etc. while few major prosecutions of banking executives and other financial actors are prosecuted for financial frauds and other crimes related to the economic crisis. Major players causing the crisis have not been touched.

Some protesters weren’t even breaking the law when they were arrested. After about 50 people went to the LaGuardia Place Citibank to close their accounts, 23 Citibank customers were locked inside the bank and arrested. As a result, ACLU provides information about protesters’ rights.

Another objection to the protest is that they lack direction. Orrin Hatch said, “I am very concerned that they don’t seem to have any real agenda other than causing problems.” He missed the piece that protesters in the Occupy Movement seek justice for the vast majority of the people being left out of the dominant economic and political systems. The Occupy Wall Street Movement’s website states: “The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.” The site contains contact information, news, and much more.

Specific issues addressed by protesters begin with the huge inequalities in wealth and income as people gradually realize that the government is responsive only to that tiny percentage of people who control the vast percentage of the money.  It’s the worker bees—public school teachers, police, firefighters, etc.—who get their salaries lowered and put out on furlough and sometimes lose their jobs while conservatives refuse to impose a surtax on the extremely wealthy. Conservatives refuse to close the loophole that allows hedge fund managers to pay a 15% capital gains tax instead of the full income tax on the millions of dollars they rake in every single year. Such an approach  shows that the only constituents are the wealthy. The wealthy corporations caused the private debts, but they are the only ones exempt from repaying this debt.

Although a recent poll cited only 35 percent of the surveyed 1,005 adults held a favorable impression of the Occupy Movement, these protesters fared better than anyone else. Only 16 percent said the same for Wall Street and large corporations, only 29 percent had a favorable impression of the tea party movement and 21 percent for the government in Washington. Wall Street and large corporations tied with Washington government in unpopularity, with 71 percent of those polled saying they had an unfavorable impression of big business and Washington. The tea party got a 50 percent unfavorable response and Occupy Wall Street 40 percent. If conservative legislators don’t decide to do some compromising, their numbers will only get worse.

Tomorrow: more information about the 1 percent versus the 99 percent.

3 Comments »

  1. Right on, Nel. Your observations about how the right-wing media machine is attempting to divert us from the real issues are spot on. They are masters at manipulation, obfuscation, and redirection. We need to keep people aware of their tactics so folks can see past the bullsh*t.

    Keep up the good work.

    Like

    Comment by Bill Dalbey — November 19, 2011 @ 6:02 AM | Reply

  2. I loved this addition to your BLOG! I thought I was keeping up but learned a few new things…. I look forward to more. It’s sad but comforting to be in the majority of once. I sure am in the 99%.

    Like

    Comment by Jane — November 17, 2011 @ 7:26 AM | Reply

  3. Looking forward to more – especially getting ticketed for honking in support. Aren’t cars people, like corporations? Shouldn’t cars have voices too?

    Like

    Comment by lynchly — November 16, 2011 @ 7:56 PM | Reply


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