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.
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