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Eviction

[ 113 ] November 15, 2011 |

Like Yglesias, I pretty much believe that being evicted from Zuccotti Park is about the best thing that could happen to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Let’s face it, they had not succeeded in the last couple of weeks in retaining the media’s attention. The movement was beginning to seem stagnant to a larger public. Eviction gives them new life, regains the media’s attention, and the, to use a Marxist term, heightens the contradictions. This is important–there’s a concrete reason Martin Luther King chose Birmingham as the spot for the 1963 campaign. In 1962, the movement tried to desegregate Albany, Georgia. The sheriff there, Laurie Pritchett, killed them with kindness, arrested thousands but never using violence and never giving the media any reason to report. Pretty quickly, the news cameras left and the civil rights movement withdrew in defeat. King specifically chose Birmingham because of the violence he knew Bull Connor would unleash. It was a great success.

The clear strategy in response for OWS is to keep reestablishing the tent towns, forcing the cities to continue responding, burning money and political capital to do so, potentially creating situations of police brutality. But this also begs another question–is this movement becoming more about occupying space than a progressive upheaval? I think the lack of concrete goals really plagues the movement here–because they aren’t asking for anything specific, at what point do they leave? Because there has to be some kind of end point to this. No city is going to allow this to continue for 2 or 3 years. Nor should they.

The worst case scenario here is that Occupy Wall Street ends up being the 2011 version of Mexico City’s UNAM protests in 1999-2000. These protests started in response to the creation of tuition at the nation’s most prestigious university. While it was only intended to apply to those who could afford it, it threatened to limit the poor’s access to higher education. It also tapped into general discontent over the neoliberal reforms overturning the gains of the Mexican Revolution. The government backed down on the tuition, but then a large group of protestors stuck around as part of a movement not dissimilar to OWS–anger at globalization, economic inequality, and rapid changes in Mexico that were hurting the poor. They didn’t have any concrete goals at this point either other than to spark political upheaval in the name of change. And while noble enough, the protestors also quickly wore out the patience of the Mexican middle class, not to mention the government. When the military finally dispersed the encampment after 10 months, not a lot of Mexicans were too sad to see it go.

The encampment needs to be a strategy, not an end in itself.

Comments (113)

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  1. I disagree that the lack of specific demands is hurting them so much. By not doing so, they are functionally saying—and the public agrees—that the people in charge already know what needs to be done in terms of legislation and enforcement. The people in charge know BETTER than ordinary people, in fact, since they have their hands it in. OWS is calling bullshit on them playing dumb.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Perhaps, but in the long-term attention is going to go away as it already has been in the last couple of weeks. Something has to be done to revitalize public attention. Bloomberg did this for the time being. But the strategy of occupying can only go so far and it seems to me that we are starting to see its limits.

      • actor212 says:

        I agree with Erik: at some point, a confrontation was inevitable. But an attempt at forcible ejection was not.

        But Amanda’s point can be extended, too. As I pointed out at my blog this morning, OWS is not the group that ought to be making overtures towards ending the thing, because they’ve been very cooperative in trying to maintain order and peace.

        It ought to be the people in charge who are trying to find a peaceable solution.

      • david mizner says:

        So you’re actually arguing that if OWS came out in support of, say, a financial transaction tax, that would provide a logical endpoint?

        I think the lack of concrete goals really plagues the movement here–because they aren’t asking for any specific, at what point do they leave? Because there has to be some kind of end point to this. No city is going to allow this to continue for 2 or 3 years. Nor should they.

        I don’t get it. Any OWS demand wouldn’t be realized for years. There’s little, if any, connection between its agenda, or lack thereof, and the lifespan of this movement.

        For what it’s worth, every time I’ve spoken to the occupiers down at Zucchotti they say they’re working on a list of demands, and that it takes time. (One of them pointed out that it took months to write the U.S. Constitution.) So unlike many of their supporters, they see a need for an agenda.

        But if it ever comes to pass it’ll read like a fantasy document, and I mean that as a praise, with most of it contingent on first changing the culture and government — that’s the movement’s goal. How we get there from here is hard to say, of course.

        But I think you’re projecting somewhat when you say the movement had come to seem stagnant to the American people. To you, sure, because you’re one of those high-info types. But a lot of people are still learning about it, and outside of OO, which can’t even agree to pass a resolution opposing violence, it’s doing an amazingly good job of honing and delivering an effective message.

        From literally the first hours of OWS, liberals have been fretting about its lack of message and predicting a lack of staying power. Meanwhile it keeps chugging along. Media coverage will come and go, but the movement is here to stay.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          “But a lot of people are still learning about it”

          I am skeptical of this. They are learning about it today because of Bloomberg’s evictions. Most people are learning about OWS through the media and media coverage is declining.

          Also, as far as any goals being fantasy goals, that underestimates the role of small, concrete goals. To go back to civil rights, they originally had quite concrete goals, but in accomplishing those goals also laid the groundwork for more long-term, seemingly fantasy at the time, changes. I’m being simplistic on this and it would take me an 800 word post to explain all this fully, which I suppose I can do if people care.

          And as a historian, you can say the movement is here to stay, but that’s just words to me. We’ll see. I hope you are right.

          • david mizner says:

            Thank you for calling me an historian. I think you were talking about yourself, a historian, not a grammarian. [End of annoying point]

            As for the small, concrete goals, well, fine — suggestions? — but why would attainment of such would signal the end of the movement? I was questioning your assertion that OWS needed demands in order to give the movement an arc, and endpoint. I didn’t, and don’t, understand that argument.

            As for my assertion that it is here to stay, I’m not necessarily talking about OWS in its current incarnation but some form of leftist protest movement. (I hope it’s not riots.) A line has been crossed. You don’t have to be a historian to see that the inequality created by global capitalism would inevitably create a reaction, even here in the US, where protest is not a way of life. This is the reaction, and yes, it’s here to stay.

            • Erik Loomis says:

              The movement doesn’t need an endpoint, the physical occupation of the parks needs an endpoint. Very different things. The movement should never have an endpoint. And as for what those concrete goals should be, that can only be decided by those who are out there. I have all kinds of things I’d like to see as concrete goals, but they are all irrelevant because I am not on the streets.

              • david mizner says:

                Okay, but I still don’t see what the problem is. As you yourself point out, the movement will keep trying to occupy, cities will keep responding, the movement will grow stronger as a result. Eventually some of the major occupations will end, but by then the movement will have fame, money, and probably even a list of demands. And it will probably evolve into to even more of a protest movement. Even now, it stages major protests and actions, like the one coming up on the 17th, which don’t rely on occupation.

                • John says:

                  I am dubious that the movement will grow stronger as a result of confrontation. It will weaken more slowly as a result of confrontation. General Winter is, I think, Bloomberg’s great ally here, as well as General Disillusionment. Confrontation or no, I don’t see how this thing doesn’t fizzle out if it continues to lack any concrete objectives.

            • Erik Loomis says:

              And as for the grammar, if it actually makes you feel better to point that out, good for you.

              • david mizner says:

                I wasn’t poking fun at your grammar so much as poking fun at your I’m-a-historian pomposity.

                • david mizner says:

                  this is a response to John (I really like this site, but can’t you do something about the comment section?)

                  I think people here and underestimating the depth of what this movement has tapped into. That’s more the story imo than the movement itself. Right now I’m hearing thousands are about to converge on Zuchotti. I know I sound like a triumphalist (probably for the first time ever), but this thing ain’t gonna fizzle.

        • What’s “OO?”

          Occupy Orlando?

    • dangermouse says:

      This is exactly right.

      Ever since OWS began there’s been this weird notion that it was suddenly on them to fix all of America’s problems, as if they’d suddenly assumed the ability to draft legislation and repair our corrupt institutions.

      OWS set out to say what everybody knows, which is that shit is fucked up and bullshit. As long as they continue to stay out there saying that, and making Mike Bloomberg crawl up his own asshole in rage because people are out there saying that, then OWS succeeds.

      If OWS “fails” by whatever rubric invented by people with this need to determine whether they have or haven’t failed, then we’re all… exactly as badly off as we were when OWS began, ruled by wealthy gambling addicts with a death-grip on our political system directing their pet politicians to play out another round of “let’s pretend to care about the deficit while gutting social programs”.

      If people feel there needs to be something like OWS but with stated action items and clean-shaven protesters and a determined absence of that symbol of moral corruption, the pup tent, then they remain exactly as free as they ever were to go and create that movement.

  2. The point about evictions helping the protesters’ image is so obvious that I can’t understand how Bloomberg, and sundry other mayors and police chiefs, don’t get it.

    • actor212 says:

      Money talks, Joe. This isn’t Bloomberg talking, this is the folks who hold the mayor by the short hairs.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        Fair enough. But I don’t understand why the folks who hold the mayor by the short hairs don’t get it.

        • mpowell says:

          They are so damn short-sighted and selfish that they can’t stand a bunch of stinky ordinary people protesting in the park near where they work complaining that they make too much money.

          When you really get down to it, these people are kind of idiots. They have been spending the last 30 years slowly killing the golden goose. They really don’t want to live in an impoverished America. It’s a lower quality of life even if your rich and it will ultimately not sustain the incomes they are accustomed to. And if this depression results in a right wing fascist movement taking power instead of a new FDR type movement, there will be winners and losers among the elites. Major losers. It’s not worth the risk. The elites need to keep the masses happy and they are failing themselves by failing to do so.

          • Left_Wing_Fox says:

            Right.

            Remember that these are the same guys, who, after being completely protected from the consequences of their actions, emerging with companies and bonuses intact, proceeded to whine in the press that people were saying mean things about them, and not kissing their asses enough.

          • timb says:

            I disagree. There are plenty of Indian and Mexican and Brazilian and Russian billionaires who have no concern about the lives of the people who occupy their geographic vicinity.

            They think of themselves as citizens of the world and they are as attached to those shanty town dwellers as much as a hedge fund manager respects a tralier park dweller.

            They are the new nobility and, much like the old nobility had no concern for the serfs and peasants, they don’t have one either

        • actor212 says:

          Those same folks are the ones who are also trying to control the message coming out of lower Manhattan, I guess I should have added.

          They get it. It terrifies them that a portion of the country is starting to get the game they’ve played for 40 years or so (sometimes intentionally, sometimes as a matter of circumstance, but that’s a very different topic.)

          Just as none of us is more than a missed paycheck or two away from bankruptcy, these folks are seeing a critical mass grow against them. They’re scared, and trying to protect their hoard.

      • Marek says:

        Who has more money than Mayor Mike?

        • I was just about to write that. Bloomberg is one of actor212′s “folks.”

        • actor212 says:

          Actually, plenty of people, but your point is one I meant to address in my original post, which is why I said “the mayor’s” short hairs, not Mike’s. Forgive me my clumsy wording.

          It’s about the blackmail of “I’m picking up my offices and moving to Jersey.” Bloomberg himself can’t be hurt personally by inaction, but the mayor of New York can be.

      • Who has Bloomberg by the short hairs? He’s the 2nd richest guy in NYC after one of the Koch brothers.

    • Murc says:

      Seriously.

      Protestors who have no desire or willingness to get violent are, from a political standpoint, essentially irrelevant. Even powerless to a degree. Anyone willing to get off their ass and protest probably already has very well-defined political views, so whatever effect on public policy they’re going to have they’ve already had. Ignore them. Eventually they’ll either go away or outstay their welcome. If you’re a defender of the status quo, that means you WIN.

      Picking a fight with them is always a losing proposition, politically speaking. Always.

      • I assume you meant Protestors who have no desire or willingness to get violent are, from a political standpoint, essentially irrelevant unless you pick a fight with them, and the media sees it.

        Right?

        • Murc says:

          Yes, quite. Basically, putting on your hippie-kicking boots plays right into their hands. It baffles me why people do it.

          Now, there’s a whole different dynamic at play if you’re dealing with people who are willing to break shit. But protesters? They’re harmless. Cuddly even. If your goal is to defend the status quo, ignore them. They can’t stay relevant forever.

  3. Marek says:

    EL, why shouldn’t a municipality “allow” occupation indefinitely? Time limit on free expression?

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Public spaces serve a multiplicity of functions. Monopolizing public spaces for a particular cause is fine on one level, but one can argue it ceases to be a public space after a certain length of time. And there are already plenty of limits on free expression. You can’t go spraypaint obscenities on the city courthouse, even though that is certainly free expression. Context matters.

      Of course Zuccotti Park is actually a private space which is a whole other issue.

      • actor212 says:

        Actually, it’s a quasi-public space, as it was created originally by US Steel in return for a zoning concession. As such, the space has to allow for (nearly) all public activities that any equivalent municipal space (a park, for example) would allow. Since it’s outdoors, that effectively takes away many of the allowable limitations (such as closing the park during off-hours), but because it’s still private, it’s not subject to standard municipal curfew laws.

        It’s ironic that the OWSers are exploiting the “best of both worlds” that was created in a bizarre deal with a one-percenter corporation.

    • If Citibank had set up some sort of facility in a park that made it unavailable for the general public to play frisbee and stuff, would you make the same argument? “But there are the good guys” isn’t an answer to this question.

      An occupation – a type of privatization, when you think about it – of public space is a deliberately confrontational act, because a municipality actually does have a responsibility, at some point, to restore it to public use. Getting kicked out is part of the deal, and I’m confident that the OWS organizers understand that.

    • Richard says:

      No case has ever held (and never will) that free expression as contained in the First Amendment includes the right to camp out on public property. All cases have held that the government can have reasonable restrictions on the right to free speech which would include a ban on camping out. But I agree with Erik – this movement has got to progress from a bunch of people camping out to have any beneficial impact.

      • actor212 says:

        What about public assembly, tho? I’m not sure that’s been challenged as thoroughly as free speech.

        • Richard says:

          Same rulings. Law is very clear. Even under public assembly, there is no right to camp out. (The only caveat might be that if the government had allowed Tea Partiers to camp out, they couldn’t enforce the law selectively against OWS but I’m unaware of any state action allowing any campers in Manhattan). The plain fact is that, regardless of Bloomberg’s wisdom or lack thereof in taking this action now, this was going to be inevitable if the protestors didn’t leave the park. Bloomberg or his successor wasn’t going to let this go on for years. At some point, the occupiers were going to be evicted and the courts will eventually rule that eviction is warranted.

          • actor212 says:

            The First Amendment seems a bit more clear on this as an absolute than you make it out to be. Can you give me some citations, please?

            • Richard says:

              Dont have time to pull cites on this for you right now but its very clear that the govt can establish reasonable restrictions of time, place, etc for protests including banning camping. In the hearing this morning before the new judge, the OWS attorney conceded as much (from what I ahve read about the hearing) but tried to argue that the Occupy movement was different since the point was to occupy territory and that this necessarily involved maintaining a 24 hour presence. Doesn’t seem a very strong argument to me but the judge will issue a written ruling later today.

            • Hogan says:

              This might help.

              • actor212 says:

                Except they aren’t speaking. They’re assembling. Peaceably, as I understand it (altho there was some complaining about drumming which was addressed)

                • Hogan says:

                  Then see here. In any case the First Amendment protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” It would seem that speech is an essential component, and OWS is in fact doing both.

                • Richard says:

                  Actor

                  Read Clark v. Community for Creative Nonviolence, 468 U.S. 288 where the Supremes decided on a 7-2 vote that a Park Service rule prhibiting protestors from sleeping in tents was reasonable and NOT a violation of the right to peacefully assemble. The case is directly on point and there have been many cases which have cited its ruling

                • Richard says:

                  And the judge just ruled against the protestors I believe citing the Clark decision

                • Richard says:

                  I was wrong. The ruling did not cite Clark since the petitioners, presumably realizing that Clark disposed of any peaceful assembly claim, brought their action only under the right of free speech. In any case, the judge doesn’t discuss the right to peacefully assemble in his ruling. There will still be further proceedings on the application for a preliminary injunction but the case is effectively over.

                • Richard says:

                  Final correction. The judge did refer to the right to peaceful assembly, found that it was subject to reasonable place, time and manner restrictions and found that the new Zucotti park restrictions on camping were reasonable.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        To be clear, the movement has already had a very beneficial impact. They have changed the narrative on income inequality and moved us from a nation talking about national debt to one talking about long-term unemployment, income inequality, and corporate greed. That is tremendously impressive.

        My concern is where they take it from here because I think they’ve about maxed out the benefit from the physical occupation of these spaces.

        • actor212 says:

          Well, they had already scheduled what amounts to a general strike for tomorrow: shutting down selected subway lines and blocking Wall Street proper.

          Work for you?

          • Erik Loomis says:

            That’s a tactic, not a goal

          • Erik Loomis says:

            Which I neither approve or nor disapprove of. We’ll see how it goes. I worry about alienating people trying to get to work, but maybe it will work.

            • Richard says:

              If they shut down subway lines this week, I guaranty you that there will be millions of angry New Yorkers who are going to miss a day’s pay. What a stupid tactic.

              • The 99% want to get to freakin’ work.

                Don’t do it, fellas. Don’t you understand you’re in a media PR battle? Don’t you understand how much good it’s done to have “the hard-hats” side with you? Don’t you understand what a gift some local news feeds with pissed off regular joes will be for your opponents?

                • Richard says:

                  Forget regular joes. How about OWS sympathizers who are going to miss a day of work. My daughter lives in NYC and participated in Occupy Times Square Day. She runs an outreach program at the Harvey Milk School and also works at the Trader Joe Wine Store in Manhattan. She lives in Brooklyn and has no other way of commuting to either job except by the subway. She loses badly needed money if the subway is shut down. How will shutting down the subway endear her and the many like her to OWS as a long term political movement?

                • actor212 says:

                  Joe, I remember the anti-war/hard hat clashes of the 60s. It may not have reflected well on the students, but the fact that construction workers waded in and beat the crap out of them reflected worse on the establishment.

                  If anything, the unions are the ones who should watch their steps. Right now, OWS is aligned with their interests. They’re both fighting for the same thing. If I was the head of 1199, I’d be very vocal right now about supporting a strike on the subways. It’s time these groups stepped up the heat. We’ve got real issues to deal with in this nation, and being coy isn’t working.

                • It may not have reflected well on the students, but the fact that construction workers waded in and beat the crap out of them reflected worse on the establishment.

                  In your opinion, perhaps, but you aren’t the segment of the public that needs convincing.

                  If anything, the unions are the ones who should watch their steps.

                  \

                  Swelled head much?

                • actor212 says:

                  I’m union :-)

                  Look, OWS has breathed life into municipal unions that were on the ropes here. That’s indisputable. It’s drawn attention to union concerns. That too is indisputable. The unions will not lift a finger, no matter how angry their members get because they are inconvenienced.

            • actor212 says:

              What’s the old saying? “Well-behaved women seldom make history”?

          • Hogan says:

            The actual announcement says nothing about shutting down subway lines.

            • Richard says:

              It calls on people to Occupy the Subway by meeting at various subway stops. I take that to mean they will be stopping entrance at those subway stops but I hope I am wrong

              • actor212 says:

                At the very least, it will inconvenience people, to be sure.

                • Richard says:

                  And inconveniencing people is a good thing which will lead to further good things? I have no problem with inconveniencing Wall Street traders (like in initial OWS did) but I fail to see any good to be accomplished by inconveniencing New Yorkers on their way to work.

                • actor212 says:

                  What’s the old saying?

                  Well-behaved women seldom make history?

                  You want change, you have to get off your ass and make the change you want.

                • You know, by pissing off the people whose support you hope to gain.

                • Richard says:

                  I understand the value of civil disobedience. Sometime it is a great tactic, sometimes it isn’t . Since I’m an old guy, I have participated in acts of civil disobedience that worked (the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley), acts of civil disobedience that didn’t accomplish anything in the short run but may have accomplished things in the long run (numerous anti-Vietnam War marches) and acts of civil disobedience that didn’t work and were counterproductive (the various strikes and boycotts at Berkeley in the 60s over causes that were, in retrospect, quite stupid – I particularly remember the strike/boycott/sit-in protesting Berkeley’s failure to hire admitted rapist Eldridge Cleaver as a full time professor). I think the initial OWS protest was a good thing. I think attempts to shut down the subway system in NYC (if indeed that is what intended by the calls to Occupy the Subway) are stupid and almost assuredly counterproductive in both the short term and the long term.

                • actor212 says:

                  What point is there to gain the support of people who overpaid for overpriced condos so they could be closer to their Wall Street jobs?

                  And weren’t we just talking about the lack of exposure the movement had been getting?

                  Hey, this is Noo Yawk. We put up with rudeness and discourtesy every day, especially on the subway and at least they’re not trying to sell us something.

              • Hogan says:

                It sounds to me like they’re going to gather and talk. It certainly sounds different from what they have planned for Wall Street.

                • Richard says:

                  Hard to say. As you know, the entrances to subway stations arent very big. If you have twenty people gathered at the entrance, talking and not moving to let people take the train, then you’ve shut down the entrance.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Plus the Dirty Hippies smell. If their betters must pass near them, them have effectively shut the city down with their patchouli stink.

                • actor212 says:

                  I wonder if Richard understands the value of civil disobedience.

                  Because we’ve seen how being civilly obedient has worked for Americans lo these thirty years.

                • Richard says:

                  I understand the value of civil disobedience. Sometime it is a great tactic, sometimes it isn’t . Since I’m an old guy, I have participated in acts of civil disobedience that worked (the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley), acts of civil disobedience that didn’t accomplish anything in the short run but may have accomplished things in the long run (numerous anti-Vietnam War marches) and acts of civil disobedience that didn’t work and were counterproductive (the various strikes and boycotts at Berkeley in the 60s over causes that were, in retrospect, quite stupid – I particularly remember the strike/boycott/sit-in protesting Berkeley’s failure to hire admitted rapist Eldridge Cleaver as a full time professor). I think the initial OWS protest was a good thing. I think attempts to shut down the subway system in NYC (if indeed that is what intended by the calls to Occupy the Subway) are stupid and almost assuredly counterproductive in both the short term and the long term.

                • actor212 says:

                  OK, then you understand it’s all a process, a long slow process, designed to bring around lasting change.

                  Don’t be too hasty to pre-judge their actions. They haven’t been wrong so far.

                • Richard says:

                  They haven’t threatened to shut down the subways before.

                • Hogan says:

                  Nor have they done it now, except in the NY Post’s paraphrase.

                • actor212 says:

                  No one else has either, except the subway workers striking.

                  New Yorkers didn’t seem to be too pissed about that, even the strike that happened just before Christmas a few years ago. And those were city-wide.

  4. Jim says:

    I don’t see what the difference is between 2 or 3 months and 2 or 3 years, in terms of the legality. Obviously it won’t last 2 or 3 years because if that time has come and it’s still just a camp, nobody but homeless people will be there.

    It really does strike me as a movement that is too preoccupied with the idea of occupation. This isn’t like the Civil Rights Movement where there’s some relationship between the actions and the underlying grievances. Is OWS about keeping a camp in a park or about readjusting the governing structures of America? This isn’t a binary choice, but the obsession with the occupations, in my mind, points to the underlying weaknesses of having a movement with so little in the way of strategy.

    Yeah, I’ve heard that they don’t need a totemic leader of a white paper or help from CAP yada yada. Whatever. Electoral politics is with us today and will be with us forever. The very least that this movement could be doing is voter registration drives.

      • Anonymous says:

        -1000.

        Any question of the form

        “should the Occupy movement do something that will align it with the Democratic Party/said party’s power structures or otherwise assimilated it to acceptable American politics”?

        needs to be answered with a resounding NO.

    • John says:

      Indeed. What’s the actual plan here? We seem to have a classic underpants gnomes situation here.

      1. Camp out in public spaces in American cities
      2. ???
      3. End the increasing inequality of American society!

      What exactly is this supposed to lead to?

      • actor212 says:

        These things do take time. If it took 30-40 years to destroy America, can we give them at least a few months to get some sort of message together to fix it?

        I look at OWS and its affiliates as steps in the right direction. If it only accomplishes focusing the national dialogue on the right problems, finally, then it’s accomplished a lot.

        But more, it’s created a core of committed activists who have bonded and banded together. Who knows what they’ll be able to accomplish in the future?

  5. wiley says:

    We don’t want the response to protestors to be anything like Burmingham, though. I saw Bloody Sunday the day it happened, and if I never saw it again, I would remember it vividly still. It is no less horrifying to see it now, either. The water coming out of those fire hoses can rip the bark off of trees and the police were using them on human flesh. Cops with bullwhips on horses! Christ, what is wrong with country sometimes?

    Next time I hear a person say, “Slavery has been over for over a hundred years” I’ll want very much to cold-cock the son of a bitch.

    • wiley says:

      And to a certain segment of the population, any injury or even death inflicted on OWS protestors by the authorities would be seen as something all of those protestors deserved; because they’re DFHs or communists, or socialists, or anarchists, or all of the above. The main thing is that that don’t know their place— they aren’t kissing Republican ass, agreeing with every single Republican talking point, hating the same things Republicans hate,loving the same things Republicans love, worshiping the right Republican ideologues, and believing every Republican myth and historical revision; which, as far as I can tell, is why conservatives hate liberals so much.

  6. TJM says:

    The encampment needs to be a strategy, not an end in itself.

    I suspect that for many, the encampment is an end in itself. For some, it always was an end. For others, it became an end because they’ve become comfortable with it.

    But, even if we assume a good faith intent to achieve some larger goal, the movement turns off of many of us. If we do not understand what their goals are, then we are told that it is our fault for not paying attention. If we think that they should settle their differences with the police through legal challenges, rather than physical clashes that the protestors either incite or refuse to walk away from, then we are accused of bowing to government thuggery. The movement seems unreasonable when every disagreement with the police or other government official is portrayed as brutality, tyranny, or some other injustice. It is too reminiscent of an angry child who wants something, cannot articulate what or why, and has a meltdown.

    For those protestors who have actual grievances and behave reasonably, even they are not very easy to sympathize with. I am annoyed about many of the same issues that they are annoyed about. They went to college, took out loans, and made good faith attempts to better themselves. Now they are unemployed. Me too! I have an MBA, a JD, 3 tours in Iraq as an Infantry Officer, $130,000 in student loan debt, no job, and no job prospects. I should have a job. My resume would have landed me a great job in the 2006 economy. But living in a tent downtown does not give me work experience, pay my bills, demonstrate skill to potential employers, or help me to further hone knowledge or skills relevant to finding work.

    Before I typed this comment, I mailed off several more resume’s and cover letters. In an hour, I’m speaking to a corporate headhunter. Later this afternoon, I’m helping out an old professor with his research – for free – because the final product is something that I can put on my resume. Even when I’m on Twitter, I’m networking. I’ve had lengthy phone conversations with 4 people whom I connected with on Twitter, tracked down a dozen job leads from them, and gotten a lot of valuable advice that I otherwise would not have received.

    Now suppose I chose to protest, instead. What excuse would I have for being angry about my continued unemployment? That is how many Americans perceive these kids. The generally accepted response to unemployment is to look for work. The accepted time period for that search ends when the work is found, not when you get discouraged or angry. Are these protestors just “occupying” part-time and spending the rest of their hours looking for work? If they are, then it is not obvious to most us.

    I recognize that my grievances are similar to theirs. What is not clear to me is why I should join the protests. What I see is a lot of young people who seem to have reasonable expectations of what opportunities should be available to them, but unrealistic expectations of how hard they need to work to get there. I see kids who are rightfully angry at systemic problems in our employment practices, governance, regulation, and political processes, but who are too willing to embrace easy answers and cast excessive blame against faceless “others” who are easy to demonize.

    I suspect that my perception of the protests is not significantly different from that of most reasonable onlookers. Is it an accurate perception? I’m open to the possibility that it is not. But if many of us hold an inaccurate perception, then whose fault is that? As I noted at the beginning, many of us have asked, “what are you trying to achieve? What is your goal?” and we are shouted down for not paying attention. Sorry, but you need to connect at least a few of the dots for us. You want to change the world? Fine. But if you cannot articulate how to do it or why others should follow, then don’t get mad at the rest of us when we don’t figure it out for you and read your mind to understand the goals that you are incapable of expressing clearly.

    • You really have no ideas on what their goals might be? You really don’t pay attention, do you? Why are we worried about the deficit right now when bond markets are begging for the government to spend money? You do know that a lot of the Occupiers do have a job, right? Maybe they are pissed off at being stuck at a shitty job with little prospect for advancement.

    • actor212 says:

      I see kids who are rightfully angry at systemic problems in our employment practices, governance, regulation, and political processes, but who are too willing to embrace easy answers and cast excessive blame against faceless “others” who are easy to demonize.

      As a parent of a college student, here’s what I see.

      I see a bunch of people, young and old, some even older than I, who were sold a bill of goods that until a few years ago, looked like it might come to pass: work hard, involve yourself in the American economy, put away a few bucks, and you’ll be able to live a middle class existence with few worries.

      Maybe it was more than a few years, but the facade was certainly viable until the collapse of the housing market and the bank bailouts made it clear that the priorities of the American government were most definitely NOT to help the 99% who drive the economy, but the 1% who suck it dry.

      • wiley says:

        the priorities of the American government were most definitely NOT to help the 99% who drive the economy, but the 1% who suck it dry.

        What you said. Head on.

    • Walt says:

      Let’s say a year from now you haven’t found a job. What then?

      You are in a pretty privileged position in terms of looking for a job. You have contacts you can turn to. I mean, how many people are in a position to help an old professor do research in order to put it in your resume? And yet you’re finding it hard to find a job.

      This is for reasons that have basically nothing to do with you. If it were 1998, you would have found a job instantly, because there were more than enough jobs to go around. Now there aren’t enough jobs to go around. In that environment it’s like a game of musical chairs. Sure the people who are better scramblers are more likely to find a job, but someone is going to end up scrambling.

      Now imagine you’re a person who has less job-hunting resources, or has used those resources up. Imagine where you’ll be if you go another year without finding a job. What then?

      • Hogan says:

        In that environment it’s like a game of musical chairs. Sure the people who are better scramblers are more likely to find a job, but someone is going to end up scrambling.

        You don’t understand. In America, if one person can be in the one percent, we can all be in the one percent. If one horse can win the race, every horse can win the race.

      • TJM says:

        If, in a year, I haven’t found a job, then my lenders are in a curious position. My only debt is student loan debt. I’m depleting the last of my savings and beginning to run on fumes (aka, credit card debt). Credit card debt is unsecured, so I guess you all can pay higher interest rates if I am unable to pay up. Student loan debt is not dischargeable, but I need an income to pay it. Maybe bring back debtor’s prison? I don’t know.

        I think the issue of whether this mess is “my fault” is kind of ancillary, though I do think you let me off too easily. My situation is largely my fault. I was in the Active Army. That means that I had a good job with good (job) security. I left it willingly, not because I was disabled or forced out. That was choice #1. When I left, I could have gone directly into the workforce, doing the type of work that I’m now struggling to find. Instead, I wanted to add more value to whatever organization that I joined. So, I chose to go to business school (choice #2), and then law school (choice #3). Sure, I didn’t cause the current awful job market. But we all know recessions happen and that the job market can sometimes be tough – resulting in prolonged unemployment, depressed wages, or both.

        But, even if you disagree with everything above, that leaves a nagging question: Why should I, or similarly situated folks, join the protestors? As I hope is clear, I am sympathetic to some of their grievances. What turns me off is the easy answers they peddle, the demonization of a tiny number of culprits when the culprits are many, and the lack of any goals or strategy for me to evaluate. Merely identifying grievances and demanding that the grievances go away – somehow – is kind of vague.

        • actor212 says:

          What easy answers are they peddling? As far as I can see, they offer no solutions (yes, there was a foofaraw about forgiving student loans but a) it didn’t seem like a serious call and b) they are not the only people who think that would be a pretty good idea if we want the country to get moving again), or even a definitive perspective on their grievances.

          You understand the pressures these folks are under, to be sure. Student loans are a pressing, intimidating nut to make every month, and not easily dischargable in bankruptcy. And sure, you can make the claim that they made mistakes.

          But here’s the thing: how come their mistakes have to carry through their lifetimes, when if someone stole the same amount of money (or somehow manipulated the markets to their benefit to the tune of several millions) there would be an option of eventual parole for their mistake?

    • Pat L says:

      On the other hand, if the political visibility of the unemployed is something that can create the impetus for policies that reduce unemployment, then these protesters are sacrificing time they could spend job-hunting in order to make it easier for you to find a job.

    • dangermouse says:

      even if we assume a good faith intent

      physical clashes that the protestors either incite or refuse to walk away from

      Please tell me some more about how we can’t assume the protestor’s good faith intent.

    • dangermouse says:

      I see kids who are rightfully angry at systemic problems in our employment practices, governance, regulation, and political processes, but who are too willing to embrace easy answers and cast excessive blame against faceless “others” who are easy to demonize.

      Probably because those “others” are actually

      you know

      responsible for the systemic problems

  7. Hogan says:

    Strictly speaking, King didn’t choose Birmingham. Fred Shuttleworth and other Birminghamians chose Birmingham, and invited King to help out.

  8. wengler says:

    The little billionaire bank fluffer respects neither the Constitution nor the rule of law.

    There is a choice for people to make in this country. Continue down the path of economic ruin, war and authoritarianism(more popular than any of us would like to think) or change and hold the rich and powerful to account. It isn’t looking like they are going to hold themselves to account.

    Occupy Everywhere has just entered phase two.

    • wiley says:

      One thing that might make the OWS occupation a more meaningful message is for a separate, unrelated group to start taking out armored Mercedes and BMWs with RPGs. Even those who live in the most rarefied air of the top 1% would hear that and get it.

  9. [...] Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns & Money agrees, and adds some valuable insights. [...]

  10. dangermouse says:

    because they aren’t asking for any specific, at what point do they leave?

    Probably at the point where unemployment isn’t fuck-you percent, real wages increase a bit, and financiers face actual consequences for repeatedly destroying the economy and stealing people’s houses.

    Amazing the answers you can come up with when you think about them for three or four seconds.

  11. [...] Erik Loomis has almost exactly the same reaction as me to news that the encampment Zuccotti Park has been cleared (and apparently permanently): The clear strategy in response for OWS is to keep reestablishing the tent towns, forcing the cities to continue responding, burning money and political capital to do so, potentially creating situations of police brutality. But this also begs another question–is this movement becoming more about occupying space than a progressive upheaval? I think the lack of concrete goals really plagues the movement here–because they aren’t asking for any specific, at what point do they leave? Because there has to be some kind of end point to this. No city is going to allow this to continue for 2 or 3 years. Nor should they. [...]

  12. jpe says:

    The cities should stop w/ the BS threats of prison time and start fining protesters w/ the max. That would at least defray the costs. Plus the Occupy orgs are sitting on quite a bit of cash that one would think cities could attach.

  13. [...] will inevitably devour the movement. To circle around a bit, my sense is that in the broadest terms Loomis, Yglesias, and Klein are right about the usefulness of state violence for the OWS protest.  From [...]

  14. [...] is that as a result of the crackdown, the popularity of the Occupy movement drops further. So, while some think it’s good for the movement that the clashes with police raise Occupy’s visibility and keep it in the news whereas it [...]

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