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The American Autumn

October 28, 2011

Left: Protesters tear gassed in Cairo; January 2011, Right: Protesters tear-gassed in Oakland October 25, 2011

Lost Tongues: When police and troops brutalized Arab Spring protestors in Egypt, Libya, Syria and so forth, American officials from President Obama, to Hillary Clinton, to members of Congress and the pundits were quick to condemn government crackdowns on peaceful demonstrations. However, now that police have brutally assailed peaceful “Occupy” protesters here in America, most of the same folks seem to have lost their indignation not to mention their tongues.

Why Occupy Wall StreetThe causes of the protest here and in the Middle East are not so different. People are feeling marginalized both economically and politically. The young adults who for the most part populate the demos are desperately worried about their ability to find jobs and support families.Their parents and grandparents are feeling the squeeze– 25 million Americans (16%) are unemployed, underemployed or have stopped looking for work and milllions have lost their homes.

Occupy Wall Street, NYC, October 26, 2011; Photo Emmanual Dunand

Government policies promote the rich and powerful and not surprisingly the gap between the wealthy and the “99 %” continues to escalate. A new study by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that income of the upper 1 % nearly tripled while the rest of us barely held ground. Recent polls showing public approval of Congress is at an all time low – in single digits. No wonder – leaders from both parties are beholden to their large donors rather than their constituents. The reckless mega-Wall Street firms that caused the 2008 collapse got the bailouts while families around the nation lose their homes.

Police raids: If you have any doubts about the brutal nature of police actions in Oakland, New York and other places, please take a look at the following videos: Esquire,  Associated Press/KGO TV,  ABC News

We haven’t seen anything like this since the Vietnam and Civil Rights eras. Tuesday night (October 25) was especially brutal in Oakland where police fired tear gas and reportedly used rubber bullets and flash-bang canisters to clear Frank Ogawa Park in front of City Hall.

An Iraq War veteran, Scott Olsen, 24 was hit by a projectile during the Oakland police action and now lies in critical condition. Leaders of the Iraq Veterans Against the War allege that the Olsen was struck by a police projectile. However, this has not been confirmed.
Esquire’s Politics Blog put it this way: “Make no mistake about it: The actions of the police department in Oakland last night were a military assault on a legitimate political demonstration. That it was a milder military assault than it could have been which is to say it wasn’t a massacre, is very much beside the point. There was no possible provocation that warranted this display of force.”
 The Occupy Oakland protesters voted Wednesday night to hold a general strike and are encouraging workers to leave their jobs and march with the “Occupiers.”
National Nurses United:  National Nurses United (NNU) have set up stations to provide basic first aid to protesters in Chicago and other cities.  According to Rose Ann DeMoro, NNU President, nurses were among those arrested and a first aid station was torn down and have picketed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s downtown office. See video here. NNU supports the efforts of the Occupy Wall Street protesters and is asking for volunteers to work at First Aid Stations as winter approaches. If you are interested in volunteering at a first aid booth in your community, see this link.

Marine Sgt: Shamar Thomas:, video-photography: BrklynJHandy

American Hero, Marine Sargent Shamar Thomas: Crises always bring out both the best and the worst in people. Our Hero award goes to Marine Sargent Shamar Thomas who angrily berated New York City Police after they attacked peaceful Occupy Wall Street Protesters. In the following video he asks the police “how do you sleep at night” and “why would you harm these people. They have no guns” Sgt. Shamar, a veteran of more than 50 combat missions in Iraq, asks why the police are brutalizing unarmed American citizens peacefully practicing their constitutional rights. See:

Lisa Simeone: talented, witty, courageous, beautiful.

American Hero, Lisa Simeone: National Public Radio’s this week fired Lisa Simeone, the host of NPR’s World of Opera Program. Soon after a company that produces programs for NPR distribution fired Simeone from her position as host of Soundprint. The reason—Ms. Simeone participated in Stop the Machine demonstrations in DC – protests against federal funding for the war in Afghanistan, now in its tenth year. NPR cited its code of ethics: “NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them.”  Sure reporters should refrain from making news, but it’s hard to see the connection between Simeone’s participation in an anti-war protest and an opera, say, Mozart’s The Marriage Figaro. But perhaps NPR’s executives are worried that some of the network’s donors might not like even a slight hint that NPR supports such protests. Lisa Simeone is an American patriot and we are sure that she be successful in her next ventures. A big loss for NPR, but especially for listeners.

What should mayors do?OK, the New York Times today had a very balanced article on the quandary that mayors in “Occupy Cities” face. On the one hand they are sympathetic to the first amendment rights of protestors, but on the other hand they feel compelled to maintain public safety and order.

Oakland Mayor Quan and Police Chief Batts: Police Dept Photo

My response: First, there is no excuse for the tear gassing, flash bang canisters and harming protesters. That has to stop. It only leads to an escalation of rage and violence. Secondly, the protesters need to know that public will continue to back their efforts if they are restrained in their response. Third, I will assume that most of the city officials involved are well meaning. All of this leads to the need for negotiations. There is surely common ground – protesters need to protest and city officials need to keep the place running. Moreover, cities across the nation have taken a huge financial hit and have had to layoff teacher and other public workers. As one protester told a cop, “You are just one pink slip away from joining our protest.” So its urgent to work out formulas in “occupied cities” that work for both sides. As many have said, “The whole world is watching Oakland.”

Where is the President? Once again we are not hearing much from the White House. Sure, Obama is preoccupied with winning a second term. However, he could play a leadership role in getting the occupiers and the mayors together.  Come on Mr. President, why not a trip to Oakland?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. permalink*
    October 28, 2011 10:15 am

    Breaking news: Police Chief Batts resigned and Mayor Quan apologized to the protesters. A good opening for the protesters to start a dialogue with the Mayor and other approachable officials.

    More Breaking news: NEW YORK — A union representing 5,000 New York City Police Department sergeants blasted Occupy Wall Street protesters on Thursday and threatened to sue them should they injure police.

    “New York’s police officers are working around the clock as the already overburdened economy in New York is being drained by ‘occupiers’ who intentionally and maliciously instigate needless and violent confrontations with the police,” said Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association. Although sergeants are higher in rank than patrol officers, they do not wear the white shirts of some of the more senior officers.

    Protesters have at times played confrontational cat-and-mouse games with the police, but incidents of serious violence directed against the NYPD by protesters in New York have been extremely rare.

    My comment: Start a dialogue. In Madison, Police and Protesters got along very well. Why? Because police were being laid off due to the severe budget cuts and anti-union legislation put in place by the Republican Governor and Republican majority legislatures.

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