flickr image By Nick Gulotta
As a veteran boomer protester who has been waiting for resistance to the corporate state to show up in the next generation, Occupy Wall Street has left me frustrated and pissed off. What the &^%$#%#$ does taking the Brooklyn Bridge have to do with breaking up the banks, getting back representative government and getting money out of government? What exactly does this nonsense accomplish? So 700 young men and women just lost their passports and will never again be able to even cross over the border to Canada. great. I have hoped, and still hope, that the unions joining up will bring some clarity to this amorphous, goal-less protest, but so far that has not happened. Yes, I did "go down there" and I did fund their occupation at considerable expense to myself. And I came home more frustrated, came home understanding that these kids had no idea how the country got to this pathetic state, or what it will take to put it right again. They are flailing blindly at the injustices heaped on themselves and their families. And just as they were set up for mass arrest on that bridge, the movement is being set up for a declaration of martial law.
The protesters in Cairo took the square and held it, marching resolutely through police lines, married to concrete goals - Mubarak out, civil liberties guaranteed. These were serious people, who understood the stakes in a profound way. They stood their ground, many of them suffering grave injury from police assaults. They stood there. They did not stage silly marches around Cairo because they got bored standing at the square. They stood there. And what are the demands of OWS ? Nobody knows, and while the movement complains of biased, derisive reporting from the mainstream press, they are occupying a park in what can be interpreted as a party by unemployed post-college kids who have nothing better to do. Yoga, free hugs, zombie marches - well all of that is cute, but it is not going to effect change in the system. Marching on One Police Plaza? across the Brooklyn Bridge? huh? . And what the +&%W(&%# does "occupy everything" mean? Get a grip, people. Get a list of demands. You want one? I can reel it off for you, about 100 pages of demands. But not one word is coming out of this protest, and this kind of directionless taking to the streets is going to give the feds every excuse they need to call for martial law. My take? This protest is blowing it. big time. That is how I see it, and many others see it as well. And I don't care who calls me names. I am way too old to care what people think of me. What I care about, all I care about, is getting democracy back in America. I am one who does not believe that we are going to get there with these tactics. Somebody on these pages, in a reply to a column said "they will tolerate it for a while and when it gets too threatening they will squash them like bugs". Probably. Martial law looms like a giant flyswatter.
But it does not have to go that way. It will go that way if the protest continues with the naivete it has so far. But there are other possible outcomes - if and only if the protest gets serious and engages in economic warfare - boycotts and general strikes. And IF it gets serious, it will gain support and grow in numbers and scare Congress - and the bankers and corporations who bribe them - into ... change. Michael Moore, in a supportive visit to the protest site, chanted "I want to see a perp walk"; probably the clearest statement to come from Zuccotti Park to date. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, in commenting on the protest on Countdown said, "They must demand banking reform. Real reform of the banking system. That is what can come out of this". Why, I want to know, can Bernie Sanders articulate one clear objective that so far has eluded 5000 twenty-somethings in Zuccotti Park?
The protest long-planned and scheduled to begin in Freedom Plaza in Washington DC this week (information here ), much better organized and hugely more focused, is putting Occupy Wall Street to shame. "End the Wars. Bring the troops home. Tax the Rich and Corporations. Healthcare for All. End Corporate Welfare. Protect the Planet. Get Money Out of Politics. Put Workers Before Profits. "
Now that is an agenda I can stand up for. I will be there.
UPDATE 35 protesters occupied McPherson Square in Washington DC on Saturday. They had one demand: Repeal of corporate personhood. Why can't 5000 in lower Manhattan articulate one demand? Article here: click here