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Blue Meanies Attack Pepperland Again And Again And Again. . . .

By       Message Rodger Knight       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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Occupy Wall Street
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The takeover of Zuccotti Park by the Occupy Wall Street protesters is not a new experience for New Yorkers.  At the end of the 1920s, a decade of prosperity but prosperity for the most part enjoyed only by the top 1 or 2 percent of Americans, the wealth bubble inevitably burst and the country slid into the Great Depression.  By 1931 tens of thousands of New Yorkers had been evicted from their homes. Some moved in with friends or family but others had no place to go. When shanty towns sprung up along the East River, the Hudson, and in Central Park, they were quickly nicknamed Hoovervilles, after then president Herbert Hoover.  New York's largest Hooverville was located in the middle of Central Park, near the newly abandoned Croton Reservoir.  There were other Hoovervilles in the city in the 1930s.  One, "Camp Thomas Paine," ws located along the Hudson in Riverside Park and another, "Hardlucksville," was situated at the end of 10th Street on the East River.

The difference between then and now is that the 1930s Hooverville residents were treated sympathetically by the public and, more importantly, by city officials.  In July, 1931, a judge suspended the sentences of 22 unemployed men sleeping in Central Park gave each one $2 out of his own pocket.  In September, 1932, 29 men were arrested "with apologies and good feelings on both sides in what the Parks Department described as Hoover Valley.

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There is no indication that at any time did the authorities view the those unfortunate enough to be forced to live in these encampments as an enemy requiring confrontation by riot equipped police.
 How things change.

Perhaps the most famous Hooverville was the one that grew in Washington D.C. populated by men of the Bonus Expeditionary Army.  In May, 1924, Congress overrode a veto by President Calvin Coolidge and enacted the World War Adjusted Compensation Act which granted each veteran a dollar for each day of domestic service and $1.25 for each day of overseas service.  A small amount, $50, was paid immediately with rest deferred to be paid in 1945.  By the spring of 1932 about 43,000 marchers, 17,000 mostly out of work World War I veterans, their families and affiliated groups had gathered in Washington DC to demand early payment of the bonus.

On July 28, 1932, after unsuccessful attempts to negotiate with the marchers, U.S. Attorney General William D. Mitchell ordered the veterans removed from all government property.  When the Washington police tried to dispose the adamant marchers they met with resistance, shots were fired and two veterans were wounded and later died.  President Herbert Hoover then ordered the army to clear the veterans' campsite.  Enter now three actors in the tragic theater that followed, two villains and a neutral who would all later become American heroes, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower.

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Later on July, 28, MacArthur was ordered to remove the bonus marchers from their Hooverville encampment.  Patton advanced using a group of five tanks and fired on the crowd. That attack was followed by an infantry charge in which tear gas and bayonets were used.  MacArthur had attacked with such great enthusiasm that Hoover sent orders via two officers forbidding MacArthur to cross the Anacostia to clear the marchers' main camp.  MacArthur flatly ignored the President's orders, saying he was "too busy' and could not be "bothered by people coming down and pretending to bring orders. MacArthur crossed the Anacostia, drove the bonus marchers and six-hundred of their wives and children out of the camp and burned it.  Eisenhower, a MacArthur aide, was critical of MacArthur later years late but wrote the report endorsing the action at the time.


In an earlier post I included this item:
ALBANY -- In a tense battle of wills, state troopers and Albany police held off making arrests of dozens of protesters near the Capitol over the weekend even as Albany's mayor, under pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration, had urged his police chief to enforce a city curfew.
                     The situation intensified late Friday evening when Jennings, who has cultivated a strong relationship with Cuomo, directed his department to arrest protesters who refused to leave the city-owned portion of a large park that's across Washington Avenue from the Capitol and City Hall.
                     At the Capitol, in anticipation of possibly dozens of arrests, a State Police civil disturbance unit was quietly activated, according to officials briefed on the matter but not authorized to comment publicly. But as the curfew neared, the group of protesters estimated at several hundred moved across an invisible line in the park from state land onto city property.
                    "We were ready to make arrests if needed, but these people complied with our orders," a State Police official said. However, he added that State Police supported the defiant posture of Albany police leaders to hold off making arrests for the low-level offense of trespassing, in part because of concern it could incite a riot or draw thousands of protesters in a backlash that could endanger police and the public.
                         A police official added, "We don't have those resources, and these people were not causing trouble The bottom line is the police know policing, not the governor and not the mayor."
So, there are the two sides, the extremes of how authorities can respond to civil disobedience.  Sadly, so far most state and city governments have chosen the MacArthur approach.  In just the past few days we've seen 20 arrested in Denver by riot police using clubs, pepper spray canisters and rubber bullets. We've seen 46 arrests in Phoenix and 53 arrests in Tucson, Arizona and similar numbers in Portland Oregon, Austin, Texas and a list of cities too numerous to enumerate here.  In city after city we've seen peaceful individuals exercising their right to assemble and to practice free speech attacked with great zeal and enthusiasm.  And in the biggest, the most ironic obscenity of all we've seen a young man who was only trying to exercise the rights he was told he was fighting for in our most obscene war, Iraq, critically injured by an armed militant mob in his own country. 

And what are these scofflaws doing that requires that the Blue Meanies attack with such force and violence; they're protesting the fact that their future has been stolen from them by the Hidden-Persuader Men who've bought the government we all thought was supposed to work for us.  They're protesting the fact that 46.2 million of all Americans and 25 percent of the very young live below the poverty line. They're protesting that roughly 14 million employable Americans are out of work and they're protesting that millions of homes, IRAs, pension funds and money meant for education were stolen by corrupt, greedy bankers and investors and no one did anything about it.  They're guilty of crimes such as staying in a public park beyond an arbitrarily established curfew or standing on a public sidewalk after being told to leave or not having a permit to assemble and petition our government for redress of these wrongs.  Sometimes they're just guilty of providing food or medical care for those who need it. Essentially, they are protesting for you and me and they are protesting because things are wrong in America and no one else was doing anything about it.


Some other Depression era terms.

"Hoover blanket" (old newspaper used as blanketing) and "Hoover flag" (an empty pocket turned inside out). "Hoover leather" was cardboard used to line a shoe with the sole worn through. A "Hoover wagon" was an automobile with horses hitched to it because the owner couldn't afford gas.

Much thanks to the Beatles for providing inspiration and greater descriptions than I ever could.

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"Blue Meanies" a sub-species of their Chief's origin. They wear navy blue woolly coats, domino masks, and Mickey Mouse-ear-like hats (with the exception of the Chief Blue Meanie himself and his sidekick "Max",
"The Hidden-Persuader Men"  large, fat Meanies who are constantly smoking cigars and carrying martinis.

"The Chief Blue Meanie" a high-pitched, flamboyant character set on ruling Pepperland with fear and oppression.

 

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Rodger Knight is a retired probation officer and amateur historian with a particular interest in the Depression and war years. He has a BA in English and History from Cal State University, San Bernardino and, for two years, was a graduate student (more...)
 

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