Sunday, October 30, 2011

When All Hands Are Unclean

The Occupy Together movement made it pretty clear from mid-September that it assigned equal blame to Republicans and Democrats for placing their parties at the beck and call of corporate lobbyists. This baseline position made the efforts by Republicans to claim the Occupy movement was started by ACORN or unions look sort of silly (yeah, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, I'm talkin' to you). What has been fairly predictable since the post-Sept. 11 period, however, is the degree to which Democrats have compromised themselves by making tactical deals with the national security state. We could see this at the local level when cities played host to party conventions or IMF/World Bank meetings. It was often Democratic members of city councils who argued the most vociferously for rules to bar protests or ban the wearing of bandanas within city limits.

The chickens certainly came home to roost at the end of October, as Denver, Atlanta, Nashville, and Portland vied for the title of the city that could look the most like Oakland. And in many cases, the city, county, and state leaders left with the most egg on their faces were liberal Democrats, often members of minority groups. Oakland in particular was graced with the trifecta of Mayor Jean Quan, City Administrator Deanna Santana, and Vice Mayor Ignacio de la Torre, sharing the blame for the out-of-control riot police. It is likely that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock will look equally pathetic after blame is parceled out for the Oct. 29 melee that put two in the hospital and 20 behind bars. What is equally ironic is that it is often conservative judges, as in the case with Nashville, who keep freeing protesters after police arrest them multiple times, saying the city and county do not have the authority to make such sweeping ordinances preventing free assembly.

Outsiders may say the Occupy movement has gotten out of hand, demanding the kind of crackdown we are seeing nationwide. Are there instances of provocateurs and overly boisterous protesters pushing the lines of police netting? Absolutely. Do some war veterans with PTSD and a few gun owners ignore the Occupy insistence on Gandhian principles of nonviolence? From time to time. But have there been any cases where protesters have attacked police? Don't be ridiculous, particularly when said police are in full body armor.

The militarization of first responders has taken place in the aftermath of Sept. 11 as the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security have thrown out money for Joint Terrorism Task Forces, intelligence fusion centers, and tactical SWAT teams in any cities over half a million in population. And the two major parties have been right there taking the money and largesse from such militarization. When New York police from all boroughs staged a near-riot Oct. 28 to prevent Bronx cops from being indicted on ticket-fixing charges, the police attacked the media and representatives from Commissioner Ray Kelly's office. Kelly and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg should take this as a warning that the New York Police may no longer be a controllable mob as they confront Occupy Wall Street. Let this be a broader warning for the nation. We may be seeing rogue cops emerge as uncontrollable forces in many cities in the next few months, and some Democrats may regret making such deals with the devil that the Republicans are all too happy to serve. By then, of course, it will be too late to say you are sorry.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

Frightening. Thanks always for your excellent vantage point.