Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Zuccotti Park, Michael Bloomberg, and the 1% Police State: "Wherever there's a cop beatin' a guy..."

As you know, Michael Bloomberg ordered his NYPD thugs to clear Zuccotti Park the other night. As James Downie wrote at WaPo:

Early Tuesday morning, New York police raided and evicted the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park in southern Manhattan. The behavior of the NYPD and the mayor's office, in ordering this brazen action while blocking the press and the public from reporting on the eviction, is a disgraceful display of unnecessary force on a protest that for the most part has behaved lawfully and respectfully throughout its two-month existence.


The offered reasoning for the eviction? The same canard as the last time Bloomberg wanted to sweep away protesters: "public health and safety." Never mind that Occupy Wall Street has continually cleaned the park itself, or that health experts who have visited the park have pronounced it sanitary, or that even Bloomberg could cite only one incident that threatened public safety in his statement about the eviction. No, such "facts" were turned away, just as the police sought to turn the media's cameras elsewhere. All this while, as Matt Taibbi put it last week, "in the skyscrapers above the protests, anything goes." Nobody arrested the bankers for pushing fraudulent loans and subprime mortgage investments, or the ratings agencies and government regulators that neglected their duties and helped Wall Street crash the global economy. But putting tents in a public park? Time to bring out the batons and pepper spray.

As hard as the NYPD and New York City's government might try to obscure the truth though, one truth remains: At 1 a.m. this morning, in the heart of New York City, protesters exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly were swept away by the state, while that state also did all it could to prevent media coverage. No matter what one may think of the occupiers or their cause, nothing they've done justifies blockading the press or ignoring court orders. Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and other New York leaders who ordered the eviction should take a long, hard look at their handling of the occupation. This morning's action may not be what a police state looks like, but it's certainly how one begins.

Indeed it is. I've praised Bloomberg in the past, particularly for his eloquent handling of the Park51 Islamic community center ("Ground Zero mosque") controversy, but this is bullshit. The OWS protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful (and clean), including in New York City. Yes, there have been a few instances of inappropriate behavior, but the right (and the defenders of the status quo generally) have held the rare exceptions up to impugn the entire movement. And ultimately, while Bloomberg and others have defended the First Amendment right to free speech (and assembly), they put their foot down -- and clamp down -- whenever the threat to their wealth and authority gets a little too real.

This is how the 1% stays in power. They tolerate you, and then they crush you.

Thankfully, though, the protests will continue, if now without tents and sleeping bags. (And maybe being evicted from Zuccotti Park, even only temporarily, was the best thing to happen to OWS.) The fight must go on.


A while back, I posted the incredible version of "The Ghost of Tom Joad" Bruce Springsteen does with Tom Morello. The original -- perhaps Springsteen's best song on his best album -- is also great, though. It's slower, quieter, acoustic, more haunting. Here's The Boss performing it the way it was first meant to be:

Now Tom said "Mom, wherever there's a cop beatin' a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there's a fight 'gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I'll be there
Wherever there's somebody fightin' for a place to stand
Or decent job or a helpin' hand
Wherever somebody's strugglin' to be free
Look in their eyes Mom you'll see me."

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