Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Evolution of the Occupiers

When the Occupy Wall Street movement began last October it was very peaceful and sometimes joyous. This got it a lot of good press. How can you say harsh things about protestors with drums and giant puppets.

But when the movement started it had the collusion of many big-city mayors and other officials. They didn't enforce laws about sleeping in public parks or having demonstrations without a permit.

The encampments stayed and started showing signs of becoming permanent. Several sites began construction of wooden buildings with the intention of spending the Winter and beyond. Sanitation became a problem. The homeless mixed in with the protestors. Drug abuse became common and violent incidents began. The movement lost its luster.

Suddenly the officials decided to start enforcing the laws. This led to violent confrontations. It became obvious that the only way to evict an occupation was to give them a deadline but hold off enforcing it until the dead of night two or three days later.

Most camps were broken up and the movement fragmented. It also turned angry.

Last weekend the Occupiers descended on Oakland (again). They broke into City Hall and vandalized it. Someone grabbed a flag and, at the urgings of the others, set it on fire. The mayor of Oakland who had been an enabler last Fall now wants them to go somewhere else.

Back in New York, a videographer who had been a hero for his live feeds from Zuccotti Park is now considered an enemy of the movement for continuing to show the Occupiers now that they have turned violent.

I probably will get severely injured in these next coming months," he said. "...I pretty much expect to wind up in the hospital. The threats I'm hearing, with words like 'protection' in them, sound awfully Mafioso.

This evolution was probably inevitable. OWS refused to make any serious, unified demands. What did come out of the camps tended to focus on major, disruptive change to society or forgiveness for college debts. With nothing to show for weeks of effort, the protestors are getting impatient that their unstated demands have not been met.

At the same time, the movement has attracted the anarchist elements that trashed Seattle in 1999. The movement has never made a serious effort to discourage violence which encourages its violent element. This will continue to cost it public support.

This is bad news for President Obama's reelection. He adopted several OWS elements in his State of the Union speech including a threat to take action against colleges if tuition keeps rising. The President did not get a bounce in the polls after his speech which shows that its OWS elements do not resonate with the electorate.

Contrast this with the evolution of the Tea Party. It went from orderly demonstrations to political action and managed to co-opt the Republican Party.

If OWS continues on its current path then we could see a repeat of the 1968 election where a riot broke out outside the Democratic convention and probably cost the Democrats the White House.

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