Should Occupy Wall Street ‘exact a cost on society?’

I read an online comment, yesterday, advocating that the Occupy Wall Street movement disrupt freight-rail services, or even break windows if necessary, in order to gain greater attention from society at large. The writer argued that marches are ineffective and that the movement’s tactics to date allow too many people to ignore it and go about their lives. He suggested that without greater attention from society at large, the movement would founder, and concluded that the movement must “exact a cost on society” if it is to be successful.

The writer’s frustration with the slow pace of change and lack of material, widespread support for Occupy Wall Street is understandable. While I suspect that the movement is cheered by many millions of people from what they deem a safe distance (whether literally or figuratively), the numbers of people actually putting their lives and reputations on the line are, thus far, only thousands. But, every movement has to start somewhere and with a relatively small group of people.

As a child I watched the antiwar and civil rights movementsof the 1960s and 1970s grow from similarly modest foundations to widespread empathy, acceptance, and support. They, too, began with meetings, marches, slogans, and, yes, occupations of physical space. The press and many in society ignored or derided them. After years of sustained effort, however, masses of people came to accept their goals as noble and embraced their ideas.

Elements in the antiwar and civil rights movements did eventually employ violent or destructive tactics, but these came after brutal acts of repression by local, state, and federal officials. At various times and places protestors smashed windows, burned buildings, and blocked trains. Some rioted and looted businesses; a few threw bombs. People lost their lives on both sides of the conflict.

The movement we know today as Occupy Wall Street may yet lead to comparable violence and destruction. Certainly we see that government officials have either learned nothing or else forgotten the lessons of several decades ago. When New York mayor Michael Bloomberg sends thousands of paramilitary forces to disrupt lawful protests with chemical weapons and batons, he is initiating the use of force, which is never moral or just and only invites defensive violence from his victims.

Perversely, this kind of official repression only feeds and strengthens the movement. The movement would grow anyway, aiming as it does at ending gross and intolerable injustices, but repressive actions such Bloomberg’s accelerate the process. When people see gun-bearing, baton-brandishing, helmeted police pepper-spraying defenseless young girls and dragging kids through the streets, most are repulsed. Those who cheer the thuggish police antics are either ignorant of their own interests or malevolent; many of these are undoubtedly sponsors or beneficiaries of the fascist (“crony capitalist”) regime that the Occupy Wall Street movement seeks to end.

If Occupy Wall Street is to maintain its moral authority, it must remain non-violent. That is not to say that its members should allow themselves to be beaten like dogs or shot dead in the streets, but only that they must never initiate the use of force themselves. And, if force must be used in legitimate self-defense or defense of innocent others, it must be proportionate to and calibrated solely to remove to remove the proximate threat.

The suggestion that the Occupy Wall Street movement must ‘exact a cost on society’ in order to bring about a better society is illogicaland would be self-destructive if followed. Were participants in the movement to adopt that tactic, they would lower themselves to the level of the blood-soaked savages currently occupying city halls, state houses, and government buildings in District of Columbia, who shrug off the deaths of innocents in the War on Drugs or “shock and awe” slaughters of brown-skinned people half a world awayas “collateral damage.”

The fascists among us have created enough victims already. Occupy Wall Street must stop the carnage, not create more of it.

4 thoughts on “Should Occupy Wall Street ‘exact a cost on society?’

  1. Calm

    Well, I'm 63 years of age and have been an activist all of my working career.My first protest was in August 1970 and where I marched upon the offices of Falconbridge Nickel and my last demonstration was in 1990 and where I unionized my workplace of 18 hundred employees. I retired in 1998.[B]You Wrote:[/B][I]"If Occupy Wall Street is to maintain its moral authority, it must remain non-violent. That is not to say that its members should allow themselves to be beaten like dogs or shot dead in the streets, but only that they must never initiate the use of force themselves.The suggestion that the Occupy Wall Street movement must ‘exact a cost on society’ in order to bring about a better society is illogical and would be self-destructive if followed. Were participants in the movement to adopt that tactic, they would lower themselves to the level of the blood-soaked savages currently occupying city halls, state houses, and government buildings in District of Columbia, who shrug off the deaths of innocents in the War on Drugs or “shock and awe” slaughters of brown-skinned people half a world away as “collateral damage.”"[/I]It seems to me that you are only suggesting that the Occupy Movement group wait awhile until they can show just cause to strike back.It is not that you and I disagree, but rather that I was thinking far ahead of you. I easily recognize that long before any real change takes place, there will be blood in the streets and people will be shot down like dirty dogs.The Ruling Class calls it "Class Warfare" because the Establishment see it as a "War" and the Ruling Class always plays for keeps.The only reason the demonstration was allowed in New York yesterday was because there were too many middle class kids involved from student groups. There was no problem when it came to beating the heads of the "infantry" in Zucotti Park because they came from the lower class.I gather that your column would suggest that my idea of exacting a cost upon society is improper or wrong at this time, but correct and encouraged if the reactions of the Ruling Class continue with the refusal to give the Occupy Movement a seat at the table.I was impressed with these articles:"Stop The Machine" Or How To Demoralize A MovementBy John A. MurphyOctober 07, 2011http://wrongkindofgreen.org/2011/10/07/stop-the-machine-or-how-to-demoralize-a-movementNonviolence: Its Histories and MythsBy Professor Michael Neumann February 08, 2003http://tamilnation.co/ideology/neuman_on_non_violence.htmhttp://www.counterpunch.org/2003/02/08/nonviolence-its-histories-and-mythsNonviolent Action as the Sword that HealsChallenging Ward Churchill's "Pacifism As Pathology"By George LakeyMarch 2005http://www.trainingforchange.org/nonviolent_action_sword_that_healsCalm

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  2. Calm

    I guess I should post my comment which you referred to …..I think this cop strategy of violence is deliberate.The more violence the cops use, the less likely people are to get involved. Nobody wants to get caught up in a melee and perhaps get stranded as the cops gate them in and while teargass tearing out their lungs.Oh! People will watch it in TV-Land for entertainment, but will never actively participate.A cost must be exacted upon the complete society or Occupy will never get a seat at the table for negotiations.The immigrant protests in 2006 shut down complete cities (no deliveries allowed to business) and within 48 hours Congress changed its tune from "Deportation" to "Comprehensive Reform".YouTube has a site named "Life In A Day".http://www.youtube.com/user/lifeinadayOccupy needs a site "Protest In A Day".Organizers must choose a specific date where people all over the country can commit an act of disobedience (such as break a window.). Let the participants choose a time of day of their choosing, but on a specific date (in the dead of night if need be) and then upload video of what they "saw" not necessarily what they themselves committed.Protests where people "Parade" is a thing of the past. People don't want to participate when the media will catch you on film and your boss will see you supporting such activity.Perhaps, another method would be to Occupy/Slow down freight rail service. (Not Mass Transit.) Freight trains passes through center of every city. 80% of goods move my rail. People could participate in every community across the country.Just the threat of slowing rail service would result in the rail companies themselves slowing down for fear of a public relations disaster.Perhaps leaving "Empty" unattended bags or boxes in areas of "security" concern and where the police will be working 24-7 responding to such suspicious packages.Calm

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