Monday, November 14, 2011

Cities bringing the smackdown to "Occupy;" why it'll prove a mistake

                The weekend crackdown on several big-city “Occupy” protests is odd on many counts.  Occupy sites in Denver, Portland, Oakland and Nashville have either been recently evicted or are under the threat of an impending removal.  While local authorities claim the forceful removal of these groups is to protect public health and safety, in reality local governments are simply sick and tired of these protestors.   Can you blame them?  I’m a supporter of the movement myself, but even I can see how one would want to get rid of dissent, especially if one had the power to do so.  Though the protests may have been quaint at first, a nice example of young people becoming politically active and utilizing their Constitutionally protected free-speech rights, to civic leaders their just becoming a pain in the ass. 

In some ways local mayors probably initially liked the protestors in that their actions drew some national media attention to their cities. Yet local leadership has been spending so much money patrolling the protests, clearing sites, even using heavy construction equipment to demolish snow igloos (Denver) the costs associated began to mount.  Citing vague and indefinable justifications like “public safety,” “public health,” and “sanitation” local authorities have finally brought the smack down to many city Occupy protests.  Though many conservatives likely wonder what took leadership so long, the ouster of these many groups will prove to be a mistake. Here’s why:

1.        By removing the Occupiers, a city removes the need for a constant police presence. No more riot-gear-clad police, no more overtime hours racking up, no more budget-busting late night engagement.  By removing the Occupiers, cities have taken away an easy target for those disparaging conservatives.  No longer will conservatives be able to whine about the expense being caused by these protestors to the local municipalities.  No longer will conservatives be able to label the protestors as a bunch of do-nothing bums who need to get a job.  Mistake #1

2.       By kicking the protestors out before winter, cities are doing the movement a huge favor.  Rather than having to suffer through the bitter cold of the coming winter months, the same cold which pundits felt would be the doom of the movement, Occupiers now can simply show up each day or on weekends to protest.  Thanks to the cities kicking them out, the protestors don’t have to look weak when they pack up because of the cold, the movement won’t suffer the embarrassment of lagging numbers camping out, and conservatives won’t be able to rip the protestors for not being strong enough to suffer for something.  Mistake #2.

3.       By evicting the protestors, cities have become exhibit A for the Occupiers .  What’s more convincing of the problems of big government that’s at the bidding of corporations than when that same government is seen all over the media dragging people away, spraying folks with pepper spray, and beating protestors with batons.  These evictions are just reinforcing the foundations of the movement while giving them priceless TV time and media attention.  If cities want the Occupiers to give up they’d be a lot wiser to just ignore them. Let them freeze out all winter, leave them to rot, keep the police away, and most importantly don’t do anything to the protestors to draw media attention.  In time, the media and the attention of the nation would divert to the next story.  After all, in our visual culture, what’s out of sight is out of mind.  By bringing all the media focus to the protests because of the evictions, cities are doing the movements a huge favor. Mistake #3.

The truth is, most government leaders just don’t get it, and why should they? Why should they support a movement which calls attention to the very system which keeps so many of them in power? It’s the massive political donations of corporations—oh wait, “persons”—which fund the campaign efforts of so many (all) politicians and causes their political terms to be 2,4, or 6 years of just giving paybacks to those “people” (corporations) that supported them during their campaign.  Nope, they don’t get it, and for anyone who’s a supporter of the Occupy movement, we’re better off that they don’t.

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