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The Empire strikes back: “Occupy” protests under fire

San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland, California: A tale of three cities?

City officials put protestors in Occupy Oakland, Occupy San Francisco, and Occupy San Jose “on notice” yesterday that their tent cities in front of government buildings could no longer continue. Officials cited safety, sanitation and public health issues as the reasons for eviction notices. For some reason, TV news tonight seemed to focus on San Jose and a strange situation in Oakland where a reporter and camera crew were refused access to speak to “Occupy” protestors, by (large :-) ) unidentified men. In a short follow-up, TV news aired the results of a poll that found 56% of Americans polled do not support the Occupy protests, offering “moral support” to folks who don’t mind giving up yet another of their Constitutional Rights. HOWEVER, a Washington Post article notes that in a recent National Journal poll, 56% of non-college-educated whites agree with the protestors (only 31% disagree).  In a Time poll, 54% of non-college-educated white men and 48% of non-college-educated white women (51% overall) view the protests favorably (29% of the men, 19% of the women, 23% overall disagree). The “non-college-educated” part was important because the poll results REFUTE the assertion by Right-wing politicians that these groups do not support the demonstrators.

What’s going on? :-)

I suspect that forces of  “the establishment” (including banks, other large corporations, and government) are starting to “feel the heat” from the protests. After all, the protests claim to represent the 99% of Americans who have made ALMOST NO financial progress since 1980, much to the benefit of the top 1% (and top 0.1% and top 0.01%) of income earners (the 99% constitute a FORMIDABLE group of potential VOTERS). One of the lessons that I learned in my undergraduate education at (The) Ohio State University (OSU) occurred several YEARS after the protests of the spring of 1970: a threat to any protest is the “agent provocateur.” In the symbolic closing of the gates to OSU on Neil Avenue, THREE of the “students” involved in closing the gates in 1970 were actually undercover Columbus, Ohio police officers! Swept up in the moment, a group of students joined them in closing the gates. Some of these students were later expelled from the university for this illegal act. A quote that I remember from the time was one from then-Police Chief Dwight Joseph, who defined “entrapment” as “leading a person into his own guilt.” :-) At the Occupy protests in Rome, anarchists “hijacked” the protests recently, leading to violence with the throwing of Molotov cocktails and the burning of buildings.

The First Amendment (the Founding Fathers must have considered it HIGHLY) to the U.S. Constitution states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Freedom of assembly is often used in the context of the right to protest. In my life so far, I have seen how peaceful assembly has helped to reduce discrimination in the United States, starting in the South in the early 1960s, and how such assembly occupied much of the lives of the Richard Nixon administration and led to the end of an unpopular war. In both of these cases, SUBSTANTIALLY less than 99% of the American people were involved.

Oakland city administrators “turned up the heat” on protestors this afternoon by issuing a letter which stated that the Occupy Oakland encampment is “a violation of the law” and threatening violators with immediate arrest. The “notice of violations and demand to cease violations” comes a day after a preliminary letter which urged the residents to vacate the camp. The City of Oakland ordered residents of the tent city to discontinue their nightly vigils and remove personal belongings and tents from Frank H. Ogawa Plaza.

In San Jose, police arrested eight protestors BEFORE DAWN today and cited a ninth protestor who was in a wheelchair for violating city laws against overnight camping on public property, a type of law often used against the homeless. Although the demonstrators have been camping outside of City Hall since October 2 and several have been cited, NONE had been arrested until this morning.

I noted with a little amusement the Citigroup ad that I had to “click through” to get to the link about poll results above. Citigroup was one of my customers in high tech and, three years after a federal bailout (read “bailout by taxpayers”) allowed them to survive, they recently posted their seventh-straight quarterly profit. Also in that New York Times article:

“In October 2011, Citigroup agreed to pay $285 million to settle charges that it misled investors in a $1 billion derivatives deal tied to the United States housing market, then bet against investors as the housing market began to show signs of distress, the Securities and Exchange Commission said.”

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

Another gem by Burke:

Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe.

-Bill at

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