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Cities Battle Occupy Wall Street Tents, Ignore Ideas

Occupy Wall Street Riot Police Raid Tents Photo Credit http://urbangrounds.com/2

The battle against Occupy Wall Street tents has begun.

Police officers dressed for battle descended on campers across America this week waging an all out war on tents, makeshift kitchens, donated books, and persons unwilling to leave public parks.  In Portland on Sunday, mounted police beat peaceful protestors who stood between the officers and the offending tents.  In Oakland, between 700 and 1000 police officers at a cost of $1000 per officer per day from more than 10 different departments were mobilized to remove tents in Frank Ogawa Plaza early Monday morning.  Like their counterparts on the West Coast, NYPD came equipped with a Long Range Acoustic Device or LRAD (more on that later), tear gas, armored vehicles, non-lethal projectiles, and batons to discard tents and steam clean the sidewalks of Zuccotti Park early Tuesday.  Occupiers that remained in the park to maintain a presence at the kitchen were dragged and beaten by Police so that they could dismantle the tent kitchen.

Compliance through pain is the modus operandi for police ordered to destroy tent.  This footage from this morning's raid in New York City:

It would seem that considerable effort and expense was used to tackle the problems incurred from the Occupy Wall Street movement.  But it's much easier to battle tents than to engage the ideas presented by the Occupiers. Thankfully, the OWS movement is a leaderless movement.  It's protected from the weaknesses of a cult of personality and insulated from the threat of arrests.  So even as tents are put into trash compactors in New York City or are tagged and submitted as evidence in Oakland, the ideas keep the movement alive.  Protestors are arrested, but the movement is still free.

This week's crackdown in Oakland was the city's second try after a violent clash October 25th that most notably resulted in critically injuring Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen.  The second attempt was considerably less violent and I'm sure Mayor Quan and the city council view it as a success.  There is still a second Occupy camp in Snow Park in Oakland.  It has tents.  So the tents didn't lose completely.  On the other hand, the ideas behind Occupy Wall Street won decisive victories.  Mayor Quan's legal advisor Dan Siegel resigned because of the city's disproportionate response to the Oakland Occupiers.  Deputy Mayor Sharon Cornu has also resigned.  Dan Siegel was involved in the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley in the 1960's along with Mayor Quan.  Apparently, he's the only one who remembers what civil disobedience is about.

Tents at UC Berkeley were also attacked by police last week.  In the very spot where Mario Savio rallied students for the Free Speech Movement, Associate Professor Celeste Langan was dragged by the hair, beaten, and arrested for blocking access to the offending Occupy movement's tents.  Now the university police, like the Oakland Police, will be sued and incur great expense for the violent removal of tents at a time when budgets are lean. 

It takes very little time to beat teenagers and unarmed faculty members.  It's an undertaking that these police departments, city governments, and administrators have executed without much thought.  One wonders if they will use the ample time provided by a protracted legal battle to consider how they could have better approached the Occupy Wall Street protestors and engaged their ideas instead of the tents.

Keep in mind as you watch this that the police action was initiated because students erected three tents.

The mainstream media's narrative is that the Occupy Wall Street movement has no policy platform, cannot form consensus, and uses methods that will not lead to meaningful change.  They are wrong.  The ideas of the movement are evolving, but the core beliefs have not changed: corporate greed must be put in check, social and economic inequality has gotten out of hand, the political system functions at the behest of corporate interests, and civil disobedience is the means to awareness and lasting change.  The occupations across the globe are where these ideas are maturing and where the repertoire of disruptive methods is expanding.  Occupiers are following the well-worn path of non-violent protest, this time on route to global change.  It's not the tents themselves that are struggling for legitimacy, it's these values.  In the end, everything else will have just been an expensive distraction.

(Top Photo Credit: http://urbangrounds.com/2011/10/occupy-denver-arrests/)

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