Occupy Wall Street Movement Ignites The Nation
If 1967 is remembered for its summer of love, 2012 may well be remembered for its summer of rage. Let us peer into the mists ahead and conjecture.
August 2012 – With fires still burning in Portland, Oakland, and Atlanta and the riot death toll rising across the nation, National Guard units mop up the last pockets of resistance along the trail of looted and burned out buildings left by Occupy protestors rampaging across six states. President Obama is scheduled to address the nation tonight as pundits debate how and why things got so out of control. An optimistic paean appearing in The Nation less than nine months ago lauding Occupy protestors as our country’s greatest hope looks pathetically naïve in hindsight. It praised the Occupiers for “seek[ing] to rearrange the distribution of power, doing so by injecting a creative, often playful vitality that has been missing in our decayed democracy.”
A look at trajectory of the Occupy movement over the past six months shows how that fairy tale went awry.
January 2012 – With winter driving the Occupy movement into hibernation, only a handful of protests remain active, largely on college campuses. Students rotate comfortably between dorms and tent cities, accommodated by university administrators fearful of another pepper spray public relations fiasco. By issuing a steady stream of anti-capitalist manifestos and mock trials of corporate executives, the protestors keep the story alive, just barely.
February 2012 – Rump Occupy groups take up vigil in New York, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and Portland, manned by ragtag clumps of hardy supporters working in shifts. After snowstorms blanket the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, the radical union SEIU dispatches a fleet of RVs where protestors can warm up, shower, and get a hot meal. Meanwhile, ACLU lawyers keep mayors busy in court, where judges issue rulings that extend First Amendment free speech protections to public acts of synchronized urination, sidewalk feces art, and brandishing unlit Molotov cocktails. A judge in San Diego orders the city to supply protesters with free municipal electricity, citing a Minneapolis precedent.
March 2012 – With media interest starting to wane and the Republican primaries stealing headlines, President Obama lends his moral support to the protestors in his weekly Saturday address. He urges them to join his campaign to “recapture the dream of equality stolen by greedy millionaires and billionaires who refuse to pay their fair share.” AFL-CIO operatives begin distributing Recapture the Dream and Fair Share placards and T-Shirts and busing in union members to Occupy protests across the country. An Occupy protestor tries to snatch an Obama sign during an altercation in New York City and is beaten into a coma by a group of Teamsters. No witnesses come forward, and there are no arrests.
April 2012 – Occupy Atlanta springs back to life around a free concert and TV fundraiser hosted by Michael Moore and Alec Baldwin, broadcast live on MSNBC. The Democratic National Committee buys the majority of the commercial time. The broadcast raises $1.5 million, to be distributed to local protest groups by the National Occupy Steering Committee, headquartered at the same address as MoveOn.org.
May 2012 – The Ninth Circuit Court rules that tents represent protected speech. Occupy encampments reappear in a dozen cities. Rats and fleas quickly follow as unusually warm spring weather exacerbates sanitation problems. Several cities are ordered to provide port-o-potties to protestors after a cholera breakout traced to a voodoo spiritual advisor recently returned from a visit to Haiti.
June 2012 – Five parked cars are torched in Oakland. When firefighters arrive at the scene they are pelted with rocks and bottles; two sustain serious injuries. Videos of firemen turning fire hoses on the crowd in an effort to disperse protestors so they can fight the fires go viral on YouTube. Candlelight vigils are held at all Occupy encampments calling for non-violence as editorial writers blame the chaos in Oakland on “fringe groups not associated with the Occupy movement.” The next few weekends are quiet as heavy police presence discourages copycats.
July 1, 2012 – A teenage Occupy protestor sleeping in a traffic safety zone on the street adjacent to the Occupy Portland site is run over and killed by a police car speeding to the scene of a torched car. Video of the bloody hit-and-run death gets a million views on YouTube. Violence breaks out at eight other encampments as protestors battle police, demanding “justice.” Sporadic car torching erupts in Detroit, Atlanta, and several cities in California. Protestors in Los Angeles gather to chant “Burn, Mercedes, Burn” as firefighters refuse to approach the scene, fearing for their safety.
July 4, 2012 – Tempers flare as Occupy protestors crash Fourth of July celebrations across the country, demanding equal time to give speeches calling for a “new American revolution”—this one distinctly Marxist in character. Pipe bombs explode at four fireworks shows, injuring dozens of people, including children. Street fighting breaks out in Boston as Occupy protestors are confronted by vigilante groups welding baseball bats and American flags. Twenty-nine people are injured, two critically.
July 15, 2012 – President Obama, in between fund raising appearances, calls for a “National Day of Non-Violent Dialogue” after FBI infiltrators discover caches of bomb-making material at three Occupy sites.
August 15, 2012 – Dawn breaks on a Day of Rage organized by the National Occupy Steering Committee as a heat wave blankets the nation. Tense standoffs between protestors and police break down when rumors spread that the Portland police officer that struck and killed a protestor five weeks earlier has been cleared of all charges. As night falls, rocks and bottles begin to fly, causing protestors who have been calling for nonviolence to head for home. Calls for “street justice” fill the air. The first Molotov cocktail strikes a Bank of America branch in Portland, a few minutes before a McDonald’s is torched in Atlanta. Fires quickly spread to adjacent buildings. Graphic videos of trapped victims leaping from windows ricochet around the Internet. Fire engines attempting to respond are blocked by protestors clogging key intersections. Fighting becomes intense as baton-wielding riot police attempt to clear the streets. Shots are reported in Oakland as chaos rules the night. A state of emergency is declared in six states as the National Guard is called out.
A horrible fantasy? We can only hope. But like events in Greece, avoidable tragedies like this don’t happen overnight. It takes months to wear down the rule of law to its breaking point. If and when it does, it may look much like this.