Occupy Movement Must Police Itself
If the Occupy movement is to be reignited today, as promised, let it be a reform, not merely a reiteration.
No one in America should be afraid of the ideas the Occupy movement advocates. They're worthy of serious discussion.
But unfortunately, due to the actions of some extremists and even some of the more general tactics of the movement, many Americans are leery of Occupy. That's a shame, and even more, it's a disservice to the ideas the movement hopes to advance.
“Organizers say they hope the coordinated events will mark a spring resurgence of the movement after a quiet winter,” the Bloomberg news service reports. “Calls for a general strike with no work, no school, no banking and no shopping have sprung up on websites in Toronto, Barcelona, London, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney, among hundreds of cities in North America, Europe and Asia.”
The Occupy Wall Street groups in New York City say the May Day “celebration” will be a positive one.
“We will celebrate a holiday for the 99 percent,” the groups say at maydaynyc.org. “We will come together across lines of race, class, gender, and religion and challenge the systems that create these divisions. New Yorkers will join with millions throughout the world — workers, students, immigrants, professionals, houseworkers. We will take to the streets to unite in a General Strike against a system which does not work for us. With our collective power we will begin to build the world we want to see. Another world is possible!”
But elements within the movement are calling for more than merely general strikes; they're calling for attempts to disrupt the lives of the very “99 percent” they purport to be defending.
“The NYPD is bracing for an attempt by Occupy Wall Street protesters to shut down traffic at arteries across the city during a mass demonstration Tuesday,” the New York Daily News reports. “Using websites and pamphlets, OWS organizers are urging people to help block traffic at bridge and tunnel ports to slow people going to work on May Day… Other Occupy websites say protesters will try to blockade city crossings as they did the Brooklyn Bridge in October — when more than 700 people were arrested for marching on the span's roadway. One website also calls for marchers to swarm financial buildings, including the offices of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and the New York Stock Exchange.”
That's going too far, and like the excesses of the movement last year, will serve only to distract from the movement's message.
“We are all united,” the movement claims. “The system that declares unionized workers as ‘bad for business' is the same system that decides human beings are a commodity that can be ‘illegal.' It's the same system which causes students to graduate college with so much debt that they must chain themselves to a career in something they despise, rather than pursue their passions and enrich their communities. It's the same system that measures the value of a person by what they consume.”
That's a message worthy of real debate. Do members of the “1 percent” hold too much of the nation's wealth? Let's discuss it. Are corporations bad for America? Let's talk about it. Is capitalism a workable economic system? Let's even put that on the table.
Those of us who defend American traditions and hold the nation's institutions in higher esteem can (or at least should be able to) defend our beliefs. We're not afraid of ideas.
So don't, through misbehavior, make Americans afraid of the movement.