Not That They’ll Listen

I continue to be baffled at the overreaction of the NYPD toward OWS in Manhattan. This video is from this morning; see the cop run up behind a guy in a green T-shirt who was just walking. The cop whirls the young man around and punches him.

Either some among the NYPD are Neanderthal thugs, or someone is paying them under the table to punch the hippies. Of course, both could be true.

BTW, the young man’s name is Felix Rivera-Pitre. He says he is HIV positive and that the cop drew blood and had better get tested.

According to CBS News, the cops claim protesters were throwing bottles and garbage at them. If true, surely someone caught it on a cameraphone. I’ll wait to see the video.

However, young folks, whatever you do — don’t fight back. That’s what they want you to do. Don’t give in to the temptation. Well, unless you think they’re about to kill you, I suppose. And don’t provoke the cops unnecessarily. Just go about your lawful business, and let the blame be entirely on them if they stop you. It’s what Gandhi would do.

In another incidence of PSHSD — post sixties hysterical stress disorder — someone in Boston is claiming that the “hippies” spit on a woman in a Coast Guard uniform. I’m with Susie on that one — highly unlikely.

Polls show that a majority of Americans have a favorable view of OWS, and the Right is going to do everything it can do to tarnish that approval, including making up stories about spitting at people in the armed services. There’s no way to stop that.

But this is where the Greater Asshole rule comes into play. If the people slandering OWS appear to be the bigger assholes, then the slander shouldn’t hurt much. However, a few undisciplined hotheads could undo everything and neuter the demonstration.

I hope the Zuccotti Park crew understand that occupying a plaza is not a movement; it’s a symbolic act. It could become the anchor of a movement, or not, but that movement requires popular support if it is going to effect change. They can camp on the plaza a hundred years; if the public turns against them, eventually no one’s going to care.

27 thoughts on “Not That They’ll Listen

  1. Speaking of occupying ‘parks,’ wonder if it’s occurred to the very wealthy that should the number of homeless Americans increase exponentially, and it will, there’ll be a lot of ‘occupied’ parks in a lot of American cities and towns and villages. Of course, the wealthy can always hide in their gated communities so as not to have to look at the millions occupying their parks, defecating and all the other ‘ugly’ stuff people have to do.

    But they should remember that fencing people out of gated communities also means fencing people in. What are those prisons called where white-collar criminals get to spend their fenced-in sentences?

  2. Police your own OWSer’s!

    That person acting-up near you may not be a fellow protester, but a Conservative Ratfucker.

    And Ratfuckers, who are sometime PAID agitator/Ratfuckers, thanks to Wingnut Welfare, get free access to lawyers, and frequently receive “Get Out of Jail Free” cards, while real protesters caught up in something, languish in cells.

    And make sure this message is out there – laying low is the best way to go.

    If I were one of the leaders, like I was in NC, I would tell others what I told them there:
    If you start trouble, don’t look to us for any help. You are out – and NOT welcome back under any circumstances. PERIOD!!!
    If trouble finds you through no fault of your own, we’ll be there for you, no matter what, for as long as it takes.
    No acts of violence – even in reciprocation – unless you are faced with extreme and imminent violence!
    What questions about the above rules do you have?

  3. They can camp on the plaza a hundred years; if the public turns against them, eventually no one’s going to care.

    So true!

  4. My favorite (much much) bigger a-hole so far is that class act, the zombie Victoria Jackson, baiting OWSers on video. “If you want everyone to be equal,” she says, “how is that fair to the people with more beauty and brains?”

    Alas, none of the young folks had a clue who she was, I imagine, because none of them thought to say, “Hey Vicks, you should be all for that, because equalization over brains, talent and looks would give you a huge promotion!”

  5. Pingback: Another Reason Why Occupy Wall Street Is Twice As Popular As The Tea Party « Mercury Rising 鳯女

  6. I watched the video and what struck me was that, when the cop punched the protester, the two were surrounded by other protesters TAKING PICTURES. Everybody got their cameras and phones out and started taping. Then they started chanting “The whole world is watching.” If I were a cop, this video would incline me toward caution. These scenes used to be scenes of police intimidation. Shoe, meet other foot.

  7. I use cops frequently for traffic control in my work.
    Some are good guys, while others are complete ass holes.
    When dealing with them it is important to realize that they have a pack mentality, and just like in dealing with apex predators, certain actions trigger reflex actions.
    Maha’s advice on acting like Ghandi is spot on. Anything other than passive resistance will be met with overwhelming force, it is what cops are trained to do.

  8. Echoing you, Ian Welsh made the comment that the elites are acting really dumb (written earlier this week):

    … I find the way the elites are acting incredibly stupid. If I were them and didn’t want fundamental changes, I’d pat the protestors on the head, tell the cops to be nice to them, and even go say sympathetic things to them. Smile, nod, be supportive of the encampments themselves, but don’t make any changes to how business is actually done. Let winter and disillusionment deal with them. Give them nothing to rally against.

    Maha, you would know better than I about this – is the NYPD acting out their zero tolerance mindset (from a few years ago)?

  9. How long can this group go without presenting some specifics? Generalized discontent is going to turn amorphously unimportant at some point. Matt Taibbi’s list of 5 starting points may not answer everything, but eventually a focus happens or nothing happens. Or do I just lack understanding here?

  10. I’d like to say something about Obama, and his relation with the #OWS movement. If he really is what you, Maha, seem to think he is (a liberal, but handcuffed by a Republican congress), he can show that he is one of us by GRANTING FULL PARDONS to every peaceful demonstrator that the NYPD arrests. He has that power, and doesn’t need the approval of congress to do it. Not even the Supreme Court could stop him.

    The president can grant a full pardon to a convicted child rapist-murderer if he wants. Of course, that would take a lot of political courage even if there was overwhelming proof that the accused was innocent – the MSM would have a field day with “Obama’s support for child molesters.” But surely Obama can find the political courage to grant pardons to people arrested for “disorderly conduct” – especially when the accused are not guilty and there is widespread public support for what they’re doing. Sure, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity will criticize him, but they criticize him for everything. By now it should occur to Obama that the only way Fox News will support him is if he switches to the Republican Party and appoints Michelle Bachmann to the Supreme Court.

    True, I haven’t heard anyone clamoring for pardons. But sitting in the White House and watching this (on the web, since I guess the TV news is useless) Obama should have enough brains to know how he can help the protesters, if he wants to. If I had the power he has, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it. So far he’s done nothing to make me think he supports #OWS.

    Obama had the political “courage” to support trillions of dollars in bailouts to Wall Street with about 99% public disapproval of his actions. So if he can’t find enough political courage to pardon the protesters, then he is not one of us. Not a liberal, but rather a president mainly interested in keeping the campaign contributions from Wall Street rolling in.

    I’ve decided that I’m going do as much as I can to raise the issue of pardons in blogs, and I hope other people will jump on this bandwagon. I realize that isn’t doing much, but I don’t have Obama’s phone number and nobody is going to interview me on Fox News. Blogging is about as much public voice as I get.

    • Candide — I’m pretty sure presidential pardoning power only applies to federal cases. If people are being arrested under New York City’s jurisdiction and arraigned in municipal or county court, I don’t think a President has the authority to pardon them.

  11. Maha, when you first posted this, I thought “that’s ridiculous” and “she must be wrong.” But I went and googled and found out you are right. So you’ve educated me.

    But it’s still ridiculous. So the president could pardon someone who robs a post office at gunpoint (a federal facility, so a federal crime) but he couldn’t pardon a jaywalker.

  12. Bill – a lot of experts are saying that OWS needs specific demands. I disagree. Look at the Tea Party. They built their movement on three vague principles. Lower taxes, less regulation & a white male in the White House. OWS needs to pound on the problem – not the specific answers. The problem is inequality in income, in opportunity, in taxes and in political power. The answer to questions about what the protesters seek should be ‘fairness’.

    You have to look at how this plays in the public theatre. If OWS can issue factual statements to describe the problem the public conversation can be about how rich the top 1% are – and how little they pay in taxes – how the game is rigged in DC for Wall Street. I’m not talking vague opinions – the facts are there. Every week OWS could force discussion in the media of a new facet of the problem – always with a release that would fact-check 100%.

    This gives the talking heads something new to chew – and every week expand the size of the demonstrations. But stay in the mode of factual problem definition on the theme of inequality. Let the GOP declare that they are FOR inequality and hopefully, some democrats will declare they are against.

    • Doug — I agree that OWS doesn’t necessarily have to advocate for a specific solution, but I’d be happy if they focused on absolutely nothing else but economic inequality issues.

  13. Maha said: I agree that OWS doesn’t necessarily have to advocate for a specific solution, but I’d be happy if they focused on absolutely nothing else but economic inequality issues.

    Admirable though that might be, I think that falls somewhat outside of what they’re protesting. The message, if there is one, is that the Wall Street banksters simply robbed the US taxpayers to the tune of trillions of dollars (something the Tea Partiers initially latched onto, before they went off on Obama’s birth certificate and “death panels”). The idea that OWS represents 99% isn’t far-fetched – even the fetus people and creationists aren’t happy to see their pensions disappear, unless they’re planning to be Raptured before reaching retirement age.

    The lack of focus makes it easier to win widespread support. If they want to get more specific, I’d like to see criminal prosecutions for all the fraud and theft, plus clawback of the stolen money. And reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, the regulatory mechanism that prevented this sort of fraud until it was repealed in 1999. I do realize that if the protesters were holding up signs saying “Reinstate Glass-Steagall” it would go over the heads of most people. “Prosecute the Banksters” is easier to understand.

  14. Remember, remember, the 5th of November……..

    The inspiration for this movement is “V for Vendetta”.
    The youth are sick of the permanent war state, control of all life by the House of Rothschild banksters, the use of religion to create international terror, and the loss of all true freedom.
    There is no nebulous ,undefind reason for their anger.It has gone global.
    If the current path is not changed, the plot of that film will be realized.
    If things don’t change, today’s youth will not have the standard of living had by our generation.
    BTW, a bit off topic; Obama has ordered combat forces into Uganda.
    It just keeps getting better……….

  15. Don’t get specific. Let the powers that be worry about anything and everything. Especially now that this ‘movement’ has gone global.

    Being vague has a kind of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” feel to it: Maybe on top of asking, “Who are those guys?’,” they’ll be asking “What do they want?”

    God, I wish I could get out there to lend support!

  16. The OWS movement is really about democracy fighting aristocracy, which is why it has gained so much international support. Before I heard it so defined, I thought the protest should be staged and focused on DC. Now I’m clear that millions of us, world-wide, are more likely to jump on a bandwagon when the message is directed at our ever-decreasing pocketbooks.

  17. I attended the LA event today. Numbers appeared to be 3-4k with volume echoing between the tall bank buildings far exceeding any big game noise at a packed stadium. Had to cut it short because I took my dog thinking it would be a walk in the park. Dogs freak at lound noise.

    I just wanted to voice agreement with all remarks made about stereotyping participants. There was a real cross-section. I saw no hippies. OK, maybe 5-10 out of 4,000 but I didn’t ask them if they were hippies. They might have been veterans or attorneys. Hair-length hardly marks one these days. There were a lot of families with kids on shoulders, one with signs reading “babies for better adults.” The 40+ crowd was well represented.

    The remarks about younger potheads there for dating marks those pushing it as grasping at straws. The press will eventually get with it and demonstrate that those who are not present but reporting on the types of participants are simply throwing their old 60’s animosities up against the wall hoping they can get something to stick. I suppose they’ll have success in some quarters until someone in media gets off their rear and investigates.

    There was not a large police presence, though they could have been ready and waiting a few blocks away. They were hardly noticeable. During downtime LAPD has been engaged and a few responded with the old thumbs-up. The cops were wearing shorts and riding bicycles and looked relaxed, almost like they were enjoying it.

    What’s with the NYPD, that they can’t chill? I don’t expect violence at any of these events, though NYC’s finest seem hell-bent on making it happen. And what’s with the dated hippie fixation? It’s 2012. That was then. This is now. Today, people in business attire smoka da ganja. How could they be so worried about a bunch of peaceniks? It was hardly an open-carry rally like the one held just outside DC several months back. But they are and some are apparently bothered by all this, unloading their darkest, morbid fears of some imaginary generalized other onto people they have no clue about.

    First they ignore us, then they ridicule us, then they FIGHT us, then we win!
    – Mahatma Gandi

  18. From Eric Byler, co-founder of the Coffee Party and attendee/observer at OWS and other Occupy events across the nation (I am paraphrasing):

    The genius of this movement is that they are attacking the roots…changing the questions we are asking. Instead of asking “How do we implement the agenda of the 1%…how do we extract the wealth from taxpayers to multi-national corporations having no particular alliegance to America” it is now being asked “Why should we consent to that and how can we refocus our country’s attention and resources to the needs of the 99%.”

    Context and framing of questions are so subtle we’re usually not aware of it. There are implicit assumptions in each frame of reference. If grievances or assertions resonate in some small way the entire frame gets internalized. Thusly when a much different question is asked that rejects the former frame and inherent assumptions the initial reaction is confusion over competing underlying assumptions that rarely surface openly in a discussion. Then the gears in the minds of the perplexed start to turn. I’m convinced that it really works this way so I’m happy to add my drop to the bucket. This seems to be the rhetorical equivalent of amping up the offense and turning the tables on what has for so long been a lopsided class war waged only by the powerful against a weak majority.

  19. Sorry for blogificating on so but… CUNDGULAG, I conveyed your passed through me. Also, I saw not one sign that did not have origins that could not be traced back to economic inequality. Sure there was some variety but they all signified things that are blocked by government subservience to corporate rule, corporate ownership of politicians and abandonement of the 99% by our leaders.

  20. Pat,
    Thanks for passing on my support, I’ll be eternally grateful.
    PS: Keep on keepin’ on!

  21. Thanks for all the responses related to my question. The thoughtfulness behind them exemplifies this blog’s community. I’ve never been to an official protest, but it looks like I may get to. Maybe I’ll go to the campout in Greensboro and deliver some food for the campers. Cookies aren’t much of a way to “stick it to the man”, but if that is all it takes to make “the man” nervous, I’ll bake a sheetful!

  22. I realize LA is not NYC. Numbers are hard to guess but I’ve always been good at these types of things like guessing M&Ms n jars (account for air which is % difference between formula for cube and sphere) and a game I used to play with friends before attendance was announced at Atlanta Braves games. Numbers were estimated as “hundreds” but I’d bet my next paycheck on 2,000+ (and I’d win too).

    One thing you get when there is a true cross-section of participants is the younger ones are up front, brimming with energy. We old fogies don’t try to keep up on the average. So when the photographers line up, guess who is the leading 5% that they see coming. A lot of the reaction we see is from those who only look at the images online then make their assessment that is, of course, with absolute certainty.

    I tend to be more reflective but in the middle of a few thousand motivated people with an axe to grind (albeit non-violently) it almost feels for a moment that it is a single organism. There’s a kind of euphoria that is my nature to resist. A lot of what Eric Hoffer said in his thoughts on the nature of mass movements rings true so I wondered which of the types of malcontents he describes I must be.

    There were quite a few shirts and placards mentioning Wiedmer, an economist who got the 2006 thing all right. He forecasts the very worse — like 90% loss of value in the dow and 50% unemployment. I’m still trying to understand how Wiedmer is regarded by peers.

    I spoke with many people and the sense of the Obama administration having done zilch in the way of restoring regulation to prevent meltdowns like the one we had is clearly evident. I use who I consider the brightest economists (i.e. the ones who got 2006 right) as my canaries in the coal mine..Roubini, Krugman and possibly Wiedmer who IMCO the jury is still out on. If Wiedmer is right it would pay to heed his warning. On the other hand even a false alarm could cause a stampede.

    The group-think that tells us everything we’ve “known” can’t be wrong scares the bejesus outta me. Remember this guy? . So I need to find out more about Wiedmer. BofA has announced a charge to use ATM. Superficial reaction is that they are mean or stupid but I’m more concerned that they are hurting more than they’re letting on.

    • Pat — The economist is Robert Wiedemer. I had never heard of him, but I did a search on blogs by people who know stuff about economics– Stirling Newberry, Ian Welsh, Brad deLong — and got no hits. However, Wiedemer pops up a lot on NewsMax. Ain’t nothin’ says “hack” like NewsMax. Give him no mind. Also, beware of getting too euphoric with NewsMax readers. 😉

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