Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This Is About More than Occupy Wall Street

You can agree with Occupy Wall Street or not.  You can agree that the banking system is fucked and still think that Occupy is doing it wrong.  You can completely disagree with both message and execution.  All of those things are fine.  But as of last night, you are no longer allowed to disregard what the behavior of the NYPD says about this country and who is running it.

Last night - in the middle of the night - Occupy Wall Street was forcibly removed from Zuccotti Park by heavy machinery, police in riot gear, and LRAD sound cannons.  A public police force, at the behest of the Mayor of New York City, removed people exercising their First Amendment rights from a private park, and the President of the United States didn't say a goddamn thing.

There are a lot of things going on here.  There is a larger question of whether a public park is appropriate to the exercise of First Amendment rights.  One might argue no, and have a legitimate argument; private property is private for a reason and vice versa.  However, we have begun ceding our public spaces to private control, and while this is a nice way to keep the maintenance of public spaces off the ledgers of local governments, it also means that we are ceding physical space in which we can exercise our rights as citizens.   Public spaces are accepted as a public good, but we rarely explain why they are a public good.  The Boston Public Gardens are lovely, but their virtue is not in the beautiful plantings or the swan boats.  Their virtue is in the freedom of the space, the communal ownership of the land, and the chance to simply be a citizen in that space.  If this is the good provided by public spaces, then we must either demand that private interests taking over the provision of public spaces maintain these freedoms or else refuse their generosity for our own collective good.

If we do accept these private/public spaces as private in ownership and control, then it is inappropriate to have public police forces managing them.  Allowing private citizens into an office building does not give the building owner the right to use the police as security personnel, and neither should allowing public citizens into a private space.  If the management group that owns Zuccotti Park wanted to hire private security forces to evict the Occupiers, it should have done that, and while the violence would probably have been worse, it would not have been a damaging blow to this country's civil liberties.  Instead, a police force went in at the direction of a Mayor.  Let us be clear: a government agency went in to shut down a peaceful assembly.

Had it not been the NYPD, maybe I wouldn't be so fucking angry.  Had it not been at Mayor Bloomberg's request, maybe I wouldn't be so fucking scared.  Maybe if there had been any nod towards the First Amendment's protections, I wouldn't be so fucking sad.

Some will say that the Occupiers did not have First Amendment protections in a private park.  This would be a legitimate argument had the NYPD not gone in.  It was not a private interest suppressing the Occupiers' protest, it was the government.  With the involvement of a police force, it becomes a matter of First Amendment rights' suppression.  This is, of course, all before we mention that the press were kicked out of the park and kept separate.  It's all before we mention that this went down in the middle of the night.  That tells me that the NYPD knew exactly how much a transgression of rights this shit was, because if they thought otherwise they'd do it in the light of day, in the light of righteousness.

Can we take a moment, too, to note that the NYPD sent in counter terrorism officers, closed down airspace over Zuccotti Park, and generally demonstrated that they have a fucking military policing New York?

And the President of the United States, a man who raised his hand on January 20th, 2009 and swore to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, has said nothing.  He has had five hours in a 24/7 world.

Shame on you, President Obama.  Shame on you for allowing this to happen without condemnation.  Shame on you for allowing our security state to expand and to turn on our own brothers and sisters, our fellow Americans.  Shame on every public official who didn't run to New York to stand with these people and shame on every public official who didn't make a statement decrying these actions.  I've spent so much time defending so many of you and reassuring people that you do mean well.  I've fucking had it.  Voting for everyone who isn't an incumbent isn't going to work; you're all fucking complicit in this.  You mark my words, you will force this nation into a civil war, against the work of people like me, people like your staffs, people who have advised and fought and rebelled against the slow slide you thought either wouldn't matter or wouldn't be noticed.  Fuck all of you, fuck your cowardice.  Fuck your goddamned tunnel vision, fuck your willingness to get so deep into politicking that you can't even do the right thing.  I'm exhausted and I'm fucking 28.  And you know what the sad thing is? I'm not exhausted by physical fighting or anything like that...I'm exhausted by trying to defend a country I love from the people running it.  Your time is coming; the world is waking up and by the time this is over, you'll be the ones exhausted.

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