Occupy Wall Street's Right to Protest Should Be Safeguarded

Friday, 21 Oct 2011 11:40 AM

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The Occupy Wall Street protests have been going on for about four weeks. The movement’s goals have never been clearly enunciated, except for one which relates to the unfairness of our economy.

The protesters accuse many on Wall Street of unethical and criminal practices. They blame the banking industry for causing the Great Recession, beggaring the American middle class and many senior citizens to the extent that trillions in the assets of Americans in every sector of our society have been lost.

Some Wall Streeters and bankers, who in many cases are responsible for a massive loss in wealth to their fellow citizens, have come out of the Great Recession with government handouts and are richer than ever.

There is a feeling across the nation that we have been had, taken to the cleaners by Wall Street and the banks, assisted by a Congress, both House and Senate, that protects the securities and banking industries because those industries fill their campaign chests with millions.

Those marching in protest in New York City and in other major American cities all seem to have as one of their priorities the unfairness of it all.

In addition, they, depending on who the reporter is talking to, assert other causes, but through it all comes the priority issue of unfairness that one percent of the country can have so much wealth and power compared with the 99 percent who feel powerless.

I suspect that many who are protesting have no real understanding of what happened. Of course, many do understand. The issues are so complicated. But they know that banks, Wall Street firms, car companies, and even solar companies have been bailed out.

In the case of the solar company Solyndra, it was given $535 million in federal funds without due diligence practiced by the government. This huge public investment was shockingly subordinated to the stockholders’ private interests in the event of bankruptcy which, in fact, took place.

The vast majority of the protesters, I believe, sense the unfairness of it all.

Among those protesters are anarchists who are against any government, some of whom are looking to engage in violence with the cops; others are radicals on the far left whose causes I often deplore; and some are anti-Semites. The bona fide economic protesters must make sure the anti-Semites and those seeking violence don’t muscle their way into the leadership and media and stigmatize the legitimate protesters and their goals.

I believe in the right of non-violent civil disobedience and believe those engaged in it and arrested for, as an example, blocking auto access to the Brooklyn Bridge, should be fined at least $250 and not complain when and if that occurs.

The exercise of non-violent civil disobedience intended to shock the conscience of fellow citizens and change prevailing policy and conditions is fundamental and must be safeguarded.

Cops are professionals and lack of responsible behavior by some in the crowd, with taunting of the cops goes with the job. When that behavior becomes criminal, of course, the violators should be arrested and hopefully courts will see the seriousness of the matter and mete out justice including jail time.

What would I suggest be done in Zuccotti Park, focal point of the New York City protests? I would advise the park’s owner to go forward with cleaning the park for health reasons — the health of the protesters as well as other users of the park.

I would announce to the crowd that at the end of the day after cleaning, all protesters will be permitted to re-enter the park.

I would rescind the ban on sleeping bags. My own personal view is that there is no reason to sleep overnight in the park and that it would be far better for everyone to go home at night, shower in the morning and come to morning protests in clean clothes. But that is a personal decision.

The NYPD should ensure against physical opposition to the cleaning of the park.

I have no doubt that at the first snowstorm in November or December, many in the crowd will leave and at the second snowstorm, most will be gone.

I hope that Eric Holder, U.S. attorney general, will by now have gotten the message.

That message is that no one is too big to jail and those who committed criminal acts contributing to the Great Recession should be criminally pursued and not simply allowed to buy their way out by paying a civil fine which simply gets added to the cost of doing business.





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