I was surprised when the NYPD moved in on Zuccotti Park last night. I was surprised for several reasons: First, there was a court order forbidding such an action (yes, the Mayor broke the law) and, second, because police violence is something that the people in power always want to avoid as long as they can.
Now, it is a common tactic for people’s movements to draw the powerful into repressive actions. It serves the purpose of demonstrating just how far the powerful are willing to go and helps radicalize the by-standers who are clubbed and gassed. The completely peaceable and benign Occupy Wall Street movement serves as a good example: Media (owned by the 1%, like Rupert Murdoch) ignored OWS until it had to cover the police pepper spraying of people who were doing nothing wrong. This hit the Internet, thanks to the various devices people own to record the world around them, and corporate news media had to at least mention it or show themselves to be totally irrelevant. The Occupiers won a great deal of sympathy — nobody wanted to be identified as a friend of Anthony Bologna — and NY City Hall backed off.
Over the next two months, I suppose there was a lot of behind-the-scenes discussion of tactics and public relations. Media cooperated by labelling the occupiers as dirty, drug-taking, hippies1 thus raising the spectres so feared by many: filth,lawlessness, and Suspicious Others. Even so, the Occupy movement spread to hundreds of locales and was applauded by the general public who recognized long ago that someone was committing filthy crimes and it wasn’t Flower People. So, the Occupy movement had to be shut down. Everywhere, from Oakland to Toronto, the powers-that-be prepared to move. New York won’t be the last skirmish in this war.
So the question is: What Now? WHAT NOW! Change Tactics? CHANGE TACTICS2! Okay, to What? WAIT AND SEE!
1 (Side Rant) The Empire has been very good at discovering dismissive, pejorative labels to stick on folks they don’t like. “Hippy” replaced the earlier “Beatnik”. Can anyone define the word for me? Does it refer to Haight-Ashbury in 1966 or New York forty-five years later? Over the last while I’ve seen it applied to homeless derelicts, middle-class protestors, and Steve Jobs. Basically it means anyone disliked by the ruling class and has connotations of drugs, dirt, and fecklessness. It is meant to divide people into Useful Members of society and Scum (Makers vs. Takers). Which side are you on?
Next: a discussion of “Boomer”, a term used to divide people along age lines. (Which team are you on — Gen X, Y, Millenial? We can tinker the definition to fit.)
2 “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Saul Alinsky