Dec. 16, 2012 marked the 239th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, when activists clad in Native American costumes protested a tax code that benefited a multinational corporation at the cost of taxpayers, and committed one of the biggest acts of property destruction in history by dumping the East India Tea Company's product into the Boston Harbor by the crate-full. For nearly 50 years, the act was either shunned or ignored by the populace. But today, those activists' names are among the revered Founding Fathers of our country.
Yet while we celebrate the radical activists behind the Boston Tea Party, today's activists protesting corporate greed and a rigged tax system are labeled "terrorists" by the federal government and investigated as such. Last week, CNN reported what most of us in the movement already knew and assumed -- that the FBI had been closely monitoring the Occupy movement since its infancy and considered the movement's organizers a terrorist threat. And judging from a photo of my #S17 arrest in the CNN article's slideshow, it's safe to say I'm probably being closely monitored as well. Maybe they're reading this article. Maybe they'll at least learn something.
Since Sept. 17, 2011, police have arrested at least 7,719 people affiliated with Occupy Wall Street. But since September of 2008, when banks, ratings agencies, corrupt regulators and complicit economists helped cause the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, not one banker or corrupt government official has been jailed. The fact that the federal government has used extensive resources to help coordinate law enforcement response to the Occupy movement is well-documented. The FBI's budget request for 2013 is $8.2 billion. Surely with 34,000 employees and an impressive budget, the FBI could glean all the information they needed for the arrests of those who rooked families out of their homes to make excessive short-term profits. There's certainly no shortage of evidence that can be found for free with a simple Google search.
According to redacted FBI documents, federal agents had been warning the New York Stock Exchange of a coming "anarchist protest" since August of 2011, a month before the movement even began. Surely they also knew in advance that Moody's and Standard and Poor's were intentionally giving AAA ratings to worthless mortgage-backed securities that Goldman Sachs eagerly sold to state pension funds on the open market, then referred to as "shitty deals" in private emails with one another. If the FBI spent the same amount of time and resources on gathering evidence to use against corrupt bankers in court as they did on profiling Occupy Wall Street activists, we might not even be protesting right now.
It's offensive that our government, which was founded on revolutionary war against a tyrannical government and protesting the multinational corporations they colluded with, puts nonviolent protesters in the same classification as terrorists. It's offensive that it is now considered criminal activity to peacefully protest economic inequality. But it's disgusting that our government is letting real terrorists and criminals get away while going after the very people trying to make things right.
It shouldn't shock anyone anymore to say that the United States is now a police state, or that walking on a sidewalk in New York City while protesting can end up with your head in between a cop's knee and a sidewalk, or that the I in FBI stands for Intimidation rather than Investigation. Hoping that President Obama will suddenly start caring about the rights of protesters in the United States or appoint a new Attorney General that will prioritize the protection of the First Amendment is naïve and silly. But what we should do is continue to build our own evidence locker against the bankers, continue to announce their crimes to all who would hear and keep risking arrest to get the truth out. Maybe we can finally turn the cops against the real bad guys.