Suddenly the Occupy movement is under siege everywhere. There's been a wave of simultaneous, seemingly coordinated clampdowns on peaceful demonstrators in cities all across the country. Why now?
It could be nothing more than one heck of a coast-to-coast coincidence, at least theoretically speaking. But there are indications that this might have been at least partially planned and coordinated at a national level.
Either way the timing's very interesting -- and, for some people, very convenient. The nation's expecting a deficit package from the undemocratic super committee, anticipating another possible free trade deal, and waiting to see whether Wall Street will go unpunished for its foreclosure crime wave. All that makes this a very good time for dissident voices to suddenly disappear.
Unfortunately for them, it's not going to be that easy.
The Ides of November
Occupy Oakland became famous after the brutal police suppression that led to the wounding of Scott Olsen, the Iraq war veteran. And Occupy Wall Street is the flagship site, the Tahrir Square of the new movement. That makes them high-value targets.
This week the Oakland location was struck first, followed by the blow against Wall Street. Similar police crackdowns occurred in Portland, Denver, and Phoenix. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan may have let a little too much information slip when she told an interviewer that she "was recently on a conference call with 18 cities across the country who had the same situation."
The Oakland crackdown was quickly followed by Bloomberg's move against Occupy Wall Street. That one-two punch took out the two most visible occupations, and it was quickly followed by similar moves in other cities.
That led to widespread speculation that this wave of police actions was planned and executed at the national level. As Joshua Holland commented, it's unclear whether this wave of activity was "coordinated" or not.
There are a range of possibilities. This might have been a coordinated assault. Or those mayors may have only been sharing information and ideas. Or it could have been something in between.
To know the answers we'll need to know who was on the call, whether anyone participated from the Federal government (either on the call itself or in the planning process), and what was said. Whatever happened on that call -- or before and after -- there's been a lot of action all of a sudden. Doesn't it make you wonder?
Whatever the background story is, if you're working for the 1% this is an excellent time to make the occupations vanish. Look what's coming down the pipeline:
Unrepresentative Democracy: The Congressional "Super Committee" has a deadline coming up. Everyone from the Wall Street Journal to the President of the United States are pressuring its members to come up with a deal. One of the proposals on the table would protect the tax privileges of the 1% by preserving their Bush tax cuts, and would fund that cushy deal for the rich by cutting Medicare and Medicaid while very possibly raising taxes on the middle class.
And that's the Democratic offer. What are the Republican ones like? Don't ask.
The Committee's ideas have been overwhelmingly rejected by a majority of American voters in poll after poll. But if the committee "succeeds," its agreement will be unveiled to the US public and then fast-tracked to Congress for a procedurally-rigged voted, on November 23. That's just about a week from now.
Free trade ain't free: Today President Obama attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and worked his fellow leaders on behalf of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord. That accord is strongly supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the same large corporate interests who pushed NAFTA and other free trade agreements.
At the same time, the president of South Korea made a surprise visit to his nation's legislature to push for the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. If he's successful, that accord could be announced at any time.
These free trade agreements aren't "free," of course. There's a price to be paid, and the 99% will pay it: in jobs, stagnating wages, and a struggling economy. Politicians in both parties want to bask in the glow of any new agreement, and would like to claim these are developments worth celebrating. Voices of protest aren't in the script.
Let me call you "sweetheart": The Administration has been pressuring the Attorneys General of our largest states to accept a shamefully sweet "settlement" with Wall Street that would grant them immunity from prosecution from their well-documented mortgage crime wave, a spree that included documented cases of perjury, investor fraud, and tax evasion. Nobody would go to jail, people wrongfully evicted from their homes might receive as little as $1500 in compensation, and banks would still have the mechanisms in place (through "MERS") to do it all over again.
The Occupy movement has highlighted the legal double standard that lets Wall Street executives commit crimes over and over, and yet these sweetheart deals keep coming. Only last week Citigroup executives were allowed to pay a fine (actually, their shareholders will pay it), "admit no wrongdoing," and promise not to break the law again, for a kind of fraud for which they had they had already paid fines, admitted no wrongoing, and promised not to do it again.
While the timing is closely held, an agreement could be announced at any time. It's easy to see how they might want to keep lower Manhattan clear of the 99% for that one.
"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet .. then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."
- Herman Melville, "Moby Dick"
We're seeing the same plays being run from the same playbook, over and over again. One year ago there was another "bipartisan" panel, the President's Deficit Commission, whose proposal was scheduled to being fast-tracked through Congress by bypassing normal legislative procedure. Republicans were still holding the line on low taxes for the rich while Democrats were willing to do a deal with them, crooked bankers were getting off scott-free, and both parties were pushing job-killing trade agreements.
Plus ça change and all that. Except that this year we have the Occupy movement. And whether they're coordinated or not, a lot of people are going through a lot of trouble to take it away from us. If they expect us to go "out to sea" like a Melville character they've got another think comin'. (Besides, who can afford an ocean voyage these days?)
It's November again. But Occupy's here and it's not going away. There will be a new wave of demonstrations on November 17. You can learn more about how to participate here. Nothing clears the rainfall of the spirit like the bright light of direct action.
Citizen movements are inconvenient for the people in power, but look at it this way: Isn't it time they had a dank, drizzly November of the soul? Or at least let us have a little glimpse of the warm sun they've been keeping all to themselves? The rest of us have had more than our share of rain already.