Mayor Bloomberg just learned a lesson that leaders have known for centuries and was most recently seen in the latest Zuccotti Park showdown. Only a few days earlier, the mayor stated that peaceful protests would be allowed, as one might expect since Freedom of Speech is in the Bill of Rights. Then he turned around and announced that the park must be "cleaned" and everyone must leave then the can return (but when the protesters return they would not be allowed to bring anything that would allow them to stay).
Protesters united behind this obvious denial of their political rights and, as of this morning, the mayor has backed off on his plan to "clean" the park. Whether you believe in the cause of the protesters or not, this is a victory. This is a victory for anyone who is not rich or powerful who wants their voice heard. This is a victory for anyone who believes that our Constitution has some meaning... though the fact that the mayor even tried shutting the protests down sends a very negative message about the state of American democracy.
We celebrate the changing times in the Arab world when we read about the peaceful protests and the later peaceful political changes. We praise the governments that allow the voice of the people to be heard. So why is it so difficult for our political class in America, a safe-proclaimed bastion of freedom and equality, to allow protesters the right to air their concerns? Why does our political class even think that it would be acceptable to crush peaceful political protests through the use of intimidation and force?
For Mayor Bloomberg, this wasn't his first trip down the road of authoritarian rule. We all remember Mayor Bloomberg pushing City Council to extend the term-limits to three terms for elected city offices overriding referendums that the citizens had already passed limited city officials to 2 terms. We all remember Mayor Bloomberg jamming the massively unqualified Cathleen Black into the chancellor of New York City's Department of Education position in spite of having no background in education.
Let's hope the mayor eventually learns that, in a democracy, it is the people who need to have the power, not just the rich and powerful. Let us also hope that Americans learn that their rights are very tenuous and need to be protected, rather than simply taken for granted.