Occupy Oakland suffers from this most dramatically this past weekend. The reclamation of an unused city lot in the middle of downtown (centrally located) should have been supported by city council and police.
The OWS movement, to the extent that its about 1) growing inequality among rich and poor; 2) excessive influence of corporations over government; and 3) the reckless abuses of Wall Street financial firms is a noble cause, to be sure.
Unfortunately, it's also awash in myths and falsehoods.
The biggest myth is that the police brutality, abuse and incompetence we've seen captured repeatedly in pictures and videos has anything to do with the police opposing the goals of the Occupy movement.
Uniformed police offers are underpaid blue-collar workers, who typically work for local city governments and are subject to the fear of layoffs, home foreclosures, bankruptcy and all the rest just like everyone else.
Here's how these confrontations typically take place.
1. An Occupy Wall Street crowed gathers in a park, street, sidewalk or other public location, claiming their right to protest peacefully.
2. Local businesses and residents complain to the city.
3. Eventually, city government or the police decide to move the protesters to another location, either temporarily or for the duration.
4. The OWS protesters refused to move.
5. Police do what they always do when their orders aren't obeyed: They use their monopoly on force and violence to forcibly move and/or arrest those disobeying. This usually involves riot gear, tear gas, pepper spray and so on.
6. The cameras are rolling as police apply this force.
7. OWS supporters see the pictures and say: "See how horrible our opponents are?"
The trouble is, the police are not opponents of the Occupy movement. They just want protesters to obey the police about where the protests take place.
The police say: "Just move where we tell you to move and we won't have to arrest anyone."
The Occupy protesters say: "Just let us go wherever we want to go, and also allow us a little bubble of self government, and we won't resist any police."
The conflicts between protesters and the police are never about the substance of the Occupy movement. They're always over disagreements about where protesters are allowed to protest. And American police tactics tend to be heavy handed by international standards, so the image of some heavily armed and armored cop cracking down on peaceful protesters as if they were bomb-throwing revolutionaries or out-of-control soccer hooligans shocks everyone.
If you support the Occupy movement, your position may be that protesters should be allowed to go anywhere. For example, they should be allowed to physically occupy even the New York Stock Exchange itself, and thereby shut it down indefinitely.
If you oppose the Occupy movement, your position may be that Occupy protesters should be treated equally to other protesters, and allowed to protest but in a roped off area approved by the city.
There are honest differences of opinion about where protests should be allowed to take place. And these differences of opinion are the source of the conflict taking place between protesters and police.
Having said that, it's also true that some police actions, such as the pepper-spraying of UC Davis students, and the subsequent lying about it, are real transgressions that should be punished. Many cops are good, and are doing the right thing. Others suck, and are being idiots.
But whether you support or oppose the Occupy movement, let's not pretend that police incompetence demonstrates opposition to the movement. The police are not part of the "they" that the Occupy movement opposes.
On the contrary, these images are the main thing bringing support to the movement.
Anyway, that's how it looks to me. Am I wrong?
* * *
Introducing new laws is not an answer, it's a regulation. During this time of fiscal constraint, we should be considering dropping many laws that are over-burdensome and costly not just monetarily, but humanly.
Focus on the problem, define what you are trying to solve first. That is the best advice he gives here.
I was pleased to see the measured tone of the White House response to the citizen petition about #SOPA and #PIPA
and yet I found myself profoundly disturbed by something that seems to me to go to the root of the problem in Washington: the failure to correctly diagnose the problem we are trying to solve, but instead to accept, seemingly uncritically, the claims of various interest groups. The offending paragraph is as follows:
"Let us be clear—online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, and threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation's most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs. It harms everyone from struggling artists to production crews, and from startup social media companies to large movie studios. While we are strongly committed to the vigorous enforcement of intellectual property rights, existing tools are not strong enough to root out the worst online pirates beyond our borders."
In the entire discussion, I've seen no discussion of credible evidence of this economic harm. There's no question in my mind that piracy exists, that people around the world are enjoying creative content without paying for it, and even that some criminals are profiting by redistributing it. But is there actual economic harm?
In my experience at O'Reilly, the losses due to piracy are far outweighed by the benefits of the free flow of information, which makes the world richer, and develops new markets for legitimate content. Most of the people who are downloading unauthorized copies of O'Reilly books would never have paid us for them anyway; meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of others are buying content from us, many of them in countries that we were never able to do business with when our products were not available in digital form.
History shows us, again and again, that frontiers are lawless places, but that as they get richer and more settled, they join in the rule of law. American publishing, now the largest publishing industry in the world, began with piracy. (I have a post coming on that subject on Monday.)
Congress (and the White House) need to spend time thinking hard about how best to grow our economy - and that means being careful not to close off the frontier, or to harm those trying to settle it, in order to protect those who want to remain safe at home. British publishers could have come to America in the 19th century; they chose not to, and as a result, we grew our own indigenous publishing industry, which relied at first, in no small part, on pirating British and European works.
If the goal is really to support jobs and the American economy, internet "protectionism" is not the way to do it.
It is said (though I've not found the source) that Einstein once remarked that if given 60 minutes to save the world, he would spend 55 of them defining the problem. And defining the problem means collecting and studying real evidence, not the overblown claims of an industry that has fought the introduction of every new technology that has turned out, in the end, to grow their business rather than threaten it.
P.S. If Congress and the White House really want to fight pirates who are hurting the economy, they should be working to rein in patent trolls. There, the evidence of economic harm is clear, in multi-billion dollar transfers of wealth from companies building real products to those who have learned how to work the patent system while producing no value for consumers.
P. P.S. See also my previous piece on the subject of doing an independent investigation of the facts rather than just listening to the appeals of lobbyists, https://plus.google.com/107033731246200681024/posts/5Xd3VjFR8gx
I wonder if the authorities who order or condone such things understand that they are radicalizing more people than they're scaring off.
The Magic Flute by W.A. Mozart. BBC/animation/part3
A Christmas Film Production with BBC Enterprises and BBC Bristol in association with Welsh National Opera
Jesse Parrotti | Blog | In support of the Occupy Wall Street movement
Jesse Parrotti is a San Francisco based artist, illustrator and designer.
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