It was bound to happen sooner or later, and no, I'm not referring to the infamous pepper-spray, beating, and mass-arrest events staged by the NYPD against the original Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York.
Since then sympathetic "occupations" have sprung up in hundreds of US cities and towns from coast to coast, from places like Boston to Los Angeles, Chicago to Dallas, and a multitude of smaller cities and towns such as McAllen, Texas, Des Moines, Iowa, Wichita, Kansas, and so on. You get the idea. There are people all over the country in red states and blue states who've heard the message that our democracy has been sold out to Big Money and Big Business, who are mad as hell, and who are determined to do something about it, even if it's only staging a protest in their own hometown. Some of the "occupiers," often in the unlikeliest of places, are even bandying the word "revolution" about. Not that there's anything wrong with that word, I hasten to add. After all, it was a revolution that got this country started in the first place.
But as I've stated before in this blog, entrenched, powerful socioeconomic/political systems do not willingly submit to change either from within or without. They just don't, and the reasons are obvious: the "rice bowls" of too many people who've been battening at the public trough for far, far too long are at stake, and none of the people involved are about to be subjected to the indignity (not to mention the uncertainty) of trying to go out and get a real job.
That leads to an obvious problem: those who are already entrenched in the existing political system are going to react, and in some cases, perhaps even all cases before this thing is over with, they are going to react with every bit of force, including law-enforcement power, at their disposal. Think Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, who called out the Egyptian Army on his own people when their demands began to seriously worry him, and who was finally only driven from power when the army itself decided they'd had enough of him. The same thing was true when the precursor of the Russian Revolution broke out in St. Petersburg in 1905. There protesters staged a peaceful march on the Winter Palace of Czar Nicholas II (who happened not even to be at home at the time) and the czarist regime called out the Cossacks, who shot down around 300 of the protesters in the streets. That revolution was aborted by brute force, but the next time around, the czar's troops refused to fire, and the whole regime crumbled in a matter of hours.
Already today I'm seeing reports that protesters belonging to the "Occupy Chicago" group were rounded up by plain-clothes police, although the "plain-clothes" part may or may not be accurate. What seems incontrovertible is that they were arrested for, whatever "legal" reasons may be forthcoming, simply exercising their First Amendment rights. Also last night, apparently some twenty-four protesters were arrested in Des Moines, Iowa, and there's a video of that event below:
Today, via Twitter, I'm seeing protesters in Boston saying that the Mayor there has decided he's had enough of the "Occupy Boston" protests, although as I write this I haven't yet seen any reports of actual arrests, but protesters have also been arrested, to my own knowledge, in Seattle and San Francisco, the protesters of "Occupy Cincinnati" are being ordered to disperse under threat of arrest as I type this, and there are at least a few other places where arrests have occurred which I can't remember at the moment.
The point is that the system is beginning to react. It's beginning to show that it feels threatened, even though all of the protests have been non-violent, which leads to two questions:
1. Just how repressive will the federal with various state and local governments decide to be?
2. As all of this unfolds, how are the American people as a whole going to react to it?
I'll be watching, and if you are reading this I hope you'll be watching too.
Continuing some twelve hours later, it seems for now that the occupiers in Cincinnati were able to resolve their differences with the police, at least temporarily. OccupyChicago seems to be up and running again, and has reported a march through town today in which more than 10,000 people participated.
On a bleaker note, evidently the Mayor of Boston and the Boston Police Department have decided that the protesters at OccupyBoston have to go. There is currently a midnight deadline in force there. The protesters are refusing to back down, and so far, so are the authorities, so we'll see who blinks first. There is also news from Atlanta that the Atlanta Police Department is threatening (or possibly preparing) to evict the protesters in OccupyAtlanta. As is the case in Boston, the Atlanta protesters are calling for all hands on deck, and we'll see what happens there too.
As for the thirty or so protesters arrested in Des Moines, Iowa, last night, it seems that at least some of them are out of jail and stoutly declaring they will continue their occupation.
At last count, as I am typing this, there are right around 840 cities and towns in the United States alone in which protesters are already in "occupation" or planning to be so within the next few days. I well-remember the civil rights and anti-war protests of the 1960s and 1970s, and although the numbers involved in some cities and towns are still relatively small, that this movement has spread throughout the length and breadth of the land as fast as it has represents an event unique in American history. No one has ever seen anything like it before.
Finally, a personal note: although I am only 58 years old, I am physically disabled and in very poor health. Having noted that, I also want to add that seeing this many Americans willing to stand up for what they believe in has made me prouder to call myself an American than I have been for many, many years. To the protesters: Godspeed. To the authorities: the whole world is watching.