Well, the rain date for Occupy Tustin has come and gone with nary an occupier to show up. Judging from the way things seem to be going lately,this may not be a bad thing. Our friends over at the Liberal OC have had quite a bit to say about the movement as a whole and where it is going lately.
What concerns me most is that the movement is suffering from, well, lack of movement. Occupy, which appears to have started on Wall Street, swept into a nationwide campaign of protest representing the “99%”, those who presumably see what is happening to our country but have, so far, done nothing about it. They proclaimed to stand up against corporate greed and call for a change in the way the government operates in order to stop the migration of wealth to the wealthy at the fleecing of the middleclass. Their ranks were drawn from nearly every walk of life, every religion and every political party to come up with…. a broad representation of middle America.
But, as the movement has come to various cities throughout the nation, it has received vastly different and sometimes surprising responses from local governments. New York allowed the protesters to occupy Wall Street for a relatively long period of time. NYPD then attempted to move the protesters out using bright orange nets and pepper spray. That just moved them around. Recently, when NYPD did another roust, the @Anonymous twitter feeds were busy moving the protest to the Brooklyn Bridge.
The city of Sacramento has yet to allow Occupiers to camp out and has moved every encampment they have attempted to erect. In Oakland, it was unfortunate but expected, that Occupiers were joined by the perennial crowd that always seems ready to riot at a moments notice in that city. The resulting violence should have been expected. Adding to the confusion was an indecisive mayor who could not decide whether the city should align themselves with Occupy or oppose them as other cities had done. Mayor Jean Quan gave conflicting orders to the OPD and city staff that resulted in nothing but mass confusion and a plea from the Oakland Police Officers Association asking just exactly what she wanted from them. Well, if they had been listening, she wanted them to be nice while they billy clubbed and pepper sprayed their way through the masses. But, don’t hurt anybody. If there was one city in California that Occupy should have stayed clear of, it was definitely Oakland. even the Occupy movement rues that decision.
Los Angeles has been relatively nice about the whole thing. When they heard Occupy was coming to LA, they first unleashed their mounted patrol to discourage the masses. When the group moved onto Mayor Villaraigosa’s lawn, he then offered them farmland, a building and shelter beds for the homeless (didn’t they already have those?). That offer has since been rescinded (and, no, they didn’t get a pony either, as the Times suggested) and now the good Mayor has given orders to dismantle their tent town and move on. Watching Charlie Beck (doesn’t he remind you of Tom Selleck, or is it just me) on the news, squirming because you know he so wanted to send his riot-helmeted storm troopers in to quell the disgusting demonstration of Americans exercising their free speech rights, was quite interesting. One had to wonder if he feared an assassination attempt by Anonymous as he was surrounded by more bodyguards checking rooftops than the President has when he comes to town.
Of course, UC Davis was the ugliest scene to date. While protesters peacefully occupied the quad area of the college, the university police quietly and efficiently went about dispensing pepper spray into the faces of the offending protesters. The populace were in an uproar. The dean was in an uproar. Even a chancellor or two were in an uproar. When I heard about this, I couldn’t help but remember the tree huggers in Humboldt County a few years ago who were pepper sprayed for trying to save a couple of trees. Of course, there was a little more to this than just what the Tweets and Facebook postings had. If you look at the video, these cops were in full riot gear, had flex-cuffs expecting mass arrests, and many had their billy clubs out. No wonder the dean was upset. Even most Republicans, who incorrectly dismiss the Occupy movement as a bunch of disgruntled liberals, were appalled at the police response. And the Board of Regents, apparently fearing physical attack, decided to meet in several different places Monday by teleconference. Hmmm. Brown act violation regarding notice and access?
Here in Orange County, we have seen a variety of responses to the Occupy movement. Recently, The Liberal OC wrote a couple stories on OccupyOC. Chris Prevatt wrote about the protest moving to South Coast Plaza, briefly, for Black Friday. A series of photos shows the group interacting with shoppers standing in line for their bargain-basement treasures. Most seemed amused, but I doubt if any felt the call to leave the line at Macy’s and go shop locally.
And therein lies the problem.
When the Occupy movement got rolling, everyone wanted to know what the message was they were trying to convey. The reply, in so many words, was that the 99 percent were suffering under the corporate greed, largely brought on by an inequality of laws designed to favor big business over people. Throughout the movement, the words have changed and specifics have been reasoned out, but the overall message has not wavered. Unfortunately, many cities, including Santa Ana, who has never embraced the movement and Irvine, who rolled out the red carpet for them, are now finding the occupiers are wearing out their welcome.
So, what does the movement need to do to keep the momentum going? For one, they need to do what everyone from Wall Street to Los Angeles has been telling them – solidify your message. Unfortunately, that may be their undoing as it would require some semblance of leadership coming forth and, as everyone knows the movement, by definition, has no leadership. And the minute it does form a leadership, it no longer resembles #Occupy.
They also need to come up with more ideas on how to involve people that does not take a lot of time out of their day. People don’t want to be inconvenienced when they protest (porta-potties are a downer, too). Remember Bank Transfer Day? It took a person maybe 20 minutes of their time to effect protest. Anyone who tells you that didn’t make BofA stand up and take notice is drunk or stupid. Sure, it was only a couple of hundred billion dollars in a trillion dollar market but, the sheer number of people who responded and moved their money to consumer friendly credit unions, based on what some @Anonymous protester in a Guy Fawkes mask was telling them, was startling, even to me.
In the meantime, the whole Occupy movement is beginning to look like it will either fizzle or worse, become inconsequential. It is Christmas holiday time and they will have a tough time having their message heard above the toll of the Salvation Army bellringers and the atheist billboards shouting, “don’t believe it!”. If not, they may as well fold camp and unoccupy the USA.