People keep asking what the OWS protesters want. Honestly, I don’t really know. But I do know what some of them are angry about, income inequality, student loan debt, unemployment, crony capitalism, and now that one has been critically injured in Oakland I think the movement, if that’s what they’re calling it, will face a critical test. Can they maintain their commitment to non-violence in the face of law enforcement and city leaders losing patience with their occupations? Also, winter and cold weather are quickly materializing, how will this factor affect their resolve? There is also concern among the protesters themselves that there are anarchists among their ranks which may undermine the peaceful image they’re trying to maintain.
The LA Time has a good rundown of the dilemma facing city officials and police departments across the country. I thought it was a little derelict though that they didn’t mention the Iraqi Vet who was critically injured in Tuesday nights clash with Oakland PD.
Looming large is the cautionary spectacle of Oakland. Police there arrested about 100 protesters before dawn Tuesday, using tear gas and riot gear to break up encampments — only to face a massive evening protest and threats of continued unrest from angry backers of the movement.
Leaders in other cities said they don’t want a repeat of that chaos, but it’s unclear how they will eventually oust protesters who refuse to leave.
Even in Los Angeles, where city leaders have greeted the demonstrators warmly, there are signs of protest fatigue and increasing anxiety about what happens next.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who earlier this month had ponchos distributed to rain-soaked Occupy L.A. protesters, said Wednesday that the encampment next to City Hall “cannot continue indefinitely.”
Villaraigosa has instructed city officials to draft a plan for another location for the demonstration.
Here’s a little more about the wounded protester and highlights of attempts to break up the occupation.
OAKLAND, Calif (Reuters) – More than 1,000 activists protesting economic inequality reclaimed a downtown Oakland plaza late on Wednesday, a day after demonstrators were driven out and an Iraq war veteran was critically hurt in clashes with police.
The severe injury of Scott Olsen, 24, a former U.S. Marine who friends said served two tours of duty in Iraq, became a rallying cry among Occupy Wall Street supporters in Oakland and beyond as organizers urged protesters back into the streets.
Police kept their distance as protesters returned to the scene of Tuesday’s confrontations, while protesters largely avoided provoking them, although one activist defiantly set up a single, small tent in the square after midnight.
The “Occupy Wall Street” protests, which began in New York City last month, take issue with a financial system they say most benefits corporations and the wealthy. They are critical of U.S. government bailouts of big banks, high unemployment and economic inequality.
Loosely organized protest groups have since sprung up across the United States and in countries around the world. Tensions were building in several cities where authorities have been treading a fine line between allowing peaceful protest and addressing concerns about trespassing, noise and safety.
In an early morning raid in Atlanta, police evicted dozens of protesters from a downtown park and arrested 53 who refused to leave. They were allowed to camp in the park for three weeks, but Mayor Kasim Reed said he decided to evict them because of fire code violations and crowd control issues.
Kristof discusses some of the issues he thinks are driving the protests.
That alarmist view of the movement is a credit to the (prurient) imagination of its critics, and voyeurs of Occupy Wall Street will be disappointed. More important, while alarmists seem to think that the movement is a “mob” trying to overthrow capitalism, one can make a case that, on the contrary, it highlights the need to restore basic capitalist principles like accountability.
To put it another way, this is a chance to save capitalism from crony capitalists.
But, in recent years, some financiers have chosen to live in a government-backed featherbed. Their platform seems to be socialism for tycoons and capitalism for the rest of us. They’re not evil at all. But when the system allows you more than your fair share, it’s human to grab. That’s what explains featherbedding by both unions and tycoons, and both are impediments to a well-functioning market economy.
Capitalism is so successful an economic system partly because of an internal discipline that allows for loss and even bankruptcy. It’s the possibility of failure that creates the opportunity for triumph. Yet many of America’s major banks are too big to fail, so they can privatize profits while socializing risk.
The upshot is that financial institutions boost leverage in search of supersize profits and bonuses. Banks pretend that risk is eliminated because it’s securitized. Rating agencies accept money to issue an imprimatur that turns out to be meaningless. The system teeters, and then the taxpayer rushes in to bail bankers out. Where’s the accountability.
Filed under: OWS | Tagged: crony capitalism, Oakland, Scott Olsen | 36 Comments »