Occupy Wall Street Is True Expression Of Democracy
Occupy Wall Street is one movement in a long line of protests agitating for social change in United States history. The police brutality is not a new phenomenon, either.
In Colorado in 1914, 11,000 miners who worked for Rockefeller’s Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation went on strike. They were protesting low pay and dangerous working conditions. The governor of Colorado called out the National Guard to disband the strike. Protesters were beaten, arrested, and refused to back down. The Guard fired on the strikers’ tents, and when the miners fought back, the guards set fire to the tents. It became known as the Ludlow Massacre.
In Washington, D.C., in 1932, over 20,000 veterans of WWI who were hungry and without work marched on Washington. They camped across the Potomac, lived in cardboard shacks, and demanded their bonus pay for service in WWI. President Hoover ordered the army to evict them. Soldiers used tear gas to send the veterans away, and set their shacks on fire until the entire camp burned. The event is known as the Bonus Army March of 1932.
In North Carolina in 1960, four freshmen at a black college in Greensboro entered a lunch counter at which only whites ate. When they were refused service, they would not leave. Each day they returned with more supporters, and the idea of sit-ins spread to other southern cities and states. There was often violence against the sit-inners. Throughout the year, more than 50,000 people demonstrated by sitting-in in over 100 different cities, and over 3,600 people were thrown in jail.
In Alabama in 1963, thousands of blacks protested in Birmingham. They faced police clubs, tear gas, dogs, and high-powered water hoses.
In Ohio in 1970, students at Kent State University gathered to protest the Vietnam War. National Guardsmen were called in to break up the strike. They fired, unprovoked, into the crowd, killing four students and paralyzing one.
In Washington, D.C., in 1971, 20,000 people demonstrated in a peace rally against the Vietnam War. They committed civil disobedience, tying up traffic. 14,000 of them were arrested – it was the largest mass arrest in United States history.
In Washington in 1999, tens of thousands of people gathered in Seattle to protest plans of the World Trade Organization to expand free trade agreements, which were allowing corporations to look elsewhere for cheap labor. Although a small number of the demonstrators broke some windows, a majority of the protests were nonviolent; yet, the police attacked the demonstrators with tear gas and arrested hundreds.
In New York in 2006, several members of the Granny Peace Brigade blocked the entrance to a military recruiting center in Times Square in protest of the Iraq War. The protesters were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. A judge decided they had been wrongfully arrested.
In New York, in 2011, right now, the Occupy Wall Street demonstration is still going on, despite the abominable lack of coverage of the movement by the mainstream media.
Each of these protest movements has several overlapping characteristics. Each of them began as a nonviolent demonstration, and the official response to them was one of force and violence. Agitating for social and political change is a cornerstone of the expression of democracy in the United States. When the people of this country decide that their rights are being abused and things need to change, they have a right to act on their convictions. Only when the people have the ability to affect social change is true democracy expressed.
Each of the protest movements described above also resulted in fundamental social and political change. Maybe it is time for a new revolution. Maybe Occupy Wall Street is leading the way.
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