I was watching The Gayle King Show on the Oprah Winfrey Network last Friday and saw her attempts at capitalizing on the hype of the “Occupy Wall Street” phenomena like every other news agency in this nation. And again, like most media outlets, they had NO idea what to make of it, and making the protestors the underdog was being made difficult due to a widespread pattern of wearing masks, vandalizing property, effectively shutting down already-struggling businesses, and of course shitting on the occasional police car more than at previous Tea Partiers events. (Seriously, I looked it up.)
Personally? I “get it”. It’s not about their backgrounds or political leanings, they’re pissed (as best I can tell) that the country fell on its ass due to greed and excess and no one was punished or so much as had a hand slapped for what happened (and is still happening) through sheer irresponsibility. In fact, they were rewarded in the form of bailouts instead of natural selection…so who wouldn’t be mad? I take it a step further though, and don’t so much blame the dog that gorged itself to the point of vomiting as much as I blame the master that fed it and allowed it to do so, despite the obvious results it would bring. The protesters shouldn’t be dirtying up parks and tying up cops from helping those in need in 17-plus cities, they should be in ONE town, dirtying up the steps of Capitol Hill and the White House. But they’re not.
I studied this in its infancy in NYC’s Zuccotti Park with more scrutiny than usual because civil unrest is a hobby of mine. I’m not talking about instigating it, mind you; that would clearly be at odds with my profession and would reflect terribly on my performance evaluations. No, I’m just talking about seeing it first-hand.
People shouting, screaming, accidental injuries as a result (as well as intentional ones), tension so thick you could cut it with a knife (or pithy hand-held sign), people scared and pissed off at the same time…Yeah. There’s something about a shitload of undirected energy looking for an excuse, any at all, to be released. It’s exhilarating.
It’s not necessarily the violence I like, mind you; it’s a social tool, because a riot is a fascinating place to study people and meet ones I would not have had the chance to otherwise due to the infrequency of police clashes and crowd rushes in this town.
That said, it took a few weeks but I saw that blood was finally drawn. The NYPD had dropped two million taxpayers’ dollars in providing security (or at least containment) so these folks could keep businesses closed and continue demanding…whatever it was they hadn’t defined yet to get them to leave, but when asked (not ordered) to leave, here came the passive resistance (pressing your face against a cop’s chest for example), fistfights, and even a pedestrian “accidentally” walking in front of a moving police scooter. And these protesters were the lucky ones.
In Atlanta’s Woodruff Park, the poor bastards couldn’t even get arrested when they tried.
While inconceivable to some, you are not allowed to live indefinitely in a public park, so when the deadline came, protestors anticipated a showdown. Sadly, however, police never arrived and the city made no effort to remove them.
“I’d love to get arrested,” 21-year-old Sean Phillips told an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter, “but I feel I can do a lot more from the outside.”
(They’ve since presented Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed a list of demands: They want the park renamed for Troy Anthony Davis, the man executed last month for murdering a Savannah police officer. The protesters also want Mayor Reed to camp with them overnight in the park, and they want assurances that they won’t be arrested. Incredibly, this list of demands is not a joke.)
So what am I getting at?
The movement is one of passionate people lashing out against real injustices, but with no endgame in mind, leaving only short-term solutions like legal martyrdom. Many of the most rabid ones want to be arrested for “street cred”, an idea as asinine as a teenager stealing a car to gain entry into a gang. And being one of the guys that will be on the other side of those barriers should people decide to get stupid in large numbers and lash out at yet another group (police officers) that had no hand in the financial meltdown and irresponsibility that led to it, I’ve got a stake in this too.
Calm yourselves. Relax. Protest, show solidarity and work for a resolution to your very real concerns…but don’t let the Al Sharptons and Joe Bidens of the world hijack you to further their own agendas (as the “right” tried with the Tea Party), and even more importantly, don’t keep cops from answering 911 calls in your own neighborhoods.
Getting yourself arrested to make you feel like you accomplished something doesn’t make you important; it makes you stupid.
When Officer Alexander D. Teach is not patrolling our fair city on the heels of the criminal element, he is an occasional student, carpenter, boating enthusiast, and spends his spare time volunteering for the Boehm Birth Defects Center. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/alex.teach