by Glenn Greenwald
It was only a matter of time before a coordinated police crackdown was imposed to end the Occupy encampments. Law enforcement officials and policy-makers in America know full well that serious protests — and more — are inevitable given the economic tumult and suffering the U.S. has seen over the last three years (and will continue to see for the foreseeable future). A country cannot radically reduce quality-of-life expectations, devote itself to the interests of its super-rich, and all but eliminate its middle class without triggering sustained citizen fury.
The reason the U.S. has para-militarized its police forces is precisely to control this type of domestic unrest, and it’s simply impossible to imagine its not being deployed in full against a growing protest movement aimed at grossly and corruptly unequal resource distribution. As Madeleine Albright said when arguing for U.S. military intervention in the Balkans: “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” That’s obviously how governors, big-city Mayors and Police Chiefs feel about the stockpiles of assault rifles, SWAT gear, hi-tech helicopters, and the coming-soon drone technology lavished on them in the wake of the post/9-11 Security State explosion, to say nothing of the enormous federal law enforcement apparatus that, more than anything else, resembles a standing army which is increasingly directed inward.
Most of this militarization has been justified by invoking Scary Foreign Threats — primarily the Terrorist — but its prime purpose is domestic. As civil libertarians endlessly point out, the primary reason to oppose new expansions of government power is because it always — always — vastly expands beyond its original realm. I remember quite vividly the war-zone-like police force deployed against protesters at the 2008 GOP Convention in Minneapolis, as well as the invocation of Terrorism statutes to arrest and punish them, with the active involvement of federal law enforcement. Along those lines, Alternet‘s Lynn Parramore asks all the key questions about the obviously coordinated law enforcement assault on peaceful protesters over the last week.
But the same factors that rendered this police crackdown inevitable will also ensure that this protest movement endures: the roots of the anger are real, profound and impassioned. Just as American bombs ostensibly aimed at reducing Terrorism have the exact opposite effect — by fueling the anti-American sentiments that cause Terrorism in the first place — so, too, will excessive police force further fuel the Occupy movement. Nothing highlights the validity of the movement’s core grievances more than watching a piggish billionaire Wall Street Mayor — who bought and clung to his political power using his personal fortune — deploy force against marginalized citizens peacefully and lawfully protesting joblessness, foreclosures and economic suffering. If Michael Bloomberg didn’t exist, the Occupy protesters would have to invent him.
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After visiting numerous Occupy sites over the past few weeks, I’ve repeatedly said that the protests are among the most exciting, inspiring and important political developments over the last decade. That’s true for several reasons: its innovative, pioneering tactics, its refusal to be pigeonholed with partisan identity, its resistance to translating itself into establishment media language, its organic form, its appropriate contempt for the nation’s political and legal institutions, its singular ability to force discussions of wealth inequality into the discourse. But I think its most impressive attribute is that it has inspired a level of activism and a sense of possibility like few other things have. It’s worth highlighting a few representative examples.
Ever since the Occupy movement began, the blog FireDogLake, with very little attention or self-promotion, has overwhelmingly devoted itself not only to covering the protests but also to creating an amazing new template to help sustain it. Exclusively relying on reader donations, FDL has sent one of its youngest and most relentless activists, Kevin Gosztola, around the country for the last two months, visiting over 20 different encampments from every region in the nation. Gosztola has been able to provide first-hand, on-the-scene reporting from all of these sites, but more important, has built a network of representatives and liasons to enable coordination and communication among site organizers.
Over the past month, FDL — with the construction of this network — has done something truly amazing. In addition to police crackdowns, it has long been assumed that the greatest challenge to sustaining the Occupy movement would be the approaching harsh winter in Northern cities. The assumption — not unreasonable — was that few people would be willing to occupy outdoor spaces in zero-degree weather or below. FDL, with its “Occupy Supply” project, is all but ensuring the elimination of this problem.
Again using nothing more than reader donations, FDL designed and then purchased a full line of winter clothing for free distribution to the various Occupy sites around the nation: hats, sweaters, scarves, gloves, socks, blankets, jackets, thermal underwear, face masks, and more. Every penny FDL raises — 100% — goes exclusively toward the manufacture and free distribution of these products to Occupy protesters. They have thus far raised close to $90,000, and spent roughly $85,000 of it on the purchase of almost 7,000 items. They have also furnished heat generators, tents, and sleeping bags to numerous sites as well.
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