Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg and Brookfield Office Properties green-lighting the midnight raid on Occupy Wall Street's "Liberty Square," I am now an insomniac. That will teach me to check Twitter in the wee hours. The revolution will not be televised but it will be Tweeted and YouTubed and Facebooked and emailed and smartphoned.
Upon opening, I stumbled into a torrent of urgent calls for help and alerts of an NYPD raid taking place. Then Michael Moore appeared and he was blocked from reaching Zuccotti by, of all things, barricades. Imagine that! Barricades in New York City.
The park was surrounded. Streets were shut down for blocks in all directions. The airspace was controlled by NYPD helicopters with search lights and infrared scanners and other expensive gadgetry. As Richard Kim of The Nation Tweeted, "How much is this costing taxpayers?" Then there was news of something ominously called "the sound cannon." This was being turned on our own citizens. When did the NYPD get one of those? People were being dragged, beaten, pushed, yelled at. Tear gassed. There was this: "LRADs used on #OccupyWallstreet in suprise RAID, confirmed. Live feed: http://ow.ly/7tJSg." I have no idea what an LRAD is but it doesn't sound good and I wouldn't want one used on me. The police knew there were families with children at Zuccotti Park, right? I hope they remembered to use child-doses of tear gas for the little ones.
The most surreal Tweet came from The New York City Mayor's Office: "Occupants of Zuccotti should temporarily leave and remove tents and tarps. Protestors can return after the Park is cleared. #ows." Of course by this time, the tents and belongings of the peaceful assembly had already been broken apart and chucked into dumpsters that were brought in as part of the raid. 5,000 books from the #OWS Library were thrown away. Are these possessions going to be returned? Remember when the city was stealing their generators? What happened to those?
Now I'm still up, unable to sleep as I watch my country fall further into a para-military paranoia about peaceful protestors. The excuse is always the same, whether it's Oakland or any of the multitude of cities where Occupy movements have emerged, authorities always say they must unleash the police because of "unsanitary conditions." This tactic has been used throughout our history to clear undesirable people away. At various times in our history it has been Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Muslims, Women, now it is the 99%. But, it's always been the 99%, whatever race, level of education, religion. All these divisions, but the most significant one is the one voiced by #OWS: the division between the 99% and the 1%, the top and the bottom-to-nearly-non-existent middle.
I for one should be resting more easily now that I know I am protected from being infected from some disease that might spread out from Zuccotti Park. What the authorities don't seem to understand is that the dis-ease has already spread beyond their ability to contain it, through hygiene or municipally-mandated violence against citizens. The dis-ease has been in the ether for decades and now people are looking for a cure, some form of relief. Some hope.
For millions of Americans, those struggling to maintain the "American Dream", the unemployed, the under-employed, the veterans, some politicians, senators, minorities, school teachers, workers of all kinds, professors, writers, scientists, architects, engineers, even some cops...the list goes on and on and on and on until we arrive at the vast number of Americans who do not live in the same America as the top 1% and their friends, #OWS meant hope.
I'm simply too tired to go back and edit that long sentence comprising the previous paragraph. I'm beat. I was unemployed for two years. It was difficult before that. I consider myself lucky to have found a way back into a career, but I will never forget my experiences during that difficult time. #OWS reminded me that I was not alone and that, in fact, my perception that the economic structures in our country are designed to favor the top and that trickle down theories are just theories, was correct. It's nice to have validation, to learn that you aren't crazy. You might feel like you are going crazy, but it's for legitimate reasons. You are in the looney bin of corporate crony capitalism.
So is this the death of Occupy? My suspicion is that this is, in fact, just the beginning. What form will it take next? It may not have Zuccotti Park anymore, but it increasingly has the intellectual and emotional landscape of the American psyche.
Follow Guy Horton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GuyHorton