Actually, they never left, and to prove it Occupy Wall Street stalwarts are launching the movement's third national gathering (NatGat3) this coming July 31 through August 3 in Sacramento, California. The first in what has become an annual event was preceded by a July 4 celebration in Philadelphia in 2012 and a second in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2013.
William Underbaggage, Oglala Lakota native and spokesperson for the Indigenous Environmental Network, will inaugurate the four-day event with a sunrise blessing on Thursday, July 31. This will set in motion a kaleidoscope of activity ranging from speakers corners, custom workshops, the customary "general assembly," marches, teach-in's, panel discussions, a Debtor's Assembly, and a Know-Your-Rights presentation by the National Lawyer's Guild.
Speaking of Know Your Rights - How Will Sacramento's Use its Police?
This is not a casual question, and it is an ever-present fear on the part of Occupiers whenever they schedule themselves to show up in large numbers. History shows that intimidation, beatings and arrests follow. For a movement that is remarkable in its use of restraint and in how it follows the Martin Luther King path of non-violent resistance, it is one also remarkable in the amount of force used against them.
That force, and accompanying official overreach, is not standing up to court scrutiny. Not that this is much solace to the hapless Occupiers involved, but it does show that the courts - to the dismay (and expense) of city and state enforcement arms - agree with those who exercise the constitution's promise of the right of free assembly.
The City of New York recently agreed to part with nearly $600,000 to resolve a lawsuit involving Occupy Wall Street participants falsely arrested by the police for walking on a sidewalk in the East Village on New Year's Day 2012. Only last year, the city agreed to pay $230,000 as compensation for the loss or destruction of books from the Occupy Wall Street library. One Occupy group, Global Revolution, was also paid $75,000 for lost computer equipment stemming from that same period.
And, it isn't over in that city, as a class-action claim involving the arrests of some 700 people surrounded and "kettled" while they marched on the Brooklyn Bridge roadway is still wending its way through the court.
Arrests and compensation for those arrests are a little-reported story across the U.S.
In Atlanta, a judge dropped cases against eight occupiers - one of them Democratic State Senator Vincent Fort - because "officers could not identify them."
In Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, every one of 31 Occupy Philadelphia protestors was acquitted of all charges - obstruction of a highway, failure to disperse and conspiracy. This is being heralded by a number of activist groups as to its important implications for the right and importance of freedom of speech.
In Berkeley, California earlier this year, injured Occupy Cal protestors successfully snared UC-Berkeley Administrators as defendants in a lawsuit centered on police brutality and violation of free speech rights.
Governor Nikki Haley and South Carolina officials, a court mandated, can be sued by Occupiers arrested for living on the S.C. State House grounds. "State grounds are not meant to be used as a public toilet and campground," a charge disputed by occupiers.
Has a Gauntlet been Thrown Down on Governor Brown's Desk?
What will it be? Will the governor set in motion an expected parade of arrests for presumed violations of ordinances that are being designed, more and more, to limit when, where and how an American citizen can peacefully protest? Or, will the man once called "Governor Moonbeam" because of his hippy-leftist contemplative nature, be able to reach back in time to reconnect with the younger man who once championed personal freedom?
California's won't be the first state capital put to the test (and called on) for how occupiers and protestors are treated. Boise, the Capital city of Idaho, tore down Occupy tents to disperse and restrict their presence in a police action called "Operation De-occupy Boise."
The U.S. District Court in that state had this to say by way of warning:
Occupy Boise's tent city is a political protest of income inequality. As such, it is expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment. The State has the authority to regulate expressive conduct and can require reasonable time and place restrictions that are content neutral...
(it continues) ... If the State enforces a law in a manner that targets certain speech for restriction because of its content - especially when the target is political speech in a public forum - it will be taken to task. When a restriction is content-based, the State bears an "extraordinarily heavy burden" of showing that the law or its enforcement is the least restrictive means to further a compelling State interest.
The courts and streets are not the only battlegrounds in which Occupy has to fight for recognition and support. In Occupy's experience, the local press is often complicit in showing Occupy in a accusatory and negative light - if it is ever mentioned at all.
In an article in the Sacramento News Review called "Rising Up, Again: Occupy, 99Rise and activism's big comeback," reporter Nick Miller praised the 99Rise activist group for being "leadership based" and compared Occupy as lacking in that. Inexplicably, he asserts that "Unlike Occupy, (the) 99er protests (were) non-violent."
What sort of message is that to send to the community? Does he have proof that the local Occupy Sacramento group threatens cops, throws bottles, and writes graffiti on Capital bathroom walls? This puts Occupy in the role of having to defend a baseless charge and put itself in the position of antagonizing the press and setting itself up for further criticism.
Enough about Fears - Where's the Fun?
The four day celebration of Occupy's ever-evolving life and vitality will open with a ceremony conducted by native American William Underbaggage. It will end on Sunday, August 3, with a San Francisco Mime Troupe non-verbally extolling the virtues of the NSA and a final General Assembly.
Let's wish Occupy an arrest-free vacation in warm, welcoming California.