Three weeks ago a peaceful Occupy protest was disrupted by the Oakland Police!
On that Tuesday night Oakland and neighboring police departments turned Frank Ogawa Plaza into a war zone.
More than 300 officers from the Oakland Police Department and 18 local departments, in full battle gear, surrounded Frank Ogawa Plaza prepared to evict 100 people from the Occupy site.
Oakland PD, in a press release, cited health and safety concerns as reasons for removing the protesters. It was to be closed for cleaning and vector control then reopened to the people.
So, why were they dressed in riot gear when what they needed was HazMat gear?
Did Oakland's finest overreact, or was it planned?
Pictures depict a force far greater than was necessary; a presence that raised tensions and almost certainly indicated violence. An operation that took a lot of planning and coordination with so many departments.
And... the amount of tear gas deployed far exceeded what would be necessary for cleaning and vector control.
The same show of force was evident in Denver on the following Saturday. A predisposition to aggression?
Mayors and police departments throughout the country have taken similar actions and their aggressive measures created even stronger and more determined reactions.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his speech leaving office, warned us about the military-industrial complex and their potential grip on democracy which would strangle and suppress our freedoms. As police departments stand on the edge of brutality, is this the danger one of our greatest generals and statesman warned us against?
Even as winter approaches crowds are growing with every military-type police action.
There are many reasons for those in Occupy movements to protest: disparities and inequalities in wealth, power, health, and education. It is the oppressed 99% versus the 1% who have amassed unseemly wealth and power over the lives of free Americans.
It is the erosion of a middle-class that gave this country its real strength and vitality; money in Congress and the power that money has given multi-national corporations in our political process; and decisions made by Congress that have led us down an unsustainable path.
The irony of these aggressive police actions, those they're attacking are protesting for them as well -- protesting the forced austerity depleting their departments as well as firehouses and schools in their communities. There is no cop -- not in Oakland, Denver, San Diego, or any other police department in this nation -- in the 1% or even close to becoming part of the uber-rich.
The question then would be, what are these officers defending?
Is Oakland safer after quashing the free voices of the protesters by trampling their 1st Amendment rights? Is Denver?
An American, a veteran, was injured in the Oakland siege. Scott Olsen was critically wounded by a tear gas canister shot in the head at close range by an aggressive, over-stimulated Oakland policeman.
The occupation in Oakland continues to grow, a result of over-aggressive actions by the police. It is a powerful statement from people who understand that collectively their voices are more likely to be heard when individually they were not. Together their voices become louder and their redress of grievances more powerful.
The OccupyOakland group called for a 'General Strike' on Wednesday, November 2nd. Interim Police Chief, Howard Jordan, estimated that 7,000 protesters participated in the strike. But there is compelling evidence that the group was far greater than estimates. The group managed to shut down the 5th largest port in the country for several hours that day.
After the aggressive police action on October 25th, Oakland took a more passive and cooperative position toward the occupiers. Neither Oakland nor Denver, as I wrote in an earlier article, "An UnTea Party Revolution," want to trigger violence or riots.
It appears that occupy is here to stay and growing. The occupation was long overdue. It is understandable given the state of our economy, intransigence in our politics, and the oppressions of the last three decades.
But, to have the most effect and produce the best results the occupiers in Oakland, Denver, and other locations, must remain peaceful.
Civil disobedience has many levels and its effectiveness will be measured by innumerable factors.
Provocations must be condemned and provocateurs excised from every movement. Occupy cannot survive nor be taken seriously if the protests become violent or destructive.
The large and growing protests are having a positive effect and will continue to as long as protesters avoid aggression and violence that turns the public against their populist message.
Oakland and other departments do not want to be the spark that spins peaceful demonstrations into a national riot. They are being viewed by millions as unprovoked aggressors. They must be cautious of being perceived as suppressors of democracy and 1st Amendment rights.
First Amendment rights are not just the right to free speech, but the right to peaceably assemble and to demand a redress of grievances.
It's important that occupiers stay true to their mission and their message peacefully no matter how provoked, no matter how many tents are destroyed or how much tear gas is deployed. The message is resonating with at least two-thirds of the people but that support will diminish if things spiral out of control.
We are the 99% and are peacefully assembling to let our voices be heard from Wall Street to Main Street, Oakland to Atlanta, Denver to Nashville, and from Los Angeles to Boston.
Together our voices will resonate across this great country and around the world.
It is the voice of change and rebalancing. A voice that has been mute too long.
It's a voice that cannot and should not be silenced!