They swept in like a raucous breeze on a calm summer's day; seemingly drawing American citizens from all walks of life: college students, women, men, black, white, Latino, middle class, and working class. Even some corporate executives joined their cause. Their message is one most Americans on some level embrace: We are tired of the rich getting richer, while the poor get poorer. We are tired of corporations raking in excessive profits at the expense of their weary workforce. We are tired of Wall Street Bail-Outs, and we are tired of watching our country become a place of haves and have nots. We are tired of "Made in America" being a thing of the past.
Who among us doesn't agree with that?
But a serious question has come about as to whether or not the ends justify the means any longer as Occupy Wall Street has hit a series of legal and political snags in New York and nationwide. Earlier last week things came to a head in New York City as Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered a raid on Zuccotti Park being occupied by protestors. Telling protestors it was time to stop "occupying tents and start occupying the space instead with the power of their arguments." I agree.
As someone who considers myself a political moderate (center-right), I of course support the premise of social uprising and civic protest when We the People get fed-up. That right is embedded in our very founding documents; Thomas Jefferson made clear in the Declaration of Independence that the people had a right to redress and even overthrow of their government should it become abusive or inattentive to the needs of the people, but I, like many Americans, reject that these protestors represent "the 99.9%" of Americans as they claim.
As Mayor Bloomberg rightly said on Tuesday in his statement on clearing out Zuccoti Park:
Unfortunately, the park was becoming a place where people came not to protest, but rather to break laws, and in some cases, to harm others. There have been reports of businesses being threatened and complaints about noise and unsanitary conditions that have seriously impacted the quality of life for residents and businesses in this now-thriving neighborhood. The majority of protestors have been peaceful and responsible. But an unfortunate minority have not been - and as the number of protestors has grown, this has created an intolerable situation. No right is absolute and with every right comes responsibilities. The First Amendment gives every New Yorker the right to speak out - but it does not give anyone the right to sleep in a park or otherwise take it over to the exclusion of others -nor does it permit anyone in our society to live outside the law. There is no ambiguity in the law here - the First Amendment protects speech - it does not protect the use of tents and sleeping bags to take over a public space.
I agree with the Mayor, the time for protests is over. The time for action is what is needed in our great nation. The time for ideals and anger to turn into leadership is now. The Tea Party (agree with them or not) did just that in the 2010 mid-term elections. This band of Americans on the other side of the political spectrum elected candidates to Congress and so far have been very effective at demanding Congress cut spending and work toward reducing our deficits which was a cornerstone of the movement. Like them or not, they have turned their anger into more than protest, just as our founders did over 230 years ago.
Conversely, Occupy Wall Street is starting to ring hollow. To blame Wall Street for all this is wrong and is myopic and limited at best. We all know something is wrong in America. We all feel it down to our core-no matter our station, we know that 40 million Americans living in poverty is a moral failure of our collective humanity, not that just of Wall Street and Washington. But we should all agree that to attack our financial institutions, and blame them alone for the greed, corruption and callousness that is America is foolhardy at best and misses the greater danger to our great Republic.