Occupy Wall Street: Gone Rogue?

I picked up a free San Mateo Daily Journal yesterday when I joined a friend for lunch. There was a nice story on page 1 about some civic-minded Redwood City high school girls who decided to join a regional Occupy demonstration. They thought, by participating, they could make a difference.

“Students deserve the opportunity to discuss what they care about,” an organizer said. “Once you leave high school, life hits you like a ton of bricks and these students need to know about the troubles with the banking system and why cuts are made to education.”

There was some isolated violence. The real violence was in Oakland, Seattle and elsewhere in the nation. Banks were vandalized, windows were smashed, police cars were burned, police were assaulted, and police and the crowd were at one point bombarded by a roof-top crazy hurling down long sections of heavy steel piping. There was no follow-up story on the high school girls, but I bet most were disappointed.

Occupy Wall Street, what the hell do you think you’re doing?

Democracy NOW! is a new PBS news hour which gives a different viewpoint from PBS’ traditional BBC international broadcasts, and from the reasonably balanced PBS coverage of conservative, moderate and liberal perspectives. Democracy NOW! provides news from the standpoint of the liberal “Progressive,” the militantly and uncompromisingly left end of the liberal political spectrum.

Dave Barry once wrote, “The main accomplishment of almost all organized protests is to annoy people who are not in them.” But violence, and particularly planned, organized violence, goes beyond the pale. Violence is not “protest.” In my personal opinion, Democracy NOW! soft-pedals the violence in order to get out the word on the protests.

I’ve long felt that a balanced appraisal of the news of the day requires getting a balanced sampling of the whole gamut of opinion, from BBC to PBS to network news and CNN, and, yes, when I can stomach it, even the Faux News Channel.

AMY GOODMAN: Not all of yesterday’s demonstrations were peaceful. In Seattle, black-clad protesters allegedly used sticks to break down downtown windows and ran through the streets disrupting traffic. In San Francisco, the Occupy movement was blamed for a night of violence in which cars and small businesses were vandalized. In Oakland, police fired tear gas, sending hundreds of demonstrators scrambling.

Occupy demonstrators in the Bay Area canceled plans to shut down the Golden Gate Bridge, instead joined picket lines organized by labor groups.

Now, many if not most Americans do recognize the 2008 global financial meltdown proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that something has gone seriously awry with the US banking and financial systems. “Wall Street” is out of control. Liberals and conservatives may differ profoundly on the solution, but almost everybody agrees that Wall Street and international banking speculation in unsecured sub-prime mortgage derivatives (toxic assets) brought the world monetary system to its knees. The road to recovery may be long. Reforms are needed.

Thus, a surprising spectrum of American opinion expressed cautious optimism at the early “Occupy Wall Street” movement. Getting Congress to move is even harder than changing the banking system. The turn-off is this strong OWS directional shift to violence.

OWS violence reminds America of nothing less than our terrible era of the so-called “Free Speech Movement” of the 1960’s and 1970’s. In that movement, a few valid ideas were hijacked by power-hungry leaders intent on manipulating our youth into bringing the country into a partisan civil war. It was a dangerous time in US history that brought us massive civil rioting, and tragic government intervention like the Kent State massacre.

Violence “in a good cause” is even more dangerous than simple plug-ugly violence, for it doesn’t just destroy people and property. It drags down the cause as well.

The United States already has more crippling partisan divisiveness than is healthy. Occupy Wall Street needs to denounce the violence NOW! and, if it does not, we need to make it clear to the media and our leaders in both political parties that violence is unacceptably risky, dangerous and WRONG.

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