Of course, it has those legs because of the utterly stupid response of several mayors and police departments, most notably, and most recently, Oakland.
As I write, New York protesters have just taken New York’s finest on a merry chase through Manhattan, ending up with two groups of protesters, one in Union Square and another back at the occupied Zuccotti Park, which they’ve dubbed Liberty Square. When police arrived at Union Square, the few hundred protesters simply split into several smaller groups, ducking into the subway, leaving the park or simply hanging out together.
And in Oakland, where idiocy ruled Tuesday night when police broke out the tear gas and “non-lethal” projectiles (aka rubber bullets, which are anything but non-lethal), the protesters are back, and so are police.
Oakland’s mayor, Jean Quan, says she doesn’t know who ordered such stupidity, which doesn’t look too good for her, and if she doesn’t, then I wonder if it’s about to happen again. B ut she promised a “low” police presence until she gets it all sorted out.
And someone was using “flash-bangs,” also known as concussive grenades, which emit a bright light and a loud bang to disorient whoever is the target. Oakland police chief Howard Jordan says it wasn’t his guys, and it may not have been. But if that’s the case, then somebody wasn’t doing a very good job of coordinating the efforts.
A former Marine, Scott Olsen, was hit in the head by one of those “non-lethal” rubber bullets. He fell to the street, and within moments, other protesters arrived to help him. But “somebody” — some police officer — tossed a flash-bang into the center of the group. It’s on video, near the end of this KTVU clip.
Olsen, by the way, is in critical but stable condition with a fractured skull.
And that sort of thing, my friends, is what’s going to make a bunch of ragtag protests actually mean something. City governments could have ignored it, kept a small police presence to make sure nothing horrible happened, and eventually Wall Street would have gotten what it wanted and it all would have gone away with nobody paying much attention. Instead, New York started with pepper spray and orange fences. Washington joined in with the pepper spray, and both departments employed some questionable arrests. Denver police, too, got a little heavyhanded. And even Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed, who promised protesters they could stay until November 7, inexplicably changed his mind and sent in the APD just a few hours before the Oakland debacle.
Still, it wasn’t the police state marchers chanted about. Not until Tuesday night in Oakland.
Oh sure, every at every protest there are rumors that the cops are moving in. One day they’re even accurate, when the cops finally do move in. Following the protests on Twitter is an exercise in hyperbole. Until suddenly, like in Oakland, it isn’t.
And that’s why American are taking heed. Because what happened in Oakland isn’t supposed to happen here, not to a bunch of peaceniks beating on bongos and dancing in the streets. Because whatever you think of hippie types, only the most absurd right-wingers really want to punch ’em.
So, I was wrong. Mostly. I still can’t stand drum circles. And while I much prefer a leaderless society, I have my doubts that it’ll fly in America, at least not for a few more years. And I’m not yet convinced that the old Stiff Records motto — “Money talks. People mumble.” — isn’t still the rule of the day.
But these Occupiers — they’ve got spunk. And unlike the infamous Lou Grant (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” kids, circa 1970 — Google it) I love spunk.