Occupy approaches a fork in the road
The Occupy movement has been successful in provoking a discussion about economic inequality in the nation and demonstrating to oblivious public officials that their campaign donors may have the money to buy influence but the masses cannot be ignored or trampled upon indefinitely. We’re encouraged by the formative Occupy Berkshires movement and the 24-hour encampment to be staged in Great Barrington this weekend. Still, there are worrisome signs that the movement is going off the rails nationally.
The encampment in Great Barrington is designed to be educational and informative, drawing attention to the disproportionate impact of corporate money on Washington and the destructive 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision that further opened the floodgates of special interest bucks. Town officials appear sympathetic rather than begrudging, as is too often the case in many communities across the country, and no trouble is anticipated. The Occupy movement nationwide, however, began with similar educational goals and good intentions but the informational aspect is being overshadowed by footage of violence and mayhem.
For the most part, this is not the fault of the occupiers. Authorities in New York City and in particular Oakland have gone too far in trying to clear encampments with late night raids, and the footage from Oakland recalled Chicago in 1968. Bully boy tactics won’t work and if anything will draw more supporters to the movement.
However, photographs like the one that ran on Page A3 of Thursday’s Eagle of an Occupy protester, his face partially concealed, perched on a desk inside a Bank of America branch office in San Francisco will drive away support for the movement. Bank of America policies have contributed to the economic imbalance in this nation, but no one in the San Francisco office is responsible for those policies and storming the branch as the protesters did is a criminal act. If the movement degenerates from peaceful protest into violent anarchy it is finished, and its noble cause along with it.
Occupiers should look to Greece for an example of how not to be behave. Angry protesters there opposed to the enactment of tough reform measures needed to prevent a failed economy from taking down the country and half of Europe with it have become a major part of the problem. Occupy must be a part of the solution. If not, it will an historic footnote.
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