What You Can Do About Zuccotti Park
The security service for the one percent cleaned out Zuccotti Park while the rest of us slept last night. Dressed in riot gear, carrying batons and tossing tear gas cannisters, turning high-volume noise machines on people who had the nerve to gather together and rename a small sliver of Manhattan Liberty Park, the legions destroyed a tent city. They were hoping you wouldn’t notice, and that you won’t care.
Prove them wrong.
My wife and I happened on the news by chance. I awoke in the middle of the night and checked to see if I had received any electronic messages. Within moments, I woke my wife, and we were scanning Twitter, Facebook and other social media reports about what was happening. The mainstream media was kept away by the police. Even folks who tried to leave apartments in the area to watch the police were shooed back into their apartment buildings. There are reports that police officers told doormen to lock the doors of the their buildings.
The timing is ironic. The park was shut down just after the fall elections, where folks were once again given the meaningless choice between the idiot in column A, versus the moron in column B. The mainstream press is agog over Hermain Cain’s lust. Michele Bachman stares zombie-like into camera and professes her support of waterboarding. Mr. Audacity is off pedaling hope in the Far East. It’s business as usual for those atop the economic pyramid. In the meantime, millions of Americans are not just out of work, they are without unemployment benefits of any kind; one in six children live in poverty.
I guess the one percent were afraid that Liberty Park might grow roots and burrow too deep.
My wife and I tossed and turned after learning this news. We called to register our protest to the New York City Police Department, to the Mayor of New York’s office, to the Governor of New York’s office. We got recorded messages at each spot. I am willing to bet these calls will be met with the pressing of a delete key.
We also cancelled our plans to travel to New York City for a couple of days this holiday season. Mayor Michael Bloomberg can kiss the seat of my pants. Not a dime of tribute for this coward, I say. Let him explain to merchants in the city why receipts are low this year. In this case, it’s not just the economy, stupid. If you don’t want to hear what we have to say, then we’ll spend our money elsewhere. I’d rather sing Silent Night to an empty pasture than do so on the streets of a city too cowardly to let hope blossom amid the concrete.
There are calls for a protest in the city on Thursday, an effort to shut down Wall Street. It might put a dent in the New York Stock Exchange for an hour or so. Most likely traders and their ilk will view it as a forced holiday. They won’t feel a thing. They don’t know what million of Americans know: fear.
What can be done?
In a paradoxical way, the decision to shut down the tent city in New York, and in other cities across the country, as Winter approaches was a gift. It forces those who want to push back to regroup, refocus, and engage in new tactics. It does so at a time in which severe weather might have compelled the same result. Let’s seize the gift, and use the anger and disappointment that come of being evicted by the one percent’s security force to learn new tools of engagement.
Management uses progressive discipline to try to corral what it regards as wayward employees. First you talk and remonstrate, then you act. In a progressive discipline structure things might move from a verbal warning, to a reprimand, to a suspension and then to a firing. Call the energy and passion it took to create tent cities across the country a verbal warning. Time now to step up the pressure.
There is a ready resource at hand in the work of Gene Sharp of The Albert Einstein Institute. He published a paper called from Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation. I say his program can be used just as effectively to challenge an economic elite holding too much power. You can find a copy of Sharp’s report online at www.aeinstein.org. In the appendix are a series of small steps individuals can take to register protest. They can be as small as writing an essay to others, staying home from work, boycotting certain products, spreading the word that economic justice is fundamental. Check it out, I dare you. I’ve previously suggested that we engage in a practice called Jubilee Wednesday, engaging in a Sharp-like act each week. http://tinyurl.com/7waqc36
Picka day each week where we act because we can, and because collective action can rock the foundation of any pyramid, so long as enough people cooperate. It took slaves to build Egypt’s pyramids.
Liberty Park was destroyed last night on the orders of a billionaire. No surprise there. The next challenge? Finding a way to make billionaires weep. That usually requires an attack on what they care about: their money, and their sense of control.
Liberty Park was destroyed. The one percent rebuffed a quiet, polite and determined request for change. It’s time to up the ante. This is something all can do. You needn’t leave home to sleep in a city park. Read Sharp’s publication. He proposes 198 steps that you can take to challenge power. Pick one. Talk about it. And then pick another. Let’s see if a reprimand might work.
If that doesn’t work, well, I suppose there are always bricks. I suspect nothing really changes without violence or the threat of violence. That might come. We got a taste of some last night when the security force of the one percent tore down a people’s park. Violence, the one-percent may well learn, is a two-way street.