Part one of Gilman's report from the front lines of Occupy Phoenix
My focus is, and must remain, through November 8, the recall of state Senate President Russell Pearce in Legislative District 18. That means there's a lot going on that I won't be able to cover till after the recall election, including the Occupy Phoenix protests that happened over the weekend.
Fortunately, my fellow newshound Dennis Gilman has been enthusiastically following the protests from the beginning, and has been keeping me up to date on everything going on. I was worried Saturday night that peaceful protesters would be hurt for simply wanting to stay in a public park overnight in Phoenix.
Thankfully, it does not appear that anyone was seriously injured, though there is a young woman being dragged away by the neck in Gilman's video and that was unnecessary. According to the Phoenix Police Department, 46 were arrested Saturday night and charged with criminal trespass, a class three misdemeanor.
There were some reports online of pepper spray being deployed, but Gilman says he did not smell or see any, and I have yet to see any of that in either his footage or any other footage from other outlets. Phoenix Police Department spokesman Sergeant Trent Crump says pepper spray was not used.
In this respect, it seems, the Phoenix PD did not employ excessive force.
Why didn't the city manager and the cops just allow the protesters to stay? Yes, there's a curfew in the park, and there are people living nearby. But I suspect the helicopter and the overwhelming police presence did as much to disturb folks as the protesters. Left to their own devices, I tend to think they would have bedded down quietly for the night. Heck, they were even seen cleaning up the parks they were in.
As we all know, not all ordinances or laws are enforced 100 percent of the time. Keep that in mind the next time you see a politician jaywalking downtown. Both the cops and city officials have discretion in such matters.
Also, the cops should remind themselves that they are simply workers employed by the state. The Arizona Legislature has been hacking away at their benefits. Idiots like City Councilman Sal DiCiccio would privatize their function in a heartbeat if he could get away with it. Governor Jan Brewer is eyeing cop and fireman pensions with visions of knives and hatchets filling her tiny brain. So, remember who really represents your interests and respects the role you play.
There is a faint echo in what happened over the weekend in Phoenix to actions taken against the Bonus Army of 1932 by then President Herbert Hoover and General Douglas MacArthur. There have been some vets in the Occupy crowds, you see. According to Channel 5, one of them was arrested on Sunday.
Hoover ordered the military to run WW I veterans out of D.C., when they camped out in the capital. This, in the midst of the Great Depression. One wonders what will happen when all of our soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan to find a country impoverished by corporate greed, with few jobs to offer the newly unemployed.
I for one am not knocking capitalism. Nor are many of the protesters. This isn't the French Revolution. Nor is it the Winter Palace circa 1917.
Yet, for capitalism to work as it should, there has to be a vibrant middle-class. Ordinary people have to have a stake in our society. Otherwise, we're not talking about capitalism, we're talking about plutocracy.
I like what economist Paul Krugman had to say in the New York Times recently about Occupy Wall Street:
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"What's going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street's Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They're not John Galt; they're not even Steve Jobs. They're people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens."
I'm lucky. I have a job, one that provides me with medical benefits. There are millions in this country, however, who are not as lucky. It should be the essence of patriotism to want to see your fellow countrymen be able to feed themselves and their children and have access to the same medical care our politicians enjoy.
But that sort of patriotism is obviously not the province of the one-percenters.
For an alternative viewpoint sure to tick off lefties, check out my colleague James King's take on the protests. Some of the responses to his sarcasm show that such sarcasm has had its intended effect. Note to the King-haters: When a blog garners a gazillion comments, that blog is by definition a roaring success.