It appears to me that the current evolutionary thrust, as symbolized by the Occupy Movement and assorted police actions being taken against them, comes to some stage of each significant evolution in human society.  The tendency is to maintain the status quo, which against such movements is represented by the agreed to government of that time and enforced for them by police authority.  When resistance to the status quo becomes too strong, for the comfort of those who’s security is attached to that form, law enforcement is employed as the status quo seeks to put whatever genie has emerged back into its bottle of apathetic complacency; and usually this stage fails to accomplish that goal.  However, if the crack-down is harsh and brutal, it may succeed in quieting the masses, as least for some temporary span of time.  If the movement is too militant, it may lose broad support.

As these evolutionary trends, seek to gain attention, from the complacent masses that trust in the status quo for their welfare; they often become more militant.  That is when the “police state” (the status quo enforced by lawful enforcers with dangerous weapons) comes to bear upon it.  Hence, in the Women’s Suffrage Movement, which actually began to be “talked about” as far back as 1860, did not actually receive a “name”, which was Suffrage, until 1906.  In that movement too, there came the election of a “liberal government” (must like the populous election by grassroots of our current Pres Obama) and the women involved became very hopeful; but were soon disappointed when no  actual “progress” resulted. 

 

That caused the women involved to become more militant; and the resistance to them by the “police state” became more violent, in response.  It whole situation became bad enough that people chained themselves to structures, windows were smashed and riots erupted; and if the truth be told, the police themselves often orchestrated the riots, to reflect badly on the woman who were protesting their legal status and rights.  Women were beaten by police and arrested for public disorder.  Many were given prison sentences from 3 days to several months.  At that point, the movement moved into a kind of guerrilla warfare that included property destruction – window smashing and arson.  That violence was also a setback for the movement, that caused it to lose what could have been a greater and wider support, in the population as a whole.

 

The turning point for the women’s movement was actually World War I in 1914.  That brought many women into the job market, doing work that men who were fighting in the war, had previously done.  Therefore, some historians question how much effect the Women’s Suffrage Movement actually had on bringing eventual change to the voting right's laws.  The militancy of the women brought the full weight of government to extreme resistance.  What the Women’s Suffrage Movement did do was raise awareness, of the inequity of the voting status of women and rational reasons why that should be changed.

Take another significant moment in societal evolution – the Civil Rights Movement.  This was a worldwide political movement beginning around 1954 addressing inequality based upon racial characteristics.  Actually, in 1948, President Harry Truman signed an executive order that stated “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”  Then came the Brown v Board of Education ruling in 1954 which agreed that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.

 

Civil disobedience begins as Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat at the front of the colored section, to a white passenger in 1955, and is arrested.  It takes a year of bus boycotts to desegregate the buses.  The most important example, in my mind, from the life of Martin Luther King was his application of the principle of nonviolence to actions of civil disobedience. 

 

Young people, primarily still students at various universities, began taking part in real action on the street for the civil right's movement.  It took 6 mos of student sit-ins to achieve public desegregation of various places of business, public parks, swimming pools, theaters, libraries, etc.  Yet, in reality by this point, 12 actual years had elapsed from Pres Truman's recognition of a need for standards of equal treatment.  And still, the efforts of these students to prove desegregation as a reality, often failed and resulted in attacks by angry mobs, who continued to resist that evolution in society.  On behalf of the Civil Rights Movement, the federal government often provided law enforcement in support of, even when some state governments continued to resist and employ law enforcement to maintain the status quo.

 

And even the nonviolent Martin Luther King found himself arrested and jailed in 1963.  Riots followed; and Medgar Evers was murdered at his home.  Children were murdered in church bombings but the country as a whole was still able to finally come together enmass, in Washington DC, to affirm this evolution in society.  It took the 24th Amendment to abolish the poll tax, that had prevented black people from voting in the southern United States.  Finally, in 1964 President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act (which has to be re-issued and re-signed again 4 years later, in 1968, to extend its impact to housing) prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. 

 

Yet a year later (1965) police actions continued to result in deaths due to employing violent aggression (tear gas and clubs) to efforts to stop the exercise of civil rights.  The civil rights movement grew more militant throughout 1965-1968 in response.  And even 20 years later, in 1988, a Civil Rights Restoration Act was required to reinforce non-discrimination as the law of the United States.  And even then, 3 years later in 1991, President Bush had to sign yet another Civil Rights Act.

 

By sharing the history or these 2 movements, I am seeking simply to illustrate that significant transformations in society are often accompanied by stages; and some of these stages may include civil disobedience.  In the face of civil disobedience, one should expect to see police action employed.  It is the nature of any status quo to seek to stop any movement whose general thrust may upset the current power base.  Therefore, it is not surprising that we are now seeing, in the development of the Occupy Movement, various actions by the status quo, which employ the police in attempts to stop the continued progress of the Occupy Movement.  We see police attempting to stop the movement in Oakland, Portland, Denver, Austin, St Louis, Berkeley, Boston, San Diego and elsewhere.  Even in the photos of global uprising from the Arab Spring countries to Chile, Russia, Greece, Italy, India and Spain as well as England, there are always the police. This police presence does NOT mean that Occupiers are bad, criminal, wrong or harmful to the public good - it may only be that they represent a threat to the status quo.

Still, there is no doubt that many of the police officers, local officials and emergency responders who are called to Occupy sites also identify with the 99%.  At Friday night’s (Nov 11, 2011, image above) police action against Occupy St Louis, I read an occupier say they saw one policeman actually cry and a garbage truck operator vowed to return as a protester the following day, when he was no longer “on the job”.  Also, in some areas, such as downtown Washington DC, local authorities have avoided such images, by allowing demonstrators ample room for expressing themselves, in the current mode of occupation and tent cities.

 

As indicated in St Louis on Friday, lessons of restraint and non-violence have been learned by both the police and by occupiers, from the history of past movements .  The Occupy Movement presents a challenge for police enforcement; because there is no “leader”, that they can seek to utilize in an effort to maintain control.  In talks with the City of St Louis, no decision could be reached because whatever was discussed had to go back to the next General Assembly - where it might or might not find consensus.  It is a slow and cumbersome process when local government has some timeline as part of their agenda - which was the case in St Louis, where holiday events are planned for the plaza that the Occupiers had chosen as their base camp.  Law enforcement think tanks would prefer to see arrests as a last resort, while recognizing that sometimes there is no other recourse, if government chooses to make a stand, as they did in St Louis.

 

For the most part, there are no demands being made by the Occupy Movement itself, which local government can negotiate or address.  The movement is actually a call to action for transformative societal change at a structural level – not a movement looking for temporary fixes or single-issue reforms.  While there are local issues that concern any particular local Occupy movement, there is also a sense among those who are drawn to it, of being a part of something so much larger, that it truly is global in scope. 

 

It is clear that rather than a political movement, the Occupy Movement is a people’s movement.  It is about how financial influence has stopped government globally from functioning, especially from functioning for the public good, rather than for corporate benefit.  It is about reclaiming the power of government, for the benefit of its people.  It is a people’s movement that draws from ALL walks of life and social strata, from a variety of belief structures – political and philosophical, and from all ages - children to senior citizens.  My children have begun asking me to explain the meaning of the word "Occupy", as they hear “serious” talk in their household, during which that word comes up repeatedly. 

 

OK, so maybe the Occupy Movement is not perfect; but it is likely to spin-off efforts for actual concrete change (such as the Move to Amend effort to create a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizen’s United ruling by the Supreme Court).  Whether the Occupy Movement is of lasting import, remains for time and history to tell us, in hindsight.  At the moment, it is we who are living this - whether we agree with the effort or think it is idiotic.  We should not expect the Occupy Movement to deliver any quick fixes, as this has not occurred previously with women's suffrage or for civil rights and equal opportunity.  However, already the Occupy Movement has had an impact in these ways – there is now a discussion about the sources or causes of our global financial crisis, there is an articulation of what a “better world” might look like, there is a growing awareness of consensus decision processes. 

 

The Occupy Movement empowers average people to "be the change, they wish to see in the world", if they so choose to do it that way.  And of course, there are MANY ways a person can express such a desire.  And what is certain to me personally is that our world faces extraordinary challenges, which include climate change factors we are currently distracted from, by our growing recognition of the impact of individual inequalities of opportunity, and the failure of the current economic systems to produce a good standard of living, for the majority of people on our planet.  And in truth, if there is no financial health to our global civilization, how will we meet such issues as adaptation to climate change ?  If people continue to suffer financial hardship, it is certain there will only be further discontent.

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