I don’t usually get political, but I can’t stay silent-Occupy Boston

I love politics, but I almost never discuss them on this blog because it’s just not the forum.  It’s not the point of my blog to dissect American or Singaporean politics, but every so often something happens and I can’t stay silent.

Occupy Boston….

I have mostly stayed silent on the whole “Occupy Wall Street” movement because

  • A–technically we ARE the 1% or within a few percentage points of it, so not really my place to say much of anything beyond I’d happily pay more taxes
  • B–Ravi works for GNB, and writes software for traders, so I’m guessing the protestors would call him/us wall street scum
  • C–I’m a big believer in stated, coherent, reachable goals….Occupy Wall Street isn’t.

I’m honestly fairly conflicted about the whole movement.  I believe that to affect change, you elect the right people (right now I’m supporting verbally and financially Elizabeth Warren’s campaign for the MA senate seat currently occupied by Scott Brown), and then you bug them.  I contact my state and federal elected officials (and local when I lived there as needed) regularly.  I feel that I did more by writing letters and phone banking when my state senator was trying to legalize breastfeeding in public in Massachusetts than attending a nurse-in would have done.  I phone banked, petitioned, called, wrote letters and did THINGS to support the legalization of gay marriage in MA rather than just slapping a bumper sticker on my car.  When Health Care Reform was up for debate, I wrote letters and called and spoke with my elected representatives, sharing Elanor’s story and how Health Care Reform would change her life.  I chose to teach in public schools, and I chose to teach in Boston for a reason.

I believe in fixing the system, not dismantling it.

Which is not to say I don’t think that some of the points OWS makes aren’t valid.  I would love to see tax reform.  I would love to pay higher taxes, quite frankly.  I believe strongly in the things my taxes pay for, like Early Intervention, Public Schools, roads, garbage collection, paying firemen, and all sorts of wonderful things like that.  I do not believe that corporations are people, nor should they have the rights associated with them.  Personally I don’t think religious institutions should be tax exempt.  I think that the federal government has started caring more about remaining partisan than doing what’s right, and that the system needs fixing.  I just don’t think that Occupy Wall Street is going to get any of that done with their approach.

So, no, if I were home, pregnant or not, I would not be out supporting Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Boston or any of the local occupy movements.

However.

I believe strongly in the First Amendment.  The one that gives people the Freedom of Speech AND the Freedom of Assembly.

Just because I don’t want to join OWS doesn’t mean I think they shouldn’t get out there and protest.  It’s their right, and if if they truly believe in what they’re doing–it’s their responsibility as Americans to stand up and say their piece.

Which is why the events of the past few hours horrify me.

These are the facts as I understand them…

  • The Occupy Boston movement had a central protest location Dewey Square.
  • The movement grew and they took on a second location–the newly beautified Greenway across the street.
  • The Boston Police Department told them that the first location was okay, but they needed to vacate the Greenway
  • The protestors refused
  • Standoff
  • Around 1-2am local time, the police moved in
  • The arrests were made in an often violent method, which can be seen in this video taken by a protestor

It’s hard to know the full story, because the media wasn’t there.  There has since been this article on Boston.com, which claims, among other things that the protestors were on private property (untrue–the Greenway is a public park).  Although there has been police action taken (or threatened) in Atlanta, St Louis, Seattle and Dallas as well as Boston (and others) CNN the tv channel and CNN’s website have nothing. Ditto all the major media outlets.  To which I reply–are you KIDDING ME?  Is Salon.com the only source with enough courage to talk openly about the arrest of the Veterans for Peace among other events tonight?

Most of my news came from Twitter, and although I know that there is bias present, the @Occupy_Boston feed and #occupyboston hashtag.  Because NO ONE ELSE was giving me information.

What I read disturbed me and left me with many questions that the official channels (the boston.com article, the @Boston_Police twitter feed, @mayortommenino, @MassGovernor) left me with as they stay silent.

  • Exactly why were the Boston PD moving in at 1-2am when people had been pitching tents there since 4pm?
  • Were the arrests specifically timed to avoid media attention?
  • Why had Mayor Menino (Boston’s Mayor) authorized this?  I’ve been a long time supporter of his, and this is not the Mayor I believed in.
  • If it’s true that State Troopers were also involved, why had Gov. Patrick agreed to it?  I voted for him, and this is not the Governor I voted for.
  • I find it suspicious that many of the major Occupy Movements saw police action tonight…except NYC, the most visible
  • How is the Greenway private property (according to the Boston.com article)…it’s a PUBLIC PARK…where is that claim coming from?
  • The @Occupy_Boston twitter feed denies that they made any such claim regarding “anarchists”, Commisioner Tim Caputo (video here)  Why is the BPD trying so hard to come up with a reason to justify arrests that are unjustifiable?
  • Is it true that the police tried to arrest those taking pictures first as claimed?

I find my faith in institutions I believe in, that I’ve worked for and with, shaken.

I know that if I were there, it’s not like I could do anything.  I’m 35 weeks pregnant and on bed rest.  But Boston is my home, and I love it.  Boston is a part of me, and I wear the label of Bostonian proudly.  Today being so far from home is hard, even knowing I couldn’t change a damn thing if I were there.  I can only stand witness via electronic media and say the following….

I do not condone the actions of the Boston Police Department, or anyone involved in the police actions in Boston.

Boston has a long tradition of protest (um, hello–ORIGINAL TEA PARTY?  FIRST SHOTS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION? FIRST ABOLITIONIST SOCIETY? etc etc etc) and we pride ourselves on our heritage of freedom.  Where was that freedom tonight?

Occupy Boston, I may not agree with your approach to change, but you deserve better than what you’re getting.

Photos from the Occupy Boston arrests can be seen here and here (and I’m sure there are far more up by now).

Photo credit: aaron spagnolo’s flickr stream

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10 Responses to I don’t usually get political, but I can’t stay silent-Occupy Boston

  1. Kirsten says:

    I think mass gatherings like Occupy Wall Street and consistent lobbying like you do work pretty well together. Although it’s through that the lobbying is a great way to get things moving public demonstrations also have a great purpose in raising awareness and also generating media pressure – which can never be underestimated (and exactly why we’re all so disappointed by American mainstream media in this case).

    I’ve been following the Occupy movements on Al Jazeera (especially on their social media program The Strand – @AJStream) since Day 1 and it’s been incredible to see how its grown. It is an absolute shame that the police have deemed it necessary to resort to such violence and confrontation – it’s really showing up USA’s hypocrisy when they tout all that stuff about “Land of the Free” and all that.

    On Saturday there’s going to be an Occupy Raffles Place, in solidarity with other Occupy movements around the world, as well as to demand more accountability and transparency with our GIC and Temasek Holdings. I’m pretty skeptical of how it will turn out; not just because of the 100%-guaranteed police presence and liberal use of the Public Order Act (where just one person can also be an illegal assembly!) but also because it’s just not in the Singaporean DNA to go for such things. Already there are comments on TOC’s FB page about how such a movement would lead to chaos and bring down our economy and all that stuff – the rhetoric we’ve all been fed since childhood about what should actually be our right to freedom of assembly.

    While I have my reservations about Occupy Raffles Place (I’m not convinced it has been thoroughly thought through or that well-planned), I respect the organisers for at least trying to DO something, and I will stand by them in upholding their right to do what they’re doing – a peaceful demonstration and exercise of their human rights.

    • Crystal says:

      I’m curious to see what happens with occupy raffles. I have a hard time believing it will happen or last more than 10 minutes given Singapores (lack of) tolerance for political statements. But I’d love to see it happen.

      Al Jazeera is another great suggested news source. Sad when they’re one of the more reliable covers of American news than any US news outlet.

      Honestly I’m not surprised, but I’m very angry about the defeat of the Jobs bill in the senate yesterday

  2. Jim says:

    Sorry, but I’m not at all ready to condemn the Boston PD yet. Right now, there’s a lot of information floating around out there about what happened last night, but much of it is fragmented and disconnected. I personally feel like I’ve walked into a movie theater an hour into the film, i.e. I’m still missing a lot of context as to what happened.

    If it turns out the Boston PD did act like a bunch of violent thugs, I’ll be the first to demand that the mayor and the police commissioner resign, and be charged with crimes for any injuries incurred by the protestors. But I’d prefer to learn the facts before concluding anything. As a side note, I’ll be turning to The Phoenix (http://thephoenix.com/boston/) for the full story: they’re the local alternative newspaper in Boston, and while they’re unabashedly liberal, they’re not knee-jerk liberals. I’ll believe them over the Globe and Herald any day. Especially the Herald, which I’m convinced is making up stories about “anarchists” to discredit the Occupy Boston movement.

    • Crystal says:

      The anarchist thing blew my mind when I heard about it.

      Thanks for the link to the Phoenix online…I’d forgotten about them.

      I think that both sides might have been able to handle things better, but the video I saw and the stories I’ve heard make me very concerned about the level of force used.

  3. Dawn says:

    My impression is that the Occupy movements are pretty much to demonstrate that there are as many crazies on the left as on the right – basically, it’s an answer to the Tea Party. Rallies DO get attention, and it is possible that attention to various issues causes people to be more likely to vote, more likely to vote on the side of those issues, and/or more likely to bug their legislators about those issues. Which is to say, it’s nice if you are proactive and write letters, give money, etc. – but you can’t do it alone (one vote rarely wins an election), and rallies may recruit others to do what you’re doing.

    • Crystal says:

      I don’t know that it’s about crazies on the left vs right. I do think it’s a mirror (to an extent) of the Tea Party though, and it would be nice if it inspires people to get more involved in politics. I’m disappointed, for example, to see very little discussion on the @Occupy_Boston feed about the fact that the jobs bill was voted down yesterday or that Brown voted against it. Considering their agenda, this is the time to talk about Brown, about Warren and what they could be saying/doing regarding both..

  4. alwaysamommy says:

    I agree with you on the first portion of your article. Even though we’re at opposite ends of the income spectrum, I am happy to pay taxes for things like EI, welfare programs, fire and police, schools, and the list goes on. If I don’t use a particular program now, I might someday. I would certainly prefer not to have our hard-earned money going to bail out a bank while it continues to take away homes from people, often dishonestly. (Such as the couple that never had a mortgage and BofA filed paperwork to foreclose on the home.)

    I want to say I agree on the rest, also. I respect someone’s right to protest, although I don’t think this is organized enough or going to fix anything, and when they’re apparently doing a real move to change something that isn’t simply an emailed forward, I commend them.

    I don’t blame the police departments as much as I blame the media, though. I know people have asked again and again for updates on OWS from my local news outlets, myself included, and the requests go ignored. It’s not that I fully stand behind it, even. I just think I have a right to know about it. The most coverage I saw was for OccupyRockford and I’m convinced that they only covered that because it had such a pathetic turnout. They wanted people to see how ridiculous it is. If the people in that city had actually made a large protest, possibly camped out for a given time, and done more than march for a mile on their lunch hour, would it have been on the news at all? I doubt it.

    • Crystal says:

      I’m frustrated by the overall lack of media coverage.

      I was saying to Dawn though that the thing that frustrates me is the lack of discussion on @Occupy_Boston that one of our senators (brown) voted against the jobs act and that he has a major opponent (Elizabeth Warren) who pretty much has made a career out of standing for everything they are advocating for (corporate reform, etc). Lack of connection between movement and current events/political actions they could be taking.

  5. Aimee says:

    I’m definitely an Occupy supporter. With 3 layoffs since 2005, a boatload of student loan debt, a husband who often commutes more than an hour to get to his job, a house that’s worth a lot less than it was when we bought it 5 years ago, and a mom who just lost her job at 64 years of age, how could I not be?

    Today Josh is taking CJ in to see the march, as well as bringing clothes and food donations.

    I do agree that the movement needs concrete goals, however. To say “tax the rich” is one thing, but HOW? Should we be petitioning our representatives? Should we be supporting a new candidate? Are we creating a viable 3rd party alternative? Now that the movement has the world’s attention, I want to know what the next steps are.

    • Crystal says:

      I got really frustrated by Occupy Boston’s twitter feed the day after the Jobs Bill Vote. Brown voted against. Warren is his likely opponent and is a slam dunk candidate for OWS fans…she’s made going after major corporations and tax loopholes her life’s work. And NO ONE was tweeting about it. It was a moment where they could have said here’s a practical reason why we don’t support Brown…the jobs bill would have XYZ and thus we think this. Or even any discussion of Brown’s vote. NONE.

      At the same time, if I were there, I might donate some of the medical supplies they’ve been asking for or food.

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