On September 17, 2011, Americans first occupied Wall St. and nobody cared.
But in the days and weeks since then the protest has fanned out through the U.S., capturing headline news as well as the innately rebellious imagination of this country. Despite the knee jerk “outrage” against this movement by some right-leaning media (okay, I”m talking about Fox), Occupy Wall Street has distilled the sentiments of those leaning left, right and, most importantly, those of us in the middle.
The Occupy movement is a powerful representation of the collective frustration many people now harbor for the political process which places the interests of corporate contributors ahead of citizens. That shared sense has catapulted the movement to the front page.
Now it appears that the Occupy movement may have reached critical mass. Many news agency’s have been calling for representatives to point out a leader or to clarify its message. Their failure to do so, and the protesters unwillingness to abandon their city hall campsites in favor of a place at the table where decisions are made, may lead to further loss of popular opinion. Let’s face it, six weeks of unwashed human is not a good marketing plan.
So the question is, how did this:
The answer is that the protesters threw rocks.
There is a great concern that the timely and righteous message that has drawn so many people to such a variety of protest locations will be lost in violent confrontation. The visceral cries against injustice should be targeting the politicians, corporations and policies that have placed in such dire economic straits. This was, after all, the reason people arrived en masse to protest.
Now the message is shifting and the police are the new target. Leaving aside the volatile question of police response to this issue for another day, let’s focus on the result of this shift in focus.
Many middle-class Americans, those making up much of the 99% that toil for low pay or hunger for a job, will melt away from the picket lines as the street protests turn violent. Taking their place will be groups of individuals, such as anarchists, whose sole purpose is to create mayhem.
Without oversimplifying the issue, the protesters on Wall St and their representatives in other cities have spent too long on the picket line and not enough time coalescing their message into meaningful political clout. The end result is that this phenomenon is morphing from a righteous protest against unfair government to a battle against the cops.
There is a positive endgame if the Occupy movement moves off the street and takes a seat at the table. The Tea Party movement–their political equals in spirit, if not in message–were able to synthesize their message, formulate a political strategy, and take an immediate and powerful role in our government.
But for the Occupy protesters, who similarly have a long “To Do” list for the future, the time needed to transition to a seat at the table of power is dwindling. Meanwhile, protesters are throwing rocks at cops.
So here’s the question: Will the Occupy Wall Street movement, this quintessentially American exercise in civil disobedience, dissolve into a mob?
For the sake of our country and for the heroic and timely message brought by the protesters, I hope that the answer is: No.