On any given weekend, anywhere in the country, there is a wild teenage party. When the roof starts to shake and glass starts to break, the cops show up.
“It wasn’t my fault – I didn’t invite them!”
This is the typical explanation that the anxious and naïve teenager gives in reference to the few party crashers whose outrageous behavior has ruined everybody’s good time.
It’s an immature and lame response, but understandable with teenagers. It does not, however, excuse adults who provide a similar venue for all-comers. The Occupy Wall Street protest’s peaceful protesters made numerous similar comments, none of which excuses their culpability.
Any attempt to deflect blame, against the backdrop of property damage and injuries to protesters and police officers alike, is going to be a tough sell for several reasons.
First are the videos. The most electrifying of these show masked figures within the protesters’ group throwing Molotov cocktails and chunks of cement at the police.
The conservative talking heads are, of course, taking this opportunity to rage against the movement, with statements like, “Well, what can you expect from a bunch of unemployed…”
Despite these valid points, most people recognize that the individuals who initially formed the Occupy movement are not represented by a handful of rock throwers and cop-haters. The violent images and the words of conservative pundits will fade in time. However, the reason that the Occupy movement will have a tough time distancing itself from the recent riotous destruction in Oakland is much more basic.
When protesters decided to throw a party in NYC, a party which went from the confines of Wall Street to downtowns throughout the country, they should have known that the party-crashers would eventually arrive.
Many have been suggesting that it is past time for the Occupy protests to find a different venue, one more viable for changing the methods of both the government and corporations than occupying city streets. Protesters refuse, however, and seem to suggest that to walk away from the picket line is to admit defeat. I don’t believe that’s true.
What is true, and obviously so, is that to remain in protest mode will allow other groups, such as anarchists, to use the Occupy movement’s bully pulpit to launch an unrelated and violent offensive against the police and the community. That is unacceptable.
In addition, the protests are forcing city governments to spend millions to keep cops and other emergency workers on overtime, while the violence is forcing neighborhood small businesses to close or increase their own security.
Knowing that, righteous Occupy protesters must either accept responsibility for the consequences of future violence initiated by elements within the crowd or else decide to take the Occupy movement to Phase 2. If they fail at this, protesters risk alienating many of us Americans who quietly support their cause.
In other words, thanks for the invitation to the party, but if it gets too crazy it’s time to shut it down.