Occupy Wall Street renews 1960s-style protests

By Wayne Dawkins 

Power and bravo to the hundreds of people who have been leading the Occupy Wall Street movement for the past three weeks.  


The leaderless but well-disciplined mass has descended on Wall Street to express their rage and frustration over the feckless behavior by the captains of the Wall Street investment banks.


Right on sisters and brothers.  


It’s long overdue for people to rise up and “afflict the comfortable,” says that century-old phrase associated with looking out for the poor masses and shaming the greedy oligarchs.  


The Wall Street establishment has been flipping the bird at foreclosed homeowners, credit and debit card consumers, small businesses and even the president of the United States, who tried to reason with them and was rewarded with what amounted to a swift kick in the groin.  


It’s time that people push back, make noise and shout until indifferent people listen to the calls that the destructive behavior on Wall Street will no longer be tolerated.  


The protestors have been met with praise and condemnation. The UAW is so impressed, it’s joining them as the movement spreads to other cities. 


But Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s cluelessness, a week ago, was stunning. The reliably level- headed mayor said it made no sense for the demonstrators to “beat up on Wall Street.” Say what? The banks have been pummeling Americans like a pack of schoolyard bullies. Why shouldn’t the bullied punch back?  


The NYPD have been flummoxed. The protesters have been remarkably civil. Hundreds were arrested Sunday by police for stopping traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge, yet there were few to no reports of violence and property damage. Even when cops arrest demonstrators by the hundreds, they are merely issuing summonses because the people are merely disturbing the peace. Demonstrators are making other people’s lives inconvenient, which is annoying, but not a crime.


And dang it, to borrow a line from the well known hymn, it is long time overdue to “trouble the water,” or to be metaphorically correct, trouble the streets.


Last week, the New York Times reported that “Students’ knowledge of civil rights history has deteriorated.” When I was asked on a Friday radio show whether I was surprised, I said no, because too much American history is poorly taught in the public schools, if it is even taught at all.


Well the Occupy Wall Street movement is history being written. It is an echo of a time when people rose up to a challenge, organized, sacrificed and risked arrest similar to that moving moment captured in this year’s PBS documentary “Freedom Riders.” After black and white college students were beaten and detained for riding integrated on interstate buses, the southern journey that was to climax in New Orleans appeared arrested in Alabama.


That was until a petite Fisk University student vowed to organize students and send reinforcements to finish the freedom rides. The resumption of disciplined civil disobedience led an exasperated Attorney Gen. Robert Kennedy to ask, “Who is Diane Nash?”


Answer: A mild-mannered college student who rose up to lead many against injustice.


A half century later, the organic Occupy Wall Street movement is an inspiring echo of that 1960s triumph.


Right on demonstrators.   




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