We seem to have happily gotten past the point of Occupy critics plaintively asking what the occupiers want and demanding that Occupy release some, well, demands. Instead the pundit class seems to have concluded that it was all a bit of fun but it’s time for those people to move on so we can all go back to obsessing about the deficit. At the mainstream media level we seem to have gone into some kind of Ghandian Groundhog Day where we repeat the course he outlined over and over (“first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then they ignore you,” and on and on).
So it’s probably only a matter of time before the MSM makes its way back to “then they fight you,” and at that point some recent developments will come in handy. The most important of those might be the way the militarization of our police forces has been put on full display. The nature of the official response lately has highlighted the fact that, independent of any particular grievances, the very right to peacefully protest has become so tightly constricted that the act of protest has become a demand in and of itself. (And as Angus Johnston very helpfully noted: “Nonviolence doesn’t mean doing whatever the police tell you to do.”)
A lot of people were raising alarms as our civil liberties kept getting clipped, trimmed and kettled over the last decade. When the warnings weren’t ignored they were mocked. Joe Klein was perhaps the worst offender, dismissing the people trying to call attention to it as “civil liberties extremists.” That was typical of the response when some nice, respectable centrist journalist deigned to acknowledge the issue.
I checked my own archives for references to just fusion centers and found them here, here and here among others. A lot of us were basically saying, no good will come of this. Well, no good is upon us. (Just for the record, I’m not patting myself on the back for seeing how it would turn out. It was fairly obvious to anyone who was simply paying attention.)
Look at the ACLU bullet points on fusion centers from four years ago; Ambiguous lines of authority? Check. Military participation? Check, to the extent that the police forces themselves have become militarized. Excessive secrecy? Um, yeah that’s a check. A lot of pieces that were quietly moved into place over the last decade – and that were regarded as trivial by those who should have known better – have moved ferociously out into the open.
Incidentally, while doing the research for this post I came across some fascinating recent history. Remember that DHS report by Homeland Security that warned of a rise in right wing extremism? And how the sunshine patriots on the right were in full howl over the mortal danger it posed to liberty and freedom in America? And how they weren’t angry about what was basically a fairly bland warning amounting to “watch out for kooks!” but about the principle, gosh darn it? Remember that? Here’s a refresher if you don’t:
the problem with this DHS study is not that they are threatening extra-Constitutional surveillance and interrogation of people; it is that they are coming very close to attempting to criminalize non-violent political dissent. That is deeply problematic even if they do it with all the proper warrants.
Yes, criminalizing non-violent political dissent is awful, so of course Maguire has, true to that wonderful principle, been vocal in his condemnation of that very thing happening right now, even though he disagrees with the protesters themselves (“homeless vagrants” and “over-educated unemployables,” to wit)? Not so much: “Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD clear out Zucotti Park overnight, although it may be only temporarily[.]” Yes, cleared it out all right. As of this writing there is literally no word at all about the heavy handed police tactics.
And again this is not just criminalizing dissent, but the militarization of the police that has gone with it. Look at this from Denver (via):
Or this from North Carolina (via):
Those are just two of the more dramatic photos that have been snapped. We are seeing responses like that in city after city. As digby pointed out, it has become difficult to even tell the difference between the responses here and those in countries headed by a military government – and those governments are in fact using our militarized responses to justify theirs (via).
So when Occupy folks start once again being asked what exactly they want, I hope they have at least one ready response: The right to be here.
Cross posted from Pruning Shears.