Tuesday, October 11, 2011

#OccupyBoston Arrests Belie US Freedoms

I know I’m stating the obvious here. But... The United States of America is all for free speech in the form of peaceful protests and of assemblies without a state-issued permit -- when it occurs in other countries. I’m not sure Canada is much different.

The media too pick and choose which protests they will cover, essentially using their clout negatively. Not reporting or burying a story negates the existence of protests the state and/or corporations don’t want people to know about. If it’s unknown in the public eye, it did not happen. And free speech drops dead.

And then social media came along. Twitter became the cri de couer of human beings with voices long suppressed that wraps the world in protest songs. The media must follow else look too obviously like the rubes they are.

Now when police break up protests, there is no delay in everyone knowing, whether it’s the locals or a yak on the other side of the world as a kid reads out the live-breaking Twitter feed. Sleep though is a powerful aid to the police. To sleep is not to Tweet. Or so the Boston PD must’ve thought. They were wrong. But nice try.



After midnight, under cover of darkness, dressed in black, but from the video not terribly protected or acting afraid of the protestors, the Boston PD moved in, ripped an American flag from a US veteran, and began hauling veterans and fellow protestors into the modern equivalent of paddy wagons. From the video, the police had no fear of the mob -- just as soldiers yesterday in Cairo had no fear of protesting Christians -- for they knew they had the weapons and the protestors none.

Yet cameras scare them. And it soon hit the #OccupyBoston Twitter feed that the police had banned them and that the media had obeyed orders and gone home. I hope the latter is not true, and if so in that one crucial regard, Canada's media is different.

What value is free speech and freedom of assembly if the state controls it? How strong is the US Constitution really if police can break up free speech in the form of protests or occupying assemblies just because? How sincere are they in defending freedom of assembly to redress grievances when the state demands permits first? Will the powerful direct the police in the same way when the protests come to Canada? The whole point of freedom is the state doesn’t decide when and where. The people do.

But that’s anarchy. You can’t have lazy, good for-nothings deciding to occupy our parks and streets, disrupting the flow of traffic, the flow of my comfortable life, whenever they feel like it. Get a job! Get a shower! Don’t rock the boat! Be thankful you live here! -- So say complacent, fearful people everywhere.

It takes an awful lot of desperation to move people, to get them to physically put their bodies in the line of a police truncheon, especially in the pampered West where most are “all right Jack.” When people are happy, when they see they live in a just society, they don’t protest. But when the state oppresses and corporations exploit and the rich fill their shoe closets on the backs of workers who are paid less and less and the state taxes the poor more than the wealthy, people pick up their flags, get off their comfy couches, and march alongside others.

“Anarchy” exists in that Boston park only because the complacent waited too long to protest and the leaders remained deaf to the cries of the exploited and jobless while sipping champagne and nibbling canapés with the rich exploiters.

And when power and justice have been rebalanced -- or the police and army have viciously beaten their citizens into submission -- the people will return to their jobs and couches. Anarchy is self-limiting. Too bad hunger for power is not.

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