Our winter of discontent 

You can't club Occupy into submission

With cold weather moving in, the massive Occupy movement will become harder to maintain. Add to that the politicians with their excuses for unleashing cops on the occupiers, and keeping up the physical presence of disenchanted citizens that has rocked the nation and world will be a daunting proposition. But don't expect the Occupy movement to fade away as the snow flies. Instead, it will likely continue to evolve through what may come to be known as America's Winter of Discontent.

The root causes of the Occupy movement seem to be a mystery to the established political regime as well as the disaster capitalists they serve. Homelessness, hunger, education and a general feeling that 99 percent of the population is in bonded servitude to benefit the 1 percent at the top are no closer to being resolved now than they were months ago when Occupy first took its case to the pirates of Wall Street.

While the bat-shit crazy Republican presidential contenders would just as soon waterboard anyone who doesn't agree with their point of view, it's also apparent that their Democratic counterparts are treating Occupy as if it were somehow a toxic nightmare instead of a realistic look into the dark soul of our nation. President Obama, for instance, would rather worry about Iran, Pacific free-trade agreements and starting some new African wars than dealing with the malcontents doggedly freezing on the streets and in parks across the nation.

But wait, one might say, aren't these the very people who swore oaths to uphold and protect our Constitution when they took office?

Yep, they are. Yet it's all too clear that the constitutional rights of the occupiers are being shredded every day with impunity in this former Land of the Free.

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Take free speech. Some will recall the famous roots of that movement in the '60s, when what were then called "radicals" took over college campuses to protest the increasing U.S. involvement in Vietnam as well as the burning issues of civil rights and racial and gender equality. The response then was much the same as the response now—those in power turned on the protesters, using not only clubs and tear gas, but also the rifles of the National Guard, who, with live bullets, killed four students during an anti-war demonstration at Kent State University.

As a university student in the '60s, I vividly recall a peace march that turned violent in large part due to the tactics employed by the police, who formed a barricade and decided to push the thousands of students out of the street. It's virtually impossible to push a throng around, since those in the back have no idea what is happening to those in the front. When the clubs started swinging and unarmed students started getting seriously hurt, they panicked and ran in all directions, with cops in hot pursuit.

My outlook has never been the same since the day I saw a burly, helmet-clad cop run down a young co-ed, grab her by her ponytail, which was flying out behind her as she ran away, and club her to the ground from behind. That's when "serve and protect" took on a different meaning, not only in my life but in the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens all across the nation.

Those images don't go away. And now, for a whole new generation, they are being repeated from sea to shining sea. In what are being called acts to protect the public, Occupy members are being clubbed, gassed, arrested and seriously injured by police in major urban centers on an almost daily basis. Thanks to the internet and ubiquitous cell phone cameras, these incidents are being viewed by millions who find it difficult to believe that armed and armored cops have anything to fear from those they are beating. Our nation is losing its conscience through ever more harsh "clear and control" tactics.

Beating people to the ground has never been a long-term solution to society's ills. As we've seen around the globe in the last year, the more the incumbent regimes turn to oppression, the more the citizens resist. We're fortunate that the Occupy movement remains dedicated to peaceful, non-violent demonstrations. That hasn't been the case in other places around the world—those were AK-47s in the air during the Arab Spring, not protest signs, and the blood in the streets didn't all belong to the rebels.

I hope America's version of this global revolution can remain non-violent—at least from the Occupiers' side, since it's too late for the other side. But sooner rather than later, our political leaders had best begin to seriously address the root causes of the discontent.

Where are the bills from Congress to help the masses? Where is the legislation to limit the usurious interest rates and penalties credit card companies routinely employ? Where is the legislation to truly help homeowners whose mortgages are underwater? Where is the budget that, for once, gives to the people instead of subsidizing useless and pointless military adventures?

Instead, politicians and their well-heeled supporters are counting on the weather and the cops to silence the cries of the masses. We have this Winter of Discontent to deal with the very real issues the Occupy movement exposes. Now, in the next few months, our leaders must act. Should they once again fail to do so, we'll likely face an American Spring—and the long, hot summer of civil unrest that will undoubtedly follow.

Helena's George Ochenski rattles the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at opinion@missoulanews.com.

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