Commentary: Occupy movement has historic roots

Occupy Wall Street protesters set up camp in Zuccotti Park. Locals and protesters are calling it Liberty Plaza, the park's former name. PHOTO BY DAVID SHANKBONE VIA WIKIPEDIA AND THE CREATIVE COMMONS.

Current protests are the latest expression of American civil liberties

By Gary Lindstrom

It was widely reported in the national media this week that more than 73 percent of Americans support the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations as well as the Occupy movement throughout the United States. Yet at the same time there are some conservatives in Congress and others running for offices who adamantly oppose the movement. They insist that the police come in and move them out. They do not talk about their issues. They can only talk about how they dress and act.

Presidential candidates are standing up on a daily basis and saying exactly the same things that the Occupy demonstrators are saying. Things are out of control. It is time for change. Let’s get big business out of government. Yet the same people’s campaigns are heavily funded by big business.  How ironic.  Money = politics. Imagine that?

I saw a chart online the other day that compared our current Tea Party with the Occupy demonstrators. On one side was what the Tea Party wants and the other side was what the Occupy demonstrators want. There were only a few items exclusive to each side but the majority of points were in the middle. The Tea Party and the Occupy demonstrators want the same thing for the most part. They both think that government was part and parcel to the current recession. They both think that government has wrongly rewarded banks and big business by pouring billions of stimulus dollars into their coffers. They both think that our government has done nothing to punish those responsible for the mess. They both think that government and big business (Wall Street and the banks) are co-conspirators in the collapse of our economy and our out-of-control unemployment.

I teach American government, United States history, world history, sociology and nineteen other subjects at the college level. I will assure you that the history of the United States is full of examples where the people demonstrated, camped out, took over public space and changed the world.

I was a police officer in New York City and Colorado for nearly forty years after I served for six years in the military during the Vietnam era. I did not come by my thoughts and opinions lightly.

I have probably spent more time at anti-war demonstrations as a police officer than any demonstrator has during their lifetime. I saw what was going on and heard their rhetoric first hand over many years. And, believe it or not, as a student and teacher of history, I was proud of what they were doing and I was proud to see men and women exercise their civil rights and to see a terrible war end, at least partly a result of the demonstrations.

It is sad in a way that the very people who believe that they are the most patriotic and support our nation to the highest level have never read the United States Constitution or studied our history.

The true purpose of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the “Right to bear arms” was so that people could have firearms in their homes that could be used to overthrow the government. This was a lesson from the American Revolution, when they found out how important personal firearms are to keep the government under control. It has nothing to do with carrying a concealed weapon as some would tell you. It has to do with protecting your rights as an American citizen.

The American Revolution was an “occupy” process. Look it up.

The Civil War was an “occupy” process. Look it up.

In the very middle of the United States Civil War there was a movement in the north to protest against the draft of men for service in the military — the 1863 Draft Riots. Part of it was also the fact that men with money could buy someone else to fight the war for them and then not be drafted. You think that things are corrupt now?

Following World War I, veterans marched on Washington D.C. because they thought they did not get compensated. They occupied parts of our national capitol and were referred to as “The Bonus Army.” Sseveral of our cherished veterans were killed when General McArthur led troops into their camps to end their occupation.

Later, after the beginning of the depression, veterans and others moved into Washington D.C. again and built a tent city called “Hooverville” as they blamed the United States Government for being party to creating the depression.  Sound familiar?

Here in Colorado, some coal miners and their families were occupying land near the Ludlow mine in southern Colorado in the early part of the 2oth Century.  (They were probably mining “clean” coal but did not know it.)  The coal company got a hold of someone at the state capitol and they sent the National Guard, as they were known at the time, to put down the occupation of the coal mine property. The Guard ended up killing several women and children in the process. Historically it is referred to as the “Ludlow Massacre.”

When people started driving a lot, the Colorado Courtesy Patrol (now known as the Colorado State Patrol) was formed to enforce traffic laws. The regular law enforcement function was left up to the counties and the towns through the Sheriffs and the Police Chiefs and their respective departments. I found it ironic that the Colorado State Patrol was called in wearing full riot gear to remove the Occupy Denver people from the park at the capital recently.

Yes, I know that Colorado State Patrol officers serve as security guards at the State Capitol and also provide security for the Governor. So what was the security problem that they had to take care of by moving the Occupy Denver people? I wonder if they thought the women and children at Ludlow were a security problem also.

Another bad Colorado story is the Sand Creek Massacre. (Do you see a theme here?)  Some American Indians were camped in eastern Colorado along Sand Creek. They were basically just hanging out. You know, occupying the area near Sand Creek. Some people at the Colorado State Capitol decided that they did not want them there anymore so they sent the cavalry to move them out. Most of the men in the tribe were gone , with only women and children at the camp. For some unknown reason the cavalry decided to kill the Indian women and children to fulfill their mission in getting the Indians out of Sand Creek.

I read another article recently about the Occupy Wall Street demonstration and how, now that they have finished their first month of the occupation, that the police and the government of the City of New York have given the demonstrators high marks for organization. They have food distribution, medical clinics and regular trash collection. Maybe they should be running our government.

I found it very upsetting that the Occupy Denver people allowed the police to move them off the capital grounds without any resistance. I realize that they just walked across the street to the City of Denver Park at Civic Center and continued their occupation. But I think that moving them was illegal in the first place. If they are a security or health problem then that is another situation but to move them just because they are occupying an area is wrong.

Why, when most people agree with the demonstrators, are the duly elected and appointed officials abusing their power and authority to end the occupation?

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6 thoughts on “Commentary: Occupy movement has historic roots

  1. Good points from someone who seems to know a lot of history. Tea Partiers were called “patriots” by Fox commentators, but Occupiers are called “mobs” by the same commentators.

    As a point of reference, I attended a HealthCare forum supported by our Democratic representative last summer. At that rally, Tea Partiers yelled and booed and stomped their feet and blew horns and interrupted for 2 hours without a single intervention from any peace officers. Some of us actually finally left the forum because we felt that Tea Partiers were too angry and one might pull out a gun. As we all know, that did happen in Arizona a few weeks later.

    On the other hand, I’ve attended Occupy rallies in the same town during the last couple of weeks and have seen nothing but respect for differing opinions and, after a spirited but respectful discussion, acceptance of moving to a different area when we were required by our Republican Governor to do so. This time, however, our Governor has called out the National Guard and police officers. It seems political to me.

    1. “Some of us actually finally left the forum because we felt that Tea Partiers were too angry and one might pull out a gun. As we all know, that did happen in Arizona a few weeks later.”

      It most certainly did NOT.
      The person who opened fire was never a member of the Tea Party movement & you do it a grave disservice by saying such.

  2. What a strange article. Certainly the government is a very dangerous beast. It seems clear that it needs to be restrained and controlled. The solution is not to give it more and more power.

    While there are some similarities between what the tea party complains about and what the occupy movement complains about, their solutions are diametically opposite. The tea party people are united in their demand for a smaller government under the rule of law, restoring the Constitutional restraints on government.

    The occupy movement, while largely incoherent, seems mostly to want to overthrow the Constitution and institute a socialist state to give them lots of free stuff and forgive their debts. It has quite a few contradictory demands.

    From what I have read, it is the occupy movement that is largely ignorant of the Constitution and its purposes, while the tea party proudly embraces the Constitution and wishes to restore the United States to Constitutional restraints.

    The author at least recognizes the Second Amendment as being primarily about the people retaining the power to keep the government in check. Self defense is simply another purpose for the bearing of arms that those who wrote and ratified the Constitution widely accepted.

  3. Opposing views, yes? SCL people attended rallies, observed behavior, gave positive remarks. Mr. Weingarten read items, that he considers to be negative, though sounds like he identifies with the tea party! This is what makes these issues interesting, individuals expressing their view points as they see them. Free speech, something that this country still allows, regardless of beliefs. Personally, I believe we can’t go backward, no matter how hard we may try. We have to move forward, change what is needed, for this isn’t the land of yesterday, the 20th century, it’s the 21st century, needing 21st century solutions. That this country is divided, goes without saying, but one thing is clear, 99% of the citizens are taking it on the chin. We are all in this together, how we except each other, requires give & take. United we stand, divided we fall. It’s up to everyone of us, to choose which way we go forward.

  4. As we can see by recent actions in many countries such as Libya and Mexico and Syria and Greece and Egypt, it just isn’t good business when only 1% of the people are unregulated and are allowed to hold all the power and money. Countries need laws and regulations made “of the people by the people and for the people.” After the years from 2000 to 2008, the USA is now on a much-needed correction course. Americans are lucky that our Constitution and our regulations are guiding us toward a more peaceful resolution than in countries with a history of no regulations and generational unfettered greed.

  5. “The true purpose of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the ‘Right to bear arms’ was so that people could have firearms in their homes[.]”

    Non sequitur. Keeping arms refers to storage in the home. Bearing arms refers to carrying arms, not storing them in the home.

    Even Justice Ginsberg, no friend of the Second Amendment, understands this, as noted by Justice Scalia in Heller dicta:

    “In Muscarello v. United States, 524 U. S. 125 (1998) , in the course of analyzing the meaning of ‘carries a firearm’ in a federal criminal statute, Justice Ginsburg wrote that ‘[s]urely a most familiar meaning is, as the Constitution’s Second Amendment … indicate[s]’ ‘wear, bear, or carry … upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose … of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict with another person.’ ‘ Id., at 143 (dissenting opinion) (quoting Black’s Law Dictionary 214 (6th ed. 1998)).”

    Since you “…teach American government, United States history, world history, sociology and nineteen other subjects at the college level.”, it would behoove you to actually know what you’re talking about.

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